Choose to do the Hard Thing: A mid-morning, off-the-cuff ramble

road not takenWherein I consider working in a “small pond” (like Fresno) or moving to the “big leagues” (like LA or NYC). Either way, the best choice is probably the harder of the two. 

You choose to do the hard thing. And then you see it through.

Whether you’re doing it “here” or “there”, it makes no difference. Some people will say that there is a difference between here and there, but ultimately the difference is whether you choose to do the hard thing or the easy thing. The location doesn’t matter. The size of the company doesn’t matter. The budget doesn’t matter. The number of paychecks and how large they are doesn’t matter. The amount of competition doesn’t matter.

You see, for some people moving into a larger pond is the hard thing. It involves failures and risks emotional, financial, and psychological havoc for the potential of greater challenge and deeper satisfactions. And staying in the small pond is the easy thing, because they know what’s expected and that they will always be good at what they do there.

For others, staying in the small pond is the hard thing because they are constantly fighting to deepen the offerings in the community, investing the time and energy to make it better. But moving on is the easy thing, because essentially they are escaping any obligations to a community.

For some people, returning to the small pond is the hard thing, because it means creating a new goal and a new dream from the ground up or building their dream more slowly and deliberately.  For others, staying in the large pond is the hard thing because it means pushing a little bit harder, taking yet one more risk. But if returning the small pond is about backing away from the challenge rather than starting a new one, it is the easy thing.

For some people staying independent and doing work that has great risk is the hard thing and doing easily sellable work is the easy thing. For others, doing consistently commercial work for the sake of maintaining a company is the hard thing, but hiding away from expanded offerings is the easy thing.

One person may find working with artists new to them the hardest, most challenging thing in the world. It is risky. Another person may find always working with new people the easiest thing- fewer expectations to uphold.

Another person may want to work with the same people over and over because it is easy- there’s a short-hand, an established communication. But sometimes working with the same people over and over gets harder and harder, because the deepening relationships mean more wrestling with true collaboration.

For some people, to keep working is the hard thing. It is exhausting, draining. And for others, taking that much-needed break is the hardest thing in the world, because what would they BE if they weren’t doing the work?

But when we really choose the harder thing offered to us at that time, no matter where we are or what the circumstances, we reap the rewards of a more satisfied life as an artist. We forge out deeper valleys in our minds and hearts where our ideas, our voices, and our abilities grow. We receive new ideas and new skills – even if that skill is sitting still long enough to hear ourselves think. Or if that skill is to keep pushing until something breaks open. We gain greater satisfaction with the work, with the people, with the location, and with ourselves. Not just as an artist, but as a human.

So when faced with two choices, really take the time to consider what the harder choice will give you in the long run. Then make a clear-eyed, definite decision. And see that decision through.

You likely won’t regret it.

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