Think You Don’t Have the Time or Talent to Launch Your Big Idea? Says who?

It should come as no surprise that our own minds are not always the most reliable guides to whether we have the resources to pursue our goals.  And by resources I mean energy, time, money and everything else.  Sure, we can overestimate our possibilities and go tilting at windmills.  But I find that, more often, people underestimate their possibilitiesand assume that pursuing their ideas will require far more in the way of resources than may be the case.  Parts of very competent and creative people can still fear being overwhelmed by a project.  And parts of very competent and creative people can also fear falling in love with it and having to make life changes, in order to serve it.

So, who says we can’t launch our big ideas?

Well, far too frequently, the answer is we do.

 

What’s So Scary About a Big Idea, Anyhow?

One of the reasons for our own naysaying is that we may tend to look at creative projects—whether starting a business or writing a book or pursuing another degree (which does qualify as a big and creative idea)—in one big chunk, rather than in the small pieces of which they are really made.

Here’s an example:  Hold a mystery novel in your hands and look at the hundreds of pages and the publisher’s imprint on the spine of the book and the acknowledgements page, and you might be tempted to doubt your ability to write a mystery novel.  Or take a look at the requirements you’ll need to complete that divinity degree, and you might opt for reading a few books by other divinity scholars and leave it at that.

The trouble with those examples are that they’re like looking at a brick wall and telling oneself that it’s far too daunting to construct.  If you think of it brick by brick, instead, it’s a very different prospect.

 

How to Chop Your Big Idea into Little Pieces

  • Think of pursuing your goal or idea as a series of manageable steps, not a gargantuan undertaking. It’s okay to imagine taking small bites.  Write a single page of a mystery novel each day, and you’ll be done with the draft in a year.  That’s pretty quick, right?  Put a one hour meeting a week on the schedule for a conference call with your likely partners in a possible new venture.  Take just one or two courses at a time, and you’ll still be on your way to that graduate degree you would treasure.  So what, if it takes longer?  You’ll be on your way.  That’s glorious.

 

  • Just start. See, it’s tough not to think about the 100,000 bricks you need to lay to construct a wall, if you wait to get moving.  But, pick up just three bricks and resolve to get started, and you might lay six of them.  So, get started in a small way, even if your big idea is gigantic.

 

  • Allow yourself to quit. Huh? What?  How can that be?  What the heck are you saying, Ablow?  Well, here’s the thing:  If you consider your next big idea or project to be a prison or a life sentence, then the inherent desire to be free—which can feel a lot like  anxiety—can derail it.  So, remind yourself that you’re a free agent.  If the project becomes boring and seems to stay boring, you’re going to get out.  If a business you start ends up threatening your financial stability, you’ll effort lots of options, but you don’t have to agree from the beginning to sell your home. You actually don’t have to
    “burn the boats.”  You can decide, rationally, whether to stay on the island.

 

Think About the Scary Part of Not Pursuing Your Big Idea

Here, I’ll just say it:  You don’t want to get to the end of your life, turn the pockets of your soul inside out and find them missing some of the really good stuff.  And some of the really good stuff is those imaginative and creative and profitable ideas that God or the Universe put into your head and heart.  So, if you have one of those, or more than one, and you keep putting on the emergency brake, beware.  None of us lives forever.  What you choose to do, especially the original and bold stuff, really does matter.

 

Don’t Think You Get Only One Bite at the Apple 

If you aren’t able to make a project succeed, or three projects, or more, that does not matter.  Sure, you should try to figure out whether there’s a common thread—say, impatience or wishful thinking—messing up the projects.  But you shouldn’t assume that the fourth project won’t be the one that “goes.”  And you shouldn’t assume that the business you started and stopped because the timing was wrong isn’t one you’ll revisit down the road.  The road is long.  Lots of twists and turns.  But it’s a labyrinth, not a maze.  There are no dead ends in a labyrinth; you just have to keep walking.

