How do you know if you’re ready?

Like really ready?

Well with some things like athletic achievements (which I know exactly nothing about) you would train, increase your speed, or weights, or times or other sportsy measurements and then you’d know exactly when you were ready for the next step.

Or say you have a job. You perform over and above the expectation of the job, you’d take all training that was offered, and probably volunteer for extra projects. Eventually, you’d spot the next rung on the ladder and go after a promotion or a better job because you have increased your skills—both business and the “people” kind and you would, for the most part, know you were ready.

In each of those scenarios there are obvious markers, guideposts, or someone saying, “Yes, you’re ready to move on”.

But what if you’re on your own; forging the path of bringing your creative ideas and amazing self to the world, how do you know if you’re ready?

Well, guess what?

You don’t.

You just have to be ready enough.

You already know that stepping out of your comfort zone is hard. Not like, “Oh, I have to speak to the Joint Session of the UN with 10 minutes notice” hard. More like, “He-e-e-y? I’m been working on this idea for a while and I’d really like you to see it” hard.

Way different.

And here’s a little secret: you don’t have to be ready for everything that could happen as a result of you moving forward, because frankly, you can’t be.

It’s impossible to know all that.

But you’ve done hard stuff before so you know that with any move you will have some discomfort. And discomfort isn’t so bad. I mean, you go to the dentist occasionally, right? You use self-check-out scanners at the supermarket from time to time*. These things aren’t fun, but you have proved over and over in your life that you can do the uncomfortable, the awkward, and the “deep breaths, we’re almost through here” moments and come out better for it on the other side.

I actually think you are readier than you think you are. And so do the people around you**. I mean, haven’t you been dreaming about and reading about and talking about this thing for like, years already?

So yeah, you’re ready enough.

And you know it.

*actually the invention of the devil

**Trust me, I talked to all of them and they said you are more than ready for this thing.

Don’t forget that I am live on Facebook each Thursday at 3pm eastern time talking about how me manage this creative life (and these creative brains). The videos are also on YouTube!

Confidence or Guts?

“I just need a little more confidence”.

“How can I feel more confident”?

“I just don’t have the confidence to do this”.

I’m not sure you can just “become confident”. It’s not something you can decide you will be or declare it to be so.

Confidence is earned.

The key ingredient to becoming confident (along with a decent haircut, btw) is just plain guts. Releasing your curled toes that cling to the edge of the diving board.  Making the phone call. Pressing send on an email. Showing up at an event that scares the crap out of you. Walking up to the mic and asking the question.

So where do you get the guts? We all feel afraid the first time we did something. And discomfort is all part of growth and skill-building. I mean who was completely confident to sit down with their lunch tray at the cool table in junior high except for someone who had either done it before (and didn’t die) or the ones among us who are truly fearless (or completely delusional)?

But that’s not me and probably not you either.

I remember going to an event with my sister Chrissie a few years back. I have no memory of what the event was, I only remember that neither of us knew anyone except each other. My natural inclination was to skulk along the wall, dart over to the snack table and then slip out the back door (you will notice that I always make sure that snacks are part of any plan worth doing). But no, my sister Chrissie put out her hand to the closest stranger and said, “Hi, I’m Chris”.

Now, what kind of madness is that? Introduce yourself to a stranger? What? You think you’re MOM or something? This is the kind of activity that I felt completely uncomfortable about for years. If fact, when it was Girl Scout cookie time, I actually wrote out a script to try to sell cookies to my very own aunts!

Fast forward a few decades and I realized that my best shot at making any money and fulfilling my creative dreams was to be an independent illustrator, primarily licensing my art for cute and fun products. But that required making calls, sending cold emails, and showing up in person.

How was that going to work?

I had to figure out how to go from here (broke artist with a reasonable okay portfolio) to there (thriving artist with a few royalty streams at any given time). But I figured if I had learned how to draw well enough to go pro—a task that required many hours of practice, study and sheer grit to get better at it, then this part of the biz could also be practiced and studied too. But at the end of the day, it was the “sheer grit” part that took me to the next level.

Was I confident I could do it? Of course not. Was a I bundle of fear and uncomfortable dorkiness? Of course, I was! But the actual doing of the thing that made me the most uncomfortable was the thing that brought me to the thing I always wanted. Yeah, confidence.

And when you have done it enough times and by doing so you saw this thing called “success”, confidence takes over and you don’t need as many guts. You’ll remember, “oh, yeah, I did this before and I didn’t die”.

Confidence comes from accomplishment. Guts come from, well, your gut. When staying where you are no longer serves you and you’ve run out of excuses or diversions, conjure up a memory from when you demonstrated a little moxie (even if you have to go way back to our Girl Scout Cookie days)  and use that feeling to propel you to where you want to go.

I promise you won’t die.


PS. Right after I published this I started researching quotes by Aretha Franklin and this popped up:

“Be your own artist and always be confident in what you are doing. If you’re not going to be confident you might as well not be doing it”.

RIP Queen of Soul

Sorry, You’re not Lucky.

Original Painting by Ronnie Walter ©Ronnie Walter

A few weeks ago I had a coaching session with an artist trying to shift her business from one market to another. Several times in the conversation she mentioned how lucky she was to have such great clients and how lucky she felt about making such a good living. I suppose that luck could have something to do with it (I really don’t, but we’ll go there for the sake of argument).

After I heard her again tell me how much luck had to do with her success, I stopped her. And if you tell me how lucky you are, I’ll tell you the same thing.

You’re not lucky, you’re accomplished. You set the wheels of success in motion yourself. Maybe you met someone by chance, but you moved the conversation forward, you made the effort to bring something deeper to that random chat.

You sent out the work, made the call and followed up. You were the one that finished the job on time and wowed your customers. You were the one that set the goals, managed your schedule and showed up even when you didn’t quite feel like it.

That’s not luck. Luck is finding a twenty-dollar bill on the sidewalk. (But heart is trying to find the owner.) Luck is for people who think the rest of us are “lucky” for our success. Yes, sometimes the stars seem to align, and you meet the right person who needs your work at exactly the right time you showed it to them.

Sorry, still not luck.

That’s you making the creative work that resonates and staying connected “out there”. That’s you doing the hard work over and over and refining it until you see results.

You’re not lucky, you’re accomplishedand freakin’ amazing.

Remember that.