Hello and welcome to issue 69, the Progress issue. This fortnight I’ve been reflecting on the ways we can change things for the better and make progress by doing things differently or challenging the status quo. This issue is full of people who have made a conscious effort to create positive change by doing things differently.
This got me thinking about what ‘progress’ means to me. I love the idea that we can all make change in the world that has a positive impact on others by deciding to do so, and then by channelling our energy. Pretty much every conversation I have with a new acquaintance involves me explaining why I created Womanthology, initially as a hobby before it became a business, and how I set about this. I always tell them it was about making positive progress. Here’s my tips for channelling your energy to achieve positive progress.
Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity
Sometimes you want to make a difference and embark on something new, but you don’t know exactly what that will look like. That’s OK. Reframe your fear of the unknown for a curiosity about what your awesome new idea could become, even if you’re not sure exactly what that is yet. You might want to start a blog, or volunteer to help a cause that’s close to your heart, or you might want to change your lifestyle. Heck, you might just want to set aside a few minutes once a week to watch a TED talk. They’re all OK.
You don’t always know what progress will look like. Part of the process can be working that out. Not everybody has a clearly articulated dream or plan to start with. That can come later. It’s important that don’t overlook this altogether or you risk lacking in focus and commitment, but for now lose the fear of the unknown and replace that with curiosity about what you could set out to achieve when you’re ready to set your mind to it.
Research and destroy
If you want to make a dent in a problem or challenge, take time to learn as much as you can about if from as many sources as possible. I love Twitter but before I began tweeting I set up an account and just followed lots of individuals and threads to get a sense of the conversations that were going on in the gender equality space.
It’s brilliant to watch from the sidelines for a while, particularly if you’re interested in something that’s a new area to you. Have a look at different platforms too. There’s interesting content on less well-known platforms like Flipboard and you can also learn a huge amount by setting up Google alerts so you have tailored news being sent direct to you. I spoke to Mel Perkins from Canva for this edition and she talked about visual literacy. Platforms like Pinterest can energise us by stimulating our visual senses through an abundance of ideas.
There’s no shortage of amazing ideas
One of the things that concerns most creative people is that they will run out of ideas, but that’s never going to happen. (OK – try telling me that as I sit down to write my blog every fortnight…) Sometimes it might feel like you’re short of original thoughts, so it’s important to work out how to challenge your brain when this happens. Pinterest is a great favourite of mine for this reason. The sheer volume of content means that there is always something new to see. It’s like when you go on holiday overseas and you try new food, experience different weather, visit new places, meet new people, and the list goes on.
When I’m sat in my study at home as I am now though I sometimes get ‘the fear’ that I’ll never have a new thought again. So what to do if you’re not about to jet off somewhere new to soak up a whole load of new sensations to get your neurons buzzing again? Well sometimes familiarity can help – a brew with your best friend, a meal with your family or a yoga class to clear your mind. It’s all about convincing your brain to let loose.
What is your “why”?
I’ve mentioned this many times before, but if you haven’t seen it already you should watch the Simon Sinek TED talk “How great leaders inspire action.” He starts with a golden circle and the question “Why?” *Spoiler alert* – he concludes that people aren’t interested in what you do, they’re interested in why you do what you do, so if you can work out how to articulate that then you’re much more likely to be able to persuade people to engage with the things that you’re passionate about. Simple.
Some of us are fortunate and realise our “why” in childhood or early adult life, which makes things a lot easier …Or does it? We all have phases in our lives. Something that gives you purpose during one phase might be overtaken by something else. I suppose the knack is working out your “why” at any given point in time and making yourself as comfortable as possible with that.
Not everybody will get it (and that’s OK)
I’ve mentioned the Jeff Bezos quote several times before: “Entrepreneurs must be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.” And it’s true. If you’re looking to start a business then you might get lucky and become an overnight sensation, but the chances are you’re going to have to work, harder than you’ve ever worked before, in the first instance with little or no recognition or reward. There will be some people who will never get what you’re doing at all, but if they see it and they can’t relate to it then it was never intended for them in the first place. (It might also be that the market is trying to tell you something if nobody gets it, so use your common sense here…)
Do it for you and not for them
This is going back to your “why”. It’s wonderful if you have worked out what this is, but your “why” is something that should be about you. Why slog your guts out doing a job you hate just because it pays well? Are you doing it for you or for someone else like your partner or your kids? If you’re wasting your life trapped in a career that is sapping the life out of you then are you truly looking out for them anyway if the result is that you’re a stressed out wreck? If there’s something else that’s important to you then maybe in order for you to be your authentic self you need to give yourself permission to realign your priorities for everybody’s sake, not just your own.
Don’t stop until you’re proud
If you are serious about creating progress around a particular idea or project, then you’re going to have to prepare to commit for the long haul. Starting a business or running a successful project takes inordinate amounts of hard work. If you’re looking to be a maverick and do something disruptive and effect change, then you might have to buckle your seat belt for a long ride. You are going to want to give up. Don’t. The sure fire route to success is working hard at something every day and then little by little, a little becomes a lot.