Okay, one last thing.  If you’ve read this blog from beginning to end, there’s a reason.  You have an idea in mind, already.  Embrace that fact.  Don’t let it scare you.  You have the idea; it doesn’t have you.

 

Keith Ablow

Founder of Keith Ablow Creative

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting Over the “Am I Kidding Myself?” Hurdle

After talking with enough creators about their plans, I have identified a hurdle to creative expression.  I want to share it with you so that you can clear it.

The hurdle, if it could speak, would say something like this:  “Sure, I may have the desire to write a book or start a business or run for office or create art, but my desire isn’t unique and what I would offer the world isn’t going to change the world substantially enough.  There are better books than I would write.  There are better political minds than mine.  Van Gogh was ten times the painter I could ever be.”

Call it the “Am I kidding myself?” hurdle.

Let me tell you another name for it:  It’s called resistance—resistance to following through with your own creative destiny.  Steven Pressfield wrote a whole book about it called The War of Art  which I wholeheartedly recommend.

The truth is that your book may or may not rival one by Fitzgerald.  Your paintings may or may not sell or win critical acclaim.  Your business may or may not revolutionize an industry—or even make it past year one.  But no one can write the book you will or paint the painting you will or start the precise business in the precise way you will with its precise goals.  No one.  Once the seed of a creative idea is planted in your mind, it is an original. Period.  Because you are an original.  And that’s why what you create really could change your life or the lives or others, or both.  And if it does, then no one else could have done it in that way, at that time, for those people.  No one.

You have no idea when or where or how your creativity will take flight, because you’re not supposed to know.  You just have to serve the Muse, not ask her a bunch of questions.  Because you can’t possibly figure out how your brainchildren will resonate in the world. It could be the case that you sell a million copies of your book and write ten more and change hearts and minds for the better. Or, it could be that you don’t even find a publisher for your book, but that your daughter or your grandson or your brother or your friend ends up motivated to express her or his creativity because you showed the courage to express yours.  And maybe her creation takes flight—partly using fuel you provided.

See, God has a plan for you.  And those creative thoughts of yours aren’t accidents.  At all.  If you’re not a religious person and don’t like the word, “God,” then substitute universe.  The Universe has a plan for you.  Just don’t doubt it.  Don’t block the gears turning in your mind that can get gears turning for the rest of us, in ways you can’t possibly predict.

J.D. Salinger described it really well in Franny and Zooey

In that book, Franny has given up acting because she thinks that the audiences don’t understand her work and that it won’t amount to the grand, heart and mind-changing series of performances she apparently anticipated (at least, it hasn’t yet).  But Zooey knows better than to agree that his sister should have any idea how her work is going to resonate in the world.  Who knows, after all?  Certainly not the artist herself.  Here’s what Zooey tells his sister about the night he saw her in summer stock theater:

“ . . . I’ll tell you, buddy.  You were good.  And when I say good, I mean good.  You held that goddman mess up.  Even all those sunburned lobsters in the audience knew it.  And now I hear you’re finished with the theatre forever—I hear things, I hear things.  And I remember the spiel you came back with when the season was over.  Oh, you irritate me, Franny!  I’m sorry, but you do.  You’ve made the great startling goddamn discovery that the acting profession’s full of mercenaries and butchers.  As I remember, you even looked like somebody who’d just been shattered because all the ushers hadn’t been geniuses.  What the matter with you, buddy?  Where are your brains . . . ?  It’s this business off desiring, if you want to know the goddamn truth, that makes an actor in the first place . . . .  Somewhere along the line—in one damn incarnation or another, if you like—you not only had a hankering to be an actor or an actress, but to be a goodone.  You can’t just walk out on the results of your own hankerings.  Cause and effect, buddy, cause and effect.  The only thing you can do now, the only religious thing you can do, is act.  Act for God, if you want to—be God’sactress, if you want to.  What could be prettier?”

Enough said.  You get my point.  Or Salinger’s.  If you need help getting underway, I’m here to help.  I would love to.  You know where to find me.

