Have you ever shared something you’ve labored over for a long time?
I mean, have you ever really extended yourself to show the fruits of your labor in a way that’s almost uncomfortable?
For several months now, I’ve been working on a side project, and now, it’s finally ready. (I'll share the details with you at the end of this post.)
Let’s talk for a second.
So, you exposed your ideas to the entire world, but have you ever had a conversation with yourself that went something like:
“Okay, time to write this paper!”
You sit down to write the paper…nothing. Crickets. The thought train has derailed and the memory bank is closed.
Or you say something like, “That’s a great idea! I should write that down.”
But it’s not written down. It’s swirling in the brain vortex somewhere, marinating with the other ideas in your head.
And maybe, you’ve even had that spark of genius or that “Aha” moment where you had an awesome idea and thought, “but no one would ever care for that.” Until someday you’re in a store and you see that very thing on the shelf staring you in the face. Or you see it advertised on the television, where you discover it can be yours for three easy installments of $19.99.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like this has happened to me on several occasions. I refer to those times as “hey-that-was-my-idea” moments.
For me, most of these moments have been comedic. Still, there’s usually that lingering thought of “what if I actually did try to make that?” That path is littered with questions…where should I start?…how much would that cost?…would anybody even care?...what's happening with my life? Well, at least there's always Netflix.
I would best describe myself as someone who is 2 parts creative, 1 part analytical. But sometimes, the analytical guy takes over.
I examine things. I study them, and then prefer to make calculated, strategic decisions on what to do.
But it’s a tug-of-war.
Sometimes, the creative part of me sets my world in spin and when it’s time to act, I stall. I go into a meticulous overhaul and rather than advancing the process, I slow it down by over examining every single detail. This is something that I’ve been dealing with a lot lately.
It’s one of those things that propels me to make something right, but also delays my progress by causing me to strive for perfection.
Do you know the feeling?
Maybe for you it’s a bit different. Perhaps, rather than stalling out, you go into panic mode and have an absolute meltdown. Maybe you just throw your hands up in frustration and walk away.
Regardless of how you respond, learning to cope with tension and stress is a must.
Honestly, I still struggle with this. I would say that I have a pretty high stress tolerance. I’ve warred through some serious deadlines and hard decisions.
Even still, I REALLY have to work hard at maintaining my momentum, otherwise I tend to shut down due to the overwhelming demands facing me.
Through it all, I’ve developed some survival tactics that I would love to share them with you.
7 Ways to Ensure You Don’t Self-Destruct
Who needs sleep, right? You can sleep when you’re dead. Now, I’ve never been dead, so I have no firsthand experience to offer on the subject, but I can tell you about sleep. I can say that its glorious and the single most productive way to break a bad cycle of brain fog or physical lethargy. In short, a factory (your body) can only produce so much refined product before its time to reset. After which, you have to reboot the system, otherwise everything you produce will be sub-par and half-crap. Do yourself one better, get some sleep.
By nature, I prefer to stay up late. In November of last year, I decided to start going to bed early (9:30ish) so I could rise earlier and work more on my writing and art. Hands down, this is one of the BEST decisions I’ve ever made. There’s literally no comparison to how much sharper I am in the morning. My mental bandwidth and ability to focus is easily 5-6 sharper the first few hours of the day that any other time. This practice has revolutionized both my rate of recovery and my work output.
2. Work When You’re Uninspired
That’s right, I said uninspired. Because inspiration is a fleeting thing and learning to fall in love with the monotony of a routine is part of what will teach you the necessary discipline to bring long-term success.
When it’s time to work…work.
DO THE WORK.
Show up and do it. Before you have time to decide how you feel about it, start working on it. Throw all of your distractions to the wayside and dig right in to what needs to get done.
I’ve now developed a routine that serves as a kind of early morning ritual where I set my phone on “airplane” mode the night before. The next morning, my alarm sounds, I drag myself out of bed and do 30 pushups first thing in the morning. The push-ups take less than one minute to do and force a surge of alertness to my brain and body. I then proceed to perform my most important task for the day over the next two hours of the morning. This usually means a devotional time, followed by writing and drawing or some kind of design work.
