The name Debbie Millman was unknown to me a few weeks prior to her arrival in London, to answer a few questions about many of the areas I had to research. I found out she was a writer, designer, educator, artist, and brand consultant amongst other things. She regularly spoke about areas in our lives that we might be fearful to acknowledge, such as rejection, finding courage, and how do we overcome our own lives to be better people.
For instance, I wanted to ask her about the power of her voice, the one she magnificently uses to vocalise the virtues of design and contemporary thinking on Design Matters, with her varied and interesting set of guests.
After many YouTube videos watched, books and interviews screened, I gathered that how her mind actually works, the what, how and why, were the prizes that everyone was after in what she said.
A brief introduction lead to some short, but pleasant conversations that lead her to the small set in the office we had. Once seated, she entered the flow of answering the many questions posed to her by my colleague.
I feared that this might just have been another interview, with the same answers to the somehow ‘new’ questions we had carefully, and painstakingly tried to put together after much research, about this well-revered person in the celebrated world of design, branding and marketing that had somehow built and designed a life around and now, outside these elements.
How wrong was I to be. I will never forget how I felt, masked from view but very aware of her voice, of how she spoke and what she said in regards to those ‘new’ questions. I felt a sudden calmness, and reassurance around how Debbie expressed each word, with each example she used bringing to life each of her answers.
30 minutes of my head-nodding later, I was smiling. Even after hundreds of interviews, and countless appearances, Debbie infused the conversation with freshness, one that made me sit up and take notice. Her laughs and witty interventions were pitched in just at the right moment, balancing out the undertone of the real issues she wanted to vocalise to the small audience before her.
On coming back to the main table for a short break, Debbie, in signature black, sat down and we started up a conversation between ourselves. She was extremely pleasant as she was on camera, curious and full of her own questions to the ones that I had asked her myself.
How her mind works was clear at this point. She said it herself: there was no magic potion, nothing new. Perhaps, some moisturiser if you wanted to stay young forever.
It was all about the self, the self-courage, the self-discipline and self-affirmation. I didn’t get a selfie but the crew did get some lovely pictures of us.
I have always doubted myself as a person, doubted my own reason for existing almost. I have had to live a life of being shut down, always denied an opinion and generally forced to tread the line that I cannot achieve anything more than what I am given. The countless number of words I have written, erased, and almost been ashamed of, knew no limit.
I told Debbie this. She said, oh no you shouldn’t do that. I knew at that point that I had reached a turning point in my life. That day, I was quite courageous trying to think that I was going to interview someone, that been though this process a million times, and had heard the same questions again and again.
What would she think of me? I now realise that we did not have an interview when we were finally speaking face-to-face that afternoon, but we had a conversation of what mattered in life, and why.
Life is full of cryptic clues, should you choose to heed them. Sometimes they hit you in the face, sometimes they pass you by. I heard and deciphered the clues that day, they were in the language of humility, humanity and courage.
I learnt a valuable lesson, that cut through the noise of the room, that anything worth sharing and explaining, to help the lives of others is the true purpose of being alive.