 

Keith Ablow, MD

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SIX MONTHS OF KEITH ABLOW CREATIVE Celebrating True Creative Synergy (Again and Again)

Six months ago, I launched Keith Ablow Creative, in hopes of bringing my expertise in writing, producing and launching new businesses to others.  I didn’t know what to expect, of course.  New ventures have an inherent element of uncertainty.  That’s part of the fun, actually.

Far more has happened than I could have imagined.  One person and one company after another has reached out with worthy ideas that we have teamed up on.  And the results speak for themselves.  Here’s a sampling:

 

A New Book

I teamed up with a wonderful healer and writer Kathi Fairbend, MS, RPT to create and publish her new book, Stand Up To Depression: How to Activate the Mind Body Miracle and Defeat Depression.  Ms. Fairbend, one of the nation’s top physical therapists, makes the very important case that one’s posture can signal the mind that a person is moving forward in life, not giving up, and can actually help conquer depression.  John Williams, Composer/Conductor, of the Boston Pops and Boston Symphony Orchestra said of the book, “If you are lucky enough to acquire a copy of this book, live by it!”  And Donald Ingber, MD, PhD, the Founding Director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard said, “In essence, Kathi offers a potential escape from the downward spiral of depression.”

 

A New Album

I teamed up with brilliant new recording artist Ohana Haas to find a production team to create and release her first album,  The Broken.  The album was produced by recording artist and PR guru Christian Josi, founder of Slay Media and top-flight musicians, at Manhattan’s historic Pyramid Studios 

 

 

A New Television Program

I teamed up with Jack Cunningham, a decorated Marine veteran, to develop a scripted television drama called Combined Action, a drama series based on the Marine Combined Action Program (CAP) during the Vietnam War. CAP placed Marines inside South Vietnamese villages, living alongside villagers, as their friends and protectors, for long periods of time.  This counterinsurgency program was extremely effective at maintaining allegiances with the South Vietnamese, but it was very dangerous.  CAP Marines not only had to worry that their presence made the villages prime targets for the Communist North Vietnamese, but also that those they were living alongside might turn out to be the enemy or, if not that, might abandon the village if fighting got too rough.  They also had to live with the possibility that, when they left the village after a year or more, the village might be quickly overrun and burned to the ground by the North Vietnamese.  This is a drama series about emotional connections between Marines and Vietnamese villagers, with humor, drama, intrigue and pathos.

IT’S TIME TO TELL THE STORY OF CAP MARINES

 

We’ve got lots more happening at Keith Ablow Creative and I can’t wait to share more soon.  If you’re passionate about it and want to team up on it, I’m all ears and I’m driven to make what you can imagine become a reality.

 

Keith Ablow, MD

Founder, Keith Ablow Creative

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NETWORK TELEVISION: TIME TO TELL THE STORY OF CAP MARINES

Recently, I teamed up with Jack Cunningham, a Marine who served in Vietnam.  Jack has been pursuing the very laudable goal of developing a television series based on the Combined Action Program (CAP) of the Marine Corps.  He’s also helping me get the word out about my initiative #HELP22, founded with Commander Kirk Lippold, USN (Ret) and Christian Josi, to provide free life coaching and counseling to veterans on the 22nd of each month.

 

About the Combined Action Program

CAP placed Marines inside peasant farming villages, living with residents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  For this reason, CAP was called “A Peace Corp with Rifles.”  The assignment was an amazing opportunity to live in an entirely different culture and to be integrated and accepted into that culture.  Incredibly strong bonds formed between villagers and Marines.  But the assignment was also extremely hazardous because the North Vietnamese wanted to obliterate villages that hosted CAP Marines and because any resident of the friendly village might still be a Communist sympathizer quite willing to kill a Marine.  Generally, just 11 Marines and one Navy Corpsman lived day in and day out with thousands of villagers.

