If we were all masters at moving on, there would not be a multi-billion dollar industry (self-help, psychology, psycho-pharmaceuticals, etc.) to help us do it. It really does not matter whether we are talking about resolving personal issues or those surrounding your creative business. Letting go, moving on, and moving forward is exquisitely painful, always uncomfortable and really effing hard. It is also fundamentally necessary to our growth as human beings, artists and business owners.
I was an economics major in college and know all of the lessons about ignoring past investments when looking toward the future. The academic statement goes: ignore sunk cost in your evaluation of future opportunities. If you have to create a new website because of a shift in your business, you cannot factor in the $10,000 you spent last year to update the site. But if only life were numbers on a page. Not so easy when you spent six months and countless hours of your and your staff’s time (read: blood, sweat and tears) making the old new site happen. And certainly not when we might be talking about saying goodbye to employees who might be closer to you than your own family or, as in so many cases with creative businesses, who are literally your family. Yet, say goodbye you must – to the site, your employees, maybe even your (hopefully distant) relatives. You cannot fully embrace your next phase until you actively work to move away from the old.
Laura Novak and I were talking about the topic of letting go yesterday and she had a terrific insight. If you, your art and your creative business have evolved, operating as you always have is literally like operating on a different frequency. It creates static and that static is a recipe for frustration, conflict, even depression. Very much like wearing a coat that does not fit anymore. To Laura’s insight I want to add: you have to know where you are going before you let go.
As human beings, sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), letting go is the goal, even if there is nowhere to go. Be it addiction, bad relationships, neurosis, or other destructive behavior(s) we all have in some form, the work is identifying the issue and then making sure you do your best to just stop doing it.
Your creative business is different. If you do not have perspective on what the evolution of your creative business needs to look like, letting go of even dysfunctional behavior is, ironically, a recipe for more dysfunction. You might have stopped taking commissions, but, without the revenue, you find yourself forced to take business that does not fit your art and/or your business model.
You need to recognize the potential in the embryo before you devote the energy necessary to nurture the being to fruition. Whether this means an entirely new business or a new process for your current business is irrelevant. The question is the same: what deserves your energy and focus now? With the answer in hand you can actively look at what behaviors do not fit that energy and focus and change them (i.e., let them go). Change for change’s sake when it comes to any business, creative or not, does far more harm than good. Change with intention and purpose, on the other hand, is essential if you want to allow your creative business to evolve as it is meant to.
*Special thanks to Kallima Photography for the lovely image.