Please Launch

Thanks to creating and hosting Unthinkable, I now have the pleasure of talking with fellow content creators on a weekly basis, typically about their side projects. (This was not written sarcastically, even though most of my work is written sarcastically. I enjoy talking shop with others who make stuff on the internets. I don’t always have time for it, because I’m a serial side project tinkerer and paranoid email-checker and over-committer to things … but still, I love it.)

All this to say, I’ve noticed a worrisome trend: Lots of us spend time thinking about doing things instead of actually doing things. We have an idea for a side project, and instead of just kicking it out the door after a few moments of thought and drafting, we go down this mental rabbit hole. We scope, we plan, we research, we save things to research later, we check email, we check Twitter, we draft a little, we research more, we tinker on the logo, then on the site design, then the logo again, and then, well, we should probably revisit the logo.

And only after alllllll of that is out of the way do we do something. No, wait, we don’t — then we ask for feedback from others.

Enough, I say! (I say this to my own brain here, too, by the way.)

We need to stop this madness, stop this procrastination masquerading as creativity. And I think that two thoughts I’ve thought of might help. I think.

Thought #1: Our jobs are not to be creative. Our jobs are to create.

Lots of us LOOOOOVE the idea of being creative. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a badge of honor. We love the work. Or maybe we love the idea of future creative freedom. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of grit and grind creativity to frolicking in the fields creativity, the fact remains: Too often, we think our jobs are to be creative.

We’re wrong.

Our jobs are to CREATE. And although that seems like a small difference, I think it makes all the difference.

If we just re-framed our jobs like this, perhaps we’d focus more on the DOING of things instead of the THINKING about doing of things.

There’s a reason that I rarely write or say the word “creatives.” I’ve started saying “creators” or, secondarily, “makers.” I like the focus on action and shipping. I’m even writing a future episode of Unthinkable called “Bias to Act,” exploring this topic. (That should launch sometime this month, June 2016.)

That’s thought #1: Our jobs are not to be creative. Our jobs are to create. So start CREATING.

Thought #2: Side projects are ongoing searches for the answer, not final conclusions.

Part of the reason we agonize over the thought and the idea and the logo, THEN ask for feedback, THEN return to refining things, THEN ask for more feedback — and so on — is that we want to put something final out into the world.

But that’s not what a side project actually IS. Side projects are not our final answers to our search for something. Side projects ARE THE SEARCH.

In other words, our side projects should be ongoing experiments. Side projects are our journey to find answers to our questions.

Side projects are our creative laboratories. When people are in a lab, they aren’t making something they KNOW will work. Instead, they’re thinking, “This is worth doing, but I don’t know how to do it.” So they go and figure it out.

Your side project is worth doing (not “thinking about” — DOING). But although you may not know the answer or may not know how you’ll get it to the quality or style you want, you should still put it out the door. Then it’s on each of us to keep searching and testing for the answer. We do this on two levels: the mechanics of what we create and the topic we address.

For example, with Unthinkable, I can ask questions about the mechanics, like, “What happens if you address a business topic by first talking to someone outside the business echo chamber? What if I open an episode with a story rather than an ad? What if I had multiple times of episodes within one feed?”

I can ALSO ask questions about the topic I address. “What happens when someone wants to build a successful project, company, or career, but wants to do so through craft and creativity? Can you still scale something? Can you even work in marketing or business in general while rejecting shortcut culture and caring more about the process than the outcome?”

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, especially the latter group. But I’m out to find the answer. And I can’t do that BEFORE I launch. I can only do it AFTER I launch.

So what is a side project? A series of little experiments.

We still strive for great. We still want the answer. But we need to treat our projects as the journey, not the destination.
So, please tinker. Please test. Please test again. But above all, if you do nothing at all today, please launch.

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