A few days ago, I ran a promotion where I gave away 30 minutes of my time to anyone who wanted it. Just 30 minutes, and folks only had 24 hours to take advantage of the offer. You know what was great? I had so many people book in a call with me that I barely have a moment free for the next week.
I was astounded at the response, and I felt so lucky that there are people who want to talk to me about entrepreneurship and creativity. It was inspiring, astounding, and a little scary. I started doing the calls yesterday morning, and so far I've taken 43. Over 2o hours of good, honest conversations.
Here's the two biggest things I've learned about you over the past couple of days.
So many of you have big dreams and don't know where to start.
That's been a big eye opener for me. There are a lot of people who I spoke with who know exactly what they want to do with their lives, they just aren't sure of the first step to take. They're worried about what will happen if the step they take is the wrong one. They're worried about what other people will think of their first step.
My advice? The first step almost doesn't even matter. It can be anything. Any small action. Any action at all. The point of the first step isn't to get it right, it's just to get started. You only get started by taking the plunge.
You're people have experienced pain and loss, and are getting back up again.
That's something that amazed me. The strength of the people who read this blog, and who are members on Creatomic. You have such a strong, powerful dedication to getting right back up again and giving it your best shot. I've spoken to cancer and abuse survivors, people whose businesses have failed, people who have had to drop out of college to support their families - and all of these stories had such hope in them.
My advice? Life isn't about never getting knocked down. It's about getting up, every single time.
For me, I've always said that life isn't just about what you achieve. It's about what you overcome. There's so much that we struggle with, and we don't always have the advantages that other people have. I think there's a lot to be said for measuring your success in the blood, the sweat and the tears you've put into your dreams, not in something material like a load of cash in the bank.
Doing these calls has reminded me of how true that really is. That's the story of the Creatomic community, more than anything else. It's a story of people who are brave, who have learned to be tough, and who have learned that it takes raw guts to follow their dreams.
I think that's something to be proud of, as a community member. To be proud of the fact that the people who read this blog, and join in with the mission are strugglers, strivers and battlers. I know I couldn't be prouder.
This is about advertising. Specifically, advertising on social media.
One of the most difficult truths of any social platform is that for businesses, the window for organic growth and success is really quite small, and it tends to cover only the first few years of a platform’s existence.
Beyond that period, businesses will struggle to reach success without paying for it. This is the cold, hard fact. It’s one of the reasons social media is still media. It won’t give you much for free.
So, brands pay. They pay for ads, and they pay for those dodgy fucking posts that may or may not be ads. The ones you see everywhere for skinny tea.
The people who post those skinny tea ads are abusing their audiences. They're duping them. They're pretending they actually care about the folks who click, subscribe, follow and like. But they don't. If they did, they wouldn't lie to them about these products.
You can say I should give these influencers the benefit of the doubt, that maybe they authentically do use and endorse these products. But as soon as money comes into play, there's no authenticity at all.
Ultimately, your audience are worth more than just the money you're paid to shill something. How do you want them to feel...as though you're interested in the time they've invested in you? Or as though they're suckers lining up to make you rich?
I can't mention Skinny Tea brands without commenting on the incredibly dangerous body image that they and their promoters are pushing. It's unhealthy, it's unintelligent and it's crazy shallow. I'm sorry if you don't agree with that - but a person is more than their body in a bikini.
When you got up this morning, did you take any time at all to think about what you were doing? I'm asking for an honest answer. When you woke up, did you wake up at all? Did you roll out of bed, groping for your phone and stumble into the bathroom, with it?
Okay, I've done that. I still do that, every now and then. We're almost programmed to do that, these days. It's a part of this modern mode of existence where we function almost without living. It's pervasive.
There's so much going on, so much to engage and entertain us, that there's not a lot of room left for conscious thought. Not really, and not often. We have devices in every area of our lives, in every room, in our cars, ears, hands, eyes...and it all does one thing.
It keeps us moving, and it keeps us going, without pause for thought.
That's not a criticism of anyone's life. It's a criticism of what tech companies and entertainment companies are doing to us almost without us noticing.
I've climbed into my car, multiple times, and driven somewhere only to not be able to recall a single moment of the drive over. Not a single moment. I was on autopilot the whole time. How dangerous is that? Is it sadder than it is dangerous?
What if I told you that you could get to the end of the line and have the same thought about the life you've lived? What if you reached your last days and realised that you'd been living on autopilot and you can't recall much more than the stop signs and traffic lights and bad drivers along the way?
