I remember hearing that quote a few years ago and having someone tell me it was Gandhi that originally said it. And since it sounded like something Gandhi might indeed have said, I believed it. But here’s the kicker. It wasn’t. It was actually motivational speaker, Wayne Dyer.
It probably doesn’t really matter in the long run, but my guess is that it would carry a little more weight coming from the iconic purveyor of Indian nationalism rather than a middle aged white guy with an affinity for meditation. Nevertheless, the idea is a good one. Change your perspective. Look at things differently. See your world in a new light in order to gain fresh insights and, most importantly, evolve.
In the competitive and sometimes unforgiving world of freelance writing, regularly changing the way you look at your work keeps you sane. Rejection is hard. Not landing an assignment you really wanted is disappointing. And looking at the dwindling bank account can sometimes be discouraging enough to contemplate updating your resume, polishing up those dusty wingtips, and heading back to the corporate world.
But all is not lost. Most of the time all we need is a unique perspective, a new set of eyeglasses to view our freelance business with. Here are three techniques to keep in mind when trying to look at your freelance work in a new light.
“See it as an opportunity, and you’re likely to step your game up.”
I know, it sounds like something you’d hear at one of Wayne Dyer’s events. And maybe it is. But there’s a reason motivational speakers say things like that. Because it works. When you’re staring across the ring at an opponent— whether that opponent is an unanswered query, a rejection, or just a daunting assignment—the basic fight or flight instinct kicks in. See it as challenge, and you’re likely to opt for flight. See it as an opportunity, and you’re likely to step your game up. And stepping your game up allows you to grow, to be better, to be the truest version of who you were meant to be.
When I was in the corporate world, I spent a few years investigating construction crane accidents for an insurance company. One of the principles that we employed was called the “5 whys.” The “5 whys” principle stated that we had to ask the question “Why?” five times to get to the root cause of an accident. For example, “Why did the crane tip over?” Because the operator overloaded it. “Why did the operator overload it?” Because he was told the wrong weight of what he was lifting. And so on and so forth until the true, root cause of the accident was discovered.
We can do this in the freelance world, too. Whether we get criticism on an assignment or don’t land one in the first place, asking “Why” five times can help us identify weaknesses and areas where we can improve. Once we start filling those gaps, our overall prowess develops, therefore increases our chances for success.
As a boxer, I’ve got a much better appreciation of what this tired cliché actually means than the average person might. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of a bout, you find yourself out of position, unguarded. For whatever reason, your hands are down and it’s inevitable: you’re about to take a hard right hand right to the face.
“As the punch is about to make impact, you turn your head with it and try to lessen the blow”
When that happens, there’s only one thing you can do—roll with the punch. As the punch is about to make impact, you turn your head with it and try to lessen the blow. And when it’s done right, it can mean the difference between waking up on the canvas or making it through the round.
As a freelancer, rolling with the punches is essential. You’ve got to be nimble enough to perform even when your hands are down and you’re out of your comfort zone. If you’re not landing assignments in your specific niche, you need to be okay with moving outside of it. Trust in your ability. After all, you’re a writer. And writers can take punches. (Just ask Hemmingway.) Besides, you’ve already got an advantage over most people because you can communicate creatively. Put your creativity to work and bring the fight to a new market.
I know that changing the way we look at things is hard. We’re human, meaning were naturally adverse to change. We like comfort zones. We like boxes. We like sitting on the same seat on the train everyday. But when we leave our zone, when step outside of our box, when we switch seats on the train, we change our perspective. We get a new view. And that’s a good thing. Because we live in a world where there’s a lot to see.
And we definitely don’t want to miss it.