THE BLOG

When It Comes To Creative Effort, It Pays To Spread Your Bets

06/12/2016 17:37 GMT | Updated 06/12/2016 17:38 GMT

In the world of money, you never, ever, put all your eggs in one basket.

An investment, in money-land, is just a kind of bet. If you had £1000 to spend, would you put it all on one horse? Or one stock, just because you had a tip about it? Of course, some people would! But common sense (and maths) say you should spread your risk a bit for a better return.

So, let me ask you something: what are the investments you make in your day to day life, what are the tips you're listening to, and what's the currency you're investing, hoping it'll reap dividends for you?

In creativity, maybe the things you have to spend are time, positivity and energy. If these things have value, then - like anything else with value - you must invest them wisely, so they turn into more time, more positivity and more energy, and don't just get used up and leave you wrung out and frantic.

But of course, if you bank all your efforts on one thing and it doesn't work out, you've lost your bet and you have nothing left to play with. We've all been there.

So: are you spreading those investments across different things to give yourself a better chance some will grow for you, or are you pouring all your efforts, every hope, and every hour you have, into one poor, highly-pressured, horse?

The reason we keep putting everything into one horse is because we don't see the consequences of our creative activity as separate to our personalities. We roll it all up in one. We believe the thing we are betting on is ourselves. Yes, insanely enough, we identify with the horse. It's a crazy way of thinking: you can't be the gambler and the horse!

Why do we invest our time and energy in the work that we do? Too often, because we mistake the energy expenditure for the job. We think placing the bet is the same as winning it. We think as long as we can see ourselves running, in this eternal unwinnable race, then we're doing OK.

But we're wrong.

What we're really betting our efforts on is much greater than ourselves. It's the future, and the future contains vast unknowns and external influences that have nothing to do with us at all.

It's still a game, but it's a bit of a rigged game, and we can increase our chances to some extent by learning more about the horses - by developing our own skills and information about the subject. But one thing's for sure: we will reduce our chances by deploying magical thinking - "Put everything on my lucky number!"

Our luck, our reckons, our self-reflections, will not get us anywhere in this game.

In summary, then...

Spread your bets, research the odds and spend your resources wisely. If you're not doing as well as you'd like, it might be because you wrongly think you're already investing in yourself, simply by working on something all day, every day. In fact, you may need to work on a wider range of things to increase your opportunity range, and many of the things you spend our time on need to be outward-looking, and have value to the outside world.

This post also appears on leilajohnston.com/blog and Leila's creativity newsletter.