17 Rules for Starting, Making and Trying New Things
We are living in the Creation economy. If you want to experience greater happiness, great prosperity and greater meaning in your life, create stuff. Whether it’s art, food, code, furniture, books, shows, podcasts… whatever it is, get your value out into the world.
17 rules for creators
- Forget about the outcome. Your job is to make stuff, period. It’s not to worry about how your creation will be received by others or whether people like it or think it’s any good. What if you fail? Who cares? Make stuff and if it falls flat, congratulate yourself on taking action, don’t make the same mistake again, and give it another go.
- Mistakes are good. The only people who don’t make mistakes are the people who don’t do much at all. Mistakes are signs that you tried to do something. The trick is not to make the same mistake twice. Made a mistake? Good. It means you’re on the right path.
- Start wherever you are. The people you look up to started where you are. There was a time when they had nothing to show the world: no product, no audience, no contacts, no authority, no fans… The difference is they started earlier than you. “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” – Jon Acuff
- Stop waiting for permission. There was a time when you had to get someone else’s permission to create your thing. Typically, that would be in the form of bits of paper from the “right” colleges or employers (no smarter than you) patting you on the head and saying “you’re good enough”. And if you didn’t have these bits of paper, you’re screwed. Fuck that. This is 2017. You don’t need others to give you permission to start creating. Make what you want to make, put it out in the world and let your audience decide if they like it.
- Think big, act small. Don’t let the magnitude of your goal put you off. Huge journeys are completed by taking small steps. Given the choice between small, consistent actions or occasional binge working, the former wins every time.
- Ask more. We are terrified of asking for what we want. What if the other person says no? Well, it will sting momentarily and that’s it. You will be amazed at the opportunities that present themselves when you learn to ask more often. Send out cold emails. Offer value to the person you’re approaching. Communicate. Interact. Be human.
- Take consistent action. Every day, work on your creation. Put the work in. Learn your craft, perfect your skills, do your best work. Stop staring into the horizon. Pay attention to the task at hand, do that as best you can then move onto the next. If you did nothing else but take action, you’d be an incredible success. Not only will action get you to your destination, it is the antidote to fear. When you’re plagued by doubt and anxieties, get to work.
- Make the time. Don’t wait for the perfect moment – it doesn’t exist. If it’s important to you, you’ll make the time. And you do have the time. It may not be easy, but it’s doable. If J K Rowling can write Harry Potter whilst living in poverty, a single mother looking after a baby, you too can start work on your project. It may only be small steps but that’s OK. You can travel slowly – you just can’t stop.
- Realise you’ll never feel ready. You will never feel completely prepared. You will always feel you need to get a few more ducks in a row. You will always feel others are better than you, you don’t know enough or you don’t have the ability. That’s fear making excuses to keep you where you are. Take a deep breath and jump in. Success is not Ready, Aim, Fire. It’s Ready, Fire, Aim.
- Ship it. Seth Godin implores his followers to “ship it”, i.e. to get their creation – imperfections and all – out into the world. Perfectionism (and fear) kills more creations than all other reasons combined. The key to overcoming both is to develop the habit of shipping early and often. Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn says, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” The lesson doesn’t just apply to business but to any act of creating.
- Stop being a groupie. It’s OK to admire others but don’t put people on pedestals. If you’re spending more time caring about what others are doing; following their every sneeze on social media; consuming everything they produce then you need to reassess. You have your own work to do. You have your own vision to build, so get to it. One thing is for sure: those people you’re following are building their dream, not yours – that’s their priority. Start being more interested in your own projects and in your life.
- Early results will be disappointing. Most projects start out in unspectacular fashion. You produce your best work and, well, no one seems to care. You don’t get visitors; you don’t get sales; you don’t get traffic; you don’t get recognition. Now what? If your instinct is to quit, that’s the wrong answer. Almost every project starts like this – painfully slow – and you’ll start to question why you’re doing something. You’ll doubt your ability and you may even be embarrassed. Don’t be. This is how every new projects start. The key is to manage your expectations before you start. If you can prepare yourself for a disappointing, difficult beginning, you’re more likely to succeed.
- Keep things in perspective. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself; invest so much meaning into the outcome; or attach your self-worth to the result that when things don’t work out the way you hoped, it’s too painful to bear. If something weighs so heavily on your mind, you’re giving it too much importance in your life. In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big deal. Don’t be so invested in the outcome.
- You need a tonne of perseverance. Are you a quitter? Something doesn’t work out the way you imagine; you meet resistance or you’re disappointed by the result and so you decide to quit. The reason quitting is so easy is because you’ve made the journey so unpleasant for yourself. Take a step back. Reframe your mission, i.e. instead of defining your role as reaching a particular goal, define it as staying with a task until it’s done. It’s a subtle but important differentiation: value the process, not the outcome.
- Acknowledge the power of creating. Bringing something out of your head and into the real world is a form of alchemy. When you embark on the creative journey take the time to acknowledge the power in you. You are shaping the world around you. You are affecting and effecting your reality. You are free. You are changing your circumstances and making things happen for you. That’s a hell of a superpower, don’t you think?
- Everyone is faking it. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know, what they have, and where they are. The next time you look at someone you admire, realise that they have the same flaws as you; they make mistakes; they have the same bodily functions; they have setbacks and failures. The difference is that they may have greater confidence in their opinions; may have a better idea of where they are going; or may know what they want from life. Other than that, they’re just people. If others can do it, so can you.
- Start. Life is frighteningly short. The best time to have start your project was ten years ago; the next best time is right now. You have a choice – start or don’t start – but realise whatever you choose, the time is going to pass anyway. What you do with your time – with your life – is up to you but realise that you don’t have an infinite number of chances. There will come a day when all your dreams and projects must come to an end. Make sure you at least try before you quit.
- Stop waiting for permission.
- Stop caring about the outcome.
- Start taking action.
- Set aside time every evening to work on your project. You don’t have to (nor do we recommend) you quit your job to pursue your goal. (Far better to work on your project in your spare time, make sure it’s viable and then make the jump). What you can do is set aside hours each evening to bring your vision to life. In the words of Gary Vaynerchuk, “You can do a lot of damage between 7pm and 2am“. Eat, read the kids a bedtime story, kiss your partner and then get to work. It may not be easy, but it’s possible.
- Start building connections. Share your creations with others. Get their feedback. What do they like, what don’t they like? Make changes. Share it again. This is how things get done. Reach out to others. Start conversations. Don’t worry, you’re an adult – it’s OK to talk to strangers.
- Ask someone for something. Who could really give your project some momentum? Cold email them. Send a short message telling them what you’re doing; show them what you’ve done so far; and ask them if they would help you. What if they say no? Everyone – even the people you look up to – get rejected. It’s no big deal. Respectfully ask if you can touch base again in a few months time when it’s more convenient.