All the signs are pointing toward an impending imposter crisis. In light of today’s political climate and the social media activity of celebrities, you might think you know what I’m getting at. But I’m talking about a different imposter crisis. Let me start with a personal story.
Creating something seems synonymous to producing something. Yet, the terms creativity and productivity can be very different concepts. If I describe someone as “creative” you probably imagine an artist or a person who generates clever ideas. When I mention a “productive” person, you likely think of someone very different. Perhaps an assembly line worker cranking out widgets, or a paper pusher who can empty their inbox at lightning speed.
The truth is you need to be both of these people. You need to be productive so you can meet deadlines and help your business be profitable. Meanwhile, you also need to be creative in order to generate new ideas, come up with better ways to do your work or find innovative solutions when things don’t go as planned. In the middle of the daily grind, you probably don’t think much about bringing the proper mix of creativity and productivity to your work.
But what is the proper mix of creativity and productivity? Here are 3 signs they are out of balance and how to balance your creativity and productivity.
“I’ll never let that happen again.”
Amidst all of life’s slings and arrows, we learn to put up our shields to protect ourselves. We do this to get through situations when we feel attacked, but if we leave our shields up we close ourselves off. We galvanize ourselves in a way that prevents us from learning, changing and growing.
We trust someone and they hurt us, so we no longer trust as easily.
We try something new and it backfires, so we go back to our comfort zone.
We share our art with others and get negative feedback, so we keep it to ourselves next time.
Our brains naturally try and avoid pain in order to protect our existence. Self-preservation is essential in life or death scenarios. But we’re people, not jam. We don’t need to be preserved indefinitely. In order to experience what it means to be human, we have to take emotional and mental risks, even when it means inevitably experiencing pain.
If we let it, our emotional posture will stunt our growth.
Many of us remember when the TV show Dallas turned an entire season into “just a dream” in order to bring back a character who had been killed off. Viewers were furious with what they deemed a copout. The solution was much too convenient and it came out of the blue.
This is a prime example of what the industry calls a deus ex machina.
A deus ex machina is something inserted into a story which provides a contrived solution. In Latin, the phrase means literally “a god from the machine.” We may show frustration with Pam waking up or Tolkien’s eagles, but truth be told, we want our own god from the machine.
We want the pill that allows us to lose weight without changing our eating or exercise habits. We want that windfall of money from the lottery to solve our debt problems. We want our relationship issues to disappear as the other person realizes they were wrong all along. Basically, we want to wake up in the morning and realize all our problems are now as insignificant as a bad dream that rinses out of our lives in the morning shower.
Wishing for your own deus ex machina does little good. Your time can be better spent honing your craft, growing your following, rolling a snowball downhill and building momentum. As you do this, you learn how to make bold – but smart – decisions. This is where you can take the leap you’ve been preparing for your entire life (and the leap after that).
And maybe that’s it. Maybe it is a bit of god from the machine. Only, in this case, the machine is your life.
There can be an exciting place to think about.
It is where we want to go. We dream of it. We imagine ourselves somehow looking better – stronger, more secure, more confident, admirable, accomplished, popular, envied, relaxed, unburdened, successful – all because we have arrived there.
We paint a picture through goals and visions. We commit ourselves to getting there.
But so many times, we never arrive. We don’t even seem to make it to halfway there. We tend to stay here. And that is the secret to getting there.
We have to let go of here.
As long as we hold onto our here, it will always feel safer than going there. Once we let go, then there seems safer than the limbo we have created. But it is scary to let go of the trapeze. To trust our momentum to carry us through the vacuous space from here to there.
Maybe that is why resolutions are so hard to keep. We resolve to get somewhere different in the new year, but we hold onto the place where we are comfortable.
So, maybe you have a there, where you want to be in 2015. Are you willing to let go of 2014 in order to get there?
Swing yourself with confidence. Build your momentum. Generate velocity in the right direction. But if you never let go, don’t be surprised by the strikingly familiar surroundings.
Dousing millions of lit matches one at a time won’t qualify you as a fire fighter.
Running a quarter mile every day for four months won’t make you a marathon runner.
The tedium of small accomplishments can lead you to become apathetic about what you’re doing. If you’re willing to take on the bigger challenge, you may find greater significance in your work. Each step gets you closer to the top of the mountain or closer to an important finish line. The thrill of knowing you can do something significant can inspire you to keep going.
They say the key to eating an elephant is to take one bite at a time. Unfortunately, we often look for bite-sized elephants instead.
That’s fine. Just don’t complain about the portion size once you choose it.
After reading Seth Godin’s latest book What To Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn), a friend and I talked about it. She questioned why there is such a disconnect between how most people live their lives and the possibilities Seth talked about in his book.
It was a really smart question, and it begs another.
Does Seth Godin get it?
The reality we experience tells us otherwise. In our reality…
- The tallest blade of grass gets cut. So fly under the radar by keeping your head down.
- Generosity doesn’t scale. You gotta get your own in this world.
- Art doesn’t pay. Get a real job with guarantees and certainty.
- Picking yourself is a fool’s errand. Your energy is better spent getting the attention of the powers-that-be and persuading them of your worthiness.
- If you don’t know if it will work… don’t do it. It has to work or it isn’t worth the investment.
Seth’s book (as well as his long-lasting blog) tells us otherwise. His possibilities tell us…
- You owe it to the world to pick up the microphone and say something meaningful.
- It’s your turn to give a gift. Just because you can.
- If you are open to uncertainty, you can be a pathfinder for the rest of us. There is art in that.
- You have to TAKE your turn, because it’s rarely given to you.
- This might not work, and that’s OK. Dance in the duality of work/not work. Don’t run away from the fear, but don’t ignore it either. The ability to live in that tension and discover what you can do in the midst of that… that is artistry.
Godin is definitely seeing something else. The world he paints isn’t the one most people see when they walk into their slate gray cubicle on Monday at 7:59 AM. It’s not the one we see in the eyes of the department store clerk… partly because he won’t make eye contact with us to begin with. This isn’t the reality presented to us by television, human resources, our colleagues at the water cooler or by bureaucracy.