The Start and the End

Finally, it was over.

For the past four years, John fought the inner creative war…

Four years of writing, editing, cutting, scrapping and starting from scratch…

Four years of uncertainty, doubt and fear…

Four years of painful creative struggle – the kind only a fiction author can truly appreciate…

But in February, the war was over – John had finished his manuscript.  He had won.  He could relax and breathe a sigh of relief. 

All that remained was sending it to a publisher.

That’s the easy part, though, right?

The Struggle

John packed up the manuscript and sent it to a publisher – Simon and Shuster.

The manuscript eventually made its way to a senior editor - Robert Gottlieb.  This was a big deal.  Robert was responsible for discovering and editing then-unknown Joseph Heller’s Catch 22.  He obviously recognized talent and knew how to edit a book.

If John’s manuscript had even a hint of value, Robert would find it.

John’s manuscript didn’t make the cut.

At least not the first iteration.

Robert asked John to try again.

John tried again.

Again, his manuscript got returned.

Robert admitted John had talent – he was certainly a capable author…but his book didn’t have a pointAnd you can’t publish a book that doesn’t have a point.  Robert asked John to submit another rewrite.

Over the next two years, John struggled to rewrite a book he had poured his heart and soul into.

Yet no matter what he did, the book never made the cut.

The Fall

John threw the manuscript aside and tried working on a new novel, but his heart wasn’t in it.

At the encouragement of his mother, John attempted to submit his manuscript to a new publisher.  It had now been close to three years since he had finished the original manuscript.  With renewed optimism, John tried again.

His manuscript was rejected.

John had put everything into this novel.  The characters were pieces of himself.  When publishers rejected his manuscript, they were, in effect, rejecting John.

The personal rejection was devastating.

This final rejection set into motion a downward spiral of depression – a hopeless and miserable depression that lasted for two years before John couldn’t take it anymore.

In March 1969, John Kennedy Toole took his own life.

Dunces in Confederacy…

As some of you may know, this is the heartbreaking true story of author John Kennedy Toole and the ill-fated tail of his posthumously awarded, Pulitzer Prize winning book A Confederacy of Dunces.

During his lifetime, John’s manuscript wasn’t given the time of day.  Publishers didn’t like it.  It was a book that was seemingly about nothing.

A book like that can’t be published, can it?

It wasn’t until years later, after John’s mom went on a personal crusade to get the manuscript published, that it caught the attention of Walker Percy and, in 1980 - 15 year (!) after John had finished the original manuscript - the book was published.

Think about that.

15 YEARS.

It took 15 years before a big publisher recognized the value in this book.  15 years before John’s incredible story was brought to the masses.  15 years before the rest of us got to experience the brilliance that was Ignatius Reilly’s misadventures in New Orleans…

15 years…

11 too late to save John’s life.

Who Should Choose You?

This story isn’t meant to point out the failure of traditional publishers – we already know the model is broken.

No one can see value in what the creator produces quite like the producer himself (or his happy readers).  This is a given.

Nor is this story meant to vilify traditional publishing – we already know their job is to make money.

If a book doesn’t have a point, how do you market it?  If it can’t be marketed, how do you sell it?  If you can’t sell it…move onto a book you can sell.

This story is meant simply to consider one question: if an author like John Kennedy Toole was living today, what would stop him from choosing himself?

Time and time again John was rejected…

A thousand times a day, creators – artists, inventors, and authors just like John 50 years ago - are being rejected by gatekeepers: publishers, producers, angel investors, whatever.

This made sense 50 years ago…but today?

Today, every single one of us has the means to be the publisher, the producer, and even the manufacturer.

We are the gatekeepers now.  Not the film studio, not the publishing house, not the hedge fund – YOU.  The only one stopping you from saying ‘go’ is yourself.

So tell me – what’s stopping you? 

What’s keeping your manuscript from seeing the light of day?  What’s keeping your movie from being created and distributed?  What’s stopping your product from going into production?

Your Opportunity to Commit Today

I wish John was alive today – not only for his family and friends sake, but for the world’s sake.

He created great art.  He wrote words that mattered.  I have no doubt he had more to give…

Today, there are thousands of talented creators just like John all around the world.  People with talent, with value to add to others, with a story, product or idea that deserves to see the light of day.  They’ve probably been rejected a thousand times.  And they may be rejected a thousand more.

My plea to those authors, designers, writers, entrepreneurs, warriors and leaders:

1. Don’t give up.  No matter how hard it gets, there’s a reason you’re here.  There’s light at the end of every tunnel – if you can’t see it, it means you haven’t walked far enough.  KEEP GOING!

