don’t create to keep up

song: georgia by vance joy

read time: 6 minutes

performance. it’s not really something that i grew up with. while there was pressure to sit at the piano everyday for 30 minutes, there was never pressure to perform. if playing “my heart will go on” from titanic was the best i ever got — then my parents were happy. i didn’t do recitals. i didn’t enter contests. there was no pressure. piano was merely a gift — something they wanted me to have, just because.

while there is beauty in performance, i think that sometimes performance can take away from the authenticity in creating. it takes the allure, the romance, or the connection out of whatever you are doing, because often performance comes with pressure.

a little over three years ago, my best friend and i started a hashtag: #coasttocoastchallenge. it brought so much beauty to my life — it connected me to strangers around the globe, it created an international community of women who inspired one another, and it welded lou and i together as sisters. the instagram challenge quickly grew, and it naturally evolved into something much bigger than two best friends trying to stay in touch with each other. we started a blog. we took on interns. we had a staff. we had contributing writers. it was beautiful.

but as we grew, the pressure began to seep in. the pressure to grow into something big, the pressure to constantly create, the pressure to be something more.

to be honest — the pressure was fictitious. it was built around what i felt society expected out of a company that was two years old. it was created by a stigma i saw on social media. it was all made up. there were no investors pressuring me, there were no demands of debts to pay. the pressure was self-inflicted by society’s so-called standards.

the pressure took the beauty out of coast to coast. what started as a passion project, turned into a burden in more ways than one. which, was the polar opposite of what coast to coast was created to do. it was created bring life and beauty into the world.

this past july, coast to coast took a small team on our annual humanitarian trip. while on the trip, i felt a release. social media was not my daily go-to and the unattainably high american standards were not at the fore-front of my mind. instead, we were focused on what truly matters: helping people. mid-way through the trip, i heard one word resounding in my head: simplify.

a scary thought. simplify: to make plainer.

in the moment, i had no idea what “simplify” meant. but i knew, with everything in me, i was going to chase after simplicity.

on the plane ride back from ecuador, i sat looking out the window and in a flash of a moment, i knew what simplicity meant. it meant doing the unconventional: getting rid of what we had to make space for new, to make room for better.

i work and think in analogies.

so think of it like this, a building.

when a building is old and doesn’t fit the needs of the community anymore — it’s torn down. the space, however, doesn’t become inactive and unused. a developer comes in and builds something new, something better. this takes time though. after all, the last time i checked, new buildings don’t just magically pop up— they need planning. a project like this requires an architect to come plan out the space and design it in a way that can be both aesthetically stunning and functional. this process, it takes awhile. sometimes months.

THIS. this hypothetical building is coast to coast.

while on the outside, it seemed [and probably still seems to some] as if our company is moving backwards by ending our internship program, saying goodbye to amazing writers, bidding farewell to staff members — we knew that achieving simplicity was necessary if we were going to create something that could better fit the community. we knew it was essential to achieve simplicity if we were going to be able to focus on creating something great that we would be in love with and mirrored who we are as people.

you see, too often we create to keep up. we create because we see other companies or individuals growing in a certain manner and feel that if we want to be relative, we must do the same. we create out of survival instead of passion. we compare where we are to where others are at and it morphs into a pressure to perform. which, in the end, is never a good thing. pressure and passion cannot co-exist. you must choose one.

someone asked me recently if coast to coast had dissolved — saying they hadn’t seen much from us lately. my response, “there’s more going on than meets the eye.” we are in a season of simplicity. i am in a season of simplicity. a season that rejects the pressure of society and eliminates the opportunity to succumb to normal. i am in a season of rest and imagination, refusing to launch something because “people are waiting” or “people are expecting something”.

i don’t know where you are at in life — but i’ll tell you this: i never want to create something rushed again. i never want to create because it’s expected out of me. i never want to create because of a fictitious pressure that i am taking on as my own. instead— i want to create out of an overflow of who i am. i want to create because i am so in love with life and what i do that i cannot help but make. i want to create because i enjoy.

i believe that the most brilliant things we can create are the things that are reflection of us, an overflow of who we are as people. because chances are— if you enjoy creating it, someone else will enjoy experiencing it.

i don’t watch much football, but i do know this—

when the quarterback is trying to get around the defense, he’ll move backwards to put distance between him and his opponent. then, he picks a side and runs full force in that direction. when he moves back a few steps from his defence, or rather his obstacle, he has better vision. he can see if there is a clear route or if he needs to make a pass. things happen when he moves backwards. no one questions it. it’s a smart move.

the same goes for life.

it’s okay to move backwards if it’s going to get you towards your goal. often times it does because you’ll have clearer vision.

it’s okay to simplify if it means you can make something greater. often times it allows you to focus.

it’s okay to not succumb to the pressure of performance if it means that you will create out of passion. it’s okay.

wherever you are in life, i dare you—

ask yourself the hard questions. are you where you want to be? is your company? is your passion project becoming something that you enjoy more everyday? or is it becoming a little off, a little not you? are you making decisions because it’s aligned with your passion and ideals? or are you making decisions because you feel as if there is a certain expectation?

my challenge to you is this—

go at your own pace. don’t create to keep up. create because it’s the natural overflow of you and your project, not because of a pressure to perform. while the idea of simplifying may be a scary thought, it’s not. simplicity brings with it freedom— freedom to think — think about what is important to you, what you like, and what you love. simplicity gives you the ability to dream again, to let your imagination run wild, and to make good things. simplicity gives you the freedom to focus so that you can move with strength and hit your target dead on. contrary to popular belief, simplicity is not moving backwards. it’s lightening the load so that you can go further than you could have ever gone before.

i hope you remember this: the quickest way to be normal and average is to follow everyone else’s lead. do your own thing. do what’s right for you. when you do, you’ll find you are creating from a beautiful place of true inspiration. more than anything, take the pressure out of creating. it was never meant to be there. find your way back to simplicity.