Often times, when we lose someone special to us, we feel despondent or distressed.
Sometimes the only way to describe this feeling is like there’s a hole left in the universe: you know for certain that this person’s qualities can never be replaced by all the rest of humanity. Never, in any combination, will anyone be able to replicate their personality, or talent, or humor, or faith…or anything about them at all. What they had to offer is gone.
I experienced this feeling recently when a friend passed away very suddenly. He was an extraordinarily talented musician and an all-around amazing human being. The kind of person who leaves you feeling more valuable, more joyful, and more inspired after every interaction with them.
This friend was also the musician who played at my wedding, making me realize again how grateful I am to have the video of our ceremony.
As often happens when processing grief, that small thought about gratitude became a bigger, more negative one. I began considering all the other couples who are going to be married, but won’t have my friend around to play beautiful music for them.
Then that bigger thought grew to become a terrifyingly dramatic one: the entire world is now missing out on my friend’s beautiful music.
Then—because I’m a writer who can’t always control where my big thoughts go—I realized the same concept could apply to anyone who isn’t doing their own creative work for any number of reasons.
I began to wonder: What else is the world missing out on? What books aren’t being written? What businesses aren’t being created? What ideas aren’t being talked about, written about, and explored?
Let’s face it: there are tons of people who have something beautiful to offer, but aren’t…and the world is worse off because of it.
So today I want to challenge you: what is the world missing out on because you’re afraid to do it? What silent hole exists in the universe because you aren’t filling it?
The longer you consider this idea, the greater the stakes suddenly become.
Every potential outcome and influence, multiplied by the time your work is left undone, equals a massive detriment in the total body of creative work in existence.
Believe it or not, though, there is a positive twist here.
Remember that wedding video I mentioned? I get to listen to my friend’s music any time I want. Beyond that, his work is all over YouTube, and there are plenty of recordings of his public performances.
There are two things to note about this as it applies to your own creative work.
First: because my friend spent decades being intentional about developing a talent and putting his work out into the world, the rest of us were blessed by his music before he left us. I’m confident that everyone who needed exposure to his talent had an appropriate chance to listen and learn.
You can do the same, by developing a habit of consciously saying “yes” any time your creativity asks for action.
Second: the record of my friend’s work means it can be enjoyed for generations to come.
In today’s digital age, nearly everything you’re creating leaves a permanent record. Blog posts are on the internet forever. Businesses and their ideas can be found even if they’re no longer operating. Books, movies, and music exist in digital and hard copy, ensuring we can access them almost anywhere.
What a great moment to be creating – the barriers to entry are nearly zero; the only thing stopping you is quite literally yourself.
If you’re not confident in what you’re making just yet, I realize the thought of permanence may be more terrifying than motivating. But what I want to emphasize is that your work’s permanence means you may never be aware of its full effect.
Once you put a piece of work out there, it will take on a life of its own by necessity, and influence people in ways you might never know. That’s OK.
What that also means, though, is that when you choose not to do that work, you’re depriving every single potentially impacted person of your eventual influence.
So I’ll ask again: what idea will someone never understand because they won’t read your words? What music will never be heard unless you write or perform it? What service will never be provided because you won’t start the business?
None of us can know what the greater sum of our presence in the world will be. But what you must realize is that every day without your contribution is a loss for the universe.
Over time, the power of your creative work compounds; who knows how many people it will reach decades from now? But you can only have decades’ worth of beautiful influence if you start today.
Even though it’s impossible to predict what your ultimate legacy will be—perfect or imperfect, big or small, recognized or forgotten—wouldn’t you rather it exist at all?
Isn’t that better than the alternative: leaving behind a you-shaped hole in the universe that your creativity was meant to fill?
Sometimes, hard lessons teach us yet again that we all only have a short time to contribute what we’re meant to. Don’t let the world miss out on what you’re creating.
In loving memory of Jay K. Whatley