What if your best work is behind you?
I had a lot of trouble writing something for this article.
To be more specific, I spent an entire day trying to write. I wrote five articles that didn’t make the cut for sharing with you.
There was a lot of staring blankly at a blinking cursor. (Damn you, blinking cursor!)
Then the fears set in.
Oh no! What if all my best writing is behind me? What if last week I finally said everything I had to say about … everything? What if the last thing I wrote was the best thing I’ll ever write, and nothing else will ever come close? What if it’s all downhill from here? What if that was “Peak Paul?” (It’s like Peak Oil, but more environmentally friendly, since I’m recyclable.)
I put a lot of pressure on myself. To write well. To design and code well so my clients are successful. To help the folks I consult with take their business further. To make products that are useful. And most of all, to be valuable to the folks who pay attention to what I’m doing.
It’s stressful. And it’s never more stressful than right after something performs well, because now there are high expectations. Now the bar has been set. Now people are listening. Now I’m putting more pressure on myself than ever before.
Hi there, I’m Paul. And I honestly don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. Sure, I know how to do a bunch of things and I can stack the deck with what I know from previous experience, but there are a lot of wild cards. So much is unknown. While most things come down to skill, focus and perseverance, a lot is really just based on luck, fate, and the randomness of the world. Right place, right time sort of deal.
Whenever I write an article that gets more exposure than usual with tweets from Ashton Kutcher or Arianna Huffington, or launch a product that generates more revenue than usual, instead of being happy with that, I start to worry. When the chart—whether it’s followers, website stats or product sales—suddenly spikes upwards, I go to a bad place. What is the follow-up? How can this stay relevant in the “Era of Ephemera?” (Sounds like a good term, right? I just made that shit up on the spot.) Have we truly reached Peak Paul?
But then, I trudge on. Knowing that what happens next probably won’t be as good as the last thing. It’s a numbers game, and not everything is a winner. The only way to actually win (and win for a second) is to keep trying. So I write more articles. I launch more products. I come up with new weird ideas and roll with them. Because even if that next thing doesn’t work out, the next one after that might. Or the one after that. Or the one a year from now. Perhaps Peak Paul is more like a sine wave than a bell curve (nerdy math reference).
The “greatest thing I ever did” could be in the past or it could be waiting in the future. What I do know is that if I keep going, I’ll get to see if the last big thing can be outshone by the next big thing. Which is scary. And stressful. And it makes it difficult to put words down some days. But it’s also interesting. And exciting.
I honestly struggle with this. So instead of sharing one of five articles I’m not 100% stoked on sharing with you, I wrote this instead—to give you a little insight into my own thought process.