Isn’t it funny (ironic, tragic, silly) that often the very thing we need is the thing we won’t give ourselves permission to do. And because we won’t do it, we end up stuck in a place we don’t want to be.
We want it, but don’t think we can have it (or aren’t willing to go after it) because X, Y, Z reason.
We want to (finally) eat healthily and lose weight (or fix a health issue that’s constantly bothering us) but we never actually do it (or quit as soon as we glance at a piece of cake).
Or we have the desire to be an entrepreneur, but we sideline ourselves by convincing ourselves that we don’t know enough yet or we don’t have a good idea yet.
And because we don’t do it, we are dissatisfied and judgment to ourselves, stuck in a loop of wanting something we won’t give ourselves!
Because trying something new or going after a dream is scary and it might not work.
Because it’s easier to play it safe and not get what we want than to do something hard or that might fail.
But honestly, all we are doing is failing and mentally blocking ourselves before we even try.
Ask yourself—what am I convincing myself of that is “impossible” or that I “can’t do”?
If we’re already failures for not trying, then why not try anyway and keep trying?
What do we have to lose?
Failure is a part of learning. It’s painful and messy and uncomfortable, but it can also make us better if we allow ourselves to learn and grow from the experience.
No one said it would be easy to start your own business, or finish your book idea, or lose weight.
That feeling of not knowing what to do, or how to do it, or what decisions will lead to success is part of the creative process.
Going to school, smart decisions, honing our skills, and asking for wise counsel can set our course (and give us a better chance to succeed), but we’re still the ones who have to figure out how to climb the mountain(s) we are facing.
Even if we have someone guiding us all the way through, the path will be different, because the timing is different, and we’re different and our purpose is different.
This is not a lonely course, because everyone who is pursuing creative work outside the norm has to experience this.
Most people won’t choose this.
They would rather have someone else choose their path for them. Is this a bad thing? Who am I to say.
For me, it comes down to doing things that fulfill me and help others.
Does this thing I want to do light me up with joy and add a spark to my eye?
Is this person I want to be someone whom I would admire?
“You create your life, and you can recreate it, too. In times of economic downturn and uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to look deep inside yourself to fathom the sort of life you really want to lead and the talents and passions that can make that possible.” — Sir Ken Robinson
Pain is an interesting sensation. It hurts, obviously. Even small pains can sting—like burning your hand on a hot pan on the stove, or whacking your funny bone while closing the bathroom door. Sometimes pain lingers, and we are left to pick up the pieces while also continuing to preserve in the face of a feeling that doesn’t know when to leave. But despite the discomfort, pain also is a signal.
A sign that something needs to change. Or a moment of healing. Or a lesson and story that enables us to grow.
Not that I’d wish pain on anyone of course. Nor is all pain an “opportunity” or a good thing. Caveat caveat. But when we are personally facing pain, we have to do something with it. If not healing then what? If not a chance to change or help others change then we just what? Give up? No. It won’t be an overnight change, but gradually we will move forward, day by day until we find a way to use the pain.
One flavor of pain is uncertainty. We try to avoid uncertainty. But forcing uncertainty to be certain is like wearing a two-sizes too small sweater—half of you is still cold, you’re still stressed and uncomfortable and everyone is in on the joke but you.
2020 has been anything but certain. Personally and culturally. But if you’re reading this, you’re still alive. And if you’re still alive there are endless opportunities you can take.
Recently I was not chosen for a job opportunity. I had three rounds of solid interviews and ultimately someone else was chosen. I asked for feedback, but there wasn’t really any. There was no reason I wasn’t chosen—I just wasn’t. There was only room for one. Their intuition choose someone else. Good. I’m happy for that other person. The company is great, so I’m happy for them as well. Again, there are plenty of other opportunities out there. Now I can focus on them.
There’s very little in life that is truly certain. And many things we deem as certain, such as our career or direction in life, are only certain at a surface level. I’m not trying to be pessimistic. Once you realize that the unexpected is normal, then you have room to embrace all aspects of life and let go of the outcomes.
