Creatively Blocked? Maybe You’re Building the Wrong Combo


Are you building a yes combo or a no combo?

If like me, you don’t play video games, this Wikipedia definition of a combo is very helpful:

In fighting games, combo specifically indicates a timed sequence of moves which produce a cohesive series of hits, each of which leaves the opponent unable or almost unable to block or otherwise avoid the following hits in the sequence.

I love how Jay Smooth connects combos with fighting a creative block because it turns what feels like a mental/laziness/shame spiral problem into a physical one.

Steven Pressfield calls that problem Resistance, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels call it Part X, most people call it that little voice in their heads. Whatever it’s called, it’s real and most of us fight it all the time. (My subconscious is a 24/7 cage match.) The thing is, how committed are we to winning?

We usually think of a block as a part of us or at least, a result of something in ourselves, so when we fight it, we’re fighting ourselves. My theory is, our egos don’t want any part of ourselves to lose, even the part that’s holding us back.

BUT if you can visualize that part as an actual, separate enemy, a villain out to keep you from reaching your most cherished creative goals — player B — then that’s something you can kick the crap out of. You can beat the block. Choose the yes combo!

The Power of Red

Which chart looks scarier?

Chart JPEG

They’re both exactly the same, except for the color of the downward slope.

Researchers have found that something as trivial as using red changes how investors view their gains and losses — and how they behave.

First, we find that when investors are displayed potential losses in red, risk taking is reduced. Second, when investors are shown past negative stock price paths in red, expectations about future stock returns are reduced. Consistent with red causing “avoidance behavior,” red color reduces investors’ propensity to purchase stocks.

In addition to illustrating the power of red, this study shows how easily our behavior can be swayed by the smallest thing and has a larger lesson about how with investing, it’s often wiser to follow your plan than go with your gut.

(via Jason Zweig)

The Buffett Moat vs. the Bezos Moat

Most investors know to at least glance at a company’s moat before dipping a toe in. A moat is basically whatever competitive advantage a company has that makes it hard for customers to go somewhere else for the same thing. A corner store selling books has a small moat; a rocket company selling seats into space has a big one.

Do artists, writers, musicians, etc. ever think about their own moats?


The king of money, Warren Buffett, won’t invest in a business without a giant moat in place. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about Amazon’s and came across this illuminating distinction between the two approaches.

“A Bezos moat is premised on the idea that the customer is willingly and is frequently entering into a commercial transaction with the company because the customer is deriving more value from the transaction than he or she is paying for.

A Buffett Moat attempts to identify companies that will be the only one (or one of a few) available in a commercial landscape, so that the customer is, in effect, forced to transact with these companies (i.e. only bridge, only newspaper, only soft drink option).”

For investors, keep in mind this isn’t an either/or scenario. Anyone would do well to seek out both kinds for their portfolios.

For creatives, this is a good frame for how to build their business. Before you get all poker-spined about the purity of art, please know that I define “business” very broadly. It doesn’t matter if you have LLC papers or even made a single penny. As long as you want someone to buy (with money, publicity, validation) what you’re selling (words, a canvas, an idea), you’re a business.

Sure, there’s self-worth, self-expression, authenticity, etc. They are all valuable and necessary things and I encourage you to embrace them in your pursuit for self-actualization. I’m working on that myself. BUT at the end of the day, they are things that provide real value only for you. No one’s going to pay you just so you can find your bliss.

What they will pay you for is something from the Amazon moat and/or the Buffett moat. What kind of moat do you want to build for yourself and your work?

The bigger your moat, the fewer competitors there’ll be storming the castle, which in turn will free up time and energy for you to create your art. Isn’t that the best investment of all?