If you’ve been a long time listener of this show, you’ve heard me say “you can’t stand out and fit in at the same time. If you never make anything, if you make only what you’re comfortable making, or if you are making but you never share, you’re hiding.
Once you start hiding, you stop growing. Part of you goes to sleep. Even as I reached what I thought was my creative zenith, it took an avalanche to reveal an even deeper level of authenticity. I met so many people who get stuck at such a point without even realizing it.
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To take creative risks, not only once but again and again, requires getting out of your head and tuning into your heart and gut. Our survival instincts evolved to keep us safe from saber-toothed tigers. News flash: they’re extinct. We no longer face mortal danger on a daily basis. Instead, our brains turn their attention to the things that feel life-threatening: public speaking, for example, or asking someone out on a date. In a misguided attempt to protect us, our brains tell us to fit in, make friends, and get “likes”. Being an artist means standing out, revealing yourself, becoming vulnerable to others. Art is truth, and the truth cuts both ways.
I hope that if you’re listening to this show, you agree with the idea that creativity is a core human function that plays a fundamental role in our health and well-being. If we don’t rev our creative engine regularly, something inside us withers. This is true both metaphorically and practically. “Use it or lose it” is true for both Muses and neurons.
Creativity requires risk, real risk – something has to be at stake for you. What you’re doing has to matter. MIstakes should hurt. All those bruised hips and scraped knees taught me how to ride a skateboard. If you know what the outcome will be before you start working, or you don’t care what happens either way, where’s the lesson? Where’s the growth? We improve as artists by taking chances. If you never fail to do what you set out to do, you’re not learning and you’re not growing. Mistakes are a sign that you’re pushing yourself to your limits by tackling meaningful challenges.
At home and at school, we’re taught that mistakes are “bad” and that people who are “good” at things don’t make mistakes. Yet we know that the best performers in any field are the ones who routinely take risks, the ones who are willing to face rejection and gamble the money and the acclaim to keep growing, to stand out.
Jim Rohn said:
It’s all risky.
The minute you were born it got risky.
If you think trying is risky, wait till they hand you the bill for not trying.
If you think investing is risky, wait till you see the tab for not investing.
See it’s all risky.
Getting married is risky.
Having children is risky.
Going into business is risky.
Investing your money is risky.
I’ll tell you how risky life is. You’re not going to get out alive.
Success Raises Stakes
Even if we accept the idea that a safe life is a small life, many of us reassure ourselves that we’ll take the real risks later one day, when we’re rich enough, successful enough, popular enough. In other words, we’ll take the risks when it’s safe to do so. I can tell you from personal experience that the magical day will never come. You will begin to take risks only when you realize it’s more dangerous not to. Success only raises the stakes, making risks harder to stomach. Once you have popularity and money, the necessary creative risks become scarier than ever. Worst of all, this trap is a gilded cage. To everyone else, and even to yourself, it can look as though you have everything you ever wanted.
I’m grateful for that avalanche. Looking back, I can see that if I’d continued on my path by making one safe choice after another in hope of preserving my newfound success, my creativity might have slowed to a stop as I lost touch with what had motivated me to work in the first place. You’ve got to be willing to risk what you’ve got or you risk what you have.
Now is the time to decide: What price are you willing to pay to live your best life?