You Can Do Anything... Not Everything.
I touched on this topic in this weeks newsletter. Here it is in full flesh, Immortalized on the internet.
Now to clarify. I fall fowl of what I'm about to talk about in this post as often as not. but this is the lesson Kate and I are trying to teach ourself. And its working!
A Circus of Ideas
Ever feel like you're juggling a circus of ideas, all floating around without a solid anchor? I had an epic two-hour chat with a buddy just the other day. A Very talented maker buddy, which is why I know this is relevant and want to share it more with this community. This call usually echoes back and forth between us every couple of months. And comes from both sides. But this time, it was my time to assume the role of advisor.
The call follows the same track: He or I are in a slump, a haze; we usually feel like everything is floating above the desk. Nothing is pinned down. This haze / Lack of feeling of self usually leads to a mistake or two in our chosen craft, which leads to a knock of confidence, which leads to looking for a win somewhere.
So said buddy called, as a maker, in the above-mentioned haze. Complaints of confidence being knocked, Looking for a win, lots of projects going on, but spinning his tyres. Sound familiar? Like I said. This exact conversation goes back and forth, and I am rarely the advice giver.
The View of the Advice Giver (This time)
As the advice giver, first off, you are there to listen. Nothing more at first, just listen; you can't give good advice if you can't listen to the problem. Think of a math problem, If you have yet to hear to the complete formula. You cant answer accurately.
Listened in full? Check. My thoughts on the haze, on tyres not finding grip?
In summary, We are all (for the most part) doing too much. Just focus on one thing. There has been a trend for as long as I can remember. Do more. That means you are doing better. Whether it's the school system/ parental pride/ social media/ or the 9-5 world that is pushing us this way, I don't know. I need to investigate it further.
I think this is particularly hard in our field as makers. Because as makers and creatives and makers, we can do anything. I truly believe that we are unstoppable. (That's why the world needs us; they just don't understand it fully yet.) We have the superpower to solve problems, use our hands, and create something from nothing.
The truth is just because we can do anything doesn't mean we should. If your maker buddy on the phone asks you, "Why are you doing X?" and you can't answer it with conviction. Should you really be doing it?
I can think of loads of things I have done. Deviated from the We Are Makers mission. Oftentimes in case of a quick solution or a quick engineering contract to bring in some obvious money. Had I stuck at what I was doing for We Are Makers, we would have been a bit further forward. The Quick Buck engineering project is a win, yes. It stroked my ego. I can do it. But did I need to prove that to myself? No. What I need to do is stick true to Kate and I's mission.
I'm sure we are all at fault for the above. We do loads. We spread ourselves too thin. Which actually just means we don't do the main thing as well as well as we could. We only have so many hours in the day. Choosing to spend just 2 hours on something that isn't fully aligned with your mission/goal/purpose is 10 hours a week. What could you do that is really important to you in that 10 hours? How much further forward would your creative / making be after a year if you had no distractions? 520 hours further forward.
Now, I'm not one to give advice usually; I am a firm believer that we all have our mistakes to make, and that is what makes us who we are. However, I am confident in saying Kate and I have by now probably spoken to more creatives / makers than anyone in the world through our print and podcast (+socials / text/ emails), with over 450 makers featured in print and 60+ in long for the podcast. And for that reason, I am giving myself permission to dish out some advice in this instance. In hope it helps someone reading this.
The scrappy printed piece of paper on the wall by the engraving station of Paul Hamler is burned into my mind. It serves as a well-needed reminder often. It reads: "You Can Do Anything, Not Everything."
This is my advice. I already know you can do anything. You don't need to prove it by doing everything. Focus on your thing. And do it well. Like really well. so well people can't stop talking about it.
DO LESS. But do it better. Consistency wins. Pick your anyTHING and nail it. Be relentless, get better, and shout it from the rooftops about how much better you are at it today than yesterday. That's what we, as customers, want to see. And that, I firmly believe, will give you solace, enjoyment and success in your work. It will reduce the haze, and your tyres will find grip. If you have chosen to pursue a thing. BE ALL IN. You will thank yourself for it. And being all in is how your spinning tyres will find traction, and you will find the wins.
Remember, it's okay to say no to the noise. If you can't answer, "Why am I doing this?" with enthusiasm, it's a pass. The "oh, I could do that" may as well be "oh, I could be distracted by that". You're not failing; you're focusing on what truly matters.
I strongly advise you to get a buddy in the creative space you can have this conversation with. Someone who will question you. It's crucial to have creative comrades who "get it". Sorry, your pal Joe Blogs, the IT manager, won't cut it. He might try. But he doesn't "get it".