For The Love of Creativity and Art: Creativity is a Drug

steallikeanartist6

Reading books and recently writing a book is my profession but it’s more than a profession, It’s also my great lifelong love and fascination.

I blog everyday, blogging a drug I have learned to embrace. After each blog post, its as if I have released some form of weight off my shoulders and now I can move on to the next blog, or drug.

And I don’t expect that this is ever going to change. But, that said, a very interesting question that always arises, this is the question which has caused me to have to recalibrate my whole relationship with this work. And the peculiar question is if your creative work succeeds “Are you not afraid that you are never going to be able to top your best work? Are not you afraid you are going to keep writing for your whole life and you are never again going to create a book, a sculpture, your art and innovation that anybody in the world cares about at all, ever again?”

When Steve Jobs passed on, the question that was quietly asked is will Apple be able to as innovative as it was when Jobs was alive.

But the other side of this is the question I encountered before I released The Startup Revolution, and that question is “Are you not afraid you are never going to have any success? Are you not afraid that your book will fail and the humiliation of rejection will kill you? Are you not afraid that you are going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing’s ever going to come of it and you are going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure?.”

The short answer to all those questions is, “Yes.” Yes, I’m afraid of all those things. And I always have been. Creating something new is scary, its scary before you release your creative work, but its also scary after you released it and succeeds. But I’m afraid of many, many more things besides that people can’t even guess, like I’m afraid of heights, snakes and other things that are scary.

But, when it comes to writing, the thing that I have been thinking about lately, and wondering about lately, is why? Is it rational to be scared? Is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work that they feel they were put on this Earth to do. And what is it specifically about creative ventures that seems to make us really nervous about each other’s mental health in a way that other careers kind of don’t do?

My father, for example, was a management training consultant and I don’t recall once in his 40 years of training anybody asking him if he was afraid to be a trainer? “That management training mental block, Peter, how’s it going?”

It just didn’t come up like that. But to be fair, trainers, accountants, chemical engineers as a group have not really earned a reputation over the centuries for being alcoholic manic-depressives. There professions have not earned the reputation of people who smoke weed to be efficient.

Writers kind of have that reputation, and not just writers, but creative people across all genres. It seems, this group has this reputation for being enormously mentally unstable or of being self-destructive. And all you have to do is look at the very grim death count in the 20th century alone, of really magnificent creative minds who died young and often at their own hands. And even the ones who didn’t literally commit suicide seem to be really undone by their gifts.

Norman Mailer, just before he died, last interview, he said: “Every one of my books has killed me a little more.” An extraordinary statement to make about your life’s work. Steve Jobs even spoke about “the crazy ones.” Jobs even refused to take treatment for his illness until it was too late. There is a universal acceptance that creative people are crazy, that creative people needs to be high to be highly creative.

We don’t even blink when we hear somebody say this, because we have heard that kind of stuff for so long and somehow we have completely internalised and accepted collectively this notion that creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked and that artistry, in the end, will always ultimately lead to anguish.

I’m not at all comfortable with this assumption. I think it’s odious. And I also think it’s dangerous, and I don’t want to see it perpetuated into the next century.

I think it’s better if we encourage our great creative minds to live, our creative minds to be seen to be normal people who just love what they do.

I don’t thing creative people are crazy, I think creativity and innovation are God’s ways of saying He is around. I think I have a right to collaborate with creativity, because I myself am a product and consequence of creation.

Everyone is creative, and its normal. When what you love, loves you back, you become the most creative person in the world. Its a gift not some craziness.

Advertisements

If your happiness is based on always getting a little more than you have got now…

Happiness-is-a-choice

…. then you have handed control of your happiness to the gatekeepers, built a system that does not scale and prevented yourself from the brave work that leads to a quantum leap.

The industrial system (and its marketing machine) love the mindset of ‘a little bit more, please’, because it furthers their power. A slightly higher pay increase, a slightly more famous university, an incrementally better car, a bit bigger house, more shoes, more expensive clothes, it’s easy to be seduced by this safe, step-wise supposedly progress, and if marketers and bosses can make you feel dissatisfied at every step along the way, even better for them.

The more you want, the better for industrialists.

Their rules, their increments, and you are always on a treadmill, unhappy today, imagining that the answer lies just over the next hill, when you get to that hill, you realise that there is another hill you want to get to… and so on and so forth…

All the data shows us that the people on that other hill are just as frustrated as the people on your hill. It demonstrates that the people at that university are just as envious as the people at this university. The never ending cycle (no surprise) never ends.

You happiness is short lived because once you achieve it, instead of enjoying it you are off to another little more.

An alternative is:

Be happy wherever you are, with whatever you have got, but always hungry for the thrill of creating innovation, of creating art, of being significant, influential, impactful, of being missed if you are gone and most of all, doing important work, work that matters.

Don’t put your happiness in the hands of industrialists. Its yours, enjoy it, share it with others.

Stay hungry, stay foolish. Stay eager, be ready to try new things, be ready to step out of your comfort zone to move the world forward.

