Sometimes You Bite the Bullet and Sometimes the Bullet Bites You

No matter how hard you try to avoid bad things (both personally and professionally) they’re going to happen. The only way to get ahead is not to avoid them, or to pretend that they didn’t happen, but to embrace them, learn from them and move through them.

You see, bad and ugly things are just as important as good and beautiful things. And often times, bad things are even more important than the good things.

The Numbers of Art

People seem to be nowadays mostly concerned with numbers:
“How many people are reading my blog?”
“How much money can I make if I do this?”
“How many subscribers, followers and fans do I have?”

But the numbers are never good enough. There are always more readers, fans and followers to gain. This is very frustrating, because it means that we can never be where we want to be, that our goal is, and always will be, out of reach.

If the numbers don’t go up at least a little bit every day, we tend to give up, we tend to put ourselves down and we tell ourselves that our art isn’t good enough.

This kind of thinking amazes me. It is my firm belief that all effort and work we do is worth it if just one person gets inspired, changed, motivated or a tiny bit happier because of it. Sometimes are weeks and weeks of work paid off with a simple smile or a simple thank you.

If one person is willing to listens to you, it means that you have something worthy to say. Learn to appreciate it.

You Can’t Please Everyone

Not everyone is going to like your art. In fact, most of the people will hate it. Some of them will even go to great lengths to let you know that they don’t like it — they’ll send you colorful emails, tweets and comments.

But that’s fine. You’re not doing it for them. As long as you have a small group of people who love your work, who support you and listen to you, you shouldn’t be concerned about the thousands who don’t care and who will never care.

Try to focus on those who are actually willing to listen to what you have to say. There might be only a few of them, but they’re the real reason why you’re here and why you should continue doing what you do.

Bailing Out of Commitments

If you make a commitment to do something, you have to see it through.

You can bail out before making a commitment (don’t promise something you can’t deliver), but you should never bail out after you seal the deal. Even if the commitment turns out to be unfavorable or bad for you, stick with it. Otherwise, it will hurt you and your brand, and most likely you won’t even get a second chance to make another commitment.

One more thing… Avoiding commitments is just as bad as bailing out of them.

The Cost or the Investment

How do you decide if something is a cost or an investment?

The question may not be as simple as it seems, especially if you’re unable or unwilling to look at the big picture (which is really not as easy as it seems).

Finding a general answer is probably impossible and trying to do so is quite a bit naive, but nevertheless, here’s my take.

If it increases the productivity, if it has the potential to open a new market, if we can write it into our resume, if it helps us gain new knowledge, if it makes us more reliable, more trustworthy or more valuable, if it can help someone, if it can make somebody smile, if it can make the world a slightly better place, it’s not really a cost — it’s an investment.

The Demon of Not Shipping

Getting into habit of shipping is one of the most important things for any artist. Not getting your work out there is just as if you don’t create it at all.

Yes, some of the stuff you’ll ship will be bad, but you need to learn to deal with it. At the end, it’s not up to you to decide if your work is valuable or not, it’s up to your readers, clients and fans to decide.

Thinking that your work isn’t good enough is almost always used as an excuse. You convince yourself that it won’t be useful, that it has already been done, that no one is going to like it. And if you tell this to yourself often enough, you start to believe it.

That’s how you fall into the trap of not shipping.

The only way to accomplish something is to ship regularly, despite all excuses you can come up with that are convincing you to stay in the shadow, to hide and never expose yourself.

You fool yourself that you won’t fail if you don’t ship, but not shipping is even bigger failure by itself.

The only way of fighting the demon of not-shipping is by shipping.

Focus

If you want to get somewhere or achieve something, you need to focus. More specifically, you need to focus on whatever you think (thinking must be only a starting point, you should always measure) it’s important either for you or for your product at this very moment. You can safely ignore and neglect everything else; it will only sidetrack you and keep you from reaching your real goals (note that goals can and should change, just not too frequently).

Turn off all distractions (you know what your distractions are), forget about the outside world (if only for an hour), focus and to the hard work.

Yes, it really is as simple as that.

The Price of Not Letting Go

If you invest a lot of time, money or effort into something (could be a project, job, relationship, customer, education or anything else), there’s a big chance that you’ll do everything to justify your investment. Even when it becomes obvious that your investment is a lousy one, you’ll try to defend it and prove that you haven’t wasted your energy on something that is bound to fail.

This happens because we can’t accept failure. No one can. And since we can’t accept failure, we keep on doing what we’ve been doing all along and we’re hoping that it will somehow turn around, that it will work out and that all our effort will be paid off.

But it won’t.

Be honest with yourself and stop as soon as it’s possible. If you figure out that your current job, project, seminar (or anything else, for that matter) is in limbo, drop it and move on. Don’t look back and don’t feel guilty about it. You did your best, but it didn’t work out. If you continue doing what doesn’t work, you’ll just sink deeper; you’ll just waste more time, more money and more energy.

There are plenty of opportunities out there to be pursued. Learn to let go (of the ones that proved to be dead ends).

Incredible and Effective

If you want to generate attention, you have to do something incredible, groundbreaking, unusual, insane, or utterly stupid. And it’s not really relevant if it will solve a problem, if anyone will find it useful, or even if it will work.

If you want to build a business, you have to create something that works well or solves a problem, something that people will use. And it’s not really relevant if it’s incredible, unusual, insane, groundbreaking or utterly stupid.

You can probably succeed with only one of those, but you’re far better off with both.