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The right time and place.

Creativity and inspiration happen at unexpected times and in unexpected places. We get ideas while in shower, while on a walk, while driving, while cooking and many such places.

Most of these ideas are unexpected and we are surprised how things come together on their own. Many a times, a problem which we unable to tackle on our desk gets resolved effortlessly away from it.

However, the work and the strategic decisions need the right time and place. It’s good to collect ideas at random places, but it makes sense to decide on them with intention in the right environment.

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Embracing infinity.

The universe is infinite.

Human connection is infinite.

When we embrace infinity, we start seeing possibility.

With a possibility mindset, we evolve beyond where we are.

We need to let go in order to transition from a finite mindset to an infinite one.

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Making things imminent.

When things are imminent, we know exactly what needs to be done and by when.

The thing with creative projects is that, in most cases, there is no externally set timeline and no one on your head to keep you on the hook.

The responsibility, then, comes on the creative to make his project imminent by breaking it into tasks and setting deadlines.

This is a skill that is learned over time and through intent and it’s a skill worth learning if we want to become a professional.

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The weights we carry.

We get used to the weights we carry.

Many times we find it difficult to remember how we ended up carrying them or to realise exactly how much we are carrying.

It’s only when we let go, when we release these weights, that we realise why we weren’t able to move.

The weights don’t go away on their own. They need change.

Nature resets the nervous system. The sea, the mountains, the forests provide spaces for us to go and rejuvenate.

It bodes well to take that step and find your reset.

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The metrics that matter.

It’s easy to get distracted by numbers or maybe even drown in the complexity that they can create.

When we invest our focus in determining the key metrics, ensure that we can track them without much effort and represent them in a way that’s useful, then numbers become a tool that help our strategy.

In addition, we have to understand that there would be important metrics that we cannot track or measure. Giving them due importance when we are surrounded by numbers is difficult but important.

Peter Drucker said, “What can be measured can be managed.”

Also, Albert Einstein said, “Not all that can be counted counts. Not all that counts can be counted.”

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Making it irreversible.

While we might seek change, we might not be willing to commit to it.

The status quo is too comforting by its nature and it’s difficult to break it.

The only way to break it is to take action which make going back impossible.

When the situation is irreversible, the only option is forward motion.

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When you break the streak…

It’s very important to continue as if nothing has happened.

To consider this an exception and leave it at that.

When we try to make up for the exception or do something exceptional because we broke the streak, it is more likely that it will remain broken.

The mere fact that you had a streak is indicative that you have a system that’s working.

Going forward, either you can allow for exceptions in your system or keep a few reserve items to save the streak on bad days.

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One thing at a time.

“How do you eat an elephant?” goes a childhood joke.

“One bite at a time.”

There is a lot of wisdom in this.

Any project, any goal, any ambition can be broken down into specific steps which lead us towards its completion.

How did Bob Dylan win the Nobel Prize? By making one song at a time.

How do you climb Mount Everest? By walking one step at a time.

What’s your goal? What are the steps?

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Rewiring your brain.

The plasticity of the human brain is a scientific fact. In simpler words, this means that we can change our brain through our actions, not just psychologically but physically as well. So, not only does our brain affect our actions, our actions affect our brain too.

When we inculcate a mindset of abundance, of possibility, we rewire our brain to act on possibility. We start taking action that open up pathways that earlier seemed impossible.

The more we act on possibility, the more we change our thoughts and beliefs to those of abundance, the more we will be able to generate abundance and possibility in our life.

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Taking a decision vs deciding.

Thinking about a decision and actually deciding are two very different actions. The former does not necessarily lead to the latter.

We can, indeed, perennially think about a decision without ever moving forward. Especially when the decision is of consequence for us, especially when it might lead to a better life, especially when it puts us on the hook, there is a tendency to hold back and put the decision off for later.

Fear is the pre-dominant emotion in this state but we are unable to put a finger on it. Instead, we look at perfectionism in our decision. How can we have our cake and eat it too? How can we stay in the cozy comfort of our bed and have our solo trek too?

This inability to make the trade-off and realise that we are stuck in a limbo until we decide and move forward paralyses us.

The decision comes from the gut and not from the mind. The decision comes from the will to act.

When we decide, it’s not that all the stars are now aligned, it’s that we don’t care about them being aligned anymore.

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The hardest part.

The hardest part of doing our work is sitting down.

It doesn’t seem like the hardest.

On the face of it, it’s quite simple actually. “Put your ass where your heart wants to be” as Steven Pressfield puts it.

