Creative people have it tough in this world. Despite having the skills and potential to make a tremendous impact, the odds are stacked against us. Unlike our business minded counterparts, the path to the success is not clearly defined.
If you are reading this article, chances are you are what I call a genius type. You don’t have to be super-intelligent, super-creative, or super-talented to be one. Genius types simply want more out of life than most. They genuinely desire to find and develop their inner passion and make a living expressing it.
Entrepreneurs, musicians, film-makers, writers, producers, directors, artists, real estate investors, photographers, inventors, and stock pickers are a few good examples. The failure rate in all these professions is very high, because there is not a system of support in place to guide people on the path to success. An individual is on their own to develop the creative talent as well as the business skills required to make it.
Because the creative path is hard, most people separate their jobs from their genius. It is a whole lot easier to make money working for someone else, than it is to create your own income. Unfortunately, most jobs aren’t interested in your genius, creativity, or passion, because some creative person before you has already set up a system to make money and they just want you to carry it out.
I paid my way through college with my own businesses. Upon graduation, I had a choice to either continue on the difficult entrepreneurial path I started or accept a well paying job in management. Unfortunately, I chose the most socially acceptable path and started a short career in corporate America.
The “Artist’s Dilemma:” In the short-run, the truer you are to your own genius, the less it pays.
A person who wants to follow his own creativity and passion, but isn’t independently wealthy faces an uphill battle. The creative path seems long, cold, and hard. On the other hand, the logical path of getting a “real job” seems warm, cozy, and acceptable.
For example, consider a painter who really gets excited about post-modern, abstract art that few people understand. He would have a hard time making a living in the short-run just by painting his masterpieces. On the opposite end of the spectrum, an advertising company would be happy to employ his visual skills to design their ad layouts, but someone else would be coming up with the content. He might decide to go half-way and design custom prints, sacrificing a little money and a little creative control.
Or, consider a person who gets excited talking about her idea for a new bakery. Opening her own bakery means that not only will she have to wait months or years before she turns a profit, but it will cost her a tremendous amount of money to get it started. It is a lot easier to hire her skills out to an existing bakery.
In the long run, a successful painter or business owner have the potential to make much more than their traditionally employed counterparts. Following your genius is extremely tough in the short run, but exponentially more lucrative in the long run.
I lasted less than a year in management. After, I took a job with an airline which allowed me a little more freedom to be myself. I was happier, but I still lacked focus and was slowly building a wall of debt. I spent the next seven years traveling around the world, learning about life, and trying to find my passion.
In my search for happiness, I read the books of successful people before me. I started to learn their secrets. I began to recognize my strengths and weaknesses as a creative person. I learned to take these three steps toward my goals:
1) Maximize Focus
2) Minimize Resistance
3) Maximize Persistence
Creative people by nature are multi-talented. They tend to be good at a lot of different things and if they are motivated they will take on many different roles. The problem with juggling a variety of different skills is that their focus becomes diluted.
If you concentrate your energy on one specific skill, or area of your life, you begin to tap into the immense power of focus. Focusing on something over a period of time produces a synergistic effect, especially if it is something you are passionate about. This means that by focusing on one thing instead of several, your rewards from the one will far outweigh the sum of the rewards from the several.
There is something extra that happens above and beyond a person’s normal capabilities when all of her energy is focused on one skill. We can see the fruits of this when we hear the music of the greats, or see the paintings of the masters. Focusing allows your brain to resonate with the subject matter, build upon what it has learned, and discover creative new ways to tap into your genius.
Just think of all the things the brain has to do before it can become good at something. It has to learn the terminology, get used to the activities, learn what works and what doesn’t work, figure out who to talk to, and memorize all of the technical details of the skill. All of this is simply groundwork before the real synergy and creativity can happen. Interrupting or watering it down disrupts the building process. If too much time goes by, things have to be re-learned and the whole process slows down.
In a way the brain is a lot like a muscle. When a person decides to work out, but only two or three times a week, he doesn’t experience much progress. Even at three or four times per week, the muscles have too much time to heal and then go back to the way they were. But, something seems to start happening at five and six times per week. The muscles seem to “get it” and start developing rapidly. Significant progress is finally made.
