When you run your own company, the outside world ends up demanding a lot from you. Certainly in time and more importantly in creative energy. Because most startup founders are constantly seeking ways to grow their company, spending time on to focus and unleash their own creativity seems selfish.
"There are so many things I have to get done today, how can I possibly afford to indulge my own creativity?"
Because if you don't, you will lose the spark that had you create something in the first place. That energy from within that granted you the courage to go out and make something new. The minute that inbox is opened or your messages are checked, creativity goes out the window and it will not come back.
When you get up in the morning do something creative for yourself. Write, draw, play music, anything to use that creative resource before it is thrown to the wolves that would seek its end.
That wave of creativity is for you and you alone. No one else can use it the way you can, nor should they be granted access to abuse it. How can we even think to let such divine potential slip away?
Guard your creativity with your life and do not let the world take it from you, they can have what is left.
When we think of the most confident people we know, be it a politician, an entrepreneur, a mentor, thought leader, or a friend we admire, I'm willing to bet they never claim to be the best at what they do. If they did, it would be hard to respect them as much because it feels like they have to puff up their chest to make an impression. What's strange is that most business owners take this approach in branding their company. They plaster words like "best," "quality," "choice," "preferred," and a gaggle of other superlatives that hold no ground. Why?
I believe that asserting claims like this is done to veil the flaws of these organizations. They can claim to be the best all they want, but it doesn't take away from the fact that they cannot be everything to everyone. Or that new companies with new ideas come up everyday that can beat them in price, speed, and accuracy. Their claim of being the best loses its validity the minute they stop thinking of themselves. As for consumers, the claim loses its potency once they see 30 other competitors that claim the same thing on Google.
Claiming you are the best is a feeble means at persuading someone to do business with you. Is that really the extent of your personality? Do you lack so much confidence in your brand that you have to cover it in a lie? Nothing connotes a greater lack of maturity and competence than such action.
Confidence is not saying "we are the best." Confidence is saying "we know we can't do everything and we can't help everyone, but this is who we are. Whether you like it or not is cool with us."
So, are you going to be the best or be yourself?
My mom is a sales rep who works with pet store retailers. Some small and some large. She told me recently that a store she visits has over 6400 items on sale. 6400!
But that means they sell a lot of stuff, right? They probably need all of those items. Still, my curiosity wasn't satisfied. I asked, "why sell so many?"
Apparently people are more picky about their dog's food being gluten-free, paleo, with/without certain ingredients than most people are with their own nutrition. In short, they are trying to please everyone by having all of those needs met. No matter what pet you have, no matter what its needs are, they are trying to sell it.
I can't know for certain, but I'd imagine 80% of their sales comes from 20% (or less) of those 6400 products.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the first thing he did was strip away 70% of Apple's products and got them focusing on what really mattered. Surprisingly, despite getting rid of a bunch of products, Apple turned its first quarterly profit the following January (see timeline for comparison). Apple didn't even have 50 products and they still struggled to keep their head above water. Can you imagine the crippling weight of 6400 products?
In-N-Out, the most successful burger chain on the west coast, sells cheeseburgers (with varying amounts of meat/cheese), french fries, shakes, and soft drinks. Each store does about $4.5M in annual sales and they have over 300 across the country. When people come to In-N-Out asking for a change to a menu item, they say "sorry, this isn't for you."
By turning away some people, they have a streamlined business offering and they become known for it. It exudes confidence and even people who can't or won't eat a cheeseburger respect that. The same could be said of Apple and people who want to change their offerings.
In the words of Seth Godin, have the courage to say, "this is not for you, but it is for someone who believes this."