August 3, 2023

Good and Bad

Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.

What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?

(from Section 27 of Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching)

This one took me a while. Things are not as black and white as this section makes them out to be. Specifically, I would say that most of us have some good and some bad in us. But when I consider the idea here I think it’s actually a really good admonishment for anyone hoping to create a more systematic digital design program.

I don’t think about this in the general sense, but in a more specific way. So, it’s not that one person is good and one is bad (generally), it’s that one person is good at something specific and the other needs to grow in that specific area. Ideally, the vacuum of knowledge in one person would create a gravity, pulling those with the right experience to them. Of course, it doesn’t happen this way.

In the context of design system work, it’s always surprising just how much of the effort is teaching, mentoring, training, educating. So much so that I work with my clients to learn to begin from a place of assuming every task on their plate has some educational component. Making this assumption helps us to see the need for education at the very start of a specific task instead of leaving that as an afterthought. Before long, this becomes second nature.

All People

There’s also something here about who we find in our path. The text says, All people” and is a reminder to reject nobody. Sometimes the most impactful interactions are the ones we never planned or didn’t see coming. I know this is true in design system work as well. You’d be surprised how much of a cultural difference it can make to convert one person who doesn’t see the need for a system into a advocate for the system.

Every situation is an opportunity.
Every team is an opportunity.
Every person is an opportunity.
Every email is an opportunity.
Every Teams message is an opportunity.

Ok, maybe I’m pushing it with that last one, but you get the idea. Go ahead and make your plans, choose your pilots, schedule your meetings. Just be sure to leave some space for the opportunities you don’t yet know you need.

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