Weekly Digest: January 15, 2022

Weekly Digest: January 15, 2022

David Andrew Wiebe, October 2021Hey creator!

And there’s always more where this came from

Final Thoughts

Thank you for your creativity and generosity. I’m rooting for you.

“Don’t Fall in Love with an Idea”

“Don’t Fall in Love with an Idea”

We’ve been trying to do the same things with greater intensity and rigidity this past year, and it’s still not working. It’s exactly what’s been happening politically. This year let’s follow a different path. Let’s do new things in a new way.

My friend echoed and cemented the thoughts that had already been swirling around in my mind.

One of the things I’ve been starting to see in my yearlong leadership program is to not get your identity wrapped up in your work.

Experts often say, “don’t fall in love with an idea.” But this is what they really mean:

When your identity is tied into your projects or ventures, you have a tougher time giving it up when it’s not working. Loss aversion sets in, and you start to believe that you have more to lose giving something up than you can possibly gain from it.

That’s a dangerous way of thinking. Because deadweight is deadweight, and like a boat anchor, it can only weigh you down. Letting go of troublesome clients, purging business units that are only taking up time, and giving up “means to an end” projects is word to the wise. What you free up in terms of mental and emotional space alone makes the temporary loss of revenue far less of a concern.

When is the right time to move onto the next thing? Not even author Seth Godin can say, though he addresses the issue from multiple angles in The Dip.

But some part of you already knows. It gnaws at you and keeps gnawing at you. It’s almost as if the universe is granting you an opening to say, “here’s your opportunity to get out – take it.”

If you get your identity wrapped up in your work, you’ll find yourself in love with an idea who doesn’t love you back.

If you get your identity wrapped up in your work, you’ll find yourself in love with an idea who doesn’t love you back. Click To Tweet

The idea you had is somewhere back there, in the past. Meanwhile, you’re right here, in the present. In a difference space and time than when and where the idea was originally created. You were a different person then. And that gap can be too huge to overcome. Repairing a foundation is difficult and expensive. It’s always best to build on a solid foundation, even if it takes longer.

We need to be able to give something up when it’s not working.

“Ready, fire, aim” might seem like wisdom for the ages in a fast-moving world. There’s something to be said for first mover’s advantage, but is there any long-term benefit to it? Only if others don’t come along and do what we’re doing better than we can. And that always happens in hot markets.

Move with speed when you know what you’re doing. Move slowly when there are too many unknowns left unaddressed. And accept that there will always be blind spots, no matter how well you cover for them. We can’t know everything. But we can start with a foundation that facilitates success.

How to Stay with an Idea Until it’s Finished

How to Stay with an Idea Until it’s Finished

So, you’ve started a new project. And it’s gaining some traction. And now that you’ve validated your idea, you want to make sure that you stay with it until it’s finished.

But distractions abound. Ideas overflow. Information overwhelms. And at every turn, you feel as though you could be sidetracked.

Staying focused isn’t necessarily easy, and it doesn’t take much for frustration to set in.

Here are some tips on staying with an idea until it’s finished, instead of ending up with another unfinished project that sits on your hard drive.

Identify the Scope of the Project

I’m often surprised to find that even though creatives have started a new project and have found some traction with it, they haven’t defined the scope or extent of it.

No wonder so many of us end up going on a long, circuitous journey.

You need a clear goal, an objective, or a finish line for your project. Even milestones would help.

Because you could end up working on your project for a virtual eternity, never recognizing when it’s done, or when it might be good enough to publish.

So many of us assume that we will know when we have “arrived,” when we don’t even stop to celebrate the small victories we experience along the way.

Trust me when I say you will have no idea when you’ve “arrived” if you aren’t already celebrating.

You must have a clear picture of what “done” looks like, so you can work towards it, and feel like you’re making real progress.

I would not have completed by first book, The New Music Industry, if I hadn’t identified the scope of the project. And I’m glad I did because The New Music Industry has outsold all my other books combined.

By the way, making deadlines for your projects, even if they are artificial, is a focus hack all its own.

