As artists and entrepreneurs, being creative and putting new things out into the world for others to benefit is central to what we do.
However, I’ve looked really hard at this recently and I've seen that essentially the core motivation for much of my creative work, is primarily about me getting to some self-serving destination and not first and foremost about the people I make it for.
The aim underneath has really been to make lots of money for myself, to increase my status or fame, to look good to women, to receive validation & love from others, or in some way prove to myself that I’m OK. That I’m “successful” in the type-A achiever sense of the word.
Many people accomplish all sorts of things under these motivations, but I wonder how fulfilling is it? And how long can one sustain it? Of course we all have needs ourselves. The famous Hierarchy of Needs by Abraham Maslow puts them in sequential order with Self -Actualization or fulfilment and contribution being last .
I think there’s another way, where you would of course fulfil all your own needs, but go about obtaining them from a place of giving first rather than getting. Here's 3 reasons why that approach might be less of a struggle.
1. It’s more satisfying & starts with the end in mind
Sometimes giving back to the world is something we reserve for later in life. I know I’ve envisioned myself as a kind of elderly philanthropist that would make a contribution in a big way and feel the satisfaction of that when I've “made it” and fulfilled all my needs and wants first.
The problem is I’m delaying something important for a time that may never come. What if I don’t live that long? What if I don’t make billions and have plenty of time in my 70s?
Just imagine, what would you do if you had $10 Billion in cash and you’d bought all the worldly possessions and travelled everywhere and bought every experience you’ve ever fantasized about. Then what? Sitting on a beach can only be entertaining for so long. You’d come to the point where you’d naturally want to give something back to people or the world at large, to contribute in some way.
When you come from this point of view first, you’re sending a different message to your brain. You’re starting where you would end up and this pre-supposes that your survival is already worked out. You’re actually giving your brain certainty that you will be OK by thinking about how you can serve others and you embed a kind of peace of mind into what you do, the same state of mind you would have in that fictional land where you have $10 Billion except it’s real and it’s now.
2. You’re more likely to take creative risks
The thing is we all have insecurities, particularly as creatives and entrepreneurs. We all want to feel safe and loved.
It feels risky to share something personal with others, and so often when it comes to making something new, we make it just a little bit safer and aim for a more predictable result. You re-write that paragraph that was daring and opinionated to be more middle of the road. You hold back your performance on camera so as not to be perceived as “arrogant” and make it a bit more like other performances you’ve already seen.
You “Round off the edges” as Seth Godin puts it.
Perfectionism and “getting it right” is actually about avoiding risk. We as human beings don’t want to be judged as inferior or pathetic in comparison to others, so we lament over any small details that might reveal our inner insecurities or even worse, we never start. The persistent doubts are that we're "not good enough, not talented, not pretty enough, don’t have enough will power” and so on.
We all have our own versions of these feelings and the natural pull is to make your work about compensating for these feelings, bydemonstrating your intelligence, talent, or creativity. Essentially making it all about you.
When you change the game from making something to fill a void to that of sharing a contribution that could impact others, something interesting happens.
Suddenly those insecurities and agony over what people will think, don’t show up as often. You’re freed up to be more prolific, and think about actually improving what you do over time, and not tie up your identity so tightly with “perfection”.
3. Avoid procrastination & get shit done
When you’re booked into a group fitness class or team sports session, you feel more accountable to show up. If it’s just for you, it’s so easy to talk yourself out of it with excuses and justifications.
For me, it's something like “I’ll start producing that video series when I’ve got more time, there’s no rush”
With the total glut of work in all fields out there on the internet, it’s easy to let yourself delay getting getting your work out there.Why should you bother making a change now and add your contribution to the already enormous pile?
Here’s the thing. If you knew the kind of difference you could make for others, you wouldn’t think this way.
Think of it this way. If you want to write for example, with your unique perspective, background, and skills you have already acquired in your life, you could write THE blog post that turns someone’s life around from staying in a job where they feel crushed by anxiety everyday, unsure of themselves, to quitting that job and doing something they truly love.
You could compose a piece of music that when a certain person hears it, they decide that they will make a global difference and stand for improving the environment (What happened to me when I saw the 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi accompanied by Philip Glass ensemble!)
Each of these people you’ve touched could in turn share what they got from you big or small, with their network and subsequent generations, and so your contribution & work could pass onto a potentially infinite number of people.
If you stop and let yourself become present to all the people that could be impacted by your work, what they are dealing with, and how your unique creative gift could make the difference for them, you’ll become moved by the opportunity to share what you love and the opportunity cost of not doing it.