One of the things that happens when you’ve become somewhat successful at something (and get a lot of press for it) is that people start coming to you for advice. Which can be fun.
I do lots of different stuff so I hear all kinds of stories, from people wanting to start their own tech business to sculptors planning their next break-out exhibition.
The only thing that’s discouraging is how many people come in, lay out their life stories, and then don’t actually take my advice. I’ll be the first to admit that my ideas aren't suitable for everyone. Not everyone sees my “get off your ass, stop running spreadsheets, and just fucking do it” speech as useful.
I can't even count the brilliant, talented, geniuses I’ve met whose lives are just one disaster after another.
I'm a firm believer that we create at least some of the luck we get in life. I figure that if you’re walking around telling yourself a story about how your life has been fucked up by something out of your control — OK. But if you have multiple stories that all come to the same conclusion, I suggest further examination may be in order.
If you ask me my secret of success, I'll point to my unique method of making decisions. Here’s how it works:
Whenever I find myself in the position to make a life-changing decision, tI step back and imagine all the possible outcomes. I give a lot of consideration to what can go wrong and what could go right. I build intricate charts and graphs so I can figure out exactly how much it’s going to cost, and how much I could lose.
And then — for reasons I can’t really explain — I ignore all of that stuff completely and just do whatever’s the most fun. If I can't get fun, I'll settle for fulfilling. Or at least interesting. In any case, I invariably take the riskier choice.
I just say “fuck it” and jump.
This can be hard to explain to a group of college students (or journalists) sitting in my office with a video camera, interviewing me about how to become a successful designer/artist/author/entrepreneur, or whatever it is I am at any given moment.
So here is what I'm trying to say:
Every creative person I know that’s successful is scared most of the time. The key is not to let that stop you.
I was scared when I built Kidrobot. I was scared when each of my books came out, I was scared when I founded @budnitzbicycles, and even though I deeply believe in what we're doing, building Ello can be pretty intense too.
Superman is fearless, but he isn't courageous — because he's invulnerable. Courage is looking fear in the face, making friends with it, and moving ahead anyway.
Sooner or later life is going to present you with a choice, one that will change your life forever, and you'll have to choose. Not choosing is still a decision. So you won’t be able to get out of it.
You'll realize that you’re ignorant, talentless, helpless — and that you can’t possibly succeed with the small resources you have.
Then you’ll decide: play it safe, or take a leap into the unknown.
Success can't be guaranteed, but failure is entirely optional.
It's up to you.