It’s better than you think

Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There’s plenty of reasons not to make art or share your gift. 

Others may judge you. Or they may laugh. You could get criticized. Or it may not meet the (unrealistic) expectation you’ve set for yourself. It may fall flat on its face. It could be misunderstood. Nine out of ten people may not see its value.

But (and this is a big but), one person is all you need.

This is the person that needs your gift. This is the person that needs your generosity.

And if there’s one, there’s bound to be more. 

And even if there isn’t, isn’t changing one life for the better still a success?

We all have the power to make an impact. It just requires we replace our fear with generosity.  

Give what you have as best as you can. I promise, it’s enough.

The Critic

A critic is someone who enters the battlefield after the war is over and shoots the wounded.

Murray Kempton

The hardest thing about creativity is learning to ignore the critic – whether it’s your own internal critic or the (imaginary) crowd you’re sure will tear your efforts apart. 

But, unless you are creating specifically for the critic (and if so, I question why you would willingly engage in such a masochistic act), pay them no mind.

It’s easy to criticize. It’s harder to create. 

Creativity isn’t a spectator sport.

If you aren’t willing to enter the battlefield and wrestle with the chaotic messiness of your own insecurity to create something in service of others, your opinion is about as useful as decaffeinated coffee (seriously, WHY does this even exist?).

Of course, this is all easier said than done. 

But if you imagine the critic as Murray Kempton describes, it frees you from the weight of their judgement (real or imagined). Only a sociopath would shoot the wounded. 

Why would anyone listen to what a heartless monster has to say anyway?

I know how you did that…

This is something I would hear often when I volunteered as a Hospital Magician with Open Heart Magic

When I first started performing, a comment like this would make me sweat profusely (like an unhealthy amount and then I’d just have to pretend that it was normal that I was sweating so much, which would make it even more awkward and cause me to sweat more).

I feared they’d blurt out the secret at the exact moment I was trying to create a memorable experience. 

At first, my tactic was to get them on my side.

I’d reply back and humor them with something like:

If you know how this is done than you must be super sharp – most people aren’t able to figure it out. Do you think you can keep the secret between us magicians?

And that’d usually be enough.

But the reality is, no one ever blurted out the secret to how any trick was done.

Because people want to be part of the journey, especially one that promises to be memorable and with a touch of magic to it. 

And, most importantly, because knowing something is not enough. 

We all have access to vast amounts of knowledge – way more than generations before of us had in aggregate. 

Knowledge isn’t the problem. 

The real work comes from putting the knowledge to work – in creating something worth sharing out of that knowledge. 

So my question to you:

What’s keeping you from doing something with all your knowledge? What’s holding you back from creating something magical for others? 

Knowledge alone isn’t enough.

It never is.

To Process or Not To Process

Process is important. 

Processes are efficient. They take tasks and make them repeatable, replicable, and predictable. 

Process thinking is important to sequence and optimize. Process cuts fat out. Process scales.

Process is really good for a lot of things.

But not all things can be made into a process.

And when you try to constrain and optimize that which is inherently messy, unpredictable and serendipitous to a process, you miss the point of it and strip the humanity away.

If you keep coming up against a wall, or feel like you’re spinning your wheels, you very well may need to refine your process. 

But other times a process won’t get you over the hump. Sometimes you just have to let things get messy and give them time and space.

We Need to Talk About Shame

I’ve been feeling shame without knowing it. 

I’ve been unable to concretely label it because I lacked the emotional literacy to properly define it. 

I started reading Dare to Lead by Brené Brown and it unlocked what I couldn’t define. It gave me the tools I needed to do some real deep digging so I could go shame spelunking. 

This feeling of shame started over the last two weeks and I wasn’t sure why. I now understand why. 

In April, I took part in Seth Godin’s altMBA. It was a magical journey (you can read about it here)

I had wanted to identify as a writer for a long time, but feared putting myself out there. For years, I shied away. The fear of being less than kept me from making the leap.

altMBA helped me through that.

I started this blog. I committed to writing and shipping three blog posts a week. It was a big commitment and it was scary. But I knew that the program gave me the tools to think bigger and lean into the tension. I took the chance on myself.

And it worked.  

I was unsure if I could do it. But I showed up for myself. And I’ve shipped a total of 44 posts to date.

It’s been a source of pride. I proved to myself that if I took a chance and showed up wholeheartedly, I could overcome that which I feared and do more than I thought I was capable of doing. 

So where’s the shame?  (It’s coming. Hang tight shame-monger.)

