Exposure to judgment and uncertainty aren’t going away. Nor, as a creator, do you want them to. Judgment, delivered constructively, provides the information needed to create at higher and higher levels. And uncertainty is a signpost of novelty and innovation, telling you that what you’re creating is really worth creating.
For most other endeavors, once that energy cedes to the more long-term, “get it done” nature of any meaningful creative endeavor, the discomfort and anxiety that ride along become a stronger and stronger force.
All too often, one of two things happens. The fear and anxiety lure you into wanting to move too quickly from freedom to constraint. They make you want to close off options, create rules, systems, and processes, stop exploring, adapting, testing, permuting, experimenting, and evolving. Not because it’s the right time, not because you’ve finally reached a point at which you’ve accomplished what you’re truly capable of, but because the uncertainty, the anxiety, the suffering that come from not being “there” yet or from fear of being criticized for taking a risk and getting it wrong is killing you. And you just want it to end.
Or the opposite happens. Your inability to wrangle the fear and uncertainty stops you from ever starting or makes you so freaked out about making the wrong decisions that you endlessly debate every step along the way, lose your ability to make decisions and take action, and end up stalled.
The move from freedom to constraint has to happen. If it doesn’t, there’s no output . . . and no impact.
The key is to hit that sweet spot, giving yourself enough time to play in the realm of possibilities before yielding to the limits and structures needed to execute on your best ideas.
Even when a particular project—be it a painting, book, product, service, or entity—comes into being, that’s only part of a much bigger creation journey. When you broaden your view, such endeavors become stopping points, snapshots of your capabilities and your contribution to a much bigger quest to build a body of work or a meaningful career over a lifetime. Each endeavor is a giant creation crux move on a far grander creation arc that will take decades to build.
One of the biggest awakenings as you strive to build a project, a career, and a life worthy of a legacy is that, in the end, there is no there there. No resting point. No certainty. No place to hide from either the inner or outer critics.
The book may be finished, the movie wrapped, the company launched, or the product revealed. But what will you do when you go to work tomorrow?
You and what you create will remain, to varying degrees, in a state of constant evolution. If you’re properly equipped to handle “living in the question,” that’s not a bad thing. Your ability to not only live with, but lean into and proactively seek out risk, judgment, and uncertainty—to transform it from what is, for most people, a default experience of suffering into fuel for creation—will play a huge role in your ability to create genius in every aspect of your work, your relationships, and your life, both in the moment and over a lifetime.
Excerpted from Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance with permission from Penguin/Portfolio.
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