By Alex Mathers
It’s tough to make an impact with art these days. It always was, but these days especially.
You are a tiny grey dot in a sea of dots.
You work hard to create something fresh. You share it. It might get some interest and a few likes. Big whoop.
You wonder whether you should give up. All this work for very little response is quite defeating.
It feels like you are running in a hamster wheel with ever greater intensity, but the same results.
To make a dent, to gain this ‘traction’ thing, you simply cannot be another grey dot. You have to be different in some way.
What is that way?
Something I’ve had to get comfortable with is the idea that those who succeed have ‘unfair’ advantages.
If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be such a thing as relative success, and we’d have nothing exciting to pursue.
I’m not talking about unfair in the sense of ‘injustice,’ though some do it that way too.
I’m talking about figuring out how to think and act in a way that combines wisdom and intensity so that you gain ground more quickly and efficiently than your furry, hamster-faced competitor.
This is your deserved unfair advantage, and it is what will add size and colour to your little grey dot.
Ok, so how?
Firstly, your primary mode should be that of exertion.
Most people are in either ‘ordinary’ (going at an average pace) or retreat (victim mentality, hiding, and low energy) modes.
To gain ground (and quicker than you think), you must exert in the right areas and double…triple down on those things. If you do what everyone else does, you will stand still or fall back.
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
— Will Rogers
Exertion is the only way to make ground in the torrent of the everyday.
Your approach must be to ‘expand and conquer,’ to attack your tasks free from distraction; to act with a general sense of urgency, but then to allow time for recovery.
You don’t need to work all day. Exert on more of the things that matter. There can be plenty of time left over.
To take this a step further…
Do what you’re good at and devote massively to doing it even better, in more volume.
Be like Picasso. Aim for prolific output. Energy. A magnificent body of work.
Create so much, with such intensity over time, that you cannot fail to improve your product and tighten your skills.
Create so much that people won’t help but take notice.
This means producing both quality and in quantity the things that bring you to life when you create them.
To be able to do this effectively, you might need to isolate yourself for stretches with minimal distractions. Turn off the Internet more. Be selfish with your time.
Be OK with doing things differently to the crowd. Follow your weird, and own it.
Train and work when others tend not to: on weekends and earlier in the morning, or later at night. Wake up when others are hibernating during the holidays.
Be ruthless on what you focus. Ask yourself not what are the several things I should put my energy into. Ask: What is the ONE thing I need to do to make this work more than anything else?
Narrow your decision-making to figure out that one thing at every turn.
What is the one thing that matters most?
Make simplicity your mantra. Strip everything down.
Forget trying to be ‘all things’ to all people. Be a beast at something narrow, targeted at a more distinct kind of tribe who dig what you do.
Over-deliver on every piece of work, and on every service. Be unexpected, but within your realm of mastery. Aim always to surprise. This is what leads to sticky fans.
Tighten up your sense of urgency by setting yourself daily and monthly challenges. Compete with yourself or with an accountability chum. Make it exciting to work.
Have one form of output that must get done every day which acts as the anchor — the pivotal element — to all of your work.
In my case, it is a published, illustrated post. The aim is to get one of these suckers out every day of the week (working on it).
Understand the compounding effect of accumulated stuff done. It adds up and will snowball.
Make a priority of building stronger, working relationships with fewer people who can help you massively, rather than only trying to touch huge numbers loosely.
Create a list of those people and make them your friends. Do this by improving their lives. Show them that you understand that it is a collaborative rather than a ‘me me’ relationship.
Find and read about someone who has done something you want to do. Talk to them until you get the steps you need to do the same.
Use the principle of ‘Karaoke,’ which I talk about in my book, which is to use what has already worked and put your spin on it.
Don’t reinvent wheels. Take what has already been successful, and make it yours.
Treat your body like a glorious, well-oiled machine. You’ve heard it many times, but the killer whale of all unfair advantages is to be buzzing with good health.
It’s all about energy and doing everything you can to boost and prolong it. Eating clean, unprocessed food, sweating out toxins, taking in lots of oxygen, moving as much as you can, and training the mind and body every day is the way to do this.
See yourself as a creative athlete.
Take that advantage.