best of… gwyn michael: self-starting vs self-stumbling

Let’s take a look back on 2011 – the posts that inspired, challenged, and encouraged us. Today, enjoy Gwyn Michael’s very first post on Scoutie Girl.

This first topic came to me as the result of starting a lot of new things at the same time (including this column) and stumbling a bit to meet deadlines. As artists, crafters, DIYers we usually start alone and frequently work alone for much or all of the time we work create.

What I have discovered this past month is that deadlines make all the difference.  As a typically right-brained creative, I have balked at lists and deadlines much of my life preferring the notion of the free-spirited artist that needs inspiration, a muse, a perfect work space and supplies to do my best creating, to do any creating.

I have many times whined to my husband about lack of inspiration, self-doubt, uncertainty to which he loves to say “just do it.” Oh how I loathed Nike for coming up with that little gem, but I have learned to appreciate it.

Last week I had an idea that required me to act immediately if I were to accomplish my goal and I gave myself 5 days to finish. I worked hard all 5 days making mistakes going in circles and finishing at about 3pm on Friday the 5th day. I must say I am pleased with what I accomplished and impressed at how well my self-imposed deadline worked when I took it seriously.

As self-starters, it can be too easy to break our commitments to self.

That we need to wait for inspiration or the perfect idea is a nice notion but it is no way to start a business. The business of art, like any business requires that we not only put in the hours, but that we take action and produce.  The key is to start.

In Seth Godin’s latest book Poke the Box he writes:

The first rule of doing work that matters is: Go to work on a regular basis.

Art is hard. Selling is hard. Writing is hard. Making a difference is hard.

When you are doing hard work, getting rejected, failing, working it out-this is a dumb time to make a situational decision about whether it’s time for a nap, or a day off, or a coffee break.

He adds:

Isaac Asimov wrote and published more than 400(!) books by typing nonstop from 6am to noon every day for forty years.

He started, every day. No doubt most of those books were not best sellers and many  were rejected or got bad reviews but he kept at it.

I came upon this article Team Player Vs. Self-Starter where they say we fall into one of these two categories.

Most of us fit into one of two productivity camps—team players and independentworkers or “self-starters”.

Some of us thrive on the camaraderie and brainstorming that occurs when a high-functioning workplace team gets together to work on a project, while others prefer the solitude and focus that working solo provides. Most people prefer one or the other, but managers like to see employees who can deliver the same results in either arrangement.

This statement is aimed at a traditional “job” but I think it applies just as well to us entrepreneurs. If we are natural self-starters we will find it easier to, well, start, but if we are team players we can still do it. I think it is a matter of how much support we need from family, friends or places like Scoutie Girl, and an understanding of how we cycle when working. What I mean by that is how much time we need to process before starting, and how much time do we need to unwind upon finishing for example. There may be many variables but it is about knowing what your work patterns are and showing up to honor them.

Inspiration maven Diana Valentine does a column called Finish it! Friday in which she interviews self-starters on the process of finishing what they start. In a recent interview with Bindu Wiles, Bindu candidly admits that she DOES NOT finish everything she starts, and that she often needs significant couch time after first launching a new idea. More importantly she talks about knowing when to “call in the troops” when she gets stuck.

It may sound like she couldn’t be very productive with all this couch time and support getting. Not so. Bindu is one of the most active self-starters out there and she is awesome.

My Conclusion

Being a self-starter is no day at the beach.

Ok, seriously, I think all 3 points made above are valid.

  1. We need first of all to show up if we want to make things happen.
  2. Lists, calendars, and deadlines are our friends.
  3. We have personality types that can help and hinder this kind of work and we need to be very aware of our strengths and weaknesses.
  4. We need to honor our cycles and know when to ask for help.

OK, that’s 4 points, I added my own. So let me know what you think.

Do you agree or have a different opinion? What are your experiences as a self-starter and what tools do you use to keep you on task?

5 thoughts on “best of… gwyn michael: self-starting vs self-stumbling

  1. Gwyn, what you wrote about is something I’ve only recently come to know/experience/believe.

    Like you, I have “balked at lists and deadlines much of my life” – not realizing how often I shot myself in the foot by breaking (as you say) my commitments to self (also not realizing how I disenfranchised myself from the creative process by doing this)…

    I think my strongest tool, as a self-starter, is reminding myself that lists, deadlines and organization ARE my friends. Articles like yours help me with that. Thanks!

  2. Great post.I am a self starter—and a compulsive list writer. My lists help me stay focused and on track. But I give my permission to rewrite or renumber my list when needed (e.g., a rush custom order trumps my plan to experiment with a prototype for a new product line for the short-term).

  3. Thanks for reposting this. It comes at a good time of year when I re-evaluate my intentions for the new year. I am a verifiable list maker and my middle name is Organization. Lists, calendars and “To-Do-By” reminders are what keep me in track. I believe the Bohemian idea of artists is a romantic one but not necessarily a practical one for those of us with other family and societal obligations and to get anything done you truly do have to keep putting one foot in front of the other to get where you’re going. Here’s to that Greek god of sneakers!

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