Making deadlines for your projects, even if they are artificial, is a focus hack all its own. Click To Tweet

Gamify the Process

You could also think of this as a reward and punishment system, but I don’t like the word “punishment,” and frankly, creatives and creators seem to do a good job of beating up on themselves already.

The idea would be to attach a score to the activities you do. For instance, if you’re writing a book, writing 1,000 words in a day would earn you 10 points. If you were working on an album of music, spending an hour writing songs would earn you 10 points. And so on.

Come up with a “minimum” score you’d like to meet on a given week or month. And when you exceed it, reward yourself – for instance, you could take yourself out for a nice meal.

If you do not meet the score, then put a consequence in place. Maybe 50 pushups or something like that. But it must be something you’ll do, or there’s no point in having consequences.

Now, let’s be real. Those 50 pushups might be painful, but they’re still going to benefit you. So, while the reward is much more alluring, the consequence teaches you the value of going to work on what matters. Either way, you end up winning.

Given the alternative between going for a nice meal and doing pushups, though, I’d probably choose the meal every time (I’m also a serious foodie), and work towards exceeding my minimum score weekly.

And don’t forget – there’s always a cost to leaving things unfinished. The greatest cost is the damage done to your self-esteem.

There’s always a cost to leaving things unfinished. The greatest cost is the damage done to your self-esteem. Click To Tweet

Cocoon

To some, this will sound draconian, absurd, or ridiculous.

But author Dan Kennedy is so vigilant about his time that he does not spend any time on social media or email. He asks prospects and clients to contact him via fax. And his computers at home are not connected to the internet. They are glorified typewriters.

I’m not saying you need to adopt Kennedy’s system. But you might want to set some hard boundaries in place as you’re working on your project, as you’re bound to get it done much faster in a distraction minimal environment.

You could turn notifications off on your phone. You could even leave your phone in another room while you’re working. That would be a good place to start.

What else could you do to ensure you’re working during the time you’ve set aside for work?

Could you block certain websites in your browser? Could you put a song on repeat? Could you clean up your desktop or downloads folder so it isn’t so messy?

There are many things you can try. It’s just a matter of what works for you!

By the way, if you’d like to learn more about Kennedy’s methods, have a read through No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs (affiliate link).

Say “No” to Shiny Objects

Sometimes, there are no tricks or hacks powerful enough to help you stay focused. Sometimes, it’s a matter of saying “no” more often.

It has been my experience that some creatives and creators are more sensitive than the average person and find themselves succumbing to guilt and pressure. They have a hard time saying “no.”

I’d suggest having a read through Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek (affiliate link). If that book doesn’t reprogram your mind regarding opportunity (and opportunity cost), I don’t know what will.

One of my key takeaways from Ferriss’ book is that most of the communication you receive is not urgent. Sure, the senders will put urgency on it, but whether you add their link to your website is not a life-or-death matter, no matter how many times they cry fire.

And I don’t know about you, but most emails I receive are along the lines of:

  • Let me guest post
  • Add our link to your website
  • Promote our thing
  • Let us be on your podcast
  • We have a new study we’d like you to look at
  • Buy our SEO services
  • And so on

Rarely do I receive communication that’s personalized, relevant, and value-adding to me.

Yesterday, I shared about how you should never let your clients make your schedule for you. Don’t let your inbox make your schedule either. Because it’s just a to-do list other people can add to.

Leave time in your schedule for the things that make you come alive. And deny or put off the things that get in the way of you working on those things.

Leave time in your schedule for the things that make you come alive. And deny or put off the things that get in the way of you working on those things. Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do everything perfectly. Trust me when I say I have created my own Duke Nukem Forever (Back on Solid Ground and Flashes of Elation come to mind – an unfinished album and book). If you don’t know that reference, Google it. 😉

The good news is I’ve also managed to release 26 songs and five books. Not bad, all things considered.

You may lose excitement for a project while you’re working on it. That’s normal. After the initial excitement has subsided, you will enter the “hard middle.” And some grinding out will be necessary. But once you get through it, and near completion, you will start to feel excited about your idea again. Observe that pattern, and then you can be in control of it.

Subscribe to my Telegram channel for more inspiration.

P.S. My new course, the Entrepreneurial Essentials for Musicians Masterclass is available.