This breakthrough experience allowed me to tap into a well of creativity. It just flowed like a torrent. I couldn’t capture ideas fast enough.

But lately, something has changed. The last two weeks the tap feels empty. The ideas seem to have dried up. And I’ve lost the confidence.  

I had a streak for so long that I came to expect that as the norm. And that became my expectation. 

I wanted to be perfect and show the world (I have no idea who the world is in this situation, no one has any expectations of me for this creative outlet) that I could do it. I wanted to be someone they (again, the nebulous crowd appears) could point to and say “this guy is prolific, he’s so disciplined, so committed, so ambitious.” I wanted to do it for my ego. 

But creativity isn’t an all-you-can-eat buffet. It comes in spurts. It requires a lot of bad to get to the juicy, gooey, chocolatey center of great. It also has no room for the ego.  

I’ve been feeling shame and less than because I let my ego take over. What started as an exploration in what’s possible morphed into an unrealistic pursuit of perfection. I wanted to be a role model but forgot I’m human and figuring this out as I go.  

Brené recently did an episode on shame and accountability on the Unlocking Us podcast. She talked about how shame hates being named, it likes to hide. She mentions that to build shame resilience is to recognize when you are in shame and move towards empathy. She has a mantra she uses when she’s deep in shame to help her out of it: 

I’m not here to be right, I’m here to get it right.

I’ve been telling myself this a lot lately.

I write to explore. Sometimes that exploration comes to a dead end. That’s part of the process. Sometimes there are many dead ends before I finally pick the right path. And hopefully it leads me to something beautiful and vulnerable and that connects with others. And when it does, it’s art and it’s a gift.  

My journey began as a goal to push myself and prove I could do more than I thought possible. I leaned into the fear and soldered on. I took great pride in it. That pride turned to perfection. And when I failed to see the false allure of perfection for what it was, I felt less than and shame took over.  

Any assumption of perfection is an empathetic miss.

Brené Brown (Dare to Lead)

The quickest way out of shame is through empathy. 

Perfection got in the way of self-empathy. And when we don’t make room for empathy, shame takes over. 

So, if you are reading this, I see you and thank you for your attention and time. Both are the most precious gifts we have to give to others. I apologize for writing from a place of ego rather than from heart.  

I’m still learning. I hope to reconnect with heart and purpose.  

Because this life is all we have. And what a beautiful way to honor it by trying to make a genuine connection with those we share it with during our brief time here. 

Shame kills that connection. 

Shame is something we all feel but rarely talk about.

This is me working to get it right.

Thanks for reading. 

Resist the Resistance

I didn’t want to write this. 

Or rather, the part of me that is self-critical and shoots every idea down didn’t want me to write this.

Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, calls this part the Resistance. It’s the part of us that keeps us from pursuing our creative aspirations – that tries to kill creativity before the seeds start to sprout. 

It’s the voice that tells me to give up a couple minutes after staring at a blank page. 

The voice that booms in my head – says I have nothing to offer, so why try.

The voice that does its best to seduce me to stay in bed when I wake up early with the intent to write. 

The voice that works its damndest to try to convince me I’m going to struggle writing or coming up with an idea to write even before I begin.

The voice that convinces me to put off the emotional labor for another day. It can wait until then. 

The Resistance is what kept me from starting this blog for four years. For four years I aspired to write and put my ideas out into the world. But, the Resistance knew which buttons to push, which things to say to keep me from pursuing this creative endeavor.

It kept me terrified from letting my thoughts and ideas interact with the external world. 

So, what changed? 

I completed Seth Godin’s altMBA, which taught me to lean into the fear and leap in spite of it. To not let the voice of the Resistance cast doubt on what I’m capable of, because it’s much more than the Resistance would have me believe.

I learned to recognize the Resistance as something completely separate from myself. By making a persona of it, it makes it easier to push back against it because I’m no longer fighting against myself.

Most importantly, I connected my personal Why Statement to my deeper purpose.

My why is to challenge the driven to create an extraordinary life. It’s a daily reminder to push others (and myself) to not settle for ordinary, that the pursuit of extraordinary is worth it. 

The why behind my why is my family, specifically, my two daughters. I want to serve as role model for them of what it takes to build and create a meaningful and purpose-driven life. 

This final piece is what’s helped me most to resist the Resistance. The creative endeavor I pursue is greater than me.

The Resistance doesn’t stand a chance.

Find your purpose. 

Push back against The Resistance. 

Create art worthy of your talents. 

The world needs your gifts.