A creative person’s energy might be spent on her job, her art, her softball team, her paper route, and her model airplane hobby. To narrow her focus, she might choose to work on just her job, picking up extra hours until she has paid off enough debt to shift the focus on her art. Once she is able to focus on her art, she will soon see the effects of synergy. She might experience bursts of creativity and leaps in the mastery of her skill. This type of exponential growth in her art would not have been possible if her attention was being split between her art and her job.
It may seem counter-intuitive to move away from her art, but think about it this way: Is it better to take a year off, giving herself the rest of her life to perfect her art using synergy, or continue the rest of her life only giving half of her attention to her art and never experiencing leaps in her skill or success level.
An entrepreneur who hopes to develop several different sources of online income might choose to focus on one source at a time until that source has synergized and basically runs itself. Most entrepreneurial projects require a significant amount of learning and mastering of a certain skill before profits are made. If he is spreading his focus between several different projects, he is not allowing himself to benefit from synergy. He focuses on one project at a time, until that project becomes second nature, and he can shift his focus to the next.
At one time or another I have been known as an artist, a musician, a graphic designer, a web-designer, an athlete, a manager, an entrepreneur, a writer, a poet, a film-maker, or a philosopher. I never knew that I had a problem with focus until I realized that I was what some call aa “jack of all trades but a master of none.” I didn’t start making significant progress until I started to focus.
Most people have unknowingly created so much resistance in their lives that following their passion is almost out of the question. The most common form of resistance people experience is debt, but resistance can also come in the form of emotional baggage, social pressure, or lack of confidence. You have to use the power of focus to get rid of these obstacles to your goal before you can start to move toward it.
Creative people tend to rely more on their emotions when making decisions. This is great for creating art or a new marketing plan but sometimes also translates into making decisions without thinking about the long-term effects. One such decision might be buying something on credit without any real plan to pay for it.
Debt applies resistance to your time-freedom. The more debt you have, the less control you have over your time, and the less you can focus on your passion. Avoiding debt is extremely difficult, but much easier than getting out of it.
To avoid debt is to master the value of delayed gratification. Valuing delayed gratification means you are willing to live below your means to give your genius a chance to develop. Knowing the “artist’s dilemma,” you might choose to be true to your inner genius and work for peanuts. In order to do this, you must scale back your lifestyle to the bare minimum.
Scaling back your lifestyle is hard. Your friends won’t understand, and people will look at you differently. You may not get the same respect you did when you were driving a brand new car. But, you are setting yourself up for long-term success. By focusing on your talent, your chances for success will be much higher.
While debt increases resistance to time freedom, online income decreases it. The more online income you have, the more you can focus on your passion. I firmly believe that the best way for a person to live their passion is to eliminate debt, build online income, and set up a situation where they are free to pursue their genius no matter what they are getting paid for it. Reducing the resistance to your time freedom as well as looking at the social and psychological resistance you have in your life can greatly increase your chances for success.
After I was focused on reducing my debt, it took three years to rid myself of it. If I would have understood the value of delayed gratification three years before, I could have saved those years of my life. I’m just glad I wised up when I did. If I still didn’t understand delayed gratification today, I might not ever be able to claim my life back. I realize that life is a journey, and I don’t have any regrets. I only tell this story to illustrate the power of reducing or avoiding resistance.
Creative people have a natural talent for coming up with great ideas. The problem is that they tend to have a short attention span and will move on to their next great idea as soon as their first one has lost its luster. By doing this, they lose the power of exponential growth.
It’s hard to believe, but persistence is a better indicator of success than talent. A person’s talent means nothing if he gives up at the first sign of resistance. This is bad news for unfocused creative types, but great news for those who believe in self-determinism.
A rocket expends the majority of its energy just trying to break free from the initial pull of the earth’s gravity. Once it has made it beyond a certain level, the rest of the way is almost effortless. Humans experience the same gravity on the way to their goals. In the beginning, it is extremely difficult to achieve the first dose of success, but once a little success is achieved, it gets easier and easier.
Most people quit just before it starts to get easy. They get into a cycle of starting over and over and never experiencing the taste of success.
Be persistent. Keep working through the hard part until you begin to get the hang of it. Then work some more until it starts to become easy.
I am still on my journey to success, like most of you. I appreciate the chance to tell my story and I hope that you can take something from it. I sincerely believe that anyone can succeed if they find their inner genius and learn how to use it.