2. Pick yourself.  It feels good to get chosen by others.  Getting picked is like a drug - and like a drug, it’s superficial, ephemeral and addictive.  The high is fleeting, destructive and anything but real.  Be your own catalyst: pick yourself instead.

And if you need help with either of the above, I encourage you to check out Insurgent Publishing - a boutique, creative publishing platform that was designed and built to remedy the failure of traditional publishing.

In fact, if you're a writer, artists, designer, editor or just an art and book enthusiast, I challenge you to get involved today.  In January, Insurgent Publishing is publishing our first ever creative entrepreneur's journal - a literary journal that focuses on business and art in the 21st century.

Here is a real opportunity to commit to something that could change your life (and the lives of others) for the better.  Get involved today by following the link above.

If your idea doesn't 'fit' with Insurgent Publishing, it's my promise to you that I will personally help you publish yourself, so that, no matter what, your idea sees the light of day.  This would be commercial suicide for the traditional publisher.

Luckily, a traditional publisher I am not.

Final Thoughts

I know it sounds clichéd or rehashed at this point - don't give up and pick yourself...

You've probably heard it a dozen times and read the same points a thousand times in a thousand different varieties...

But when life hangs in the balance - and, many times, it actually does - I’m not sure the point can ever be emphasized enough.

So here’s to John Kennedy Toole – a remarkable artist that was overlooked and who left us too soon.

And here’s to the unknown artist, in the trenches, day in and day out, creating work that matters – I look forward to reading your book, watching your movie, or using your product…

Sooner, rather than later.

***

photocredit: Courtney via FarAwayReasons.com

[infopane color="1" icon="0101.png"]This is the first in a series of 3 articles I’ll release over the course of the week. Stick around to find out the formula for great work and how to create it, one step at a time.[/infopane]

Are You Doing Great Work?

Sure, you might be doing above average work...

Or very good work…

Or even your best work…

But are you doing GREAT work?

Great Work Defined

Great work is all about impact - the kind of impact that resonates for centuries after you and I are gone.

When I talk about great work I’m referring to works of art like Beowulf, The Republic and Monet’s San Giorgio Maggiore al Crepuscolo; or game-changing inventions like the incandescent lamp, Ford’s Model T, and Gutenburg’s printing press; or lifelong acts of compassion, kindness and servitude like Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

These examples of great work are the names we recognize because they’re the big shots we read about in history books, TV and magazines.

The well-known great works are important, but they’re not the only great works out there.

There’s plenty of other great work the majority of people don’t know about that dramatically impacts hundreds of thousands around the world.  And, in many ways, this is the more important great work because it hits us personally and directly.

For me, it’s movies like Raid Redemption, music like Geographer and microbreweries like Black Raven Brewery – the underappreciated, unknown (to the masses) great work.  These are the things that (in their own bizarre ways) impact my life and my work because they show me what is possible if we put our heart and soul into something that isn’t for everyone.

It’s not for everyone – but it is for a select few.

That’s great work.

Your Great Work

So what is the great work that impacts you?

If you had to rattle off the 3 to 10 things that changed your life, what are they?

But more importantly: what great work are you bringing to the world?

If you’re doing something incredible, continue doing it – today, do it even better.  This is a simple message and very easy to execute for those who are already on their path, creating work that matters, and for those fully aware of where they're heading and what they're doing.

For the rest of us, maybe today is the day we start.

It doesn't have to be huge - it can be as simple as the first step, the first word, or the first stroke of a brush.

Start today and everything could change...

It’s just a thought, but it might just work…

At least for a few.

And that’s what counts, right? 

Every day, hundreds of thousands of blogs are started, thousands of books are published, and hundreds of businesses are created.

The majority don't last.

So what separates those that last from those that fail?

The ones that succeed - do they do something different?

Is there a common pattern, strategy or framework that successful projects use?  And if so, can we model it and use it in our own projects?

These are the questions I've been asking myself recently as I dive headlong into my new publishing startup. The essential question is this:

How can I avoid the pitfalls of unsuccessful startups and tap into the magic of the successful ones?

Creating Success

What I've compiled here are the fundamental dos and don'ts for bootstrapping a business from scratch.

All of these lessons I learned from the masters of the trade (Michael Masterson, Eric Ries, Seth Godin, Chris Anderson, and Nassim Taleb among others) and applied in my own projects.

What you see here is the distilled wisdom of dozens of heavyweights in the business world, as well as the knowledge I've learned from hundreds of books, courses and personal interactions, whittled down into a no-fluff, practical resource you can apply to your own project.

