It’s impossible to get stuck when you’re listening to yourself.
How many thoughts go through your head every day?
All of them are potential ideas. Most crap, some good, a handful great. You never know until you latch onto one and see where it goes. And anyone who claims they do is full of it.
I’ve noticed a trend, in others and myself and especially in the new creator: getting in your own way.
And the usual solution to this self-imposed roadblock is typically to seek approval of others before embarking on whatever journey it is you’re thinking of.
Some quotes of the fearful creator:
- “Is this okay?”
- “Do you think this is a good idea?”
- “I really want to work this out before I start...”
All of which are counterintuitive because most people will tell you “do your own thing”, “you do you”, “you won’t know until you try it” or some form of “don’t listen to what others say, just do it.”
But when it actually comes to it...
Ho ho, that’s the difference isn’t it? Saying something and doing something.
I’ll let you in on a secret: you don’t need permission.
Whatever it is you want to start, to make, to build, to share. You don’t need someone to hold your hand. You could start now right if you wanted to.
Don’t care, made art
That’s my motto. Steal it if you want.
Whenever I start questioning myself, asking silly things like “who am I to have these thoughts?” or “who am I to be writing this article?”
I smack myself in the face and recite the words.
Don’t care, made art.
Start digging the hole
I tried to learn to code three or four times. Every time I failed, I’d wait until someone wanted to do it with me before trying again.
Even though I knew, knew the whole time what I wanted to do.
Well, why not just journey off and start? Who knows. Perhaps I wanted someone else on the journey to help when it got hard.
But get deep enough in anything and you’ll realise you’re going to have to start facing the challenges yourself.
I think of creating like having a single shovel on the ground. And the treasure you’re trying to make lives in the dirt below.
How many people can use the shovel at the same time?
You could spend all your time trying to work out how to get others to use the shovel with you or you could just start digging the hole.
The same goes for someone else, you can’t hold their shovel for them. Let them find their own and figure out how to dig.
Pretend you’re an archeologist and the thing you’re trying to create is like a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. A work of art when it towers through a museum but only because someone like you picked up the shovel, stuck it in, found the bones and spent hours brushing off the dust.
Why or why not?
Sandra tells Mark about the paintings she’s been creating. She hasn’t made money yet but she enjoys trying to get her ideas onto the canvas.
Mark asks her why she’s spending so much time painting when she could be doing other things.
Harriet tells Lucy about the poems she’s been writing, so far they’re private but she’s been thinking about sharing them on her blog.
Lucy asks why not? And tells Harriet to go for it. Asks, what’s the worst that could happen?
Be more like Lucy.
Race to your first 100
“But I’ve got no talent.”
Neither do I. Except for the fact I can sit here and spill my guts onto this page.
In the beginning, my hands wouldn’t output what crawled around my head. But after enough sessions with the blank page, I’m getting better.
Don’t discount yourself at being bad at something until you’ve sunk at least 100 deep hours into it. 100 pure hours is enough to go from zero to average (or above) at almost anything.
When’s the last time you spent four days straight doing nothing but one thing?
A broke crackhead can spend four days hustling for a hit like it’s nothing.
Imagine if you poured that kind of crackhead energy into your work.
Our brains aren’t wired for non-linear returns. You could spend 99 hours on something and make almost zero progress. And then halfway through hour 100, the breakthrough comes from what seems like nowhere. But it’s not nowhere, it’s the magic of compound interest showing its face and waving hello.
100 hours, 100 articles, 100 videos, 100 creations, 100 phone calls, 100 cold emails, 100 whatever.
Use speed and quantity as your fertiliser for quality.
Say the motto whilst you do it.
Don’t care, made art.
Don’t care, made art.
Don’t care, made art.
Audience of one
Stuck? Probably not. You’re trying to please everyone.
What happens if you replaced “but what if they don’t like it?” with “but what if I don’t like it?”
You’re already your own harshest critique, why not become your own biggest fan?
Educate or entertain
We’ve been selfish so far. Why? Because it works. No one knows what you’re after as much as you.
But let’s switch gears.
