March 25, 2023

Top creativity killers every entrepreneur must overcome

I recently found myself in an intriguing email exchange with an entrepreneur facing a creative roadblock in her business.

As our conversation evolved, it became clear that she was grappling with four primary obstacles preventing her from achieving success: fear, comparison, perfectionism, and judgment.

Like many entrepreneurs, I have also fallen victim to these creativity killers.

Here's the advice I gave her to combat each of the four obstacles, starting with fear.

If you want to grow, you must embrace fear

Fear is something we all experience. It's deeply rooted in our DNA as a means of self-preservation and survival.

In the context of creativity, it's less threatening — but fear can still have a profoundly negative impact on us.

Fear can hinder our ability to take risks, think outside the box, or embrace the uncertainty that often comes with creative ideas and innovation.

When you allow fear to dictate your actions, you also stifle your creative potential, preventing yourself from realizing your capacity for growth and success.

Providing space for vulnerability is one of the best ways I've found to unlock creative ideas and groundbreaking innovation.

"Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me." — Arianna Huffington

Don't fall for the comparison trap

I've heard many stories of entrepreneurs getting caught up in comparing their work/business/product to others.

Here's a quick example of competition gone bad:

Foursquare and Gowalla, rival location-based apps, both became consumed with each other and, ultimately, wandered from their unique strengths and abilities (to both companies' detriment).

The excessive competition eventually led to Gowalla's demise, while Foursquare's growth suffered as they could not capitalize on missed opportunities due to constant distraction.

When you're always worried about what others think or do, it's easy to get swept away in a narrative that isn't yours.

The moral of the story: Embrace your unique qualities and creative voice — this will lead to more alignment within yourself, your business, and your customers

Avoid perfectionism with an agile and iterative mindset

Human beings have been chasing perfection since time began. But as we all know, perfection is impossible. Even the most well-known and celebrated entrepreneurs have bad days.

And that's ok. In fact, as an entrepreneur, the sooner you stop obsessing over perfection, the better.

Waiting for the "perfect" time to launch your product, write your book, or send that tweet only delays the inevitable, sometimes worse.

Perfectionism has accounted for many missed market opportunities due to endless product tweaks, launch postponements, and unnecessary fiddling.

"If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late." — Reid Hoffman

Here's a practical example: Airbnb. As of this writing, they have a $75.75 billion market cap. The company began when the founders rented out air mattresses in their apartment during a conference.

They didn't have a fancy website or buttoned-up sales team — just an innovative idea that punched unattainable perfection in the face.

The idea was good enough, and you know what they did? They shipped it, measured the success, and iterated into one of the largest companies to come out of Silicon Valley.

"It's called entrepreneurSHIP, not entrepreneurSTAY. Don't wait. Just ship." ― Richie Norton

Learning to thrive amid judgment

Three down, one to go. The final obstacle to overcome is judgment.

Whether you realize it or not, both negative and positive feedback play a crucial role in the creative process.

Positive feedback enhances motivation and confidence, encouraging entrepreneurs to develop their ideas. Negative feedback can either motivate individuals to improve their work or hinder creativity, depending on its nature.

The most successful entrepreneurs I know are great at filtering helpful feedback from noise and negativity.

Here are a couple of ways you can quiet the judging and keep your cool:

  • Consider the source: Evaluate the credibility and expertise of the person providing feedback or administering judgment.
  • Be objective: Try to detach your emotions from the feedback. Focus on the content, not the delivery.
  • Ask questions: If you're unsure of the intent, ask for clarification to understand the criticism/feedback better.
  • Trust your intuition: While being open to feedback is essential, trust your instincts and creative vision. Not all feedback will align with your goals or intentions.

Final thoughts

Overcoming creative obstacles as an entrepreneur involves:

  • Embracing vulnerability
  • Focusing on your unique qualities
  • Adopting an agile mindset
  • Filtering helpful feedback from the noise

Addressing these challenges head-on will unlock your creative potential, foster resilience, and pave the way for growth and success as a confident entrepreneur.