Most of this advice applies to bootstrappers and creative entrepreneurs - but it also applies to the artist, designer and leader.

The lessons included here are universal and impact all of us who build things from the ground up with our bare hands.

So if that applies to you, definitely bookmark this page for future reading.

Good luck, and enjoy:

2 Things You Should Avoid At All Costs:

What not to do with your business is important: the majority of failures are a result of putting time and energy into the wrong things, and if we know what these things are, we can purposefully avoid them.

The 2 biggest don’ts of creating success in business and life are just that – things you should definitely, at all costs, avoid:

1.  Avoid Re-routingre route to what

Re-routing is spending all your time building a solution…to the wrong problem.

This is one of the most common mistakes beginner-level entrepreneurs make.  But it’s not just a beginner-level mistake – plenty of pro’s make the same mistake when they branch out into a new sector, industry, or genre.

Anytime we try something for the first time, we're liable to miss the mark.

That's why it's essential we constantly reevaluate our position, direction and goals (more on that below).

The Lesson: know what problem you’re fixing and why.

2.  Avoid The John Carter Mistake

John Carter was an epic failure in the box office.

Even when things weren't looking good on set or in test groups, the producers continued to pump cash into the project. By the time they shipped, they needed to make close to $400 million to make money on the project.

With every dollar they pumped into the project, the more unlikely their chance of success.

The Lesson: don’t pump money, time and resources into a project that isn’t working.  A sinking ship is a sinking ship - better to cut losses and find a new way to be successful than drown in pride.

9 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Success (in business and life):

It's essential you avoid the two pitfalls above.

Simply put, if you spend your time re-routing or get sucked into the John Carter Mistake, there's literally no way your startup will make it.

But let's say you can and do avoid these two major pitfalls...then what?

What CAN you do to actively improve your chances of success.*

*Note: success is relative and subjective.  In this case, I’m defining success as creating something people want to (and will) pay money for without your business going under (i.e. making profit so you can grow your business).

The following is a list of the 9 best ways you can increase your chances of success, both in business and in life:

1.  Challenge Everything

Just because things are the way they are doesn't mean they should be that way.

No matter what industry of business, genre of art, or category of book, there is always a way to improve the existing paradigm.

There are better systems, better solutions, and better products waiting to be created.  The question is: are you willing to create them?

"Never accept the status quo – there is always a better way."  - tweet this

Ask yourself:

Is there a way this product or this service can be made better?

Why is this the way it is?  Can it be improved?

Where is their a problem and how can I fix it?  What are the pain points of others?  How do I help them?

Is there something missing that I can fill?

This philosophy (and it is just that - a philosophy for living life) of challenging everything includes challenging your own assumptions and beliefs.

Be relentless. 

Constantly test your assumptions and, if need be, change your beliefs - they might just be holding you back.

2.  Know Your "Why"

Why are you doing what you’re doing?

Why do you want to create this piece of art?

Why do you want to build this business?

Knowing why you do what you do is ESSENTIAL.  At the end of the day, your why is what determines your success because it directly feeds your solution (your what) and your execution (your how).

Why, how, what - this is what Simon Sinek describes as the "Golden Circle" - check out his short, powerful video below on starting with why.

"People don't buy what you do - they buy why you do it." Simon Sinek

If you aren't sure of your why, but you’re building something anyway, you’re probably rerouting.

Know your why - and then start with why.

3.  Hypothesize

No project should start without a hypothesis.

In The Lean Startup, Eric Ries explains businesses through the lens of a scientific experiment – in other words: testable, measurable, and reproducible.

Ries’ startup philosophy revolves around creating a hypothesis for your product or service – if we do X, then Y will happen.

“the goal of a startup is to figure out the right thing to build – the thing customers want and will pay for – as quickly as possible.” The Lean Startup

For example: if I add an email subscription box to the end of every blog post, I will increase my subscription rate by 7%.

Or, if I decrease the price of my product by 5%, gross revenue will increase by 10%.

The point isn't to know if it will work – the point is to have an idea, create a hypothesis for the idea, and then test it.

If it fails, tweak it and try again (email subscription boxes at the top of the blog post, or in the sidebar, or add a popup box to your site, etc.).

Constantly test.  Constantly measure.  Constantly learn.

And always adapt and grow.

4.  Be Willing to Change Strategies

When we hypothesize, we create a question that can be tested and proven right or wrong.

If the solution doesn’t work for a particular product or service, tweak the hypothesis and try again.  This is changing tactics – the small scale engagements we make with customers or inside our business (i.e. changes to how we write our sales copy; changes to visual presentation, etc).

