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The emotional journey of creating anything great

Welcome to 2017. (We better have flying cars by 2020 or I’m going to be pissed.)

I found the following chart on Howard Lindzon’s blog. It’s called “The Emotional Journey Of Creating Anything Great" and it’s getting shared around town right now.

I’m sure that you’ve seen other similar charts before, but it doesn’t hurt to drive home this point, particularly as all of us kickstart the new year and promise ourselves that we’re going to be better, faster, stronger.

The point of this chart is that when you’re creating anything new and great, there will always be the period of time that this diagram refers to as the “dark swamp of despair.” This is where you question your life decisions and wonder if you’re wasting your time trying to create this new and great thing.

I never fully appreciated this phenomenon until I worked on a startup. Though for me, it felt more like a manic depressive rollercoaster. One week I was killing it and the next week I was in a dark swamp of despair searching for a way out. 

And it’s because when you’re creating something new, you have few, if any, points of reference to reassure yourself that you’re on the right path. If it is truly great, then it’s probably something novel. And if it’s new, then by definition it hasn’t been done before. So it is unknown whether it’s truly a dark swamp of despair or if it just feels that way right now because things are tough.

Because of the emotional nature of this journey, I have found myself really questioning the worth of things like caffeine and alcohol. I used to think the former made me more productive – the latter certainly doesn’t – but I’m not so sure that is the case. So as an experiment, I cut out coffee last month.

I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions, so that’s not what all of this is about. It’s far better to talk about the things you’ve remained committed to, than to talk about the things you’re planning to do.

This is simply a reminder that there will always be ups and there will always be dark swamps of despair. The key is to have the confidence and conviction to charge through those swamps any way you can. Onward my friends. I’m really looking forward to 2017 and I hope you all are as well.

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