What Your Work “Should” Look Like…or Should It?

photo 2This is what we all wish our important goals and work projects always looked like, isn’t it? Pretty…orderly… with a great title attached to it… I mean, Red Poppy Cafe is just delightful. The flowers are beautifully crafted. The grass is so green, I want to take off my shoes and walk in it. Every detail is in its perfect place. This gingerbread house is a winner in every way.

That’s what we tell ourselves our daily work should look like. And in some ways, this is true. If you’re going to ask someone else to read what you’ve written, watch a video you’ve created, study that client report you produced, or whatever it is you’re working on, you’ll want to give that person a path as nice as the candy flagstones in the picture here.

The other part of the truth, though…the other side of the coin…is that our accomplishments aren’t always this neat and lovely. Whatever we may be working on, it certainly doesn’t start out looking this attractive. Nope, when we create, our first version of our project usually looks more like this.photo 1 edited

This is the work of a three-year-old, by the way.

But don’t we all feel, when we start learning a new thing or taking on a task that’s bigger than anything we’ve done before, that our first efforts are the sprawling work of a toddler? The building blocks are scattered. Glue gets everywhere. The walls fall down. It’s messy.

But it’s colorful too, and the joy of creation is evident in every sloppy, pragmatic inch of what you’ve made.

In talking with a friend just a few days ago, I was reminded once again that it’s important to maintain our sense of joy in whatever we do. It can be business or personal… But if you’re not willing to love the process of following through on a project, no matter how messy it looks when you’ve finished, then you’re missing out on one of the most precious parts of life…

…the moment you connect with someone over what you’ve accomplished…big or small, great or not so great.

Whatever else you do, don’t miss out on the fun and adventure of creating good work. That’s what keeps you coming back to the drawing board to try again, day after day. A little fun is a good thing. And if it gets messy, that’s okay. Let it be messy. You can always prop up those graham cracker walls later on.


Why We All Need Feedback

If you’re trying to accomplish anything bold in life, you have to take some risks. And sometimes, the risk is largely being willing to fall on your face and fail terrifically. It can be hard to pick yourself up and try again after an embarrassing failure, but you have to do it. Seriously. You must try again. Trying again is what helped me to create a piece of art:

photo 2

Can you believe I painted this picture? I can’t. Let me explain why.

When I was in elementary school, we did an “easy” painting project in which we used masking tape to help us create sharp, well-defined straight lines with our paint. Everyone else achieved this. I got paint in places you wouldn’t think it was possible to get paint. Needless to say, my five pointed star wasn’t pointed or star-like. I’m not sure what it was. The Blob, perhaps?

In middle school, the art teacher instructed us to create a landscape. I was such a lousy artist, I made a sun with rays coming from it. Like this:


Well, without the smiley face. But just barely without it. The teacher was appalled. She asked, “Does the sun look like that?” Um…Yes? Okay, okay, no. No, it doesn’t. Did you want this to look both good and realistic?

Hence, I don’t think of myself as a visual artist. But even people like me can create something kind of nice with help, which is how I painted that miracle painting at the top of this post. I went to one of those painting places where they give you wine to numb your anxiety, then a teacher who tells you what to do and reminds you that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be yours.

And that’s how I ended up with a painting I can actually show people.

It’s the same with anything we do in life. No matter how good you are, you need people to give you feedback and help you make your work better. You need honest people who can share with you what you’re doing well and where you could use some improvement.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a little constructive feedback from someone you trust today. You’ll survive. And you just might produce some amazing work — the kind of work you can’t do on your own.

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