Have you seen Mozart in the Jungle?
It’s the Amazon original TV series about musicians in the New York Symphony. And it’s good. It just won a Golden Globe for Best Television Series — Comedy.
One of the lead characters is Rodrigo, the eccentric and highly-creative conductor, brought in to rejuvenate the orchestra…
Gael Garcia Bernal also won Golden Globe and Image Foundation “Best Actor” awards for his portrayal of Rodrigo.
Rodrigo has an interesting character “flaw” that makes it hard for him to be the Maestro of the New York Philharmonic… He doesn’t really like responsibility…
For example, at one point in Season Two he’s with the orchestra in Mexico, and has a day full of obligations he’s supposed to attend to as the Maestro.
What does he do instead?
He runs away, grabs a cab, then hops on a bus, and takes off who-knows-how-far-away to spend some time in the town where he grew up.
No spoilers… That’s an important part of the story!
But that’s enough detail to give you a feel for this character.
He’s more about the inspiration, the feeling, the heart, the blood.
Not so much spreadsheets and benefactors and donations that the Philharmonic needs to stay afloat as a business.
Sometimes I feel like Rodrigo, like I just want to run away!
I’m not the only one. I know Gary Halbert was famous for disappearing for days or weeks at a time…
He’d have a project started, and reach a point where his creative juices were just drained.
So rather than stay sitting there with his pad and pen, he’d hop in the car (sometimes with another copywriter in tow), and drive.
Maybe he’d go do something else. Go boating. Cruise the strip. Go swimming. (He lived on a boat in the Florida Keys for much of his later life.) Whatever else inspired him.
He just had to run away for a while. Then, he’d come back and be brilliant.
That’s the same as the eccentric, creative genius Rodrigo in Mozart in the Jungle. That’s the same as so many other creative geniuses.
If you’re creatively inclined, you’re probably raising your hand right now, thinking, “yeah, me too!”
This is a blessing and a curse!
Really incredible minds usually don’t fit in.
If most of the world is okay and at least survives the monotony of the workaday world, cubicle farms, and the 9-to-5-grind, that’s okay for them.
But what my friend Alex Charfen calls the Entrepreneurial Personality Type doesn’t fit at all in that.
We feel pressure and noise building. Until we act out — even, explode!
And that’s when — in many contexts — we’re labeled as broken. Sometimes drugged into compliance.
I don’t want to go too hard against psychotropic medicines themselves, which can be legitimate treatments for people whose mental health issues are beyond coping.
But all too often we end up in a situation where just because we have trouble working within the system, we’re encouraged to drug ourselves into compliance. When the real problem is that the system isn’t necessarily a fit for us.
Nothing wrong with us. Nothing wrong with the system. We just don’t fit! And we need a different system.
It requires us to create our own reality…
That’s why so many Entrepreneurial Personality Types end up going off and doing their own thing. Whether we’re talking freelancing or building a business, it’s about creating your own rules. About making a system that works for you, instead of you trying to fit into a system that really doesn’t fit at all.
When I got diagnosed with ADHD, it came late.
I have — according to the DSM-IV which defines such things — ADHD: Inattentive. That means my mind is bouncing off the walls, even if my body is not.
Because I’m also relatively smart (but no genius by IQ measures), I was able to cope in a system that didn’t suit me well.
While I failed some classes, I was able to navigate my way through high school then college, graduating with a BA in Psychology. And the only jobs I lost were jobs I quit — though I never stayed at any one job for all that long.
I knew from early on that I wasn’t fit for the cubicle farm. I knew from early on that I wasn’t fit for the 9-to-5. I knew from early on that I wouldn’t be happy in life living under the heavy hand of some boss… I knew I would have to create my own reality…
Here’s the problem: successfully creating your own reality can require you to do some of what you’re not good at…
Admittedly, I’ve been struggling a bit this month. While I’m still mostly on track with all my client work, I’m behind on a very important aspect of my business.
I’ve started doing quarterly planning. This is where I sit down with myself, once per quarter, and look at where I’m at and where I want to go.
This is what’s making me feel like Rodrigo, wanting to run away.
But it’s also absolutely essential to build anything substantial in life.
You have to look to the future, and shift and shape it into what you want it to be.
Especially if you want to create a business that’s bigger than yourself, it won’t happen by accident.
And then comes the even harder part. You have to actually go back, break down those quarterly objectives, and turn them into action items on a monthly, weekly, and ultimately daily basis.
There can be room in there for screwing around. There can be room in there for goofing off.
In fact, I think really creative folks and folks who identify as Entrepreneurial Personality Types NEED this.
It’s why Dan Sullivan recommends all entrepreneurs take Free Days, Focus Days, and Buffer Days. And, ideally, take a lot of Free Days, where you’re not allowed to do ANYTHING related to work. Because this rejuvenates your creativity and productivity and energy for when it’s time to focus.
It wasn’t quite a free day, but today I accepted that I wasn’t going to be productive first thing when I started working, and instead played a DJ set and worked out during songs. It cleared my head and geared me up to get back to what I needed to focus on. Before I started to do this, I was feeling like I was broken, and there was something wrong with me. But once I committed to this free time, where I could do something besides work and feel like I was not breaking an obligation, I remembered that I was okay. I’m not broken. This is something I need to perform at peak at other times. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s GREAT!
The final point: how to make planning liberating!
Right before I decided to write this, I had a quick 15-minute check-in with my coach, Joseph Rodrigues. In the last minute of the call, I asked him what I should write about (he reads these essays, too). He said I should write about the process of quarterly planning, and turning it into actionable items, and then planning out your months and weeks and days to make it all happen.
And so instead, I decided to write what you just read!
But I do want to go back to that. And show you how that process can actually help liberate your creative self.
The actual process of planning is pretty simple. Decide what your big goals are that you believe can reasonably be accomplished within the next quarter. Focus on both what you need to do, and what you want to do to move forward. (Cover a mix of the urgent and the important.)
Then for each month, you look at what progress you need to make to be on track for your quarterly goals. For each week, what you need to do to stay on track for the month. And for the day, what tasks must be done to be on track for the week.
And for important but not necessarily urgent projects, it helps to set aside time each week to make progress. Because if you don’t set aside time, the urgent stuff will fill your week and you won’t make progress on your important goals.
Now, all of this can feel quite constraining, but here’s what I’m going to do for the rest of the quarter to make sure I’m feeling liberated by planning, not constrained by it…
I’ve realized that I wasn’t setting aside enough free time in my calendar to get personally refreshed. I expected too much of my organized, systematized, productive self… Without giving space to my creative self.
And so my creative self felt a building sense of pressure and noise, just wanting to escape.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but I’m planning my liberation. I’m planning my freedom. I’m planning my flexibility.
It won’t be perfect in execution — I promise that. And I will again find times where I feel like I’m going to explode. But this is about constant, steady improvement — both in knowing myself, and in directing myself to creating the future I want.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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