Stop Aiming High & Lower Your Standards. Sounds Like Bad Advice? Think Again
Some unconventional wisdom on getting your creative juices flowing
Tim Ferriss has some unusual advice: if you want to be good at something, don't aim for the stars. The secret is to aim much lower than that - even for the trash.
Why? It makes the task you are facing far less intimidating and easier-to-achieve.
And it is that feeling of achievement that gets the creative juices flowing.
What Kills Productivity
Feeling overwhelmed by a job-at-hand - i.e. living in a state of performance anxiety or creative paralysis - is a perfect breeding ground for creative block and procrastination to take root.
That feeling of overwhelm can often happen when we are thinking too big.
We are setting impossibly high standards for ourselves, placing obstacles in our path before we have even got started.
As Ferriss says in this clip from Creative Live, the question to ask at that point is:
"Am I making this harder than it needs to be?
If that's the case, then it needs to be nipped in the bud straight away. And to do that, says Ferriss, the trick is to set a challenge that is idiot-proof.
The Lesson Of IBM
He takes inspiration from IBM, of all companies, which, when it was at its height, was famous for having an "incredibly effective" sales-force that "smashed their quotas".
One of the reasons for this was IBM's policy of keeping sales targets very low, as Ferriss explains:
"They wanted the sales people to not be intimidated to pick up the phone. They wanted to build that sales momentum. And then people would overshoot their goals."
Which they did.
And it it this idea of aiming low that can be applied across all disciplines in order to give ourselves a kick-start, he argues.
"Two Crappy Pages"
For writers, it would mean this: instead of setting yourself an incredibly high goal of writing 10 brilliant pages of prose in a single sitting, simply aim for "two crappy ones".
The latter is far easier to do, is liberating in its nature as you can literally write anything - and most importantly, it will give you the feeling that you have achieved something.
It will be this feeling in itself, says Ferriss, that will ultimately help get your creative wheels turning and the doors of productivity will be far more likely to open:
"Alleviating that performance anxiety... allows you to overshoot that goal and continually succeed and... build that confidence and momentum."
So, the next time you're hitting that wall, ask yourself if it's set a bit high.
Are you expecting brilliance to come straight away? If so, firstly forgive yourself if it is having a paralysing effect.
And then take joy in the fact that not only is it perfectly OK to be a bit "crappy" at times - it could be exactly what is required.