Are you missing out on the adventure of your craft?

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I was pretty fearless in my teens and twenties.

I figured out how to get myself to Switzerland as an exchange student at 16, with little money and no contacts.

I had many adventures in college in Mexico and Colombia, often traveling alone and having some dangerous experiences like being held up by knife point, and walking home alone after a late night of salsa dancing (don’t tell my Mom). For the volcano hike story, you will have to ask Desiree.

I lived in Rio de Janeiro for six months by myself while I trained the Afro-Brazilian martial art of capoeira.

And much earlier, as soon as I really got the hang of books, I loved to read stories of myths and adventures from all over the world.

I think intense devotion to your craft is a commitment to hair-raising adventure.

As businesspeople, we talk about the power of stories in conveying the value of our product or service.

So we get all wrapped up in worry about if people are going to buy the book we are going to write, or the product we are designing.

As a wide-eyed first-time author, I asked advice from Adrian Zackheim, the head of Penguin/Portfolio, who was the publisher of my first book.

Write the damned book,” he said.

And now having written the damned book, I will tell you that it was an adventure to the grandest scale of my childhood dreams. I fought demons. I interviewed kings and queens. I scaled the highest mountains of impossibility, gave up, died and somehow came back to life in time to finish the last chapter. All while changing tiny baby diapers, and dealing with economic warfare all around me.

I think craft has spirit.

In individual sessions with clients, or writing, or in a large room teaching to a group of people, there are moments of intense and utter grace.

They come when you immerse yourself in your work and feel like you have to know how to do it better or else you will lose your quest and the king will cut your head off in the public square.

They come when you feel ideas rising up in your chest and you know, for certain, that they are turning into something big and powerful, as if conjured by a magic spell.

Craft is not a rote, calculated path, it is an explosive, messy, terrifying and passionate adventure.

  • How can your work take you on a journey?
  • What dragons are to be slayed?
  • What myths are to be broken?
  • What music is meant to be danced to, until there is no separation between beat, body and spirit?
  • Which battles are to be fought?
  • What deep, passionate love is to be made?
  • What inner tiger is meant to be released from its chains inside you?

How would you feel differently about your craft if you viewed it as a noble adventure?

One of the great burdens of new entrepreneurs is wondering, after looking at what they have done:

“Is this all just a bunch of meaningless drivel? I mean, do I have any idea what I am doing?”

It is also the great burden of experienced entrepreneurs.

As a little girl, I sat in the darkroom with my Dad as he showed me subtle manipulations to the printing of photographs that made a huge difference in the feeling and look of the picture.

I watched him smile as he found the one shot in eighty that captured just the right collection of facial expressions in a group shot.

And I still watch him, at seventy-six years old and with more than fifty years experience as a professional photographer, sweat when he sends a photo to a client.

“Dad,” I always say, “Has a client ever not liked one of your pictures?”

I can’t ever remember a time when they haven’t.

To my Dad, craft is a noble undertaking. Even in the last quarter of your life, you never consider yourself a master.

Choose adventure.

When you choose the adventure of your craft, you find unexpected, beautiful and unlikely sides to it.

Differentiation, as the marketing wonks like to say.

  • Are you on an adventure?
  • Who is the hero?
  • Who are you trying to save?
  • How would your work be different if it didn’t have to sound pithy or be perfect?
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17 Responses to “Are you missing out on the adventure of your craft?”

  1. the child-adventurers we once were?
    they’re on a mission
    to win us back…
    each question u ask?
    awesome
    thank you….

  2. Linda Ford says:

    I just adore this post Pam. I never would have thought that being on this entreprenuerial journey would be the biggest test of my metal, and allow me to experience the adventure of a lifetime. Not long ago, I wrote a similar piece about how this journey is helping me become self realized. I love your line: I think craft has spirit. Beautifully stated. thank you!

  3. Andy Pels says:

    You are a really good writer.

  4. Erica Dhawan says:

    Love it Pam! Really CHOOSING the adventure and journey is definitely the key to unlocking my deepest creativity and passions. This is so aligned with our vision at TheGalahads.com –thanks for being an inspiration!

  5. Herdi says:

    Great post Pam!!! Complete inspiration for me to finish writing my book and new CD. Keep in touch.

  6. Antrese says:

    It is comforting to know that after all the years as an established photographer, your father still had doubts. I remember being hugely discouraged after reading that Richard Diebenkorn experienced doubt and fear regarding his work (Not by him, but the idea that the feeling never goes away). I now realize how human it makes us. It is refreshing to know that even the greats are human.

  7. Also the mantra of great fiction writers. Thanks for helping us re-invigorate our callings, Pam!

  8. Dana Leavy says:

    Looking back at the journey from employee to full time entrepreneur, I couldn’t have even imagined in the beginning some of the undertakings that would be part of all this, and with that, some of the successes, some of the challenges. It really is like an adventure book – and the interesting thing I’ve found is that the further I go, and the more opportunities and challenges I encounter and work through and explore, the more confident I am tackling future ones. So it kind of becomes easier. But looking back, it’s really mind blowing at everything that gets rolled up in to the process! Great post.

  9. Eleanor says:

    How do you know what to write just when I need to read it?!

    I’m having one of those ‘Oh man, I hope I know what I’m doing, and that this whole thing hasn’t been one huge wrong turn’ spells (that I’m learning, much to my chagrin, are regularly occurring phenomenon on this path!)

    This helps so much.

  10. faisal says:

    Craft, check, spirit, check, adventure, check, time management, no check.

    Pam can you do an article on proper time management for newbie entrepreneurs?

  11. Lisa-Marie says:

    I knew you were a Galahad!

  12. Love this post, Pam! It speaks to my Sagitarrian nature : ) And reminds me a lot of what Joseph Campbell writes about in the Hero’s Journey. It’s the only way to live…

  13. Wow! Great post Pam! Love all the metaphors. We entrepreneurs are a passionate bunch. We would rather die on the journey of our entrepreneurial quest than be caught alive working for someone else.

  14. Patricia says:

    Pam,

    Reminds me that some of us should not be so tidy and buttoned up about our life’s work, and that perhaps it is possible to have a “life’s work”.

    My father was a professional photographer, and I too remember working in the dark room with him and curating the perfect album for his clients.

    Cheers,
    Patricia

  15. Just reading these questions makes my heart jump with excitement, Pam. Thanks for the eloquent reminder that we can transform our work into a “noble adventure” with just a simple tweak in perception.

  16. Jeff Yin says:

    Awesome post, Pam…I am definitely on an adventure!

    I found you because I am on a quest. I’m taking Ramit Sethi’s Earn 1K course, and I discovered that I want to start my business by helping people like myself: Entrepreneurs who are building our first business while working a day job. In this adventure, we are the heroes, fighting to slay the dragon of dependence on our day jobs. I want to round up the wisdom of those who have gone on this quest before, and share that wisdom so that more of us can slay that dragon by building the business that we are so passionate about.

    I was very excited to discover that you have been on this quest for a long time yourself, and that you have helped many to slay their dragons, and find their passions!

    I don’t know how I’m going to complete my quest…yet. I do know that I love talking to people about the journey they are taking with their businesses, and understanding their goals and challenges, so I am going to start there.

    And I am happy to have found you, because I am sure that your experience will shed light to help me to find my way!

  17. Don says:

    Hi Pam,
    Your post reminds me of a favorite quote:
    “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller

    Thanks for your thoughts. They’re always enjoyed and valuable.
    Don

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