How to Stop F*ucking Up

A simple fix to a complex issue
How to Stop F*ucking Up
Jake McNeill
August 19, 2021
5 min read
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Salutations Creative Hackers and Rebels ✌️

Only a tiny fraction of creators fulfill their potential.

Why? Because we get in our own way. We let our fears and insecurities limit our opportunities and shape our creative futures.

Yet, it’s fairly easy to overcome that. It’s seeing what others can’t see and applying counterintuitive thinking.

This article is about doing just that.

We fuck up. Everyone does.

I have fucked up on so many occasions that it is hard to remember them all far less put a number on them.

A friend of mine refers to this as failing upwards. This sums up the creative careers of the most successful people I know.

In all that time, I had two big successes that defined my career and a series of smaller wins that peppered the voids.

That sounds like I ordered the lobster and got served a shit sandwich instead, right?

But you don’t need a lot of wins. Most people only need one and then leverage it into something else.

  • Jack Butcher found internet fame using his design skills and quotes to provide business insights. He leveraged this into a 7 figure online business selling courses, memberships, and merchandise.
  • Jerry Seinfeld had a successful stand-up career which he leveraged into one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.

The tragic irony is: we are the architects of our own fuck ups. We constantly get in our own way.

We press the self-destruct button.

Here’s what I wish I knew when I was 20 years younger.

A bunch of reasons how and why we fuck up

Reasons we fuck up # 1 — We try and avoid failure

In 1923, Hall of Famer, Babe Ruth broke 3 baseball records.

  • The most home runs in one season.
  • The highest batting average
  • The most strikeouts in one season

Babe Ruth simultaneously had the most home runs and strikeouts in the same season.

In his career, Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs. A record he held for 24 years.

He also had a strikeout record of 1,330. A record he held for 29 years.

Babe Ruth’s record breaking success rate was only possible due to his record breaking failure rate.

Key lesson: Keep swinging the bat. The more you fail the more you succeed.

The key is to test and fail with small projects. Minimum viable products are the standard protocol in start ups.

I proposed creatives adopt a minimum viable content strategy to test the market with their creative projects before committing time and money on long-term projects.

  • Don’t write the book, write a blog post around the central idea and see how it resonates.
  • Don’t have an idea for your online course? Don’t take a punt, speak to 20+ clients and solve their biggest most common problem.
  • Don’t know your podcast niche? Write 50 ideas on Reddit and see what generates the most discussion.
  • Unsure of which single to record? Play the choruses on TikTok and see which chorus sticks with your audience.
  • Don’t write a full album in a new style, write and release a single and see how it lands before committing to a new direction.

Whatever your creative goals are:  just keep failing. Everything is an experiment.

The more you fail, the stronger your ideas and insights become, and the closer you get to cracking the code.

The only way to discover what truly resonates deeply with the people you serve is to experiment and fail with lots of ideas that don’t connect.


Reasons we fuck up # 2 — Comparisons

Without fail, every creator I have worked with has compared themselves badly to others. This kills confidence.

A creative without confidence is like a car without wheels; it ain’t going nowhere.

Comparing yourself to others is dumb. Why? Because nearly everybody bullshits on social media.

They do so because they are insecure. Why? Because they are also comparing themselves to others higher up the food chain.

They feel insecure, feel they should be doing more so they bullshit about how amazing their lives/ careers are.

This triggers other people who are comparing themselves to them — and social media become a cyclical epidemic of people pretending their lives and careers are better than they really are.

Comparisons are pointless. Social media posturing is mostly smoke and mirrors created by insecure people trying to make themselves feel better about themselves.

We are all a bit insecure, we are all a bit scared and a bit anxious. We create personas and wear masks to hide our vulnerability.

That’s what humans do…

The people who look like they’ve got their shit together are often the ones who are suffering the most.

Once you see things for what they truly are; the power it holds over you subsides.

Key lesson: See the bullshit for what it really is. Ignore the noise and focus on being grateful for what you already have, and possess the drive to get what you don’t.

Action: Do thought stopping and have a pre-prepared performance statement to counteract the negative self talk.

Thought stopping is one of the top peak performance hacks elite athletes use to remain confident and focused. I highly recommend it.

Reasons we fuck up # 3 — Imposter Syndrome

Everyone feels it.

If you’re not feeling imposter syndrome then you’re not doing enough. Welcome imposter syndrome with open arms.

