Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Cory Huff from The Abundant Artist.
The first time I do something new, I’m usually comfortable with knowing that I won’t be very good at it. Perhaps it’s the actor in me. I’m constantly trying to do new things on stage. New accent. New way of walking. New audition monologue.
Actors, by the nature of what they do, frequently have to quickly learn a little about a variety of careers, beliefs, hobbies, and families. In my career as a performer, I’ve learned to be a chef, a truck driver, a professional assassin, a chamberlain, and a Japanese puppeteer. In my digital marketing career, I’ve written about social media, tech startups, and, currently, selling art online.
In spite of all of that, writing my first guest post for Productive Flourishing was terribly intimidating.
Charlie and Angela, the power duo behind PF, have been friends of mine for a couple of years. I didn’t want to disappoint them. The PF audience is full of Creative Giants – you’re all “my people.”
Smart. Creative. Skilled. Independent.
What if you don’t like me?
And there it is. Fear.
And when I realized that I was afraid, I took a deep breath and I punched fear in the face.
How I Overcame My Fear
I read every blog post on PF that I hadn’t previously read. Yup. Every single one. It took two weeks, but I did it.
I took a bunch of notes in Evernote, my productivity tool of choice. Every part of my online business ties into Evernote somehow. It’s my second brain.
Then I went and watched 13 episodes of The West Wing. After hearing Jed Bartlett say “What’s next?” about a hundred times, I finally remembered what I was supposed to be doing.
So I punched fear in the face again.
I went and launched a new course for my business, which is having its best pre-sale ever right now. Pretty excited about that.
Then I got in an argument on Facebook about the latest political drama. Then I had to spend an hour resolving conflict between two of my friends who I thought were going to kill each other via cyberspace.
Did I mention that I just moved to Paris and I’m trying out the digital-nomad lifestyle? That’s happening, too.
Also, my church needs me to teach Sunday School this week, so I have to prepare a lesson.
How in the World Did I Get to Where I Am Right Now?
Sometimes I genuinely have no idea at all. Obviously, I’m really good at distracting myself in the face of fear. I’ve always been someone who’s more likely to act emotionally and follow my inner creative muse than to build systems. But even within that madness there are weird rules for what works. Here are the ways I know to wrangle your creative brain and punch fear in the face for good.
Learn deeply; then forget what you learned. I know quite a lot about Japanese culture. Noh theatre. Kabuki. Did you know that a Ronin is a Samurai who no longer has allegiance to his feudal lord? Did you know that karate was developed by the peasants as a way of fighting back against the Samurai? Did you know that Butoh is a form of modern dance that grew out of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? When performing Bunraku puppetry, you need to know some of this because there are deep cultural references within the art form – but you can’t think about that when you’re on stage performing. You have to be present in the moment.
This principle applies in business as well. You can’t research while you’re executing on a project. You can’t think about the process when you’re in the middle of a product launch. That’s why reading all the Productive Flourishing blog posts I hadn’t read before didn’t help me write my guest post.
Build habits, not systems. I’m the worst at creating systems. If you tell me I should do something the same way each time, I’ll probably do it wrong. My brain is wired that way. I loved Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit. Twyla breaks down what really happens in the lives of Creative Giants: they get in the studio every day and they work. They produce. They build their lives so that all of the minutiae are handled so they can be ferocious on stage or in the boardroom.
What does this look like in practical terms? I eat one of the same two things for breakfast every morning: pain au chocolat or yogurt with fruit. I have music playlists for work. My bills get paid automatically, set up well in advance. I exercise at the same time every morning (or not at all). I have time scheduled every morning for writing, and every afternoon for handling customer service issues. I plan my week every Sunday afternoon.
The result is that I’ve built a business that not only provides for me financially, but also adds real value for my audience and allows me to travel the world for a year. Some people may call these habits systems, but I call them habits and they have helped me get to where I am today.
Hit Publish before you edit. My wife says I’m a “ready, fire, aim” kind of guy. I push out blog posts that are kinda sloppy. I do dance videos for my followers that aren’t edited in any way. I pre-sell courses and build them based on feedback from the students.
I throw together 10 Facebook ads in 30 minutes, spending $32 and helping a client earn $6,000. I constantly try stuff, then take notes on what works and what doesn’t. It might not be the best way to do business, but it’s working for me (I left my day job almost 18 months ago).
Creative Giants have an instinctual way of interacting with the world that works AND that nobody really understands. Whether you call it creativity, inspiration, spirit, or something else, we have to remember this, tap into it, and rely on it as a strength, instead of letting the Six Sigma Spreadsheet Enthusiasts of the world scare us.
If you’re afraid of business because you’re creative, punch fear in the face by relying on your creative strengths to help you succeed. (Click to tweet – thanks!)
Rely on your creative strengths more than on what the productivity gurus say. Just don’t literally punch any of them. We need them to help us figure out how to keep all of that money we’re earning. 😉
Cory Huff is an actor, director, storyteller, and founder of TheAbundantArtist.com. He and his wife are taking a year to be digital nomads around Europe.