I know it's hard to break out of this rhythm. We're not meant to. We're meant to dive in deeper and deeper with each new innovation, reality TV show and social post. But we don't have to live like that. We can set boundaries.
Boundaries like putting down the screen, turning off the TV, looking out the window and noticing who's walking by. Boundaries like sleeping with our phones plugged in another room so we aren't constantly aware of their presence. Boundaries like spending time talking to other human beings and making eye contact and not letting our thoughts slip away.
When I get to the end of wherever the hell I'm going, I don't want to look back and ask myself where all the time went. I want to know.
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Here's a thought about the way we handle failure.
When I first messed up, I used to tell people that it was okay - I'd get used to it.
I learned that phrase from the people around me. You don't like your job? Get used to it. You're tired? Get used to it.
As though life might be a little better if I just acclimatised myself to the misery. That's a bad attitude to have, and it's not one I have today.
I have a very different perspective today.
I don't want to get used to anything. I don't want to get used to writing Creatomic, or get used to being an entrepreneur, or get used to feeling loved and excited about the world. Getting used to it means no longer noticing it.
I want to notice it all. Constantly. Every single day. I want to notice the good and the bad, and I want to feel the good and the bad. I'm on a crazy journey, just like everyone else. But the journey's only worth while if we're moving with our eyes open.
I know that it's easy to let even the most extraordinary parts of your life become commonplace.
I've seen it happen before. Look at what it means to fall in and out of love. To fall in love, you have to be hit with the powerful, overwhelming force of one of humanity's strongest emotions. You meet someone, and you're smitten. Your mind shifts, your soul shifts, your heart shifts. You can lose your words and your breath and your way all at once.
But despite how powerful that is, people still fall out of love. It doesn't matter that at one point their heart felt so strongly about a person that the earth moved - at some point, they just got used to it. And when they got used to it, they stopped valuing it And when they stopped valuing it...they stopped feeling it.
If we can let it happen to the way we feel love, how can we ever say that we won't let it happen about other parts of our lives? Our businesses? Our passions? Our hobbies? The things that make us excited right now, how can we say we'll never just get used to them?
I think it's all about choices. I choose to wake up every single day and like what I do. I make a choice. I don't wait and see how my mood feels for the day. Because I'm a sentient human, and we have the power to decide things for ourselves. It's the best thing about us.
We can decide not to just get used to it. And I hope we do, because the world I can see is so extraordinary, I never want to reach a point where I see it as commonplace. Not ever.
This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately.
One of the things I've changed my mind about - the older I've become - is the idea that we're all on our own. I used to think that my business, my entrepreneurship, my emotional ups and downs were all meant for me to deal with in isolation.
I used to be of the misguided opinion that it was a sign of weakness if I wasn't able to handle everything. If I wasn't able to function at 100% without the influence, assistance or companionship of the rest of the world.
I don't believe that's the case. Not now. Over the past few years, I've had some experiences that have shown me the truth in that.
One of the worst nights of my life was spent drinking alone in a bar in Sydney, with tears running down my face. Outside it was pouring with rain, and inside I was focused on the complete failure of a business that I had given everything to.
A young woman came up to me, sat down and asked what was wrong. I think I was so taken aback by it that I just opened up, honestly and vulnerably, without hesitation. We must have talked for about an hour, about my business and hers - as it turns out, she was a pretty successful founder herself - and we forged a connection I've never forgotten.
She pulled me out of my low point, as a total stranger. To this day, I haven't forgotten the debt that I owe her, and I haven't lost touch with her. She was my emergency contact, and I didn't even realise it until she came out of nowhere to help me. To hold out her hand and tell me to get up.
I think we have to be open to having experiences like that, and to giving experiences like that. Since I founded my blog and turned it into the business it is today, I've been amazed at the chances that have been given to me to do the same thing for others as they've done for me.
Just yesterday, I got a call on my Skype from an 18 year old from England. She's been feeling lost and unsure and she knows that she wants to break out of her current situation, shake the foundations and create work that she'll be proud of. We must have talked for at least an hour, about what it means to be 18 and how hard it can be, wanting to take your place in the world but not knowing what that place is, or if there's a vacancy for whatever it turns out to be.
It was the highlight of my week. Because I was able to connect with someone who needed it, at the moment that they needed it.
We're all each other's emergency contact, we're just waiting for the right time.
Creative people suffer depression. Entrepreneurs suffer depression. We don't like talking about it, because who does? Who wants to seem vulnerable, and open, and who wants to show their deepest selves?
