If you’re like me, you have so many ideas, you don’t know what to do with them all. Some slip away silently while others keep you up at night. When you finally sleep, the idea seeps into your dreams and begs you to bring it into reality. When you wake up, the idea has grown and is stronger. It says I’m here, dammit and I wont be ignored!!
I have an idea like that. I even named it and brought it to life: A Portrait of Argentina. It is a painting expedition inspired by love. I met my future husband. I fell in love. I left Los Angeles to live in Argentina. We got married, and now here I am, living in another country, learning a new language and a new culture. After my honeymoon with Argentina ended, I had a rough time adapting and understanding this place. An idea sprouted in my head. I’ll paint my way across all 23 provinces, talk to people, paint their portraits and the landscapes that shape their lives. I’ll learn about my new home from the people who know it best.
Ideas need protection so they can grow and develop into something big and wonderful. It's OK if they don't, but they should at least have the chance. They need fierce protection, because it is not other people who endanger them. It's our own fear.
Fear is a monster disguised as our own thoughts. It tells us ‘No, you might fail” or “No, people will think you're crazy”, or “You won't make it, why try?”. It actively tries to prevent us from turning ideas into reality. Think of all those thoughts, those voices in your head and what they say. Now imagine someone saying those same things to someone you deeply care about. Would you say nothing and allow someone to talk to your friend like that? Why do we allow it in our own heads?
I don't always recognize my fears but I'm starting to recognize the patterns. When I do, I call them out and send them packing.
My idea was ready to be developed, the first step: talk about it. Send it out into the world and see what happens. Get feedback and improve it. I told my husband first, he of course loved it (smart man)! We bounced it around, tore holes in it, ripped it apart and built it back up. The idea grew and began to take shape. I researched, created excel sheets, budgets, and calendars. We poured over maps, and made charts with distances, gas mileage and time frames based on seasons. This idea that wouldn’t let me sleep was now a full-fledged project.
I researched crowd-sourcing sites and picked Kickstarter to raise funds. The time had come to share my idea with the public. That is when I got scared. Terrified, in fact. Thoughts like “Are you crazy?, Who is going to care about a painting expedition?” poured in. It was an avalanche.
Now it was doubt and fear keeping me up at night.
I almost convinced myself it was just bad timing. Great idea, but bad timing. There it was, fear of failure, fear of disappointing the people who believe in me. Fortunately, unexpected help arrived. Ze Frank launched “A Show” with this video called “Invocation”:
In it, Ze talks about that horrible place between zero and one. He talks about being scared: of you, of me. Really? Ze is scared too?
“Invocation” became part of my morning ritual. I’d watch it and then get to work on the video, the project description, and all the odds and ends that go into making a kickstarter project.
When I have been obsessively working and cannot keep things in perspective, my fears get an opening. Procrastination is fear in disguise. Start enlisting people to help? What if they hate my idea? I’ll just go see what’s happening on Facebook and do it later.
Which is exactly what I was doing when I saw this post by Pamela Slim:
“If you are working on a big goal, you just have to take one uncomfortable step at a time — and know that each step fortifies your resolve, and puts a gold star on your Badass Badge.”
Pam doesn’t know this, but she timed that comment perfectly. I needed a gold star. I needed lots of them. I took one uncomfortable step after another until I was ready. Then I clicked the green launch button. A Portrait of Argentina went live. I held my breath.
Within moments I had my first pledge (OK, fine, it was my mom….). Then a second, this time from a stranger. Someone saw A Portrait of Argentina pop up under ‘Recently Launched’. Within 24 hours, all of my early bird specials were gone, and within a week, I had raised $5,000 towards my goal. Next, came a newspaper interview: my hometown newpaper wrote a feature story on me. Word spread, people were talking. I was excited, This is really happening.
And then… a plateau. One week later, the progress graph changed angles. Instead of a sharp 45 degrees, it was now a gradual slope. Fear. Doubt. Uncertainty. Am I crazy?
Hey world, watch this: *Face-plant*
I tried not to panic. I went outside to paint (two things that always calm me). I shared my fear of a very public failure with a good friend of mine. She quickly dismissed it with the observation that “it’s the first week and the last week that really matter. Nothing ever happens in between.” I talked to my husband. We weighed options, and came up with plans B, C, and D.
I felt better knowing A Portrait of Argentina was safe. I realized this project matters. I need to listen to Argentina, to hear the stories and share the paintings. I still have a few weeks left on the kickstarter drive. I have plans B, C and D ready to go. If I need to, I'll make plans E through Z. Zero to One was the hard part. This is happening.
Am I crazy?
If so, I have excellent company: