Three Bold Principles For Courageous Creatives
I'm about to make an audacious statement about you that you might not believe (yet). Whatever you think your creative capacity is, it's nowhere near what you're capable of. You might feel like you're revving into the red line of your capability, but I can tell you from my experience of working with creatives from all walks of life, you've only just begun. By the end of this essay, you'll have three new daring principles that fly in the face of convention. Adopt them as your own and you too will step into the shoes of the courageous creatives you admire (no matter what stage of the journey you're in).
Who are you in relation to your career? Do you define yourself by your job and who that makes you? Is it a further extension of who you believe yourself to be? It's natural when you first ask these questions to default to a belief system about work that stems from the way you saw your parents make a living. Let's say your Dad was a doctor. That carries a high level of status, influence and respect within society. Your definition of success might mirror what you grew up seeing and shape how you make choices about what career to pursue.
Here's where many of us find ourselves lost. We forget to ask why do I work? How might that be different from your parents, peers, and everyone else who walks this big blue earth? Are you working more to make a living or a life?
There is no right answer, but they lead to two remarkably different destinations. I'd hazard a guess that if you're reading along with Simplify Your Why, you fall into the working-to-make-a-life tribe.
Who we are determines what we do and how we do it. The secret sauce here is recognizing, as Veronica Ray said in her book Choosing Happiness, "Where we work matters little; how we work matters a lot."
I've observed three powerful principles that put how we work into actionable virtues that will serve you in your creative career.
1) The only constant is change
Humans will do anything they can to build predictability into their lives. We're creatures of comfort. I consider myself someone who seeks adventure, yet three times a day I walk my dog on the exact same route. I fall into a habit of zoning out because everything seems familiar. But that's only because I'm not paying attention. The trees are different, the temperature fluctuates, new people live in the houses I pass, I'm wearing different shoes, I'm one day older, I pass and say hello to people I've never met. The more I think about it, the less I see anything staying the same.
Another way to think of it is like this – if nothing changes, nothing changes. I don't know about you, but the idea of life never changing is boring. Think of it in the sense of any history-changing creative endeavour. If change never occurred, what would that look like? We'd still be watching silent movies, riding horses, and eating toast without avocado. Henry Ford, one of the world's greatest innovators, saw the need for change, despite what others were comfortable with. As he proclaimed, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
What change do you know you need to make? Who can you look to for support?
2) Each person we meet is our teacher and student
Unemployed, homeless and suffering from a debilitating injury, Neale Donald Walsch found himself at the lowest point of his life. Walsch wrote an angry letter to God asking questions about why his life was such a mess. In an interview with Larry King, Walsch told the story of how after writing down all his questions, he heard a voice over his right shoulder say: "Do you really want an answer to all these questions or are you just venting?" Though when he turned around he saw no one there, Walsch felt the answers to his questions filling his mind and decided to write them down. The ensuing dialogue became the Conversations with God books, which have sold over 10 million copies and been copied into 37 languages.
I'm as close to religion as a lion is to veganism. And that's the whole point. Every person we meet is our teacher and student. The moment we dismiss someone because they don't believe what we believe, we miss out on some of life's most beautiful lessons.
Walsch has a motto that all creatives can live by: "The deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation. You are not discovering yourself, but creating yourself anew. Seek therefore, not to find out who you are, but seek to determine who you want to be.”
And this is the mark of what acquiring knowledge is all about. Taking in the new while thinking over the old. The teachers who have the greatest impact are those who show you where to look but don't tell you what to see.
Who has a lesson to teach you that you've previously been blind to?
3) We are each a product of our own belief system
As I alluded to earlier, your perception of work and creativity was shaped by many influences, including parents, school, and society. There is no singular best way to experience what lessons you need to learn. The power of choice is what creates unparalleled growth. It comes from taking a stand and choosing what to believe. Our friend Henry Ford put it like this: “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”
You alone decide what you're capable of.
People drift unconsciously down the lazy river of life with their beliefs and emotions. But when you grasp onto awareness, you can look from a distance at both your emotions and your beliefs. They lose their control and empower you to shift your beliefs. They become ones that serve your values and who you believe you're capable of becoming.
Who are you in relation to your career? Are you your true self at work? Why or why not?
True success is sharing all that we are with all those we meet. How you express yourself in your work is perhaps one of the most influential things you will choose to do. Next to sleep, it's how most of us spend our waking hours. People do work for money, but they also work for meaning in their lives.
It takes courage to embrace change, seek lessons from those that make you uncomfortable, and to challenge your beliefs. And “this is the real secret to life," as philosopher Alan Watts said, "to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
Above all else, believe in yourself. You don't need to have it all figured out. Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert said something we all seem to forget. "Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished."