I’ve been learning the meaning of opportunity lately, and it’s a simple concept that’s taken a long time to understand. Looking back, it’s been in front of me this whole time, and there are moments when even with its knowledge, it slips through my fingers. Do you know it?
It’s this: if you want something, all you have to do is ask.
Wait. Before you discredit the simplicity of that statement, it’s not as obvious as it seems. Consider the following example. Fred and I are currently working on our writing game, Eight Bells Bluff, and we’ve recently come across a contemporary book that has these wonderful illustrations. We both read the book and felt like the artwork could be the perfect aesthetic for the game design. What did we do next? Well, we took the hard road. We tried to describe the style in “key words,” Googling similar artists, checking websites like Fiverr for artists that illustrate in the same style…
Until, Fred said something so obvious it almost hurt my brain.
“Why don’t we contact the actual artist and see if we can commission his work?”
You might have immediately picked up on this answer, but would you have in our situation?
You might have immediately picked up on this answer, but would you have in our situation? Or, moreover, would you have written the email and made the contact? For whatever reason, our brains (mine, at least) are trained to think that we aren’t in league with people who do things on “bigger levels.” What is that imaginary dividing line, and why do we let ourselves exist in step with it?
Okay, here’s another story. About two years ago, I was in a conversation about TED talks. A longtime fan, I mused about TED speakers and their wise words, without really giving much thought to how they got there. What made a TED speaker? Surely, someone on a different “level” than me. I was “only” a college professor, “only” owned a literary magazine, and “only” did… well, whatever else I do.
And then, an application came across my desk to apply for a TEDx conference. I called Fred and said, “Am I crazy? I feel like I have to apply for this, and it has to be about how we started the magazine. It has to be about showing people that everyone possesses a toolbox of skills that they’ve accumulated over a lifetime.”
I applied. Each round of “cuts” got me closer to being accepted, and each time, I remember saying to myself, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
But, why? Why couldn’t I believe it? Why was it so unusual that I, too, could level up in my own life?
The funny thing was, here at Loud Coffee Press, we were leveling up. What started as a magazine concept was headed into its eighth issue. One blog post turned into over 100 posts. A seed of a game idea sprouted leaves. Books were published with more on the way.
It seemingly happened without us noticing. The question soon became- how? What were we doing?
Doors were opening, because we routinely consciously and subconsciously choose to do the following things:
1. We visualize and speak in detail about our company and creative goals.
2. We work to remove mental blocks that are holding us back from achieving our goals.
3. We consistently work.
4. We chunk big tasks into smaller tasks so they’re easier to achieve.
5. We ask.
If you ask us where we’re headed, we have a clear vision of our future. For years in my "other" work, I’d often be asked, “where do you see yourself in five, ten, or fifteen years?” That question was not only hard to answer, it was ambiguous, and I always felt like I gave the industry-standard response. With Loud Coffee Press, while we allow ourselves the freedom to be surprised by forward growth and acceleration, our future goals are not only crystal clear, but they’re specific, measurable, timely and attainable.
The door method is the concept that doors to new opportunity exist almost everywhere.
Second, we’re working on what we like to refer to as the “door method." The door method is the concept that doors to new opportunity exist almost everywhere. You only need the awareness to knock, turn the knob, or walk right through. It’s easy to mosey through life and leave the doors closed, or be fooled into thinking you don’t have the right key; but, sometimes, all those slabs need are a gentle push, and in you go.
Third, we do something every day, and this something moves us toward our goals. We learned that waiting on the muse isn’t the way to get things done. Ask the muse to visit every weekend so I can write a blog post? Nope. This blog takes work, and I have to go out and seek the inspiration. Here’s a little insider tip: the more I do it, the easier it becomes. Writing this blog is much easier now than it was a year ago, and that is the product of consistency. I used to worry that I’d run out of ideas, but that concern was based on muse-thinking. Knowing now that inspiration is everywhere if I look means I can put the time in, pick the concept, and write.
Next, Fred is a real-life project manager, so we use his skills to help us succeed. He’s introduced organizational tools like Trello, Basecamp, and Dropbox into Loud Coffee Press so not only have do we have shared access to our work, but to our tasks. We can create an idea, and then break it down into cards in Trello, moving a card into the “working”pile when we’re in progress, and then “done” when it’s finished. We often meet via Zoom in Basecamp to view our to-do list together, and we link our to-do list to our calendars. Our working documents are shared in Dropbox, so we both have the latest drafts of our current brainchild.
How about asking for what you want? About a year ago, we wrote a blog post inspired by the band Rush. We knew of a high-profile site that posted all things Rush, so Fred took the initiative to send our blog post to the site. They gladly agreed to share our work, and we saw our post views tick up and up. That was a huge moment for us! A website we admired shared our work. All we had to do was ask.
Finally, when we look at what we do, and when you examine your own work/creative life, an important key is to remember that there aren’t any such thing as “levels.” Those are social constructs that we create to block ourselves from reaching out, going after what we want, or convincing ourselves that we’re capable of moving forward. Basically, if you ask for something, the worst anyone can tell you is, “no.” Is “no” really so bad?
To that, I say... well, no.
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