There’s a difference between external and internal certainty. Just because the world is shaky doesn’t mean we have to be.
Are we focused on our personal essentials? Eating clean. Moving and exercising. Surrounding ourselves with good books and good friends. Meditating. Sleeping well.
Are we making intentional decisions? Choosing work because we want to be, not because the money is good. Hanging out with friends that lift us up instead of tearing us down. Standing for our values.
Are we prioritizing what matters to us?
Part of being a creative person is turning uncertainty into something new and different.
Original ideas are built from uncertain outcomes. We can stack the decks in our favor, but it still takes a leap of boldness to pursue a dream.
Ironically embracing uncertainty makes everything certain.
“There is no science in creativity. If you don’t give yourself room to fail, you won’t innovate.”
It’s okay if you have no idea what you are doing —
No one truly does. We’re all making decisions based on the best guesses we can give based on our experiences, knowledge, and information we have to go on. Even the people who have ‘made it’ aren’t immune to uncertainty.
I have no idea what I’m doing either. But that doesn’t matter. As long as I’m doing my best and not compromising on who I am and what I want, then defeat can’t touch me. Sure, I’ll fail—likely I’ll have some epic failures—but failure is just one moment.
Your business sets on fire so then you start another one.
You realize your art is not as good as you think it is, so then you get better.
Your friends disappear when you need them the most, so then you find more caring friends.
Uncertainty isn’t the enemy.
As Richard P. Feynman once said, “I think that when we know that we actually do live in uncertainty, then we ought to admit it; it is of great value to realize that we do not know the answers to different questions. This attitude of mind – this attitude of uncertainty – is vital to the scientist, and it is this attitude of mind which the student must first acquire.”
We fear uncertainty because it might go against our plans (…Or kill us. That happens sometimes too). But again, our plans are just guesses about the lives we think we should have. In actuality, the things we didn’t see coming could show us a better way to live, if we take the opportunity to do so.
Uncertainty generates curiosity. It gives us the opportunity to look at a blank page, screen, canvas or out into the stars and ponder, “What If…?” And that leads to creativity.
“Truth is confirmed by inspection and delay; falsehood by haste and uncertainty.”
The biggest regrets I have were when I didn’t go with my gut (or didn’t take the time to even listen to my gut) and instead backed an answer on a ‘maybe’. Here’s another way of putting it, I let other people’s opinions and desires outweigh my own. I backed their truth instead of trusting my own truth.
Perhaps you can related to this as well, because you’ve dealt with it outcome the hard way too.
There are so many important decisions we face in life:
Should I take this job? …. hmm I’m not sure, the pay is good…
Should I go to this school or that school? (should I go to school at all??) … I want to go to this one, but everyone else is telling me to go to that one…
Hey bro, do you want to invest in X Y Z? … it sounds like a great idea, but it’s not really what I’m passionate about…
Is this the person I want to be with for the rest of my life?
Is this the person I want to be for the rest of my life?
When it comes to making decisions, big or small, never bet your future on a maybe.
There’s a massive difference between “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure”.
“I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. It shows that there’s still some more time you need to carve out for yourself to think about the question you are answering.
But If you are not sure, then you are hesitating. Hesitation is another form of ‘maybe’.
Hesitation usually is a sign that you are sure, you know you should say yes (or you know you should say no) but for whatever reason, we over think it and confuse ourselves into making the wrong call.
The problem is, t’s easy for a ‘maybe’ to default into a ‘yes’. But I think it should be the other way around.
I think any type of hesitation or uncertainty around a decision should default to a ‘no’. Particularly if your gut is say ‘no’ and your head is saying ‘yes’.
If someone asks you to make a moment’s notice decision and you are not sure, then just say no. Maybe it’s a bad call. Maybe you’ll miss out on an opportunity. But a possible opportunity you are uncertain about is never worth give your valuable resources to (your time and energy). As they say, opportunities are a dime a dozen. If you miss out on one, another will come soon enough. Hell, we can even create our own opportunity instead!
Life is uncertain, don’t let your decisions be uncertain too.