“Make stuff up. Anyone who ever did something new or interesting was making it up as they went along.” ~Martha Beck
I’m not very good at making things up. Between my childhood faith that posited a narrow “right” path that led to heaven instead of hell and my training as a scientist where right and wrong could be clearly defined with numerical data, I don’t know how to just make it up along the way. I am so convinced that there is the perfectly “right” answer out there somewhere and that it can be found if I look hard enough that I have trouble comprehending that the idea of that an answer can be created; it’s not out there waiting for me to find it.
I remember trying to create dance routines to popular songs on the radio with a friend of mine when I was in high school. A couple of years earlier, I had learned a dance routine as part of vaudeville show our high school drama department had put on. As I tried to create my own routine with my friend, I found myself only able to perform the dance steps as I had learned them. Even attempts to rearrange the order of the steps froze me in place. I clearly remember how mystified my friend was by my inability to create anything new. I was just as puzzled by how stuck I was, but I had no idea how to break through.
I have loosened up considerably in the intervening years, but I find myself still showing similar limitations as I try to determine what I want to do with my life going forward. I can brainstorm possibilities better than I once could, and I am slowly learning to think outside the box of normal work and career patterns. Yet I still keep searching for examples out there to show me the right way to do anything I want to do. If I can’t find an example, I find myself dismissing the idea because I don’t have proof that it’s the “right” answer before I start.
In the process of all this need for someone else to show me the way, my creativity is stifled, and I am stuck in frozen inactivity. I am grateful for the bluntness of Martha’s quote to show me the way that I keep myself stuck. If I’m doing something new, then I should be expecting to make it up along the way! If I’m doing something new, there isn’t a path for me to follow. If there were a path, it wouldn’t be new. I so easily forget that anyone else who did something new didn’t have the benefit of hindsight to know that they were on the right path as they made it up. They simply set a goal and got busy.
I plan to continue reading all I can of established business advice because there is much that I can learn to make sure that I don’t fall into known potholes along the way, but I think I also need to spend more time reading about people who colored outside the box and created success their own way by making it up as they went along. I need to know that it’s normal to be scared when there’s no clear path laid out to follow. I need to learn how to let go of “right” in order to embrace creativity. Risk is just part of the game.
After all, I want to create a business that fits me and my unique gifts, skills, interests, talents, and idiosyncrasies. By default, that will be something new since I have never existed before. Therefore, there is no perfect answer out there waiting for me to discover it. I can learn from others, yes, but at the end of the day I will need to make stuff up in order to create work and a life that works for me.
Make stuff up. I think I’ve discovered a new mantra. I can do this!
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.