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Ego Pressure

Or, the danger of trying to be Harper Lee

Harper Lee did what many creatives dream of—she threw all her energy into one work of genius: To Kill a Mockingbird.

As strategies go, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Not just because chances are very slim that you or I can be as lucky—but also because of something I call ego pressure.

Force over area

Ego pressure is an idea I borrowed from physics for a reality we all face. It’s based on the formula:

Pressure = force divided by area

It’s why heels are so sharp—the force of the body’s weight concentrated over a tiny surface area—but sandals spread your weight over a larger area.

Now imagine force = the weight of your ego and surface area = your creative output. That produces a new equation:

Ego pressure = ego weight divided by creative output

Expanding creative surface area

If you publish 50 essays a year and you feel rubbish about 10, your ego doesn’t collapse. And just 5 of them being well received can more than compensate for the rest.

But only 5 essays and 3 getting ignored? That’s 60% of annual output. And we wonder why we feel like quitting.

There’s a reason it’s said that a master has failed more times than an apprentice has even tried.

That’s why I’m shipping an essay daily for the next 30 days––to increase my creative surface area.

All I’ve got to lose? A bit of ego pressure.

I leave you with the timeless words of Ira Glass:

[T]he most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work—do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline.


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


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