Negative Creative Talk

It is often said in story that creatives are troubled souls. They live difficult lives which expresses itself in their art. Then they have a challenging career trying and struggling to make a living doing what they love: creating. They don’t take the typical path many people follow. They must create.

Being a creative myself, I think of this. And then I think about many entrepreneurs I interviewed and read about this past winter. Many of them describe a fear of getting in their own way of moving forward in their creative venture. This is so striking to me, and I can relate more than not. Creating a vision, whether its wall art or a business, is creating; and this is hard. Every time. There’s risk to be faced with, vulnerability.

Steven Pressfield writes a whole book about this in The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this book referenced in other resources I’ve studied since, and I revisit this read often. Pressfield points it out right up front: “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is resistance.” You can substitute [writing] for your creativity of choice here.

In doodling recently, I sketched this drawing:

A cartoon drawing
Negative Creative Talk: A blank page is thinking “I’m afraid vision will never come to me.” An ink pen is thinking “I’m afraid of making a permanent mistake.”

Figuratively speaking, this illustration highlights the negative self talk we do that builds creative resistance. Some people have visions [blank pages] that never come to life because they’re afraid each move is a pass-or-permanently-fail scenario. Therefore, the steps are never taken where the pen meets paper, where new creativity comes to life.

The reality is that the permanent pen is a pencil, a constant work in progress. It’s only a permanent mistake if you don’t learn along the journey, from both the failures and successes. As a side note, I drew this illustration in pencil, not ink; and I drew it three times before I got it right.

Pressfield also says “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us.” —This is the life we create.

There’s no such thing as creative block, just a fear of putting ink to the page.

Just start. The pen and paper would look far more cheerful if you did.


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Negative Creative Talk

Keep Score

“There’s a difference between knowing a thing and knowing data.” – Chris McChesney

Chris McChesney shares an interesting view about how education trains leaders in strategy and planning but not execution. We tend to blame people for problems when in reality it is the system that is the problem, and leaders have to own this truth. To stay on track, McChesney shares four leadership disciplines.

  1. Focus on the Wildly Important Goal (WIG): What are the fewest battles to do to win the war? Stay focused on the goal and execute it with simplicity and transparency.
  2. Act on the lead measure: There’s a difference between knowing a thing and knowing data. For example, we may know a thing such as the need to diet and exercise in order to lose weight. But, few know the actual data such as the calorie count needed for our diet. Understand both the thing and the data behind it.
  3. Keep a compelling scoreboard: People play differently when they keep score. Keep a simple scoreboard that is visible with the right measures available to your team. Everyone should know if we are winning or losing.
  4. Create a canvas of accountability: Have weekly commitment meetings—like standups—with your team, but never urgent. Urgency trumps importance, and this is why execution is hard. In these meetings, report on last week’s commitment, review and update the scoreboard, and make commitments for next week. Then break!

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Keep Score

Attention

In one of his keynotes, Gary Vaynerchuk talks a bit about how “attention is the number one currency in our society”. This shouldn’t be a surprise right? Yet, it’s not always understood, especially when it comes to marketing.

Before you start chatting about how great you are or selling about how wonderful your products are, you need my attention first in order for me to listen or care. In today’s very noisy landscape of ever-expanding media channels constantly coming in at all our senses, we need to understand that attention comes first. And if I can’t relate to you, or if I don’t trust you, you don’t have my attention. Despite how awesome you say your product or service is, it’s noise; and people are really good at selective listening.

So there is the landscape of “competitors” to be aware of in business, but the greatest competition is that of being heard.

One thing that has always stuck with me was from an undergrad marketing class I took where the instructor was lecturing about the A.I.R. concept. In order to market something, your product or service needs A.I.R. – First it must grab attention. Second, it must hold your attention with interest. Lastly, it must be so impactful that the customer will recall your brand.

Maybe you read this post, or maybe you thought it was noise. It’s interesting that you have that choice to decide.


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Attention

Three Central Values

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey references Victor Frankl’s perspective about how there are three central values in life:

  1. Experiential: What happens to us
  2. Creative: What we bring into existence
  3. Attitudinal: Our response to difficult circumstances

Covey highlights that the greatest value here is attitudinal because it’s important how we respond to situations and reframe them in a positive way. While I agree with this assessment, I think it’s also important to put equal emphasis on the creative value. If we simply lived in experiential and attitudinal, we would be in an endless cycle of “this happens” and “this is my reaction”. This back and forth tennis match is not the most exciting. Covey explains the importance of being proactive, which is good; but still the creative gets little attention.

Creative is what brings in the new, the inspiration, and the change. While experiential and attitudinal is important, no doubt, I think there needs to be more creative in order to positively aid attitudinal and exit a negative paradigm.


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Three Central Values

What is the Most Valuable Land?

“What do you think is the most valuable land in the world?”

Several people threw out guesses, such as Manhattan, the oil fields of the Middle East, and the gold mines of South Africa, before our friend indicated that we were way off track. He paused for a moment, and said, “You’re all wrong. The most valuable land in the world is the graveyard. In the graveyard are buried all of the unwritten novels, never-launched businesses, unreconciled relationships, and all of the other things that people thought, ‘I’ll get around to that tomorrow.’ One day, however, their tomorrows ran out.”

– Todd Henry, Die Empty

I like this thought because it reminds me that we only have one shot on this planet. There is another quote that says “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever does,” and I don’t want to be in this scenario. I want to leave a legacy at my grave, not a wonder of what could have been.

I’ve heard this question and answer a few times recently in other media channels, and it’s a good reminder to step back and reflect on what you’re doing with your life. It’s as valuable as you make it.


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What is the Most Valuable Land?

We Sell to Committees

In the book Dealstorming, Tim Sanders describes how deals are becoming more difficult to close because there are more decision-makers, there is more information at a prospects fingertips, there is an increasing complexity with the technology of products and services, and there are more competitors in the marketplace. The number of decision-makers involved in deals are increasing by 15% each year in the tech industry with an average of 5 decision-makers in the process of most deals. Selling to a committee is hard.

What is also more challenging is the fact that customers are being involved later in the buying process. They are often 60% into their purchasing decision before talking to sales. Buyers don’t need a sales person to explain the details. They will look it up on their own because they think they know the problem, solution, and fair price for this solution. Gone are the days of presenting a problem and providing a solution. The purpose of sales is to “re-educate” the buyer to make corrections to their presumptions.

To be successful in sales, we need to understand how consumers find, vet, and buy products. And at today’s competitive age, we need to be more concerned about retention in order to keep buyers coming back. Retention is more important than the number of new sales.


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We Sell to Committees

Prioritizing Your Debt

I have often read and heard from financial experts about paying down debts from lowest balance to highest, obviously paying at least minimum on all of them. This “snowball” effect, as it is commonly termed, makes sense. However, this is just a psychological benefit. It’s a “win” to pay off a quick low balance to continue on with paying the next.

It’s refreshing to hear, however, the other choice: to pay down debts from highest APR to lowest, again paying at least minimum on all of them. It makes sense to choose a choice that mathematically makes more sense.

The way I see it, you’re either motivated to pay off your debt or you’re not. Why pay more in the snowball method to psychologically feel a win? If you do the math there, the psychology doesn’t add up quite right–but I get it.

I’ve paid for my schooling out-of-pocket my entire life, through undergrad and my first three years of grad school; and I am quite proud of this hard work in doing so. My final two years of grad school created some debt, but not comparatively to those I hear from other students. School debt is definitely a problem, but it’s too important to equally stay engaged in learning how to get a handle on it, and from various perspectives.


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Prioritizing Your Debt