How Tiantian Xu learns anything in 100 days

How Tiantian Xu, a Seattle based designer, challenged herself to learn a new skill in 100 days.
Aloke Pillai

For the past 5 years, Tiantian Xu has been challenging herself to learn a new skill and practicing it in public for 100 days. I am so inspired by her creative growth mindset. I was fortunate to learn more about how she frames her thinking around a new challenge. By day, she is a designer at Oculus. By night, she is an artist challenging herself to adopt yet another medium.

Practice makes perfect. You don’t just think that. You live by it. What inspired you to challenge yourself with 100 days of learning something new?

Tiantian: I’m a product designer with an HCI background. But I never had any former graphic design training. So I’ve always wanted to improve my graphic design skills. One day I stumbled upon Yuan Wang’s 100 days of Chinese Painting on Facebook. I did some research on #The100DayProject and started my first project in 2015. It turned out to be a great creative outlet and a perfect way to learn a new skill. Since then, I have completed 6 projects including doodle, lettering, watercolor, vector illustration, motion design, and 3D modeling.

You have been sharing your learning progress over the past five years. What are some of the challenges and benefits of being so transparent about how you learn?

I treated writing as another form of learning. The process of writing deepened my understanding of the subject. It forced me to be reflective and think about how I can improve my output next time. It also helped me to build an audience on social media.

That being said, summarizing a 100-day-project into a short article was challenging. It took me four months to write my latest article because I needed to reflect on my past project, connect the dots, and form my opinion.

What is your advice to people who are inspired by you to start their own 100 day challenge?

When you are choosing the subject, make sure it is flexible in terms of the daily deliverables. Ideally, you should be able to finish it between 15-60 minutes per day. 

Remember the goal of the 100-day-project is to show up day after day and celebrate the process of making. It’s not about fetishizing finished products—it’s about the journey.

Sharing the first steps of any new skill could be embarrassing. Did you have initial fears like that? If so, how did you overcome that?

I don’t have initial fears like that :) For me, the more embarrassing the first few pieces of art are, the better. Because when you are done with day 100, you can look back and take pride in how far you have come.

What are you planning to challenge yourself with next?

I wanted to continue exploring art in the 3D space. I haven’t decided on the topic yet but I might challenge myself with immersive technology like AR/VR.

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