Lessons Learned from 25 Weeks of Embracing Complexity
Writing about how to say "yes, and" to life has taught me more than just how to say "yes, and" to life.
It’s been 25 weeks since the blog Embracing Complexity has launched. I’ve learned much since then, a great deal of which has been shared through these weekly posts. This week is dedicated to the overarching top five lessons I’ve learned as a writer, an idea junkie, and a human being.
1) Constraints generate creativity.
I’ll never forget the Zoom call in January with Reagan Pugh when his encouragement prompted me to finally start the blog. He was talking about the importance of narrowing your focus when building a brand and creating content. I actually felt anxious; isn’t that limiting? If I can only write about one thing, how will I keep it up every week for weeks at a time? Reagan assured me it wouldn’t be limiting at all, and it might even help my creativity. Frankly (sorry, Reagan) I didn’t believe him. Now, almost six months into this endeavor, I can say with confidence that he was right. Everywhere I go, I’m looking at the world through the lens of what dichotomy I can dissect; the mission of embracing complexity through saying “yes, and” has given me a laser focus on spotting moments, ideas, and people who exemplify what it means to look at whole spectrums, not just the extremes at either end. The constraint is precisely the thing that produces creativity. Thanks, Reagan.
2) Not everyone will agree with what you write. This is good. (But it also doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong.)
As an Enneagram Type 9, conflict is to me what a spider is to an arachnophobe: I see it and I run screaming. When you put an idea out to the world, you’re signing up for potential disagreement with that idea. I knew this, and it’s part of why it took me so long to finally start a blog: I was terrified of someone publicly disagreeing with my ideas. Not just because I might be wrong, but because simply the existence of conflict is upsetting to me. Yet, in the last 25 weeks, I’ve realized that it is indeed okay for others to publicly disagree. In fact, it’s good, as it adds more dimension to the conversation. If everyone agrees with everything you say, or already thinks about it in exactly that way, it’s not adding much new value to the world. The other side of this lesson is just because someone disagrees and sees an issue differently doesn’t mean that my viewpoint is any less valid, nor does it mean that I shouldn’t have said what I did. My younger self was so uncomfortable with conflict that when someone disagreed with me, I would backpedal as much as I could to reduce friction. (I wish I could say I don’t ever do this anymore, but I do; just not as often.) Writing this blog has taught me that I should listen to dissent and think about ideas in new ways, but that it’s okay to have ideas and to own those ideas.
3) Metrics alone mean very little (but not nothing).
We say it all the time: the number of likes and followers you have on Instagram don’t define who you are. I’m learning the same is true for producing creative content like this blog. While it’s true, objectively, that I would like to increase subscribers rather than decrease, and I’d prefer more engagement to less, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other meaningful ways to think about impact. If I gain more followers because I change my content to what I think people will want, it’s not worth it. If I get more comments because I fed into our human tendency towards fear and anger (which, if y’all read #1, you know isn’t likely anyway), it’s not worth it, either. I place more value on sharing the ideas that are on my heart, in a genuine way, and listening for the qualitative feedback over the quantitative metrics. It means so much to me when my readers send me a text, repost with their own thoughts on Instagram, or comment on my posts. I’ll keep watching my metrics to spot impact patterns, but your own words shared back to me are the most meaningful metric I’ve found yet.
4) Just because some people don’t read the whole thing doesn’t mean the whole thing wasn’t worth writing.
How often do you read an entire book or article and then find yourself unable to recall more than a few lines or general ideas from the whole thing? Me, too. Yet, for the first few months after I started this blog, I would get frustrated when I saw people only read the caption of my social media post without clicking on the link to see the whole article, or I’d see more people viewed the article than took the time to read it. Until a couple weeks ago when I saw a tweet from a professional speaker that I realized was a distillation of an entire speech he gave. I didn’t watch the speech, but that single tweet added value to my life. If he hadn’t developed out the entire speech, the tweet probably wouldn't be as good. If I didn’t write the whole blog post, I wouldn’t have much to say in a social media graphic. If I didn’t think about the idea long enough to turn it into 1,000 words on a website, I wouldn’t be familiar enough with it to have a meaningful conversation about it. Moral of the story: if you’re still with me this far into the post, I thank you, but I’m grateful for those who won’t read this far, too.
5) Consistency, consistency, consistency. And, consistency.
I actually have no idea how this weekly blog has stayed a weekly blog throughout this whole spring and summer. I had a lot more time on my hands in March and April, so starting it, while intimidating, felt doable. Had I known how much work it would be to keep writing through weeks of travel and conference facilitation over the last few months, I probably wouldn’t have started it at all. That’s the key, I think: if you choose to do something, you will make time for it. If you choose to do it consistently, you will be able to do it consistently. But, if you don’t make the promise, and make it to other people, it will quickly become the thing on the back burner that you only do in your spare time (and I think most of us, when asked what we do in our spare time, say “what spare time?”). It’s okay for some things to be on the back burner, don’t get me wrong; let’s just not lie to ourselves when we wish it was on the front burner, instead. A number of my mentors have pushed me to write consistently; making a commitment to publishing something weekly has kept me accountable in a way that wouldn’t happen if I just decided to write when I have time or when I feel like it. To be transparent, many times I sit down to write a blog and I don’t really feel like it, but somehow by the end I feel good. Sometimes I’m a few weeks ahead, other times I’m still writing at 10p.m. on a Monday night. It is satisfying to build a habit and to stick to it, especially in the times when it’s tough. Thank you for sticking with me, too.
Friends, it’s been a dream come true to share my ideas with the world through these Tuesday morning words. But, the ideas aren’t really mine; they come from the places and people that I believe have been placed in my life for a specific reason. I’m deeply grateful for this. Here’s to the next 25 weeks of Embracing Complexity.
What’s the top lesson you’ve learned in the last 25 weeks? What’s the top lesson from this blog? Share in the comments below or tag me on social media at @nffaevp and @miriamrosah and use the hashtags #EmbracingComplexity and #FFA21.
New to the blog? Curious about why I push for “yes, and…” in so many areas? Check out the intro post here.