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Just Do It: How Teaching Myself is Opening Doors

Written by Adam Dimla

No, this is not a campaign for Nike, but I hope it does motivate you to get off the couch and do something.

Chances are, if you’re a 22-year-old like me, you don’t really know what you’re doing. You’re feeling your way around this thing called life. You have a grasp on it one moment, then the next you’re on your back wondering how you slipped and fell in the first place.

That’s the beauty of being young though. You’re allowed to try things out and make mistakes. I’m living proof that trying new things can lead you to awesome and unexpected opportunities.

Here’s my deal…

I’m heading into my third year of Industrial Design at Humber College, but I’m already working as a marketing assistant with Humber’s Academic and Career Success Centre. I also landed a job with Humber’s main marketing team as a student videographer/photographer, which I started in September.

The funny thing is, these gigs have nothing to do with my program. They’re based on skills I taught myself in my spare time for fun.

We’re programmed to think school will teach us everything we need to know about the real world, but that’s simply not the case. Here’s how some things I tried on my own opened some pretty big doors.

Thing I Tried #1: Beatboxing

When I was younger, I’d fool around with my Lego sets and make giant robots that weren’t called for in the instructions. I thought this meant I would make a good engineer, but in the first half of grade 11, I realized that it wasn’t for me. Too technical and I’m not the biggest fan of math.

As you could imagine, this really put me into an existential rut. All my friends at the time were gearing up for university and I felt like I was going to be left behind. This is where beatboxing came into my life.

When my first girlfriend at the time, Tori (who is now one of my closest friends), introduced me to it in 2011, I was amazed. Part of me thought I wouldn’t be able to do it because it seemed so difficult at the time, but I told myself, “You’re going to do this.”

 “It was a fun hobby at first, but it started to grow into one of my passions.”

I never expected to go anywhere with it, only doing it for fun and to distract myself from stuff like break-ups and school stress. It was a fun hobby at first, but it started to grow into one of my passions.

I started performing wherever and whenever I could, getting up in front of crowds regularly every month.

Fast forward to today and it’s impacted my life greatly. I’ve finished in the national top 16 for the last four years, I’ve made a whole new set of friends have gained a lot of confidence in myself.

I actually had an employer look up videos of me in the middle of an interview once, which was pretty funny.

Thing I Tried #2: Photography

Around the same time I started beatboxing, I started dabbling in photography. All I would do was take pictures of sunsets because that’s what I was fixated with at the time (I still am, to be honest).

After picking up my first DSLR in December 2011, I spent the next few months photographing the buildings, landscapes, and more sunsets in my hometown of London, Ontario (sup, UWO?).

YouTube really helped out because there were tutorials, like DigitalRev’s, that helped me develop the skills that became my foundation for the art form. Concepts such as composing shots and learning how to dial in settings were taught to me by strangers from the internet.

Teaching myself both Photoshop and Lightroom have proven to be helpful in developing my own style and improving my work’s quality. It’s helped me display the multiple products I’ve designed for my portfolio (Click here if you want), do fun mini-shoots with willing friends, and it’s also gotten me a few gigs.

On the smaller side of things, I shot LinkedIn photos for many of my classmates this past semester since most were looking for internships. The most interesting gig I’ve picked up so far is with CIBC, SLN’s lead partner. I’m scheduled to shoot headshots for them soon and can’t wait to do it!

Thing I Tried #3: Video Editing

Of all the video platforms out there, YouTube has always been my favourite. My whole obsession started with Smosh in grade seven and grew from there. Making a video and sharing it was a scary thought for me until last year when I started vlogging.

After seeing Casey Neistat share his daily life through his videos, it made me realize that “If he can do it, I can do it too.”

The first few videos were pretty rough and I was pretty darn awkward, since talking to myself without looking like a maniac in public was a new and daunting task. Slowly, everything became easier since I was doing it so much and I developed my own work-flow.

Soon, word spread both in the classroom and in my office at Humber of the videos I was creating and people started to notice my work. One thing lead to the next and that’s how I landed the videographer gig with Humber Marketing.

So what’s the message here?

If you want to learn something, then just learn it.

Devote some time to it and teach yourself everything that you can know about it. It may not be related to what you’re studying in school, but it may prove to be beneficial in the near future. You never know where it will get you and who you’ll meet because of it.

I never thought I would be a beat-boxing, photo-taking, video-making, industrial designer/student marketer when I was a kid, but it’s how my life has unfolded over the last few years.

I have no idea where I’m going next (please don’t ask me what I want to do after I graduate), but I do feel that exploring a multitude of different creative outlets right now is what I want to focus on.

You have to teach yourself these things. You have to learn how to augment your skill set, especially when you’re young. There’s no better time than the now to experiment with what life has to offer.

Just do it.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.