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Exercising the idea muscle

Comparison abolition.

Sometimes I get buried in the writing of philosophers and political commentators. I indulge in them regularly, because I want to feed my spirit and develop a strong foundation of values.

These writers possess extraordinary writing styles, clarity of thinking and expression. Most of them are polymaths that intimidate and inspire their following with their intellect and wisdom.

There is a lot to look up to. These are the real thought leaders. They are humble and disciplined, their writing is perfect and their speech is crystal clear.

I look up to them and their teaching. But there is a problem.

What do Casey Neistat, Seth Godin and James Altucher have in common?

Nerdwriter does a great essay on what it takes to make films like Casey Neistat.

Their content is so well put together, so accessible, so fluent that it seems effortless. It seems like everyone could do it.

It inspires. It makes you feel that you could do it. It makes you go out and try it.

And that’s the point. Because when you try you may realize that you love doing it. Then all it takes is what you don’t see.

The thousands of hours of practice.

Reading for education vs. reading for inspiration

When I read those philosophers I find myself judging every idea that comes up in my mind. I overthink every sentence and I’m shameful of my stuff.

“You call that a sentence?”

That never goes anywhere. It’s the shameful perfectionist inside me, the critic that says “you’re not good enough. Your writing doesn’t even compare to what that other guy wrote.”

Yea, yea, comparison is the thief of joy and all that. I don’t consciously compare myself to anyone. It’s what Steven Pressfield calls the Resistance. The Resistance is the mythical force that wants to keep things as they are. When you’re creating something, when you’re thinking, you change things.

You’re hoping to inspire change. Even if you’re not shooting for it.

So the quote here should go like this:

Prolific is better than perfect.

I don’t know who said that. The point here is to watch your influences and optimize for the least resistance.

Design an attention diet that is optimized for inspiration vs. perfection.

For me, it’s mostly watching my reading discipline. It’s not a question of reading more.

The ratio of reading for information vs. inspiration must lean toward inspiration. And the time spent reading must be proportionate to the time spent writing.

Create > Consume

These ideas must go in and go out, otherwise, they get stuck. And then I get stuck in the judgment and pathetic perfectionist excuses.

Yes, pathetic. It takes courage to be creative. An actual quote here:

A lot of people have taste, but they don’t have the daring to be creative.
— Bill Cunningham

Idea creation is a muscle that must be honed. No one is born with great ideas.

Work on it. Think and make stuff every day.

Compare yourself to yourself only. If you must, think and compare yourself to your heroes at the beginning of their journey. At the start of their career. At year two of their creative writing practice. Even that will make no justice. Our outcomes are all determined by endless streams of influences throughout our lives. And the lives of our parents and those of our immediate social groups.

So you might as well abolish the comparison habit.

Just go ahead and make something every day. And show it to people.

And remember that ideas are borrowed.