Why? Because that means you are out of your comfort zone.

It means you’re taking risks, pushing boundaries, and starting fires.

Your comfort zone is where creativity goes to die. It is where we lose our edge, where one hit wonders become self fulfilling prophecies, and our ideas get reduced to a pale shadow of their former selves.

What we do is fucking stressful. Building, creating stuff that has never existed before is not easy.

To continually put your creativity out in the world for people to judge takes courage.

But we are compelled to do so. Don’t let your imposter syndrome limit you, let it push you further.

Artists like David Bowie, Taylor Swift, and Beyonce used their imposter syndrome to drive them forward. You can, too. We all can.

Action: Don’t hide from your imposter syndrome. Embrace it, it is one of the guiding lights towards your creative success.

Reasons we fuck up # 4 — We believe in Talent > Systems

Talent is overrated.

We worry we’re not good enough but systems are more important than our level of talent.

Talent is not a predictor of success in saturated creative markets. You need to have enough talent but you don’t need to be anywhere near the top percentile.

You need simple, repeatable systems to:

  • Produce content
  • Publish content
  • Promote content

It’s a flywheel. You produce content. You publish and promote it, and pick up some fans.

You produce more content. You publish and promote it and pick up some more fans.

The more content you produce the more talented you become.

You rinse and repeat this for X amount of years until you have built an audience big enough to support you financially by serving them.

Over a decade ago Kevin Kelly predicted the future on the internet where creators only needed 1,000 fans to make a six figure business.

He was right. 2 million creators have built 6 figure online businesses.

But you don’t even need 1,000 fans now.

1,000 fans buy $100 product or service

100 fans buy a $1,000 product or service

50 fans buy s $2,000 product or service

Build your systems.

Reasons we fuck up # 5 — We have the wrong mindset

We give up too easily.

This is mostly down to our reliance on fragile creative confidence and not having a system as described above.

Even with a solid system, we can lose faith.

Why? Because when we start a project we are full of enthusiasm. We fantasise about our projects becoming huge successes and everybody fawning over our creativity.

But we are not mentally prepared for the inevitable obstacles between us and our goals. We get discouraged and quit.

Gabriele Oettingen Ph.D. is a scientist and Professor of Psychology at NYU.

She has dedicated over 20 years of research into goals and positive thinking.

Gabrielle created a method called Mental contrasting to combat positive fantasising.

It has been proven to increase your chances of success by up to 60%

This is fantasising about the positive outcomes of your creative project. But, crucially, also focusing on all the obstacles that will stop you from achieving the goal.

Then creating strategies to overcome the inevitable obstacles.

You need to know the successful outcome AND the negative obstacles it will take to achieve the goal.

To do this you need to use the WOOP mental model.

WOOP: The Mental Model

This is, without doubt, the most important mental model you will ever apply to your creative career.

Wish — Which goal do you want to achieve?

Outcome — How will you feel when you achieve the goal?

Obstacle — What are your main obstacles?

Plan — How are you going to overcome the obstacles?

WOOP is similar to inversion thinking. The most important part of successfully completing the goals is removing the obstacles that get in our way.

It is a counterintuitive strategy to problem-solving which starts with imagining the worst-case scenarios – and then using those scenarios as the basis for developing the solutions.

Why is it so effective?

Humans have a negativity bias. We are hardwired to see more negatives.

To achieve more positives...avoid more negatives


We’re all full of fears and self-doubt. If not, you’re coasting and slowly rusting away.

The more we try and fight them the more power they wield over us.

The more we accept them and use them as tools the more power shifts in our favour.

Fear is an indicator that we are creating good work.

Failure is an indicator we are learning.

Imposter syndrome is an indicator we are growing.

Systems are an indicator of our futures.

Mindset is an indicator of overcoming the inevitable obstacles we will face

That’s it for this week. I’m off for a few days’ break with the family.

Have a great week!

A bit about me

I’m an ex-multi-platinum artist manager. I created strategies and built audiences for artists who sold millions.

You can read more in the archives here. Find out more information on my website or connect on my LinkedIn

Too Much to do? Don’t know where to start?

I help creators and indie founders build no bullshit step by step systems to achieve their long term goals

I do discovery calls to see if we’re a good fit.

Cost? $0.00 Commitment? Zero. Time? 30 minutes

More info? Go here

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