The One, Simple Secret To A Successful Career

John Maeda
4 min readFeb 10, 2021
The Loch Ness Monster is furrealz … well, maybe not.

This post is dedicated to my mother, Yumi, who always told me throughout my life, “I believe in you.” It always made a difference.

I think that I’m more susceptible to clickbait titles than most of my peers because I grew up in a household where The National Enquirer was one of my primary sources of news.

My mom was always busy running the tofu store with my father, and as a big fan of Elvis she always wanted to keep tabs on his latest resurrection from the grave. So whenever she rushed through the shopping line at the supermarket, that’s when she would pick up her newspaper. As a result, I developed a strong interest in Bigfoot, UFOs, and of course the Loch Ness Monster.

When I later left for college I discovered that families with much more education did things differently when it came to their newspaper habits. They tended to subscribe to a few publications that were foreign to me: the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. For the life of me I couldn’t get excited to read them because they seemed so comparatively boring. As I moved up in life into the graduate school crowd, I became puzzled by something called The New Yorker, which seemed to be a mainstay of many of my classmates’ upbringings. I frankly found it hard to imagine getting excited about this staid, erudite magazine, even though it had funny cartoons.

If all my beliefs came from the narrow worldview of my parents, I might still be comfortably stuck in their world.

Many years later, the Internet has subsumed the mediaverse and I find myself in an algorithmically tuned bubble. When I need to be smarter in business, the bubble bends a little bit and becomes more WSJ-y. When I need to get my current-events game on, the bubble wobbles over to be NYT-y. And when I have nothing better to do, the bubble rearranges itself to be National Enquirer-y for me. Shopping through sensational headlines in search of time to waste is one way I can relive my former childhood, but I can’t spend too much time there. If all my beliefs came from the narrow worldview of my parents, I might still be comfortably…

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John Maeda

John Maeda: Technologist and product experience leader that bridges business, engineering, design via working inclusively. Currently VP Design and A.I. at MSFT.