Changes in tactics don’t change the fundamental problem you’re trying to solve – changes in tactics simply mean a shift in how we approach the problem.

However, at some point, we might find that nothing is working for our original hypothesis.  At this point, it’s time to change strategy - or, in Lean Startup terms, pivot.

"Life is too short to build something nobody wants." - Ash Maurya

Below is a video by Ash Maurya, author of Lean Running, who explains how to create products efficiently and effectively, why most startups fail, and how you can avoid making the same mistake:

If you found the video useful, make sure to check out Maurya's amazing, free lean canvas tool here.  It will help you map out an effective, simple business plan.

If you have a hard time filling it out, it probably means you're missing a key piece of the puzzle for your own business.  This will help you avoid creating a product that no one wants.

Pivoting means changing your business or business model.

This could mean changing from a "freemium" model (free content to bring people in; sell them paid premium content later on) to a premium, upfront monthly subscription model; from a company that produces and sells information products, to a company that builds software solutions.

Pivoting is sometimes drastic. 

It can be scary and it’s never easy (it challenges our pride because it means admitting our original ideas were wrong).

But if you know your why, pivoting becomes a lot more bearable.

5.  Expose Yourself to Positive Black Swans

The Black Swan is a term coined by Nassim Taleb in his groundbreaking book of the same name, which focuses on probability, randomness and human rationality.

A Black Swan refers to an event that is unpredictable, but has massive impact in our lives.

The internet, for example, was a positive Black Swan event; now we are a few keystrokes away from almost anybody in the world, increasing connection and freedom throughout the world (this change was unpredictable and completely changed the economic landscape of the 90's and beyond).

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 were a negative Black Swan event - the ramifications of which we still experience every time we have to take our shoes off at the airport.

So while we can’t predict when or what form a Black Swan will take, we can focus on exposing our business and our life to positive Black Swan events (and, likewise, protect against negative Black Swans).  A few ways to do this:

Here's a lesson on Black Swans from the movie Grinders with Matt Damon.  It's 30 seconds long - it sums up why playing it safe isn't the way to live life.  Sometimes, you have to take a chance:

Taleb recently published a new book called Anti-Fragility - which explains in more depth all the things that gain from disorder.  A must read for all aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make a dramatic impact (and limit their downside exposure).

6.  Aim Small, Miss Small

In the movie The Patriot, Mel Gibson’s character teaches his son how to shoot.

His advice – aim small, miss small.

Once you know your "why" you should focus on the most specific problem you can fix (every product or service fixes a problem).

The smaller, as in, more particular and precise the problem, the better your chances of hitting your mark (because you know exactly what you’re aiming for).

Shooting from the hip (i.e. seeing what will stick) is usually not the best solution to anything.

Be Specific.

Be precise.

Focused on one problem and one problem only to start – and be relentless about defining that problem and your solution.

7.  Start Local

You do not need a website, a team of coders, or a dozen virtual assistants to get your business off the ground.

You do not need angel investors, the Shark Tank or Donald Trump to pick you.

There is a way to test and validate every product before going full scale, and guess what?  You can usually do this by yourself.

Your job is to figure out how to test your solution in the smallest way possible.

Below is a video by Neville Medhora, a guy who does a crazy amount of business testing (from drop shipping companies and one and one consultation services, to eCourses and digital products).

If this doesn't open your mind to what's possible, I don't know what will (warning: some swearing is involved):

 

Before you start your LLC, lock down the manufacturing and distribution facilities, and enlist a team of salespeople, maybe it would be more effective for you to create the first product and hustle it by yourself.

Can you sell it on Craigslist? 

Can you sell it on Ebay or Etsy? 

Can you set up a stand outside an event and sell it to real people?

The point is this: you must test and VALIDATE before you start scaling.

Sorry, but if it doesn't work on a small scale, it won’t work on a massive scale (Facebook started out on a single campus, McDonalds on one street corner, and Apple with one product).

8.  Work ON Your Business...

Don’t work in it.

Working in your business is essential, but only in the beginning.

It’s necessary to work inside your business at the start; you need to know how it works so you can develop and refine your processes and systems.  But once you have the systems in place, and a profitable product or service, start hiring others to do your job.

Your goal should be to create a  profitable, organized and systematized business so you can scale.

You really shouldn't be hiring people until you're profitable (there are exceptions to the rule - I'm addressing solopreneurs/bootstrappers in particular here).

