Creative people have the idea curse. Every day, maybe multiple times per day, we're coming up with new ideas that could work.
And don't get me wrong – this is also our creative blessing!
Throughout your life, you will select a portfolio of new ideas that you will, in fact, pursue. But the number of ideas you pursue is far fewer than the number of ideas that you'll have.
Statistically speaking, you will walk away from the vast majority of your ideas.
When I first began to realize this, I thought that meant I'd only say yes to something like one in every four ideas. A 75% "no" rate seems high, right?
But I've come to realize that you actually need to say "no" to 9 out of 10 ideas. Maybe 99 out of 100 ideas.
In order to give your YES ideas a shot, you need to say NO to just about everything else.
This is an exercise in restraint. It's an exercise in saving ourselves from ourselves.
"Restraint" is one of the most frequently used words in my vocabulary lately. I see an epidemic of creators unable to exercise restraint.
Restraint in what you say yes to. Restraint in the scope of your projects. Restraint in the expectations you set. Restraint in how much we give of ourselves.
There have never been more shiny platforms to distract us...
But that is the opportunity.
The opportunity is NOT doing the hot new thing.
The opportunity is NOT starting that new project.
The opportunity is restraint.
Restraint is the path to mastery.
Because restraint is difficult, most will not choose it.
Because restraint is difficult, most will spread themselves too thin.
Because restraint is difficult, all you need to do is embrace it.
The difficult thing is the opportunity. The difficult path is the one that others will NOT take. So when you do the difficult work, you'll reap the rewards of being one of the few.
Sometimes the difficult thing is the boring thing that you're already good at.
Sometimes the difficult thing is saying NO to an exciting new idea.
Sometimes the difficult thing is simply maintaining focus.
Epictetus said that two words should be committed to memory and obeyed by alternatively encouraging and restraining ourselves. Two words will ensure we lead a "mainly blameless and untroubled life.”
Those two words were persist and resist.
Persist through challenges and obstacles.
Resist the temptations and discouragement.
I find persistence to be the easier half of the equation. But resistance? That requires restraint – and restraint is difficult.
Which is exactly why restraint is your advantage to be had.
PS: Have a hard time putting aside great ideas? Try a Possible Futures folder.