One of the most thoughtful books I’ve come across in the last few years is Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.
Habits for all of us
First, the good news: There is sound research to suggest we can actually change (woohoo)!
This might sound obvious but the rhetoric I hear a lot is a private skepticism that people and life are determined and fixed. And, that any effort toward “self-help” are little more than a mirage, folklore or at best, a distraction to get through hard days.
According to Duhigg though, behavioral habits are the building blocks for real life and societal transformation.
What I love is he doesn’t limit the conversation to individuals. He ambitiously tackles habit for organizations and even society too. That’s where we come in.
Lead the change you crave
All this got me thinking a lot about our community of creatives interested in making a living from the stuff what we create.
There is a lot of positive things we could say about our community ethos – that is our shared habits we’ve freely committed to. I’ve also been discouraged though by some of the bad habits we as a creativity industry have demonstrated.
What if Kid President is right?
The first habit that I commonly see is the habit of incivility – mostly online – and our passive willingness to stand by idly. This is not unique to photographers of course. Sonia Simone’s Civility Manifesto is written to all of us who create content. Whether we’re in learn mode or share mode, even Kid President thinks we’ve got some room for improvement! Candidly, I think we’re better than that too.
Many will disagree with me of course, but, you don’t have to. In fact, we don’t have to. If Duhigg is right – and I think he is – I wonder what our industry would be like two years from now if there was a collective who stood up and did our work differently.
Action, not consumption
A second habit that I think we’re maturing through is how we relate with people who influence us.
There’s a tension here of course.
On the one hand, there is great good reason to highlight those who’ve influenced our work. I love to talk about Jeremy and Julieanne and Chris and Amit and Seth and Ann and Todd and Jerry and Joel (and so many more). These people have had a huge influence on me and my work. I even tout it in my bio that others have said I’ve had influence on them. It’s humbling and scary and a privilege to have sway with others.
But at some point, when I (or we) elevate anyone beyond the level of blue-collar creatives that make my contribution better, I miss my my call to GO and do likewise. I’m tempted to spend too much time watching and not enough time offering up what I made myself.
This habit of choosing to be a consumer over being a contributor is just not a good idea for people who create for a living. And, I say we need to interrupt it. Let me get more personal: We need you to lead us.
Maybe the most insidious of all our bad habits is the inclination to believe – based on the manifesto that is your life – that change isn’t even possible in the first place.
I get that it’s rare to hear people admit they don’t believe change can be had. More often, I see actions that declare the belief in the impossibility that we can change. My gut tells me that if we fix this one, we’re on our way to fixing a lot more.
What does your gut tell you?