Survival Mode Entrepreneurs: Quit or Stick It Out

8.__entrepreneurfail_A_Day_in_the_Life_Corporate_vs_Startup_-_Founder_Institute

Quit

Don’t quit the things where you can become the best in the world at something. The “world” is however nichey you want it to be. But be the best at it.

Count the cost.

Decide early if something is worth doing because you have to be prepared for the struggle. The struggle is inevitable if the thing is worth doing. Just make sure your ready for it. Expecting it can help get through it.

Additionally, make sure you decide up-front when you are going to quit. And don’t be afraid to quit. Don’t let being in the moment decide whether you should quit or not.

Zig Ziglar says, “Failure is not a person, it’s only an event.”

As an entrepreneur, I can tell you this is very, very hard. The inclination to quit comes and goes at various intervals. The worst part is not knowing how to address that emotion.

Winners understand that taking that pain now prevents a lot more pain later but at the same time quitting is better than coping because it frees you up to excel at something else.

Stick It Out

Zig Ziglar also says, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you are good at it.”

The harder anything is, the fewer people will do it. This means that the ones who do will have more value to add to the world. Don’t be afraid of adversity. Embrace it. Get through it. Just don’t give up in the middle of it. Give up sooner if you are going to give up.

If you know you are not going to finish school, then drop out earlier and save yourself time and rather invest that time elsewhere. Why waste time and drop out in grade 11 or 12. Who quiets comrades marathon at the 86 km (Comrades marathon is about 90km).

If you are going all the way, go all the way. The survival mode is a filter. It is that barrier that separates the well-meaning amateurs from the professionals, the dividing line between average and best-in-the-world. When you start a business, it’s fun and you get a lot of support.

When you break through the survival mode, you are seen as the one, the only, the go-to person. In between starting and success is the survival mode.

I believe all business challenges are good news. That’s because you know there is light at the end of the tunnel. When an entrepreneur breaks through the challenges, they end up generating hundreds of millions in revenue and profits because they are seen as unique.

Don’t find the biggest challenge. Find the biggest challenge YOU can make it through. And then do it again. Entrepreneurship success is a series of challenges, navigated.

I have a lot of entrepreneurs on survival mode for a prolonged period, its always better to decide if you are going to get out of survival mode and grow and just quit… Either way, there is no shame in their game.

Smart people don’t think others are stupid

qfktc2tuqbqbm9qlvjvw

She could have said Pretorians, Cape Townians, Politicians, Democrats, Indians, or South Africans. It doesn’t matter. She had just proven that she was not being smart.

There are no smart people or stupid people, just people being smart or being stupid.

(And things are often not as they seem, so people who seem to be doing something smart or stupid, may not be. There’s always more information, more context, and more to the story.)

Being smart means thinking things through – trying to find the real answer, not the first answer.

Being stupid means avoiding thinking by jumping to conclusions. Jumping to a conclusion is like quitting a game : you lose by default.

That’s why saying “I don’t know” is usually smart, because it’s refusing to jump to a conclusion.

So when someone says “They are so stupid!” – it means they have stopped thinking. They say it to feel finished with that subject, because there is nothing they can do about that. It’s appealing and satisfying to jump to that conclusion.

So if you decide someone is stupid, it means you are not thinking, which is not being smart.

Therefore: smart people don’t think others are stupid.

Survival Mode Entrepreneurs: A Concrete Rose vs A Dream Deferred

FUejb9k

So, the questions are simple: Are you in a dip? Are you going through a rough survival phase and thinking of giving up?

Everyone knows when they are going through a dip, they are in pain, struggling to pay expenses, struggling to get the market to embrace and pay for your services, not having enough money for petrol to move around, going through pain to pay staff salaries let alone your own salary, you are going through pain, but is it the pain that comes from being in a dead end — a cul-de-sac — situation that might very well get worse but probably won’t get better?

Or is it a difficult phase, where sufficient effort can push you through and get you out the other side…You better know the answer.

If you are not ready for the difficult phase, the dip, it’s a lot harder to stick through it and see it through.

Are you at a cul-de-sac or are you in phase where more hard work and effort will (in time) get you through the dip. Knowing the answer to these questions, is the difference between giving up or keep pushing.

Will you survive and grow like the rose that grew from the concrete:

“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared.” — Tupac Amaru Shakur

or

Will your dream be deferred?
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

— Langston Hughes

Better still, know how your difficult phase will look like before you start your business.

Survival Mode Entrepreneurs: Taking a Detailed Snapshot of Your Survival Mentality

download

The essential thing to know about going through a dip in your business is that your business will at some point sooner or later go through a dip, a dip in business is there. Knowing that you are facing a dip is the first step in getting through it.

Before you can focus on coming up with turnaround and growth strategies, you need to understand the exact state of your business right now. Why? Because there will be areas of your business that you have not paid attention to in as much detail as you should have (you know what they are!).

