You are a project

I can’t remember a time when I felt I was okay just as I am – at least, not without a few tweaks here and there. I’m guessing I’m not alone in thinking like that. We are who we are, but most of us aren’t particularly satisfied with that – and we let it hold us back.

We think we’ll be okay once we lose weight, or get a better job, find a partner, have a baby, get published, get famous, win lotto… The problem is, like getting cosmetic surgery, we’ll wake up and be looking at the world through the same eyes. And we’ll be looking for our next fix.

But what if we took a different approach? What if we said – hey, this is what I am. Now how can I work with that? And I’m talking about working with our flaws, instead of against them.

Because if all we focus on is the bad stuff – the things we’re not – the less we’re going to get out and give things a go. The less we’re going to put ourselves out there… until we’re all fixed and perfect.

Think about a civil engineering team who have the task of building a road from A to B. Except between those two points are a mountain, a river and a floodplain… and lots of other hard stuff to contend with.

What do they do? Do they say… oh, there’s a mountain there, and that floodplain isn’t great. Let’s not bother. No, they sit down and identify all the issues – the realities. Then they find a way to work within those parameters, and figure out what they can do differently or better so they get that road built.

And when it comes to who we are, I reckon we have to do the same thing. Work in our strengths. Work on our weaknesses. Not throw up our hands and say I’m just not good enough, or pretty enough, or funny enough, or fit / wealthy / intelligent / creative / tall / young enough…

So face your life like you’d face a project. Work out exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are. Then ask: how can I work with what I am to get where I want to be? And when you’re on the way, and your confidence is building, start working on your weaknesses.

Because if you wait until you’re ‘just right’, life will have whooshed past you – faster than you’ve ever imagined.

And hey, if we all put ourselves out there, we’ll be among friends, and that’s got to be a good thing.

Okay, I’d love to hang around chatting all day. But I’ve got project work to do!

ciao for now

Lou

P.S. Take a look at incredible paralympians like Chinese amputee He Junquan, cyclist Barbara Buchan, and so many others. And when you think you can’t do something, think about a man with no arms who became an elite swimmer… now that’s inspiring.


We are all a ‘work in progress’. This post was originally published in our blog, the art of moi, in 2009. And the project continues… 

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Pitch (im)perfect revisited

I wrote the blog post below four years ago, after a particularly harrowing experience doing a pitch in a workshop. I didn’t realise how this affected me until this week, when I did some public speaking for the first time since then.

I wasn’t particularly nervous about getting up, just wanted to avoid putting myself out there at all costs. But it was for a close friend and colleague, so up I got and it was actually fun! Most importantly, the next day I realised I was free again. So don’t let yourself be bumped off your path. Or if you are, get back onto it, then put your hands in the air, Rocky-style, and say… I’m back!

What happens when you put yourself – and your ‘baby’ (non-fiction book idea, fiction manuscript, idea for a tv series or screenplay, whatever it is) – out there, and not only does your pitch fail, but you get the distinct impression you should really crawl back in your hole and stay there? It happened to me this week – and, not surprisingly for a sensitive creative type (read neurotic!), it really knocked me around.

All the crappy things in your head come up – things about self-worth, past failures (somehow your successes diminish at a rapid rate) and whether you should give up now, because rejection really hurts (ouch!).

So, after a quiet meltdown, I realised some ‘deconstruction’ was needed! I’d written a blog recently: The Upside of Failure, so I decided to take my own advice. And I know my writerly readers out there will relate to this, because we have to risk exposure and rejection in order to reach for that elusive publication dream. Here’s the lessons I took out of my failure:

  1. Hold things lightly. Don’t wrap up your entire self worth with the outcome. Because it may just be that you don’t appeal to that person’s area of interest or taste.
  2. Take risks – but take the risks that involve reaching for your dream, not the risks that are about things you don’t care enough about, don’t really want to do, and aren’t worth wasting your precious energy on (like thinking you need to go for a particular job to be seen as successful, even if you know you’d absolutely hate it!)
  3. Before you give up – work out whether you’re just going through a dip (so it’s worth sticking at it) or whether you’re actually on the wrong track and headed for a dead end (Seth Godin’s The Dip is a must read…)
  4. Work on the things you can change, but hang onto the things that are essential to who you are (aka authentically you). Don’t changeyou to fit anyone’s mould or idea of success.
  5. Take lessons from failures, then let them go (the failures, not the lessons)
  6. Last but not least: stop doing what what you do (paint, write, create) just to get a result (like publication or money). Create from the heart. Do it because you love to do it and it’s vital to your wellbeing. Love the process, and you are already a success… the money and recognition will be a (nice) bonus.

And remember, some people are just plain rude. Their ignorance is a reflection on them, not you. If all else fails, crank up Alanis Morrissette’s I see right through you and sing your heart out. You’re not the first one to feel these things, and you won’t be the last. It’s what you do with how you feel that matters.

So power up your dreams and go for it… I know I am.

This was originally posted on the art of moi in October 2011