Mistakes Are One of the Best Things You Can Make

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is making no mistake at all.

Learning new skills, trying new things, growth, solving problems all involve some sort of failing.

So don’t be afraid to make mistakes; be afraid of never making anything.

See, to create, to get better at a craft, you start by making crap. At first what you make will sound wrong, look bad, feel off.

But that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. No.

You’re just in process. And making mistakes is a part of that.

But as you proceed, you’ll get better, you’ll learn, you’ll progress.

And if you continue, you’ll find with each miss, occasionally you’ll hit the mark. Until one day you never fail to hit it.

Mistakes don’t make you a failure. They make you succeed.

Want notes crafted to make your day and life better straight from my brain into your inbox?Subscribe to my newsletter.

Create better work by doing this

Sometimes doing nothing is the best way to create something great: The creative process isn’t just about work; it’s about rest.

Your mind needs time to recuperate, recover, be restored. It does that through sleep and daydreaming—doing nothing.

That means staring off into space, looking out the window, letting your mind wander, dozing off to sleep, not thinking.

That’s when your mind is connecting the dots, forming new ideas, dreaming dreams. It’s when your thoughts go beyond thinking, and you’re unconsciously creating magic, in your subconscious, seeing concepts you could never see while fully conscious.

That’s the mystery of creating.

We are better able to see when our eyes aren’t focused. When our minds are cloudy clarity strikes. For, when we rest, our brains rework our work.

Winston Churchill understood that. He was one of the most prolific creators ever, and he took an hour every afternoon to sit somewhere and doze off with a cigar pinched in his lips.

Yes, take your vacations and play, explore, and see. And, of course, sleep well, getting at least eight hours a night. But that’s not the rest I’m talking about here.

You need to take short breaks.

Like Churchill (but maybe without the cigar), allow yourself a little regular break to unplug during the day to let your eyes glaze over and your mind roam. Don’t think about what you’re working on, deadlines, anything. Think about nothing.

And you will find your energy returning, creativity bursting, and ideas flowing.

Magic will happen.

 

 

 

One of the smartest things you can do

Getting smarter isn’t about knowing everything, it’s about admitting what you don’t know.

“I don’t know,” is such a simple phrase, but many of us have difficulty saying it to ourselves let alone to others. It makes us feel weak, vulnerable, stupid.

But you’re not. It’s the furthest thing from the truth. Saying “I don’t know” is one of the smartest things you can say, because it’s the beginning of learning. It’s the trailhead to gaining more understanding.

To learn is the only way to get smarter. And to do that, you must admit that you don’t know everything, you must open yourself up to the fact that you’re not as knowledgeable as you want to be.

So the next time you are tempted to act like you know something when you don’t, remember this.

Not knowing isn’t bad; it’s an opportunity.

Make the time to do what you love by thinking like this

Sometimes we can think that we don’t have the time to pursue what we’ve always wanted to do.

But, you do. You always do.

Do you know why? Because following our dream is a choice.

You can choose to reprioritize your time, what you do with it, how you fill it.

Stop saying yes to all of the crap that people ask you to do and tell them that you’re committed to something else.

Ok, maybe you have a job and need to eat or feed your family. I get that. But, you’re not at your job all the time.

You can carve out thirty, twenty, ten minutes a day to write that book, start that business, build that thing.

It’s true; you know it’s true. Time isn’t the issue. You are.

Regret is for the birds. So decide to follow your dream right now. Do it.

Commit.

You will love yourself for it.

Go.

When creating feels impossible, you need to know this

Creating can feel like fighting nature: Impossible. Making that painting, writing that novel or blog post or, sometimes, even a sentence can make us break into a cold sweat.

And it’s tempting to think, “Oh, I’ll just wait for inspiration to hit,” like a kid holding a kite as he waits for a strong wind to pick up on a deathly still day in the Midwest. You might be there for months, still waiting.

Don’t do that. It won’t serve you at all. Instead, do this.

Make something crappy.

That’s right. Just pick up a shovel and shovel some metaphorical crap all over your canvas, paper, screen, or whatever you’re trying to create on. If it stinks like something ungodly, don’t stop, keep it going.

Because making crap is often exactly what you need to do to create something beautiful. Any great artist or creator whom you admire did just that. Look at how they started or some of their early work. Or, if you only see their good stuff, then they destroyed all of the work they hated and were embarrassed by. But, believe me, it is there. It is terrible. It doesn’t look right: The proportions are off, the pacing is wonky, it’s dark in the places it should be light and light in the areas it should be dark. It’s crap.

So when you feel embarrassed or ashamed, remember that almost every creative person goes through what you do. Not every piece is a masterpiece. Few of them are; many of them are mediocre. Most of them probably smell like a farm on a hot, humid summer day.

Can’t write a sentence? Don’t worry about it. Jot down a fragment. Scribble a word, misspelled. Just get it out of you. Then do it again and again. And before you know it, a sentence will form right before your eyes. It will be ugly, but it will be there. Don’t worry about how bad it is because you can go back later and make it fuller, simpler, better.

