There is a lot of similarity between business and creativity.
Building a small business means bringing ideas to life, creating something new, and putting it out there for people to react. It also means having to constantly overcome self-doubt, criticism, and frustration. The process is the same for any type of creativity whether it's art, music, writing, or any other form of self-expression.
I realized this strong connection while reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. She is best-known for Eat, Pray, Love, but in this book, she explains the benefits of creativity in one's life and how to achieve it.
So much of the book echoes my personal approach to growing and running a business. Here are four "big magic" lessons from Gilbert that stand out to me and that I try to follow every day.
1. Put curiosity, not fear, in the front seat.
In business, we are judged by the outcome, and not for the process that got you there. This creates a fear of being criticized and keeps us from meeting our full creative potential.
Gilbert writes that you should never fear being curious and exploring ideas. Put it out there and don't worry about playing it safe.
When I opened one of my first CPA businesses, I didn't take the typical route and create a tax or audit practice. Instead, I saw a need for small businesses to outsource their accounting work, such as controllership and bookkeeping services.
I had to overcome many critics about my choice, and it took a lot of work to acquire this specific type of clients, but with a plan, a budget, and a little grit, I didn't allow fear to win.
2. Always choose the courageous idea.
In her book, Gilbert challenges readers whether they have the courage to "bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you." I believe that the hardest part of running a business is to believe in yourself.
I've failed more times than not, but I've learned that believing in my capacity to execute the big ideas--like launching my own yoga studio--begins with the confidence I've gained in doing challenging things every day, no matter how small or insignificant.
If your ideas don't scare you a little then you should reassess them. However, you need to be aware when things go off course and respond quickly.
For instance, when I opened my yoga studio, I wanted to offer virtual streaming yoga. After implementing it in the studio, I found that customers were uncomfortable being in front of the cameras. I responded by offering other types of virtual yoga for members.
3. Own your frustration.
Building a business is often frustrating. But those who succeed don't fight frustration--they embrace it. As Gilbert writes, "Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process."
There are downsides to every creative endeavor. You can't expect for everything to go right all of the time. When bad things happen, simply accept them as part of the process and keep moving forward. Recognize that moments of frustration can lead to tremendous growth.
There have been many times that I know there is a solution to a problem, or a possible new idea, but I just haven't found it yet. It often takes brainstorming with myself and others to get there. Additionally, when I really hit a wall, I go for a run, do yoga, or meditate. It helps to clear my mind and when I am not trying, everything comes to fruition.
4. Create a group of peers.
The best outcomes are often a result of constructive feedback and suggestions. Gilbert writes about how important it was to have people support her during her career, and entrepreneurs should follow her lead.
Building a network of like-minded peers and experts can offer a variety of advice and perspectives, whether you are looking at big issues like a new project, or just dealing with everyday problems.
While working on my latest endeavor as a professional speaker, I needed clarity about messaging for my website. I asked others in my field for feedback. They told me what they liked and what they thought was missing. Going through this process helped me find new branding opportunities and reinvent my website.
Creativity is an essential part of building any successful company. The lessons you learn from the process of creative endeavors--from brainstorming ideas to dealing with fears and frustrations--can transform how you approach your business. It may not be "magic," but it can work wonders.
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