Explore, Expose, Educate

For most of us, school held our hand through learning. Adults expected us to show up, study and graduate. I cannot speak for you, but the structure of institutional learning failed to inspire me to pursue learning beyond the walls. Some teachers made a difference and instilled within me the value of lifelong learning – but the curriculum never asked for it. For shame. I’ve worked very hard post-college to open books, study new things and apply learning on my own. Many things self-taught have made me considerably more competitive in the job market, comfortable with business and well-rounded as person. Sound good?

The single biggest piece of advice I have for anyone looking to better themselves: expose yourself to activities, culture and people you do not yet know or understand. Do things you’ve never done. Try things without a second thought. No prejudices. No fear. You really did not have a say in what you learned growing up – why be picky now? Wipe away those inhibitions and get back to your education! Mix it up, kick-start the brain. Live, learn and love life.

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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.

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.

Plan For the Worst, Hope For the Best

If you identify and find a way to accept the worst possible outcome of your situation, anything better than the worst will feel like a blessing. Do not lower your expectations or demoralize yourself into a constant state of negativity – that’s not the point. It is always important in planning to anticipate possible outcomes. By preparing for the worst, you will be better-equipped to tackle the actual results. If things are not as bad as you planned, then you will be relieved. Life will be good.

You must keep thoughts of failure in check by balancing them with hopes for success. Without hope, we have little room to grow and no path to follow. You must have something to believe in and live for. Otherwise, what’s the point? A true balance between fear and hope should land you in the middle – a realistic place where accomplishments are appreciated and failures become lessons well-learned. That’s a pretty comfortable place to be.

The Common Denominator of Success

Failure. The most successful people do not fear failure. They fail often and learn quickly. Failure informs uncontested success. If you want to succeed, embrace failure as a necessary ingredient to achieving greater goals.

Managing Your Fears

“You cannot erase your fears, you can only manage them.” A rock climbing guide taught me this over the weekend and it stuck to the bone. No, you cannot ignore or forget fears to make them go away. You cannot erase the past. But you can build a better understanding of your fears and learn to manage them. If you truly appreciate all the reasons why you fear in the first place, you can start to dissect each reason and face them individually. By managing each aspect of your fear at a time and taking everything step by step, you can slowly build confidence toward a greater whole. Before long, you can trust yourself to unravel complex fears and deal with the sum of their parts.

As I child, I feared heights. I was well aware of this fear and jealous of my friends who were not afraid. I made a goal at age 11 to climb a full gym wall in front of everyone; I never did. Over the years, my understanding of physics and my faith in probability allowed me to enjoy theme park and hot air balloon rides (I remind myself that millions of people have ridden before and never suffered the fate of heights). But I never scaled to more than 20 feet on my own before this weekend. In Joshua Tree, I finally managed my fear and had a blast climbing a 5.7 grade rock face (I believe it was nearly 80 feet tall). If you have never climbed before, do it.

The Path of Greatest Resistance

Everyone has fear, but no one needs to be afraid. Fear is a powerful tool if used wisely, one that can guide you to great discovery. We fear obstacles, the bumps in the road on the way to accomplishing our goals. But don’t be afraid. Use that fear to measure and appreciate the value of your potential success. The greater the fear, the greater the obstacles, the greater the feat, the greater the reward. Avoid the path of least resistance – it is deceptive and will get you nowhere. Choose the path of greatest resistance – it will guide you to your dreams.