The Goldilocks Principle for Creating Good Work Consistently

How to manage stress to perform at your best
The Goldilocks Principle for Creating Good Work Consistently
Jake McNeill
May 24, 2021
5 min read
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The Science Behind It:

Sports Psychology/ Mental Toughness:

Elite athletes and pro-sports stars get themselves into an ideal performance state before performing.

They call it the zone. It’s being focused and ready for the difficult challenges ahead.

The challenges are not external, they’re internal.

“Here’s the key, they’re not competing against them, they are competing against themselves… the enemy is within,”

George Mumford — Meditation Coach to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant

As creative rebels, we face our own challenges. Steven Pressfield calls it “resistance” in his best-selling book, The War of Art.

Resistance is our self-sabotaging self-talk, procrastination, and perfectionism.  

We need to get our creative game face on and get into the zone to overcome them.

We need to sit down and do the hard creative yards. Even when we don’t feel like it.

Especially when we don’t feel like it.

Creativity is like an outdoor tap. You need to flush out all the crap murky water that’s been sitting in the pipes before the pure, glistening, water flows out.

You have to have a disciplined creative schedule. I write every day between 9 am- 12 am.

Every day.

Often I write beyond that but that is my minimum.

Sometimes I can’t be arsed. But I know that if I break the chain, it’s easier to break it again. And again.

So I don’t.

I force myself to sit down. I write a bunch of crap but once I get into it, the good stuff starts flowing.

The Goldilocks Principle:

We all know the story. Goldilocks is tasting porridge that is neither too hot nor too cold but just right.

Stress plays the same role in peak creative performance.

Not enough stress: we are bored and uninspired, too much stress and we become overwhelmed and perform poorly.

To enter in flow state we need the stress levels to be just right. Neither too much nor too little.

Recently, I took on a creative challenge to write 50 research-based, actionable, articles in 50 working days.

I’ve never done it before. I have no idea how I’m going to react to it.

Don’t have a Scooby doo.

I know I’m not going to be bored. So far I’m not too stressed and the pressure and stress levels are just right.

Next week might be different.

I am focused and creating more work. And crucially I am pushing myself creatively. Taking on challenges.

It’s an experiment because that’s what creativity is…

Artists and creatives need to control their performance state to maximise peak creative performance. In order to do that artists must control their emotional state.

There have been lots of studies into this for elite athletes:

Mental preparation routines for training

Develop a mental routine before start creating.

Do square breathing, regulate your heartbeat, and relax your mind.

This will center you.

If you focus on your breathing when you’re creating you will remain present. This will stop you from overanalyzing your work and letting your ego get in the way of your creativity.

Assess your current state. If you need more energy. Do some energy or calming visualisation:

Distraction management

Switch off phones, the internet, and any other distractions.


  • Too many of us just rely on being in the right mood for creating
  • Stop waiting for motivation. Start first and the motivation will follow
  • We judge our work with ego. This stops us from creating. We need to flush out all the crap murky water before the pure water flows.
  • Create crap, clean out the pipes and create the good stuff.
  • The most important thing is to create with feeling and not thinking
“Creativity is obscured by the conscious mind.” Naval Ravikant

A bit about me

I help maverick artists and creatives hack into their true creative genius, crush the creative blocks that hold them back, and create their best work.

Every creative rebel’s worst enemy?

Creative mediocrity: Being bland. Staying in our lane. Creating in our comfort zone and following the crowds.

The Goal? To create authentic work that matters. Take creative risks, avoid creative burnout, and making a racket in saturated markets.

I’m a former multi-platinum artist manager who got burnt out and became an artist & creative blogger, coach, and consultant.

I’ve challenged myself to write 50 articles in 50 working days. 5 down, 45 to go

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