I’ve been struggling of late with my ability to focus. Whether it be design, writing, or podcasting—all areas of my work life have been running inefficiently, and I haven’t been able to figure out why.
Ideas flow like an endless river, but finding the time to execute them has always been my Achilles heel.
Recently, I had a revelation, and I think I’ve finally been able to put my finger on why things have gone in this direction. Here’s the thought I landed on, and also what I shared on Twitter:
The more we focus on being great, the less we succeed at being good.
We all strive for excellence, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But in my eyes, 95% effort is 5% short. The pressure to be great injects us with expectations that are typically unrealistic.
We spin our wheels trying to write that epic post. But we tend to measure ourselves up so inadequately to those we admire, in the end, we don’t write anything.
I’m slowly learning that I cannot be great at everything, and believing that I can is merely a setup for self-doubt and failure.
As creators, it’s ok to focus on being great, but not at the expense of being good. Because the world needs your art, and the world needs my art. And we should do everything we can to create it.
A few years ago, I launched Authentik Creatives, a 3-month experience where I walked alongside eight creative entrepreneurs in a fully supported, hands-on environment to help them completely reimagine their business and brand, step by step—authentically, of course.
I asked that all group members watch a video called I’m Possible by Jeremy Cowart. He is an award-winning photographer, artist, and entrepreneur whose mission is to “explore the intersection of creativity and empathy.”
There are so many nuggets of wisdom in the video, and it’s filled with a tremendous amount of encouragement—but one thing in particular stood out to me:
“Something came alive in me whenever I would create.”
When I strip away the external forces that affect me daily—practically every hour of every day—all I want to do is create. And I want to do it in a way that is consistent with who I am and the things I stand for.
I love what Ruthie Lindsey says here:
“All of us long for connection and authenticity, and what we believe will repel people does the exact opposite.”
I often don’t believe this, and my endeavors succumb to fear. I still have doubts as I wonder: What will people say about me when I am no longer here? Will they find value in what I made? Will my work be forgotten? Will the legacy I leave behind matter?
But, there is an increasing percentage of my days where I see the truth in what Ruthie says—and that leaves me feeling encouraged.
Paul Jarvis, the author of Company of One, writes:
“Regardless of your skillset or the audience you serve, 99% of what you do is the same as the competition. The remaining 1% is unique to you. That’s your personal brand. That last 1% is how you stand out, differentiate, build a tribe, and become known. That 1% is the most difficult and scary part to work on. Because it’s you, the real, honest, vulnerable you. Yet, this is how you stand out in a crowded world.”
And with the freedom we have to create art and build personal brands that reflect who we are, we need to remember that being great is not a prerequisite to success. After all, the journey is the reward.
Over the years, I’ve learned that my true calling is the intersection between my passion and what I think the world needs. So, I will unapologetically pour as much energy into fulfilling that mission.
Because when I create, as Jeremy says, I feel alive and capable of giving the world what I think it needs. And that’s the legacy I want to leave behind.