Waking up inspired with the motivation to take on the day, and learn as much as possible is something that we each get to choose for ourselves. Each day we decide whether or not to go for that run, swim or walk, as well as what we will add to our bodies, and just as important, what we add to our minds.

As for me and many others, learning new things (languages, skills, hobbies, trades) can be inspiring and motivating. After years of getting by with a few basic Spanish words and phrases, I set my mind to learn as much Spanish as I could in order to really communicate with my incredible wife’s parents. They speak far more English than I do Spanish, but my drive to have a real conversation with them in their native tongue motivates me each and every day. So between books, youtube, and countless apps, my language learning quest continues each and every day.

The same focus and inspiration to better build my skill set, and stay current in our ever changing world, has landed me and my future pointed directly towards furthering my design career.

For nearly two decades I have worked as a DJ, designer, and promoter, while having jobs ranging from working for others (banks, offices, record shops) to having my own logistics company. Through it all, I’ve always placed my energy and time in the field that most stirred my passion and inspired me, which is the artistic and design side of things.

Many people may not know the amount of work that goes into this, but when you are a DJ and creator of events, you take on much more than just showing up with headphones and bobbing your head around while you mix tracks. The process starts with research, planning, designing (graphic design & event design), as well as designing marketing strategies all while attempting to create a perfect experience for the user/patron. Little did I know at the time I started, that this is all part of Design Thinking (Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype,Test).

While researching methods to further my design career and expand my knowledge base, I came across a number of organizations (General Assembly, Design Lab, Bloc, etc) and bootcamps, that not only had a hefty price tag (one that rivals Universities), but each had a sales team that seemed to care more about enrolling students for courses than answering questions about curriculum.

Then one day, by chance, I came across an interview with, Mads Soegaard of Interaction Design Foundation (one of IDF’s co-founders alongside Rikke Friis Dam), discussing IDF’s learning program having been modeled after the Scandinavian education system, where everybody is offered free, high-quality education from the earliest years in school until they graduate from university. Of course, I thought this was far too good to be true, especially knowing the cost of an education here in the States (my Bachelor’s degree checked in at around 60K) so I did my research, read the reviews, contacted IDF with questions, and indeed obtained answers, rather than sales-pitches and random links to FAQ’s like the other places that I had contacted.

Given the opportunity to learn from industry experts who have taught courses for IBM, British Parliament, Stanford, Cambridge and beyond, most people would jump at the chance. And that is precisely what I did when I signed up to become part of the Interaction Design Foundation. The IDF delivers an Ivy League level education in many facets of design, including: UX Design, Interaction Design. Visual Design. Usability, UI Design, and Marketing. There is a wealth of resources and instruction backed by the knowledge and experience of industry leaders. Did I mention that Don Norman is part of the Executive Board at IDF? He is among many industry giants who make up this great organization.

IDF is an excellent resource for those who want to expand their skill set and grow as designers. Whether you are new to design or an old-timer who knows everything, there is always more to learn and explore, and IDF offers instructors and resources that is unparalleled. In an industry that has grown exponentially, the demand for designers has also surged. Subsequently, there has been a market created for those who want to learn and many times the costs does come at a premium. However with IDF, the monthly fee can actually cost less than a cup of coffee at a university.

There is a wealth of knowledge to be found in our world, but rarely does it come delivered by industry experts at such an incredibly low cost as IDF offers. Please understand that this is not a sales pitch, this is just me sharing what I have experienced through plenty of research and course participation. Do consider this a friendly bit of advice for those who really want to learn, and believe student loans and bank accounts balances should not be a massive factor in the equation to obtain a world class education.

“I want to make a dent in the universe.” as Steve Jobs said, and when we tune out the noise, distractions, and anxiety, we can then focus on making ourselves and our little corner of the universe a better place.

A few tips to keep your focus when working online.

Organize. Stay in control of your workload. The ability to keep things organized, prioritized and focused, can be challenging at times if you allow disorder to settle in. Try not to let things slip through the cracks and be certain to prioritize what needs to be handled and in what order. Work is non-linear and we should be able to adapt quickly while keeping focused on our goals.

Self-imposed deadlines. When planning or designing, I find a deadline gets me motivated to put something on the screen and get started. Try not to feel pressure with deadlines, use it as motivation, which allows the flow of the jobs at hand to gain momentum.

Be proactive/Minimize distractions. Rather than being reactive, I like to be proactive in order to map out the tasks at hand. To-do lists are useful, though it is important to prioritize. When a task comes through, do not wait until the due date to start/complete, get going on it as soon as possible. While incoming emails and phone calls can be distractions, remain focused on the job that must be done and see it through to completion.