Beauty isn’t formed from perfection, no; it’s cultivated in awful, embarrassing, smelly stuff. Creating is like gardening. To create, you have to kneel into the dirt and dump fertilizer down, spreading it around with your hands. It’s not neat and tidy, clean and easy. It’s dirty. You’re in crap. It gets all over you. But that’s what makes your garden grow and flourish.

Crap is what feeds your creativity. It will make your work grow.

So pick up your shovel and start piling it on. Just do it.

And not only will your work bloom.

You will too.

One of the best phrases to practice in life

img_4177“I’ll try.” Practicing that simple phrase will make your life rich.

It will open your mind to new possibilities, friends, adventures, ideas. You will learn skills you never thought you could obtain, meet people you never thought you would know, accomplish feats you thought only possible for others.

“I’ll try” is the enemy of the status quo and the friend to growth. It won’t let you stay the same. It’s a mindset that shortcircuits the temptation for staying comfortable.

It doesn’t just let you dream, no; you’re doing. You’re acting. You’re not merely hoping for something to happen, you are working until something happens: You’re trying.

If you practice this mindset, you won’t just change; you’ll improve. You’ll broaden your experiences and gain a richness that you would have never gained without it.

“I’ll try,” doesn’t mean you have to commit. You’re just giving something a go, taking a small risk, seeing if there’s a fit. And if the trial goes well, you can go further, deeper, longer.

Perfection does not exist in “I’ll try.” It can’t. Those words breathe experimentation, imperfection, process. But you know that the secret to life isn’t about doing things perfectly, but productively. And even what is perfected doesn’t start perfectly.

This phrase helps you discover what you’re good at and what you enjoy. And that leads to what you can be great at. Greatness isn’t instant. It takes time. And it starts with “I’ll try.”

And, in the winter of your life, you will gaze back over the vibrant collage of your memories and be grateful.

For, you tried.

When being imperfect can be your greatest asset

Even if you are incredibly flawed, you can still succeed and even reach great heights. You just need to be one thing: Dogged. Look at Vincent Van Gogh.

For much of his life he felt like a failure, and you might be feeling like you can’t do anything right, let alone anything good. But you can. You just haven’t found what you’re good at–that thing you should do. Your parents tell you to do this or that career. So you do it. You see your friends succeeding in that or this thing. So you do it. But none of them work for you. You fail or feel unsatisfied. And you feel defeated, unworthy, washed up. But you’re not. Don’t give up. Keep looking, like Van Gogh. You can find that thing you should do. Keep digging like a starving dog digs for a bone in a yard.  

For, persistence pays–sometimes, literally. Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings are some of the most valued pieces ever. They go for astronomical prices. He was a genius, and his work is breathtaking. But for most of his life, even after he started painting, he was filled with pain, isolation, and scorn. He was flawed, deeply.

Van Gogh failed at almost every career path he attempted. Art dealer, teacher, clerk, pastor, and missionary. All but one ended in utter failure. One of the main reasons he failed was that he had deep-seated issues. He was mentally ill, he was painfully introverted, and he had some hygiene issues, like he wouldn’t bathe for long stretches, sometimes for weeks upon weeks. And he was argumentative and combative. It was like he couldn’t help but disagree with others. It’s not hard to see why most of the friends he had left him. Saying that he was imperfect would be an understatement. 

Before I go any further, I must say that I’m not celebrating mental illness, nor am I belittling it. Van Gogh was seriously ill and needed professional help. That’s goes without argument. He was broken, but beautiful. And the purpose in this piece is to look at his journey and see what what we can learn from it. And what I see is a man who fought.

He was persistent. Yes, he fell into deep spells of depression and felt suicidal at times, especially after failing. And he would lash out at others and dive into a pool of self-pity and wallow in it. Yet, all the while, he was working to find that thing he was supposed to do. Then he found drawing. And that went to painting. And that led to painting with oils, which is the medium through which we know his masterpieces that we see hanging on the wide white walls of lofty museums. Oil painting to him was an aha moment, an epiphany. For him, the universe went from dissonance to harmony. But, when he was using them, creating his famous work, those closest to him didn’t see genius, they thought it foolish and were appalled at how different and strange it was. Nonetheless, he continued to paint. 

I am indeed a person who struggles with many things, but to focus on one that I share with the great Mr. Van Gogh is this– combativeness. I am combative. I’ve always been that way. I seem to have some kind of disease that’s incurable. I can’t help but fight. Whenever I think someone is wrong, I’m compelled to speak and tell them how wrong I think they are. I do have friends, but many of them will attest that it’s not easy being my friend. “He’s an acquired taste,” they may say. I say that I’m flawed. 