 

About Jack Cunningham

Jack has devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy to describing the highs and lows of life as a CAP Marine, even creating a website that does a very good job of sharing his experiences (http://capveterans.com/).  Here is just a bit of Jack’s writing that shows the razor’s edge CAP Marines had to walk between the real and very human bonds they developed with villagers and the peril inherent in trusting those bonds:

Over the next few weeks we came under fire a number of times during the day and night. (The communists were constantly trying to instill fear in the peasants.) On a number of occasions we received intelligence reports from [the villagers]. The Civil Action Programs within the village created a lot of trust of the American boys. We also received intelligence that we were going to be wiped out.

These reports caused some of our Popular Forces (village militia) to disappear at night. They felt why fight today when there’s always tomorrow. Some PF militiamen even took off their uniforms and hid them, along with their rifles, so they could blend into the peasant population.

  

About CAP Marines

Imagine the dedication required to keep fighting for folks you’ve become connected to who aren’t always willing to fight for themselves. Imagine the empathy required to remind oneself that members of a village militia, as laudable as many of those men must have been, just aren’t likely to be made of the stuff of U.S. Marines.

 

What is Jack’s Goal?

By the way, Jack isn’t looking to get rich collaborating with a television production company; he’s looking to enrich the perspectives of Americans about the kind of sacrifices Vietnam veterans made for the United States and for Vietnam.  The story of the CAP Marines is perfect terrain because it shows Marines like Jack becoming fixtures in the lives of South Vietnamese men, women and children, about whom they cared very deeply, while they risked their lives to battle the Communist North Vietnamese.

 

I think it’s time television told the stories of CAP Marines, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude.

 

Keith Ablow, MD

Founder, www.theablowcenter.com

Founder #HELP22

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Announcing The Keith Ablow Creative Writing Contest

Winners Chosen Weekly.  A prize from The Ablow Center is awarded to the writer who writes 500 words judged to have the greatest potential to make others think more positively about themselves or the world around them.    Click the following link to enter: https://keithablow.boston/contest-entry-form/

Dr. Keith Ablow has published 15 novels, true crime and self-help books with major publishers, collectively selling millions of copies. Two of his books were New York Times bestsellers. To encourage other writers, Dr. Ablow’s new website KeithablowCreative.com will host a weekly writing contest. Contestants must submit a maximum of 500 words that show insight into, or engagement with, the world around them.  Writers must post something inspirational or positive about any one of the following topics:

Police, veterans, religion or spirituality, reflections on a newspaper article from the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, NY Times, or the NY Post (please include a link to the article), the benefits of counseling and life coaching, gun rights, the judicial system (courts, judges and the jury system) or personal autonomy.

The first 25 entries each week will be reviewed, with $50.00 awarded to the winner, along with a virtual certificate which the winner is free to post to social media. Each winner will be recognized on Keith Ablow’s website and eligible for an annual grand prize of $1,000.00.

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Creativity Begins Where Anxiety Ends

Too many of us are locked in self-consciousness. We worry about how we will be perceived by friends and family, or colleagues, or that great nameless, faceless mass of folks known as “the public.” Anxiety of that kind is the enemy of creativity because creativity requires the courage to be judged. Whether writing or painting or sculpting or inventing a new product or starting a new business, there will be no shortage of critiques and critics. And the more raw or original or iconoclastic the idea, the louder the criticism will be. Get it just right as an artist/inventor/entrepreneur of any kind, and you can plan for lots of pushback—at least, initially.

Since this is the case, one way to tap into your creative spirit is to start brainstorming with this unfinished sentence, “If no one would ever know, I would try to create __________.” Or, you could use this unfinished sentence: “If no one would ever know, I would write about ___________.” Or how about this one: “If I knew no one would laugh at me, I’d design a __________.”

It’s worth using a device like this to get to your creative core because the fear of self-disclosure is actually paper tiger. You won’t lose anything worth keeping when you uncover and share the deepest level of your creative soul; you’ll gain the power to connect with others at that level. And that’s what a creative life is all about.

