:How quality and quantity can be combined to increase our creativity and progress.
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
I think there is time (and room) for quality and quantity, but there’s one interesting thing about quality:
Quality gets you both
The more hard work, heart and spirit you put into your work, the more it will resonate with others. In an un-intuitive way (but in a way that makes sense when you think about it) quality creates quantity automatically by being a breath of fresh air that a lot of people want and are looking for. This is a very Steve Martin “so good they can’t ignore you” approach to creativity and work.
Quality won’t get you overnight success, but it will put you on a path towards success. Personally, it makes me much happier too. I feel 100x better when I put the time and effort into high quality work versus when I don’t put in the time it needs and phone it in.
Cheap work doesn’t last long. Cheap can potential be a powerful tool to iterate towards quality, but why not reach for quality from the get-go? However, it also leaves us open to taking shortcuts (aka lazy-cuts) and put in the bare minimum. Quantity gets you speed —which is great — but what is the cost of going faster? More backtracking? More time refactoring and redoing? It’s all about balance, of course. What do we need to do to ensure quality without being a perfectionist, and produce quantity through quality, without sacrificing quality from our work.
But how do you know what’s quality and what’s not?
I think it’s part doing the best you can, pushing your capacity to its max on what you are doing, while constantly learning and consuming other people’s great work. Great work sets the bar. It’s our job to push past the bar, or even break the bar with our creativity and originality. You need both — doing and learning. Otherwise, you can easily fall into the trap of comparing how great everyone else’s work is and how poor your is (or how little you are doing comparatively). Great work says, “This is where I am, now what are you going to do? and you say, “keep creating, keep learning, keep pushing boundaries and keep getting better every day”.
All that said, in order to have quality, you also need a little quantity on your actions. By narrowing your focus on what matters, and consistently coming back to that focus, day in and day out, you can expedite or even compound your creativity. Just as Aristotle once wrote “Quality is not an act, it’s a habit”. Quality is the focus; Quantity (as in consistency) is the means.
“If you hang around long enough, they think you’re good. It’s either my tenacity or stupidity – I’m not sure which.”
We can get a little too close to our business or creative endeavors sometimes. It’s understandable of course. After all, we are the ones spending, day in and day out, trying to make something happen and real. But when all you can see is weeds and none of the flowers and herbs, your garden starts to look like an uncontrollable slop. You know you are working hard and the small, daily improvements are adding up to something… eventually, but right now it looks like nothing is working, nothing is effective. ‘Why am I even doing this anyway?’
It’s tempting to give up on the spot under the duress of thoughts such as this, or to give up subtly by putting less effort and less attention into your work, until eventually you stop all together.
I experienced this early on in my freelance career.
One of the hardest parts about freelancing is learning to balance the need to find new clients with the need to finish the work of your current clients. Current clients give you work now and have already paid (or partially paid) and sustained you up until this point and the near future. New clients enable you to keep your business going past the near future. Both needs demand all of your time and both can stress you out if your not careful.
When you are working for a company, you typically only have one thing on your plate: the current work. You might have an idea what you will do next after you finish what you are working on, but the demands of finding new clients is delegated by someone else and abstracted into a paycheck you get each month. The abstraction of a paycheck gives you peace of mind and a drip of money beyond the immediate needs. (Whether or not a paycheck is actually a safety net, or just an illusion of one as long as the company or sales people getting new clients continues is up for debate.)
Of course, early on in my freelance career, I didn’t know any of this. I was stressed out to the max, because I was not only dealing with this, I was also facing health issues and my expenses felt overwhelming. Which led me to the number one killer of freelancing: worry.
Worrying about where the next check will come from. Worrying about lack of time. Worry worry worry. And if you let the worry continue and consume you, it becomes a second full time job. By exhausting yourself with worrying over where your next client will come from, you push away the work you have in front of you and begin to feel incapable of doing it. You hit a wall, no energy left to find clients OR do the work in front of you. Which alienates yourself from what you need to do and also alienates you from your current clients.
To skip over the bloody details, early on, I dropped the ball. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a lesson that’s helped me later on. In hindsight, by letting worrying become my second job, I clouded my judgement and mindset on what I need to do and how to move forward.
What matters most is the work that’s in front of you — that’s #1. Go above and beyond with the work you have, and the next gig will follow. Everything else will handle itself. Research new clients, set up new meetings. But don’t let those distract you or suck away all your time from what truly matters: the work.
