Expect challenges.


A closer look at WOW 6 from 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business

This third 99WOWs Blog post explores challenges and the role they play in the creative process. In work and in life, however, there are times when the very last thing one needs to do is to go out and discover more challenges. Far too many can land right on your proverbial doorstep, as was the case for me recently. This WOW is part of 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business, a newly published book for thriving and striving entrepreneurs, biz whiz professionals, recent grads and creative wizards.

Expect Challenges. If none arise, go out & discover some.

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When I initially wrote this WOW, my focus was solely on my creative work. In that context, I expect challenges every day. They are vital ingredients in my creative process and results. Challenges provide the rich fundamental basis for creative work to take place. Challenges form a framework—cornerstones for the problem solving process. It is only with a clearly understood challenge to which creativity may be applied that creative problem solving can truly be effective. Without a challenge, creativity is without focus and without the ability to measure its merits and success.

The second part of this WOW, the “If none arise, go out and discover some” phrase, also applies directly to creative work. Risk-taking and the seeking of creative challenges is a critical part of any creative equation. Without them, parameters can remain elusive. So, when hoping to create, one must look for challenges in need of creative solutions. In the case of entrepreneurial endeavors, one must also strive to seek out such challenges that also provide remuneration for one’s work—if one likes to eat.

Challenges often occur without needing to go out and look for them—often more regularly than any of us might desire. Recently, I had the chance to travel and whether you travel regularly or infrequently, everyone has heard of the perils of travel challenges. My recent trip has been nothing short of a barrage of challenges—three days of lost luggage, the only room in the entire hotel without wireless, and other more complex and stressful experiences all along the way. It seemed that on this trip, the respite from challenges was the exception rather than the norm. Each time I absorbed a new challenge, incorporated it into my actions and reactions and tried to normalize it, it seemed I only had to turn a corner to bump into yet another challenge.

I am a seasoned enough traveler to know that issues and challenges occur when one is in new places with different languages, time zones, customs and new people. As I reflect back on this experience, I recognize a connection I’d not made before. To truly expect challenges can help to temper expectations—and challenges challenge those expectations. I thought I had expected there might be challenges, but I can see now that my initial excitement eclipsed my concerns and off I went. Perhaps this WOW should read, “Expecting challenges challenges expectations.” Regardless of the specifics, the time on my travels went quite differently than I expected. The experience was quite dissimilar to my prior trips to this favorite place, this same hotel and similar itinerary. This journey was far different than the others and with only a few exceptions, rarely positive.

As a creative individual, I know I will apply this experience and these challenges to my work and businesses in various ways. I will write about these events. I will use my comic reflection to regale friends about the “Only to you!” experiences I have had so far. I will also quietly reflect on how these challenges that have, in many cases, pushed me to my limits these past weeks will become tools for my work and hard-won experiences upon which I draw going forward.

I am a smart enough creative entrepreneur to recognize that I must be long past this collection of challenges and perhaps onto some that are more familiar and take place on my own home turf to be able to truly “see” and process these experiences. Challenges are like that. They may be quick to descend upon us, but they are slow to digest and internalize, often leaving an imprint long after the immediacy of the situation has been resolved.

The concept of seeking out challenges if none arise frames the action in a way that often appeals to entrepreneurs. Reaching out to discover challenges we can help to solve and resolve is far different than encountering challenges one does not know to expect or know how to address. As entrepreneurs seeking out challenges—these are challenges others are facing to which we can contribute assistance. We have control and enough emotional distance to add value in such situations. This is a very different kind of challenge than those that happen to us when we are the unwitting recipients of such surprises, as is the case with travel challenges. These challenges can make us all feel out of control, a fundamental difference between seeking out challenges we can help with and encountering those we must fix for ourselves or accept on the fly. As is often the case, your challenges are far easier for me to see and help solve than the ones on my own personal plate.

As I move forward in both my work and the balance of my travel in this year, I’m hoping to continue to put this challenge issue under my lens. I plan to continue to define and refine my thoughts on three facets of challenges—

By expecting challenges we temper our expectations. Until actual challenges occur, we have only the theoretical opportunity to create potential contingency plans.

By seeking to discover and help with challenges others face, as entrepreneurs we can apply creative problem solving to achieve better results. Because the challenges belong to others, we can bring a clear perspective and our creative tools to the solution.

By contending with those unexpected, blind-siding challenges that can drive even the heartiest among us to spin out of control, those challenges belong to us. It will take some time, resolution, and distance to help us see what the applicable longer term take-away strategies may be from such experiences.

No matter which of these challenge types you experience or contribute to, challenges will contribute to your creative journey and help enrich your work—albeit later rather than sooner in some cases, especially if luggage is involved.

If you have had challenging creative experiences or sought out challenges you’ve helped to solve, we hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments below. Challenge us!

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