Have you ever grown an amaryllis from scratch? For Christmas my friend Gabrielle gave me an amaryllis bulb. You just sit it on some water and stones in a glass jar. Apparently it’s a no brainer to get this bulb to bloom. However, having no amaryllis experience on my resume, I assumed I’d find a way to screw this up.
For starters, there’s the bulb. It looks like a pit. Come to think of it, it’s a pretty good representation of the pit that shows up in my stomach when I don’t know something I think I’m supposed to know.
It’s the producer in me. Producers pride themselves on knowing what needs to be known before anyone else. We create workflows, budgets and schedules to mitigate potential risks. Meet the deadline and budget with a great product and boom! You’ve got a happy client that’ll come back for more and tell their friends.
It’s easy to get so focused on the planning that we forget to pause, observe and ask more questions. What’s trending in the market? What’s going on with the team? So many factors cannot be controlled. This is not a bad thing. A good dose of uncertainty can bring unexpected results. If it’s a factor outside of our control, we can do our best to predict an outcome. Ultimately, we have no choice but to let it go.
Back to my amaryllis. You know what I love about it? I know nothing about growing it the right way. I also have no assumptions that I should know anything. My brain has a free pass to experience this without grading my performance every single step of the way.
Damn those voices in our brains! If we can count on them for one thing, it’s telling us where and how often we’re wrong. Given what we’re all going through right now with lockdowns, masks, vaccines, and all of our own regular life dramas, it’s easy to go directly into plan and protect mode. We might even set higher expectations of ourselves and others without even realizing it. There it goes again: our brain searching for the right answers on its never ending quest for certainty.
This relationship between planning and performance is not a static thing. Different people have different MOs and naturally deal with risk and process in their own unique way. That being said, it is a dance. There’s prep, research and making a plan. Then there’s the doing of it.
Once you get to the doing of the thing, it’s time to let go. It’s time to trust that the preparation was enough. Trust yourself. Trust other people. Trust that the universe is working on your behalf.
Like this amaryllis. Each day feels like a miracle. It takes its own sweet time. Rapid stillness mode. It pays to pay attention to the smallest of movements. Who knows how the amaryllis will unfurl her petals? You can’t put expectations on an amaryllis.
It may seem contrary to the end goal, but if we want to produce something great, we need to practice letting go of our own expectations of ourselves and of others. Expectations only hold us back. They ensnare us with what our mind currently knows rather than allowing the unknown to enter stage left to surprise us with the greatness we can’t see. Yet.
Leaving space for grace is a calculated risk. It’s a leap. As far as I can tell, there is no other way through that part of the creative process, or any process for that matter.
Say you have a big presentation coming up. Plot it. Research the data. Plan it. Envision it. Practice it. Do the work. Then let it go when the day comes.
Now it’s trust time. Be present. Read the room. Notice when the ideas land and when they don’t. Allow room for the uncertainty. Adjust and act in the moment. Own it all.
When it’s over, give yourself a beat. Most likely, it’s not done cooking yet. Let the whole experience sink in. Then you can go back and look for opportunities to revise. Key to the process is acknowledging what actually happened. Bask in the beauty of it, warts and all. Accept it for all that it is. Celebrate then iterate.
We all strive so much. Setting goals for what we want to accomplish is important. Equally important is letting go of expectations and letting the events unfold. Accepting that we don’t always need to know.
Why limit ourselves to what we know when we can open up the playing field to what we don’t know yet?
I’m not sure how this amaryllis will continue to flower. To be honest, I don’t want to know. The joy is in the unfurling.
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