Japanese gardens teach us an important lesson in building our creative careers - concentrate on that which enables us to thrive with less wasted effort.
1. Give yourself permission to thrive – real life “I like you and what you produce and how you live” permission, not just laissez faire neglect coupled with silent disloyalty and criticism. No individual and no business can thrive in a critical environment. Give yourself and others a break from criticism and unkindness for a solid month or two and see if it doesn’t have a huge positive impact on your productivity. This will do more to establish a firm foundation for your business than anything else you can do. Nothing’s lost and all’s gained from this exercise.
2. It’s one thing to hate a bad person or company for messing you up and another to wisely analyze why they did so. When you are exposed to inappropriate behavior, look at why people behave the way they do. They may be functioning with an agenda that is not in your interest even if they believe it is. If so, just give it a miss.
3. Market yourself truthfully and ethically and be very clear about who you are and what you are marketing, as well as what you are not. Market the truth and market to people who like what you produce. They will buy and the others will stay away.
4. Spend time and money on things that produce abundantly with less work and avoid choosing that which produces sparsely no matter what you do. This can save you a lot of trouble. We once had a neighbor who spent much more time on his yard than we did, with much worse results. The problem was his choice of plants. We deliberately chose drought tolerant, low maintenance plants and a Japanese garden design that suited the climate and tolerated some neglect, while he planted a high-maintenance lawn that burned up in the summer sun. Invest in that which produces the lifestyle you want with less effort on your part. This gives you more time for your creative work.
5. There are essentially two paths. One leads to progress and satisfaction, the other to destruction and misery. Some people go only part way down whichever one they choose. Others go back and forth on both paths and get no where. Some go along the path toward destruction while telling themselves they are going the other way. Productive creatives always try to stay on the path to progress and satisfaction for themselves and others.
6. Craft a practical environment in which to be creative and design it to facilitate your work. It should be a place where you can withdraw from the rest of the world and be uplifted, a place of refinement and learning and progress. It should support you, not you it. Design it specifically so it does so.
7. Set up your workflows and environment to work for you as much as possible. I call this the vending machine principle – set up the machine, load it with goodies and let it make money for you while you do something else.
8. Get over prejudices about both private entrepreneurship and working for someone else. Both are neutral – they can move you ahead in your creative pursuits or hold you back, depending on how they are structured. Private entrepreneurs have to pay their own benefits and taxes, etc. and those who work for other companies sometimes find their talents hamstrung by visionless or incompetent bosses and practices and by time wasters such as commuting, meetings, off site activities and other unproductive events that are in fact a tax on their ability to do their jobs. So the playing field is pretty even.
9. Preparation meets opportunity. Lack of preparation meets lack of opportunity. So organize and prepare yourself and opportunities will come. You don’t have time to deal with no-win situations that arise from disorder. Don’t put yourself or allow yourself to stay in no-win situations.