This lesson highlights two important questions:
What can I learn from the mistakes of others, and plan ahead / mitigate the risk of falling into the same traps?
Personal mistakes sting the most, and are hard-won lessons. But it’s better to learn from the mistakes of others if you can recognize the value and heaviness of the lessons someone else has learned through trial and error, without actually having to feel the weight yourself.
Hard lessons are inevitable, eventually. But avoiding as many as we possible can is the smartest move we can do to avoid derailment and roadblocks on our journey. Obstacles don’t prevent us from freedom, unless we allow them too. Ultimately, they give us stories to tell (like this one) and give us the opportunity to help others on their own journey.
How do we keep going after failure?
Dropping the ball sucks. But it’s not the end of the world. There’s always a way forward. But if you hold onto failure to tightly, there’s no wiggle room to move forward. And if you hold onto a certain outcome to tightly as well, everything feels like failure, like weeds blocking your garden, unless that single outcome occurs, (an outcome blinded by lack of clear certainty and knowledge) versus the potential outcomes and opportunities that exist that we can’t see clearly yet.
We all need a goal, something to reach for, something to drive our actions. But the goal is the aim, not what gets us there. The aim is important, because it gives a ballpark direction. What gets us their is meeting each day by giving it the work and energy it requires.
The best way to holding drum sticks is to have a firm but soft grip between your index finger and thumb in the lower middle of the sticks, while the rest of your fingers lightly rest on the space underneath. This allows you to keep hold of the sticks without they flying out of your hands, but also give you moment and control in creating the sounds you want to create.
We must firmly grip the life we want to create, while not grasping to firmly to prevent our movement and ability to change when we need to change.
In many ways, life is fluid, not fixed.
Acting as though it is fixed only makes us brittle and resentful when we break or when things don’t go our way.
We must also adopt fluidity to create a life of meaning and worth.
When you hear the phrase, ‘public speaking’, do you break out into arm sweats? Does the idea of writing a book or build an app (or to fail at writing a book or building an app) curdle your blood?
Are the things you want to do — dreams you desire more than anything — always seem to take the back burner, the last thing you do, or something you procrastinate into oblivion?
Then what your fear is telling you not to do, is exactly what you need to be doing.
Don’t get me wrong, fear sucks. No one ever said it would be easy to start a band or build an audience on YouTube. But the ones who do and stick with it are the ones who are masters of their own fears. Fear is how we grow into our best selves.
The stronger the fear, the more you need to take action and do it.
Creative fears always feel impossible until you do them. Creative failures always seem fatal before the fact. Pushing past these creative barriers will amplify your confidence and creativity.
What fears do you need to tear down to build a better YOU?
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'” — Eleanor Roosevelt
“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” — Dale Carnegie
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” — Mark Twain
You don’t need the latest and greatest gear to become an exceptional creative.
A $3000 guitar will certainly sound better than a $50 one you bought at Walmart, but buying It won’t make you a better guitarist.
An $8000 Leica camera over a beat up iPhone 6 won’t make you the next Chase Jarvis if you don’t even know the fundamentals of photography.
Equipment is expensive (especially if you are like me and want to learn EVERYTHING) and It adds up. And don’t forget about the lifestyle that is attached to each item. The maintenance, the accessories, and other costs to entry. While I️ love a shiny new instrument as much as the next Shmoesph, I️ don’t need It to play brilliantly. The equipment doesn’t make the creative. A well-made instrument will enhance the creator’s ability, however, it’s still a reflection of their hard work and time they’ve put in.
To be a better creator, we must hone and practice our passions. Over and over again, until they become instinct.
Focus on what you have, instead of what you don’t. Work with what you can afford right now, versus waiting to express your creativity when riches fall from the sky into your bosoms.
Be the person who sets the stage on fire with a crappy beat up instrument rather than a ten thousand dollar one with no skills to back up the luxury.
Essentially, what I’m saying is
Don’t let your gear be better than you are.
Own your beat up gear with pride. And don’t let lack of resources stop you from pursuing your art. Get creative, find ways around it. Make lack of resources a part of your art form.
As long as It works, you’ve got what you need. In the meantime, hone your passion and save up for something beautiful and elegant, worthy of all your hard work.
No matter what type of business, brand, product or passion you’re selling, people are your business. Focus on the individuals, not the follow count. Every ideal customer client or follower are real people with real problems and passions. When they become only a number to you — to further yourself — you’ve lost the reason why you do what you do, and the ability to create true impact.
