“I will make a million dollars this year.”
Probably each year in my 20s, I promised myself that. One laughable January, I said it to myself every day in the mirror: “A million dollars,” I told my scrawny, sock-wearing self. “It’s time.”
Without fail, I would lose interest. The energy of a new year died down, and my excitement did too. 12 months later, the cycle started over again.
Goals didn’t work for me. Can I tell you a secret? They still don’t move me that much. I die every day. Today Todd might have different interests than Yesterday Todd.
Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’re swimming in guilt right now for letting yet another goal fall by the wayside.
If that’s the case, I’d like to suggest a radical idea: Quit setting goals. Instead, focus on fostering creativity and consistency.
Without creativity, there is no spark in life. When there is no spark, you have to rely on your willpower. Guess what? Willpower gets tired. Without consistency, there is no rhythm to life. You act at random, and you never find momentum. Goals are big, distant objects. It’s hard to keep a hold of them. Creativity and consistency provide real emotion every single day.
Instead of goals, here are 6 ways I’m focusing on creativity and consistency right now. All of these tactics either provide consistency, generate creativity, or both.
If you’re burnt out on setting goals only to fail constantly, try these things:
1. Guard Your Energy
Imagine you have a green wall. It’s a nice wall. It’s pretty. The shade is called “Jasper Jewel.”
One day you meet a new friend. He says: “Do you know what? I have a colour in my house that attracts a lot of people. It’s orange. It’s called ‘Will You Be My Clementine?’”
That’s a pretty weird thing to say, considering you never asked for advice on your green wall, but you shrug it off. You are happy with the green wall. Besides, you and the new friend have a lot in common. You continue to spend time with this friend. Every once in a while the orange wall comes up, but you try to ignore it.
Then, a tragedy occurs. Even though the thought has never entered your mind before, one day you walk into your home and think:
“Maybe this wall does need to be orange.”
The second this cancerous thought occurs, the spiral begins. You can no longer walk past your green wall without a cloud of doubt. You find yourself at Lowe’s. You buy a roller and the sample quart of “Clementine.” You sit in front of your wall clutching the brush and wonder why you chose stupid green in the first place.
You have become a person who no longer believes in her ability to choose a paint color, all because your friends orange wall sounded so darn good.
Don’t chase what others find success with. Trust your gut.
2. Find a Partner
Loneliness sucks. You need people to draw out new ideas and provide a routine and familiarity in life.
Jimmy Stewart — star of It’s a Wonderful Life, Rear Window, and around 90 other films — carved out his Hollywood persona in college with another Tinsel Town legend: Henry Fonda. Frieda Khalo married Diego Rivera, a muralist. She spent entire days watching him paint. Poet T.S. Eliot would have been nothing were it not for fellow writer Ezra Pound. Before he made it big, Post Malone moved to L.A. and lived with his friend Jason. Jason ran a popular Minecraft Youtube channel.
Don’t overthink this. Just find a person who makes stuff. Spend as much time with them as possible. For me, I talk to Michael Thompson, Niklas Göke, or Tom Kuegler almost daily. They keep my fire going. I also steal their headlines for ideas. (Don’t tell).
The more time you spend with people who inspire you, the more inspired your own work becomes.
3. Make New Things More Than Half the Time
If you create a new thing more than half of the week, that’s 4 new things. If you create a new thing more than half of the month, that’s 16 new things. If you create a new thing more than half of the year, that’s 188 new things.
If you make 188 new blogs, vlogs, Instagram posts, or Quora answers, I would say that is a pretty respectable way to spend a year.
4. Watch More Television
Movies are fine. Television is better. Where else can you learn about dialogue, colour, story structure, choreography, set design, and acting all in one place?
Consider this — television today is the equivalent of Hollywood 100 years ago. Every single media company is trying to grab as much viewing audience as possible, and they’re spending crazy money in order to do it. What does this mean? The competition is high, the audience is enormous, and the money is getting bigger and bigger. If you grew up wanting to make movies, you are probably making television shows now instead.
As a viewer, you reap the tremendous benefit of incredible productions. Never have we had access to such a wide variety of ideas on our small screen. You can watch TV today and completely forget every show started in someone’s head.
If another human being can dream ideas into existence, why not you?
5. Read Less
My apologies to every teacher in the world for this point.
Reading is a fine and wonderful thing. For the most part, it’s hard to go wrong with reading. Well, unless you’re like me.
If you’re like me, you find a book, read it, and then think “Boy, I am so smart for knowing more than people about this stuff.” Then you follow that false pride with absolutely no action, except to pick up another book. You read and read and read until one day you realize you have all this knowledge in your head with absolutely nothing to show for it.
Try this in 2020: read one paragraph at a time, and then follow the advice.
6. Be Patient
I am not talking about the patience required when you’re sitting in traffic. I am talking about the kind of patience necessary for the long and often difficult journey of life. Whenever you finish that book, file that LLC, or put the last touches on your first masterpiece, understand that the process is just beginning.
When I walked off my graduation stage, I couldn’t wait to get started on all the projects I had in mind. I knew my blog would take off and the book deal would be rolling in.
While the blog (or at least my Medium posts) did find a little bit of success, I never got a book deal. In fact, when I got sick of querying and self published my first book in June of 2016, the results made me furious.
The attention wasn’t enough. The sales weren’t enough. The followers weren’t enough. The impact wasn’t enough.
Then, nearly five years after I wrote chapter one of the book, I received a message on Twitter. Someone had seen my book for the first time. They thanked me for writing it.
Five. Years. Later.
Realistically, it seems like a bit of a stretch asking you to wait 5 years for every project to reach its audience. But what you can do is this: Control your side of the equation. Do what you said you would do.
Be creative. Be consistent.
Then, let the results fall where they may.
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