This course equips you with practical and timeless mindset advice, along with the skills necessary to make your own way in the music business.

Click on the banner below to learn more NOW.

Entrepreneurial Essentials for Musicians Masterclass

How to Choose Which Project to Pursue Next & Avoid Idea Overwhelm

How to Choose Which Project to Pursue Next & Avoid Idea Overwhelm

Creatives and creators are constantly coming up with new ideas.

And this tendency is often heightened by input – the books we read, the podcasts we listen to, the videos we watch, and so on.

And, before long, you’re swimming in an endless sea of fun, shiny, alluring ideas that all appear to be of equal importance.

That’s a key point. They aren’t of equal importance. Ever. And I can show you why that’s the case.

Here are several mental models, frameworks, and questions that can help you determine what to work on next and avoid idea overload.

Put Some Urgency Between You & What You’d Like to Accomplish

This is something I learned from my friend Amos Bracewell.

It’s human to assume we’ll have unlimited time to accomplish everything we want and at some point we’ll get around to all the projects that matter to us.

What dawns on us, sometimes a little too late, is that if we aren’t selective with how we spend our time, we’re going to run out before we get anything done.

But our mortality isn’t exactly inspiring, and it’s a little abstract and vague for most.

So, instead of trying to induce a premature mid-age crisis, just ask yourself these questions:

  • If I were to die tomorrow, what would I regret not having accomplished?
  • If I only had a year to live, what would I go and do now?

These questions can help you cut to the core of what matters to you.

Your head will only get you so far. We tend to come up with small, limited, mediocre ideas when we rely too heavily on our head.

Listen to your heart. It tends to come up with big, scary but worthy ideas that make us come alive. And when we come alive, it gives others permission to come alive too.

Use the Effectiveness Diagnostic

Yesterday, I explained how the Effectiveness Diagnostic works.

The more things you’ve tried, and the more experience you have, the better the Effectiveness Diagnostic will work for you. It will prove much easier for you to determine what and what hasn’t worked if you have experiences to draw from.

That said, if you have a proven track record with certain types of projects and ideas, then you already know that whatever results you’ve achieved, you can amplify and exceed them by moving in a similar direction.

If certain ideas are unproven, untested, and uncertain, then you know that the results will also follow suit. You can take a big risk and see what happens, or you can set those ideas aside in favor of ones you know will have some traction.

It’s not a black or white, binary decision. At times you will want to take risks. At other times, you will want to lean on ideas that will create predictable results.

Embrace Minimum Viable

The idea that something needs to be perfect or that it needs to be fully developed before it can be shared with the world is dangerous.

“Perfect” is impossible to measure and is an abstract concept at best. It can also slow you down and waste a lot of precious time.

As I’ve shared before, as creatives we tend to fuss over the 20% of polish or icing, when 80% of the cake is already done and is ready for human consumption.

The extra 20% might make us feel better about the project but might not make much of a difference to our fans, followers, customers, and so on.

Some might say author Dan Kennedy’s No B.S. Marketing Letter looks old, dated, or ugly (see below). But note the date. That newsletter came out in January 2019.

Dan Kennedy’s No B.S. Marketing Letter

See, Kennedy is all about what works, not what looks pretty. There is a difference. Of course, there’s no denying that Kennedy is also prolific beyond comprehension (be inspired by the prolific).

Embracing minimum viable allows us to complete ideas, get them out in the world, gather feedback, make improvements, and even earn an independent income much faster than we’d otherwise be able to.

If you have many worthy ideas, then perhaps using a minimum viable framework would help you get to the point of “done” faster, which would free up more of your time for more of your ideas.

Practice Ruthless Focus

I’ll be honest in sharing that I have three distinct focuses right now. They do complement each other, which is one of the reasons I’m able to make big progress in each area every week, but in an ideal world, you would not have more than one focus at a time.

When you’re working on multiple projects simultaneously, you will make less progress overall. Seems obvious, but it’s not simple math.

Stacey Lastoe says it takes 23 minutes (nearly 30 minutes) to refocus after you’ve been distracted.

So, in a day where you have three distractions, you would have lost about an hour and a half of productive time!

