Living with Fear & Uncertainty - The Ultimate FU
Here's the truth: Uncertainty totally sucks, and if not combatted fiercely, can completely derail you. Attempts to help you reframe your uncertainty about life and your career from new age practitioners frankly do little to assuage it.
So let’s get real. Fear lives with us for a reason: It's a survival instinct. And when you live as a creative, the fear of not surviving or meeting your basic needs can be very real. In fact, you might be living in an activated fear state most of the time.
It makes sense that many creatives turn to meditation, breath work and yoga, and practice them regularly. The practices can help infuse balance into an otherwise chaotic inner world. However, they can’t eliminate the uncertainty of being successful, fear of being unsuccessful, fear of making it and fear of not making it. Every day, every week, every month and every year of my life as a creative has been completely uncertain. I've had years that started out with a bang and ended with a bust and vice versa—years that started out thin and ended on a really high note. I have hours within my day that take the exact same trajectory. You just don't know. And no amount of downward dogs is going to alleviate that.
Glamorizing fear, fearlessness and the ability to control what you do not is futile. It misses the point and in most cases, amplifies your insecurity about success because uncertainty and fear become just two other things you haven't conquered. It's another thing you have to pretend to be: fearless. It's counterproductive and a misuse of your time.
Recognizing where your uncertainty and fear live is the first part of helping to dismantle it. According to Dr. Travis Bradbery, detecting fear as soon as it surfaces allows you to contain it before it gets out of control. The limbic system in your brain produces fear as a knee-jerk reaction to uncertainty, which inhibits good decision-making. By identifying and separating out the fear response, you can assess the situation more accurately and rationally, and show your brain who the real boss is!
If you are a creative entrepreneur, you likely have a litany of uncertainties in your life: your income, cash flow, clients, how your work will be received, if you will ever truly make it this month and make it this lifetime, whether you should keep going, whether you should fold and get a normal job, etc. These are anxiety-provoking because they are real. If it was something your brain was just making up, you'd be over it by now. You would have officially transcended uncertainty in kindergarten.
I am not going to pretend that this is easy or that it gets easier. It really doesn't. Fear and uncertainty—let’s call it FU for short—gets easier only in that it gets more familiar. The further along you get and the larger the jobs and larger the lifestyle you maintain, FU can actually increase. It can sometimes get harder to take risks and harder to challenge ourselves more than we did the previous time. As we age we tend to want more creature comforts and more certainty. We start to think, I'm XX years old, and I should own a home, have a certain car and a certain lifestyle by now. When the “shoulds” come out, FU multiplies and we get further away from our purpose and path. We talk ourselves into becoming risk-adverse. Sure, it worked out last time, but what about this time? We tell ourselves, I’m too old, smart, talented, untalented, fill in the blank to being doing this. Sometimes a routine of successes makes the fear of failure more potent. Detaching from success is key to making this work. Let your goal be to learn and grow in the face of FU.
Taking risks is a critical component to success.
You might be thinking—I'm already in a state of fear and you want me to double down? Yes. Put more chips on the table and play more than one hand. Without risk there is no reward. The world desperately needs more creative leadership but creatives (especially solo ones) are reluctant to lead. People in corporate suburbia dream of this world. Make it worth your time and energy, and theirs. Recognize that you are in a special position to do what you do, and that not taking a risk is frankly the biggest risk you can take.
As technology has dramatically changed most creative industries, learning new things and taking new risks has become a way of life. Literally no one knows where the cards are going to land. The revenue stream of most creative industries has been turned upside down, and everyone is struggling to reach the end consumer whether in music, photography, advertising, writing, etc. It affects all creative niches. In this chaos, however, lies a unique opportunity. Never before has there been such a need for prolific content. Never before has the platform for this content been larger, more global and more instantaneous. For content creators, the opportunity to develop assets and have them placed is at an all-time high.
While there’s no question that we are amidst an FU apocalypse, I believe there is a silver lining: As creatives, we are no longer dependent on an old-school corporate hierarchy. We are all equally able to distribute our content and reach an audience. That is huge. It’s a privilege and a responsibility.
The reality is that most of us are not here by virtue of coincidence. Being a creative entrepreneur is not the easy thing to do. It’s the thing you had to do.
Now of course there is a positive side to everything. If you had certainty, work and life would become monotonous and it would likely impede your ability to create. Uncertainty also brings about possibility. If everything was certain, windfalls of success would not be possible. You would be less inclined to take risks in order to maintain your status quo. You would be comfortably numb and less likely to really draw outside of the lines. Additionally, you might obtain more material goods and create a lifestyle that keeps up with the Joneses while robbing you of inspiration.
The next time you're feeling uncertain about your life (probably within the next few minutes), ask yourself, would I rather be fearful or would I rather be bored? Those are your options. Let's be honest, fear is a lot more fun and exciting.