Just make something. Set the bar low and do it every day. — Nathan Barry, CEO of ConvertKit
I’ve never sees myself as a maker or creator in any sense. Growing up, originality or authenticity wasn’t seen as important values to be instilled within my family. It’s actually quite understandable since most Asian family usually prepare their children to be well off, hence the mindset of “playing it safe”, to just do what you know, and take as little risks as possible. Knowing my family, the idea of raising a child to grow up with an independent mindset, and to be as authentic as possible would be the least pressing issue in their list of priorities.
It’s not without consequences (at least for me). Looking back, the lack of self-affirmation made me grow up with a well masked low self-esteem and a lingering inferiority complex issue, even though I was mostly known as the funny, outgoing guy (True story: My resolution for 2019 is to talk less). I sure did some of those stupid things teenagers do, but I was still the typical goody-two-shoes boy. I was never a ‘rebel’, ‘risk-taker’, ‘bold’ type.
There were countless times where I doubted myself and my ability to do or decide on something, thus bringing me to always play it the safe way: do what other people do, and you’ll succeed (If you had known me back in college, this would have been painfully obvious to you). Unfortunately, this brings me to the vicious cycle of self-doubt and insecurity.
You see, the byproduct of over-emulating people around you is that you start comparing yourself to them. You’ll subconsciously determine your self-worth based on your subjective perception of your peers’ achievement, fashion sense, social media posts, and so on (Pro tip: DON’T). You’ll start second-guessing your decisions, because “This is not how he/she does it… What if I’m wrong?”. To make matters worse, your perspective on other people’s success is heavily diluted and skewed. You overrate their achievements while severely underrating yours.
The worst part is: when a slight sign of authenticity shown up, you’ll still be doubting yourself because you’ll think that other people would’ve done it better.
Comedy and the tech startup mentality
Because of all of those reasons, the thought of “creating” something from scratch has always been foreign to me. Until I joined Codementor, and started meddling around the world of tech startups. The startup world and mentality is quite eye-opening, to say the least.
In general, the heart of most tech startup founders and employees can be encapsulated to one message: “Try first”. As I got to know my boss and co-workers better, working with different clients, and learn from the perspective of other startup people, it became apparent to me that, making something original isn’t actually that crazy at all. As cheesy as it sounds, the Colin Kaepernick Nike ad’s slogan “It’s Only Crazy Until You Do It” actually resonates with me (Don’t be too flattered Nike, your basketball shoes still suck).
The value of originality happens to be the base stone of one of my great interests: Comedy. Comedy as a modern art form has always fascinated me because of the high volume of originality from top performers, and plagiarism is highly detestable. Top comedians not only always have new, absurd ideas, but somehow they’re able to follow it up with high-quality executions. One of my favorite Youtube videos is this HBO special where Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis CK dissect and break down the structure of their comedic bits.
Ricky Gervais himself is a strong proponent of creating:
You should bring something into the world that wasn’t in the world before. It doesn’t matter what that is. It doesn’t matter if it’s a table or a film or gardening – everyone should create. You should do something, then sit back and say, “I did that.” — Ricky Gervais
Counting the baby steps
One of the overarching goals of being original and authentic is to be kinder to yourself. I’ve been trying to recall the occasions where I was able to come up with something original and
basked in the glory of it remind myself that I got what it takes to start. Some of those:
- Wrote songs for my band (nope, it’s not online right now but stay tuned!)
- Wrote a Medium post about sales and comedy
- Created memes for Codementor’s Twitter every now and then (Don’t forget to follow us)
- Came up with creative solutions at work
Slowly but surely, the self-doubt and false inferiority complex started to be slightly less noisy. The pain of making decisions and the nerve-wracking (sounds exaggerated, I know) fear of getting things wrong get lighter by the day. It’s not perfect, but it’s still baby steps forward.
The essence of creation is not to be perfect, but to project your creative identity and bring it to life via any medium that is suitable for you. A meaningful original creation doesn’t have to be glamorous, it just has to be authentic.
If you haven’t noticed, the creation of this blog is also one of the first steps in my journey to find my own creative identity. There is no guarantee that I will not fail, but it’s definitely worth a shot, because that’s the whole point of creating. I hope one day I can look back, share my stories and proudly tell others “I made this and this…”
This is my phone wallpaper nowadays, it serves as a reminder.
The ‘try again’ prompt is totally by accident, happens when iPhone couldn’t recognize your fingerprint, but I found it quite profound.
If it sucks, try again. Because that’s what makers do.