3. Brain Dump
Write down all that’s in your head as quickly as you can. It’s not about getting it organized, it’s just about getting it out out of your head and on paper…or your phone…or something in word form. Anything. Just get it in form where it’s staring back at you.
Once you have it in this form, you’re forced to deal with; to arranged and organize your thoughts so they can be shaped into ideas and action steps towards your goal. The goals are there to serve your vision, so in the long run, this practice will affect your bottom line.
Also, when you’re regularly emptying your head of the present ideas, you’re simultaneously freeing up room for what’s next. Think flow or flux. The process is about keeping your mind free and available to think about what’s next. When the paper is full or being filled your brain can rest
4. Forced Deadlines
I’ve mentioned this once before (here), but there’s a psychology to setting deadlines that will help set you in gear. Think about it…mentally your brain is establishing a determined time frame to finish said project and your body has to perform. When a project has a start and finish date, there’s something to be said about how it impacts your work ethic. Now, it’s on the calendar looking right back at you. What are you gonna do?
Learn to act. Set a reasonable start date and finish date and strive not to depart from your determined path.
5. Bounce Backs
This is that time where you throw an idea at your friends who are brutally honest and ask for feedback. This is where it toughens your skin by asking others to intentionally look for the flaws in your work so you can do it right.
I hate this one, by the way. I like to think that every idea I have is a shining, golden goose egg forged from the sinews of creative genius. But that’s laughable, if not outright delusional. This process is awesome for that very reason. It removes all the blinders and brings objectivity into the process. And objectivity is truly golden.
There is none more honest in this process than my wife. If she’s a fan of what I’m doing, I know it’s for real. If she tells me no, then I know I really have to step my game up. What she has to say isn't normally what I want to hear (she even proofread this post & made some edits. Haha!), but it's almost always what I need to hear.
6. Roundtable of Wisdom
King Solomon said in Proverbs 11:14, "Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety."
Otherwise stated, this phrase informs us that there is wisdom in a multitude of council.
You have to surround yourself with those who have lived through and past your seasons of life.
I don’t have many. I wish I had a few more, but there are a select, few individuals in my life who I appeal to for wisdom and guidance when it’s needed. For me, these are older, wiser, godly men who are married and have kids. They’re people who have walked through the seasons of life that I’m headed through or am likely headed in to.
God uses my wife in this avenue, as well (no, I'm not kidding). She's there to help remind, refresh, and inspire me to persevere and to do better. I also lean upon certain mentors & friends for specific feedback. What I mean is if I'm looking for direction on some design work, then I specifically lean upon the council of a few solid designers I trust. If it's raising my kids & parenting, I'm more likely to talk to some pastor friends of mine or my Dad.
If you haven't reached out to anyone in your world, maybe you should. There's too much at stake to go at life alone. You need wisdom vented through those you trust to make it work.
7. 90% Perfect
Perfection is elusive.
Sure, sometimes you nail it, but to be human is to understand what it means to be flawed. Just think of what perfect means; that nothing can be added to or taken away from the result so as to make it any better. That’s a tall order.
I’ve adapted the 90% Rule as part of my personal expectation for real-time results. Can I deliver perfection all the time? Doubt it. Sometimes I might. I’m sure I could get close a few times.
What I can do is deliver my best effort in the amount of time provided. 90% Perfect is knowing I've done my very best with what I had to work with in the amount of time I had to work with it.
90% perfect isn't flawless, but it is what I still consider to be excellent.
And personal excellence is the goal.
Oh, and about that side project. Some months ago, I began to craft my first product for Creative Market. If you don't know what Creative Market is, its a site offering digital design products for artists, designers, and web developers.
So, you may not be a designer, but if you know someone who is or could benefit from the perks of hi-quality design, then I'd love for you to check this out or even tell others about it. I'd love your feedback, as well, so feel free to respond in the comments below or you can message me on twitter here.
There's much more to come from this. This is just the first of many awesome products I plan to create.
Thanks and I hope you enjoy.
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