Task switching works the same way, by the way. So, if you switched tasks four times on the same day, you would have lost about three and a half hours of productive time.

As noted, I am not a master of single tasking. The best monomaniac I know is Derek Sivers. Turn to his example for inspiration (notice how he’s been pumping out books this year and last).

To summarize, spend more time doing less.

Spend more time doing less. Click To Tweet

Build Your Team

I recently hired a podcast editor as I knew it could free up several hours of my time weekly.

Truth be known, I’ve been putting this off for a couple of years. I was not confident in myself, and therefore I wasn’t confident in handing off this task to someone else.

But the measuring stick of business is independent income. Yes, making an impact is important. The people you interface with are important. Creating a legacy is important.

But if there’s no money, there’s no mission. You can’t make a bigger impact, create more lasting relationships, or build a legacy without generating more income.

My point is that when you free up more time by delegating tasks or hiring contractors, you think more strategically in terms of how to increase your creative income. And that can lead to clearer thinking in terms of choosing projects too.

I understand the struggle of hiring or delegating as much as anyone else. The following post was written with musicians in mind, but you will probably find that most of it applies to you too:

4 Myths That Stop Musicians from Building Their Team

There’s no virtue in being a lone wolf, especially when there are people around willing to help.

There's no virtue in being a lone wolf, especially when there are people around willing to help. Click To Tweet

Create a Parking Lot for Your Ideas

When I sit down to talk with creatives and creators, I am often surprised to find they have nothing written down – not their goals, not their brainstorms, and especially not their ideas.

But why are we talking about writing down ideas when we’re trying to focus more and minimize distraction?

First, if you do nothing with the ideas that come to you, they are as good as lost.

Second, it has been my experience that writing down your ideas tends to reduce emotional investment, thereby facilitating clearer thinking.

Third, we all have ideas. So, we’d be crazy to think all our ideas are good. I have already written down a couple of ideas this year that in hindsight were terrible. It would be much harder to tell without reduced emotional investment. Better to leave some space between idea and execution (which goes back to writing down your ideas).

So, create a parking lot for your ideas. As for me, I have a LifeSheet that acts as my capturing tool.

What is Resonating with Your Audience?

The previously mentioned Effectiveness Diagnostic can assist with identifying ideas and concepts that are resonating with your audience.

I tend to come up with new concepts weekly. Things like #StrategySunday, Weekflow, YearSheet, Effectiveness Diagnostic, Flashes of Elation (a book I’m putting the finishing touches on this year), and so on.

#StrategySunday has clearly resonated with an audience and is therefore worth holding onto. The same goes for Flashes of Elation. As for the others mentioned here, I have no idea.

But that’s why blogging is awesome. I get to put an idea out into the world and see whether it resonates. That saves me from getting too heavily invested in any one idea. If it does not resonate, it’s not worth holding onto.

You might benefit from a similar process. Before becoming too attached to any one idea, you can share it with an audience you think it would resonate with, and if it doesn’t, iterate or move onto the next idea.

What Does Your Heart Say?

As I said earlier, your heart is unlimited. It’s more likely to come up with paradigm-shifting, boundary-breaking, limitless ideas than your head is.

What would be bold? Scary? Unprecedented? Courageous? That’s where your heart tends to go, as suggested by Kyle Cease.

These ideas are worth more than any ideas your head could come up with.

So, if all else fails, listen to your heart. What is your heart telling you? What’s something that would make you come alive? What is something that would benefit your audience just as much as it benefits you?

Don’t try to figure it out. Listen to your heart.

Final Thoughts

Remember – you will come up with ideas that suck. And chances are you will come up with more terrible ideas than good ones.

So, write down all your ideas. Create some emotional distance. Come back to them after you’ve put a bit of time and space between you and the idea. It should become much clearer which are worth pursuing.

Did you find this helpful? How do you choose which project to pursue next?

Let me know in the comments.

P.S. I recently launched my new course, the Entrepreneurial Essentials for Musicians Masterclass.

This course equips you with practical and timeless mindset advice, along with the skills necessary to make your own way in the music business.

Click on the banner below to learn more NOW.

Entrepreneurial Essentials for Musicians Masterclass