To start today’s letter, I have a few questions for you:
- Do you ever feel like you TRY too many things? Like you have too many interests?
- Do you ever feel judged for having a different vision every few weeks?
- Do you beat yourself up over not being able to “nail down” or “button up” your creative business?
- Do you have a million projects/ideas you’re juggling at once that you LOVE but the world keeps telling you to focus and pare down and it leaves you feeling like an amateur.
I hope some of you are nodding your heads hard because this is probably one of the biggest things I’ve struggled with as a creative, and I had no idea it was still an issue for me until recently.
A few weeks ago, I did a podcast interview with a friend of mine from the early early days of blogging, Kelsey Cronkhite of Pinegate Road. Kelsey and I talked about a lot of things (and I totally recommend listening to the episode!) but one tiny part at the end had me thinking long after we hung up.
When Kelsey asked me what particular mantra was guiding me at the moment (1:19:10 mark of the ep if you want to listen), the first one that came to mind was one that has guided Jason and I in life and business for years:
“LIFE IS AN EXPERIMENT.”
This simple phrase has always reminded me to keep a mentality of exploration and adventure as I approach both life and business. It reminds me of the importance of testing assumptions and pushing boundaries. You can’t always think or plan your way through things… you have to test and try and be willing to find out.
BUT, then Kelsey asked an interesting follow-up question:
“What would you say to someone who IS a planner. How can they go from that ‘wanting to have it all figured out’ stage to actually taking that first step?”
Without thinking about it too much, my answer was:
"You make experimentation a part of the plan.”
What I was trying to say was that experimentation CAN be purposeful and intentional and you just have to remind yourself that trying things is actually a more efficient and effective way to figure things out, rather than just thinking about something and making assumptions.
The funny thing is though...
I desperately needed to reminded MYSELF of this advice.
As much as I still try to use the ‘life is an experiment’ mantra to guide me, if I’m really honest with myself, I still carry some kind of guilt around how much experimenting I do -- especially in my business.
Just in the past year alone with my business I’ve tried: a daily art project, selling art prints and originals, filming two new art classes, live paid classes, free email courses, redesigning my website, launching a monthly subscription, the list goes on and on and on.
The truth is I love to learn BY DOING. I love experimenting -- thinking something will yield a certain result but then testing it and trying it only to find it yields a completely different result.
So why then do I find myself feeling GUILTY over all this experimentation?
Why do I feel like all this experimenting should have led to some grand conclusion by now?
My word for this year was CURATE, and -- as our best-laid plans often tend to -- that hasn’t quite panned out the way I intended it to.
I think subconsciously I wanted this year to be some sort of “graduation” from trying so many things, not because I no longer wanted to try new things but because I thought I SHOULD be reaching that point in my business where things felt more stable, more concrete. Like it was all supposed to lead to some big moment of clarity and then I would continue on in a clear and methodical way from that point forward.
But I'm learning to appreciate the fact that, for me, I don't think there is some final destination of clarity. It's a mirage; a horizon line that keeps moving the closer you try to get to it.
And now that I’m thinking about it, if there WAS actually an end to all my experimenting, I would be so sad!
I love making exploration and discovery a part of my business. I love trying several different things and being surprised by the outcome. I never want to lose that.
So, thanks in part to the unexpected reminder from Kelsey’s interview, I’m taking my own advice and making experimentation a part of the plan.
I’m finding my own peace with it by making it intentional. I’m raising it up as a CORE VALUE in my business, and in doing so, I'm removing that guilt around needing to have some static trajectory or plan.
I never want to pretend to “have it all figured out” and when people think of Made Vibrant and of me, I want them to think of someone who tries a bunch of different things.
If the mission of Made Vibrant is about doing the things that light you up at your core, trying and learning and pivoting and re-calibrating and testing and exploringMUST be a part of that too.
No longer am I going to see myself or my business (even subconsciously) as flaky or chaotic or disjointed. Instead, I choose to see it as exciting, ever-changing, unpredictable in the best way.
Yes, there is definitely value in focus. I’ve seen the benefits of trimming back and editing down so you can be a lot more effective, but being focused and being experimental do not have to be mutually exclusive. Just ask any lean startup trying to get their business off the ground. In fact, a part of the experimentation process I want to embrace is the skill of letting go of a project or tactic once I’ve learned what I needed to learn.
So this week, my challenge to you is to look at your track record in a new light.
All the things you’ve tried, all the things you’ve quit, all the times you’ve shifted directions or hopped off one train and hopped on another -- I want you to see those moments as indications not that you are flaky but that you are courageous and well-rounded.
And, if you’re on the other side of things and you have trouble doing things in the first place for fear of having to switch gears down the road, fear not!
Make experimentation part of the plan and encourage yourself to do one thing today as part of your intentional, experimental process.
I think what makes having your own creative business so fun is allowing yourself to learn things by engaging in them. I think I forgot that for a while, but I'm grateful I've been reminded.
"Having it all figured out" is over-rated in my book. The fun is in putting the puzzle together, not in seeing the final product.