For so many of us, 2020 has been a year of unexpected challenges and opportunities, sorrows and delights, and a whole lot to process going forward.
I always enjoy the process of journaling and reflecting at the end of each year, but this year, it feels non-negotiable. As though the lessons and experiences of this year need to be written out of my system in order to be fully processed and embodied.
And so with that in mind, here are some of the lessons that most stood out to me from a year full of growth, experimentation, small steps backward and large leaps forward. …
There’s a gap that often exists between the objective quality of our work, and our subjective valuation of it.
The gap can exist in one of two directions.
On the one hand, we perceive our work to be better than it really is.
On the other, we perceive it to be worse.
These positions aren’t fixed for life. We can and do vacillate between the two, sometimes on a daily basis.
In either case, our job is to close the gap.
When our opinion of our work is that it’s better than it is in reality, we close the gap by improving our skills, knowledge, and taste. …
The clue to your next step is almost always in front of you already.
The tiniest, shimmering thread of an idea,
Waiting for the light to catch it just right and attract your gaze.
When it does, you realize that you’ve looked past it, around it, over it, and straight through it a hundred times before.
But you’ve never really seen it.
At least not for what it is.
Once glimpsed, however, it becomes impossible to ignore.
Somehow, it both compels and cows you.
Who’s to say where it will lead, after all.
It could be the ticket to your next big breakthrough. …
It’s not uncommon for elite athletes to travel to high-altitude locations to train.
The idea is that if they’re able to train their bodies to perform in a difficult, low-oxygen environment, where the conditions for peak performance are not ideal, they’ll be able to perform even better during competition when the conditions are ideal.
There’s a lot we as creators can take away from this practice.
Too often we defer on creating until the conditions are right.
When we have the right tools.
When we’re in the right environment.
When we have something clear to say.
When inspiration strikes.
Much like the fairweather athlete, these are the requirements of amateurs. …
We often approach our creative work as if the impact and success we seek is behind a motion-activated door.
That if we show up within sight of our target, the doors will simply slide open and we’ll be ushered in.
When the doors fail to open, we wave our arms around for a while before shrugging our shoulders and moving onto the next door, hoping we’ll have better luck with that one.
Maybe the sensor is miscalibrated, we might think, or even rigged against the little guys like us.
It turns out, however, that it’s not the sensor that’s miscalibrated, it’s our expectations. …
There’s a phase at the start of every expedition where even the seasoned traveler does everything within their power to keep their hands clean, their feet dry, and their knees unscraped.
Compare that with the creature that emerges after a week in the wilderness, sloshing through rivers, crawling on hands and knees through thickets, and pulling themselves up steep slopes by muddy roots, and you’d be forgiven for thinking they were entirely different species, let alone people.
It’s only natural to maintain a level of preciousness about our comport and appearance when we start out on any project.
But make no mistake. …
The big secret is that no one knows anything.
That no one knows for sure that this will work and that won't.
That even the most accomplished among us are still shooting in the dark with each new endeavor.
That the only proven path to success is to simply keep creating until you land on something that resonates.
That rather than exceptional talent, what’s required to create that work is exceptional consistency and commitment to your craft.
That the best help you can find is not someone who’ll teach you the newest marketing hack,
But someone who can hold you accountable to your practice. …
I would but…
I don’t have the time.
I don’t have the right tools.
I don’t know the right people.
I don’t have any ideas.
I’m not talented enough.
I don’t have the budget.
I don’t know enough.
We all have a long list of excuses we call on to keep us from putting ourselves on the hook and creating something that matters.
More often than not, however, those excuses are simply a place to hide.
A way for us to avoid the real reason we’re holding back from sharing our insight, perspective, and voice with the world.
It’s easy to think they’re one and the same.
In reality, our mileage count rarely squares with the progress we’ve made toward our goal.
We spend most of our time running in circles–or in place.
We make small bits of forward-progress only during rare flashes of bravery, inspiration, or motivation. Or perhaps when compelled to by deadlines and other external forces.
Otherwise, we pace.
Back and forth.
Round and round.
Out of fear of failure.
Out of avoidance of discomfort.
Out of what we tell ourselves is a lack of clarity.
We rack up the miles, convincing ourselves with each uptick in the odometer that we’re getting closer to our destination. …
It’s a question worth asking yourself.
Too often, however, we skip it and let our reputations write themselves.
Rarely, we end up with a reputation equal to or better than we deserve.
More often, we end up with one that sells us and our work short.
Most often, however, when we let others write our reputation, it ends up fractured.
While we may be known for delivering solid work, beyond that, each of our clients, customers, and audience members has a different story to tell about what we’re uniquely positioned to bring to the world.
Of course, being known for delivering solid work isn’t a bad thing. …