But, for sure, it ain’t easy.

We keep putting off sitting down and starting the work. We find all sorts of reasons and excuses to do the same. All kinds of urgencies show up.

But when we sit down, we are able to focus on the problem. We are able to look at the alternatives and the factors at play.

Whether it is why our rocket exploded while launching it into space or why that dialogue in the scene did not work with the audience or why we aren’t solve that maths problem in the homework, when we sit down, we are likely to work on the problem, to make changes to make things better.

We make things better when we sit down and do our work. There is no other way possible.

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Time is a tricky asset.

Like all the other assets, money, attention, energy, time is also tricky in its nature. Left on its own accord, time can spend itself without generating anything in return. Moreover, it can accelerate that process when the shallow mind and the shallow habits take over.

On the other hand, when we give attention, when we focus on a specific task for a given time, we can use time to create enormous returns.

It is a skill to leverage the time we have as an asset and to convert it into something productive. It is a skill that can be learned through practice.

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Bird by bird.

This seminal book by Anne Lamott subtitled “Some instructions on Writing and Life” has been recommended repeatedly by authors and business persons alike.

Among the many lessons that Lamott teaches, one stands out for me. No matter how difficult or challenging the task in front of us is, breaking it down to separate smaller tasks and doing them one by one is the best way to tackle the challenge.

Complicated goals need to be broken down into specific actionable sub-goals. Until we do that, many goals do not become actionable or achievable.

Here’s Anne, explaining this with a beautiful story:

“I also remember a story that I know I’ve told elsewhere but that over and over helps me to get a grip: thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by bird
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Possibility mindset.

When we proactively work on building an abundant mindset, we enable ourselves to take action that lead to supernormal returns.

Many times, we feel that accepting our fixed mindset as reality is us being practical and rational. However, if we stay in the fixed mindset, we tend to manifest subnormal actions and subnormal returns.

There is no better return on effort than the emotional effort needed to shift from a fixed mindset to a possibility mindset.

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Slow down a bit.

Anxiety breeds urgency and vice versa.

Urgency leads to anxiety because the brain perceives it as a threat.

Our nervous system was not designed to handle urgency on an ongoing basis. For the brain, the only reason that something can be urgent would be that it is a life or death situation.

Most of the problems and stresses we face can become slightly lighter if we can slow down a bit. We can look at them objectively instead of letting the amygdala create havoc.

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A bad blog entry.

This is what we are afraid of, isn’t it?

That our blog isn’t good enough.

And that stops us from writing it, from shipping it.

We say we will do it later.

But how would later be better if we miss our practice today?

Better publish a bad blog today than no blog.

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Intent vs accident.

A lot of inventions and discoveries that are commonly talked about in popular culture did happen as an accident. Post-it notes, penicillin, microwave oven, x-ray and the the discovery of the American continents to name a few.

The curious thing, though, is that these accidents happen only when the person discovering or inventing them is working with intent. They are trying to invent or discover something. They are curious, they are observant, they are experimenting.

Things happen when we take action with intent, when we consistently pursue our projects, when we show up.

The happy accidents seldom happen to someone who is waiting for them to happen.

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Write it out.

There is no point carrying disturbing thoughts inside your head and going through them again and again. It’s very difficult to resolve these things inside your own head.

One of the ways to resolve things is to write them out in an unfiltered manner. Go into the details and face the ambiguities and fears that surround your thoughts.

The more we take things out of our head and put it on paper, the easier it will become to focus on the things that matter and to take actions that lead to forward motion.

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The single act that changes the status quo.

All actions prior lead to a single act, that one irreversible act, that changes the status quo.

For Apple, it is the launch event of a new iPhone. For an author, it is submitting the final draft to the publisher. For you, it might be pressing send on the email you drafted.

All the hard work preceding this critical single step leads us here.

When we have done everything that needs to be done, the resistance to avoid taking this single action step is tremendous.

We get everything ready and still do not press “Send”.

For a creative working solo, having a mastermind group of 3-4 fellow creatives helps him remain accountable and move forward with this tricky step.

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The Gift.

I have started listening to the wonderful book by Lewis Hyde called ‘The Gift’.

We receive so many gifts from so many sources. The knowledge we get from authors who invest tremendously in writing their books. The connection to the art we witness in a movie is a gift too. So is the casual conversation we have with the person sitting next to us in a flight.

When we are generous in passing the gift forward by connecting people, by teaching and leading, by creating art and nudging others to do so, we make the world a better place.

