Create

Balance between input and output is key. Lately, consumption is easier than ever. Distractions run amuck. But the tools are easier than ever, too. Save for more distractions, you have no excuse to procrastinate your work and talent. If you’re not creating, you’re consuming. You’re not giving back to the world and people in it who give you so much. You’re living a selfish relationship with life. Good luck leaving a legacy. No thank you.

Write. Paint. Speak. Raise children. Build things. Get your hands dirty. Give back to the world and the people you care about. Make a difference. Don’t sit still. Don’t wait and watch. Don’t only take in – put out (no innuendo intended). Try not to concern yourself with turning your creation into your business – if you create well enough, the business will come. Focus on building great things and gifting them to all. It’s good for the soul (and can’t hurt your legacy).

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Afraid of Putting Yourself Out There?

I know amazing writers, musicians, filmmakers and artists who have no public voice because they are afraid of what the world might think of their work. You procrastinate posting videos to Vimeo, starting a blog or putting your neck out into the unknown abyss of consumers who might judge you for it. The notion of criticism is debilitating and you wait for “the right time” to develop your public voice.

This fear is absolute nonsense. Unless you already have an established smash-hit brand (at which point, you should have overcome your fear of public speaking), the likelihood that anyone will notice you exist from the beginning is negligible at best. If you’re lucky, your closest friends and family will read you – and they tend to be your most generous and forgiving critics. It takes a lot of effort to scale an audience who might give you crap for your work. By then, you’ll know what you’re doing and have the experience to respond to criticism.

On the flip side, you might fear putting yourself out there because it’s possible no one will connect with your work. The fear of failure. I’ve got news for you: no one can connect with your work if you don’t put it out there in the first place. You’re already failing by holding back. If you put yourself out there and no one connects after a reasonable amount of effort to share with the world, move on. Try something else. Whatever you do, don’t sit still.

You Have A Voice. Use It.

Two or three decades ago, it was not easy to speak your mind – and nearly impossible to be heard. That’s not the case anymore. With the internet, we have an opportunity to share our thoughts, opinions and work on a global scale. We can express ourselves publicly, anonymously or under a pseudonym. While it’s not always easy to be heard online, it’s easier than ever to express yourself. I will never encourage you to add to the noise just for the sake of adding to the noise. But I do encourage you to use the web as a platform to let your mind and heart run free.

I know far too many closet writers, actors, film directors and artists who have great voices that need to be heard. Many of them are too lazy, shy or proud to share directly with the world. I know ten times more people who want to hone their voices and fear an audience. Keeping your mouth shut will not help you advertise. If you don’t put yourself out there, no one will know that you exist. Ever.

If you are concerned about operating online under your real name, simply make up another. Nine times out of ten, quality content online takes precedence over name or brand power anyway. If you can engage audiences with your voice through genuine content, you will win.

Say what you need to say. Don’t be afraid. What’s the worst that could happen?

Invent More, Edit Less

We are so afraid to put ourselves out into the world that we erect barriers of revision, drafts, filters, editing, testing and censorship to prevent us from making mistakes in the public eye. If we spent less time chopping our own balls off and more time giving back to the world without reservation, we could all live rich and accomplished lives.

We are afraid. Afraid to reveal our flaws. Afraid to show our true colors. Afraid to give ourselves to the public for fear that the world might reject us. Fear mutates to the point that we are afraid to invent at all. We do nothing. Live dispassionate, passive and apathetic lives. All because we do not want to be caught with a misspelled word or bad picture edit.

I do not mean to discredit editing or the role of editors. Of all the creative and technical mediums, I cannot think of a single one that accurately channels the human soul. Mistakes happen and products come to life in ways we do not intend. We need to edit and revise to connect the dots so that things make sense. If we ignore editing completely, our message will misinform or fall on deaf ears.

But we alone cannot judge whether our creations connect with others. We cannot separate ourselves from the material. The faster we create things, the more necessary it is to get a second opinion. Put yourself out there to user groups, testers and editors to give you feedback. Some of my most beloved and respected friends are editors. Editors keep people like me from making perilous or silly mistakes. They make sure my thoughts track across the medium and translate clearly. Editors volunteer to help others focus on inventing and offer the confidence to do so. Editors are noble people with a selfless and patient purpose.

Whether you share with an editor, friends, random testers or publish immediately, you need to put your creation out there as quickly as possible. The longer it stays on your table, the harder it will be for you to let go. You will despair in all the flaws, possible misrepresentations and disconnects you come to know. You will revise and remodel your work into oblivion.

Stop it. Stop editing. Get it off the table and into someone else’s hands. Let go. Let your child have a life of its own. Only time will tell how the world reacts to your work. You are not an authority on that subject and should give up trying. Focus more on inventing and less on how people see you. Be yourself. Create from within. Fear nothing.

The Ugly Path to Beautiful Design

Design is difficult. Perfectionists want to nitpick until they are blue in the face. Most never finish satisfied. The few who feel they got it just right invariably get torn apart by the public or by passing time. Burdened by stress herein, many never finish at all.

Beautiful design seldom comes from a single stroke or first draft. It takes iteration upon iteration to arrive at success. The path to creating widely accepted design depends entirely on feedback. No single designer wields a universal sensibility, so each design must be put to the test.

No matter how focused or specific your target audience is, you have no way to inherently know how to approach the look and feel of your creation until you drop your pants and present it.

Put out something ugly first so people can call it ugly and help you define what pretty is. Listen to the criticism carefully and identify the common taste denominator woven throughout your core audience. Without compromising your vision, steer work in that direction. Before long, your audience, you, and your design may find common ground.

Predictably Unpredictable

You can always count on true artists to surprise you. With a sense of regularity, the greats always deliver the same quality with a different twist. The same gets old, so it’s important to keep things fresh. We put less stock in sequels that merely re-deliver the original and our hearts into sequels that reinvent the wheel. We come to trust creators that, in any other forum, would not be trusted. And we always look forward to the next trick.

Want to be great? Learn to surprise audiences on a regular schedule.

Do Not Charge Fans You Haven’t Earned Yet

I will not pay for your album without hearing it first. I will not buy your book without reading a good chunk of it. I will not spend a dime until I know that it will be a good use of my time. And I’m not alone in this anymore. There’s far too much noise fighting for audience money these days. To stand out, you need to be really talented and really clever. Reviews and popular consensus can help you reach the top. But you have to catch the attention of the people first.

The loyalty of fans goes a long way. I will, however, support artists and brands that have earned my trust over time. I do not think twice before paying for a Sam Mendes film, a Black Keys album, or a Legend of Zelda video game. Over the years, these names have consistently won my affection. But I didn’t pay for them at first. I saw my first Sam Mendes film in a class, heard my first Black Keys song in my brother’s car, and played my first Zelda game in a friend’s basement. Their talent and quality converted me alone. I became a loyal fan for life. The idea of curating loyal fans is not new or revolutionary. Brands as strong as Apple, In-N-Out Burger, and Pixar learned this very early on.

Creating brilliant products is not enough. The challenge is to convert freeloading bystanders into fans willing to pay. The trick is to acknowledge that fans won’t pay for you until you earn their trust. Therefore, the most effective way to develop a following early on is to share your work far and wide for free. Give great content away and audiences will thank you for it. When you have enough fans to scale your brand, start monetizing. Watch the loyalty role in.