Finding Success By Letting Go of Control
When I first launched my site I would obsess over the pageviews. All I cared about was how many people were visiting the site. I had spent months putting the site together but I hadn't anticipated that after it launched I'd need to work extra hard to get people to read it. I was spending my days in a Portlandia-esque technology loop, constantly checking the numbers, checking my email, and waiting for things I couldn't control. It took a couple months for me to figure out this wasn't a sustainable or productive lifestyle. It wasn't until a recent conversation with comedian Sam Simmons that I realized I had been caring about the wrong things.
Stop fixating on numbers
I cared about the numbers because I believed the people I interviewed were giving advice and information that would educate and inspire. I believed in them and the work they were doing and I wanted to tell their stories. Numbers, like followers, favorites, likes and up-votes have became an unhealthy form of validation.I let the numbers dictate my mood. I was up when they were up, and I was down when they were down. Sam told me that he got to a point in his career where he stopped caring. He was no longer fixated on success, he wasn't jealous of his peers, he let go of all of that and his career has taken off. I took Sam's advice and I stopped caring. It's not that I stopped caring about the site or the work but I stopped worrying about the things I couldn't control.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
There are lessons I wished I had learned earlier in life but at the time I didn't fully understand the advice I was given. Architect Bob Harris shared the advice his mentor Charles Moore had given him. Moore told Harris, “The biggest problem with young architects is they sometimes take themselves too seriously”. Bob told me that at the time he was taking himself too seriously and didn't fully understand the advice. Throughout his career Bob learned there are ups and downs and you never know where it’s going to take you. He told me the best way to deal with these unknown twists and turns was to have fun and not take it too seriously, to focus on what you're doing in the moment and be open to what comes next. I was taking myself way too seriously. I was only three months in and the site was no longer fun for me.
Be true to your vision, not someone else’s
When I asked documentary filmmaker Sean Dunne if he had any advice for getting into festivals, he said festivals will either pick it or they won't and there's very little you can do about it. His advice was, "Don't try to tailor your work for someone or something else, just be true to yourself first and foremost and good things will happen". When I finally stopped stressing out, refreshing my email, worrying about things I couldn't control, I realized I had a lot of time and energy. I used that newfound time and energy to get back to doing what made me happy and I got a lot more done.
I got into a normal sleep pattern, saw my friends in person, stopped stress eating unhealthy amounts of ice cream, and now, the site is doing great. Sam told me, "It’s so important and it’s good for your heart and soul to really believe in what you’re doing.”
There will always be people who don't understand what you're trying to do, there will be people who try to change it, and there will be people who will flat out criticize it. It's easy to get distracted or discouraged and somewhere along the way I lost track of what I set out to do. It took me awhile to figure out what's important to me and what really makes me happy. There are only so many things I can care about and there are only so many things I can control. I know now that caring about the things I can control always leads to a more fulfilling productive day.
Images via Truetometoo.com