“You don’t need anyone else’s permission to create. Green-light yourself and get to work.”
– Charlie Todd, American Comedian
I’m excited to share something with you this week. It’s a creation born out of a combination of frustration, gratitude, courage, and fear. In other words, a true labor of love.
It’s not necessarily a masterpiece, but it represents something very significant. It represents a major breakthrough I had last week.
Shortly after writing about the transformative powers of a pilgrimage [See: The Art of the Pilgrimage], I hit a bit of a low point. I was enjoying the moment, feeling grateful and was actually pretty happy. But something was missing. After a couple days of reflection, I made some conclusions about happiness and fulfillment.
The Difference Between Happiness and Fulfillment
I realized you can only get so much satisfaction from being present and enjoying the world around you. Momentary happiness may come in the form of enjoying the present. But I’m realizing that long-term fulfillment comes in the form of creation, having impact, and feeling significant. Even better if you can create ambitiously AND enjoy the moment.
We are creative beings. Our instinctive drive is to procreate. But what makes human beings unique is our ability to create everlasting things beyond creating other human beings (and based on my Facebook news feed, we’re still really good at that too.)
Buildings, movements, philosophies, religions, companies, art, stories, nations, languages, objects, ideas, and legacies. These are all human creations. Creations that last longer than a lifetime. Creations that inspire new creations. It’s incredible and represents the cycle of life.
This realization couldn’t have come at a greater time.
The Bold Academy
Feeling this inherent need to create, I applied to The Bold Academy, a 10-day “life accelerator” next year in San Francisco. It was started by the inspiring and ambitious Amber Rae, a Seth Godin understudy and Fast Company blogger. When a friend sent me the application, my gut told me to apply.
What the Bold Academy application asks is that you create something Bold. Bold enough that it scares you. Bold enough that it challenges you and what you think you’re capable of accomplishing. It’s a personal definition. But one that can only be defined if you’re honest with yourself. For my Bold creation, I decided create a short video.
Being Bold in Zadar, Croatia
Armed with my camera, imagination, and a desire to create, I set off to meet people on the streets of Zadar, Croatia by asking them to help with a film project (or in Croatian, a filmski projekt).
I chose this video project for several reasons:
1. Face Fear. I wanted to confront the fear of failure and rejection head-on. I’ve recently realized it’s a major factor holding me back from achieving what I want to in life. Going into this, I anticipated I would be rejected more than not (which was the case).
2. Challenge My Creativity. I wanted to tap into my creative side and challenge myself to create a high-quality short video as a complete amateur. I could have chosen to write something, but since I’ve already been writing consistently over the past four months for GiveLiveExplore.com, I didn’t think it would be a bold enough challenge.
3. Tell a Story. Since I’m on a 7 month sabbatical/journey/pilgrimage through Europe, and meeting people where I travel is a big part of that. So this lets me show a peek into my life and story at the moment.
In the video, the question I ask is: “What Makes You Happy?” But it could have been any question. The purpose wasn’t necessarily to find the answers to that particular question, but rather to force me to get in the middle of a foreign place, be uncomfortable, and try to engage people to partake in a mysterious project.
The question “What Makes You Happy?” has hidden, deeper purpose though. The answers themselves are interesting, but they’re secondary to the feeling of gratitude I hope the question invokes. Whether it creates that feeling only in the moment, over the next few minutes, or for the rest of the day, it’s a powerful thing I’ve come to appreciate along my journey around Europe. Just asking that question helps me share the feeling.
If any of you are feeling stuck or unfulfilled, and are serious about getting out of it, I propose a challenge. Create something. A video, a story, a painting, a company…ANYTHING! Just create.
As someone who has lost touch with their creative side after years of studying engineering and working in IT consulting, I’m finding the transformative powers of doing creative work are incredible.