Maybe you are, too. You may not be the nicest person; you may even be incredibly broken. You may have terrible hygiene, awful smelling breath, dress poorly, be uncouth, uncool, mentally ill, terribly unpopular, incapable of fitting in, holding a conversation, or starting one. But that doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish something great, incredible, world-changing, even. 

Every time I go to the Modern Museum of Art in New York City, I’m always compelled to visit Starry Night, arguable Van Gogh’s most famous piece. Sure, all of the tourists crowd around it, like piranhas around meat, taking pictures and leaning in, contorting their heads and bodies to get that perfect selfie, but I still go. I can’t stop myself. It’s too beautiful to miss when you’re in such proximity. It’s magnetic. It pulls you in by the luscious spirals of night, the spritely stars, golden crescent moon, sleepy little town, and the silent church that seems to anchor the whole piece. It’s magnificent.

But it was borne from deep pain–guttural and soul-wrenching. If it weren’t for that, Van Gogh may not have been able to transport such feeling into his work. And his isolation and introversion allowed him to focus and concentrate in ways that others could not. His “weaknesses” were the very things that helped him create such otherworldly art. 

Deeply flawed people are often those who are profoundly wounded. If you are one of those people, you know the anguish. Every day you live in it, suffering. If so, you need to know that it’s often you who create incredible work–the art, writings, poetry, songs, paintings. Out of the womb of pain gives birth to glorious creations. 

And, not only that, the pangs that you’ve lived with have helped you become persistent. You’ve had to learn how to deal with that ache every time you take a step, breath, or just lie there. Or you constantly feel like you don’t fit and have had to learn how to deal with your flaws or the way others treat you, fighting daily. That fight–that doggedness–helps you continue, and it can fuel your work, your life. Your pain can teach you persistence and transform your deficit into an asset.

Even that incurable disease I have for confrontation is the very thing that seems to help me confront my fears, when I feel like a failure. That combativeness helps me combat the daily struggles that I have and the temptations I face when I want to doubt myself or shrink from doing the hard things in life and work to succeed. My flaw becomes a strength.

You may be flawed, too, but those deficits also make you unique and can transform into assets, and they can even propel you onto a path toward greatness. In your despair, don’t feel defeated. Persist. Continue inching forward. And I believe you can find your oil paint, your aha moment, your epiphany. And you, too, can hear the beautiful music of the universe harmonize. 

But no matter what, fight on.


Get Van Gogh’s full story here (affiliate link). It’s an incredibly well-written biography of one of the world’s greatest artists; it inspired this post.

One of the best things you can do to create

Sometimes to make creative work, the thing we need most is this. Rest.

You’re at your desk, sweating (metaphorically) and pounding away (literally) trying to get a good idea, but the only thing you produce is nothing. “Maybe I just need to work harder,” you might say to yourself. And still, nothing happens. So you do the only thing left to do—despair.

Maybe you’ve been there. I have.

Creating is hard work. And cracking the whip harder on ourselves isn’t effective. Or worse, it’s counterproductive.

That’s just when you need to say no to your inner medieval monk and throw away the whip. Then, roll your chair back, step away from your desk, and go for a walk, get a donut and coffee, or, better yet, go skydiving or horseback riding. If you’ve never meditated, try it. Why not? It’s scientifically known to help your brain operate better, heal even. If that’s not your cup of tea, have a cup of tea. Or visit your local museum. Get moved by others’ creativity. Whatever you do, get away from your work. The farther you go, the better.

And in those moments of being away, your mind will be recovering and working without you even trying. Often it’s when we are resting and having fun that the best ideas hit us. Inspiration strikes when we least expect it—like love. It can’t be forced. It can only be fostered, wooed. So take yourself on a nice date. Play. Laugh. Enjoy.

And when you return to your desk, you won’t be sweating and pounding.

You will be creating.

For, rest works.

This is what you need to create

Uninterrupted time is the fodder for creativity. As yeast is to bread, solitude is to the creative process—essential.

Without the quiet moments and lingering stillness, words that move us wouldn’t be as moving, paintings that stir us wouldn’t be as stirring, inventions that help us wouldn’t be as helpful.

Creation best happens in the quiet while you are lost in your thoughts, connecting disparate ideas, forming new ones. That occurs when no one else is stirring, during the twilight mornings before the dawn breaks or long after others are fast asleep. When they rest, you work.

You seek silence because you know that’s when inspiration roars.

It’s in those moments, you get lost in the matter at hand, discovering a deep satisfaction, mesmerized by the task, as you enter a state of flow; and it’s just you and the work, dancing freely.

Being alone can be more than just productive; it has been known to produce tears, weeping even. We can’t be isolated for too long. We are meant to be with others, connected.

Yet, solitude helps us connect with humanity differently. It may not be like grabbing coffee with a friend, looking into their eyes as they speak, hugging them as they go; it’s a different kind of connection. What we create enters into the meta-conversation. It’s making a statement to the world. It’s the act of handing others something useful, compelling, beautiful.

When we create, we give the world ourselves.

In solitude, we love.