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.
Everyone laughed, and I was the butt of the joke. I hated it. But I realized something about life.
A group of us sat around a large circular dining table, and a newly married couple started talking about how they met. It was a great story with surprising twists and turns. And then a guy shared about him and his girlfriend and how he wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. So I said something from my story to comfort him. It was revealing and somewhat vulnerable. But I thought it would help him, so I put myself out there. Then he turned it around and made it into a joke about me–and everyone laughed heartily.
It felt like being kids on the playground, except we were in our thirties and forties. It was silly, but real.
It’s most introverts nightmare—to be outed, and publicly, and I’m an introvert. The embarrassment didn’t show on my face. But it was there, along with disappointment and disdain.
Afterward, as I played the moment over in my head more times than I’d like to admit, I was tempted to stop opening myself up to others. It seemed futile, useless. But truth be told, the utility had nothing to do with my reaction; I just wanted to protect myself.
And I realized that I shouldn’t let any person stop me from giving of myself, being vulnerable, sharing my story—even the revealing parts—and living as I ought. Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly (affiliate), writes that vulnerability is fundamental to our being.
“Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”
We shouldn’t let others stop us from sharing our lives, opening our hearts, living with purpose. The cost is too high: we would lose you.
You have ideas, insights, knowledge, feelings, stories that can impact those around you for good. They are the inner workings you’ve been ruminating on over the years. Share them. Yes, someone may make you the butt of their joke; they may transport you back to middle school. But that doesn’t diminish the great value you can give to the world. Give generously.
If you haven’t read Range, by David Epstein (affiliate), you need to. It will change the way you think about thinking.
Most of the world holds the notion that experts are what we need, people who are hyper specialized. Ten thousand hours are what it takes to succeed, is the belief (it’s what I believed). They are the authorities; they are the ones who will change the world, cure cancer, untangle the perplexing complexities of the universe, push us into the future. But that often isn’t true.
Range delves into that. It is an amazing exploration and explanation of how you can become great at something, and it’s surprising.
The anecdotes he uses are compelling. Some of the most accomplished people in the world became great in unexpected ways. They started their craft, sport, education, much later than you think was possible to rise to the level they did. They will inspire you.
For those of you who are in midlife like me, life isn’t over. Some have recreated themselves, learned a musical instrument well enough to play professionally, started high growth businesses, lived a whole new life later in life. It’s possible. It’s in the book.
When I read it, I felt like I had new life breathed into me, allowing me to see my potential, abilities, and future anew. It gave me hope.
You see, I’ve had a windy and strange career. I hopped and bopped around: ministry, data-entry, banking, business, entrepreneur, creative strategist are the positions I’ve held. Now I blog, too. Yes, strange, I know.
And I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that I was insufficient because I was the farthest thing from a specialist. If I had ten thousand hours in anything, it was changing course, which I believed couldn’t be valuable.
But Epstein helped me see that I was wrong. He made me realize that my disparate experiences are a virtue, not a vice.
They are what help me add value because I can borrow from one experience and provide a fresh view in a completely different area. That’s what has helped me survive, even thrive. It’s what helps me ideate for my clients, start a business, think.
However, Range isn’t just for generalists. If you are a specialist who wants to find new, fresh ways of thinking, read this book.
Or if you are a person who wants to make a change or has changed a lot and wonder what good you can create in the world, Range will open your eyes.
Parents, if you’re wondering how to help your children succeed, this is incredibly insightful. It’s helping me reframe how I deal with my kids.
If nothing else, this book (affiliate) will stretch the way you think.
Perfectionism doesn’t help us progress; mistakes do.
With the right mindset, they push us forward. We need to know that succeeding isn’t neat and tidy; it’s sloppy and messy. It’s mistake-ridden.
When you make a mistake, it lays the groundwork for improvement. Every failure is an attempt to do something. And in those attempts, you experience this and that. You test a hypothesis; you discover. You see what works and what doesn’t work, and you can understand something new about yourself.
Sure, making a mistake is painful, and it’s tempting to want to ignore the failure, avoid it. But that would be a waste. That would be a bigger mistake than the mistake you’re trying to forget.
Mistakes are a goldmine for growth and learning. But you can’t learn and grow from them if you ignore them.
If Steve Jobs didn’t get fired from Apple, he wouldn’t have learned what he needed to learn to come back and become its successful CEO. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, said that he’s made billions of dollars of failures. And without those costly mistakes, his company wouldn’t have grown, making him the wealthiest person in the world.
One of my biggest mistakes was taking on some wrong business partners. I was the one who pushed for partnering and got it. In the end, it got me. And it almost broke me.
But as I healed and recovered, I changed. I got stronger, smarter. And I am much more careful when it comes to partnerships. I learned.
And this blog post is a product of my mistake. If I would have never failed at those partnerships, I don’t think I would have ever tried blogging. I grew.
You see, we are mistaken about mistakes.
They hurt like hell at the moment, but they are blessings. If you understand them aright and try to learn from them, things won’t just get back to normal; they often get better.
So make more mistakes. Take risks. Try new things. Put yourself out there. Learn.
And you will find that a mistake can become a marvel.