The Magic of Creation

concept—> review —> create —> TEST —> iterate

A few weekends ago, I hit the pause button to take in the John Mayer solo tour on a Saturday night. In the middle of the concert, he decided to move off the setlist and play a brand new song live for the very first time. He described the experience this way:

“A new song, ‘In the Neighborhood,’ came bounding out before I had committed the lyrics to memory. But that’s how new songs sound when I play them for people after just writing them; they’re just barely within reach. I stayed up last night and reworked some chords (and yes, I got the lyrics straight) and can’t wait to play it again tomorrow night. I’ve never been this exposed before, and the beauty FAR outweighs the discomfort. These shows are building the bridge to my next album and keeping me true to myself in the process. What an experience this has become.”

What a gift to watch an artist create and share what is on his heart. I am grateful he had the confidence and humility to test it in Minnesota for the first time, and I take solace in imagining him up late into the night, in a suite at the Four Seasons, working out his chords.

The beauty FAR outweighs the discomfort.

I am reminding myself of exactly that for those moments when my own work and creative effort isn’t within reach quite yet and it feels discouraging.

This compels me to consider a few core tenets of my approach to creating something new:

Get started

Whether it’s songwriting, delivering a sales presentation or some other significant creative endeavor, the best way to move forward is to simply begin. It’s all a rough draft until you decide it isn’t. Creation is an iterative process.

Don’t go it alone

When you are getting started or feel stalled or stuck, it’s important to lean on people you trust for feedback and collaboration. I’ve lost belief in my work while creating something new, and in those hard moments, I needed to borrow the unwavering belief and support of the people around me. I will be forever grateful for their commitment even when I made the process hard.

Be willing to let go and take the risk

Creation is a risk. It might not land. Remember that the beauty outweighs the discomfort. Mayer wasn’t afraid to fail (he messed up the song multiple times), and you also have permission to make mistakes and iterate along the way. In fact, I think the audience’s adoration elevated in this unscripted, imperfect moment of sharing what was on his heart. I won’t forget it anytime soon.

Commit and cross the finish line if it’s worth it

You’ll know along the way if it’s worth it. I do think there is something important about finishing what you started, no matter the outcome. Perhaps that is partially what he meant about keeping true to himself.

This has incredible application in the professional selling domain. Sellers who make the most meaningful connections are skillful, confident and prepared. But they also know when to step outside the deck and respond, in real time, to what’s happening in the conversation. Professional selling is about asking, not telling. It’s listening, not talking. Our job is to help people arrive at the very best decision — which so often means co-creating the future in partnership with our customers and having the courage to take a risk.

This week, remember that if you’re creating something new, it’s OK to feel uncomfortable. Lean into it. The beauty far outweighs the discomfort.

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