When I turned 26, some ages ago, I took hold of a concept I read in a book called Steal Like an Artist.
The book, written by Austin Kleon, teaches aspiring artists and creatives how to learn the artistic mastery of those who have come before them.
He acknowledges that one cannot choose their genetic genealogy; you can't pick your parents, grandparents, siblings, or aunts and uncles.
You can however choose your artistic genealogy.
Kleon's tree method is as follows:
“Chew on one thinker — writer, artist, activist, role model — you really love. Study everything there is to know about that thinker. Then find three people that thinker loved, and find out everything about them. Repeat this — as many times as you can. Climb up the tree as far as you can.”
These individuals hold certain keys to unlock what it is that you aspire to be.
Study their patterns, experiences, articles or books they've written, talks they've given, and what others have said about them. Consume any and every little thing you can about them.
When I wrote out my inspiration tree, I found one overwhelming commonality.
They all let go of the fear of failure by 50.
Fifty years old was like this cut-off line for all of them. I studied three thought leaders in-depth, and as I studied them more intensely, I could find a talk, an article, or a book that mentioned this turning point for them.
At fifty years old, each one of them began to walk TOWARD their fear of failure. Mind you, all these individuals had already achieved world-class successes such as #1 New York Times bestselling books for months on end, multiple Grammy and Golden Globe awards, and highly-esteemed medals of honor.
"It is my intention to step into my second act and fail as many times as possible," one of them said. "So that I will be able to say that I truly sought my potential and didn't settle for what feels safe to me."
"Failure is the key to success," another one said.
"On my 50th birthday, I wrote down every single thing I was terrified to try," said yet another one. "And then I committed myself to at least attempt all of them."
What happened after each of these individuals made this decision speaks for itself-- they became unstoppable spiritual warriors whose eyes were no longer set on titles & awards one can achieve within the world.
They sought the spirit of freedom and ruthlessly humbled the ego.
My first thought after writing out my tree of inspiration was: why did all of these individuals wait till 50?
What is it about human development that causes us to side with the ego until we get knocked down enough times, apparently this happens around 50, to finally accept that we are powerless.
This week, I've been observing myself as I started a new job that challenges me. My inner critic comes strutting on out with its hood sideways limp and says, "Why don't you go back to your career? What makes you think you can start something new at thirty? And something you've never done before?? You could fail."
And this moment is perhaps the most important because my inner critic isn't going to shut up. I'm told this bitch hangs around for some time yet.
I get the opportunity to look at it and pause. To give it space to speak and feed my anxiety, as it has always done so well for me. To allow my inner critic to rattle the ego that wants to win within me. But I know, from my tree of inspiration, that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be.
What else can you take from me if I no longer fear failure?
Or better yet,