What would you do if fear was not a factor?

In this video, artist Craig Costello makes a couple of points about how fear can often prevent us from taking necessary chances. If chance-taking is important for discovery, and it is, then his experiences are instructive.

There's this way of being timely and now and then just being trendy. That's where you have to take risks.... You are going to fail. At time you will fail miserably, and times you'll fail not so miserably. That's OK. You just have to keep it moving.

As a creative, Costello's point interests me because so much about today - about today's trends - is informed by the easy information absorbed inside this deep and echoing well called the Web (feel free to include this blog post in that category), which far from liberating can actually narrow a focus. Fear absorbs new information like a sponge. It also tends to confirm existing biases, which, in a state of anxiety, favor inaction over risk.

In a former life working with IT professionals I often heard that "no one ever got fired for buying IBM." But while these purse holders marched toward individual retirements and pensions, the personal computer revolutionized information work. And when that realization dawned (even closer to retirement), the refrain simply substituted "Microsoft" for Big Blue. And now iPhone and Android devices have put that power into the hands of about half of the buyers of cell phones today.

Change happens with or without you.

So have faith. You have something to say. The belief that your next step won't be the last, that past is not prologue, that despite setbacks in this case, that case might prove different, can be difficult. I far too often inhabit that negative mental space, even when I have reason not to. To counteract that, I've developed a habit of asking myself at moments when I feel particularly riven by self-doubt, "what would I do if fear were not a factor?" It's a remarkably effective way of thinking about alternate futures, and it momentarily frees me from the concern at hand. It's my way of "just keep moving" and a great way to think about changes I might make to improve the odds of success.

Secondly, as someone who is interested in self-expression as a means to a creative end, Costello talks about the tension between "going out" - aka, finding the trend - and, alternatively, discovering what he thinks by making a conscious decision to make time for himself. Of course, what he thinks may not win him either lauds or profits, but it is immeasurably satisfying. The alternative, a kind of surfacing envy, the game of comparison, is a no-win situation. It just accentuates the fear of creating something worth calling your own.

This Miles Davis quote applies: “Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.”

Give the video a watch. Costello's quiet dignity is refreshing.