If we start looking at the opportunity to make a difference as a gift, we would be more inclined to take action.

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Breaking the streak.

As a streak for a task grows longer, the resistance to doing the task decreases significantly. The habit develops and it becomes much easier to maintain the streak than to break it.

But inevitably, if we get too attached to the streak, the chances are high that it would break, that we would face an off day.

The thing to consider here is that it’s the action that matters and not the streak. The only thing to do is to go back to work without emotion the next day.

The more we try to make up for the off day, the more difficult we make it for ourselves to continue.

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How to stop emotions from driving our actions?

As a professional creative, we cannot afford to act as per our emotions.

This is clear when we have to perform in front of an audience, whether it is a class, a business meeting or a concert.

But it is all the more important when we do not have an audience to witness our work.

How do we learn to sit down to work even, or especially, when we don’t feel like it? That’s the skill that distinguishes the professionals from the amateurs.

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Working without applause.

A creative works without applause.

Day after day, week after week, the writer writes, the musician composes, the artist paints, the entrepreneur focusses on a particular phase of customer experience and creates magic.

The irony is that, most of the time, nobody is there when the magic is created. The creator is alone, engrossed in his project.

Over the years, creators are sometimes lucky to earn applause, but most of the magic created and magic received happens without the applause.

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The hard work of accessing the deep mind.

It takes a lot of effort to reach our deep mind, the mind that is intelligent and effective.

By default, the shallow mind, the one that seeks instant gratification takes hold. The nature of the shallow mind is that of getting distracted and engaging in meaningless activities.

When we sit down for an extended period and focus on our work, either through writing or otherwise, we start accessing the deep, focussed mind.

This is a hard earned state of mind but can easily be lost if we engage with any distraction. We need to be aware of this and utilise the possibilities created by the deep mind before we let it go.

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Inculcating the growth mindset.

A growth mindset is developed through habit and through action. It requires intent and emotional labour to activate the growth mindset. Once activated, it leads to effortless action and result.

By default, the fixed mindset would keep coming back. That’s part of the process. The key is to identify it happening and then switching to the growth mindset with intent.

The more we repeat this process, the better we become in switching to a growth mindset at will.

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What one action step can take you forward?

Many times we feel stuck, unable to gain ground, unable to see a way.

The thinking mind makes this all the more complicated by asserting that we need to figure it all out before we take action.

The way out is to identify the one action step that can take us out of the status quo, that breaks us out of our current situation. Once we take that step, we are no longer stuck.

As is the case with the body, movement helps us in moving forward with our work too.

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Getting a flat tyre.

If you get a flat tyre while you are on a road trip, it would make sense to stop the car, fix the tyre and only then continue with your journey.

When we try to keep driving with a flat tyre, we make the situation worse. We delay our journey and we make ourselves miserable.

You didn’t ask for the flat tyre, but that’s where you are at. No amount of wishful thinking can change that.

In our journey as creatives, we will encounter many more flat tyres than a typical road trip. We need to fix them as they appear before we can drive forward.

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The power of audio.

Our eyes are among the most energy-consuming organs of the body. A lot of our work is dependent on looking at a screen for long hours. To allow the eyes and the body to rest and recover, it is useful to consider the medium of audio for learning, relaxation and other activities.

Especially for learning, podcasts and audiobooks provide an effective source for building up our knowledge base without significant investment of energy or willpower on our part.

It takes time to get used to audio. Our brain is used to wander when we listen to audio. But as we build the skill, it enhances our focus and we are able to receive much more.

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Giving undivided attention to a task.

There are hardly any tasks or thoughts that will not be resolved if we give them our undivided attention.

It is when our attention is divided that these tasks start to seem unsurmountable.

In most cases, the cause of undivided attention is fear. We are afraid of the outcome of our actions, so we keep our attention divided in order to never take the actions in the first place.

This is not an intelligent or productive way for forward motion. Instead, giving undivided time and attention to these tasks can help us ship more and make change that matters.

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Leave yourself wanting more.

In the hustle culture, the idea is to push yourself to exhaustion before you call it a day.

“Give it everything you’ve got.” they say.

This affects our enthusiasm towards our work. It also stops us from being consistent. And our brain also works at sub-par capacity when it is used like this.

Instead, having empathy towards ourselves, letting our brain rest after 2-3 hours of deep work and not pushing it to exhaustion would lead us to wanting more the next morning.

“A horse that loves to run will beat a horse that’s compelled, every day of the week.”

Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield
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Rest and recovery for the brain.

When we work for the entire day, trying to get in ten, twelve or even more hours of work every day, we do not give our brain the time and space to recover.

Our pre-frontal cortex is a very thin layer in our brain which allows us to perform all the executive functions like decision making, logical and critical thinking. When we overload the pre-frontal cortex, it leads to diminished performance.

It’s better to focus for 3-4 hours each day, doing deep work, and to use the remaining time to rest and recover for the next day.

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What’s your one priority project?

There are many things that we have to do during the day, the week the month. There might be many things that we want to do, also.

But what is our one priority project? Not two, not three, but one.

One goal that we want to achieve? One project that we want to put above everything else?

Identifying that one project and then allocating priority time (preferably 3 hours a day in the morning) to that is an effective way to move forward.

Without a clear direction, we can keep going round and round without reaching anywhere.

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Fear stops us from initiating.

When we initiate, we create possibility. Things might or might not work. There is tension. There is excitement.

When we seek to be right all the time, initiating something becomes extremely difficult. Our critical, calculating mind takes over and stops us from growing.

The mindset of possibility is a skill and it develops through practice. It develops when we stop listening to the voice of fear and start raising our hand up.

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New ideas.

New ideas break old notions. They elevate the consciousness.

Listening to a new book can introduce us to a new idea or even many.

There seems to be no better way to inculcate the growth mindset and learn “The Art of Possibility”.

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Simple is not necessarily easy.

We tend to confuse these two words and their antonyms. The antonym of simple is complicated and that of easy is difficult.

There are tasks in all the four quadrants.

The ones that matter are usually in the simple and difficult quadrant.

To focus on these tasks and ignore the others is a skill that a professional develops.

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Ignoring the voice inside your head.

The biggest challenge in being consistent is ignoring the suggestions made by the voice inside your head. That voice will keep suggesting alternate paths in order to hinder your progress.

The voice becomes especially powerful when we are going through “the dip” of our creative project.

It’s very difficult to ignore that voice until you sit down and write.

When you sit down and write, you can look at the suggestions that the voice is making, see if any of them makes sense, or are they just to distract you from the path that you are on.

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Hope and regret.

The amateur lives either in the past or the future. They regret the past and hope for a better future.

The professional works in the present. They know that neither regret nor hope is going to make their work better. They put all their attention in the work that needs to be done today.

It takes emotional labour to ignore the surge of hope or regret that may come when you need to do your work. The more you ignore them and focus on your work, the faster you can go through the dip.

Luck is not a factor.

Hope is not a strategy.

Fear is not an option.

David Cameron, Director of Titanic, Avatar.

References:

Book: Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield.

Book: The Dip by Seth Godin

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3 hours a day.

Put your ass where your heart is.

Steven Pressfield.

Steven Pressfield talks about putting your ass in the chair and working for 3 hours every day.

Pick one thing, whether it is a book, or a project, or a hobby. Spend 3 hours every day working on it.

Don’t worry if the work today was good or bad, whether you did enough or not.

As long as you keep putting in the hours every day, something meaningful will come out with time.

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Marketing as a service.

As marketers, we exist to serve our smallest viable audience.

We put in the hard work of choosing the audience, empathising with them, positioning our product to fulfil their needs and creating tension for them to raise their hands.

But we can’t force them to raise their hands. Whether we are teachers or parents or friends, it’s upto our audience to board the bus for the journey that we are presenting them with.

Marketing is a game that we learn by doing. We are wrong many times before we are right.

And every time, the first question always is, “Who’s it for?”. Unless we are clear and specific about our smallest viable audience, there is no forward motion.

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The decision.

Significant change starts with the decision to change. These are the kind of decisions that are taken once and then not put into question.

Without the decision taken with intent, it is very difficult to go through the dip.

The last minute mind would always want to quit before we achieve the change. The decision is the only thing that keeps the last minute mind in check.

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The lull in the dip.

The most threatening part of the dip is the lull: the time period when nothing happens, nothing good, nothing bad.

It’s the time when the writer keeps writing but the story moves nowhere. It’s when you keep trying to grow your business but everything remains stagnant.

Come what may, every project goes through this period.

All we can do during the lull is to continue our practice and let the lull pass. The moment we start making exceptions to our practice is when we start losing it.

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Physical and digital tools.

Many creatives are asked if they prefer digital tools for their work or physical tools.

I think that it is not an “or” question, rather it is an “and question”.

