I’ve been struggling a bit of late with my ability to focus. Whether it be design, writing, podcasting—all areas of my work life have been running inefficiently and it’s something I haven’t been able to figure out why.
The ideas in my head flow like an endless river, but finding the time to execute on any of them has always been my achilles heel.
Recently, I had a revelation, and I think I’ve been finally able to put my finger on why things have gone in this direction. Here’s the thought I landed on, and also what I shared on social media:
The more we focus on being great, the less we succeed at being good.
We all strive for excellence, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But in my eyes, 95% effort towards it, in my opinion, is 5% short. I think the focus should be on the former of what I tweeted, rather than the latter.
The pressure to be great—well, so great that it cripples us—injects us with expectations that are typically unrealistic.
We spin our wheels trying to write that epic post. But we have a tendency to measure ourselves up so inadequately to those we admire—so much that, in the end, we don’t write anything.
This is something I’ve realized about myself that needs to change. I’m slowly learning that I cannot be great at everything and thinking I can be is merely setting myself up for self-doubt and failure.
It’s ok to focus on being great, but not at the expense of being good—because in the end… the world needs your art.
It’s really that simple, my creative friends. The world needs your art, and the world needs my art. And we should do whatever we can to create it.
. . .
I had plans to take this post in another direction, but they have been derailed by the news I literally just received that Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of The Cranberries, has passed away.
The cause of her death is unknown—and it’s possible we might not find out for quite some time—but it’s no secret that she struggled with mental illness.
Over the past few years, many brilliant musicians and artists have died. While still tragic, I haven’t had to cope with the loss of someone who affected me in the way that Dolores did.
No Need To Argue was an album that I listened to endlessly back in the day. Those years were filled with angst and definitely among the most formative of my life.
RIP, Dolores O’Riordan—one of the most angelic voices ever.
. . .
This past week marked the launch of Authentik Creatives, a 3-month experience where I will walk alongside eight creative entrepreneurs in a fully supported, hands-on environment to help them completely reimagine their business and brand, step by step—authentically, of course.
Before we got started, I asked that all members of the group watch this video:
Jeremy Cowart is a fellow creative, who I had the pleasure of watching speak at Circles Conference a few years ago. He is an award-winning photographer, artist, and entrepreneur whose mission in life is to “explore the intersection of creativity and empathy.”
Carve out 25 minutes in your schedule where you will not be distracted (that means shutting down social media and turning off notifications!) and watch (not just listen to) this video. Let’s just say it helped inspire Authentik, and will be 25 minutes you won’t regret.
There are so many nuggets of wisdom in the video, and it’s filled with a tremendous amount of encouragement—but one thing in particular he said stood out to me, and it’s something I relate to on many levels:
“Something came alive in me whenever I would create.”
When I strip away all of the external forces that affect me on a daily basis—practically every hour of every day—all I want to do is create. And I want to do it in a way that is consistent with who I am, and the things I stand for.
I love what Ruthie Lindsey says here:
“All of us are longing for connection and authenticity, and what we believe will repel people does the exact opposite.”
Well the reality is this: There are many days I don’t believe what she says, and my endeavors succumb to fear. But, there seems to be an increasing percentage of my days where I see the truth in this, and that matters.
Creating Authentik was a step in the right direction for me, because I feel deep in my heart that it is my mission—and a total pleasure, mind you—to walk alongside (and encourage) creative entrepreneurs.
Paul Jarvis, author of the upcoming book, Company of One, writes:
“There’s room, regardless of how crowded or sparse a market is, for you and your perspective. And not just for you to say the same things in the same way—but for you to give your opinion, in your own style, on a topic.”
And with the freedom we have to create art and build a personal brand that wholeheartedly reflects who we are, we need to remember that being great is not a prerequisite to being successful.
In another brilliant post, Paul also says:
“Regardless of your skillset or the audience you serve, 99% of what you do is the same as the competition. The remaining 1% is unique to you. That’s your personal brand. That last 1% is how you stand out, differentiate, build a tribe, become known. That 1% is the most difficult and most scary part to work on. Because it’s you, the real, honest, vulnerable you. Yet, this is how you stand out in a crowded world.”
Let’s face it: there is a ton of competition in our space nowadays, especially with the Internet at the disposal of billions of people. The world is a noisy place, and there’s simply a whole lot happening these days. There are plenty of ways to make money, and trust me, most of which are rather unfulfilling.
When I started creating, as Jeremy says, I felt alive. I didn’t want to be doing any but, and that was a great place to be. (And is still a great place to be.)
I learned very quickly that the point of intersection between my passion and the need I felt was out there was my true calling.
As I try to process the death of an artist gone far too young, I sit and wonder what people will say about me when I am no longer here.
Will they find value in what I made? Will my work be forgotten? Will the time I spend now creating make a difference in the lives of people later? Will the legacy I leave behind matter?
One thing I know for sure is this: the art I create is far more valuable than any money I will have left in the bank when I die. That’s a guarantee.
I want to create. I want to be alive. That’s the legacy I want to leave behind.