This Might Not Work

The tension the creative, the visionary, and the change-maker feels is not something you should seek to get over. It is something you should seek to explore, to experiment, and to embrace.

If you do a magic trick for a three year old, she will quite happily sit in awe and wonder. If you do the same trick for a ten year old, or an adult who tolerates tension the way a ten year old does, he says, "I know how you did it!" Or he bugs you until he knows how it's done. He wants the tension to go away. There's a struggle, because on the one hand, magic just happens, but on the other, magic is impossible. You can't possibly living with two opposite things happening at the same time, especially if one of those things seems impossible. So you need to resolve the conflict, you try to eliminate the magic, you try to eliminate the impossible.

"The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." -F. Scott Fitzgerald

As creators, and consumers of what was created, we find ourselves in the best moment when we're in between two things happening at the same when they both can't possibly happen at the same time.

The flip side of "this might work" is "this might not work", and its living with these two ideas at the same time that permits us to create. Because the only way to create is to imagine that this might work, living in a future where this is working.

But the only way to be responsible as we create is to realize that this might not work. We are coming with grips with the idea that something that might not create the future we want.

Anxiety is to experience failure in advance. So if you only focus one one end of the dichotomy - "this might not work' - without holding onto the other - 'this might work' - you only you fuel your fears and paralyzed your work. And if you focus so much on what it means to lose, it will be impossible to create any work that's generous - any work where you're going to win. You don't have to deny that it might not, or didn't work. The goal is to live a life where your habit is to create and deliver, to look for the opportunity to be generous. And if things don't work, you've just learned one more way it's not going to work. We don't need to dwell on it, or use it as a trigger for hiding.

'This has to work' is common for anyone who is against the wall in making their work happen. As soon as we say 'This has to work', we extinguish the ability to say, 'this might work.' And here's the irony: if we do work that might work, it's much more likely to work. When we can live with the duality of 'it might work, but it might not', you're much more likely to succeed. But when we say, 'this is my last change, this has to work,' we cripple our creative ability. We sand off the rough edges, refuse to take risks, play it to safe, and by doing that you fail to make it interesting.

When you feel trapped in the corner of 'this better work', you have to find a way to lighten that up to 'This might work. It might not. Whatever. Let's see!'

Most of us deal with tension of 'it might work, but it might not' by avoiding it, and doing neither. So we avoid tension by not creating at all.

The alternative is to embrace the tension, the uncertainty, the 'gap'. When you are a change-maker, dealing with that tension is what you do for a living, and what you do to be alive. The tension is the space you occupy when you go from where you are, to where you want to be, from the possible to the possible, and from our present the a better future.


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