Both physical and digital tools have their pros and cons and the preference would depend on the situation.

Digital tools (eg. Roam Research, Discourse, Dropbox Paper, etc.) can be extremely useful in writing down your thoughts and sharing them with others. They help in collaborating in effective manner with people across the world.

On the other hand, if you are overwhelmed or your to-do list keeps on expanding, using a single sheet of paper to write down the things on your mind can be extremely useful.

Similarly, if you are getting distracted by websites and apps, taking 20 minutes to write on a physical notebook can get you into the zone.

It’s important as creatives to identify the right tools for the right situation and to keep them handy.

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Climate change is a “we” problem.

Climate change is real and we are already seeing its impact on our environment.

For a long time now, even if we were concerned about it, we did not know much about how we can impact it.

Seth Godin has generously led the Carbon Almanac project to bring about change in how we can impact the problem.

The Carbon Almanac is launching in the next 2 months globally and it is upon us to take it up as our project.

Check out the message from Seth below. I have joined the volunteer team. Having you on board as well will be amazing.

Message from Seth (with slight edits):

We’re inviting you to join our worldwide group of volunteers as we prepare to launch the Almanac in June. Our launch team is forming now, and it’s a chance to be part of something and make a difference. Please check out this page for the details. Thank you.

ALSO! We’re building a Wall of Fame on our website to celebrate companies that care enough about our future to share copies of the Almanac when it comes out. Small companies can easily find a good use for five or ten copies, and we’ve made it easy and cost-effective to pre-order. The form is to sign up is here. All participants get a link back to their site and a chance to make an impact in the world.

Please share with someone who trusts you.

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When to quit? (Part 1)

Seth Godin talks about quitting in his book The Dip. He talks about three curves: the dip, the cul-de-sac, the cliff.

Let’s talk about the dip today.

Source: The Dip by Seth Godin

Being a professional is about going through the dip. When you get started, there will be some results that can be seen with some effort. You would be excited. Other people around you would be excited.

But soon enough, this excitement will go away. Now, for a long time, you will keep on making efforts, but the results will keep going down each day. Less applause, less excitement, less everything. This is where people quit. This is where they should not. If you quit in the dip, all the effort that you have put in so far is for nothing.

So, the best strategy before embarking on a project with a dip is to see if we have the resources and the commitment to reach the other side. It doesn’t make sense to swim half-way across the river and then decide and it was better on the other side only and turn around. 

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Which voice are you listening to?

The voice which is helping you achieve your goals and dreams or the voice which is telling you to stay safe? 

The voice which believes in you, which propels you forward or the voice that doubts you and pulls you back? 

The voice that speaks calmly and silently or the voice which is forceful and venomous?

As Seth Godin might say, choose your voice, choose your future.

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The path of least resistance.

What specific actions can lead to the change that you seek?

What would put you on the hook?

What specific action will make it live?

What is left when you remove all the frills and distractions?

Find the shortest path to make your project live, the first version.

You can keep updating and make it better later.

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Writing is the way out.

When the fear and the shallow mind take over, we become overtly invested in thinking and talking. We shift from a creator’s mindset to a consumer’s mindset.

The way out is to sit down and write. The more we write, the more we will be able to look at the traps that Resistance is binding us in.

It’s an uphill battle. It’s slow and we might fall a few times before we rise. But the way out is to keep typing.

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Self assigned deadlines.

As a creative, an important skill to master is how to set and meet self assigned deadlines.

Without serious deadlines, projects can go on indefinitely without them actually being shipped. Many good ideas never see the day of the light because the creative was not serious about setting and meeting the deadline.

Yes, we are bad at estimating deadlines. Yes, we should make room for slack and unexpected events. But not setting a deadline is not an option. And once you set it, we need to make it serious by creating a repercussion of missing it.

This is a skill that few people have and it’s one that’s worth building.

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The difficult task of ignoring sunk costs.

Seth Godin talks about how ignoring sunk costs is one of the most important components of decision making.

Ignoring sunk costs mean that the decision we take is not influenced by what we have already invested in, or what we had decided in the past. Our decision is, instead, based on what we intend to do in the future, and what will make our lives or our work better.

Our attachment to sunk costs, the things that are already there, distracts us from the clear path we need to take to bring about a better future.

It’s difficult and most of us have been trained in the opposite direction, but it’s a skill that can help us move forward and bring about the change that we seek to make.

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Big change.

Big change happens through small action steps. Action steps that make the change imminent.