Working on your business and not in it is a concept heavily analyzed in The E-Myth Revisited, which explains the success of any startup requires the ability to create systems and processes in order to make your business turnkey.

Here's a video all about creating systems for your business from the author himself:

 

Creating a business is the only way to attain actual freedom through your creative work.  As long as you're an employee or self-employed (i.e. a freelancer), you're at the beck and call of others.

Freelancing requires you to be on the clock (it might be fun, but you're still tied down).

If you want to create something that improves your quality of life, that increases your flexibility and freedom, be an entrepreneur -  focus on creating a business, one that can grow and scale, even if you’re not there.

This means working on your business and not in it.

9.  Never, Never, Never Quit.

Yes, you might have to forget the project you’re working on, or change your tactics, or even pivot your strategy - but don’t quit on creating.

Never stop doing what you love because it doesn't work on the first try – it rarely if ever will.

"If I fail more than you do, I win." - Seth Godin

Self-determination and freedom are not easily won - it’s a struggle and you will take some hits.

That’s why so many quit or never try to begin with.

But not you.

Have faith, act courageously and keep fighting.

The Moral of the Story

Is to constantly push your own abilities; to learn and grow and improve; to seek out challenges and test yourself.

You don't have to create your empire this weekend - and, in fact, you couldn't even if you wanted to.

But if you start today, in the smallest way possible (just one word on a piece of paper; just one call to a prospect; just one sketch of your design), you begin the process of creating something brilliant.

And in this singular act, no matter how small, you begin building your empire.

So I guess the underlying moral of the story is this:

Never stop creating. Start today.

If you like what you've read and need help starting, finishing and shipping your project, here are a few ways I can help:

1 - Join the Resistance by subscribing to our newsletter here (it's free)

2 - Check out a book I wrote called 2 Days With Seth Godin (PDF version) or on Amazon Kindle that can help you get your book, business, or blog unstuck.

3 - Check out the Cache where I have books, courses, and more - many that are "Pay What You Want" (your contributions help me continue to write, produce, and publish)

What Do You Really Need?

Do you really need more money in your bank account before you can create something worthwhile?

Do you really need to develop a routine before you can start making something great?

Do you really need more time in the day before you can dare boldly?

Or is it possible that you can create something worthwhile regardless of the number of zeros in your checking account; or that by making something great you create the routine you need; or that just maybe ‘no time’ is precisely the right time to dare boldly…

Breaking Through Excuses

Writing a book, building a business, creating something without permission – these things are hard to do and they’re plagued with setbacks and failure.

Of course, the enemy knows this and uses it against us.  Excuses are just another tactic used by the enemy to stop us from creating our life’s work.

But like anything the enemy throws at us, we can overcome it.

We can prepare ourselves by recognizing these universal truths of creation:

1)  Excuses are ever-present.

I promise you this – there are a million reasons you shouldn’t start today, why tomorrow works/feels/seems better – but none of these reasons matter.  They don’t keep you from doing the work: you do.

With a simple choice, right now, you delay building your worthwhile project.

Or, with the same simple choice, right now, you begin building your empire. 

The choice is yours every day.

2)  Nothing is built in a vacuum.

There will never be a perfect time, place, or set of companions for you to begin your journey.

There will always be mountains to climb, swamps to traverse and dragons to slay.

This isn’t a reason not to start, it’s the reason you MUST start - otherwise there is no journey, no hero, and no story worth telling.

3)  You have one life but many chances.

The crazy reality of life is this: it isn’t training.  This isn’t a sparring competition getting you ready for the actual fight.

This is it. 

This is the real thing.  This is the main event.  You were born into it.  You have one life to live - no do overs, no second chances.

So you have a choice: fight like hell or throw the match.

Either way, you’re going to take a hit (many hits, actually).

While it might seem like throwing the match, which requires less of your energy and strength up front, is the easier choice, the fact is this: you’re going to take way more hits throwing the match than if you stand your ground, keep your gloves up, and hit back.

And I’m sorry to say but opting out to spectate or referee isn’t an option.  You might not like it, but that’s the reality.

So how will you fight?

The Best Way to Overcome Excuses

Is by starting.

Start right now.  Not tomorrow, not next week - right now.

Now is the best time for you to start; now is the best place for you to begin your journey; now is the best way for you to climb the mountain and slay your dragon.

It’s not easy, but let’s be honest: would you have it any other way?

Good luck and keep fighting.

The Comforting MythChoosing Your Path

Coming up with a brilliant, life-altering idea is what matters.

If you could only come up with that one perfect idea…

It could re-energize you to tackle your project, inspire you to go after your audacious goal, and light your path to success, happiness and contentment.

