I was reflecting on the person that I’m becoming and who I was the other day over lunch with my designer friend Will Tang. Each day I’m constantly striving to be a stronger creative. This doesn’t just mean doing more things to enhance your craft, this also means breaking and tossing away a lot of bad habits. Here are a few things creatives need to stop doing.
Trying to Be Perfect
At the end of the day we’re never going to be satisfied with the end product of our craft. That is the catch-22 of being a creative. Because we are never satisfied with our work we’re always going to strive for innovation. This is great! Except when our need for perfection gets in the way of finishing a project in a timely matter. As a window on Brian Wong‘s window once told me: DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.
Being Afraid to Fail
We need to fail! You must fail! Making mistakes and failing is the only way you will learn something new. Life is a funny thing because essentially life is both our teacher and classroom. We’re still the students except life gives us the tests first and later the lesson if we fail the test. You don’t growth from doing things right the first time.
Hanging Out With Deadbeats
There’s a saying that you are the average of your 5 closest friends. Thus, if you’re constantly surrounding yourself with crappy people –you’ll become crap!
Hanging Out With People that Always Agree with You
Because of human nature we’re attracted to like-minded individuals. This provides a great sense of support, however you need to have at least one trolling, devil’s advocate friend. Someone that will disagree with you and has different values. New ideas and perspectives will emerge out of the interactions of your subtle differences.
Being a Control Freak
This relates back to being a perfectionist. As artist we’d like to plan ahead and have thing perform like clockwork, but we need to accept the fact that life has a mind of it own. Sometimes things work out in our favor. Sometimes things don’t. The only thing we do have control over is our attitude and ability to let go. ♫ Cue explicit version of “Let It Go” from Frozen (2013.)
Saying “I Can’t”
“I Can’t” is such a lazy phrase. When you start a notion with I can’t you’re already mentally telling yourself to stop thinking. I look at I can’t synonymously with I give up. Never give up!
Seeing Obstacles as the End of World
Come to me with solutions –not problems!
I heard that phrase a lot last year and it stuck because it made so much sense. There are going to be a multitude of problems, issues, obstacles along the way. Whether they’re a time constraint, resource, finance, etc. somehow, someway sh*t will hit the fan. Rather than acknowledging and expending energy highlighting the problem, acknowledge the obstacle then find options to work around it. When you stop and think about it everything has a workaround.
Looking at Other Successful People as a Measure of Success
It’s good to have rivalry and competition, but don’t look at what other people have or have done as a measure of your own worth or value. Not only is it not healthy, it’s also absolutely bonkers! The “success” that we see others have is merely a segment of curated highlights. Especially with the rise of social media our perception of our peers is a crafted perception of what our peers want us to see. The selected perception causes us to feel unworthy and distorts the reality of what the creative process actually looks like. When we compare ourselves to others we forget about how much blood, sweat, and tears it takes to accomplish anything. We then conjure up an unrealistic expectation that “success” is something that is easily acquired. Instead of comparing ourselves to others we should celebrate and be inspired by each others’ successes.
Expecting Things to Happen Overnight
Speaking of overnight success, stop expecting that! Even if someone appears to be an overnight success they probably had a long period of time when nothing happened for them. I’ll let Ira Glass explain this to you.
Waiting for Your Big Break
I’ve noticed a lot of people, especially in Los Angeles, wait for their big break or to be discovered by the powers that be. Once that big break/discovery happens everything will be amazing and then we can all live happily ever after — NOT! (Any 90s kids out there?) I’m sorry to break any romantic ideas of someone strolling by and then crowning you with a tiara of you-are-now-officially-the-most-amazing-talent-in-the-universe-and-everyone-must-know-of-you-right-away are a lie! Also waiting for a miracle to float like feathers right into your lap is also lazy. Don’t wait for your break to happen –make it happen! I’ll let Blake (Alec Baldwin) from Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) as drill this into you.
Saying You’re Going to Do Something …Then Never Following Through
As creatives we’re all amazingly ambitious people. So much so that some times our goals/aspiration/to-do list grows so immense that nothing every gets done. If you’re lost in a day-dream, stop what you’re doing and make that dream a reality.
Forgetting to Live Life
When you’re putting all your energy into making your dreams a reality you’re bound to become a workaholic. Everything will become a mechanical process to the point in which sometimes you’ll lose sense of simple things. Life becomes your daily in and out tasks that are designed to propel you whatever you want to be next in life. With time all your efforts will lose meaning and purpose especially when you realize the desired results won’t be accomplished when you originally expected them to. At some point you’ll probably begin to detest abhor the craft that you once loved so dearly because the workaholic nature will suck your life away.
But if you have to be on the grind to make dreams into reality, how do you counteract the toils of a workaholic lifestyle? Choose to live life once in a while, make memories along with way with others, and find enjoyment in the process. And I’ll leave you with the David Foster Wallace speech.