We are all guilty of that to some degree. Either because it’s not our area of expertise, or we don’t think it’s that important, or we just really don’t like doing it. Whatever the reason, you have got to get a clear picture of exactly what’s been going on to see whether there is anything internally that’s been contributing to the state of your business being on survival mode.

Here is how you can get started. First, you will want to look internally at what’s been happening and why. Start by asking yourself a few probing questions:

  • What is the vision I have for my business in the next 1-3 years?
  • Is my staff performing at its best and are they happy?
  • Do I have enough people to support any future growth?
  • Is customer service as excellent as it could be, and if not, why not?
  • Etc.

You will also want to figure out what the biggest contributing external factors have been to you getting where you are.

  • Did the market needs change substantially?
  • Is the economy going through a recession?
  • Do you now have more competition in the industry?
  • Do you know how your business compares to other small businesses in your industry?
  • Are you charging what you are worth?

These are the difficult questions that needs honest assessment. People who skip the hard questions are in the majority, but they are not in demand.

The people who are the best in the world specialise at getting really good at the questions they don’t know.

Be sure to invest the time into this work and get as clear of a picture as possible. This is your base, the platform for your jump out of survival mode and into growth and profitability.

This assessment needs to be solid. And it needs to be honest. Work with your mentor or coach to make sure you are not overlooking any areas. Once you complete this process, you will be surprised how much insight you will get from it. You will see it much clearer and you will feel much better about it.

To be a superstar, you must do something exceptional. Not just survive the dip and come out of survival mentality, but use the dip as an opportunity to create something so extraordinary that people can’t help but talk about it, recommend it, and, yes, choose it.

Survival Mode Entrepreneurs: Sleep | Wake Up | Survive | Repeat

dec23-survive

“I am so sick and tired of dealing with this. I work so hard, sacrifice my family time, pay myself almost nothing – and just barely making my margins… I keep watching the bottom line like a hawk but I am no closer to where I want to be… I think I am ready to just walk away from this business… It’s causing me so much stress that I don’t know how much longer I can put up with it… ”

This were the comments of an entrepreneur I mentor, when I started mentoring her, talking about her business, which she built and ran for over 10 years now.

The truth about Laura’s business is that it has been very successful for the first 6 years. But after the 2008 recession things never quite got back to where they have been. However, Laura’s business did survive, while so many had to close their doors. And this she was very proud of.

What Laura didn’t realise is that even after the economy improved, she continued to run her business in survival mode, getting enough results not to fail completely, yet not growing or moving forward.

Most entrepreneurs start their businesses with so much passion and vision within the first few years of operation. They are eager to wake and push their vision. At this time, the vision is crystal clear, they know what they want, how they will achieve it and when the project to achieve it.

Do you find yourself buried in the daily grind of running your business and spend almost no time on strategising for growth? Do you keep throwing band-aid solutions on problems without investing the time and resources to figure out what’s really going on? If so, you may be stuck in survival mode too.

Business is not a straight line and over time challenges such as lack of cash flow, problematic clients or lack of clients etc, starts to slowly erode the vision you had. The stresses that entrepreneurs go through fighting fires makes them keep their head down and focus on working IN the business and not ON the business.

Working in the business over a long period of time makes that crystal clear vision to become ambiguous. Lose the vision, lose the direction. Where there is no vision, people perish, the same applies in business.

An entrepreneur who has been on survival mode for years when asked what she wants will say I want enough sales to pay salaries at the end of the month, I want enough cash not for my car to be repossessed by the bank. The same entrepreneur when asked what she wants in the first year of opening of her business will say I want to build an empire, I want to revolutionise the industry, I want to be best in the industry. I want to be the most innovative company in the industry.

Entrepreneurship is not easy, but if it were, everyone would be doing it.

Over time, survival mode steals the vision of a business. Working so hard to put out fires every month, working so hard to collect scrap clients so that you can make it to the next month makes you a scrap collector, not a builder of an empire. 

Vision of the business is at the centre of what drives an entrepreneur. If you lose sight of that, your will float and be on survival.

The danger about being a survival mode entrepreneur is that this can be your new normal and a habit that will last for a long time.

A lot of business don’t transition to growth stage because they are stuck on survival. When you are in survival mode, you make survival mode decisions, you doubt your capabilities, you doubt your worth, you doubt your products, your pricing is so low because you don’t want to lose that client, you need that money so bad. If you are building a legacy business, you know what you want and you are not going to take short cuts to get there.

While survival mode is an essential skill to master during tough financial times, it also leads to instability and an uncertain business future. Getting out of survival mode and transitioning into a ready-to-grow state is a challenge many small business owners and entrepreneurs face.

Escaping survival mode means transitioning your business to a better place with more clients, better service, and more profits.

When you are on survival mode, go back to that original vision, ignite that vision, ask yourself why did you want to be an entrepreneur. Live that vision passionately.

Be driven by passion not survival.

Don’t make survival mode a habit. This is true for entrepreneurs and also for working people. You were not born to work and pay bills.

When the vision is permanent the challenges that come may injure but can never destroy you. – Lucas Moloi