Of course, this is a myth.

The moment we stop to really think about it, it’s clearly irrational – one idea by itself never changes anything.  But we believe it anyway, because as long as we believe it and we haven’t had that spark, that realization, that epiphany, we can justify our current situation and continue to go with the flow.

By waiting for something to happen to us, we abdicate responsibility over our lives and we continue down the path set by others. 

For many (for the majority) this is comforting.

So if the life-altering idea is a myth, what is true?

The Brutal Truth

Action.

Action is what matters.

Small action taken daily changes everything.  Not all at once, of course, but gradually over time.

So the year after you changed your diet, you’re 20lbs lighter – or 20lbs heavier because you ditched the diet and continued down the same path you were on.

Or your commitment to blogging created enough content for you to publish your first book – or it didn’t because you scrapped the writing altogether because no one was paying attention.

Or you finally founded your own company and you’re proud to say you draw your own map – or you have no company because you never actually worked up the courage to quit your comfortable, inoffensive job.

Ideas?  They’re a dime a dozen.

A small action today?  It’s worth everything.

The Choice

Each of us has a choice - many choices, actually, every day of our lives.

And every day, every hour, every minute, is the chance to choose - and, therefore, the chance to change.

You can:

1.     Continue down the path you’re on and wait for an idea…

Who knows, maybe it will come.

Maybe the idea you’re hoping will strike a cord and call you to action will hit you over the head if you wait long enough.  Worst case scenario, you continue meandering on your current path, the one set and well trodden by others.

Or…

2.     Take action today…

In a second, literally, you can change everything. 

This change is a declaration made through action.  Even the smallest action changes the status quo – at least your status quo, at this moment, which is the first step toward creating lasting, large-scale change.

This is the harder path, of course - no reason to sugar coat it. 

You’re walking down your current path for a reason; switching paths or turning around and walking the opposite way means having to put effort into retracing your steps - and sometimes that feels like a waste.  When we turn around, even if it’s for the right reason, it still feels as if we’re losing progress.

But if you’ve been making progress down a path you don’t care for, toward an end you don’t want, turning around is actually the only way to truly make any progress at all.

If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. [C.S. Lewis]

In one moment, in one choice, in one action, you can turn it all around.

The question is: will you?

The Blockovercoming creative block

Have you ever tried writing a book, a blog, or business copy?

If so, you’ve probably experience writers block: the inability to form your ideas into the perfect words, sentences, and paragraphs.

But this type of block isn’t exclusive to writers.

All creative entrepreneurs - from writers, designers, and inventors, to artists, marketers, and entrepreneurs, experience creative block.

Creative block is the inability to satisfactorily form into something tangible the ephemeral ideas in your mind.

Creative block can hit anyone trying to tell the perfect story, build the perfect product, or produce the perfect piece of art.

And if you’ve experienced creative block, you know what an infuriating pain it is and how quickly it can cripple your project.

You also understand one thing only the few brave enough to create understand: Creative block is real.

The Tool of the Creative Enemy

Creative block is one of the Enemy’s most effective creativity-destroying weapons.

If you’re not careful, the Enemy will use creative block to get you to quit your project prematurely, give up before you even start, or abandon your life’s work althogether.

Don’t give up – there is a way to fight back and overcome creative block, once and for all.

But you must be ready to go to war with yourself and your art.

If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. [Dale Carnegie]

The Paradox

There are ideas in your head - ideas that may be vivid, logical and clear before you sit down to write - but the moment you put pen to paper (fingers on keyboard) they vanish.

You sit down to bring these ideas to life but the ideas fade into nothing.

You stare at the screen desperately, hoping through sheer willpower you’ll be able to form your perfect idea into the perfect sentence…but it’s gone.

The worst part – throughout the day you had no problem at all coming up with great ideas.

But they all came at the most inopportune times.

These brilliant ideas come to you in their lucid entirety while driving, showering, or eating; while mindlessly folding clothes, lifting weights, or going on a long run; while in a conversation, reading a book, or listening to a presentation.

But the moment you need them – sitting in front of the blank screen - they vanish.

It seems like when you don’t need the ideas, the ideas come in waves, but when you need the ideas – when you sit down to write; when getting words on paper is the only thing that counts – the ideas disappear.

Insurmountable?

Hardly.

The Reality of Creative Block

There are ways to overcome creative block.

It starts with identifying the reality of the situation: yes, creative block exists…

But only when we care deeply about what we create and how people will perceive it.

