5 Essential Qualities for a Fulfilling Creative Life

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I’ve spent more than half a decade immersed in creative projects of various kinds ranging from writing books to hosting a podcast, to producing animated shorts and even live events. I’ve worked on things that exceeded all of my expectations and on things that have let me down. Through all of it I’ve realized there are certain essential qualities to living a fulfilling creative life.

1. Focus

In an incredibly distracted world, the ability to focus, to do deep work, and immerse yourself in periods of uninterrupted creation time is essential. If your attention constantly shifts from one project to another, one idea to another, or one interruption to another, it becomes near impossible to experience any traction. To be truly focused you have to have the ability to say no to everything that’s not aligned with your essential priorities. Focus results in traction, which results in momentum, the lifeblood of every creative endeavor or startup.


Infinite patience gives you immediate results — Wayne Dyer

When it comes to creative success of any kind, everything will take longer than you think and longer than you want it to.

  • Many of the people who are household names in Hollywood spent decades in the industry before they got their first big breaks.
  • Many authors, musicians, and artists often linger in obscurity, while embracing the notion that their cumulative output will matter more than one thing they do.
  • It took 7 years, a million words, and 600 interviews before I got my first book deal.

Car accidents take place when people are too impatient about where they want to go. When you’re feeling impatient, try to remember that a fast rise often followed by a fast fall. Creative success requires you to play the infinite game.

3. Persistence

You probably won’t’ fall out of the womb, a Pulitzer prize winning author, a grammy award winning musician, or an Oscar-winning actress. Every one of these things takes time and effort. They require you to develop what Carol Dweck refers to as growth mindset. You have to believe that you can improve and be willing to work on your craft.

4. Presence

When you get caught up in seeing your name in shining lights, glory accolades, and achievement, you pull your attention away from what matters most, the actual work. When we’re fully present, we focus on the process, not the prize. In The Self Made Billionaire Effect, the authors said the following about every single person they met with when researching the book.

This trait is almost universal among the billionaires we interviewed. They were focused, attentive, and entirely present as we spoke.

As I remind myself in every surf session, live in the moment while keeping your eyes on the horizon.

5. Curiosity

When people ask me how I choose guests for the Unmistakable Creative, I always say “morbid curiosity. Nearly every creative project I have worked on has start with the question “what would happen if?”

  • A few months ago, I saw Bob Gower write something about his experiencing belonging to a cult. I made a mental note to reach out to him about being a guest on the podcast.
  • I recently read an article on Vice.com about a social scientist named Julia Shaw, who wrote a book on implanting memories. So I reached out to her about being a guest on the podcast.
  • When I asked Tina Seelig what the through line to her career has been she said “curiosity.”

Curiosity leads us down paths that aren’t well lit, to destinations that aren’t clearly marked on any map, and to trust a compass more than a map. Curiosity sparks insight and leads to innovation.

None of these qualities are a guarantee of fame or fortune, but of fulfillment. And when we’re fulfilled the likelihood that work will exceed all our expectations goes up.

Before You Go…

If doing the best work of your life is important to you, you’ll love my free guide: “Optimizing Productivity & Creativity.

The tactics I’ve packed into this guide allowed me to write over 1 million words in the last 2 years. What could it do for your life’s work? Don’t miss it.

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