Once change becomes imminent, going back to status quo is not an option any more. The only way is forward motion.

When we are seeking to make big change, we need to find the action steps that can make it imminent.

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One hour, daily.

That’s a good starting point to becoming a professional creative.

Whatever your art is, be it writing or gaming or music or teaching, can you spend one hour doing the work daily, preferably at a set time and place.

If you can do that for 30 days, you create a good foundation for levelling up to be a professional.

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Emotional labour.

This is the most difficult and the highest paid labour of all.

Emotional labour is about fighting your self-doubt, raising your hand and taking initiative. It’s about seeing a problem and then leading a solution without asking for permission.

The more emotional labour we do, the better our careers become.

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Finishing mindset.

When we are in the finishing mindset, we stop procrastinating and focus on shipping. Nothing’s more important to us than getting the thing done. We become decisive and make choices.

Activating the finishing mindset is like a switch. It takes intent to move from the perfectionist thinking mindset to the finishing doing mindset.

The more we practice the finishing mindset, the better we get at it.

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The fear of rejection.

The fear of rejection forces us to delay action, to not ship.

The more we listen to this fear, the more we derail from our goals.

The way to handle fear of rejection, is to focus on small action steps that take you forward.

Once you have covered 80% of the journey, the last 20% is easier to finish.

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Do the work.

No matter what the circumstances are, no matter what hell is breaking loose, there is never an excuse good enough to skip the work.

The professional does not negotiate with fear. They sit down and they ship the work.

The amateur does not understand this. They let the day to day stop them, delay them, petrify them.

The trait of the professional is that they ship on time, no matter what.

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Do it kindly.

Whatever you do, do it kindly.

Whether it is praise or feedback.

Whether it is advice or a suggestion.

Everyone is going through their struggle, everyone is trying to do their best, including you.

So, whatever you do, do it kindly.

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Not shipping is selfish.

When we hide, when we play safe, when we don’t do our work, when we don’t share our work, we act selfish. 

We let our fear overcome us and stop us from acting. 

We steal from our audiences the experience, the magic, the certainty that comes from engaging with our work. 

Our work is not for us. It’s for the people who are waiting to listen from us. 

Selfish is not a choice for the professional, being generous is. 

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What did you ship today?

It’s a question worth asking yourself daily.

It’s a question that keeps you on the hook.

It’s a question that leads to forward motion.

When we ship stuff, we make things better.

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Routines and Rituals.

Routines and rituals help us in accessing our deep mind, our intelligent mind, the mind which is curious. In their absence, mostly, the shallow mind takes over, the mind that seeks instant gratification, the mind that runs away from work.

As we set our routines and rituals, there would be days when we would fail to follow them, there would be days where we might not much productive work done.

The only thing that we need to do is to find one action that can get us back to our routines and rituals. When we focus on a single action, it is more likely that we limit one bad day to one only.

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Making assertions

A creative is required to make assertions. 

The nature of assertions is that they might not work. 

Seeking certainty limits the creative and is analogous to driving with the brakes on. 

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Becoming aware of choice.

At times, we become so used to the status quo that we start believing we do not have a choice.

We do things that don’t bring us happiness, we indulge in activities that make our lives worse.

It is difficult but very useful to become aware of the choice in each decision.

The more mindfully we choose, the better our life becomes.

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Listening to Resistance.

Resistance rarely says no. Mostly it says later.

It rarely says that we are afraid. Mostly it says we are busy.

The moment we start listening to Resistance, we start developing symptoms.

Choose to act now, not later.

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No stimuli.

If you want to do deep work, you need to create a time-space with no stimuli.

The shallow mind is too likely to succumb to anything that can distract it from the work. A lot of creative energy is drained in responding to stimuli and getting back to work.

So, switch off your phone, turn off the wifi, and get to work.

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Change comes through action.

Change cannot come through thought, through intention, through discussion. Action, forward motion is critical for change to happen.

And each of the steps towards significant change is accompanied by fear in the form of doubt, perfectionism and procrastination.

The key to bringing about change is to take action before the voice of fear distracts us.

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What’s it for?

It helps to identify what our project is for.

What exactly will it do to serve our audience.

When the “What’s it for?” is vague, the project is not as effective as it can be.

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Gratitude is a superpower.

Being thankful for the service that we receive.

The teachers who teach us, who help us in levelling up.

The nature that allows us to thrive.

The people who push us forward.

There is nothing more powerful in making life better than gratitude.

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When negativity takes control.

