Executing your face off
All creativity begins with the moment of conception.
That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.
Based on my books in The Prolific Series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.
Today’s clip comes from the forging scene in Incognito:
Ideas are free, execution is priceless. I’m a big believer in small victories. Getting your brain wired into little goals and achieving them. Even if it’s as simple as writing an action item on a sticky note, doing it, and crossing it off. The point is getting into the habit of continually setting goals that have to be met. The point is surrounding yourself with concrete evidence of execution on a small scale, which inspires you to achieve bigger things down the road. This past year, for example, I stopped make to do lists. Because they were just scraps of paper filled with ideas. But I don’t need ideas, I need I dids. And so, instead, I started keeping a victory log. A real time register of my executions. I bought a five dollar day planner from the office supply store, and instead of writing wishes for what I wanted to happen at the start of the day, I started writing achievements for what I made happen as the day progressed. Such a simple change, and yet, it was life changing. Emotionally invigorating. Completely shifted my philosophy about productivity. Because with each entry into the victory log, I felt more confident and more momentous and more satisfied. The ledger almost became a game to see how many things I could accomplish in one day, or if I could beat my record from the previous day. Never underestimate the power of small victories. Where do you keep your visual record of progress?
Internal creation of inspiring conditions. Waitzkin’s book about peak performance talks about creating ripples in your consciousness, little jolts to spur you along, so you are constantly inspired whether or not external conditions are inspiring. It’s the smartest way to stay productive. Digging your well before you’re thirsty, as it were. One technique for doing so is with associative triggers. These are the tools that echo your habits of action and allow you to enter into your creative zone. When I’m composing a new song, for example, I always spend a few minutes listening to my songwriting playlist first. This curated collection of inspiring music, to which I add new tracks every week, is my equivalent of lighting candles or smoking pot or doing shots. Because it’s the routine that’s linked to the inspiring state of mind required for peak creative performance. It’s not guaranteed to produce a hit single every time, but the associative trigger of the playlist never fails to create the fertile ground where the moments of conception are more apt to occur. And so, the trick to being prolific is to ensure that there’s something going on all the time, not just the moment you sit down and decide to start working. In the absence of external stimulation, we must be our own monitor, creating our own internal mechanism for inspiration. What are the associative triggers that allow your art to get done over and over again?
Make your own music. Harry is an expert forger of famous paintings. People pay him big money to travel around the world and play cover songs, so to speak. But his family urges him to use his talent on his own original work. Not just because it’s, ahem, legal, but because it’s an opportunity to become a legitimate creator in his own right. A true artist, not just a painter. Huge difference. Artists follow the muse, painters follow the numbers. They don’t play cover songs, they make their own music. When I used to perform music in bars and coffee shops, people would yell out names of songs or artists they wanted to hear. And that infuriated me. Because I didn’t come here to swim in the shallow end. I have an agenda, and people’s crappy childhood songs aren’t part of it. Eventually, though, I became so frustrated with people’s disinterest in hearing original music, that I stopped performing in public and went into music hibernation for nearly a decade. Which I completely regret. I allowed the voices of mediocrity to get the best of me. I allowed public taste to overwhelm personal expression. Fortunately, though, hope found its own way back. I started performing in public again. But this time, I brought the fire. My fire. I created my own venue, my own permissionless platform, where I could do whatever I wanted. The music was all expression and zero apology. And nobody seemed to mind. In fact, they quite liked it. Funny what happens when we give ourselves permission to make our own music. When did you start singing in your own voice?
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What did you learn from this movie clip?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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