If you are a creative or technical entrepreneur, most of your attention is likely on your next big idea. As an execution machine, you give your work the focus it deserves. But it is also probable that you have experienced some disappointment when the products and services you have envisioned land in the marketplace with a dull thud.
Is there a proven strategy to create and launch creative work that customers are delighted to buy?
The pain of a failed product can be devastating, but it can teach us a simple lesson. The marketplace is a conglomerate of human beings with strong opinions and preferences. And they judge the value of our work, not by its connection to us, but by its relevance to them.
The discovery that our genius alone is inadequate opens us to a new opportunity to learn and grow, but it can also lead to an unhelpful spiral of negative emotions.
The Defensive Response
When others devalue our gifts, it is natural to become defensive. We think to ourselves, I’ve spent decades mastering this skill. And with this affirmation, we go our way with our superiority intact. Who is that ignorant philistine to judge me so harshly?
Many of us are strong enough to retain our belief in ourselves, our skills, and our creative work, but we do so at the expense of isolating ourselves. Isolation leads to a growing sense of disappointment. Where are the accolades my art deserves? What has gone wrong?
Unmitigated disappointment and disconnection lead to discouragement and loss of motivation. We grumble to ourselves. If others don’t recognize the gifts I am giving through my work, why continue creating? Soon, we diminish our creative work to transactional, risk-free labor. Perhaps the fine artist decides to paint road signs, or the novelist writes catalog sales copy.
Or, the work we love is abandoned, hidden under the rickety stairs in the spooky basement of our subconscious.
The defensive response is ignorant of its inherent selfishness and arrogance. We feel justified in isolating ourselves from critical voices. In our hurt, we promote ourselves to the position of The Supreme Judge of Value. Others should bow to us as a superior tastemaker.
But there is a better way.
The Learning Response
Recently I’ve been reminded of the importance of curiosity. Our education, life experiences, and basic bent toward egocentrism encourage us to assume complete knowledge of all circumstances we deem normal. Occasionally, we experience something out-of-the-ordinary enough to produce a sense of wonder, but this diminishes as we age — unless we go against the flow and cultivate our curiosity.
“How often are you walking away from life-changing opportunities because you are more afraid than you are curious?”
— Vincent Pugliese, The Wealth of Connection
When we nurture our curiosity, we learn to connect without judgment or fear of disappointment. We understand that regret comes from failed expectation. But we can dodge that bullet by believing we always have something new to learn — even where we are the supreme expert.
To grow in curiosity, unlearn the deeply ingrained belief that you are the authority on your work and its impact on others.
When we demote ourselves from the position of Supreme Judge, a world of opportunity opens before us. Rather than retreating to our workshop, we can venture out into the world and build relationships. We can avoid viewing people as a means to an end and approach them with genuine curiosity about where their lives intersect with our domain of expertise. On finding a connection, we dig deep and understand as much as possible about their struggles and triumphs.
Equipped with deep insight into the needs of prospective customers, we can create with confidence. Where we once approached potential customers seeking their validation of our completed work, we can offer them solutions to known problems.
We were once needy and timid. But now, we keep our self-doubts at bay by focusing on the solutions we provide, not on our inherent worth and genius.
Empathy turns you into a product-creation superhero! But without curiosity, we cannot understand the world our customers inhabit. When we become curious, we open the door to empathy. Affinity with others allows us to enter the world of those we seek to serve.
“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.”
— Alfred Adler
Accurate knowledge of those we serve fuels financially successful creative work. Their external challenges shape the solutions we offer. A deep understanding of their world informs the marketing language that arouses curiosity and interest in others.
Equipped with curiosity, connection, and empathy, you can build valuable products and services with a much better chance of success. So emerge from your workshop, brush the dust from your clothes, and wander out into the crowd to discover the real people your incredible creative gifts can serve. You will be astounded by the abundance you find!