Do you remember the first time you felt like you had “made it?” How about that defining moment of clarity that now serves as your compass when it comes to making big decisions? Milestone Moment is a monthly feature where we ask creatives to reflect on a watershed moment in their career and the impact it had on their life and work. This month, the founder of Cabin Porn and current Dwell CEO Zach Klein looks back at a crucial piece of advice that has pushed him to cultivate community and collaboration wherever he goes.
“Shortly after finishing college I received some advice from a peer further along in her career that I have never stopped thinking about: ‘Be careful not to promote yourself to obscurity.’ She was referring to the cycle in which you get good at doing something you love and then start trading up, exchanging the thing you love for a title/salary combo that makes you feel safe—because that’s success, right? Some people manage to have it both ways, but perhaps more often when you make this trade you get further and further from the thing you love: you entrench yourself inside the experience you already have, you stop taking risks, you stop collaborating and you stop learning, and you become obscure.
“I understand this outcome works for a lot of people, but I’m not wired that way. Work is play. I love playing. I can draw a straight line from building forts with other neighborhood kids, through editing my high school paper, starting up a company in college, publishing books, to joining Dwell now.
“I love working inside small, intense, creative groups of people who are putting something out into the world. I love the constant churn of new challenges and discovering that the challenges give me energy. I love meeting different tribes of people and learning their lingo, workflows, and expertise. I cherish the vulnerability and humility you can achieve when you’re collaborating. I love trying, failing, getting better, and constantly expanding what I believe I can do. I know I will be happiest if I keep sharing, receiving, and accepting invitations to join in.”