Pursue Discipline to Achieve Excellence

Recently I was having a conversation in the seanwes Community with a young illustrator who was concerned about his skill level. 

He wasn’t happy with his current abilities, and didn’t like feeling the pressure of sharing his work online on a consistent basis.

He wanted to “retire” his weekly output on Instagram and focus on building his skills for two years, and when he was confident enough in his skills, he could start sharing his work online again.

This was my response: 

If you’re trying to build any kind of audience, going dark for two years isn’t going to help you. 

Uploading work for two years that continuously gets better is a thousand times more effective in the long run than “going dark”.

Additionally, you may be overthinking what your portfolio or social media needs to be. If a project is taking a month, that’s four work-in-progress shots. They don’t have to be final pieces. You dictate the curation of your feed.

The point is not to produce perfect work, it’s to develop a habit of showing up consistently.

Too many people, being consistent is much more valuable than having “perfect work”. It shows character and drive.

If you’re just trying to keep your head above water because you’ve said yes to too many things, then some things might need to go. Client projects are definitely priority if you’re under contract and need to complete the jobs that you are set out to do.

You know your balance for sure, and if there’s too many plates spinning, things are going to start falling and breaking.

The most important thing is to look at your goals and determine what it’s going to take to get there.

  • Where will you be in 2020?

  • What work will you be doing?

  • What sort of skill will you be the master of?

Answer those questions, and then do them. Work backward and figure out what you need to do today.

Finally, deadlines and pressure are good and healthy. Yes, they can be tough, and sometimes the work we put out isn’t the best, but becoming excellent requires discipline.

The act of pursuing discipline is what sets you apart from the rest of the world. 

You produce discipline by making commitments and setting up routine and doing hard things. The pursuit of discipline produces excellence.

Nearly two years ago I started writing weekly emails. Some of them have been terrible and I’m really embarrassed by them. But I keep on. It gives me something to look back to and see how far I’ve come.

You know your own commitments and what you’re capable of, but there’s a lot of future equity you’ll be missing out on by “going dark”. 

We’re all a work in progress. You’re going to look back on your work in two months and think “wow, yikes…” and then in a year and wonder why you ever let anyone see your work. 

But it’s good. It’s a process.