Wait hang on Lance, you ask. You wrote 900 words *just* to tell us you’re changing your bio?
Well, yeah. Just bear with me on this, because to answer that question we have to take a trip down Mental Health Road. It’s been a while since I was so public about my internal thought processes, but I’ll do my best here.
Why is this even a big deal?
I’ve been pretty unashamed in throwing out “visual branding” changes on my Twitter every couple of months. (Heck, there’s even a new banner today.)
It’s been pretty simple: that part is less connected to my identity and all the morals & motivations that make it up. The changes in avatar/banner just show the evolution of what I think looks nice.
The one thing that has more or less remained consistent is my bio.
I don’t overhaul my bio often. There are a million phrases and factoids that I can stick up there, but above all it needs to be representative of who I am as a person.
It took a lot of thought before I finally settled on the “perpetual work in progress” bit. I chose it because at the time, it had a lot to do with my development as a content creator.
Getting involved with design at my high school newsmagazine was my first taste of recurring works. There’d be a consistent output of spreads instead of haphazard releases of one-off projects.
“Perpetual work in progress” started to come up when I kept finding myself looking critically at my own work. I’d always find little things I wanted to change, even after it had been published.
I think my friend Maryn puts it pretty well when she says “my songs are never finished, just abandoned.”
At the time, I saw my critical tendencies as a good thing. After all, what was wrong with wanting continuous improvement? I wanted growth, and in my mind I saw the constant “this could be better” mentality as a good path towards that.
I’d try to take those lessons to make the next project even better than the last, using new techniques I learned or avoiding past mistakes.
And then, I thought “hey, that’s actually a pretty good mental rule to live by,” and started informally adopting that as my personal mission statement.
The perpetual work in progress
Fundamentally, I still believe in the reasoning and spirit of that phrase.
A lot of the mental struggles and anxieties I used to experience came as a pretty direct result of this irrational belief that I had to be perfect. Competition in today’s world is harder than ever, I’d tell myself.
It was an incredibly toxic mentality to hold. That’s why I started to find comfort in the idea that nothing, and no one, will ever be perfect, and that the best we can do is to keep improving ourselves.
This could be better, this could be better, this could…
At this point in time however, “perpetual work in progress” is starting to become problematic. That’s mainly been because of how I’ve been framing things, which was forgoing any concrete goal in favor of a vague “better than the last.”
There’s a little bit written about how running on a treadmill is more mentally exhausting than running outside. You just keep going over a recycled bit of track that appears in front of you, and when you look around you’re still in the same place as you started.
I’ll freely admit that a tangentially similar thing happened. I became so fixated on that act of improvement that I never looked back and saw all the milestones I’d passed. I never really considered how far I’d come.
That mentality might have helped when I was starting out, but not anymore. It’s been demoralizing because I’d keep telling myself that projects could be better despite there being evidence to the contrary.
A colleague and I recently made a video that was featured by my college. To have grown a hobby into something I now study full time and be recognized for is something incredibly special. I’m still extremely humbled for all the support we got.
However, that didn’t stop the vicious cycle from continuing to run its course.
“It could be better” turned into “I’ll never be good enough.” I believed that I wasn’t “there” yet, and that severely abridged my ability to advocate for myself.
Basically, it’s time for a new Lance.
To borrow a aerospace metaphor, “perpetual work in progress” was a good first stage rocket to get me off the ground. But, it’s time to jettison that dead weight and ignite a second stage.
Above all, I wanted something to help me find a sense of self confidence to actively take on new projects and seek out new opportunities that will help me grow more than ever before.
Here are the few things I considered moving on to:
First, “context matters.” It’s cliché, but I wanted something to remind myself to look at the bigger picture, and especially to give myself some credit for the progress I’ve made.
Next, the spoken word part of Kill the Noise’s “All In My Head,” because I needed to take a look at why I’m doing what I’m doing.
However, I’m going to turn to one of my favorite artists, Avicii, and his song “Trouble.” It’s a very meaningful song to me in multiple ways, but I found this line in the chorus especially special:
I’m a million miles ahead of where I’m from But I still have another million miles to go
I think it’s the correct balance of self-confidence and willingness to grow that I need right now. And I couldn’t have come up with a better phrase if I tried.