Forget the “shoulds”

My Lucire interview with Bay Area designer Devan Gregori has gone online—it’ll likely appear in print afterwards with different visuals. Devan has a wonderful story about how she came to be a fashion designer, and it’s very different to those who fell into the trade through a childhood interest or watching their grandmother sew.

I won’t spoil it here but one quote she gave me really resonated:

I’ve given myself permission to dismiss all the “shoulds” that come along with being an entrepreneur. I should push new styles every season. I should have a proper studio. I should hire people. I should target a younger audience. I should not open a brick and mortar. I should spend a ton of money on advertising and influencer marketing. The list goes on and on.

She’s absolutely right. If I followed any “should”, I would never have got into typeface design or published those designs myself (at a time when the received wisdom was that no one in this country could publish fonts—it was the province of foreign firms, and Joe Churchward was the only example of a typeface designer). Lucire would never have been created (because who would read a fashion magazine online?) or diversified (because no one had ever taken a website into a print format, with the exception of Yahoo! Internet Life, and I’m not even sure that was a proper adaptation). I didn’t find out till recently that I was the only person acting as a magazine licensor in this country presently (when the received wisdom is that we should be licensees here).

All the “shoulds” exist to stifle people, to keep them in their safe, dull boxes, and that’s also where most of society operates. Banks won’t talk to you because you don’t fit the profile of a safe worker who follows orders—even when you employ people who they will talk to because you’re the one who’s giving them job security. Generally, there are no courses at school on entrepreneurship. Looking at the last few decades, government policy, regardless of party, more often favours big firms coming here, but not growing national champions or international brands to broaden our tax base. Political visions are often about treating the New Zealander as a unit of labour for larger entities to exploit, and not about creating powerhouses that take their waka abroad. If Fonterra did not exist, I cannot see modern governments creating it.

So I applaud stories like Devan’s because she ignores the “rules” and has found her own way and her own voice. The paragraph immediately following the one I cited is just as valuable, and I commend you to click through to read it.

Granted, she’s in the US, where the entrepreneur is celebrated more. But her words are powerful, and should serve as a reminder to us all. The box is there to confine you. Break free of it.

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