Dear Past Me, Don't Hate

It's been a week since to you/myself 7 years in the past and time hasn't folded in on itself in some weird paradoxical, so I guess it's safe for me to do it again and I'm sure you have a lot of questions about the future:

  1. Internet Explorer 6 is here to stay so you'd better get used to it.

  2. Star Trek: Enterprise gets great around season 3.

  3. It's chubby in the future. Consider sit-ups.

Okay. Ready for tip-from-the-future #2?

You may not like what you're doing or who you're doing it for, but you still need to have respect.

A lot of people fancy themselves designers and will turn you into a pixel pusher. To make matters worse, very few people know how to value good design. (You'll be surprised to know that the < blink > tag is still in high-demand and "rainbow" is a favored text color.) Coding is less of a problem because it borders on mysticism to the laymen, but now and again you'll run into clients that consider themselves an "expert" because they used FrontPage back in '98.

Yes, you're going to work on less-than-ideal projects and for less-than-awesome clients. You're going to feel angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, underwhelmed and just about every negative emotion there is. And that's okay -- it's surprisingly normal, but you need to maintain respect for everyone and everything involved.

It's not just good customer service.

Something taught in retail is that the customer is always right. Quite frankly, that's a load of crap. Red is not blue.

The way I see it: the customer should always feel right. Companies have policies, contracts, statements and whatever to protect themselves. If there's conflict with a client, there might be some bending involved until things feel right again. Flexibility is great when there's room for it, and compromise is respectful of all involved. Yes sir, that red has a really nice blue tone to it. (Purple is the new red.)

The sad truth is that some people are just jackasses, or have unwaveringly bad ideas, and compromise isn't an option. No big deal. You'll eventually get a handle on which problems you can solve and which ones you can't. Do what you can about the former and let go of the latter. The important thing to remember is that every project and every client is a lesson waiting to be had -- if you disrespect them by being dismissive or lazy then you're only cheating yourself.

Yeah, it sounds cliche but it's 90% true.