When you finish your creative journey, where will you arrive?
What does your life look like at the end of that journey?
How will you feel when you get there?
If your creative pursuit is a hobby or something you're doing for fun, then perhaps you don't need to reach into your existentialism to answer these questions; the ride of the undulating unknown is a fun one to be on, after all.
But if you take your creativity at least somewhat seriously, if you're a creative by trade, or you're not currently, but you'd like to be, then these are the questions you'll eventually have to answer.
As corny as it sounds, this is goal-setting for creatives. And I'd argue that for us creatives, it's perhaps more critical for us than for anyone else.
Creativity, art, and the idea of doing something that is inherently a luxury (which all art is), lulls most humans into a sense of comfort and satisfaction.
As creatives, we have the requirement to not only have an eye on the success and the future of the thing that we're doing, but we also need to enjoy the process of doing it. More so than many other professions, there's a sense of play that's necessary to be at our best. And when things are going well, when we have that confluence of moving towards something in a state of play, we're successful.
But, in a twisted turn of events, it's this same state of play that, when left to their own devices, cripples most creatives from moving their lives forward.
Many creatives think that if they just produce more art, the success will arrive; that if they make the work, the people will come.
And this is why many creatives aren't financially stable, long-lasting, or successful.
I'll be honest with you. The half-life of a creative in 2023 is short for most people.
I've been in this game long enough to see creatives burst onto the scene in a flash of alluring and captivating brilliance, only to fall into irrelevance a few short years after, or even worse, forgoing their passions altogether and returning to what they were doing before.
And while there are many reasons for this, one of those reasons is a lack of direction.
The idea of a “north star” harkens back to a time when GPS and satellites didn't exist. A time when you knew where you were going because you were further from or closer to a particular star in the night sky. That's how we navigated the world once upon a time. We used the stars to orient ourselves.
Today, it's very "enterprisey" to have a “north star”, but the idea itself is no less valuable.
Where are you headed?
Where do you want to walk to?
What's the destination?
And what do you receive by going there? What will your life be like once you're there? Or better yet, how will your life be like once you're there, in a world dictated by you, on your own terms?
The answer to that is how you'll orient yourself as a creative, and it's how you'll set the direction of where you want to go.
From that understanding, the path is the easy part. Reverse-engineering how to get there takes about an hour on Google and a little bit of forward planning. It's not complicated.
The hard part is knowing where to go because a destination worth pursuing is a path worthy of staying on and sticking to. The latter is the hard part here—sticking to it.
But if you do, perhaps your creativity will lead you to a long, fruitful, satisfying career leading an agency or a company. Or perhaps your creativity is a long string of education-infused moments, each touchpoint impacting more people than the last. Or perhaps your creativity successfully blends art and commerce, leaving the entire industry better than when you arrived.
What is the goal 10 years from now? 20 years from now? A lifetime from now?
And then, to take from Peter Thiel, how can you achieve that goal in 6 months?
I mean it. Think of your biggest goals; think of your future life and lifestyle. Something you think would take decades to achieve. And then, as a thought exercise, think about how you could achieve that in 6 months. And then go and try and do it.
The time it takes to reach that success, regardless of whether or not it actually does take six months, is always going to be shorter than you think it will be. And once you reach that success, do the same exercise again. Think ten years out, then think about how you can cut that by 95%.
As an example, for me, the big themes of my last decade have revolved around the idea of freedom.
Time freedom, location freedom, financial freedom. I first learned of these virtues in Tim Ferris' landmark book, The 4-hour workweek.
Freedom for me is to be able to control all of your time. To not be booked up with meetings or obligated to do things you don't want to do. To not be tied to any place at any time; not for career, not for finance, not for anything, to stay in a place only because you want to. And then, to have enough money to do whatever you want. To not worry about where the next meal will come from, or how much flights cost to the other side of the world, or whether it was economically feasible to splurge on a nice hotel.
These were the themes behind my most recent goals, most certainly a decade or more worth of goals for most people.
But I set these goals for a future, decade-older version of me five years ago. And it took me just three years to reach them all.
That's not to brag; I care next to nothing about what people think of me. Rather, it's to show that if I can do it, if I can condense down a decade's worth of goals into just a few years, then you can do it too.
So, what's at the end of your creativity? Many people can make things. But few people stop to set themselves up to spend the rest of their lives being able to continue doing it. If they want to, of course.
Play, with purpose. Creativity, with direction. Life, with intention.
Set those creative goals and pursue them. Go and explore the end of your creativity.
Have a successful journey, creative.