Recently I read the book “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon and I’m so grateful I did. This book taught me that if I have a dream to do something I must DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING to get started! I’m learning that if I focus way too much on being unique and original and forget to balance it with just getting going on doing the work I feel moved to do, I might never get anything done! There are several obstacles to doing my work that I would like to share with you in effort to help you push through whatever may be holding you back from achieving your dreams.
My number one obstacle to showing my work was not knowing that it is important to show all levels of my work. I was afraid to show any work that might be amateur and specifically afraid of being an amateur. Webster’s definition of amateur reads, “Inept or unskillful.” Ugh, no one wants to appear inept! However, the missing component of this thought process is, who gets to say we are inept? And, how will we ever get skillful if we don’t ever practice what we want to be skilled at? Once I read Austin Kleon’s book I realized that if I am going to get anywhere I need to start by doing something. One will not achieve greatness by sitting home on the couch. Neither will greatness find you if you are busy criticizing, analyzing, or comparing yourself to others. I’m not claiming to be perfect here, I still watch The Bachelorette, “cringe”, a guilty pleasure I have yet to eliminate, it’s a lot easier to analyze another’s experience than it is to dig in on our own. At the core of this, is fear and insecurity. I was afraid that I would not be good enough, not be skilled enough, and it is so vulnerable to share what is inside of us, especially in the area of writing and art. However, where we put ourselves out there the most, is where we get to see the most growth which is the direct result of doing and practicing. The vulnerability is well worth its weight in gold.
A personal example of lessons learned through getting out there and showing my work is a documentary I attempted telling the story of an injured MMA fighter. I still list the project on my webpage, it’s part of my artist portfolio but remains incomplete. I was moved to begin this story when I met the fighter through a friend and saw unusual strength in his character. Aaron doesn’t drink or smoke and had an incredible disciplined and focus. He had a debilitating injury while fighting and was determined to fight back and fight again. I wanted to tell his story. This would require traveling away from my family to New York multiple times to follow his progress. This was quite scary for me in a number of ways. I would have to leave my family, risk being viewed as frivolous and inattentive to my family, I had some financial risk, and there were lots of things that I didn’t really know how to do because I hadn’t done a feature length documentary before. The most difficult thing about that project past the initial fears was the business side and the unexpected human communication issues that come along with filming someone’s very intimate story. I didn’t know how to navigate this. But, I did it. I didn’t do it very well, and thus lost the project’s ability to be completed through a series of unfortunate communication errors and not knowing how to plan properly. Did I quit? Yes, in the short term, I wasn’t able to complete that project, but in the long term, I learned huge, invaluable lessons on how to properly plan a project and negotiate permission and releases for my current project which now has so much potential due to these lessons. I learned the value of trustworthy legal guidance before a project is in motion. I learned how to create a proper business agreement and obtain the correct permission from each subject, brand, and locations before even spending a dime on a production. Most importantly I learned that it’s ok to not complete something if it no longer feels right or if it feels like it’s taking you for a ride and that if this happens, it’s not an end or a failure, it is the doorway to knowledge, education in action. I now actively understand Austin Kleon’s premise in “Show Your Work”. Get it out there! Austin quoted Steve Jobs as saying, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.” Therefore putting the exclamation point on the idea that now is the time to do what you want to do.
Lack of clarity was becoming a clear reason I was not moving forward. The other book I have been devouring is “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. Such a great read and the most valuable tool came from her website; a daily checklist for several specific areas that I want to improve. Every day you put a check in a box for ten items that you want to accomplish each day. It breaks down what she found to be the most important components of being happier by the month, allowing you to work on a handful of things each month. Having this framework is encouraging because it works with the idea of taking baby steps. Little steps in the right direction eventually become big steps toward our future goals. I began keeping track of my progress, which did three things. It allowed me to organize and clarify what I wanted to happen, it allowed me to keep track and have reminders of what I wanted to happen, and then finally allowed me to look back at my progress and celebrate my wins or accomplishments which is incredibly motivating and squelches that inner critic that likes to make us feel like we aren’t making any progress and we are doomed to be failures. Since I have been reading her book, I have completed a docu-drama television concept and am shopping it to networks, I have learned how to update my website, I’ve been on a consistent work out program and up by 6am every weekday getting a jump start on my day. I have felt happier as a result of a clear view and consistent focus on what makes me happy, and I’m doing something about it which fell directly in line with Austin Kleon’s ideas in his book “Show Your Work”. As Russel Brand says, “One day at a time. It sounds so simple. It actually is simple but it isn’t easy: It requires incredible support and fastidious structuring.”
The challenge of getting up earlier was one I had to overcome. Waking early every day has brought its own blessing and something else to consider when shaping my life work. It has allowed for time to hear the voice of God and set the day on a higher foundation of knowing. When beginning the day with prayer I received the wonderful teaching foundational to the Bible that we all are created unique already, as God’s children. We don’t have to make ourselves unique. God, the greatest artist and architect, has designed us all with a specific purpose with our own talents. In the busy-ness of our world today, we often hear a lot of voices and not necessarily the voice of our creator. There might be glimmers of it. It is helpful to quiet that noise every once in a while to hear the direction we are getting from our creator. It is there for us if we as the scriptures reads, “Be still and know that I am God.” So if we don’t have to make ourselves unique, then the fear that comes from comparison to others, is dissolved through this knowledge. How freeing it is to do your work knowing that God has cleared that path for you already.
In conclusion, from a human standpoint, fear and lack of clarity can feel really real and debilitating from a human standpoint. Human nature wants us to avoid difficulty and anything uncomfortable. Who wants to feel inept or unskilled? However, this lie, that we should hide from this possibility to be safe is just that, a lie. It isn’t safe holding back or sitting on the couch. If you do, there will be a sense of discomfort and irritation, a nagging feeling that something is missing. This is the creator’s design to help nudge you out of hiding. If you don’t feel uncomfortable, it could be hidden by addiction, bad habits, poor relationships, or disease, which is really dis-ease. It is impossible to hide from who God created you to be, you weren’t supposed to! One of the chapters of Austin Kleon’s suggests that we “Be an amateur” and he follows that by quoting Charlie Chaplin, “That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.” Does this mean, we give up and we don’t try to go pro or be great? No way! What it means is, we weren’t designed to wait at the roadblock “I’m not good enough yet”. We were designed to power through it and do a little each day and know that we have a purpose inside. All we need to do is allow for it to shine out of us and “Be a light unto the world.”
Now get to it! And please share with me your progress! I’d like to hear your story. Heck, I might even want to film you someday!