Jon Kolko on What Gets Easier and What Gets Harder

In Chapter 1 of 21 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, design educator Jon Kolko answers "What is Getting Easier and What is Getting Harder in Your Life?"  Kolko shares how mentors have taught him to pick his battles and not fight every fight.  By being more selective on what he takes on, he lowers his stress levels.  He still wrestles with an inner dialogue of the quantity, validity and craftsmanship of the work he does. 

Jon Kolko the founder and director of the Austin Center for Design.  He has authored multiple books on design, including "Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving."  Previously he has held senior roles at venture accelerator Thinktiv and frog design and was a professor of Interactive and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  Kolko earned his Masters in Human Computer Interaction (MHI) and BFA in Design from Carnegie Mellon University.


Erik Michielsen: What is getting easier and what is getting harder in your life?

Jon Kolko: Let's start with what's getting easier. I feel like if I say it out loud then everyone will laugh. At least people who know me will laugh because it isn’t true. But I feel like I'm less of a stressed out maniacal control freak about things. I feel like I'm able to let the little stuff go and again, maybe like everybody is, “Seriously? He’s still a total ass.” But I do feel like I’ve figured out -- like all of my mentors in the past have said in some way, shape, or form, pick your battles, and I never understood it and I never did it.

And so, everything was a battle. Anything that wasn’t going my way was always like, ok, we're going to argue about it and I'm going to get my way, and I do feel like I figured out how to just simply ignore the stuff that is irrelevant and to reprioritize what matters and what doesn’t and really emphasize – you know, fight for the stuff that matters and let everything else go to the wayside. I think my stress my level has decreased tremendously as a result of that.

What's getting harder? Staying out drinking all night long, I'm not able to do that anymore. I'm losing my hair. I don’t know if anything’s getting harder. Actually I'm in a pretty good place recently. I feel really good about the way that my work is going, my life is going, my relationships are headed. I always have that sort of inner dialogue about the quantity and validity, and craftsmanship of the work I do and I suppose that’s true about anyone who does anything creative but that hasn’t gone away. I wouldn’t say that’s harder to deal with, it's just hard to deal with it and it's always there. But I don’t think that -- it's not new, this. That is what it is.