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Why you should Stop (Comparing) Before You Start (Creating)

Before you start something, stop and make a conscious effort to NOT compare your first efforts to other’s finished work. Stop judging your work based on what you see of other’s before you really even start. Because of social media we have an open pass into the lives of hundreds of other creatives. It’s easy to look at another’s artwork or writing, and without even realizing we’re doing it; we judge ours based on what we see of theirs. But our perspective is skewed.

We think, “She makes it look so easy- it’s really really hard for me. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as her” and then we quit. Before we really even began.

But what if we stopped for a moment, before we started, and adjusted our perspective.

The view from here

When we only see the winner at the top of the podium, or the artist at the gallery on opening night; we aren’t seeing the whole journey behind those pinnacle moments. When we see the entrepreneur launching another groundbreaking product, we don’t see the uncertainty, the risk, and everything they invested to make it happen.

But if we were to see the beginning, and the middle, as well as the end; then we would have a much clearer idea of how they got to where they are. If our perspective is grounded in what’s real, then our expectations for ourselves and our work are much more realistic. 

Greenwell Farms 100 year old heirloom coffee trees
Kona Coffee Trees @ Greenwell Farms

Know how it begins.

Recently, my husband and I had the chance to do a coffee tasting and tour at Greenwell Farms near Kona, Hawaii. Cool, right? We were able to stand in the shade of some trees that had been planted in the 1850’s by the great grandmother of the man who owns it now. And because we had been able to smell the blossoms, and touch the cherries; when we got the chance to buy some beans, I wanted to purchase coffee made from those trees. They had other brew’s available, the farm itself had over 250 acres of trees. But seeing the beginning of something- helps you appreciate more fully the final product. So I chose to bring home a pound of coffee made from those hundred year old trees that had been the beginning of that farm. 

Coffee tree with coffee blossoms and cherries @ Greenwell Farms, Big Island Hawaii
Coffee Blossoms and Cherries

You have to plant before you can harvest.

Later in the trip, because the coffee tour was fun, we used a little extra time before our flight home to visit a small vanilla farm near the airport. Whereas the coffee farm was an established operation, The Vanillerie was just beginning to grow.

After I “oohed” over all the handcrafted vanilla products, my husband and I began to chat with the man behind the counter about how the business had started. He said when he was first approached by the owners, he was working at a nearby chocolate factory. They were just in the planning and planting stages, but would often stop by and both chat and ask him questions about the business. Eventually, they shared with him their plans of starting a vanilla farm and asked him to take a look. He said that after that first visit, he was hooked.

There’s just something about a start up that inspires us.

Vanilla Farm/ Nursery near Kona airport | stop before you start | don't compare yourself to others | fomo
The Vanillerie

I LOVE this story. The idea of someone having a dream and then planting it really resonates with me. We were invited to walk around and check out the grow buildings; so my husband and I went, and we sat, and I started to think about what we were seeing.

Adjust your perspective | look at things differently | grow house number 5
Inside Grow House #5

Then a quote came to mind.

“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle” 

– John Acuff

Truth.

Vanilla blossoms growing on plant| Before you can harvest you have to plant | stop before you start | adjust your perspective
Vanilla Blossoms @ The Vanillerie, Big Island Hawaii

The man in the shop had told us that it takes 5 years to bring a bean to market. Just the work involved in preparing the land, creating the grow houses, training the vines, and hand pollinating the plants must have taken years. But then drying, processing, distributing, creating products, and selling/marketing those products; all without really knowing how the market would react is a leap of faith I really admire.

Comparison can be the thief of joy.

Currently, I’m taking a blogging course that has the students looking at other blogs as a way of learning what we like. But it’s SO easy for me to look at all these fabulous blogs and realize mine doesn’t even come close to being as polished and established.

It’s so tempting to compare and judge, and truthfully there are times I want to give up.

But sitting under the vanilla blossoms, I realized that if the growers had looked at the chocolate factory and done the comparison game, they would have stopped before they had ever really begun as well. Many of the bloggers with the awesome blogs say they went through the same thing.

One who shared her story, Faith Mariah, said she almost gave up the very week before her blog started to generate a full time income. She had poured months of her time into writing posts she felt no one really read. She had spent her money learning how to create a blog that wasn’t making a profit. She was about to give up. But she didn’t give up.

Creators like to Start Things

As creative people we love to begin, and we do it a lot. We get excited about the potential of something and often jump right then, creating a flurry of activity that we hope will end with something we can be happy with. We’re so excited to realize what we envision; that we don’t slow down and enjoy the process of getting there. We misjudge the time, the intensity, and the costs of the project; so that it becomes a millstone around our necks, weighing us down.

The next time an idea comes we’re much less likely to want to begin. 

But if you start with a perspective that’s grounded, and expectations that are realistic; you’re much more likely to want to take those beginning steps.

To get somewhere you have to start somewhere.

So here’s a not-so-secret secret: Knowing that everyone is a beginner when they start, makes it okay for you to be a beginner too. So maybe you don’t know everything you wish you did- but you can figure out how to start. So you do. And you begin with what you have.

In church not long ago, our pastor showed us a picture with six garages. Totally normal garages, but in them Google, Amazon, Mattel, Disney, Harley Davidson, and Apple were started. The photo really illustrates how small businesses with uncertain and humble beginnings, can still grow and succeed. These corporate success stories didn’t start on the campuses they enjoy today. They started where they were, with what they had. And so can we.

Why begin? Here’s some reasons why…

Because small moments can create large movements.

-Because doubt filled first steps can lead to the final giant leap.

Because you can’t have a podium finish without first lining up for the start. 

AND you can’t paint what you see in your head, without being willing to first put brush to canvas.

(Or pen to paper. Or clay to wheel… I bet you get it. I wrote a little more about how to just begin with what you have, where you are, and with the time that you have; in my blog post, 3 Tips to Help you be Creative Every Day.)

Greenwell Farms Coffee Tour Sign | stop before you start | adjust your perspective
Stop before you start. Then START.

Move forward

So stop comparisons and self doubt before you ever start creating. Give yourself grace, keep your expectations realistic, and your perspective grounded; and you’ll be much more likely to feel good about your start. 

Now start. And let me know what your goals are and what your beginning will look like. I’d love to be able to cheer you on!

wellcraftedtstudio | Jen Swift

P.S. Want to read “11 famous garage start up’s that now rule the world?”Here is the link to the article by Business Pundit. Or just google famous garages. Seriously, that’s a thing… and here’s the link to the Do it Scared podcast featuring Faith Mariah and her story about almost giving up. 

Why you should stop before you start creating | creativity | motivational | inspiration | quotes | craft business | girl boss | handmade business
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2 thoughts on “Why you should Stop (Comparing) Before You Start (Creating)”

  1. Oh, Jenny, I love your writing. Your message today was for me. Finley’s quilt start has been on the table for a year. I need to get going on it.

    1. Thanks Auntie Connie! I LOVE knowing that this spoke to you. I would never have known, so thank you for telling me!!! It’s hard to press on when you’re doubting the result of your efforts. But- I still have the Afghan you made thirty years ago. Our creative efforts are often appreciated by others in ways we never know. That quilt will be an amazing gift she’ll know was stitched with love for her, by her grandma. That’s huge! ?

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