Have you been wondering for the longest time what it is you can share with the world? You see a lot of people starting their own creative projects and purposeful businesses and you think, "Will I ever be able to contribute something? And what could it be?" In this age of plentiful brands and commodities, sometimes it's also easy to think everything’s been done already and that there's nothing left to contribute...
Can you relate? If so, I have two things to say to you:
1) It’s okay to not know what project or business to start yet. No one begins knowing how their contribution will exactly manifest. Realistically speaking, it takes a great deal of time, thought, experience, and experiment.
2) Yes, you can contribute something. You may not know your purpose yet but you most definitely have a story — something you’ve lived through that has helped shape you and your beliefs and values. Believe it or not, it all starts there.
If authenticity is today’s currency, then your story is your greatest material. Many of us creators never realize this though. We think that because our stories are “too personal,” it is unnecessary to use them. And while we have a choice to keep our stories to ourselves, allow me to share with you why your story could nonetheless be your most powerful springboard.
If you consider these three questions I have for you, you may realize that you are not without potential contribution after all.
1. WHAT ARE YOUR MOST SIGNIFICANT PAIN POINTS?
Your pain points are the challenges or problems you’ve lived through that you believe other people are also experiencing or being affected by. What certain pains do you deeply empathize with? What problems have you encountered in the past that you somehow hope there were real solutions for?
I ask you to really think about the pain that you know and have somehow survived because that is the pain you can help others fix, heal, or overcome. In the book Die Empty, author Todd Henry calls this compassionate anger.
"The word 'compassion' means to 'suffer with.' Where do you see dynamics in the marketplace or the world at large that cause you to feel a desire to step in on behalf of those who are suffering in order to bear part of their burden or rectify a wrong?" - Todd Henry
Look to your life story — what could that be for you? What suffering or problem creates in you an urgency to solve because you know it deeply? Could it be artists being underpaid and overworked? Maybe its experiencing discrimination as a third gender, if you are one? Maybe it’s witnessing the damages of plastic use to our planet... Or maybe it’s as simple as passionately disliking bad typography? (I personally know people who have design-related problems which is still valid because that is what they consider their pains). Whatever those pains are for you, for as long as you’ve experienced it, and you feel it is important to address, let this inspire you to take creative responsibility.
2. WHAT ARE YOUR PASSION POINTS?
What things fill you with enthusiasm and energy? What do you consider not just a skill or a strength but also a source of gratification and feels almost like an obsession? Better yet, what can you not imagine doing anything else without?
Passion is your fuel for mastery. You become masterful at what you love and spend the most time in so determine what those things are for you. I have worked with many people who have ventured in certain businesses simply because it was what everyone else was pursuing. A lot of these brands unfortunately ended up not being able to sustain it — why? Because it wasn’t their passions.
See, whether you are passionate or not translates in the way you deliver your work. Passion reinforces creativity and authenticity. Without it, it will be hard for you to convince people about your business and to do what you do reasonably well.
I feel I cannot perfectly describe passion without bringing up Steve Jobs as an example. As you may know, he was obsessed with making Apple computers the most user-friendly computers available to the world. He was the only one at first who understood why this was so important. And, sure, he may have put a strain on his team but because making computers more intuitive was a fevered passion of his, he later on dissolved the disconnect between human and technology (his compassionate anger).
If you survey your own life, there must be certain things to which you would find yourself more dedicated than others. Here are some clues:
Once you’ve contemplated on these questions, I want you to review your answers. Do you see a common thread that ties them all together? What do these say about the things that you enjoy doing? What activities do you find yourself prioritizing even if they don’t seem necessary? Take note of these because they could be clues to your truest passions.
3. YOUR POTENTIAL CREATIVE PROJECT - How can your passion points be useful in addressing your pain points?
After you’ve meditated on the first two questions, it’s time to map out your pain points and passion points and figure out how they can work in accord. This is the part where you find the usefulness of your story — how can it be serviceable to others? To help you brainstorm some ideas, you may use the worksheet I’ve provided below.
HOW TO USE THE WORKSHEET:
On page 1, write down your significant pain points and passion points.
On page 2, define your core values: what important principles can you draw out of your story? What truths do you now stand for after contemplating on your pains and passions?
