“What if this is all for nothing?” A friend poured his heart and soul into a fun, impactful, and, luckily, successful project. Now fans are asking for more. Just recently, it started to occur to him that the project could be monetized, and perhaps down the road, he could ditch his meh-job. It feels like the world is riding on this next effort, which has him stuck, procrastinating the little administrative next steps.
We all want to know that when we launch our work babies into the world, they’ll grow up to be successful. Not knowing kills us and often kills excellent ideas because sometimes we can’t get out of our heads and do the work. It’s not just individuals – boards, staff teams, and volunteer committees scuttle great ideas too.
This seeming self-sabotage might sound illogical, but there’s a biological or intellectual explanation. Steven Pressfield calls it The Resistance, Seth Godin calls it the Lizard Brain, and Elizabeth Gilbert has a book and podcast on how not to scare away the muse. Authors have been dealing with writer’s block since the beginning of papyrus, and innovators get blocked in much the same way.
Those that keep producing and launching new, never-been-done-before books, ideas, projects, events, and products have figured out a system or a mindset or a system AND mindset that works for them. Steven, Seth, and Elizabeth share some great ideas. I know because I’ve read them all, and here is mine.
Projecting into the future, and agonizing over potential shame, seems to frustrate creativity. For short periods, I try (often unsuccessfully) to single-mindedly focus on the work to do today. The busier I am, the easier this is. Not projecting into the future while creating a keynote, writing a book, or trying a new kind of event frees my mind to explore new ideas, sometimes risky new ideas.
But maybe we shouldn’t stop those pessimistic voices entirely. The pressure of knowing that our precious work baby is going out into the big, wide world someday makes us try even harder. So while we never know if what we are doing will be successful, perhaps by bouncing back and forth in this gray area of today-focused versus future-focused, we can both do the work and do high-quality work making the chances of success higher.