The interplay between anxiety and creativity isn’t a one-way street. Sure, anxiety can limit your creative output. But if you keep your creativity bottled up, it won’t just remain peacefully contained. It will start to churn uncomfortably, underground, and actually cause anxiety.

Even when a person is engaged in a creative process, it can take a conscious decision to burrow more deeply, in order to get to even richer sources of creative energy. Not infrequently, when writing the series of essays included in my book To Wrestle with Demons, I had to challenge myself to reveal more of my thoughts than I initially felt comfortable with. In fact, the reflections that initially begged to remain private ended up being the ones readers said they connected most with. That’s no surprise; we are more alike than different in what we fear and so much more alone with our anxieties than we need to be.

Self-revelation crushes anxiety and fuels real creativity because it accesses core truths. Just take it from one of my favorite authors, the late Harry Crews. Crews had written without any success for years. Then, he finally decided to stop pretending and start sharing who he really was. That’s when his work started to sell. One novel after another. Here’s how he described it:

I was sitting in a tiny room at the typewriter trying not to wake up my eight-year old son. Beside me in boxes were manuscripts. All rejected. Rejected because they were no good. I’d written five novels and hundreds and hundreds of short stories. I’d written ten years, and not a word had seen print . . . I was a writer. A fiction writer. And a goddamn good one. It was in me somewhere, but something had gone horribly wrong . . .

I turned and looked at all that worthless work stacked against the wall. Why was it all so goddamn bad? Because by then I knew the work I had done, and was doing, was no good. I had worked just hard enough and had learned just enough to know that I wasn’t neglected or overlooked by several thousand dumb publishers of one kind or another. No, I was a twenty-four-karat fake; that was the trouble.

For many and complicated reasons, circumstances had collaborated to make me ashamed that I was a tenant farmer’s son. As weak and warped as it is, and as difficult as it is even now to admit it, I was so humiliated by the fact that I was from the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp in the worst hookworm and rickets part of Georgia I could not bear to think of it, and worse to believe it. Everything I had written had been out of a fear and loathing for what I was and who I was. It was all out of an effort to pretend otherwise. I believe to this day, and will always believe, that in that moment I literally saved my life, because the next thought—and it was more than a thought, it was dead-solid conviction—was that all I had going for me in the world or would ever have was that swamp, all those goddamn mules, all the other beautiful and dreadful and sorry circumstances that had made me the Grit I am and will always be. Once I realized that the way I saw the world and man’s condition in it would always be exactly and inevitably shaped by everything which up to that moment had only shamed me, once I realized that, I was home free.

Yes, indeed. He was home free. He went on to publish many acclaimed novels and collections of short stories. His biography Blood, Bone and Marrow, written by Ted Geltner, was published in 2016.

I want you to dare to do it. Free yourself from anxiety by diving into the creative work you worry might reveal too much about you. Challenge yourself to peel away layers of defenses keeping you from sharing the core of you. You will never be weakened in the effort, only made more powerful.

Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, Keith Ablow Creative

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Be Wildly Creative – Now

I want you to be wildly creative. What does that mean? It means that you’re not going to get anywhere staying in your lane and thinking what you’ve been taught to think and doing the things you’ve been told to do, because they’re safe, predictable or make you look productive.

If you’re going to actually be the wildly creative person I want to be, and you want to be (or you wouldn’t even have gotten this far in this blog), you’re going to have to get dirty doing it. You’re going to have to leap at an idea that breaks into your consciousness, but needs you to leap at it, without a perfect safety net.

Let’s be honest: You already know one or more creative projects you’d like to leap at. I know you know because it usually only takes me two or three questions to get to the creative heart of someone who becomes a client of mine. Here’s one of them to get started with: “Is there something you used to love to do, but left it aside because it seemed impractical or a pipe dream or might end up not making you money?”

