Move your “NO” to “HELL YEAH!”

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
~ Will Durant

An absorbing, energising and inspiring conversation recently has me musing on the process and the act of writing and what it can bring to us. In that conversation, I was nudged to remember and once again sign up for the wonderful thought-provoking curations of Maria Popova and her Brainpickings (highly recommended!).

In that conversation I was guided to an article:  “Jennifer Egan on Writing, the Trap of Approval, and the Most Important Discipline for Aspiring Writers“, which has an anchor quote of:

write regularly jennifer egan

“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”

In leadership, so often we fear failure. For all the talk about recognition of the need to change, innovate, take risks, we have so many biases (confirmation, conscious, unconscious etc) against actually taking risks, actually failing, actually trying to do something new, different, something that could add value in new ways, change business, change lives, change society !

To riff with a series of Seth Godin aphorisms, what if we just “shipped”?, if we said “this might work”?, if we recognised that the risks in the legend of Icarus are not only to avoid flying too close to the sun but also to ensure we don’t fly too low and get dragged down into the waves by the air currents hitting our wings of wax and feathers?

To really innovate, we must change risk-averse behaviours, get comfortable being uncomfortable.

So, how do we change that behaviour?

I love that Jennifer Egan article on Brainpickings.  So much is in it, including Dan Gilbert’s aphoristic summation that

“human beings are works in progress [who] mistakenly think they’re finished”

Be curious, keep stretching yourself, keep learning, try something new, be ok with writing badly, see failure as growth.

What have I done myself to practice this?

In recent times I have observed myself showing resistance to certain ideas, saying “NO” to things. To move from a “NO” to a “YES” can take time, energy, breaking of inertia.

So, I decided that where I see myself repeatedly showing resistance to an idea, and where my inner wisdom tells me I really want to, need to do it, I’ll do things differently to break the inertia.

I choose to move from “NO” to “HELL YEAH!

What does that look like? Two Examples.

First, Podcasts.

Some years ago podcasts were big among people and ideas I follow, then they waned in popularity, and now again so many people I follow in writing are now moving more and more to podcasts. People would keep sending me links to podcasts to listen to, but I would find reasons not to listen. Excuses such as “I don’t have a car or a regular commute”, “they are long, take time to listen to”.. blah, blah, blah.

I felt resistance, so a few weeks ago I said “HELL YEAH!” and that pendulum swing looks like declaring I will produce my own podcast. Four days later, in conversation with a new contact, our chat turned into something that we both very quickly agreed we would structure as a podcast. I then turned to two friends who are already podcasting and here we are, sometime in July the podcast will be recorded.

Second, Writing.

For years people have told me to write a book, and I kept resisting, saying I prefer to write short pieces. Uh-huh, resistance again! So, in a few months, I have rented a house on a Greek island for two weeks specifically for a creative retreat. I’ll invite two or three other people looking to similarly focus on their creative work, and we will spend our days in a wonderful environment creating something we will commit to “ship” at the end of the two weeks.

What will that look like for me? By then I will have over 300 articles on this site, so that may look like an ebook collated and curated around a theme. Am also considering developing my #OpenLeadership model further (it has been ageing nicely since I came up with it a year or so ago, like new whisky in barrels it sits with me daily as I write on this site. I may also design a new workshop format around one or more of the concepts I have shared here (Seven Leadership Archetypes is a front-runner!).

As you can see, I feel ripe with possibility and opportunity now, and it came from committing to write daily. Again as Jennifer Egan said:

 “You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”

What is your “NO” you can move to a “HELL YEAH!”?

What can you commit to doing to move yourself there? Write daily? Podcast? Perhaps it is to run a 5k, where “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. Whatever it is, start today and keep going, “write” regularly, be willing to write badly, and remember that we are what we repeatedly do.

Go forth and write badly 🙂