Grow or Shrink. You get to choose
If we’re not growing, we’re shrinking — there’s no neutral.
John Wooden, the hall of fame basketball coach, once said:
“If I am through learning, I am through.”
Some of our most important creative lessons live right in front of us but we’re often too busy to notice. Our best education happens when we pay attention. So how can we stay fortify ourselves to keep growing?
Stay in a posture of learning. If we’re not adding “new tools” to our toolboxes we’ll get stale and our creative energy will evaporate. Without new lessons, exposure, and experiences, we will only be able to stretch to the level at which we’ve already learned and experienced. We will become recyclers, rather than creators. We have a chance to change the world, but the world can only be changed by the amount of knowledge we mix with our creative muscle. Innovation lives in that tension. When we stop learning, we stunt our creative growth.
Work for greatness. Greatness and perfection are different. Strive, sacrifice, and battle for the greatest art that can be created. Understand that we don’t live in a perfect world and that excuses get in our way. Greatness — our best — is not only attainable, it’s necessary. Sometimes the factors around our art, the forces at play, and the imperfections impact the ways we create and actually make our art better and more human. We are all broken people full of imperfections. Why would we expect our art to be any less beautiful than our broken best?
Find community. It is important to be in relationships with people who you are developing and with people who are developing you. Without community, we never will have a chance to collaborate and create outside of ourselves. Community makes creativity better and confronts the insecurities that surround our art and ideas. Creativity in community makes us better artists and positions our art to have more reach, influence, and completion.
Be humble, audacious, and bold. We should always be humble and teachable. Our best art tends to be bigger than who we are. We should be confident in the gifts we have and the creative muscle we have developed. When presenting and sharing ideas, we should be bold — but only mixed with equal part humility. There is an equation about talent that goes like this: people will put up with a jerk who has talent only as long as their talent is greater than the amount of trouble they cause. Without humility, the scales will tilt and our talent isn’t enough to carry us. People like to work with people who are confident, but more so with people who they like. Be bold in what you can do and humble enough to realize there is always someone better.
Date Your Artist. Get time alone. Do things that refuel you creatively. Make sure you are managing yourself creatively as much as possible. Creativity is a muscle, not magic. There are times to exercise and times to rest. Do the things necessary to be your creative best. If you don’t take care of your inner artist, who will?
Pay attention. Know when to take risks and when you shouldn’t leverage equity. Experimentation is a good idea some times, but there are other moments when those same experiments can destroy the greater good you’re working for. When we pick our spots, we take into account all the necessary data to create momentum and energy around our ideas. Take risks…just learn to take them at the right times.
Remain flexible. Change is our only constant. Being flexible allows us to adapt to changing ideas, climates, markets, and organizations. Flexibility can be hard for us because we fall in love with our ideas. We must remember that our message is always more important than our method. Flexibility helps us deliver our best based on the latest information.
Never settle. We know what good looks like and what great feels like. Work for the great. Don’t be satisfied. Learning to get better with each project makes us better artists. Without challenges, we won’t continue to grow. Seek challenges. Look for them everywhere. Fabricate them, if necessary. Challenges keep us from settling.
Are you growing or shrinking? It can happen spiritually, emotionally, relationally and of course creatively. One is happening right now…which is it?