2 questions to ask yourself before starting a huge project

When an American friend greets you, she’ll say, “Hi, how are you?” And the ‘how are you’ part isn’t expected to be answered. But if you ask a German from Berlin, they’ll answer it. They’ll tell you how horrible work was. Their boss made them stay and work late on some big project.

A Berliner tells you every detail. Because you asked and Berliners are direct. If this article sounds direct, it’s supposed to be.  A huge project takes a lot of energy.  No one wants to start then have resistance take over in the middle of it.

So this article serves as a gut check.

It’s supposed to be a bit scary.  The creative’s job is to go into the depth of nothing all by himself with nothing.  And when he comes back, he’s got a piece.  So let’s see if we can overcome the gut check.

First, let’s define a huge project.

We can describe it in the amount of time it’ll take. Including time where the project doesn’t go as planned.

  • less than an hour — not a project. I’ve never considered eating a meal a project.
  • a few hours in one day — not a project
  • a whole day — a proj.
  • multiple days — a small project
  • a week or two — a project
  • multiple weeks — a good-sized project
  • multiple months or over a year — a huge project

Now that we’ve defined what a huge project is, let’s get to the questions.

[Adapted from Do the Work by Steven Pressfield]

There are only 2 questions. Yes, two.

1. How bad do you want it?

– Dabbling — “I wonder…”
– Interested — “This would be pretty cool.”
– Intrigued but Uncertain — “…, but…”
– Passionate — “This could change the world!”
– Totally Committed — “No one’s stopping me. I will die to finish this. No other project will start before I finish.”

If your answer isn’t the last one, if you’re not totally committed, then resistance will take you over. Resistance will win.

Are you totally committed? Great! Let’s go to question number two.

2. Why do you want it?

  1. Money
  2. Fame
  3. Power
  4. For the chicks (or dudes)
  5. For fun or beauty
  6. I have no choice
  7. I deserve it
  8. To prove somebody wrong
  9. To serve my vision of how life should be

Can’t decide? Write them down on paper. Cross out the lowest 6. Then cross out 2 more.

If you chose #5 or #6, start working.

If there’s a different reason, you have to check some things at the door.

If you bring them into the creative space, resistance will win. Here are those things to leave at the door:

– Your ego
– Your sense of entitlement
– Your impatience
– Your fear
– Your hope
– Your anger

And that’s not it. You also have to leave behind:

– Anything bad that happened if you were accidentally born e.g. neglect, abuse, mistreated, unloved, poor, etc.
– Anything that happened if you won the genetic lottery e.g. rich, cute, tall, slim, smart, etc.
– Also include everything above that you earned after you were born.

The only things you get to keep and take with you are:

– love for the work
– desire to finish, and
– your passion to create your piece

So now you know what you don’t get to bring with you.

But when do you start?

There’s so much you don’t know.  You get to read 3 books on your topic.  That’s it.

3 books and get started. Now. Resistance loves procrastination. It hates momentum.

If you’ve already read 3 or more books, what do you do next?

Outline. Outline the ugliest, the worst thing you can think of.

Get that idea out of your mind and on paper. Are you drawing a comic? Put 3 ugly boxes on the nearest napkin and the basic phrases. Are you painting the next Mona Lisa? Draw a big circle, then 2 circles for eyes, then a slight smile.

Think you need more knowledge? More research is resistance in disguise.

You’re already an expert on your topic.

Weren’t you supposed to check your ego at the door? If you’re writing a book, you can always get feedback on the first draft. Maybe your reviewers can’t give you the solution. But they’ll highlight the problem.

There is no summary to this article.

If you passed all the benchmarks.  Start.  Pick up your brush every day.  Type 20 minutes everyday.  Work.

Jake Berger
 

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