In late 2016 I was struggling a bit. Life was moving along OK, but I felt like I wasn’t doing anything productive or creative. Things were just too mundane, I wasn’t learning anything or challenging myself in any way. I was just going through the motions.
I volunteered to write a couple of blog posts at work to add some content for our company website. I had a hard time writing them and even when I managed to finish them, quite frankly they were crap. As someone who had always prided himself as someone who could express himself when needed, it was the last straw. I was in a creative nadir and needed to do something about it.
To break out of my doldrums, I needed to write something, hell, ANYTHING. I decided I would start blogging about different things that interested me. For example, I like to travel, so I blogged about things from a recent trip. I am learning about wine, so I would do a little research on new wines and post that. If no one read any of it I didn’t really care. In fact, at this point it was probably better that no one did. The point was to practice, to focus and to get better.
So as I continue to break through this creative block, I thought it might be helpful to interview one of the primary reasons for it, my inner critic. We all have an inner critic. That little voice of doubt in your head that tells you that you and your work isn’t up to par. I named my inner critic Thomas (as in Doubting Thomas of course). Tom has been with me as long as I could remember. We’ve grown up together, went to school together, attended parties and social events together, even roomed together in college. Shoot, we work together now. He’s been my invisible wing-man on every date and for every important decision in my life. It’s been a long road…
Thomas: Yeah, through thick and thin Dude!
AJ: So even though we have been together for, well, forever, I’m still not sure exactly what you do?
Thomas: I’m your inner critic, man. My job is to make sure you don’t make a fool of yourself. Which as you know, is a full-time job!
AJ: Well Tom, I appreciate that (I guess). But I have to ask why are you so negative about everything I want to try all the time? One would think a little more encouragement would be more productive?
Thomas: I probably would have tried that, but you are such a chronic screw up, I doubt that would have worked.
AJ: Screw up? Damn, that hurts. I think that all-in-all I’ve done pretty well for myself.
Thomas: Dumb luck…
AJ: I disagree, and that’s what has always annoyed me about you. In your eyes, my accomplishments pale in comparison to my failures. But like most people, I’ve tried to LEARN from my failures. They have set me up for success down the road. Tom, that’s the way it works!
Thomas: No, I prefer to think that it is MY sound advice that has kept you from going off the deep end. Do you think being your inner critic is any fun? Think about ALL the times you didn’t listen to me. You got shot down in flames.
AJ: That’s wrong. That’s another one of your problems, you think you are ALWAYS right when you are not. I’ve had many successes not listening to you. Yet you ignore that basic fact the every time I come up with something I want to try. Quite frankly, you’re not that great of an inner critic. Just think about what I might have accomplished if I quit listening to you altogether!
Thomas: Hah, fat chance of that. I know you too well. I know you better than anyone else on this planet. You couldn’t survive without me!
AJ: Sigh… Well, I’ll give you that you know me better than anyone. But you overvalue your importance. You’ve been wrong so many times. Remember you said that I shouldn’t start a business. You also told me that my wife was WAY outta my league!
Thomas: And she was (and still is by the way….)
AJ: But that’s not the point. If I listened to you all the time I would have never even took the chance to ask her out. How many great relationships did I miss out on by listening to you? How many great business ideas did I never pursue because of your words in my head? There are so many things I didn’t experience because you said I couldn’t do it, and I listened to you! When I think about it, you’ve held me back my ENTIRE life!!
Thomas: Think whatever you want, but I’m only trying to help. It’s a full-time job keeping you from falling on your fat, ugly face. I offer sound advice and constructive criticism.
AJ: Bullshit! If I tried things and failed at them, what’s the worst that happened? Nothing! I just regrouped and tried again. Think where I might be if I had listened to you all the time? I shudder to think of it! We HAVE to fail sometimes to ultimately succeed. That’s how it all works. From now on, whenever you tell me something is a bad idea, I’m going to say, “So what? At the worst I’ll learn what NOT to do and keep moving forward!”
Thomas: Whatever. You know, this whole “interview your inner critic” idea is really pretty lame.
AJ: Oh shaddup…