100k followers on your social network of choice means nothing.
But 100k individuals seeking expertise or your personal story means everything.
It’s funny how a few words and a little shift in perspective changes your entire way of thinking. The hard part is being 100% honest with yourself: Are you just looking for numbers instead of seeking to teach and help others? Then maybe that’s the reason why you’re not getting anywhere. But when you focus on helping others with real problems their facing, then the rest will take care of itself. Mastery, wealth, influence, meaning… these are a by-product of putting people first.
“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.” — Les Brown
“Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger
“It’s also selfish because it makes you feel good when you help others. I’ve been helped by acts of kindness from strangers. That’s why we’re here, after all, to help others.” — Carol Burnett
Ideas die on the vine unless you pick them when they are ripe.
Every idea that we latch onto has an expiration date for us. We have the opportunity to take a bite (pun intentional) and execute the idea, or not. The longer we wait, the hard it gets to take a leap and start. The health of an idea doesn’t mean it’s gone forever, it just means you weren’t the one to choose it. Ideas are abundant, there’s always other ideas that will come, variations and amalgamations of where we are, what’s happening around us and in our culture and who we are in this present moment.
“Ideas die on the vine…”
If there is one idea growing, we can assume there are more ideas growing. There are a lot of potential ideas out there, and it’s hard to choose the right one. Some are ripe, ready to be chosen. Some are great ideas, some… not so much. Some still need some time in the sun. In the end, there is no perfectly picked idea, only intuition, and passion to make it happen.
You could choose more than one idea, many in fact, but the more you choose, the less time you will be able to enjoy on each one. There’s a limit to how many you can eat, and too many ideas on your plate at once will only result in waste.
“Ideas die on the vine unless you pick them…”
Maybe the idea is not a good fit for you, or maybe your allergic to it. Just because you have an idea, doesn’t mean you should be the one to do it. Some ideas are meant for other people, and some are meant for us. But when you do pick an idea, you must go after it will all of your being.
“Ideas die on the vine unless you pick them when they are ripe.”
Timing is everything. Knowing when an idea is ready is part luck, part intuition, and part self-awareness. The only way to really know is to try, and see what you can make with it. Some jumped on the internet too early. Some jumped on and made millions.
You can never be 100% that an idea is the perfect time, perfect for you, perfect for the world, but that’s what makes creativity and entrepreneurship exciting. If everyone was always right, everyone would always be boring. Failure, embarrassment, fear, worry, pain… the hard emotions and loses that it takes to achieve something bigger than yourself make the wins even more thrilling and electric than the win themselves.
“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” — Shirley Chisholm
“Ideas are cheap. Ideas are easy. Ideas are common. Everybody has ideas. Ideas are highly, highly overvalued. Execution is all that matters.” — Casey Neistat
“Sometimes ideas are coming so fast that I have to stop doing one song to get another. But I don’t forget the first one. If it works, it will always be there. It’s like the truth: it will find you and lift you up. And if it ain’t right, it will dissolve like sand on the beach.” — Prince
In a world of Me Me Me, what if I did the opposite?
What if I️ lifted other people up instead of me?
Of course, I want Renaissance Life to be huge. I want to create a massive tribe of friends pursuing mastery and living life to the fullest. But is pushing out one more social media post really going to do it for me?
Binge reading Ryan Holiday’s blog has shown me how timeless our work can be. I’m reading his thoughts from over a decade ago, and yet there they are — fresh as the day they were conceived. What stands out most to me is not the insights (although there are a bunch of them) but the connections he made along the way. And the same goes for us.
My writing is important, but it’s the connections I make that matter.
That’s why I’ve started interviewing Creatives Like Me on the blog. I want to create deep and lasting bonds with likeminded humans. I want to surround myself with charismatic and energetic people who are striving to make the world a better place.
Action Steps: Focus on the weculture, not the me culture. Focus on lifting others first.
Who knows what kind of friends we’ll have if we do?
“Having wandered some distance among gloomy rocks, I came to the mouth of a great cavern, in front of which I stood some time, astonished. Bending back and forth, I tried to see whether I could discover anything inside, but the darkness within prevented that. Suddenly there arose in me two contrary emotions, fear and desire — fear of the threatening dark cave, desire to see whether there were any marvelous thing within.”
