Growing in Public (Part 1)

Zachary Styles
5 min readMar 7, 2021

Read online.

“I’ve learnt so much over the past year that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed if I didn’t write about it.”

A missed milestone

Spend enough time on the productivity hype-train of the current day-and-age and you’ll have likely come across the heading for this article more than a few times. Funnily enough, as cliche as it is to talk about these days, I believe there is some truth to it.

With all the commotion of the past few weeks, there was a very important milestone for this blog that I missed. I have been successfully writing a weekly blog for an entire year. This might not seem like a very large achievement, but a year ago I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it.

With 2020 being the rollercoaster of a year that it was, there have been very notable ups and downs for me, but this blog helped me get through those. It helped me remember to buckle up and embrace the ride. To seek the lesson in every experience and to do my damnedest to learn everything I possibly could. It didn’t always work, but hindsight is 20–20 and my eyes are wide open now.

If you’ve been along for the ride from the beginning, then I commend you, because not all of those articles have been something to write home about. Some of them have been confusing, and some of them have been gut-wrenching. If not for you, then most certainly for me.

As we enter the next year of this exercise, I’m going to re-visit why and how this all started in order to give some backstory as we move forward.

We all start somewhere

I’ve wanted to start a blog for years. From reading Tobias van Schneider’s DESK blog, Sean McCabe’s Seanwes, and Darius Foroux’s articles, I’ve had a yearning to share my own experiences with the world; my own insights and lessons. Maybe it was ego (and maybe it still is), but since finding a foothold in the graphic design industry I’ve felt like I wanted to share what I learn. If nothing else but to help other people not make the same mistakes I’ve made, and to make the journey that much easier for those a step or two behind me.

The barrier I faced for so long, and what stopped me from actually starting, was the idea that I didn’t have anything worth sharing. I didn’t have enough experience worth sharing. It wasn’t until I gave a small talk at the campus I now teach at about Creative Potential (which I plan on revising and sharing eventually) that maybe I do have something to say.

I then remembered something Sean McCabe once said in a podcast episode, and I’m paraphrasing here:

“Focus on the people one step behind you, not a hundred. Those are people you can provide value for, whether you believe you can or not”

Immediately I realised I was focusing too big. I wanted to help everyone, which was definitely my ego at work, when I needed to start smaller. I needed to start so small that it felt like a waste of time. Months passed, but this new vision stayed with me.

Now I believed I had a thing or two to share, but I didn’t have the right trigger yet, I was lazy and I was waiting for one. Luckily for me, that trigger wasn’t so far away. In the beginning of 2020, I started my Honours program with Inscape Education Group, here in Durban.

Within our first week, we were given a very specific task: start a blog. Oh boy, my fingers started itching at the idea. Not only did I already want to start one, here I was being told to. If there is ever a type of trigger that gets your ass into gear, it’s an external one, and I jumped at the opportunity.

It wasn’t only the official task that made it feel so much easier to start, however, but the reasoning. “Write for yourself. No one has to see it but you. Have something to come back to at the end of your course and see how far you’ve come,” we were told. Then it hit me, I don’t need to write for anyone else, I need to write for me.

I took a slightly different tact, though, and instead of writing for the me of the future, I started writing for the me of the past. I was going to be the person one step behind, as if I could learn from my own experiences. And then I thought, if I can learn from them, then maybe someone else can. And there is no better place for that these days, than the internet.

One down, another to go

The internet is a beautiful duality. It can be used to break people down just as much as build them up. It has the power to create and the power to destroy, all that really matters is how you use it. That’s why I decided to use it to my advantage.

I could sit and write in the comfort of my pyjamas for no one but myself (which I still do on occasion) but with the power of the internet at my disposal, I could use that as fuel for my own growth, for my own learning.

With that potential at my fingertips, I finally decided what my blog was going to be about: the thoughts and musings of a postgrad student and graphic designer. Over the past year I have written about failing to keep up with an exercise regime, understanding and managing overwhelm (brought on by the forced lockdown here in South Africa), leadership in design teams, and some of the insights I’ve gathered from being a teacher in amongst all of this.

I’ve written about far more than just these things, but I would never have learnt as much as I have without the accountability of the internet, without the goal of writing something (even if it’s simply a rant) every week like clockwork.

There is more to this story, and I plan on fleshing that out in greater detail; but right now I want to acknowledge the achievement of a milestone. I’ve learnt so much over the past year that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed if I didn’t write about it; and if you’ve managed to learn something along the way then I can’t ask for anything more.

Thank you for making it this far with me. And know that even if things slow down, they’re not stopping anytime soon. You and me are in this till the end, wherever that is. Here’s to another year of growing in public.



Zachary Styles

Full-time designer, illustrator and lettering artist. Part time lecturer. Part time student. Experiencing the world through words, both written and drawn.