The 2 Biggest Barriers to Moving Forward in Your Creative Career

Earlier this week I spoke with a couple of creatives at different times about their next career steps and what seemed to be stalling them at the moment. In both cases the same 2 themes emerged. I have faced the same 2 barriers at different times and have talked to many other creatives who have faced them as well. They are; comparison and fear.



Comparison kills contentment. We are usually fairly content in our work (especially if we’re working in our sweet spot) until we see someone more talented. Contentment wanes when we compare ourselves with others. Part of the reason is that we compare our sketches with other artists polished portfolios. We tend to compare our weaknesses against other’s strengths. There’s also the cold hard truth that there is always someone else more talented that we are (unless you are the undisputed world champ). I wrote about this at length in a recent post so I won’t go too into detail here, but here are a few suggestions for dealing with comparison.

• focus on the journey
• read biographies of great people and you’ll see that it was a process for them too
• even insanely talented artists struggle with comparisons and have bouts of doubt and feelings of inadequacy
• comparison kills contentment which kills creativity
• focus on the sheer joy of creating
• remember the joy of uninhibited creativity when you were a kid
• every victory requires a battle and if everything came easy we wouldn’t appreciate or enjoy it
• comparison kills collaboration
• comparison is often linked to pride
• humility helps you grow without resentment or feeling defeated


Leadership expert Andy Stanley has talked about a mentor he had as a young leader. This mentor used to challenge Andy whenever he faced a scary proposition or something that caused fear and kept him from moving forward. His mentor referred to fear as a 500 pound gorilla. He would tell him to “open the cage and invite the gorilla out”. I absolutely love this analogy for facing your fears.

Last year I went thru an intense study to nail down my identity and calling. One of the weeks focused on fear. After being completely honest with myself about what fears I had that were potentially blocking me from moving forward, there was an exercise designed to face those fears. I had to list each fear and play out it’s worst possible outcome. It was a Biblically based study so it then challenged me to ask if these outcomes were bigger than God’s purposes. Could God work even in the worst outcome? Yes…if He’s God. Aside from the faith based aspect of the exercise, it also helped me decide if I was ready to face the potential risk. In short, it helped me overcome any blocking fears I had that may have been consciously or unconsciously keeping me from my calling.

Here are a few suggestions to dealing with fear.

• face it head on and invite the gorilla out of the cage
• courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is decisive action in spite of fear
• fear is the opposite of faith; the more you trust, the less you fear
• most of what we fear, never happens and we needlessly waste energy
• anything worth doing is scary
• how we deal with fear separates the spectators from the players
• waiting until you are ready will never happen
• fear is less scary in the rear view mirror
• facing fear forces us to grow
• you can’t have a real victory without a real battle

One last thought. Comparison and fear often work in tandem. They feed each other and starve your soul. Punch them both in the throat and make a courageous decision today. You’ll be glad you did.

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5 Reasons To Start Your Personal Renaissance

I finally had a chance to watch The Monuments Men, a film about an unlikely World War II platoon tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners. I loved this film because not only is it based on a true story, but it highlights why art is so important in terms of history and culture. Appreciating beauty and art, and exhibiting creativity are some of the key things that make us human and display the fingerprint of a creator. The Monuments Men saved works of art from several key time periods including the Renaissance.



The period of history known as the Renaissance, which began in 14th century Italy and expanded throughout Europe until the 1700’s, was a historical game changer for all aspects of culture, but especially for the arts. Renaissance essentially means “Rebirth”. This period spawned a continent wide resurgence and appreciation for the arts. The net effect of this seismic shift allowed creatives to pursue new forms of art as a career and a calling.

In college, one of my favorite classes was “The History of the Renaissance and the Reformation”, I remember our professor pointing out that if Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donotello, or Raphael would have been born a generation earlier, they would have been farmers or blacksmiths. Both incredibly noble professions, but their calling and talent would never have seen the light of day.

However, during the Renaissance several cultural, economic, and technological shifts coincided to establish optimal conditions for artists to thrive.


You were born at a great time. In many ways, we are in a modern day Renaissance for creatives. There are significant cultural, economic, and technological factors that have converged in this generation that provide an opportunity for you like no other time in history.

The animation, gaming and interactive industries are expected to continue experiencing meteoric growth for the foreseeable future due to the proliferation of second screen devices, games, apps, and other interactive media.

Major companies such as Apple, Google, Starbucks, Disney/Pixar, Amazon, and the like, value creativity at every level in their culture and products, and the commercial success of these entities have garnered the attention of the world. Industry used to value the cog in the wheel, performing a singular function with no thought of or room for applying creativity. Now, most major industries foster and reward creativity.

Think about how many things we use every day that required creativity at some level. Whether it’s the chair you are sitting in, the computer or tablet you are reading this on, the music you are listening to, the design of the cup you are drinking coffee from, or the flavor of the coffee you are drinking…someone applied creativity to concept, develop, and produce it!

In addition to the new found respect for creativity, there see also technological reasons why now is a great time to be a creative. Technology and art are inherently connected. They always have been. Art needs a medium. Mediums present themselves thru prevailing technology. From clay pottery and textiles to print making; from forging metal to producing CG films; art and technology are always historically connected. One influences the other. One pushes, stretches, and challenges the other. Here are 5 reasons to start your personal Renaissance.

1. Never before have artists had such affordable and powerful hardware and software available to them.

2. Never before have artists had access to so much electronic communication and electronic file transfer capability as we do today.

3. Never before has there been such a widespread opportunity for creatives in so many fields and industries.

4. Never before have there been so many schools and universities that value the arts and offer so many creative degrees.

5. Never before have there been so many ways a single artist can connect with opportunities and build their own platform. Social media and the internet level the playing field and there are more independent artists working than every before.

This is a great time for artists of all stripes. Determine to make this season a new birth as you decide on what goals to attack and how to become a master at your craft. Work hard, capitalize on your opportunities, and enjoy the creative journey. If you so choose, your Renaissance starts now!

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