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Assuming Catastrophe kills creativity

Why blog when I’m not getting paid for it anyway?

If you’re a marketer anything like me, this thought has passed through your mind at least several hundred to thousand times. Just look around at how many of your friends’ blogs haven’t been updated in months or years. Why keep writing when it’s probably not gonna go anywhere anyway?

I call this way of thinking Assuming Catastrophe, and it is death for creativity and productivity. How do I know this? Because I am a master Catastrophe Assumer who’s seen hundreds of good ideas, intentions, and plans drowned by the worst case scenario.

The first sign of Assuming Catastrophe is often the phrase “but what if…” But what if you disagree this is really the first sign? But what if you don’t think this has enough to do with the services my business offers. What If is one of the most potent mental structures we can access — which is why these masters of innovation named themselves after it. It can give birth to flying machines and just as easily call them impossible. And just as powerfully What If can be yielded to create incredible new possibilities, by prefacing it with “but,” this phrase becomes a nixing, precautionary, frightening force.

The second sign of Assuming Catastrophe is “but shouldn’t…?” But shouldn’t I keep business blog posts away from my personal Facebook account? But shouldn’t I be inserting funny photos, infographics, and videos because best practices say that’ll make you keep reading? This is a sure-fire way to doubt everything and do nothing. If we’re going for conversation, isn’t it better to let the audience say “but shouldn’t…” rather than doing it in my own head?

The third sign of Assuming Catastrophe is doing something that’s supposed to be fun (like watching TV, exercising, drinking with friends) and finding that you’re simultaneously frustrated with yourself for not doing something AND thinking about all the terrible things that would happen if you did that thing. For example: I really should go to that networking event, but what if they turn me away because I stood them up last time.

Assuming Catastrophe is not necessarily rational. In fact for the vast majority of us who frequently assume catastrophe, the assumed catastrophe is probabilistically unlikely to occur. And just because we pile more and more possible catastrophes on doesn’t mean the likelihood of catastrophe rises appreciably.

The problem with catastrophe is that it strikes regardless. If preparations can be made with reasonable effort, make them. But if you’re just worrying and scaring yourself, let it be. The opposite side of catastrophe is opportunity, and focusing on opportunity might just find a way to make that catastrophe even less probable.

Having personally allowed Assuming Catastrophe to get in the way of endless brilliant marketing campaigns and new product ideas, I’m taking a stand here. There have been a bajillion moments in which an atomic bomb could have struck, I could have been fired, a loved one could have suddenly died, etc. But I’m still here, still breathing, and still living a pretty awesome life. If catastrophe comes, it comes. Meanwhile, I’ll be doing cool shit.