Well, here’s a newsflash: thoughts and impulses are not random events. God or the Universe doesn’t tap you on the shoulder for no good reason. When your heart and mind are taken by an idea or impulse, it means you are supposed to pay attention to it and may well mean that you are supposed to take action.

What might taking action look like and feel like? First, let me tell you what it need not look like and feel like:

• Walking out on your job
• Moving away
• Emptying your bank account and buying an Airstream trailer and hitting the road

The point is that all the drama that folks assign to really moving forward with a creative idea is usually resistance to the idea. It’s their minds saying, “Well, I would do x, y or z, but that would mean bailing on my family or my employer or risking being homeless.”

Um, no. Being wildy creative usually begins with modest steps in the direction of a dream. A future artist buys a canvas and some paints. A future screenwriter registers for a screenwriting seminar. A future entrepreneur sets aside one night to start searching the internet to see whether someone has already exploited her idea. A future teacher whose working as a software salesman (which is fine, but not if he’s meant to be a teacher) gets online and looks at teaching programs that can take some of his undergraduate credits.

There’s no U-Haul in site. There’s no luggage being packed. No satchel full of cash.

Now, if you’ve read to this point then you’re supposed to take your first wildly creative step. That’s right—supposed to. You’re supposed to get out of your own way and do the thing your imagination—which is wired to the Infinite—is telling you to do. Be revolutionary and take a small step in that direction. Commit to the step. Irrevocably. Show your intention to serve the Muse.

One step paves the way for another. That’s how creativity works. It’s like the flipside of an addiction to a meaningless drug (and all drugs are meaningless)—and a more powerful force by far. In fact, true creativity will obliterate addiction to anything without significance. It takes no prisoners. It yields for nothing. It just needs a beginning. A sentence written on a page starts a novel, or a business plan, or the lyrics to a song.

Who leaves a single brush stroke on a canvas? Nobody. How many people never place that first brush stroke on canvas. Countless people.

How many people write one sentence of a novel and never write another. Very, very few. How many people never dare write that first sentence? Countless people.

You get it. Now, get going.

(And, if you want to turbocharge your creative life, you know who to call. I’m gonna make it really easy . . . wildly easy . . . 978-462-1125.)

Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, Keith Ablow Creative

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NEED AN IDEA FOR A NOVEL OR SCREENPLAY (OR NEW BUSINESS)?

ASK YOURSELF ONE TWO-WORD QUESTION

When I began writing novels, I reached out to a writing coach named Gary Provost. Gary, who has since passed away, had a remarkable talent for simplifying the process of creating storylines. It was partly because of his excellent guidance that I began my Frank Clevenger series of mysteries.

Gary shared with me a simple tool to come up with the theme of a short story, novel or screenplay. It was this two-word question: What if?

I think Gary’s two-word question is a great way to jump-start creative work of many kinds. Certainly, it works for works of fiction:

What if an unknown fighter from Philadelphia suddenly got a shot at the Heavyweight Championship? (Rocky)

What if an alien got left behind on earth and was discovered and housed by the kids who found him? (ET)

What if robots began to have human feelings, with potentially disastrous consequences for humankind? (I, Robot)

If you are feeling a bit blocked when trying to think up a story worthy of a work of fiction, try using the “What if?” question yourself. Let your mind wander. What if you opened the door to your home and everyone in it seemed to be a stranger? What if a couple who were down on their luck stumbled upon what seemed like the perfect plan to rob a bank, tucked away in their attic by the wife’s great grandfather? What if Abraham Lincoln reappeared on the earth and sought the Presidency?

Okay, I happened to just come up with those and fire them off, but you get the idea. With a few hours of blue skying, you can probably come up with several of your own. You certainly don’t need to commit to anything at first. The whole idea is to make “What if?” a recurring theme in your creative imagination.

Of course, the “What if?” question doesn’t need to apply only to fictional projects or entertainment projects. It’s a great question to use to get your mind in the space to think up potential inventions, new business ideas or ways to reengineer your current business.

