Episode 86

CAREER:

How to make peace with yourself to improve your creativity.

Creativity and insecurity go hand in hand because our ideas and creative process are strongly influenced by what we have experienced in our life. The challenge is that we have all led different lives, so it is pretty much impossible to find other people who have the exact same problems you do. In this episode, we will look at where some of the most common creative insecurities come from, and with that understanding talk through a framework that can help you have a new way of dealing with yourself and your work.


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Creativity asks you to simultaneously be someone who can have their own ideas which is a personal / internal process but can also work with a team which requires you to then externalize your creativity. Finding that balance between yourself and your team can be a hard one. But again today I want to talk about the one thing you can control – you.

I have said before that creating this show helps me hopefully as much and maybe even more than it helps you. That’s because a lot of the topics we cover are things that I have gone through, am going through or am coaching someone who is going through it. I have seen that not many people have something like this show to help them think through their problems. Those problems build up to the point where people have a breakdown, feel lost, frustrated or just know something is wrong but they can’t figure out what it is.

This happens because we all build coping mechanisms to deal with our problems. But those coping mechanisms are not long terms solutions as they will break down over time and eventually you will be in a position where you have to deal with the problem or taking increasingly drastic measures to keep them suppressed. As I have helped coach leaders and creatives through some of these problems I started to see a pattern that was the foundation of where these struggles came from – people inability to make peace with themselves. In this episode, we will look at where this comes from, and with that understanding work on a new way of dealing with ourselves and our work.

The foundation

We have talked about design imposter syndrome in the past which is that little nagging voice that too often stops your ideas or convinces you to make them smaller or safer. What we are going to talk about today is going to be different. We are going to talk about the another part to that internal voice that creates doubt not in your ideas – but in yourself.

These insecurities will affect everything in your life not just your creativity. I think work makes them more visible since they are harder to hide as we work alongside other people. Our teams may be even more influential than our families since we can always dismiss our families as crazy and move to another part of the country but that is harder to do at work where you always can’t escape as easily as you can your family.

Perceived weaknesses and insecurities

As I have worked with more creatives I have come to understand that a lot of the insecurities we are all dealing with come from some common places. As we go through the list take some time now if you can, or later if you are driving, biking or doing something where writing would be a bad idea, and write down your past in these areas. Write down the parts you tell people all the time and then write down the parts you always leave out, bend the truth on, apologize for or even lie about. It’s the parts you leave out that will be more important because those are the parts where your insecurities will live so pay attention to those.

Your childhood
Like so many things some of our problems start with our childhood.
• Where in the world you grew up?
• How much money your parents had (guilt for too much or too little)?
• Were you deeply religious?
• Where you were popular or not?
• What did you like to do?

Your education
Then there is our education which can be something we overhype or undervalue.
• Did you do well in school or not?
• Did you go to college?
• Did you go somewhere people admire?

Your career
Once we get the prep stages out of the way we move into our career where that 20/20 hindsight can make us feel insecure.
• Are you proud of your career?
• Have you worked at big or small companies?
• Ever win an award?
• Ever done anything you think is good?

Your process
Our career is about the big decisions we have made in the past but your process is about the decision you make every day.
• No two creative people go about their process the same way.
• Do you know how you have idea?
• Can you summon them on demand or does it feel more like luck?
• Do you sketch, write down goals, or something else?

Your insecurities
Then there are the free floating insecurities that don’t fall into one of those neat buckets.
• Are you affected by gender bias?

The gap

How did you do on that list? How many parts of your story have you left out? I use this as a map to see the gap that exists between who you really are the person you pretend to be for everyone else. If the gap is small then it is probably a career barrier you can get over or work around all the time. If the gap is big then it can be career crippling where you wonder why you are stuck in your career, why you can’t make any progress or find a path that seems to make you happy. The good news it is never too late to start to work on dealing with and closing that gap.

A new perspective

I have found that a good way to start that work is to get a new perspective on the problem to help make peace with yourself. Whomever you inspiration or hero is who you think has it all figured out – they are going through just as many problems as you are. Lets start by accepting that no two people have the same background, upbringing, or entrance into being creative. The problem is that we have been taught that being different, standing out, or having problems than is a weakness.

We all have this idea in our head about what “normal” is. There is no normal. This is the EXACT reason why I started the Crazy One and it is the definition of those words. Embracing who you are, your background, your strengths, and your weaknesses are your crazy. It would be easier for us to keep these types of issues as something we never talk about – so the alienation, imposter syndrome, and frustration stay hidden. Progress comes out of pain, discomfort, sharing, and acceptance.

Your strengths

So here is what we are going to do instead. We are going to start by looking at your background as your strength. They make you unique. They give you a unique perspective. And there is the small fact that nothing in your background is going to change so why not make peace with them. I say this because I have seen to work for other people and it worked for me. I spent way to long trying to be someone else and I was missing out on who I really was. When I started to move past that and listen to myself is when my career took off. This is where the ‘Here’s to the crazy ones tattoo’ on my right arm came from because it is a reminder to never go back to those times again.

Where do we go from here?

Take the time to map and understand the size of those gaps.
There may be some pain, frustration, or other things you need to work through there. You can only start to move forward once you understand the problem or make peace with the past.

Understand and embrace your process.
Take the time to start to look at your creative process so you know how you have ideas and can summon your creativity on demand.

Know what you want from your career
Take the time to really think about what you want from your career – which isn’t the same as what job you can get. When you are searching for a new job you can get blinded by the attention if you aren’t clear on what you really want.

Understand your brand
By brand, I do not mean logo or typeface because that is a visual language.
• I do not mean where you worked or went to school
• I mean brand like a real brand where it is what you brand for and believe in.
• When you understand this it will help you ask for what you need in your current job
• It will also help you get your next job but be sure you are clear about that brand in your resume, portfolio, etc.

Final thought

I said it before want to say it again – stop being obsessed with who we think we need to be we miss who we are.

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