When negativity takes control, we enter a dark phase. Our internal world becomes full of insecurity, doubt and fear. Creativity and initiative seem to be far away.

The way out of negativity is to slow down. Take one positive action. Find your centre again. It takes effort to get out of our mind and start working on paper again.

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Proving you are alive.

We are alive when we explore, when we move, when we do something crazy.

We are alive, when we stop hiding, when we show up, when we raise our hand.

We are alive when we meet new people, build relationships, break new barriers.

We need to prove to ourselves that we are alive by doing something like this each day.

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Resistance Log

There would undoubtedly be times when we give into Resistance, when we indulge in activities that we do not want to indulge in.

It’s a good idea to keep a log of these activities so that we can be in control of temptation.

As Peter Drucker said, what gets measured gets managed.

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Write it down.

Whatever you have in your mind, it’s very important to write it down, to convert it into specific action steps and to move forward in taking them. 

The mind by itself is not equipped to convert ideas into action steps.

Writing helps us freeze our thoughts and to process them. 

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Resistance is insidious.

Resistance, the voice of procrastination and self-doubt is insidious.

It will do everything in its power to distract us from our work.

We can not beat Resistance by indulging with it.

We can only beat it by ignoring what it says.

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What we can’t see.

As a marketer, we need to become aware of things we can’t see.

What the person we seek to serve feels, what they believe, what they are not showing.

It’s hard work but that’s the deal. That’s the way we can help them get what they need or want and do our service.

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The good voice and the bad voice.

It’s our choice which one to listen to.

It’s a choice that’s presented every day.

The one we choose becomes more powerful.

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The next project.

What’s your next project?

How ambitious is it?

When do you plan to ship it?

The next project can take us out of stagnation faster than anything else.

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Change is scary.

Change is never comfortable, that’s it’s basic nature. The status quo becomes comfortable, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

But change is necessary to move forward, to make progress.

Doing it with intent can help us become more comfortable with it.

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The search for joy.

When we try to numb our sadness, we end up numbing everything.

And in the process, we can numb joy too.

The way forward is not through numbing pain, but by letting it go.

And in the process, we may find joy again.

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Resistance and drama.

The creative cannot allow drama in her life.

She is too busy creating the drama in her novel.

She takes all measures to avoid drama in real life.

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Finding your centre.

You need to find your centre and operate from there.

Fear can cause you to lose your compass, to feel disoriented.

The way out of fear is through action, is through growth.

Fear is psychological, action is physical.

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Urgencies never end.

We tend to believe that we can get back to the important work once we have put out all the fires. 

That never happens. 

If we put all our energy in putting out fires, we will see that more fires keep popping up for us to put out.

It makes sense to let an emergency be until you have done your work for the day. 

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Focus on growth, not problems.

When we focus on problems, they drain all our energy and attention and leave little to give for growth tasks.

The thing with problems is that the best case scenario is the restoration of the status quo.

But that doesn’t help.

Without growth, maintaining the status quo is redundant.

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A little bit of positivity.

Can we add a little bit of positivity to start our day with? 

Read or listen to a book or a lesson that teaches us something?

Listen to positive motivational songs to counter the negativity?

Listen to a podcast or conversation that takes us away from the stresses of the day?

These are small actions that can lead to a much better day. 

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Movement

Movement makes you feel alive.

Dead people can’t move. The less you move, the less alive you become. 

Through movement you can explore and breathe. 

HT to Ragini Bhajanka for helping me experience movement through her Raga program. 

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Money mindset.

The predominant view growing up in a middle class household is that money is scarce. And when we do not take initiative, when we do not put ourselves on the hook, that is true.

But when we start looking around for opportunities, for problems that we can solve for other people, for experiences and communities that we can create, then we can see that money is in abundance. 

Changing our money mindset from scarcity to abundance is the key to forward motion. 

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What no one can take away.

Victor Frankl writes in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” about what no one can take away from you.

Every day we have a choice. To do the work or not.

No one can take the choice away from you.

Today, you can sit and do the work.

Everything else is transient.

When all is gone, work is all that is left.

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Negativity kills creativity.

It can go from making you feel miserable about yourself to making you feel self-righteous. 

There is no middle ground with negativity. 

And there is no forward motion either. 

You can either build something with your creativity or destroy something by listening to negativity. 

You can choose. 

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What time does your office start?

It’s one of the most important questions for an independent creative. 

If the answer is vague, it becomes difficult during the day to start the work. 

And when we don’t know when we start the work, it also becomes difficult to stop work and end the day. 

