I have a bone to pick with marketing gurus. Which, let’s face it, is all of us at this moment in history. Every one of us with a platform to speak our minds is trying to sell something. We’ve been taught that this is the thing to do with an audience. Sell them things, whether an idea, a notion or an image of ourselves that benefits our pockets or our egos.
In selling, it is essential to reduce how difficult what you’re trying to sell seems to whom you’re trying to sell it to. This is why EASY becomes as important a notion in selling things to people as FREE is. We need the potential buyer of our ideas, expertise and secret plans to riches to believe it’s going to be easy and effortless, so that they effortlessly put their money, likes, shares, or whatever currency you barter in, where our mouth is.
There’s one snag in this entire story. Nothing worth having comes easy. Absolutely nothing.
Any feeling of ease disappears the moment something is made easier. The old easy becomes the new baseline expectation, and now we want easier, more idiot-proof, less effort. So EASY doesn’t exist. It’s a mirage on the horizon, which we chase in circles around the barren dessert of laziness and delusion.
There are those who tout the idea that if you focus and remove everything else from your life, and just follow your dreams and passions, it will be easy. I call bullshit.
It is never easy. While focus and minimising the noise of your life is essential for doing great things, experts who dismiss the very existence of all the bad things that happen in people’s lives to hold them back, are often hollow successes. They have the great Facebook photos, great statistics of their achievements, and they’re mostly lonely fucks with no human love and even less self love when you dig deeper. We are trying to learn to be better in a human world from those who are telling you to be less human. Do tell me how that works out for you over the years.
The human fact of the matter is, life is complex and things go wrong. Even when things go right they are not convenient, and nothing, I repeat, nothing, works out as you wished it would and as quickly as you hoped it would. If things work out even better, or faster than you hoped, first enjoy it. Then realise that you have been extremely lucky and part of what happened is a fluke. Now study what part of what just happened was a fluke and shore up those areas, so that it will last once standard probability, life and human factors catch up with your good fortune.
My delayed adventures in papercraft
I started an offshoot of my online persona to concentrate on my papercraft about three years ago. It was an idea I’d considered for over five years before I did it, tested with great effort for a year before I bought the site and set it up. That’s how Papernautic came to be, after two name changes, much planning and a year of testing on Instagram to see if there was a basic interest. I had, and still have great plans for it. Some of them happened, many haven’t happened yet, and some I have changed my mind against, now that I have tested things out as I work on this.
As an example, I didn’t want to do video in the beginning. I wasn’t confident in putting them together, and I didn’t like what I saw other people doing. Also, I didn’t watch too many videos at the time, so it was irrelevant to me. Now, three years later, video is a lot more ubiquitous in my life, so now it made sense for me to consider video, to scratch my own itch. In January, I decided to create my origami instruction videos.
It was several weeks of planning and testing before I shot ten videos. They were without sound, because I wanted to record that separately and cleanly rather than fumbling with talking and folding at the same time. More weeks went by, during which I shot beauty shots of the origami models, came up with a visual style and branding for the videos, made title cards, wrote instructions, recorded the audio, and finally put together 3 videos of the ten, working on a 7-year-old netbook with a tiny screen and less processing power than your smart phone. Each video was less than 2 minutes long and had been weeks in the making.
Online gurus will tell you to “just do it”. To put it out there, and not care about getting it right. That’s all fine advice if you’re doing some thing so new that its existence itself will get you attention. That doesn’t exist in video. If you can imagine it, someone’s already done it on YouTube. There are millions of origami instruction videos. How do you stand out? You do it better.
Better is not easy. Better is not quick. Better makes a two minute video look colourful, smooth and professional even though it’s shot in your balcony and takes a month to pull off, at least the first time around.
Life got in the way after that. I didn’t give up on the videos, but considering there were major practical upheavals in progress in my life, this is fine. There were points when I was literally not sleeping for days or when I had no computer to work on. Not made-up excuses, real stuff that can’t simply be filed under your pat motivational poster of “When the going gets tough …”
When the going gets tough
You know what, that’s true, when the going gets tough, the tough do get going. But they often need to get going of many more important things, like survival and logistics, instead of their passion projects. That is reality, and that is where perseverance comes in, the fact that while you don’t beat yourself up about dropping the ball on some dream thing you’re working on, you also never ever quite stop working on it. You chisel away at it when you can. That is perseverance, but more on that later.
