Without coming to the edge of what we find possible, and reaching out instead of folding, we may never reach our most creative solution.
We were on the edge of failure the entire time we were making it.Brad Bird, referring to Pixar’s experience of making The Incredibles
Sitting on the Edge of Failure
A couple of weeks ago, I sat on a bench at Pontile 4 (Pier 4) in Bellagio, waiting for the 8:14 am hydrofoil to Como. I scribbled notes onto a piece of paper from my planner and tried to map out several travel scenarios.
Getting to Milan’s MXP Airport from Bellagio (and back again) is always something of a puzzle, but it was further complicated by changes in train schedules and connections as well as delays in my son’s flight from Paris to Milan.
As I checked train and boat schedules, I kept running into dead ends. It was starting to seem as if there was no viable path that would enable me to pick up Adam in time to catch the last boat back to Bellagio. I knew he was going to be exhausted after traveling for 36 hours straight, so I wanted to ensure a smooth and timely trip to the villa in Bellagio.
I figured out a workable plan just as the hydrofoil arrived.
Relaxed and relieved, I enjoyed gazing at all of Lake Como’s splendor from my seat. We sped by stunning estates (including George and Amal Clooney’s property in Laglio), villas, and towns. Once in Como, I took a scenic walk to the train station and waited on the platform for the first of four trains of the day.
I double-checked my train and boat schedules while I waited. One of the trains had been canceled which threw my Rubik’s Cube of an itinerary into disarray. Back to square one.
I scribbled notes and times, flipping back and forth from one train website to another. I could feel my brain beginning to shut down.
I was right on the edge of failure.
When I am at this edge, I know I have two options. I can either fold and give up or trust that I will find a creative solution. If I muster up faith and courage and then relax and surrender to the process, I can send the challenge to my subconscious mind to solve. As long as I stay in faith and not fear, I tend to have a pretty solid success rate.
Finding a Creative Solution
I leaned against a pillar under the canopy at the Como San Giovanni train station and chose faith. I fixed my gaze across the tracks and stared up at the houses on the hillside. I slowed my breathing and let my mind go into a meditative state for several minutes.
An announcement of the arrival of a train came over the loudspeaker and brought my attention back to the platform. I looked up at the digital sign over my head and saw the name of a town, Saronno.
And then it clicked. I could chart a path to the MXP airport through smaller towns using local trains instead of regional ones.
Back to the piece of paper and train websites. In a few minutes, I had it figured out, and my creative solution was in hand. Interestingly, the new route turned out to be a much better one, with better timetables and more leeway for making the last boat back.
As entrepreneurs and creators, we run into challenges several times a day as we embark upon doing new things. We might be creating a new program, writing content, and/or trying to sort out the tech required for a new social media campaign.
With each new venture into The Unknown, we are faced with the options of folding under fear or staying in faith, riding the waves of uncertainty. If we choose to embrace being on the edge of failure, our brains will tend to go into overdrive to solve whatever we can throw its way, coming up with our most creative solutions.
Returning to the Edge of Failure
In fact, I would argue that it is being on this edge that produces our best creativity, our best thinking. Therefore, not only should we not avoid being on the edge of failure, we should actively search it out!
This ability to embrace the edge of failure and lean into the uncertainty that leads to creative solutions requires the development of certain courage musculature. We develop those muscles by having a consistent, creative practice. That’s why I have created a new offering that focuses on this practice. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about opportunities to participate in The Buoyant Art Studio and laser coaching.