Great Expectations

3 reasons it’s okay if you’re not #1 in your field

Photo by Zane Lee on Unsplash

As humans, especially artists, we compare. Aesthetics, polish, technical expertise, we rank our works against each other, for reference, critique and learning purposes. There was always someone else better (and often younger) out there who had greater accomplishments than us.

“I’m not the best 3D Artist out there.”

I have struggled with this thought throughout my schooling years, and I’m sure I was not the only student with that realistic mindset.

People say it takes 10,000 hours to master a craft. Yet even if you have done that, someone else has probably clocked more hours, has more refinement, started younger… the comparison never ends.

At the end of my schooling journey, my skills as an artist were okay. Not brilliant, not bad. I am happy with my accomplishments, but I’m also painfully aware that I had a long way to go to be on even footing with the elites of my cohort. The gap to match with the best in the industry was even larger. There was a mounting pressure to catch up; even at graduation, I was not ready.

The abyss of skill mastery is extremely daunting.

I started working as a Junior CG Artist in a well-established game production company, unsure of how far I can grow as a professional artist.

5 years into my career today, I have compiled 3 reasons why it’s perfectly normal and okay to not be the best at what you’re doing.

1. It keeps you open to other options.

Photo by Cristofer Jeschke on Unsplash

Early in my career, I came to terms that no matter how hard I push there is always going to be a skill gap between me and “the best”. I took a step back, allowed myself to breathe and kept my eyes and ears open to opportunity.

It is extremely easy to fall into a pattern with a job. The daily routine: Clocking in for work, do the work, clock out from work, enjoy the evening and sleep. Sometimes it changes up a bit, but life quickly settles back into the rhythm. It is a comfortable well to sit in, and two years passed quickly for me in that state.

I felt a creeping anxiety. Growth has stagnated. I had picked up the workflows, rules, reached the standard quality of work set by the company, and got comfortable.

As I had become able to perform efficiently in my main job scope, there was a choice to either pressure myself to polish my work endlessly in search for perfection, or start looking at gaps within the team that I can fill with my time.

The team I was with was lacking internal technical art knowledge, schedule management support, external communication support, and many other things. I soon found myself “unofficially” helping with these aspects and more; growing myself in areas that I never thought I would along the way.

These are skills that many artists might not consider essential or even useful. Some might even consider these a complete waste of time, contributing nothing to my artistic growth.

When I left the company, however, I realized these skills are what made me standout as a potential hiring candidate.

Instead of being just a “General 3D artist”, I came packaged with technical literacy, team management experience, communication skills, and a bunch of miscellaneous know-hows. I found myself being able to tailor my resume to many different job applications, and finally landed myself in Mighty Bear Games as an Art Production Manager.

2. There are so many other possibilities that only you, an unique individual, might be able to offer.

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

Everybody’s career track and experience is unique. I found myself equipped with Team management, Communication support, Task Prioritization, and a little Technical Art knowledge on top of my main skills as a 3D artist as I became more experienced.

It is an uncommon combination of skills for an artist, and I found myself a niche in Mighty Bear Games. Able to understand many different demands of disciplines involved in game production, I was able to contribute greatly at a high level. It quickly became my job to bring clarity between individuals and disciplines, asking questions, to make sure everything is being considered in the production process.

My capability to understand each individual’s needs and ability to cater schedules to each person also came in extremely handy as I quickly caught on to gaps of time management skills with my team members. I began to timebox to-dos and reorganized internal task management; setting up systems for people to work reliably in. These helped bring a sense of stability to members feeling lost and overwhelmed with tasks, improving overall efficiency of the project.

This would not have been possible without my history of meddling in many matters “unofficially”, for which I’m thankful for today. Have I not been allowed to experience team management starting from my junior years, these things might not have come along as naturally.

I realized that I enjoy these aspects of work on top of 3D asset production, and supporting my team in day to day production has become a source of pride and joy for me.

It does not have to be art, management, or communication. Everybody has their own combination of skills that only they can offer, as long as they are offered the opportunity to make use of it. This is a happy story for me, and I’m sure it is also something that is echoed across industries and experience levels for many other people.

3. By not being the “best”, you will always be growing.

Photo by Daniel Öberg on Unsplash

I am still in the early stages of my career, and I still have much to learn.

By not being the “best” in any of the things I know right now, it means that my growth will never end. I take pleasure in surprises life brings me. 5 years ago, I would never have imagined myself in this position. My perspective has widened, and the possibilities grew.

Keeping myself aware of my shortcomings, I strive to learn from other people, learn from my own mistakes, and aim to become a better version of myself everyday.

I’m still not, and probably never will be, “The Best 3D Artist” anywhere.

That is okay for me, as I know I will improve everyday. I am evolving into someone that will surprise even myself in future… and that’s the most enjoyable part of life 🙂

Great Expectations was originally published in Mighty Bear Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.