Page 3 is for ideating creative solutions: In the first two columns, write down one significant pain point and your passion points. In the third column, brainstorm as many business/project ideas as you can. Key question: In what ways can your passions be helpful in solving your compassionate anger? If it helps, think of anyone going through the same pains you have or had; then imagine developing a solution for them. Out of all the items you'll come up with, take note of the one that is closest to your values and has the strongest emotional pull? That might be the project you should start working on.
You may be thinking, "Will anyone resonate with my story?”
The thing about stories is, while they are unique to the individual, they always say something about our universal human qualities. Our stories show others that, just like anyone, we are imperfect, that we feel pain and defeat but we are not without hopes, values, and dreams — and for as long as our stories can show these sides of us, someone will find a piece of themselves in them.
*In my future classes, I will share more about how to find your audience but for now it is important to trust in the uniqueness of your story.
PROVEN BUSINESS MODELS
To give your ideas more form, I’ve provided below a table of some proven business models with examples you may use as reference. The best way to know what models work best for you is of course by taking into account your skills, values, resources, knowledge, and experience. Also, consider your level of commitment and don't be afraid to test out these models. Remember, finding the right business idea also takes a lot of self-awareness and experiment.
*Start with something really simple.
Giselle is a 26-year old visual merchandiser who is passionate about clothes and fashion styling. Two years ago, she came across a video that exposed the high environmental cost of fast fashion. In this video, she saw how one country’s daily textile disposal creates a 16-foot mountain of waste — daily; the problem remains unresolved to date. As a person in the fashion industry, Giselle did not only find this disturbing, she felt utterly guilty. In the next few months, she started musing over this ongoing problem — she would watch docu films and read articles that exposed her to the many other evils of clothing production. Out of this exposure, she felt the need to be more mindful of the clothing she would buy and own. She thought she needed less in her wardrobe but she wanted it to be everything she will need for a long period of time, and it still has to speak of her style.
This isn’t exactly a big problem for Giselle since she is a stylist, but she suddenly empathized for those who are not. She thought, “How might other people curate their own mindful wardrobe that still speaks of their style? And how might she bring the many others into this movement?”
Coming up with ideas for a solution is obviously not easy. Giselle may need to meditate hard on this and spend time away from her desk interviewing people, researching, and observing the eco-fashion culture. But for the sake of demonstration, let’s try to assume we have arrived at some great project ideas already. So, again, the question is, how can she use her passion points in giving solution to her pain points.
If you notice, the answer to her problem is already in the question she asked herself earlier: “How can one curate their own stylish, sustainable, and mindful wardobe?” Now, if you come to think of it, she can actually translate this into different types of ventures. See the example below:
So, you see, once you generate a few ideas, it often just snowballs from there — you gradually come up with so many other great concepts for a project, and you realize how full of potential your story has been all along.
Now, you may think there is no demand for projects or ideas like these because they are too specific. But what we fail to realize is it’s not always about answering to a widespread demand, because the truth is, people don’t always know what they need. There are matters that become relevant only when they are brought to light by a passionate voice.
For example, I wasn't totally aware of the concept of Self-Love until I’ve heard it through Gala Darling back in 2013. You may know GALA for her Instagram challenge called Radical Self-Love and a book with the same title. Her advocacy and business are deeply rooted in her story which is, when she was in her early twenties she had eating disorder. Gala says, “I was completely miserable and thought the fastest route to fulfillment was to simply stop eating. (Long story short: it ain’t.) I was able to overcome my debilitating sense of self-loathing, and now that I’ve discovered the bad-assery of happiness, I am dedicated to helping other women fall in love with themselves, too.” Gala Darling has become one of the most successful teachers in self-transformation.
I hope this helps you realize why your story is your best springboard. If you start with your pain points and passion points, you have better chances of thriving and making a difference because as human beings, we trust those whose endeavors are rooted in their authentic value; and on your part, you will find it easier and much more fulfilling to create things if it comes from your truth. Your truth is the most important thing you can contribute. Let your story be your legacy.
Again, you may use the worksheet I’ve provided so you can work on this exercise. I know this was quite a lot to take in so take your time — you will need lots of it. After you come up with some potential creative projects, use the mastermind group (specifically this link) to share your ideas and to also give thoughtful feedback on other muses’ shares. I’m really keen on hearing them and seeing how we can reinforce each others’ plans. I will be making myself available to give feedback until the end of November so you have enough time to let your ideas incubate. *Take only what resonates with you from this lesson and leave the rest.
Thank you for listening! As always, keep making true and beautiful things. I'll talk to you soon! x