Anxiety

Our mind is divine. It gives everyone super powers and the dots we electrochemically connect makes us human. Such biological capacity allows us to achieve extraordinary things. At the same time, this mysterious grey matter can also hold us back, even cause havoc.

Anxiety is assuming failure in advance. As a mental cousin to fear, anticipation, worrying, and perhaps even desire, anxiety is like an unspoken agreement you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want. While some may argue that this exhausting emotion is all in your head, the way anxiety effects your body can be absolutely real.

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“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Uncle Ben, Spider-Man

The connected era has made the world smarter, stronger, and more efficient, but the pressure of never-ending progress leaves us vulnerable to fear and anxiety. For those who pursue greatness (which I might suggest is anyone reading this), the more we try to achieve, the tighter we wind the strings of life. When harnessed, this creates strength, artistry, grit, and persistence. As the tension tightens however, there’s bound to be a break. Being mindful of your personal bandwidth will help reduce the frequency and severity of such breakdowns, but it seems impossible to completely avoid anxiety.

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Accepting that anxiety is inevitable, may be a secret to finding equanimity.

The most common way we attempt to manage such angst, is to stop the pain by seeking reassurance. The nourishment of overthinking every scenario in an unknown future may satisfy  the moment, but scratching this itch usually makes things worse. Even if we answer every possible question, the willingness to indulge the worry sets a precedent that keeps you coming back to what can become an endless loop.

It’s much harder, but an alternate approach is to acknowledge the suffering. Don’t run from it. Appreciate the relentless internal narrative you’re dealing with. Breathe. Be thankful for having something you care this much about. Find peace knowing you’ve done your best to tip odds in your favor, but invite doubt and welcome an opportunity to be wrong. The anxiety is here and it’s dramatic, but it’s also normal. Let thoughts float by, focus your attention on what’s good, and allow time to heal the pain. Yes, this is like letting a forest fire burn without soothing it with water. It will get wild at first, but eventually burn itself out. The scorched land is then ripe for renewal and less likely to burn again. When we acknowledge anxiety this way, the resulting clarity provides an awareness that helps us understand this energy. Our courage also helps to break the cycle and over time, often reduces the frequency of such misery.

The ability to appreciate anxiety, an eagerness to lean on those who support you, and confidence in knowing the temporary pain will pass, allows the mind to need less dramatic swings to stay centered.

Stealth Mode

We’re all guilty of thinking our idea is better than it is.

Stealth mode is when entrepreneurs wait to start telling their story. Staying quiet about a new project often starts with good intentions. Curiosity and a bit of mystery can generate hype, especially if you’ve been successful in the past. Too often however, people hold onto silence because they fear feedback or that what they’re building may not work in the wild.

To avoid failure, the choice to continue building in stealth mode keeps everything safely in the workshop. This may be wise if the project needs work or when the competition are known pirates, but there are few ideas that require much secrecy. With 8 billion humans on earth, your idea is probably not unique and when it comes to shipping your art, it all comes down to execution. Survey the market and research existing patents to help guide decision making, but stealth mode will soon lag toward being an excuse to procrastinate. Even if you have something big, it can be deflated without the open air of honest feedback. Stealth mode may sound nice, but silence, pride, and fear can devolve into a suffocating sinkhole.

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Winners are good at losing.

If you decide to build in stealth mode, give yourself firm timelines. Determine if intellectual property needs legal protection. If you need to keep certain aspects of the project under wraps, do so while still allowing the idea to breathe. Stealth mode only works when it results in a stronger story. It’s hard to know how strong your story is unless you share it.

Yes, we can only be new once, but the leverage of a startup is an ability to quickly evolve. As your team connects with the true market through strategic, creative, and generous execution, humility paired with persistence will pay off in the form of confidence. Even if something fails, it’ll be more like a pit stop on your path toward product-market fit. Be a scientist. Experiment thoughtfully, iterate often, and invite doubt knowing that if you’re wrong, it can activate a signal that guides the project toward a more sustainable future.

Be careful with the comfort of stealth mode. Those who build in too much silence can go quiet themselves.

Launch

A successful launch rewards hard work.

No matter the audience or how heavy the news, introducing what’s next is your opportunity to spark energy. This milestone will soon be celebrated, but rocket ships do not launch without intention.

The excitement of sharing something you’re proud of can be intoxicating, but we can only be new once. Launching before you’re ready can lead to carnage. Limping into a launch without a connected cadence will also reduce excitement as attention becomes diluted.

Let’s first look at how to avoid launching before you’re ready. There’s value in shipping your art often, as this is the only way anything is set free to evolve toward product-market fit. This, however, does not give us permission to be careless. Research, internal planning, strategic development, thorough testing, and working with true fans is the easiest way to stress test whatever you’re building. When we normalize a nimble, but detailed-oriented approach, you’ll create confidence in what’s being launched while also allowing your art to connect within the market you seek to serve more often.

When the time is right, planning a strategic launch sequence can initiate a boost loud enough to create attention and also long enough to push through the thick atmosphere of endless distraction. Instead of a single celebration, think of your launch as a connected collection of memorable moments.

The most common misfire is overloading your audience too soon. This may be part of the strategy with a short launch sequence, but when a launch lingers, duplicative content will numb an audience before the intended culmination arrives. One tactic for staying patient is mapping the overall launch sequence. This helps sync development with the timing of communication. Such planning also provides internal clarity and connects valuable context to each transmission.

To map a launch sequence, start by creating intrigue with as little information as possible. Think of this subtle stage like a notice to save the date. Next, create excitement by leaning into the pain. Leak a little on why the audience should be excited for what’s to come. No need for too many details quite yet. Those will land next.