“What if?” is the opposite of “What’s the sense?” It’s an inherently optimistic platform from which to envision new horizon. It’s a question that invites your imagination to come out to play. There are no wrong or dumb or outlandish answers to the “What if?” question. Because the question is so open-ended and so inviting of bold ideas that all thoughts are welcome. The more the better. It might take dozens of ideas you don’t ultimately embrace to come up with the one that you do. But that’s still lightning fast.

Need a little more prompting? Try these:

What if I woke up tomorrow and . . . ?

What if I opened the window of my office and . . .?

What if I was looking at my arm and . . .?

What if the phone rang, I picked it up and . . . ?

What if I was just walking through the mall and . . .?

I could go on and on and on. So can you. Trust me. And that’s the point. Your creative imagination is infinite. Sometimes it just needs a jump start.

Keith Ablow, MD

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How to Keep Your Self-Esteem High

PLAY YOUR GAME!

(Or How to Keep Your Self-Esteem High, when the Rewards Only Come Later)

One of my favorite scenes in a movie is the scene in Miracle, when Kurt Russell, playing U.S. Olympic hockey team coach Herb Brooks, yells at his players, “Play your game!” The last minutes of the now famous U.S. versus Soviet Union hockey game are ticking by, and Brooks wants his players to remain undeterred by Soviet attempts to make them lose focus.

Mind you, almost no one gave the American team any chance of defeating the Soviets, who were a hockey dynasty, considered unbeatable by all the experts.

Just take a look at the last minute of the game, in case you haven’t seen it. Because it is testimony to what can happen when focus and determination trump everything.

Well, I think, “Play your game!” is some of the best advice those with creative goals could ever hear. Why? Because, for anyone pursuing a career as a writer or artist or entrepreneur or musician or poet, the world is full of potential distractions and discouragements. And it’s very tough to remain committed to one’s path—especially a creative one—when the risks may be high and the pay may be low (if only termporarily).

Human beings have a tendency to compare themselves to one another, ceaselessly. The entire market for luxury goods and homes and cars depends on it. So, you’ll be constantly tempted to not “play your game” by friends and colleagues who take less uncertain paths to more certain financial rewards or greater status.

Here’s a little advice from the first psychiatrist I ever went to as a patient—Dr. James Mann. Yes, even psychiatrists go to psychiatrists. Actually, I was Chief Resident in psychiatry at Boston’s Tufts/New England Medical Center, at that time. And I told Dr. Mann that I wanted to complete work on a literary novel during my “free” time, but that a friend of mine had suggested I pivot to a different genre that would be more likely to sell lots of copies and make me more money. “The last place you want to end up,” Mann said, “is in a first class seat on a flight going somewhere you don’t want to go.”

Translation: Play your game, not anyone else’s.

This advice is particularly important for young people who need to navigate, absorb and make sense of all the feedback they get from friends, parents, teachers and coaches as they move from one grade to another and one school to another. Because the educational system as it is currently constructed—almost everywhere—is a soul-crushing, mind-numbing machine that rewards abandoning oneself, in favor of rote memorization of inert facts and useless skills. So it’s worth reminding our sons and daughters, again and again, to play your game, meaning to measure themselves according to whether they are developing strong character, whether they are expressing themselves creatively and intellectually in ways they value, whether they are learning leadership skills and autonomy, and whether they are avoiding any undue self-criticism.

You deserve no less. Make no mistake: When you journey boldly forward to pursue your true creative dreams, you are playing your game. It is not easy. But the rewards cannot be reproduced by playing according to anyone else’s rules or trying to achieve anyone else’s goals.

It shouldn’t be surprising that you might want a coach to help make that happen. If that’s the case, I would be honored to be the creative partner you deserve. Just email me at [email protected] or call 978-462-1125.

Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, Keith Ablow Creative

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LET GO, THEN GET MOVING

HERE’S HOW

So many of my counseling clients (The Ablow Center) and creative consulting clients (Keith Ablow Creative) can envision the next chapter of their life stories, but need some help actualizing the next chapter. Why? Sometimes it’s about resources, but very often it is about the resolve to let go of something they have, in order to get something else that speaks more to their heart.

