This is a guest post by Jarie Bolander, Author of Frustration Free Technical Management.
Innovation and creativity are wrought with setbacks, stumbles and failure. All creative endeavors have that one point where all you want to do is stop. Stop working. Stop thinking. Stop worrying about the project. This place comes by many names – the wall, the edge or the brink.
All artists, innovators and creative folk have defining moments that test their mental strength. These moments are brink moments when, for brief moments, we let the self doubt, insecurities and negativity get the best of us. These are the places we give up on our dreams. These are the places that make us not want to ever try again. How many of you have let these moments defeat you? How many of you just could not muster enough positive energy to push past this point? It’s sometimes hard to channel enough positive energy when trouble strikes. Remember all those negative people who told you that your dream was stupid. Can you visualize them? Shaking their head. Waving their finger. Telling you to go get a safe, secure, corporate job. Telling you that being an artist, poet, musician, writer or inventor is fine for a hobby, but a job, c’mon, that’s just crazy talk.
Teetering on the Edge
The brink is that defining moment where all hope is lost. Whatever you are working on is just not converging. It’s the point of exhaustion where going on seems impossible. This spot is the single most frustrating point in your life where you question everything. It’s a nasty cocktail of melancholy mixed with terror that feels like your whole world is collapsing in on itself. At this point, where all hope, dreams, desires and ego are on the brink of collapse, will be your most creative moment if you let it.
Embracing the Brink
Creative people need to embrace the brink and the defining moments it creates. The clarity that brink moments can bring is truly astonishing. The brink is the culmination of your creative process. It’s that last little push to finish your blog post, the marathon session to release your software or the one defining experiment that proves your invention. When you feel yourself teetering on the brink, wanting to give up, try these techniques to push past it:
- Take a step back: Too often, we get wrapped up in a problem that we lose our objectivity. Take a step back. Let your mind rest and regroup. Then, attack the problem again.
- Attack one problem at a time: Inventors sometimes face a myriad of challenges that hit them all at once. The desire is to attack them all at once. This method just distracts from the focus needed to solve difficult problems. The best method: list your problems and work on one at a time.
- Adjust expectations: Reaching too far can create artificial barriers that should be carefully analyzed. It’s fine to delay a feature or adjust the form factor as long as progress to the end goal is being made.
- Stop making it perfect: Probably the biggest barrier to all creative folks is the perfection fallacy. This mostly stems from critics that might look at your work and find a flaw. Well, get it over it. Most of them will never see the flaw – they will just be happy that you shared your work and ignore the critics – they are just jealous that you released something.
- Set a deadline: Real artists release their work. Without releasing your work, you are not an artist, inventor or writer. Sharing your work is how you touch people.
- Talk it through with a friend: Just talking through your challenges can inspire different approaches and ideas. Take a friend to coffee or drinks. Candidly discuss your setbacks and ask for advice.
- Collaborate with someone else: Sometimes your art is just missing that one piece to make it whole. In these cases, it can do you a world of good to find another artist that can help complete your work. Even sharing credit for your work is far better than not releasing it at all.
- Sacrifice something you enjoy till it’s done: Nothing will motivate you more than to sacrifice something you enjoy doing till you solve one problem or release your art.
- Celebrate the little wins: The little wins will sustain you until you can push past the brink. In reality, the little wins will build into the big wins and that will lead to your success. So, celebrate a bit when all seems lost.
Embrace the Process
An important thing to remember is that some brink events will momentarily break you. Be ready to accept this, learn from it and move on. None of us is perfect. At times, we will fail but that does not mean we are failures. Whatever you create, the process of creation is also art. Embrace the fact that you put yourself out there, created something and let the world see it, even if it’s not perfect or not what you originally intended.
About The Author
Jarie Bolander is an engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature. He is presently working on breakthrough technology that will reduce medical errors. Jarie also blogs about innovation, management and entrepreneurship at The Daily MBA and has recently published his first book, Frustration Free Technical Management. You can also follow him on Twitter @thedailymba