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As the countdown ticks toward zero, fortify the team to determine how you can effectively respond to every type of inquiry during launch. With internal operations ready to rock, release one final burst of hype before delivering the payload on launch day. As thrusters fire and liftoff occurs, you’re now set free to release your art into the universe. Congratulations!

Within the early moments of flight, keep messaging sharp. Deliver on the promise, include singular calls to action, and track analytics to stay strategic.

A thoughtful launch can create a flurry, but attention is hard to earn and it’s gone before you know it. As the loudness of a launch begins to fade, hit the free prize inside button to activate a few more extraordinary insights built to fuel lasting momentum. Once in orbit, maintain a smooth onboarding process for late arrivals and enjoy the view knowing elevation makes us all feel successful.

First in Line

There’s something special about being first in line.

Being at the front of a line means you’re committed. You’ve made some form of sacrifice to ensure you’re first to experience something you care about. The unknowns of arriving in time to secure this coveted spot requires a concerted effort, but a sense of pride materializes when everything goes to plan. When was the last time you where first in a long line? My hope is that the wait was worth it!

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When I think about being first through the lens of innovation, first in line is not such a desired position. Being first gives entrepreneurs a chance to take an early lead, but early leaders don’t always win in the end. The headwind is strongest when you’re in front. When your art involves creating something the world has never seen before, enthusiasm from early adopters is often met with pernicious friction. One common source of friction is the almost endless time spent educating the prevailing market. This protracted process wears on even the most resilient and exhausts resources every step of the way. Along with frictions that come with being first, without any clues from past success/failures, it’s harder to avoid potential pitfalls as well.

There’s value in a head start, but the early market leader often falls behind the innovation curve. Please, never hesitate to forge into the unknown, but remember that when you lead, others will always be chasing you. If you’re building in front, stay ahead with epistemic humility, a challenge network that invites you to be wrong by avoiding groupthink, a genuine desire to accelerate others, and bold leadership that allows intrapreneurs to stay wild. If you’re the one chasing, which is far more common, you’ll need to be innovative to find product-market fit, but it’s nice knowing there’s an existing path with fresh opportunities to champion change in an existing environment.

Alright, let’s add some sugar.

What if we don’t have to be in the line at all?

The front of any line may be a traditional way of getting ahead, but this requires time with no guarantees and you’re still relying on some else to let you in. If this activity is something you really enjoy, be conscious of how business can sometimes kill your passion, but there’s usually a way to be less of a spectator by getting more involved. One way to do this is by combining your creative skills and an entrepreneurial spirit to wedge yourself into the experience itself. This requires initiative, but volunteering, building into a side hustle, or using content creation skills can quickly become your ticket to skip the line all together.

Ship It

We are all artists. No matter what you create, there’s a distinction between creating art and shipping it.

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Here’s a useful definition of art. How does (re)defining art this way change the way you think about your own contributions? What is your art?

My favorite author, Seth Godin, often writes about going beyond the status quo by creating remarkable art. As we explore and expand our creative practice, Godin also suggests that if we don’t ship our art (i.e. send it out into the world), that it is all for naught. He leans on how art is all is about connection, and if nothing is shipped, there cannot be connection.

Entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, side hustlers, students, and community builders willing to ship, fuel positive change with their art. Unfortunately, the ego often fears external evaluation. This fear is compounded when a lack of success may occur, which is always possible. As apprehension calcifies over time, it becomes tough to resit the temptation of hiding our thoughts, emotions, and activities within the safety of solitude.

Creating art to enjoy by yourself can build skills and provides internal layers of sentimental value, but to go beyond the status quo, push past the fear of feedback.

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Failure is an illusion. We either succeed or learn.

The world is loud, so avoid wasting time shouting just to make noise, but know that we need you to ship your art. This encouragement is not an excuse to rush into bad ideas, ship something that hasn’t received proper attention, or not deliver on a promise. It is however, a friendly reminder that pursuing perfection can devolve into an enemy of progress.

We’ve all heard inspiration like that before, but listen to those you admire. Perfection is rarely required when all you need is enough success to continue creating art. Let such liberation fuel confidence. Translate expanding confidence into fresh curiosity. Augment this curiosity with creative action. Rinse and repeat.

As belief in oneself grows, one interesting hesitation is disguised by good intention. We tell ourselves it’s not wise to be too self-serving. This is virtuous, but sometimes endless humility makes silence feel safe. As we protect ourselves by staying quiet, a self-limiting restraint develops. For example, many people find writing into journal to be therapeutic, but are quick to dismiss the idea of sharing these beautifully raw writings with others. Of course it’s good to internalize some things, but as you learn more about yourself through writing, know your art can make an expanded impact when it ships.

Ready to ship your art? Think about your own super powers and the people you care about. How might connecting these two things provide value? Experiment with small actions and as this develops into a practice, expand the connected nature of your creativity. As your art connects with those who care, find a cadence that allows you to be consistent. Seth Godin suggests that we all ship something daily, but one size does not fit all and the right tempo depends on the art you’re planning to ship. To find your own signal, consider your personal bandwidth and the audience you seek to serve. Talk with others and experiment, then tweak your timing to find the right rhythm.

If you’re shipping art, I’d love to hear what makes it remarkable and how you stay consistent. If you’re looking for new ways to make a ruckus, the Roasted Reflections library and my curated Resources page will help spark fresh movement.

No matter your current state of now, thank you for continuing to create art. More important, thank you for being courageous enough to ship it.