By Stephen Brewster
Anyone who is worth their salt creatively struggles with the idea of getting up tomorrow and doing the same thing they did last week. As creative people, we have the spirit of a pioneer and it is that spirit that forces us to explore something new. At the core of moving from where we are today to our next level creatively requires us to embrace our inner pioneer as well as avoid becoming complacent in the work and place we are today.
So today you are ready to get going. You are ready to move to the “next level”. What are you going to do? Here are a few suggestions on how to start your journey to your next level:
1. PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS.
Every detail matters. Details are the difference between good stuff and great stuff. Paying attention to details may not seem creative, but it takes art, design, experiences, and environments to over-the-top levels when we invest the time in making sure that everything that could possibly be addressed gets addressed. When we have a desire to go to the next level, we have to remember to invest in the last 10%. The first 90% creates something good while the last 10% (the 10% that requires the type of effort, work, and attention that most people are unwilling to invest) is what makes our good art become great! Don’t settle for good stuff. You are great and greatness is just 10% more away.
2. ASK MORE QUESTIONS.
Never underestimate the power of questions. Too often we move right into creating and we don’t ask enough questions. “Why” is the first and most important question we can ask. Not “why” from a place of being a contrarian, but “why” thinking how does this fit into our vision and how can we get behind this and put our best effort forward. Questions lead us. They help us uncover the little things that often get lost in communication. Questions can actually inspire the best conversations that will propel us to that next level we are desperate to uncover.
3. CLEARLY DEFINE EXPECTATIONS.
If you want to get to the next level, you can’t waste time on sideways energy. Clear expectations are like turning the lights on in a room. They help us see what is expected, where we are going, and what our target is for each process. If there is any question as to what the expectations may be for you, your team, or the project you are working on, stop right now and get them clarified. There is nothing more frustrating than thinking you are doing the right thing and working toward the right goal only to find out what your boss may want from you is something you have not even noticed. Expectations matter.
4. WORK FROM A PLACE OF INSPIRATION, NOT DESPERATION.
This is hard for most of us because we are dominated by deadlines. But the truth is, to get to the next level we have to be working from a position of inspiration. We need to have dreams, we must have a vision for what we are doing, and we need plans that are inspired and filled with passion. When desperation is our driver, we will never create our best quality work. If you constantly work from a place of desperation, your systems are not right. The next level is way out of reach if you are not able to manage and thrive in your current process. Desperation kills your chances. Even If you have to start small, on one project at a time, find your inspiration. As you develop inspiration for a project it will change how you work. It may require you saying no to some things and it will for sure require you to change how you do what you do. But inspiration beats desperation every day of the week.
5. CREATE MARGIN.
Margin in our creative process is not a cute suggestion. It is a necessity. We have ideas and usually they are good, but most of the time they can be better. Without margin, we are forced to move on ideas before they are totally ready. When we have margin we are able to press pause on our ideas and give them room to breathe. When we can walk away from ideas and return to them with clear vision, it allows us to curate them more professionally. Sometimes we will come back and realize we should start over, and other times we will return to see a masterpiece waiting to be shared with the world. Without margin, the chances of leveling up become very difficult.
6. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE BETTER THAN YOU.
Creativity is better in community. Whether you are a staff of one or a member of a big team, you need people to be better. Be brave and share your art with people you trust. You will be blown away at how community will improve your creativity and propel you to an entirely new level.
7. YOU HAVE TO CARE MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE.
Future Hall Of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis once said: “Effort is between you and you.” Ray was right. The minute someone else cares more about your art or job than you do, it’s game over. God has given you the opportunities that you have and He gave them to you because He knew you could handle them. But more than that, you were destined to excel at these opportunities. How you approach your work and the effort you put into it will determine if you are creating the launching pad to a new level or if you are going to remain where you are today a little longer.
Moving to the next level is not easy. The next level is not very crowded because it requires someone special, someone very special just like you. The next level may feel mythological but it’s not. It’s necessary.
Going to the next level is something that could change your entire community. Are you ready to go?
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