While working out, I was watching a YouTube video in which the host talked about games everyone apparently loves, but he hates.
His main argument for hating one very mainstream Action RPG game was the fact that he had trouble solving the quests and found many of the solutions a little too obscure.
It’s such a good metaphor for how we approach the game of creativity or business.
Our blood, sweat, and tears go into our art and our products, only for them to be torn apart by the world upon their official release.
I recently shared a sample from my latest book with a friend, and he didn’t like the writing style. But I learned something from that – 1) that if I’m going to share my creations with people who don’t really know my work, I should only show them the highlights, and 2) some people simply don’t understand speed of delivery, the value in having your audience experience something even as you’re developing it. They value perfectionism over shipping, and they may never ship themselves. It’s easier to hide behind perfectionism than it is to endure criticism and rejection.
And it’s not a matter of right or wrong. It’s a difference in thinking.
But it’s a fact of life the game of creativity or business won’t always be easy. You may know that you have something valuable to share with the world. You may even have awards and credentials and testimonials to back it up. But there will always be those who disagree.
Some challenges are difficult to solve. On your path to success, you can run into financial and personal issues of every persuasion.
Assuming you learn something from the impasses you encounter in-game, you can hatch a scheme to overcome them. You can level up your experience.
But if you give up on the game because it’s too hard, you’ve got a mindset challenge. You don’t need to work on your art or make a better product. Leveling up your mindset should be your priority.
I understand that the game can be frustrating when it’s hard. But it can also get very boring when it’s too easy. We need challenges to rise to.
Don’t quit the game because it’s too hard. Quit the game when you know you never stand a chance at becoming the best at it, as Seth Godin shares in The Dip.
You will leave opportunity on the table if you give up just because the game is hard.
In the leadership program I’m currently in, we create everything as a “game.”
Even things that we might normally call “work” in daily life are created instead as games.
Since everything is created in language, this simple shift in terminology from “projects” and “goals” to “games” is more powerful than you might think.
Think about it…
What we know about the structure of a game is that:
- They have rules
- They have players
- There’s a scoreboard
- It’s clear when you’ve won, as well as when you’ve lost
- You can’t always win
- Games are fun!
What’s powerful about generating our tasks and projects as games is that this tends to eliminate a lot of fogginess and uncertainty about setting goals and managing projects in general.
Everything I’ve said about games is applicable to goals and projects. They have rules and players, there’s a scoreboard, it’s obvious when you’ve completed the project (or at least it should be), and you don’t always reach your goals.
But what about “fun” you ask?
That’s up to you. But the shift in terminology can help. The change from “I have three goals I’m working on” to “I’m playing three games” is more significant than you might think.
Now, practically speaking, this may sound or appear irresponsible to those around you.
“You’re playing games? I thought you had work to do. Don’t flaunt your privilege!”
Let them in on the secret you’ve discovered. That everything in life is a game. Because when you create your projects as games, the murkiness tends to go away. Plus, you have more fun on the journey to getting to where you want to go in your music career.
For a proven, step-by-step framework in cracking the code to independent music career success, and additional in-depth insights into making your passion sustainable and profitable, be sure to pick up my best-selling guide, The Music Entrepreneur Code.
What game do you want to play as a creative?
That might seem like an odd question, but the reality is that life itself is a game with rules and boundaries.
But no one can tell you when you’ve won. No one can make a scorecard for you. You’ve got to tailor it to your passions and desires.
There are different paths leading to different destinations. There, too, choice must be exercised.
The Game of Survival
Creativity is like a game of survival. And that’s what makes it fun.
Perhaps you’ve never thought of it that way before. But the same could certainly be said of freelancing, business, or any other endeavor that involves risk.
Former CD Baby founder Derek Sivers was the first to inspire me to think of things this way. He talks about it quite eloquently in his book, Your Music And People.
School is fine and all. But most of what you learn there is theory. And when you consider how much of it, you’re going to forget anyway, it’s kind of crazy how much time and effort we put into education.
In the real world, you make real connections, spend real money, and take real chances and risks.
Yes, it can be scary. But this is also what makes it fun.
Because when you’re faced with losing it all, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves, figure out how to make a real go of this creativity thing, and take actions that are aligned with your goals.
The Power of Choice
In life, there are choices aligned with comfort, and choices aligned with risk.
One is not better than the other.
Choices aligned with comfort offer some certainty and stability. They are not guaranteed, and they can even be expensive, but most people will support you in your decision to be comfortable and you will find them doing the same things right alongside you.
Choices aligned with risk offer more excitement and upside opportunity. Again, they are not guaranteed, but they don’t necessarily need to cost more (just that you will inevitably win some and lose some). You probably won’t find much support on this side of the fence, and people will call you “lucky” if you succeed.
(I don’t know anyone on this side of the fence that doesn’t work their butt off.)
At different times, we will all make choices on either side. But choices aligned with comfort are always easier, and choices aligned with risk are always scarier.
The Playground of Adulthood
Entrepreneurship is like the playground of adulthood (again, that’s something I picked up from Derek Sivers).
So, the question is whether you want to play in the sand, or work in a cube.
“Oh, it’s just that simple?”
Well… maybe not.
Because you’ve got to know what you want in life. What you enjoy. What you could see yourself doing for 12, 14, or even 16 hours per day.
I’m not advising anyone spend that much time at work. I’m just asking if you could see yourself doing that if need be.
Many people can’t see themselves working for longer than eight hours per day. And if they were honest with themselves, they’d see that between bathroom breaks, lunch, idle chit chat, social media, and email, they are only productive for two hours and 53 minutes per day. That’s based on research.
It’s not the eight hours per day that’s making you tired. It’s the constant task switching that’s killing your productivity.
Of course, you will have many added responsibilities on the playground, with the most important being having a product and a way to sell it. Money is required in the game of survival.
Enter the Jungle
So, the question is:
Do you want to go out into the jungle, risk danger and failure, and enjoy the fulfillment and satisfaction of figuring it all out for yourself?
Would you prefer to stay in the city, where the well-worn path is laid out before you, and help is always available?
Creativity is closer to trail blazing than following a clearly defined path. That’s what makes it difficult, but that’s also what makes it rewarding.
There’s a limit to how much you can learn about creativity or entrepreneurship in school. It’s all just hypothetical until you’ve got real skin in the game.
The jungle is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where all the real learning happens.
It won’t necessarily be easy. And there will be risk involved. But the skills are learnable. With enough determination and perseverance, you can learn to survive, and eventually, thrive.
Game of Survival, Final Thoughts
While there are many unknowns in the jungle, if you choose it, you will probably find that you are scrappier and more adaptive than you ever thought you were.
And instead of wading through theory, you will be forced to figure out what works, fast.
Again, not all risk is good risk. And the riskier choice isn’t always the right one.
But an entrepreneur is “one who takes risks.” So, in the jungle, you will always be risking to a lesser or greater degree.
Are you enjoying the game of survival?
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
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