They say you need 10,000 hours of practice until that certain “something” feels like second nature. Mastering a musical instrument, grasping a foreign language, understanding the key components of cooking a certain cuisine. Developing proficiency for something requires a great deal of focus, motivation, practice, and time. It also requires the willingness to unlearn old habits in favor of learning new ones.
All of this, of course, can only go so far. In order to truly master something – and sustain that mastery for years to come – you must first understand the thing that keeps your fire lit and your focus afloat. It’s the root of all passion projects, the catalyst, the indestructible backbone of everything you’ve ever mastered.
But how can we be purposeful in a time where countless jobs and industries have been rendered extinct? So many creatives are at a standstill. Dancers, actors, artists, musicians, comedians.
They’re all filled to the brim with talent but no longer have the outlet to express it. Even worse, with the uncertainty of this pandemic and all the havoc, it’s wreaked, there’s an ever-impending urgency of needing to fix things now, to make money now.
Museums, galleries, concert halls, theatres, and other creative spaces have been closed for months, and there’s no telling when they’ll open again – or if they’ll even be the same when they do.
So, where does this leave creatives? Do they neglect their goals, forget about their passions? What can they do to sustain themselves right now, while still not letting go of their inner truth?
Here’s what I’ll say. As an artist, what I’ve learned is that in order to create something new, there needs to be a steady balance between direct purpose and the ability to go off course.
You might start off with the intention to master something, only to find along the way that you’re more interested in something else. You learn things you didn’t expect to learn.
You discover new interests and develop unexpected skills. Sometimes you even find yourself on the sidelines of what you want, feeling more directed towards something else.
You need to ask yourself: How can I repurpose the skills I already have? Can I combine them with other skills to work towards a new mastery?
These are questions I’ve asked myself for years, even in a pre-pandemic world. By repurposing what I learned from being a doctor, a consultant, a jazz singer, and a CEO, I’ve been able to grow my art brand exponentially.
None of these other careers eliminated my core sense of purpose. Rather, they fueled my ability to pivot and reinvent myself at a moment’s notice. They allowed me to incorporate a lifetime of different skills, experiences, and worldviews into my work. I am a better artist for it.
For example, let’s say you want to be a dancer, even though there’s currently no longer a market for it. Even as you walk the path of becoming a dancer and bringing your energy to it, there’s nothing that stops you from simultaneously repurposing those skills to sustain yourself during this time.
How can you use your creative skills for cash inflow or a new direction? How might these skills even be helpful to you in the future, when the pandemic has ended and the market for dancers has been reestablished?
I’m not saying that creatives should do away with their passions. After all, the current reality won’t last forever. But balance, flexibility, and the willingness to redirect yourself are crucial in the era of COVID-19.
Find a way to repurpose your skills – to build upon them, reinforce them, and be able to utilize them for something new. Take it from one creative to another – this will only make you stronger.