Are You Squandering Your Potential?

Do you ever feel like your life is one long soap opera of squandered potential?

I have come to believe that the main difference between those that “make it” (meaning, they realize their dreams, they fulfill their potential, they give what they have to give) is this:

Those who make it share.

Those who stay stuck hoard.

In sharing wisely (not necessarily widely), with the right people, in the right place… you receive the vital feedback, momentum, and connections that will cause you to fulfill your potential.

When I was younger, I couldn’t help but share.

It was my natural state. You couldn’t shut me up if you tried.

I had it in my head that everything I created was good and worthwhile.

Needless to say, this didn’t last long.

A series of unfortunate events in my early teens turned things around fast.

My family frayed and fell apart. My adopted brother ended up in prison. I dropped out of school and came close to suicide.

Things were fairly dark. And I retreated into a solitary shell.

I became a hoarder.

I was still just as creative (meaning, I made a lot of things––like art and music and short films––whether or not they were any good).

But I kept it to myself.

And if someone ever coaxed me into sharing, I wouldn’t show them the whole thing.

I only ever gave them a sample. And I did it reluctantly. And I usually did it in a way that ensured I could inoculate myself against criticism.

This means I often published anonymously.

Online, I would create multiple usernames that could be used to combat the critics (this was back in the days before MySpace; forums ruled the online landscape).

And because I only ever shared samples, and only to small groups, I kept this sense of control that gave me comfort:

“If they think this is bad, it’s because they haven’t even seen the real, finished thing.”

And I wasn’t wrong, exactly. Except that I would rarely finish the “real thing.”

My life has been one long soap opera of squandered potential.

My closet and hard drives are a wasteland of half-finished projects.

I have a library’s worth of well-planned ideas, all unrealized.

Creative intentions unfulfilled.

And I have even broke a promise or two (which hurts to acknowledge in writing).

I wrote a book many years ago, called Distracted to Death.

Me and my ma, holding the first copies of Distracted to Death

It was written on the heels of recovering from a video game addiction that led to tendinitis and barred me from the guitar for years.

It’s a book that severely slams all of the forces that prevent us from focusing and living our best lives. It’s a rallying cry to focus our time and attention––two of our precious, finite, non-renewable resources––on what matters most to us.

Tucker Max (a controversial––but nevertheless wildly successful––figure to some) gave me the title and helped with the book design.

Ryan Holiday (best-selling author of many books on Stoicism) consulted on the book’s direction when it was in its early stages.

The book cover and artwork is gripping, poignant, and clean.

Kirkus gave it a glowing review.

I had a lot of things lined up. 4 years of work was about to pay off.

But I never formally published the book.

I’ve shared snippets of it here and there, but never the whole thing.

I have a bunch of review copies from Amazon, collecting dust on my bookshelves at home.

Not even my wife has read it (mainly because I have never had the courage to ask her to).

I promised my mother that if she read it and she gleaned value from the book, I would publish it.

She read it. She’s the only one who has (other than the editor). And it not only benefited her life; she insisted that it’s a message that the world needs right now.

She insisted that it would serve many people.

And guess what?

I haven’t fulfilled that promise. 4 years later.

I have my reasons. Some of them are even pretty good.

But the reasons don’t make the awful pit in my stomach go away.

I could have done the same thing with Guitar Acceleration.

It’s almost tragic to think of what I would missed out on.

First of all, I never would have met you.

There are amazing players and artists whose lives have changed for the better because I was willing to share.

I’ve gone on to collaborate with many of the graduates of the program, and it’s altered the trajectory of my life.

The Guitar Acceleration program isn’t perfect. And I’ll continue to make it better.

But it’s still served thousands of players.

And I’ve received so much useful feedback from players like you, and I’m using that feedback to make the program even better.

Who knows what could have happened if I had published Distracted to Death when I first wrote it?

God knows what I would have learned, the people I would have met, the opportunities that would have opened up.

It’s not worth it to wait.

If your project is unfinished, sharing what you have so far will just help you make it better. It will help to make it more real, instead of just a dream or idea in your head.

You will receive feedback and suggestions and be connected to resources and potential collaborators. You might meet a producer who could mix and master your music so that it shines way brighter than it otherwise would if you continue to work alone.

You might build a fanbase as a consequence (this has happened with me using a few unfinished riffs from songs), which will give you a platform to promote the album to once it’s finished.

It’s hard as hell to do this, because only you know what the project has the potential to be. No one else can possibly see it the way that you do.

But it doesn’t matter. You aren’t going to hoard.

Hoarding or sharing is the difference between making it or staying a dreamer.

If you share it, it now exists.

It can now be seen, heard, beheld, and make a connection with others.

And they can tell you what they think about it. And how you might be able to improve it.

And as my brother and collaborator so often says,

“It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to exist. It must exist.“

I think this is something he picked up from Dan Harmon. And who knows where Dan picked it up. It’s the creative struggle we have faced for millennia.

Bottom line:

Share (and even teach) what you are learning. You’ll learn more, more deeply.

Share what you are making. You’ll get better much faster.

You can get a refresher on this concept in the Meta module of Guitar Acceleration.

I’m not suggesting that you need to share every little thing with everyone on social media (in fact, I suggest otherwise here).

But share what you’re learning and making with those whose lives might benefit from it.

Share it with the people who will help you to become a better player and artist.

Share it with the people who count the most in your life.

You don’t have to be the polished pro that you know one day you will become before you share.

And the project doesn’t have to be finished, let alone perfect.

I’m rooting for you with all of my heart.

And as always, I want to see and hear what you create. Send me links to what you share so I can witness it and spread the love.

Talk soon,

Joshua

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