SHARKS, DROWNING, AND OTHER THINGS THAT KEEP YOU
FROM GETTING IN THE WATER
Two forces, one external and the other internal, are the most common culprits that account for the delay and death of many potential projects and the failure to pursue our unmistakable art. To become unmistakable, you have to become aware of these defeating influences and how they work, so you understand their power to work against you and know how to assess or ignore them.
The Voices of Parents, Peers, and Society
When you start to become unmistakable, the voices of people who want you to follow their plan will get really loud. Those voices will often come from well-meaning friends, family, and colleagues, and some less-than-sympathetic adversaries like competitors, critics, naysayers, and strangers on the Internet.
Whatever their intention, these voices will question your sanity and say you've lost your mind. They'll give you a list of reasons why you will fail, and tell you how the odds are stacked against you.
For many years, I heard some variation of the following:
You don't have enough experience.
You just don't have the talent. You're too old.
You're too young.
Your cousin or friend or uncle or aunt tried to do this and failed.
If this doesn't work out, you'll be old and broke. Then what are you going to do? How are you ever going to make money doing that?
Nine out of ten businesses end up failing.
Only one in a thousand people will make it in acting, writing, or anything creative.
Millions of blogs are out there. Why would anybody read yours? This is such a waste of your education.
Friends and family will fill your ears with tales of woe, disasters, and debacles. They'll kindly suggest a backup plan that involves following the script that they follow, what society has told them to do. They'll tell you that your work is no good and they'll question your talent.
Why do the voices get so loud?
1. People want you to remain as you are because you make them realize they're ignoring their own calling. People are uncomfortable when you start to change, because your actions remind them what they've been avoiding in their own lives. They're forced to confront the fact that they're choosing to remain the same while you're making a drastic shift in the direction of your life. You hold a mirror up to all the fears they've given in to and all the goals they've chosen not to pursue.
2. Criticizing is easier than creating. If you're a critic you get to avoid the risk of failing, looking stupid, and making the world wonder what the hell you were thinking. As a critic, you're off the hook. But the most iconic creators in history have all contended with critics. Every single book, piece of music, or film has received negative reviews. Browse the contemporary reviews for classic books like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and The Sun Also Rises. You'll find a one-star review for all of them. If your work is unmistakable, it will have critics. So you must embrace or ignore the critics and create anyway.
3. Some people are just rule followers. Sometime early in 2013, I went to a job interview. One of the people interviewing me, Chuck, had become incredibly indoctrinated. When I asked him about the culture of the organization he said, "When we say work starts at eight o'clock, we don't mean eight-fifteen." I never forgot that. Following rules was his world. I quickly realized in that moment that this was not my world and I didn't want to be a casualty of defending the status quo as Chuck had. You can follow a set of prewritten rules or you can start to make your own.
The people who criticized me when I started have since moved on. A handful of critics have been replaced by thousands of people around the world who have supported my work.
If I had listened to those critical voices, I would never have put another idea out into the world.
You wouldn't be reading this book.
The Unmistakable Creative podcast wouldn't exist.
I would have missed out on getting a world-class education from some of the greatest minds of our time.
And I would be miserable.
This excerpt ends on page 18 of the hardcover edition.