Like many things in life, creativity, and pursuing your dreams creates a juxtaposition of fear and desire. We have a desire to be, do, and become what we dream, but at the same time fear starting, continuing, and succeeding. We desire the outcome, yet fear the outcome.
When we give into fear, we train ourselves to live without the dream, accepting that it will never happen. This is my life as it is. Yet, even so, we live with a longing that by some turn of fate, we will chance upon our dreams on a morning walk. How many of us are waiting for our big break? Waiting for your dreams to happen is like waiting to win the lottery when you haven’t even bought a lottery ticket.
Have you ever heard yourself say or think, ‘oh that could never happen to me’ or ‘I could never do that, only they can do that.’
This is what Paul would call a negative mindset. No matter how much you want something to happen, if you don’t believe that you can do it, it’s not going to happen. A positive mindset is essential. (You don’t have to be overly-happy all the time, but you do have to believe that you will find a way to your goals.)
What happens when we give into desire instead of fear?
When we push through the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, we step into our discomfort zones and change our capacity of what’s possible. We open our minds to new possibilities.
You step on stage, sing your heart out, and…. well. That’s it. You did it. You did something. You didn’t die, you probably could have done better, but better comes with experience and deliberate practice.
To make your dreams reality, you must let curiosity win.
In creativity and life, there will always be a choice of fear and desire. Who you become — your potential — will be determined by those choices.
Will you choose to give into fear, or will you give into curiosity?
I could let my writing, music, or ideas slide because of fear. Fear of putting myself out there, fear of rejection, or fear of failure. This always reminds me of George McFly from Back to the Future (Marty’s Dad). He’s always saying the line, ‘I could never put my work out there, what if they don’t like it? I don’t think I could take that kind of rejection.’ An extreme example ha, but applicable to our lives. What does giving into fear do to George’s life? He has a mediocre job and life. He never publishes his novels. He get’s pushed around by Biff (and probably everyone else).
Ultimately, what is giving into fear is going to get us?
What is fear going to give you?
The same thing you’ve always had. The longing and desire for change, but not enough bravado to take the leap. Best case scenario, fear only gives you mediocrity. (And mediocrity is the opposite of a Renaissance Life)
Fear and desire will never be an easy choice. At best its going to be a grey area. Sometimes fear is good. The fear of being attacked by a lion is useful when you’re in Africa. (Fear of being mauled in Washington is not very useful) But when it comes to creative fear, curiosity must always beat out fear. If you want to help change the world and be a mover and shaker, you must not let fear stop you.
So back to young Leonardo. As he looked into the depths of the black, villainous cave, did he choose fear or desire?
‘Desire won. His unstoppable curiosity triumphed, and Leonardo went into the cave. There he discovered, embedded in the wall, a fossil whale. “Oh mighty and once-living instrument of nature, your vast strength was to no avail.”… “You lashed with swift, branching fins and forked tail, creating in the sea sudden tempests that buffeted and submerged ships. Oh time, swift despoiler of all things, how many kings, how many nations hast thou undone, and how many changes of states and of circumstances have happened since this wondrous fish perished.”’
It’s a life-long work in progress, but here is my personal mission statement. I read and say this aloud every day.
I live a meaningful and extraordinary life. I make Bold Moves. I challenge all assumptions. Failure, fear, and setbacks are challenging opportunities waiting to be turned into life lessons. Above all, I value time, freedom, learning, creativity, love and friendship. I stand for my beliefs.
I do what I say I will do. I lead by my actions. I have a can-do attitude. I persist. I know when to say yes, and when to say no. I listen to what others have to say and respect their views. I care deeply for others.
I am ALIVE and full of energy. I live with charisma and gusto! I am healthy, fit and active. I make goals and achieve them. I value rest and play and stillness.
I pursue mastery and excellence in all that matters to me, every day, no exceptions. I am constantly pursuing multiple disciplines and striving towards a Renaissance Life. I am at the forefront of disruption and innovation.
I enable others to be their best selves. I am a catalyst for change. I will make the world a better place.
Age 25. Residential Counsellor at a group home for people with different physical and mental disabilities and behavioral disorders. Freelance artist which includes photography, writing, painting, tattoo design, etc.
Located in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. A little town five minutes from the Atlantic. Come visit yo. I’ll take you to the water.
Q:What / who inspires you and why?
