You have great taste. And it’s killing your work.

wine_taster_1What’s your most enjoyable pop music out there today? Mumford & Sons? The Lumineers? Carly Rae Jepsen?

Please. Get that weak sauce out of here. For ten minutes of toe-tappin, wide grinnin joy, try Andrea Perry. She has been quietly producing inspiring music in her home studio in Austin TX, and she has the catchiest beats and phrases around. And no one digs a deeper groove than Mofro.

Read non-fiction? I once sent a note to Dan Coyle after reading a chapter in which he managed to metamorphose a car chase and a bank heist into a tale of accelerated learning and developing remarkable talent. Brilliant. And don’t get me started on Laura Hillenbrand. I just finished Unbroken and can’t shut up about how marvelous it is.

We have opinions. That’s ok. Just don’t let it kill your work. After I listen to Willy Porter, I get inspired and walk into the living room and pull out my guitar. Then I make some noise on the guitar, and sadly know that I’ll never sound like him. But again that’s half the point – only Willy Porter sounds like Willy Porter. You don’t need to sound like him. You only need to sound like an inspired version of you.

Years ago, for months I went out to the Portland Headlight with our dog, at dawn, at dusk, under blue skies, in the falling snow, when storms were looming, to take photographs of that beautiful lighthouse. Then one day someone said to me, “You know, that’s the most photographed lighthouse in the world.”

I almost quit the effort. And then I didn’t. I decided that of the millions of prints and postcards of the Portland Headlight, at the very least I would produce a signature image – something perhaps not iconic and sublime, but at least my own.

Here’s the thing: what often inspires us to paint, write, play, dance, or join the masters soccer team is that we know excellence. We recognize beauty and talent and art and skill when we see it. And then we have a go at it ourselves and find it intimidating. We decide we suck.

Remember these truths:

  • You will learn something. It’s impossible not to. You just decided to learn how to make crepes from scratch? Yes, they will probably be sad, tired crepes your kids won’t eat the first time, but you are guarenteed to learn something. You’ll wind up asking your friend the french chef or wandering through recipes on epicurious
  • You will get better. Well, you may actually get worse before you get better. It’s ok. It’s common. But you will improve. Incrementally, in fits and starts until you turn that killer riff into a full song, that idea into a full blown argument.
  • People are cheering for you. Really they are. People want you to succeed. Even that cantankerous curmudgeon in the IT department who ignores your pleas for help. When they took a chance, pitched a new idea and stood out on a ledge at the last department meeting, you were impressed.
  • People will jump in and help you. I have a friend who talked about creating a distillery. He decided to just get started – start creating what he dreamed of instead of talking about it. Then all kinds of people came out of the woodwork to help. What you chat about over the water cooler is valuable but it isn’t action. What you draw on the back of the napkin is interesting, but it isn’t compelling until you take hte lead – take the chance. And when you do, others see what you’re attempting and recognize intersections of where they can help.

Something interesting happens when you start by creating value and realizing your ideas. People show up, They show up with ideas, support, and energy because they sense something being realized and want to be a part of it, they want to help.

Show up every day, and never believe you are a genius. But do believe that every once in a while one might visit you and blow pixie dust on your work.

And no one says it better than Ira Glass