If you can’t stomach being a selfish creator, make things to educate or entertain others and you’ll always have an audience.
People are hungry for knowledge, share what you know.
I want to dance, I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to cheer, I want to fear, I want to love. Give me a reason.
Does what you’re making educate or entertain? Bonus points if it does both. Teach me something while we dance together.
Embarrassed every month
Last week I entered a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition.
Walking through the competition, I thought, why am I here?
Then I realised, I’m uncomfortable because I’m tiptoeing into the unknown. And everyone around me probably feels the same way. Win or lose we’re going to come out of this different to what we were before. This could’ve been a normal Sunday. Instead, we’re all here putting our practised skills to the test. A controlled environment, yes, but also an environment different from what we’re used to.
I lost two out of three of the fights I had. A bruised ego and a bruised body.
I reflected on the one I won and was proud of my efforts, I went through the moves I’d practice and they came off. Zero takeaways except for a pat on the back.
The ones I lost?
One of them gave me a haemorrhoid. I got choked so hard the inner linings of my intestines gave way.
Have you ever a haemorrhoid? If not, I’ll tell you what it’s like: shit.
A physical reminder that I’ve got something to work on, something to improve.
Over the next few months, those small loses will turn into gains as I fill the gaps in my skill set.
Of course, the goal is never to lose, it’s to become immune to it.
I’ve got an idea...
I’ll give myself a vaccination right now.
- I, Daniel Bourke, am immune to losing.
- I, Daniel Bourke, am immune to rejection.
- I, Daniel Bourke, am immune to embarrassment.
That should last a month. Next month I’ve got find a way to embarrass myself, step out of my happy little circle, practice putting fear to the side when I’ve got to do something that matters.
If you’re not feeling embarrassed about something at least once a month, you’ve got to bump your numbers up.
There’s no criteria
Remember how writing an essay in school was such a drag?
1500 words on some topic you’d never pursue on your own, being sure to add references for every thought you translate into words all to make sure you ticked the boxes a veteran education academic created 17 years ago.
Good gosh. Boring to write, even worse to read.
Creating becomes fun when you realise there’s no criteria except making good art.
What’s good art?
You decide baby.
Copy others until you have your own style
Put different colour clothes together in a washing machine and what happens?
The colours run and they mix.
That’s how I make things. I steal the ideas of others and put them into my washing machine brain and let them mix.
Then I take them out and see what they look like.
Sometimes they’re disgusting. The type of shirts you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing.
Other times, the times when I pour my heart in, the washing machine goes into reverse and instead of coming out clean, the shirts come out with bloodstains on them.
Those type of shirts?
Trust your ability
Last week I helped my friend Big Easy prepare for a role-play scenario. A 2-minute elevator pitch involving meeting someone for the first time, finding out who they are, talking to them about a product and tailoring the interaction to their needs.
In real life, Big Easy could do this type of scenario without thinking. But since it was going to be in front of his peers, he spent the days leading up to the pitch evaluating every possible outcome scenario. All which usually end in him screwing up.
Where does this come from?
The more you plan, the more you space you give for a disconnect between your belief in your abilities and your actual abilities.
To fix my friends disconnect we went for a walk on the beach and acted out different scenarios.
The first few started off rusty but were polished by the end.
See? That wasn’t so bad, I said.
You’re right, I think I’ve got this, he said.
Turns out Big Easy won the best performance on the day. He’s going through to the next round.
When you’re doubting your ability, ask yourself, am I planning too much instead of practising?
In pursuit of a leader
My friend got me a poster of someone we both look up to for my birthday. It’s hanging in my hallway.
The other day I walked passed it and had the audacious idea I could be that person, a person others look up to.
Would you look at that... we’re coming full circle here. We started by saying too often people hold themselves back because they’re looking for someone to give them the go ahead.
A leader to say, “you can do it.”
Well, guess what?
You can become that person.
Instead of just pursuing your interests, become a leader in your interests.
Everyone is looking for someone to look up to — perhaps it’s you.
[This article started as an issue of Eat, Move, Learn, Make (my newsletter). If you want future riffs like this delivered straight to your inbox, be sure to sign up.]