It is a surreal experience seeing thousands of hours of inspiration and perspiration physically in front of you for the first time. The product of hundreds of ridiculously early mornings and blurry eyed late nights; feelings of inspiration, and aspiration laid out chapter by chapter across the editors desk. It is a firm reminder that setting yourself a big aspirational goal – like writing your first book – carries a big personal cost. Especially when it is something that you are truly passionate about. Ultimately for me it proved to be a testing but rewarding experience, but it also highlighted a little talked about but crucial aspect of goal setting and project management – the ability to let go.
On face value, the concept of letting go being an essential part of successful project or goal accomplishment is rather counter intuitive. Most people assume that you have to just keep battering away at the task until it is done. For certain simple goals this may be the case, but for more complex multi-stage tasks like completing a book or creating a business plan, learning to let go is an essential skill to master the process.
There are 2 aspects to letting go.
The first, is knowing when to ditch an idea or theme, a process William Faulkner famously termed as “Killing Your Darlings.” For me, during the editing process, it took real guts to admit which sections of the manuscript worked well and which were superfluous or distracting from the core message. It was tough coming to terms with the fact that by the end of the editing session, hundreds of hours of work had been completely cut out of the book. Yet like the famous Eddison light bulb process [it took 10,000 ways of not getting it right, to get it right] this investment of time and these culled sections were the foundations that allowed me to find the most effective way to articulate the key messages of my book.
The second is knowing when you are done and when it it time to let go when the project is complete. When people are particularly passionate about an undertaking, particularly a creative project, it can be difficult to finally know when to let it go. There can be a desire to continually tweak it, to try to make it absolutely perfect. The danger of letting yourself do this is two-fold. The first is missing out on the optimal timing for your launch, in a fast changing world your project can quickly become less relevant or even obsolete if you don’t unleash it fast enough. In some cases this can mean that people ultimately fail to launch at all.
Another major danger is overworking or over engineering in a desire for perfection. Sometimes less is more. This is a trait that many artists know too well – from Rock Stars to painters, to authors – whose desire to perfect their creation can ultimately spoil something that at one stage may have been a master piece.
So what can we learn from all of this?
Being truly objective with our own personal projects is difficult, especially when it involves undertakings that we are passionate about and where we have invested significant emotional energy. Whether you are writing a book, starting a business, creating a brand or seeking to change your career or life-style, having someone you can trust to help you see the wood for the trees, the good from the bad and to tell you when to stop is a key component.
Who Can You Trust and What should you look for in an adviser?
Your choice of adviser can be make or break your project. When you have spent significant time creating, designing or building something, it takes real tact from a third party to steer you in the right direction and to get you over the line with just your best material. Emotional intelligence, personal chemistry and empathy and belief in your project are therefore equally as import as technical skills and experience. Did I mention the cakes? As you can see from the photos, definitely a great way to sweeten the culling of my ideas. Thanks Taryn!