It is natural for anyone in a creative career to doubt themselves – we all do it (work, direction, skill…) and it’s generally unavoidable, but how can we handle this in the best way?
Solution: fortune favours the bold.
The idea that one can only fly or fall is completely inaccurate, there are peaks and troughs in everyone’s career. In order to gain anything, risk is a necessity. We should learn to fly as we fall. Sure, this is very scary and incredibly uncomfortable, but how are we ever supposed to know what we can do unless we dare to give it a go? The likelihood of you failing so catastrophically you will never recover and become a laughing stock for all eternity is unsurprisingly completely unfeasible!
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There is logic behind this. The majority of people allow fear to get the better of them and settle for what they are comfortable with – here lies the highest competition. It is very difficult to go into any creative industry with the ‘usual’ path, because everyone else is doing it. If we step out of the ‘normal’ way of doing things, and decide to do something only a minority are striving for then naturally our competition is less. Be bold, it’s the easy option!
Fear and doubt does have purpose – it lets us know that what we are doing, or what we want to be doing, has importance (otherwise we wouldn’t bother worrying about it). So don’t resent the doubt and fear you have, acknowledge it and use it as a motivator instead of a deterrent.
Say for example, you have been thinking about contacting a creative director at one of your favourite agencies. Doubt has crept in (“I don’t want to irritate him with my inadequate work… There are far better people out there worth his time… A million other people have already tried, why bother… Just a cup of tea first though…”) and this is preventing you from doing so. Recognise these thoughts to be apprehension and worry, and use them as an indicator that tells you it matters and hence is important to pursue. If we head towards what scares us more often, we will get to where we want to be a lot faster – our gut feelings know what they are talking about!
A helpful tactic for approaching and rationalising this is to think of the very worst case scenario vs the very best scenario – sounds counter-intuitive so bear with me. In the example above: worst case scenario is simply no reply (I think we can all get over this!); best case scenario maybe he invites you in for a meeting with one of his designers (who knows where that might lead). Either way, he will be more likely to remember you in the future as a pro-active person who makes an effort to get what they want – any harm in that? The worst case scenario is often not bad at all. So really, what are you worried about? Be bold, the potential gain is far greater than the negatives (if there are any).
Sorry to break it to you, but having a great idea doesn’t cut it – we all have a bunch of them. In order to make any idea a reality, we have to have a backbone, trust our intuition and act on it. Don’t worry about the competition out there. From day one we are lead to believe competition is this impenetrable wall that is stopping us from achieving what we want, when actually the wall is that statement alone. Competition is far less than we think.
So I will leave you with a challenge. I challenge you to write down three things you’ve been thinking about doing for ages, but always managed to put on the back burner; I challenge you to pick the one that seems the most impossible; and finally, I challenge you to do it. Go ahead: write a letter to Stefan Sagmeister, contact that charity in regards to the community art project you’ve had in mind, or even buy a flight ticket to another country and see if you can make a living in your dream location. Do it, and do it now.
Be bold, you’ll find life is a lot easier than you thought.