If you don’t care about what you write, or you’re not concerned with how it's perceived, you can write freely and unencumbered (think personal journal or email to a close friend).

For those who care about their work and about how it's perceived, overcoming creative block can be a bit trickier.

Two Techniques that Don’t Work for Overcoming the Block

Fighting back against creative block is hard if we do it through force.

The two most common techniques are:

  1. Forcing the “Right” Words
  2. Waiting for “Inspiration”

Both of these techniques are equally ineffective and will wreck you in different ways.

Both are tools of the Enemy.

Both will bury you.

The only way to overcome creative block is through the circumvention of disempowering thoughts, and focused discipline of good habits.

Simply Create

Forcing the right words never works.

When we sit in front of a computer all day, stressing and straining to get the “right” words onto the screen, we begin our descent into the self-perpetuating abyss of wasted time.

If the words don’t come out right the first hour at your computer, they sure won’t come out right by hour five.

They won’t come out right because they can’t: the words you write are never right.  They’re also never wrong. 

When we focus on creating the perfect sentence, the perfect flow, the perfect tone, style, or theme, we forget what’s ACTUALLY important: the message. 

We forget our purpose; we forget our why; we forget the entire concept of art, which is this: art is never right or wrong.

The first and often most effective way to overcome creative block is to forget forcing the right words and begin allowing the wrong words...

People have writer's block not because they can't write, but because they despair of writing eloquently. [Anna Quindlen]

Eventually, once you allow enough of the wrong words, you’ll forget right and wrong altogether and simply create.

Disciplined Inspiration

Waiting for inspiration is pointless and futile.

Often, when we’re burned out, tired, or simply unmotivated, we rationalize taking off days, weeks, or months so we can reset and recharge.

The thought process: if I’m well rested, if I take some days of to reset my mind, I’ll come back better and stronger.  Plus, the best writing is inspired writing, so I must wait until I’m inspired before I write.

This is the Enemy at work.

The Enemy will justify why you should rest and save strength, why taking a break for an indefinite period is essential for creativity, and why avoiding writing is the surest way to clear your mind for more writing.

Lies.

The Enemy uses creative block to dismantle and destroy your project because it needs you sedated, compromised and passive.

The Enemy’s survival depends on keeping you safely hidden inside the group so as not to expose yourself through your art.

The Enemy fears you as an outlier and uses thoughts of ‘waiting for inspiration’ to cripple your dreams.

Don’t accept this for one second.

Here’s the reality: inspiration comes to those who grind, work, and create.

Inspiration comes to those who allow it to happen through movement, through action, through consistent, repeated behavior.

Inspiration comes to those who are disciplined.

I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning. [William Faulkner]

Sit down and create every day and you will find your inspiration.

The Courage to Create

When we put our words, ideas, and art out there; when we produce publicly; when we tell everyone who we are and what we’re about, we expose ourselves to the tribe.

And the tribe isn’t always on our side.

This fear of the tribe, of judgment and criticism, keeps many people from starting, finishing, and shipping their great work.

Overcoming creative block really isn’t a secret.  It just means doing the work every day.

But you already knew that.

The real question is: do you have the courage to create in spite of these fears?

And that, like everything important in life, is your choice.

 Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. [Mark Twain]

 

Starting a Project is Thrilling Starting

There’s something about that moment – the moment we finally write our ideas on paper – that’s both invigorating and scary.

We move from day-dreaming to actualizing and everything seems at once entirely possible and wholly reachable.

The goals we set not only excite us by their grandeur, but by the thought of actually reaching them.

The moment you write your ideas on paper and form coherent objectives (clear, precise goals), a shift occurs.  This shift brings about two important realizations:

  1. You’ve been ready to start this entire time
  2. Your future circumstances are entirely in your hands

And knowing these two things makes everything in this life possible.

The question is: what will you create?

 

 

I talk to a lot of people - a lot of people with great ideas, great vision, and tons of untapped potential.

But they're stuck on 'start.'

Instead of trying, attempting, and building, they wait around for the perfect opportunity, the perfect connection, and the perfect launch.

News flash: perfect doesn't exist.

Besides Perfect

Is good enough.

You don't need to be perfect (you can't be), all you need is good enough.

And unless you start, you'll never be good enough.

If that's not enough of a kick in the ass, below are 4 reasons you should start - TODAY.

4 Reasons to Start Before You're Ready

1. The sooner you start the sooner you will be ready

When you start - when you enter the ring - it stops being an idea, a thought, a dream; it becomes your work, out in the world.

No, you're probably not ready; but the sooner you take yourself and your work seriously enough to ship, the sooner you will actually be ready.

