Building in Public: Taking Breaks

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Let’s get one thing straight right away: building in public is a performative act. It’s not something that “just happens.” It might be something that you do gladly because you love building and chatting with your audience. But whenever you act in public, either by sharing, teaching, or engaging with someone else, you expend energy.

And every founder will eventually notice that their energy reserves are limited. Relentlessly performing in public isn’t something you can do forever without it affecting your mental health.

People who go to the gym have recovery days. Creators need that as well: creativity and willingness to perform it publicly are muscles too, and they need to rest from time to time. Every gym trainer will tell you that to build a manageable and healthy gym routine, you need to give your body time to recover. Between exercising, your body needs to heal.

It’s the same for being a creative in public. If you give your all every day, without rest, you will soon lose the motivation to keep building in public. If you want to be consistent, you’ll have to take a break every now and then.

Here’s the problem with consistency: it’s vital to show up regularly and convey to your audience that you’re in it for the long run — but at the same time, showing up just because you have to show up can quickly dilute the value of what you have to say. Performing for the sake of performing will make you say meaningless things because you have nothing meaningful that needs to be shared.

If you ever look at the message you’re drafting and wonder if it’s really worth sending, reflect on if you wrote it because you had something to share or because you felt like you needed to “show up.” If it’s the latter, you’re ready to take a break. Nothing good will come of sharing anything at that point.

Your audience is pretty smart — after all, that’s why they follow you. They will notice when you’re trying to serve them something that is only half-baked. You’ll get away with it from time to time, as we all have our off-days, but if most of your content turns out to be there just for you to share anything, people will stop listening.

Only share content that is interesting, insightful, or instructional. Avoid sharing for the sake of sharing. Trust is hard to build but easy to lose.

One way of ensuring that is to become aware of “repetitive blindness” in your approach to building in public. If you share your Monthly Recurring Revenue every time you reach a new milestone, the act can become routine. That routine keeps you from reflecting if this content is still as potent and interesting as it was the first time you shared it with your audience. If your content loses its instructional purpose, switch it up.

Taking a break from your regular programming also allows for “refilling the well.” I first learned of this concept from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” You draw from your internal well whenever you create, and sometimes, that well runs dry. By exposing yourself to new, different, and interesting things, the well will fill up again.

By stepping away from creating, you — ironically — create an opportunity for new creative inspiration. Instead of forcing yourself to be creative, you are allowing serendipity to take place. When you’re in the trenches, this is not self-evident. To find the potential for creativity, you need to divert yourself from creating in public.

There are many ways of filling your well. Reading a good book — fiction or non-fiction — will allow you to disconnect from your routine. Socializing, taking a walk, or enjoying your favorite show will do the trick too.

Try to take it in without immediately turning it into content. I often find myself taking notes immediately when I have a conversation, and it often degrades the quality of the conversation. The notes can wait. Enjoy the conversation, as it will allow you to learn more the longer it is. You may risk losing your train of thought, but those tend to return to us eventually. Use experiences like this to branch out into non-entrepreneurial fields of knowledge. You’ll find that a lot of the fundamental concepts of other disciplines can be carried back into entrepreneurship when seen through a different lens. Let your reflection and interpretation be that lens.

To be able to calmly reflect on anything, you need to be in the right state of mind. The myopic hands-on perspective we develop when we don’t take breaks isn’t conducive to undisturbed thought.

It’s even worse when we are constantly exposed to external triggers such as notifications. When I take breaks, notifications are the first thing I turn off. I don’t need more reminders of constantly being interrupted.

So I turn them off — all of them. I recommend you do the same.

And maybe, you don’t want to turn them back on ever again.

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