Tortoise steps.

Future painting. © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2009

Reference image for future painting. © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2009

What I often forget, and what I am often sharply reminded of, is that in the race of life, I am the tortoise, and definitely not the hare.

Slow and steady fits me much more than frenetic activity. Some people work great under pressure. I just panic and don’t produce my best work. Actually, I should be more specific – time pressure makes me panic. The checking of the clock, the needing to get it done by a certain time, all of those things. I just can’t do it.

Pressure to do something well, to be efficient, to be intelligent – that doesn’t bother me so much. I set my own standards quite high, so the odds of someone else’s standards being higher is quite rare. Pressure to be creative on the other hand also freaks me out – I have to remind myself constantly to not worry about other’s opinions and their judgments of how creative I’ve been.

So generally, a little bit every day works better. And Amna (@Germinational on Twitter) aptly reminded me of this yesterday in the comments. And because life is just so much more fun when you have wacky metaphors, I’ve decided to compare growing my business to building a palace. I’m not building a lean-to anymore.

For a while, I only focused on building a lean-to, something to just barely survive in. It was kinda drafty, and kinda cold and sometimes a good gust of wind would knock the whole thing over, but it was my lean-to. It was my shanty.

But now I want something more.

I want to do more than just survive. I want to build something that lasts, a legacy if you will. A solid body of work that speaks to people, that is coherent in design and motivation, not just haphazard creations built on whim. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – you need a stage of experimentation to figure out which way you want to go.

Mark Silver, from Heart of Business, wrote a brilliant piece today about the stages of a business. You start out in Stage 1, where you pretty much just make a complete mess all the time (that might have just been me though.) Then in Stage 2, you kind of start to get your act together. I’m currently late Stage 1, and I’m moving towards Stage 2. I can feel it. I’m tired of flapping around in the water. I want to learn to float. And I want to start building a boat. Maybe I’ll build a boat palace? This metaphor is getting out of control.

Just to confuse things more, I give you – birds

Have you ever watched the difference between the way a large bird of prey flies, and the way the rest of the birds fly?

When I lived in Ontario, I used to lie on our back deck every spring and watch the migration of red-tailed hawks come through as they circled above me on a thermal. I decided one day that I wanted to be a hawk and not a sparrow.

Sparrows spend all their time and energy flapping their wings frantically. It’s the only way they can get around. Hawks, on the other hand, soar. You’d think it’d be the other way around – they’re so much bigger that you’d think they’d have to flap twice as hard to stay up. Instead they leverage the resources around them to float along happily, occasionally flapping to get a bit of speed or to move towards the next thermal. Seriously, which one would you want to be?

Back to the palace thing

It’s time that I stopped flapping, struggling and building shanties. It’s time that I started soaring, floating and building a palace. (That was my feeble attempt to tie those metaphors together.)

I want to start creating stability. I also want to take the pressure off for having it done any time soon. In fact, maybe there is no deadline. I’m choosing a career as an artist – it’s not something you sell off or retire from. You’re in it for life. So maybe my palace will never be finished. But if I get the great hall, a couple of galleries and the bedrooms finished in my lifetime, I would be pretty pleased.