Symptoms

Symptoms suck, don’t they? If it wasn’t for the vomiting and fever, the flu might not be that bad.

That’s why there are so many over-the-counter medications for symptoms. Seriously, take a walk through a local Walgreens or CVS sometime and take note of what the drugs are all aiming to do for us. Headache relief. Anti-itch creams. Allergy relief. The list is a mile long. Longer, maybe.

But symptoms aren’t the true source, are they? You can take a couple of pills for your headache, but when they wear off later on in the day, your head-ache will return. Pills that cover up the symptoms of your allergies are a temporary fix. The true fix, the one with lasting effect, would be to figure out what you are allergic to and remove it from your presence.

Friction is a lot like sickness. It happens to all of us, it’s never fun to experience, and we almost always notice it through the symptoms that manifest, not the point of friction itself. It’s like seeing the tip of an iceberg in the water; you can be sure there’s much more going on that what you can visibly see.

I spent the first year of my freelance design career managing frustrated client relationships. Every day brought new challenges, such as communication issues that needed cleaned up. My first impression was to find ways to avoid communicating with clients. But I’m a designer, and design is all about communication, so that didn’t seem fair, let alone possible. No, I was spinning my wheels trying to figure out how to remove the symptom of something bigger.

For me, it was learning that client relationships are opportunities to teach and guide the client. I was expecting business owners and hard working entrepreneurs to understand how design works. And that was a mistake, and the true source of the frustration I was feeling. It was my friction.

In the end I did what most experts would recommend: I treated each new project as a chance to educate my client on how the process would work, what their role would be, and what I would take care of in the grand scheme of things. The results were immediate. I fulfilled the role of the hired professional, and the clients learned to trust me and help me, rather than blindly get in the way of their own projects.

You shouldn’t be looking for friction in your business. Not primarily, at least. You should be looking for symptoms of friction. Look for the tasks or people who cause you to feel frustrated and stressed. Look for the metaphorical headaches.

Once you know what hurts, you’ll have a better idea of what it will take to make it better. And that’s how you become frictionless.