This is a very human dilemma. Lots of us are risk averse. And we tend to interpret change as risky. “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,” is such a common adage that it appears in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and lots of others.

The roots of this risk aversion seem to be hard-wired into us. As kids, we need encouragement to let go of the edge of the pool to begin to learn to swim. We need some prodding to let go of our comforting blankets or stuffed toys, in order to move forward toward independence. We need to be coaxed to let go of our parents’ hands when we start school. We literally need help to let go, then get moving.

Well, part of my job is to encourage my clients to let go of something that they have, in order to get something that they want. Sometimes that means letting go of a job to start a business. Sometimes it means letting go of an investment to trade into another. Sometimes, it means letting go of some income, in order to become a part-time (or full-time) artist. And it has been my absolute privilege to see many people I have worked with do just that. They have let go, in order to get moving toward goals they treasure.

I don’t want to minimize the psychological/cognitive shift required to let go, then get moving. In the book The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield makes a convincing case for how difficult the shift really is. He says that “resistance” to let go, then get moving is responsible for most of people’s unrealized potential:

Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher. It kicks in when we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch an innovative enterprise, or evolve to a higher station morally, ethically, or spiritually.

So if you’re in Calcutta working with the Mother Teresa Foundation and you’re thinking of bolting to launch a career in telemarketing . . . relax. Resistance will give you a free pass.

The late Robert Pirsig, in his astounding book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, used a metaphor to describe how difficult it is to let go, then get moving. He wrote about “the old South Indian Monkey Trap,” which “consists of a hollowed-out coconut, chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole.” The trouble is that the hole is big enough for the monkey’s empty hand to fit through, but too small for his hand full of rice to fit back out. “The monkey is suddenly trapped,” Pirsig says. He can’t re-value the rice. He can’t see that freedom without rice is more desirable than capture with it.

We’re all vulnerable to this trap.

So how do you break free? How do you let go, then get moving? Here are three ways to begin:

    1. Don’t think about trading one journey for another, entirely.

Put a toe in the water. By this, I mean that if you are considering letting go of a career as a travel agent to become a travel writer, don’t tell yourself that you would have to quit, have no income, grab your laptop and start traveling the world, writing all the while. Buy a book on travel writing and read it. Or choose one location you are transfixed by and query half-a-dozen magazines about whether one might accept a piece from you, about that place. Or write to a few noted travel writers and ask for some advice on transitioning. Taking one step toward the next chapter of your life story can make the next step easier. Then, the steps can fall very much into line.

    2. Stop assuming that you can’t be the one who succeeds.

Lots of us stymie ourselves from bold next steps because we assume they never yield real success. Sure, there are people who start businesses and make a fortune, but those people are few and far between, aren’t they? Actually, no. There are lots of them. You might be one of them, but you have to envision real success, in order to make it real. And even if the business doesn’t make it, won’t the experience be invaluable? Will you really be unable to recapture the income you had prior to taking the risk? Unlikely.

    3. Believe that your idea was given to you by a Higher Power.

It doesn’t matter if you believe the Higher Power to be God, the Universe or some mysterious location in your central nervous system. The idea has meaning. If it keeps beckoning you, then there’s a reason for that. It isn’t random or ridiculous. It’s real. Explore it.

Finally, if you need help letting go to get moving, then get a coach. I happen to be a life coach and counselor, so I’m biased. But, really, the power of two is not just 1 + 1. An exponential increase in energy is possible when you have someone in your corner, asking tough questions and also offering real support and encouragement (especially if that’s someone who has lots of success stories to draw from).

Ready? If you weren’t, you’d never have read all the way to the end of this article.

Keith Ablow, MD

Dr. Keith Ablow is the Founder of Keith Ablow Creative and The Ablow Center

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