As humans, we are gifted with logical thinking. It’s what allows us to exist in an organized society. It’s what allows us to run successful businesses, make calculated/smart decisions, and it helps us live day-to-day lives.
But this logical frame of mind isn’t always a gift, as with most things in life, it can also be a curse. Our logical brain wants to measure everything, for a variety of reasons. In an effort to make life easier to digest. In an effort to see if we’re in the ‘right place,’ where we ‘should be.’ In an effort to see how we measure up against our peers.
We measure our goals. We measure the number of emails we send in a day. We measure the number of photos we edited in the last hour. We measure how much better our photos have gotten. We often try to measure how happy our clients are. Lanny and I got a measurement today, on the last presentation we made. We got 4.3 stars out of 5, a rather disappointing measurement if you ask me. We measure, measure, measure. BUT, what about the stuff that isn’t measurable? What about art?
When we create a presentation that’s powerful to some but misses the mark with others, it’s immeasurable. When we write a book or a column that some people like and other people dislike, it’s immeasurable. When we make photos that our clients LOVE, but that don’t win any contests it’s im-fucking-measurable. And, yet, we still try to measure it. We measure for safety. We measure for comfort. But it rarely brings either of those things.
And, just a reminder, in case you are new to these newsletters. This is not, “look at me and how I do things.” This is, “come with me into the conversation in my head.”
Now… Please don’t get me wrong. We can measure certain things that will lead to improvement. For example, we can measure how clear the sound is coming through our microphone. We can measure how clearly we’re speaking so that people understand us. We can measure how sharp our photographs are. We can measure if our compositions need improving. We can measure how many spelling errors are in the emails we send. We can measure all this stuff and make necessary adjustments for the quality of our craft. We can measure craft, but we cannot measure art.
When we’re in the never-ending process of finding our voice we can’t measure precisely where we’re at in the process. You can’t say that you’re 50% of the way towards finding your voice or 63% of the way towards your potential. It’s impossible to measure your voice against a yardstick. It’s impossible to measure your voice against someone else’s. It’s impossible to measure your voice, period. And yet we do. And yet I do. We compare (measure) our photos to others. We measure how many strangers (that we have likely never met) like our photos on Instagram. How bloody absurd is this?! Measuring is at times absolutely ridiculous, especially when it comes to art. And yet we continue to do so.
So where does this leave us? What can we do? What can I do? So that our mood doesn’t ride an emotional rollercoaster based on the external measurements of others, and more importantly, how they transform into internal measurements we use to judge ourselves.
We can work harder, longer and more intensively to try and get that 5-star rating all of the time from everyone. Doesn’t sound appealing, to be honest. Not to mention it’s likely impossible.
If you’re like me, you just need something to measure for that dominant, logical part of your brain, I recommend you measure the process NOT the results. Do not measure where you’re at in the process, only measure your commitment to the process. Measure how many hours a day you commit to creating new photographic work. Measure how many minutes a day you sit down and write. Measure how many days in a row you made time with no distractions to create something. If you commit to these things, the result will take care of itself. Just stay committed to the process, not the measured outcome.
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