You might do something well or badly, but first of all you must do. It might be something you enjoy; more wonderfully, perhaps something which you love. It might be something which brings you little pleasure but, at least, some reward, and so it will be of some value. Doing is the first important thing. Do something.
Every act of creation has enhancement at its core. Creating is an exalted form of doing. To create is to do and be better. Create something useful or create something beautiful. When you achieve one you’ll effectively have achieved the other. And if you succeed, you’ll have put something out into the world that enhances the lives of others in some small way. But don’t stop at small. People who create have the ability and potential to have a profound effect on the world and the people in it. Keep on creating.
I’d like to make a claim for the word nice. I almost wrote, ‘to reclaim the word nice’, but its epistemological roots in the English language are perhaps not so favourable. Its lexical evolution, however, came to define and focus on qualities which were altogether more positive. These days, it has come to be thought of as that most mediocre of compliments; a more polite way of expressing ‘I’m not crazy about it (him/her), but I don’t hate it’: a benign form of indifference. But niceness is a most underrated quality. It is how I like to be with people and how I hope they will feel predisposed to be with me. A little aggression, stubbornness and selfishness can take you a long way, but niceness can be every bit as effective for achieving your goals, securing trust and building relationships.
Respond to people, especially to those who have put time and consideration into communicating with you. Say thank you. You’d be forgiven for thinking this has a lot to do with niceness, above. It does not. To thank someone is to acknowledge them properly and is something you should feel compelled to do.
Share and praise.
Each day, you will see or use or consume something which is useful or beautiful; an experience which will enrich you. It might be an illustration within a publication. It might be the perfect lunch. You might receive outstanding service from a waiter or a greengrocer, a hair stylist or a concierge. Let it be of use to others by sharing your experience. Give praise, but never gratuitously (try to avoid excess and insincerity in all that you do). And tell those people – those creators, those manufacturers, those service providers – what their art, their products, their service has meant to you. Tell them clearly so that they can feel the truth and weight of your compliments and feedback and be genuinely grateful in return. It will be a special moment of their day, but of yours, too.
Take risks. Do things that challenge you. Fail at something.
Be a little provocative at times. Occasionally, it is a wonderful thing to be caught off-guard by something which shocks. A few months ago, I heard a rather refined client of mine swear in my company for the very first time. It wasn’t an aberration, nor was it intended to give offence. It was used knowingly: it served to affirm the enhanced and closer kind of relationship that had grown between us. It was in recognition of the trust we now placed in one another and a nod to the greater intimacy we now shared. It was used kindly. A well-placed swear word can be an exquisite thing to hear, especially when and from whom you might least expect to hear it. Whether it is to relax and encourage someone, or to give significant and singular emphasis to something, or simply to bring some joyful kind of surprise via a smile or laughter, shocking someone can be a fucking wonderful thing to do.
Remember that favour that someone did for you when you were in that tight spot? You breathed that huge sigh of relief and muttered, ‘I owe you one’. Well, don’t remain in their debt for any longer than you have to. Reciprocate that kindness and feel good for doing so and enable that person to truly see what their kindness meant to you in return.
Pause, but don’t procrastinate.
Pausing allows you to take stock of what you have done and focus on what you should do next. Procrastination is a most muddled type of pausing. Procrastination is one of the deadliest sins of the productive person, less awful than sloth or apathy, but arguably far more agonizing to go through. Move onwards: it always results in you eventually moving upwards.
Stress and anxiety.
Recognise these for what they are. Accept and don’t be overwhelmed by them. Most of my worries about work centre around my ability to do a job well for my client and to ensure that this doesn’t compromise work for another client or impact too heavily on my life outside of work. However good you are, it’s always a balancing act. I’ve realised stress and anxiety comes to some degree or other with every single job that I do. It comes from caring about what you do and how well you do it. Commit to put in the time and effort that each thing will require, to be courageous in your decision making, to trust that your solution will be the right solution for your client. This will help to prevent you from being overwhelmed by all that you must do and it will also avoid you meandering down that treacherous path toward procrastination. Have faith in your ability to do and do well.
Do your own thing. Be authentic. Do with integrity.
Edit, refine, finesse. Do something as good as you can possibly do it.
Do it better.
Then do, do and do again.
This essay originally appeared as a guest blog on Russell Brown’s Creative About Cuisine website.