It’s now six months after I first shot my ten videos. The tenth one was only released a few weeks ago. The gurus would say they should have been out in a day. After all, two minute videos take two minutes to create, right? Really? How about good audio, editing, transcription, writing the narration, recording it. Fixing your mistakes, making titles, editing 5 pages of settings on YouTube, making images from the videos, making a blog post, editing that, publishing, sharing incessantly on social media. All done in two minutes, right? Wrong.
Nothing is easy. Everything takes time, and unless you’re some smarmy idiot with delusions of grandeur and the digital nomad life who’s delegating everything to new-age slave labour at 5-bucks a pop, things will take time, especially in the beginning because you set the bar with your efforts. You must know how to do everything before you lecture other people on how to do it.
My advice to you regarding advice is to not take any expert seriously who says things are easy and quick, but also tells you that success is going to take a lot of perseverance. They’ll usually use that much stupider term ‘stick-to-itiveness’ in place of a perfectly good word. If things were actually quick and easy, perseverance would be unnecessary.
My suffering is bigger than yours
We’ve gotten into a frame of mind where we like to celebrate our suffering. The problem with celebrating things is that, consciously or otherwise, you grow to aspire to them. In varying degrees, we are all slowly aspiring to suffering and we damn well make sure we get it. How? It’s simple really, to us now, anything that even mildly inconveniences our idea of the perfect existence is tagged as suffering in our book of life.
Something took real effort? Suffering. Someone made you think and not use ready solutions? Suffering. Something turned out, in spite of a million realistic variables, slightly not like what you imagined the result would be? Suffering. Someone made you wait an extra minute for your coffee in the morning while you live-tweeted the experience of waiting at your table and wasting your precious unique time which you could have been using to cure cancer and build your personal brand as a thought leader in thought-leadering? Suffering.
We suffer a lot, by choice, because it’s a badge of honour now. Like 19th century European noblemen who purposely acquired cosmetic sword scars to appear more, well, noble, we invent suffering to add to our expected story of hardship before our big arrival into the grand success we imagined getting for free. The fact is, we want things easy, but we don’t want it to seem like it was easy, until we’re trying to sell someone a course on how we did it. Suffering becomes a flip-flop state we claim and ignore at our convenience and depending on who’s looking.
What is suffering?
Let’s put an end to this nonsense. You can look up the dictionary meaning of suffering yourself, but what is suffering? Suffering is hardship. Hardship doesn’t just mean something is hard, it means a level of pain, lack, illness, jeopardy, which is well beyond what is normal and expected.
This is where we are getting into trouble. What we “expect” is based on fantasy logic, not real world reality. Effort is not hardship beyond what is expected. Effort is, in fact, the expected method and process of getting to where you want to go. The more extraordinary your expectations of where you want to go, the higher your expectations of the effort should be. Doing what you should be expected to do to get what you want is not suffering, it’s the road.
Respect the road
Until we invent instantaneous teleportation, there will always be a road to get to places and you will have to travel along the entire length of it without skipping the inconvenient bits. You will sometimes do so, by chance, by luck, by a clever circumstance, but you can’t expect to skip anything. Everything along the way is not automatically suffering unless you’re a spoilt child.
Here’s one quick piece of knowledge to absorb to be an adult. Nothing is easy. Everything isn’t suffering.
Yes, I know it’s in the title, but you needed to travel down this road of thought to believe it, to whatever extent I’ve convinced you. You could have given up along the way, because my rambling was too much suffering. But you stuck around and did the work and here we are at the end. It doesn’t matter if this isn’t where you imagined you’d end up. What matters is that hopefully, I drew some interesting scenes in your mind, and now that you’ve traveled through these roads, you can pick what picturesque fork you want to go back and explore on your own.
In time, with effort and a lot of perseverance, you’ll get where you want to go along a path that’s all your own. It won’t be easy, and I don’t promise you will never suffer. Some of it might be suffering, but most of it will just be the road you must travel. And maybe, just maybe, some of it will be glorious.