But the thing is, the more we hide it, the more we make it seem unacceptable for ourselves and others to feel it. To experience it. To struggle with it.
I like to be extremely open about my own struggle. I suffer depression, and I have for a great many years. Yet, I'm happier and steadier now than I've ever been.
A huge part of that has been using a notebook to track my moods, my triggers and my experiences. I write in it every single day, almost every single hour. I make a note of what my emotional status is, and what has contributed to it.
If I don't know what's made me feel a certain way, I take note of everything I've done, or everything I've gone through since I last wrote, and I try to find causation through correlation. It's not a perfect system, and yes - it fails from time to time.
But it's the way I've been able to get on top of my mood swings and my down moments. It helps me to recognise where externalities are affecting me and guard against them, while also avoiding feeling like I'm betraying myself or failing just because I feel something.
You know, I don't think that emotion is a dirty word. I've said that a lot. I think that there's something inherently wrong with assuming that only positive emotions are good and all other emotions are bad.
So I don't advocate trying to cut any emotions out of your life completely. Sometimes, sorrow and sadness can play a huge part in creativity, in our choices, in the things that make us who we are. The trick is to find a way to manage that, to find balance wherever possible.
I care a lot about the readers I have. Largely because I've spent years slowly building up an audience of people who are interested in what I have to say. That's been an amazing ride, and I wouldn't have missed it - or done anything else over the past couple years - for all the world. To me, this new membership only publication is just an extension of that.
It's an opportunity to get a little closer to me and what I do, to support my mission, and to read the raw, no filter content that can sometimes get a little lost when I'm publishing for a wider audience. So I want to thank you for jumping on, putting your hand up and choosing to support Creatomic in this way.
Here's how this is going to be working.
The regular content will still go live on Medium.com every single day. But every afternoon, a new and exclusive post will be featured on the membership only site and nowhere else. It will be more of the content that you love, with no bells and whistles - just great writing (I hope) and great ideas (I promise).
Every Friday, a weekly report post will go live, and that will be specifically about running an online business based on content, running the business that I believe in, and the actionable tips and information I've learned that you can put to use in your own business.
Starting next week, every Friday there'll be a live Q&A session for the community, where people can jump on and ask anything, and talk about business, creativity and living independently. I'm particularly excited for that, as I see it being a great chance to connect with each and every one of you.
There will also be a Slack community.
That's going to go live the week after next. I'll be on it every single day, ready to chat to folks, talk about what you're working on and going through and encourage community discussion around Creatomic, entrepreneurship, self-improvement and being who you are meant to be. I want this community to be bold, encouraging, nurturing, and fucking fun. So let's make sure it is.
The first members only post goes live this afternoon. Thank you!
No, you’re not an idiot for starting a service based business. If anyone tells you that, you can make one thing clear. They don’t understand you, they don’t understand your business, and they don’t get to tell you what business you should be spending your time on.
I can remember reading those words. 10 years ago. A Facebook status, from some asshole who I used to be friends with. A guy who’d let me down, and now wanted nothing more than to hurt me. Hurt me by calling me a failure.
I'm big on meditation. It hasn't always been this way, but these days meditation matters deeply to me. It matters because it's important to me to maintain a balance in my mind and my spirit.
If you’re any kind of a creative, you have to face the facts. Sooner or later, you have to face the truth. People don’t give a shit anymore, not the way they used to. People don’t give a shit about the work we do, and why.
I’ve read the same stuff as you. I’ve read the same articles that promised me success above all else, success guaranteed, success in 5–10 easy steps, lessonsand lifehacks. I’ve read them all for the same reasons as you, because I felt lost and uncertain and I needed something to guide me.
Almost nobody cares about you. At least, not enough to do something about it. The default position of the general public, of all your audience and all your readers, is that they honestly don’t give a damn about you. They might read your blog, and they might go follow you on Twitter, but they’re not going to automatically want to be involved with you.
- Almost everyone is going to think about growing and scaling, sooner or later.
- Almost everyone is going to make their plans, make their play and hope it pays.
- But the reality is, actually scaling is where almost every business fails.
I don’t want you to fail because you didn’t have a plan.
I don’t want you to fail because the lists you read made it sound so easy and you forgot that it’s supposed to be hard.
Networking is a funny concept. And it’s poisonous. It’s about trying to work a group of people, and their contacts, in order to get something from them. I hate that whole concept, and I’m big enough to admit that part of the reason I hate it is that I suck at it.