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How to do great work without being an asshole

Los Angeles designer, CCO of Edenspiekermann, stubborn basset hound owner and author of How To Do Great Work Without Being An AssholePaul Woods, gives his thoughts on the state of the creative industry and his tips for, well… not becoming an asshole.

Paul Woods, Awesome Merchandise, Blog, How to do great work and not be an asshole

The “ah-ha” moment for Paul’s book came after a heated debate with a friend about the necessity of working long hours in the creative industry. Their opinion was that long hours and general chaos were necessary for great creative work, something he fundamentally disagreed with.


At that point, He’d been working with Germans for many years – who are of the general opinion that if you are not getting your shit done in a normal workday, you’re doing something wrong- so he’d been used to working in an environment where efficiency and work/life balance was valued above all else.


“Unfortunately, the old “churn and burn” model is still all too prevalent in the creative industry especially in places like London and the US, and the truth is that it kills creativity,” Paul explains.


Designers are not going to produce their best work when they are burnt-out or pissed off. I realised that this was still a problem in the industry and I wanted to write about it.


“I’ve been very lucky in my career to have worked at creative shops that managed to produce great work in a sustainable way, and so, I decided to put together a collection common sense tips I’d picked up along the way into a semi-humorous “business for design” book. My hope is that people who read the book are a bit more reflective about the work environment they create for themselves and others.”


Paul Woods, Awesome Merchandise, Blog, How to do great work and not be an asshole

We’ve all heard the tales (or have personal experiences) of workplaces bending over backwards to accommodate clients extreme demands, or offices where leaving on time is seen as a weakness. But if the churn and burn way of working is so counterproductive to creativity, then why is it still so prevalent?


“In truth, a lot of it comes down to that old adage ‘old habits die hard’- unsustainable practices have been part of the creative industry for a very, very long time. Of course, there’s the other fact that creative people are extremely easy to take advantage of. ” Says Paul.  


“To a creative person, the need to make stuff is more addictive than hard drugs. We find it almost impossible to stop ourselves when we are are in flow, and therefore are naturally prone to burnout, especially early in careers when we want to prove themselves.”


Even with the best intentions, everyone can be an asshole every now and then. Even Paul falls victim from time to time.


Paul Woods, Awesome Merchandise, Blog, How to do great work and not be an asshole

“We’re all human. And sometimes, you have to be an asshole. We live in reality after all. A project can take an unexpected turn and you have to ask your team to work late to get it done on time. A change in the market means you have to lay off good people. Good culture and sustainable working is not about a single activity or moment in time, it’s about the overall environment, and making it a priority in the first place.



“Truthfully, most people are not intentionally assholes, they’re just so wrapped up in the drive to produce great work that they don’t see the negative side effects their behaviour may have on others.”



Luckily, for any of you now sat wondering if you’ve accidentally fallen into the A-hole tribe, Paul has created a handy flowchart to help you out.


Paul Woods, Awesome Merchandise, Blog, How to do great work and not be an asshole

So you’ve self-diagnosed, now what’s the treatment? Well, it could be as simple as taking a step back and putting things into perspective which helps to change your office dynamics.



“You’re helping someone sell cream soda, used cars or haemorrhoid cream. Take a fucking vacation. Make work/life balance a priority and lead by example. No junior will leave early if all of the team leads are working late. If you’re the boss and have to work late, do it from home so that you don’t create a culture of working late in the office.”



“I’ve also heard there’s a rather wonderful book about the subject for a paltry sum of £12.00, and the author is supposed to be a super smart guy…”

You can find out more about Paul’s work and buy his book via his website here. 

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