This week I started a new mosaic, and I am blissfully obsessed by it: designing it, choosing glass, prepping the surface. I was excited to get out of bed this morning so I could start working on it.
(Before you stop reading and think, “This is random and unrelated,” keep reading. I promise I will relate it to life and career.)
What's significant is that I took about a five-year break from working on mosaics because I found myself getting frustrated myself and the projects – my skills didn’t match my vision. I’d place a piece of glass and know that it might not be quite right, but I had no idea how to fix it. Or I’d hope that once I grouted it, it would “tie it all together.”
Often, I was doing these projects as gifts, or in a couple cases, for money, so I couldn’t NOT finish them. So I would finish them but know that they needed…something.
Have you ever felt that? The frustration that comes with knowing something is wrong and not knowing how to fix it. I would torture myself with thoughts about how someone smarter, more talented, a real artist would know how to fix the problem. In fact, I wrote about that process in this post, “The Pernicious Effects of Perfectionism.”
Here’s the beauty of taking a break: perspective. Now I can look back and see what I learned from each project, and how finishing each project moved me to a new understanding for the next project. At the time, I was paying too much attention to the end result, so much so, that I didn't enjoy the process as much as I could have. By finishing them and not giving up, I was able to move forward, even if the results weren't always what I'd hoped. And even though I couldn't always see it at the time.
But now? Now I'm so excited I'm jumping out of bed in the morning.
And isn’t that what we all want, basically? A reason to get out of bed in the morning that we’re excited about?
As I was reflecting, I realized that I had never allowed myself what Buddhists call “beginner’s mind.” I had a very specific result I wanted because I was creating these as gifts. They needed to look a certain way, and I was frustrated when they didn’t.
And I realized this is EXACTLY the same attitude I’ve had about having a coaching business. It HAS to work because I can’t imagine (and don’t want to) doing anything else. The stakes are high--I made a huge career change, invested money in training, and put my identity on the line. This is a lot of pressure for a fledgling business, which has made it difficult to learn.
Learning usually requires some failure along the way. We learn from our mistakes, right? But if there’s no room for mistakes … no learning. Ouch.
When we have to get it right on the first try, we’re setting ourselves up for a lot of suffering. And that applies whether we’re talking about life, career or art.
By the way, I also realized, again, that when I have time and mental space to pursue creative projects, all kinds of problems get solved. I never dreamed that doing a mosaic would help me identify where I was going wrong in my business.
So think about it…where are you expecting yourself to get something right from the beginning? How would the process or journey be different if you allowed yourself room to make mistake?