I was pretty fearless in my teens and twenties.
I figured out how to get myself to Switzerland as an exchange student at 16, with little money and no contacts.
I had many adventures in college in Mexico and Colombia, often traveling alone and having some dangerous experiences like being held up by knife point, and walking home alone after a late night of salsa dancing (don’t tell my Mom). For the volcano hike story, you will have to ask Desiree.
I lived in Rio de Janeiro for six months by myself while I trained the Afro-Brazilian martial art of capoeira.
And much earlier, as soon as I really got the hang of books, I loved to read stories of myths and adventures from all over the world.
I think intense devotion to your craft is a commitment to hair-raising adventure.
As businesspeople, we talk about the power of stories in conveying the value of our product or service.
So we get all wrapped up in worry about if people are going to buy the book we are going to write, or the product we are designing.
As a wide-eyed first-time author, I asked advice from Adrian Zackheim, the head of Penguin/Portfolio, who was the publisher of my first book.
“Write the damned book,” he said.
And now having written the damned book, I will tell you that it was an adventure to the grandest scale of my childhood dreams. I fought demons. I interviewed kings and queens. I scaled the highest mountains of impossibility, gave up, died and somehow came back to life in time to finish the last chapter. All while changing tiny baby diapers, and dealing with economic warfare all around me.
I think craft has spirit.
In individual sessions with clients, or writing, or in a large room teaching to a group of people, there are moments of intense and utter grace.
They come when you immerse yourself in your work and feel like you have to know how to do it better or else you will lose your quest and the king will cut your head off in the public square.
They come when you feel ideas rising up in your chest and you know, for certain, that they are turning into something big and powerful, as if conjured by a magic spell.
Craft is not a rote, calculated path, it is an explosive, messy, terrifying and passionate adventure.
- How can your work take you on a journey?
- What dragons are to be slayed?
- What myths are to be broken?
- What music is meant to be danced to, until there is no separation between beat, body and spirit?
- Which battles are to be fought?
- What deep, passionate love is to be made?
- What inner tiger is meant to be released from its chains inside you?
How would you feel differently about your craft if you viewed it as a noble adventure?
One of the great burdens of new entrepreneurs is wondering, after looking at what they have done:
“Is this all just a bunch of meaningless drivel? I mean, do I have any idea what I am doing?”
It is also the great burden of experienced entrepreneurs.
As a little girl, I sat in the darkroom with my Dad as he showed me subtle manipulations to the printing of photographs that made a huge difference in the feeling and look of the picture.
I watched him smile as he found the one shot in eighty that captured just the right collection of facial expressions in a group shot.
And I still watch him, at seventy-six years old and with more than fifty years experience as a professional photographer, sweat when he sends a photo to a client.
“Dad,” I always say, “Has a client ever not liked one of your pictures?”
I can’t ever remember a time when they haven’t.
To my Dad, craft is a noble undertaking. Even in the last quarter of your life, you never consider yourself a master.
When you choose the adventure of your craft, you find unexpected, beautiful and unlikely sides to it.
Differentiation, as the marketing wonks like to say.
- Are you on an adventure?
- Who is the hero?
- Who are you trying to save?
- How would your work be different if it didn’t have to sound pithy or be perfect?