The wilderness/any place with mountains, lakes, and oceans. I just adore the fact that it was all made for you and I. It’s gold and inspires my heart to create out of seeing beautiful places and soaking it all in. There is clarity in the wilderness and thats where I feel most at home.
One of my best friends, Eric Weaver. His heart is on rhythm with love and honor and beauty and creativity. He sees people well in moments when they feel unseen. He sees beauty in the simple moments. I treasure our friendship/brotherhood. At a time I felt like I didn’t belong he held me and said “you’re home.”
Jedidiah Jenkins. His work, his words, and his heart resonate so much with mine.
Q: What are the best lessons your mom and dad taught you? (Or siblings)
To stretch my heart out and love the ones that some may forget or the ones that may not be easy to love. Going to every extent to love and serve and give to others even if it causes you to sacrifice everything. That love wins in every situation even if it’s not the easiest to do and goes against the grain. To be known as a deep lover of people. To be known for not being afraid of love or to be swallowed whole by it. To forgive always. It’s a process but I’m thankful for it and know I’m getting there.
Q: What’s a challenge you’ve faced recently and how did you handle it?
Rejection in relationship.
There has been a cycle of being rejected in love. It’s hard to heal in similar processes after someone leaves you. I feel the hardest part has been not feeling enough or worth a yes or no. Learning to walk into the next free version of myself has been a challenge. Technology these days makes it hard to move on. You almost need to go off the grid for a while to find yourself again. That’s where I’m at and I know the sunshine is finding my oceans in the process.
Q: What’s your favorite travel experience?
I’ve been majorly blessed by many, but this one stands out. Backpacking / leading a team of students through East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania) for 5 months. Was probably the most challenging and best thing.
Q: If you could have a dinner party with anyone in the world (or in history) who would you invite?
Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Amy Winehouse, My best friend Morgan, Alexander the Great, My grandfather, Jedidiah Jenkins, Michele Obama, Timothy McVeigh. Pretty dinner? Yes.
Q: In one word, how would your best friend describe you?
(love you deep Morgan.)
Q: What are some decisions you’ve made that has made you who you are today?
I decided to throw away my boundaries once and open myself up for any challenge even if fear is in the equation. I’ve felt in doing that, fear leaves and the boundaries and walls come crashing down leaving room for free creativity and love to flow. Ba-bye fear, hello freedom.
Q: What songs do you sing when you are alone? And what new bands are you digging recently?
I love singing powerful love ballads or gospel songs.
Q: What advice would you give to someone pursuing creative work?
To be authentic in every way.
Find / fight for spaces and places that make you dream and get lost in.
Always do what makes your heart come alive, and let go of what needs to go in order to pursue the wild creative you. You never know what wonders may come out of you and what beauty you can create.
“Fear has no place.” repeat until you’re not afraid to create what you want and until you don’t care what people will think. It’s your work and your eye. Own it babe.
Learn to dance and not care.
Q: What’s your mission in life?
To love deeply and empower others to do the same. To create spaces where people come to know how loved they are and to pull the gold out of one another. To come alongside others that may be having a hard time, meet them where they’re at and show them that they are not alone in the process. That even though days are hard that there is beauty in our own processes and journeys whatever direction our lives may be going in and wherever we are at right now. Out of that, live overflowing and passionate lives. To keep my eyes and heart wide open.
Q: If someone gave you 10 million dollars, what would you do with it?
Give it away to people that would create self sustaining opportunities to give more away and create a ripple.
Visit and spend time with everyone I love.
Q: One thing you liked about last year, and one thing you want to improve this year?
Found / built a community of amazing, beautiful, passionate, and creative humans to live life with and celebrate one another on the daily. They’re pretty damn rad and it’s an honor/privilege to be surrounded by so many beautiful people.
(J: I want to build a community like this..)
Maybe not give my heart away so easily. Listen more, rest more, breathe more. To live in freedom and not as a victim.
Q: What’s a question you wish I asked, and what’s your answer to it?
Q. Do you like flowers?
I do. I adore flowers. I love giving them away most of the time. But maybe I’m stuck in this place of still bringing flowers home for the one my heart used to be fond of. Or maybe they are for healing my heart. Either way my house usually has vases of dead flowers and I’m slowly growing.
(J: I need to do this more. Give flowers to those I love. They not only brighten up the home, they brighten up the person you give them to, and solidify the relationship.)
Thank you Gregg for taking the time to answer my Q’s