That ONE Thing

Making time for that ONE thing you love

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A business and personal perspective of what it means to dedicate time to what you love doing, regardless of how much money it will give you or if you don't have time.

Do you spend time on things that matter to you?

Here's a hint: Netflix doesn't count.

Neither does going out and being social with friends.

Sunday Night Football isn't in the running either.

I'm talking about that ONE thing you've put off, maybe for years, but occasionally think about in your down time. The ONE thing you wish you could be doing, but when the idea comes to mind, a wave of circumstances blocks it off, to ever remain in the realm of possibility and good intentions, but never to see the light of day through execution. Common reasons may include, "I'm not good at it," or "I don't have the time", or "It won't make me any money, or solve my problems". Sound familiar at all?

That little voice that says you can't do what you want

Louis C.K. humorously provides a great description on what that little voice sounds like, where sometimes we settle on thinking of a good idea alone as being enough to feel good, without actually doing it.

Picasso said something similar, where he once claimed:

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."

A recent interview with Benjamin Health perhaps sums it up best in the most intimate details. Years of misunderstanding what he wanted, accompanied by a haphazard search for meaning eventually brought Benjamin back to the one thing he loved to do, which was photography. Now he's living the life he loves.

Taking down that little voice

Recently, I started getting back into traditional art, after a year of studying new forms of web design and search engine marketing. Don't get me wrong, I love my work, but there comes a point where burying your head in your job reaches a stage of hollowness. The obsession becomes stale, and the real, creative and innovative work is no longer possible. I had put off art for so long, that I forgot how much I enjoyed it - what's worse, is that I think about drawing and painting every day.

My most common excuse was that I didn't have enough time since I was obsessing about running a small business. That's what you're supposed to do right? Maybe that's what the "startup" movement drills into everyone's heads but the other day, that statement was proven wrong. In 15 minutes I was able to great a technical sketch that I was proud of:

drawing by zachary straub at straub creative company

I threw on my headphones, bobbed my head a little bit, and put the pencil to work, and you know what? The feeling I got after completing the sketch was incredible - I felt accomplished and satisfied with joy even over something so small. I regained the feeling of making something original with my own hands.

Better yet, all of the other projects I was working on suddenly seemed to carry a little bit more meaning behind them. The sense of accomplishment and meaning from the drawing transferred to the other skills and objectives I commonly refer to every day.

The reward is emergent from doing the work

It's not readily accessible to reasoning why drawing is a good idea, or why photography is a good idea, but if you do them, they will make your life better. The meaning behind craftsmanship emerges as tasks are completed, and that meaning transfers to other things you do. Success begets success.

Get pumped and take action!

Imagine doing that one thing, a lot. Think about it at lunch, when you day dream, while watching television, or while listening to others. Write about it by keeping a little journal you can easily store in your pocket or purse. Jot ideas down a couple times a day and then review them at night.

The goal is to become obsessed with that one thing, because then you'll be forced to go after it. Until it becomes a top priority, it will never be in a place in your mind to get done.

Take note too, that in attempting to make something a top priority, see what blockades surface - then decide whether those blockades are actually necessary or not in your life. If other goals get in the way, you have too many goals (yes, being overly innovative is actually a problem); if problems get in the way, then you have too many problems --> keep it simple stupid! If people keep getting in your way, then maybe they're not such a great influence to have around.

Surround yourself with the right people - it matters!

Speaking of bad influences, stay away from people who complain or who are needy for no good reason. They'll just drag you down and add weight to your life that doesn't need to be there.

Surround yourself with positive, encouraging personalities who will support your emotions.

Surround yourself with methodical, objective-oriented, and technical minded personalities who will keep you on task and add to your creative process if you hit a wall.

Surround yourself with dominant personalities because they will keep you focused and call you out on your excuses. They might be mean, but they'll make you tougher and more honest.

charcoal drawing figure study

Don't forget online communities!

If you want to learn how to do something find like-minded people online. Join a couple online communities on Facebook or Google+. Join deviantART and see all the different ways you could express yourself by looking and connecting with other people's profiles. Start following artists on Twitter. Subscribe to drawing channels on YouTube. Use Meetup to find other artists in your city, and go draw with them!

Make time for that ONE thing

Take a look at the things that really don't matter in day to day routine. You can always count on shows, movies and television as being the most irrelevant since they're just forms of entertainment, you never actually gain anything from sitting on the couch and watching a screen. if you spend an hour or so everyday, or every other day watching a show - think of how you could better use that time.

Take a look at the time you spend with others vs. the time you spend on yourself. There's always room for improvement there too - don't be afraid to excuse yourself to go do what you want!

Have kids or a family with responsibilities? No problem, include them in what you want too. Kids love to draw and take photographs, and spouses / partners love to be adorned. Draw or photograph your partner - do it a lot!

What's your ONE thing?

Do you take a lot of photos on your phone? Did you used to doodle on homework in high school? Do murals inspire you? YOU know what that one thing is - but giving yourself the permission and having the courage to go after it - that's what matters!


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  • commented 2014-12-17 17:43:45 -0500
    I really like how you describe going after that “one thing”: by giving yourself permission to do so. I think that’s the hardest part, giving yourself permission to do something that gives you joy or inspires part of your soul that isn’t readily accessible.

    I think, too, a big part of this is accepting the fact that this “one thing” might be difficult at times and you might fail or struggle in doing it, but that part of doing that “one thing” is learning and improving in it. Don’t fear the struggle, embrace it! For example, for me the “one thing” is music. I love music, singing, all that jazz. I never, however, really learned how to play an instrument. Over the years I’ve thought about how I should and know that it will make me happy when I do, but I keep letting excuses get in the way. Now that I am trying to learn how to play guitar, I fear failing at it and that allows me to continue making excuses instead of giving into my “one thing.”