3 Things to Stop Doing—So You Can Start Strong in 201712/15/2016
You can’t tap what isn’t flowing. That’s true for beer, wine, and creativity. Your best work comes from that which is moving, alive, active, engaged. But we all get stuck! Myself included. (This will be the topic of my presentation at HOW Design Live 2017 “Out of Juice: How to Replenish Your Creativity Well.”) Our creative arteries harden and of course that’s not good. If you can’t pump out fresh new ideas, you can’t do your job or create anything worthwhile.
This is the time of year when we start thinking about what we want to do differently. And in order to get unstuck and do better stuff, there are a few things that we need to stop doing. Here are three of them.
Stop searching for your passion. Some people spend years, decades even, pondering their passions—and then worrying about whether they should be following them. I can’t tell you what a colossal waste of time this is. Some people have a clear passion from the start (very rare, by the way), and others discover them as they go. But ruminating endlessly about it, at the expense of action? Pointless, unproductive, and needless to say, boring.
I gave a TEDx talk on exactly this, called “Stop Searching for Your Passion,” and it has earned more than 1.6 million views to date. Why? Because I’m some kind of genius? Nope. Because the message hits home. Wondering whether you should do what you get paid to do or follow your passion is the wrong question to pose. Instead, ask yourself whether you’re spending your time solving the right problems. And if not, find better problems to solve.
Stop saying yes to everything. Do fewer things—and do them better. That’s the key to making powerful things happen. Greg McKeown makes an outstanding case for this in his bestselling book, Essentialism, which should be at the top of your reading list for 2017. I’m reading it for the second time. That’s how bad I am at this.
Why? Because if you’re like me, you’re a nonessentialist, and you say yes to everything because you think that’s how to tap your potential, and make exciting things happen. Not quite. McKeown’s theory is that too many of us function like sprinklers and have little to show for that effort; real impact comes when you make like a firehose and focus all that energy on fewer things. Apply a Harvard-level admissions process to your attention and your calendar, and only admit the very few and very best. When you take all comers, you get nowhere—fast.
Stop trying to be perfect, and stop trying in general. I recently saw Seth Godin speak in NYC and he described perfectionism as a way to hide. When you delay and stall and get obsessive over tiny things, you’re delaying judgment and succumbing to fear. No one is ever perfect, and waiting for the moment you are is a waste of your precious time and potential.
While you’re at it, stop trying do things, period.
I’ve stopped trying—to do more yoga, to write my book, to meet up with friends. Now, I either do it, or I don’t. Let’s face it—“trying” is cultural shorthand for “good intention with no real plan,” also known as wishful thinking. When you throw a party and someone says she’s going to “try to make it,” you know you won’t see her there.
Decide that in 2017, you’re not going to “try” anything anymore. You will either put that lunch on your calendar, send that proposal, read that book, or not. Trying is lame. Make this the year you don’t endlessly pursue and ponder, but the year you do exactly what you set out to do.
Terri Trespicio is a writer, speaker, brand strategist, and the co-creator of Lights Camera Expert, a program for helping entrepreneurs, experts and authors get media attention for their big ideas. You can get a free copy of her ebook “Take the Work Out of Networking” at territrespicio.com.