Gearing Up Your Creativity for the Fall…But Are You Ready to Quit Already?
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Back when I was going to school to get my doctorate, I decided to take a Taekwondo class. I studied earlier as an adult but never in a real class situation, and I wanted to regain the feeling of knowing I could defend myself if it ever became necessary.
As I’m sure you know, there are many different styles of martial arts, but even within each style there are subsets, much like different dialects of a language. The style of Taekwondo taught in this particular class was Chung Do Kwan, which is quite popular in the U.S. And just like any subject that you can study, there are courses in the subject that are easy, and courses that are difficult, and sometimes the only difference in whether it’s one or the other is who the teacher is.
As far as taking Taekwondo as a course for a grade, it was easy. As far as taking it for advancement of the skill, it was not.
I’m not speaking of the difficulty of learning the skill or the instructor. The actual learning was great, and the instructor was one of the absolute best. The actual application of the skills though – therein was the challenge. It was possible to take it easy, but if you really wanted to learn to the point where you could use the skills effectively, you didn’t stop at the forms and the light contact practice: you stayed and participated in the full contact class with the more advanced group.
This was no joke – arm pads, shin pads, a chest protector and a helmet with a face mask – when I say full contact, that’s what I mean. I really did want to become confident in being able to defend myself, so I decided to go for it. Kind of. I mean, yes, I did want to do it, but was I really a fighter? With a fighter mentality? No. I was fairly intimidated and somewhat scared of getting in there. And so I bought all of my equipment and I went, but in the back of my mind I secretly had the idea that I could participate and go through the motions and be a part of it all (which impressed my ego) without thoroughly committing to it.
Turns out this wasn’t such a great idea. In a full contact sport, going through the motions doesn’t cut it, and in this case if you didn’t start moving faster, you got hit. Hard. The really advanced guys were always great – they knew how to use their bodies so well that if you didn’t move or block, you still got hit, but they could control their energy so as not to knock you across the floor. Some of the other guys, however, hadn’t gained that ability yet, and if you got hit it hurt like hell.
I got hit a lot. I recall one particular class when this happened and the guy caught me on my side right behind my chest protector and cracked my rib. I remember swallowing my pain (and my pride) and staying tough while I was in class, but after I left I cried. I got beat up, and it hurt physically and emotionally. As I walked back to my car I contemplated quitting. Why would anyone want to do this? On that walk I realized I had a decision to make: I could either quit, or I could really commit and train more often so I’d get faster. The course only required going to class twice a week. But one could go as many as four times a week and to more than one class a day. Two classes just over an hour each was the minimum requirement. And that wasn’t good enough to hang with the hard hitters or to really be able to use the skills in a real life situation.
I decided to go more often.
This event was a defining strength building moment in my life. And I realized it applied to everything. Trying at something is fine. And when you fail, you are inevitably faced with this crossroad: do you identify the potential issues and resolve to become more committed if necessary? Or do you wallow in the rejection, defeat, and disappointment, perhaps even resorting to anger or flippancy, and entertain feelings of wanting to quit or threatening to do so?
If I had been giving it my all from the beginning, and if I had taken the time to really assess where I was missing opportunity, if I had talked to my instructor and gotten feedback in order to improve faster, and I had earnestly attempted to apply that feedback and then further communication about that process – if I had done all of that over a course of some time and I was still getting hit hard, perhaps then it may have been time to have a serious conversation with myself about whether I should continue to study. But before I thought about quitting, I really hadn’t done any of that stuff. I went to class, I listened, I was a quick study, and I was actually fairly talented at the sport, but I wasn’t really committed.
If this resonates with you, you’re not alone. This is a very common occurrence in creative and performance fields: you have a talent, there’s some validity to know you are fairly good at said talent, you’re going through the motions of learning to use or using said talent to make a living, but the results aren’t really what you want. So here’s what I would ask: what have you done so far to make that happen? What assessments have you made recently? Who have you talked to about your work? What kinds of planning have you done? What does your current cultivating of your work consist of?
Have you truly committed to creating the best work you can, or have you relied on your talent and just satisfied the minimum required by others?
Here’s the thing: getting better at something is hard work, and really refining a skill to what can be considered a professional level takes even more work. It takes time, and assessment, and making a mess, and getting feedback, and reassessment, and fortitude. It takes analysis when it’s not going well and confidence at that time, too. And it takes big picture thinking. Before you bemoan what’s going on with your field or with your talent, take an honest look at what you’ve been doing and what’s been working and what’s not been working. Consider whether you’ve really been giving 100%, or is it possible that for one reason or another you’ve been giving less?
Ego-wise, giving less than your all is practical. That way if you fall short, there’s always a part of you that knows you aren’t really sure what would have happened if indeed you had gone all in, and secretly this also saves you from rejection. Well, I didn’t really do everything I could, so…
And look – if you do take the time to assess your level of commitment, and you discover that you’re not giving your all, you do have a choice. Maybe that level of commitment and investment and sacrifice for something is not really what you had in mind, and that’s ok. After all, most people who enter into a creative field were not informed of the solopreneur part before getting into the creative part. Deciding you don’t want to do something is not a “bad” decision. You should honor what’s truly right for you. The point here is to consider whether any thoughts of quitting are coming before or after a true assessment of your situation and what you are willing to do about it. And what you are willing to do about it is up to you.
So if this describes you, take a moment and dig deep. You might find there’s quite a lot to do still before you can honestly say you gave it your all.
P.S. I still throw a mean roundhouse kick. 😉
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