You have a great new idea for a creative project that’ll move your business forward.
It feels exciting and sexy. You’re pumped, because part of you thinks this’ll be the best thing ever.
You know it’ll be hard to actually build your thing, but you dive in anyway because that’s what you do. You’re an entrepreneur. You create. You know you can do it – you believe in yourself. As you should.
You’re happy because you’re starting, and you have everything to look forward to.
Unfortunately, by the time this project is done, you’re going to be frustrated. If not downright miserable. The thing you’ve created – that used to hold so much promise – won’t be nearly as bright and shiny as you hoped. It’ll feel barely adequate. You’ll be disappointed in yourself. You might even feel as if you half-assed it.
The good news? This cycle that you’re experiencing isn’t real. It’s all in your head. There’s a weird set of psychological biases in play, making you miserable. And you’re not alone. Turns out every business owner struggles with The Creator’s Curse…
The curse of learning as you go
If there’s one thing I’m always ranting about, it’s that entrepreneurship is a journey along – and up – a learning curve. Starting your own business is the ultimate commitment to personal development. Just by sticking at it, you’re going to relentlessly build capabilities in all sorts of areas you otherwise wouldn’t.
Whatever you’re creating, you learn about as you go. The act of building something enrolls you in the school of life, hard knocks and street smarts.
The more you create, the more you know.
You start with a plan to create something amazing – something that’ll stretch your ability, as it stands, to finish. Then you do finish it, but you’ve improved throughout the process. You got better as you built.
Now you look at that thing that once seemed so ambitious, and realize you’re capable of more.
So you make more. You start the next thing. Again and again. Forever.
This is the creator’s curse.
Every project you work on accelerates your growth – as a person – to a place where your skills supersede the original scope of the project.
Every time you think you’re “finished”, they’ll always be more to do – because the more you learn, the more precise your definition of “truly finished” becomes.
The grim reality of the creator’s curse is that you’ll never be ecstatic about anything you create. You’ll always be painfully aware of how much better you – and the things you create – can be.
The creator’s curse may be exact that for you, it’s a blessing for everyone else.
The grateful beneficiaries of your curse
While you’re chasing the ever raising bar of your expectations, you’re producing a body of work that’s incrementally improving at a remarkable rate. We the people, your customers and fans, are grateful.
The visionary creators – entrepreneurs and artists every one – who’ve lived whole lifetimes cycling through the creative curse, have literally changed the planet.
Your pain is – literally – your customer’s gain.
I wouldn’t be the Shrink for Entrepreneurs if I wrapped this article up by saying: “That’s just the way it is. Suck it up and keep creating!”
You can never escape the cycle of self-growth superseding your projects. You’re always going to be better, smarter and more ambitious tomorrow than you are today.
But you don’t have to be miserable.
How to break the curse
There’s a one step tactic to producing great, creative work and being happy at the same time:
Remember how far you’ve come.
The creator’s curse breeds painful dissatisfaction because it revolves around the gap between what you’ve recently become capable of, and what you just finished.
When you look back – far back – you reconnect yourself with how far you’ve come as an entrepreneur and creator. You can appreciate the soaring arc of improvement that spans your career, your output and your skill set.
Most of all, when you look back, you can reconnect with the positive impact your work made even back then.
This last part is the true secret: By keeping a swipe file handy of customer testimonials, positive feedback, reviews and more… you can stay mentally plugged into the value you’ve created. The swipe file is important, because you won’t naturally default to remembering this stuff – you need the cue.
Even though you now know you can do much better, you can be happy and satisfied in the knowledge that your old work did make a big difference.
A while back, I had video interviews with some of my clients recorded… thinking that it’d be a great sales tool. Little did I know that I’d come to appreciate it for something else entirely: The video serves as my reminder.
When I’m learning new psychology and wondering how I ever did therapy without knowing what I *just learned*, I take a look back at that video. It reminds me that, back then, even when I knew none of the cool stuff I’ve learned in the last year, I was nevertheless kicking ass and taking names. And my customers loved me for it.
Remember how far you’ve come. When you do, it thoroughly reframes your perception of your growth and improvement.
The truth is, you WERE making an impact back then. And now you’re significantly smarter and more awesome. So now you’re making even more impact. And that can only be a good thing.
The creator’s curse might just be a blessing in disguise.
What can you do to remind yourself of how far you’ve come?