The single most important thing you can do to defeat creative resistance is to get the focus off of yourself and get around people who think bigger than you do.
Find your tribe
I had been so keen on finding what I wanted to niche down into and find out what I was good at outside of my day job that I was elbow deep in assessment tests and books about finding my element. Instead of trying to find my element, I should have been trying to find my tribe. I recently attended the very first seanwes conference in Austin, Texas. I’ve been listening to the seanwes podcast and a part of its online Community for about a year and a half. These are people who think bigger. I was intimidated going into the conference because so many of them are killing it in their chosen industry, and here I am not knowing what I want to do with my life.
When you’re talking to the right people, your floundering introduction of who you are and what you’re about gets abbreviated quickly. I went into the conference with something like, “My day job is as a sign artist for Trader Joe’s, but on the side I also like to write, draw, hand letter, and sometimes I sell crochet stuff and…” Then someone would say something like, “Oh I love Trader Joe’s! What kind of writing do you do? What are you working on?” If you do this more than once, you’ve gotta come up with a better elevator pitch.
I started saying that something I had thought about doing was writing and illustrating a series of books for children that broke down into digestible chunks the key concepts in the Great Books of western civilization, such as Plato, Augustine, Kierkegaard, Emerson, etc. When this was the part of my muddy introduction that people responded to, I tossed out the window the other ideas rattling around in my head that I wasn’t truly on fire about.
Get outside of your own head
If you’re being shy, you’re thinking about yourself. This was my problem in trying to figure out what I might be good at. I am an introvert in the extreme, but these were people I had interacted with online and knew they were people I just had to know in person. I already loved these individuals, and that made it so much easier to walk up and talk to them. I had to stop being selfish, stop being a wallflower.
Yes, I wanted to get the most out of this conference by engaging with people and building relationships. Yes, I wanted clarity for my own vision. But what happens when you get outside your own head and talk to others is that you see their vision, too. It magnifies what you’re doing. It empowers you to think about how you might serve a much bigger purpose, solve a much bigger problem, and to help more people.
That, in the end, is what it’s all about: how can I serve more people? Stop being shy and engage with others about your vision so you can better serve your audience. Serve your audience for the purpose of growing them and helping even more people. Do what you do because you love people.
Get a bigger vision
Get a bigger vision, then talk about it. Talk about it a lot. Once I put it out there that I wanted to do this illustrated Great Books series for children, people said, “Yes, do that!” The more I shared, the more feedback I got and the bigger that vision became. I started to see that the real reason I wanted to do this was to normalize what seems like big, daunting ideas for a younger audience so they’re not intimidated when they reach high school or college.
Sean McCabe often says, “Normalize what seems big to you. Think in bigger units.” Perhaps this would be more than a book series. It could be a whole curriculum. It could potentially change the way we educate young people. If understanding Plato’s cave analogy is normal in elementary school, think how much deeper students can dive into those primary texts when they’re in high school or college.
I went into the conference with very little focus as far as what I wanted to do outside of my day job. By day two, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and started taking action on it right away. By day three, it was a bigger calling than I could have imagined. I never would have imagined it if not for connecting with people who get it. I never would have imagined it if I didn’t have the guts to share that little seed of an idea.
Imagine if I had let shyness prevent me from going to the conference in the first place (I almost did). Sean also said, “The only thing holding you back is the smallness of your ideas.” Get a bigger mission so you can take massive action, be known, and help more people. You’re not being selfish by wanting to do big things and talking about your dreams; you’re being selfish by keeping them from others.
Don’t be afraid of success
Only you can build your dream. Talk about your vision, get the right people on board, get out of your own way and work your ass off on that thing. Focus hard on that one thing and build a bonfire that can’t be ignored. Get known so you can do more. Walt Disney said, “We don’t make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.” The money you make enables you to do bigger things, so don’t be afraid to make as much as you can. It’s not greedy because it’s not about you. It’s an enabler of your bigger purpose.
Keep it positive
Even though everyone at the conference was light years ahead of me in their pursuits, I never once felt an ounce of judgement or embarrassment that I wasn’t at their level. Everyone was there to improve their game, and the atmosphere was overwhelmingly positive.These individuals are successful because there’s a team of successful people cheering them on. They are super humble about their success, too, so it’s very common to see high-functioning creatives struggling with impostor syndrome or the occasional hater.
Successful people don’t spend an ounce of energy tearing others down. –Sean McCabe
Sean also made a great point that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s irrelevance. If you’re successful enough to be noticed by a lot of people, you’ll elicit strong opinions on both ends of the spectrum. If you remain in the middle, you’re not putting yourself out there enough to be known or for people to care either way. But when people say hateful things, remember that it’s not about you at all. If they’re spending their energy tearing you down, they themselves are not successful. Don’t let someone else’s opinion limit you.
When creative Resistance has you up against a wall, try shifting your focus. It’s not about you. Are you stuck in a rut because you’re navel gazing? Remember that whatever your dream or passion, in the end it’s always about serving other people. Any money you make beyond what you need to survive is to equip yourself to serve others with what you do. Your unique talents aren’t merely for your own enjoyment, they are to do big things in the service of an audience. When you have people tearing you down, remember that it’s not about you. When you’re struggling with moving forward, get around a group of people who can bring perspective to your struggle. The world deserves what you have to offer, so put yourself out there. We are built for community. It’s your duty to share yourself and your gifts.