This 10-minute test will teach you all you need to know about making your masterpiece

Set a timer for ten minutes, and start making your art. Here are the rules:

  • You have to keep going for the entire ten minutes. You can’t check email or social media. Don’t get up to go to the bathroom. Don’t take a sip of coffee.
  • When you’re done with the ten minutes, you have to congratulate yourself. Feel good about what you’ve accomplished.
  • When you’re done with the ten minutes, you have complete permission to do whatever you want.

In doing this small test, you’ll learn many powerful concepts that you can use for the hard work of making your art real.

  • You resist setting easy goals. Doing something for ten minutes without stopping sounds easy. You’ll probably hesitate for a moment, thinking it’s so easy that it’s not worth doing.
  • Excuses pop into your brain no matter what. Even though doing something for ten minutes is easy, your brain will come up with excuses for stopping. You might notice a smudge on your glasses that needs cleaning, or you might feel thirsty for a moment.
  • Distractions present themselves no matter what. Even though doing something for ten minutes is easy, you’ll feel tempted to succumb to distractions. You may wonder for a moment what new emails you might have, or you may hear your phone buzz.
  • You resist failing at easy goals. Since the goal of doing something for ten minutes without stopping is easy, you’ll be able to resist the excuses that pop into your brain, and deflect the distractions that present themselves. The goal is so easy, you’d feel bad about yourself for failing. (Maybe this is why your brain didn’t want to set this goal in the first place?)
  • Momentum weakens distractions and excuses. By the time you get to the end of ten minutes, you have to congratulate yourself, and you have complete permission to do whatever you want. But you probably won’t want to stop. By the end of ten minutes, you’re in your work. You’ve knocked down excuses and distractions, and gained momentum. Now you’re not thirsty anymore, and that smudge on your glasses has magically disappeared.

All of these little things that you see in just a ten-minute test, you can use throughout your life and work to make your masterpiece. Here’s how:

  • You resist setting easy goals, but easy goals make you feel good when you meet them, and they weaken excuses and distractions. So, build a ridiculously easy habit of making your art every day.
  • Excuses pop into your mind, but you soon learn that they’re just trying to protect you. By practicing overcoming excuses to meet an easy goal, you learn to recognize how excuses stand in the way of larger goals.
  • Distractions tempt you, but you carve the neural pathways for deflecting those distractions, and you carve the neural pathways for focusing on your craft. You can learn to redesign your life so distractions don’t keep your work inside you.
  • You resist failing at easy goals, so, like a Judo opponent, you can use that resistance to propel yourself forward. By picking goals you can easily meet, and letting the vision of your masterpiece fuel you instead of intimidate you, you can build the skills to make more and more ambitious work.
  • Momentum weakens distractions and excuses, so you can pick the part of projects that will build the most momentum, and force you to ship your art. Design your gig poster before you book the show, or set up that first podcast interview before you’ve even come up with a title.

Making your masterpiece is a constant battle with your own psyche. You can get a clear view of the battlefield with an easy ten-minute test.

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