You’ve had this seed of an idea slowly blossoming in your heart for a long time now. You were starting to muster the courage to begin sharing it with the world.
And then, you stumbled across someone else who’s already doing the exact same thing, a hundred times better than you ever could.
First of all, compassion. Take a deep breath. It’s understandable to feel crushed. It’s okay to want to give up.
Pause for 20 seconds right now and breathe gently. Allow yourself to feel your hurt and sorrow. Then allow yourself to feel compassion for your hurt and sorrow.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
When your heart feels like maybe there is possibly the potential of an inkling that all may not be lost, read on.
Let me tell you a story.
Way back in 2008, Kyeli and I were just getting started blogging. We had the seed of an idea slowly blossoming in our hearts. We were starting to muster the courage to begin sharing it with the world.
And then, we stumbled across someone else who was already doing the exact same thing, a hundred times better than we ever could.
His name was Chris Guillebeau. He wrote about nonconformity, being your best self, and changing the world – exactly the message we wanted to write about.
We wanted to give up. Chris had his act together. He was already super-popular, and we were nobodies. He was a better writer. His website looked nice and professional.
“Why bother?” we asked each other.
Here are 3 questions for you:
Do you think our work is the exact same as Chris’s?
Do you think Chris is doing it a hundred times better than we ever could?
Do you wish we would have given up?
Now turn it around and apply it to yourself.
Your work is not the exact same as anyone else’s.
You’re noticing the similarities, but you’re too close to see the differences. Ask someone you trust to show you how your work is different.
You’re comparing your seed to someone else’s flower.
Seeds take time to grow. The person you’re comparing yourself to has spent a lot of time growing that flower and making it beautiful. You can do that for your seed too, but it will take time. It’s natural, and cannot be rushed.
Please don’t give up.
I want to see what you can create five years from now. And I know with all my heart that there are others out there who need it – others who will be moved by what you create just as you are feeling moved by these words right now. These words that would have never been written if I had given up.
But what if my work is the exact same as something that’s already been done?
Then you’ll need to read this poem.
از کفر و ز اسلام برون صحرائی است
ما را به میان آن فضا سودائی است
عارف چو بدان رسید سر را بنهد
نه کفر و نه اسلام و نه آنجا جائی است
That poem is by Rumi. Rumi is amazing, right?
Oh, what do you mean you couldn’t read it? Do you not have Arabic fonts installed in your browser? Or perhaps you don’t read Farsi? How about this instead:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
That English translation is courtesy of Coleman Barks, a translator of Rumi’s poetry.
Without Coleman Barks, Rumi’s words would not have touched your heart.
Coleman Barks is saying the exact same thing that Rumi said, but in a different way. He’s saying it in a way that you can hear.
Perhaps your work is to say something that’s already been said, but in a different way – in your own way. In a way that different people can hear. To bring the same message to people who wouldn’t have really gotten it without you “translating” it into your own worldview.
George Lucas’s Star Wars has been accused of being nothing more than a cheap knockoff of Joseph Campbell. I, on the other hand, believe that Lucas added a lot of himself to the epic story of the hero’s journey, and that the world is a richer place for it.
Would it be so bad to be “just” George Lucas?
What if Lucas had never believed in himself enough to create Star Wars, because he felt he didn’t have anything unique to say?
The downward spiral, the upward spiral
It’s easy to get caught in a downward spiral. You think you’re not good enough. That stops you from creating (or from sharing what you create), which makes you feel like you don’t have anything original to say, like no one cares, like no one’s listening. You fool yourself into thinking that you deserve to be ignored, and you spiral down and down.
But it’s also possible to get into an upward spiral. If you can stop the downward spiral just long enough to believe in yourself for a moment, you can create, you can share what you create, and you can receive encouragement from others who believe in you. Then you can make changes in your life to make sure you always, always remember how that feels, so you can return to it again and again.
And then we can see what grows from the seeds you’ve planted!