Putting ourselves on the hook by making our office timings public is a good way to lean into professionalism. 

Remaining open 24×7 is not a good policy for a creative. 

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When hell is breaking loose.

As a creative, there would be days when hell is breaking loose.

It is very difficult on those days to sit down and do your work, especially the work that no one cares for right now.

It is important on those days to do the work, to show up, to hold your identity.

Neil Gaiman said, “Make good art.”

Steven Pressfield said, “Do the work.”

That’s all that matters.

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Dehumanise.

When we think in extremes, we tend to dehumanise the other person.

We do not give them a space to speak, to present their point of view.

It is tough to empathise with the other person in such situations, but not treating them like human beings doesn’t make much sense either.

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The skill of deadlines.

For most of our life, we have been trained to follow other people’s deadlines. You have a test on Friday, so you sit down and study on Thursday night. But what happens when there is no test on Friday?

As a creative, a lot of times we work solo on projects where there is no external deadline. So, not only do we need to meet a deadline, we need to learn how to set them first.

Steven Pressfield talks about the importance of order in our workplace when we turn pro. This order is also important in allocating our time to different projects and ship them when they are due.

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What are you running away from?

What is the one thing that you need to do that you aren’t doing?

All our misery, our anxiety are signs that we are not working on that one thing.

Remove all the clutter and find that one thing. Focus solely on getting it done, on shipping it. The rest will take care of itself.

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Shallow to deep mind.

The shallow mind is very good at sticking.

It’s an uphill battle.

It takes focus and effort to access the deep mind again.

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Breaking the pattern.

When you feel stuck, it’s good to break the pattern. To go for a walk, or to work out of a new setting, or to meet someone new.

As a creative professional, we need to recharge our creative energy on a consistent basis.

Tim Ferriss recommends scheduling your mindfulness breaks for the year before you fill your calendar with the rest.

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Exhale slowly.

When we face a danger, our body switches to a fight/flight/freeze mode by default. Our brains have not evolved to distinguish between physical and psychological dangers.

Staying for too long in the fight/flight/freeze mode is not healthy.

One of the ways to counter the anxiety is to exhale slowly. Take deep breaths and exhale as slowly as possible.

When we exhale slowly, our body realises that we are no longer in danger and starts shifting back to normal.

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Minimum, not maximum.

As creatives, we have a tendency to go for maximum.

We make an idea so big in our thoughts and in our talks, that when we sit down to work at it, we feel paralysed.

What makes sense is to have a minimum mindset.

What can you not take away and still make it work?

The more we embrace the minimum mindset, the more effective we become.

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Zoning in.

It’s tough when we are zoned out. It becomes tougher as we remain zoned out for a long time.

To zone in, we need to pass through the membrane of focus. It is not going to feel good initially. Resistance will be at its peak.

But when you sit down and do the work, slowly but surely, you will start finding your zone, again.

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Gaining back control.

You don’t gain back control by thinking or talking or by discussing your situation with anyone but your coach.

You gain back control by sitting down and ploughing your way through the clutter.

The brain is not equipped to zone in by thinking about it, we can only do that by doing the work.

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Closing time.

It’s important as creatives to have a closing time.

To create a clear demarcation between work and non-work.

To be able to sustain our work in the long run, we cannot compromise on life in the short run.

It’s a question we should be able to answer: What time do you close?

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If not now, then when?

We keep putting things off for later, the things that we really want to do, the things that would make our life better, the things that matter.

Later becomes a habit and decades pass without us doing those things.

The busyness of the status quo takes over. In our minds, we keep thinking that we will get back to it soon. But, day after day, we keep going away from the mountain.

It takes a lot of effort to reach the base camp of Mount Everest. Doesn’t make much sense to go back from there.

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Empathise, instead.

It’s easy to shout, to be angry, to be frustrated.

It’s easy to consider the other person as stubborn, as not so intelligent, as someone who doesn’t listen.

What’s hard is empathy.

To actually put yourself in the shoes of the other person and see the world as they see it.

It requires emotional labour to be empathetic, it requires us to keep our emotions aside and feel someone else’s emotions.

Most people can’t do this, but then again, we are not most people.

We are creatives. We are generous. We will go where others won’t.

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Shipping is the cure.

When in doubt, ship.

Send that email.

Reply to that message.

Post that photograph.

Publish that podcast.

Say ‘hello’ to that cute girl.

Don’t keep things in your mind.

Don’t analyse.

Ship.

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