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. [Buddha]

It's a paradox, but most important things are.

2. Everybody else is faking it too

At first, you may have to fake it. This is okay: everyone else is doing the same thing, even (especially) the more famous writers, entrepreneurs and artists.

Stop worrying about being a phony and start shipping your projects.

Note: you might still feel like a phony even after shipping your 100th project, but that's not what the rest of the world will see.

3. No failure is forever

If you start and it doesn't pan out, keep going.  If that doesn't pan out, pivot.  If that doesn't pan out, try a different technique, tactic or strategy.

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. [Thomas Edison]

There is no such thing as a single opening launch that, if not done PERFECTLY, will destroy your business, career and art.

Unless you've raised millions in venture capital, the initial start is almost insignificant.

The first version is never the FINAL version.  This goes for everything; the first draft of a manuscript, the first iteration of software, or the first marketing campaign of a brick-and-mortar company.

Don't sweat the start.  Just start.

4. You are ready, you just didn't know it

Stepping into the ring (actually shipping your product; moving from hobbyist to professional) is never easy.

We think we need to be completely ready - trained up, competent, and ready to deal with any possible failure point.

But that's just it: you are ready.   Whether you know it or not, you've been ready you're entire life; you just never stepped into the ring.

So step into the ring already.

A Simple Call to Action

Start.

It sounds simple - and it is.

Start right now; release the first version of your blog, publish your first eBook, sell your unfinished (but minimally viable) product.

The worst that can happen is it doesn't work, which means you're closer to a solution that will.

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. [Walt Disney]

Start now.
p.s. leave a comment below and tell us what you're starting.

the spoils of the unknown path

The Journey of Creation

As soon as you make the choice to create something worthwhile, you take the first step in a long and very real journey.

Like most journeys, it's not always pretty.

Life will try to beat you down and break you if it can.

There will come a time (many times, actually) when things are confusing, uncertain and perilous.

You will face setbacks, breaking points, and failure.

Your peers might scorn you, your "tribe" ignore you, and your effort will seem in vain.

The path will be rarely straightforward, the road rarely clear, and the struggle lonely and sometimes desperate.

At times like these, it will make sense to quit.

The Adventurer

There's nothing pretty about doing something ambitious or unorthodox.

The journey of creating something worthwhile is messy - it can't be any other way.

The journey itself must be scary, dangerous, and unreasonable - otherwise there would be no need for the courage of the adventurer.

The adventurer recognizes the only paths left to explore are those that are scary, dangerous and unreasonable.

The adventurer understands that the guaranteed and safe path is traveled daily by those of little courage.

But the unknown path - the one that sits beyond the threshold of certainty - is ripe for exploration and for what befalls those brave enough to travel along it.

The Spoils of the Unknown Path

Your journey is unique.

At times it will be painful; you will doubt yourself and your project, question your ability, and challenge every virtue you thought you possessed.

But while your journey is unique (and the struggle will, at times, seem unbearably lonely), the pain you experience is universal.

Every adventurer sets his own course and travels his own path, but the pain he experiences - the loneliness, confusion, fear and desperation - those are experienced by every adventurer who chooses the unknown path.

But the path is painful for a reason.

Every great adventure ends with an equally great reward: whether it's discovering buried treasure, winning the championship title, or finding your way back home.

The spoils go to the victor, and the victor is always the one who sticks it out to the end.

Having the guts to travel the unknown path, to create something worthwhile, takes courage, boldness and (sometimes) madness.

Like everything worth doing, it won't be easy.

But like every difficult thing worth doing, the spoils go to the adventurer and the adventurer alone.

Have you started on your journey?

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

[Robert Frost]

 


Join The Resistance and defeat your inner creative Enemy so you can finally create your life's work.

 

Be Bold

The Problem With Hope

"I hope they like it."  

"I hope it works out."  

"I hope they will buy it."

The problem with hope isn't hope itself, but rather when we use the word hope as a replacement for "I wish someone else would take care of this problem for me."

When we "'hope" for things that way, we might as well throw in the towel and get out of the ring.

What You Own

Here's the thing; you don't have ownership over the reaction, response, or results. 

BUT...

You do have 100% responsibility over your actions.

Set a goal.  Commit.  Follow through.

That is what you have control over.  This is what you own.

Don't hope you will do your best - DO YOUR BEST.

What happens as a result is a result and will happen how it does.

Remember, the only thing you control, the only thing you OWN, are your own actions.

Don't hope they will be great, make them great.

Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. [Goethe

Be bold.


 

Join the Resistance

 

 

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