Surprise Yourself By Letting Go

The last couple of “semesters” I’ve decided to exercise my creativity and challenge my patience in a new way… by taking a wheel throwing class. Meaning, pottery (think the movie Ghost, minus the sex scene).

If you know me, you know I’m no stranger to visual art… painting and drawing is my jam, but this clay shit is TOUGH.

It’s a totally different experience, skillset, and process than any other art form I’ve done before. And I failed at it. Hard core.

Fortunately for me, I was deep into Carol Dweck’s mindset work at the time, and it was a reminder for me not to shy away from something I wasn’t good at, but to dig in with a growth mindset and see what I could learn. (you can read more about my thoughts on Growth vs. Fixed mindset here).

OK, so now I’m all in. Let’s learn how to throw raw clay from the earth (gooey, messy, and soft) onto a spinning wheel, and form it into a perfect bowl / mug / plate / vase.

The compare and despair game was for real.

These were mixed classes, meaning people at any level of experience with wheel throwing were in the same class. The chick next to me was cranking out identical porcelain bowls piece after piece. While I was producing lopsided cylinders, if I was lucky enough to create one that didn’t crash and burn.

It took me 12 classes before I finally let go.

I was working on what I thought was going to be my best piece yet… a vase that was bigger, taller, and a more interesting hour-glass shape than I had been able to create before.

But, the wheel had other plans, and with one slip of the wrist, my “vase” was now a f’ed up bowl with some shape left but several puncture wounds from the caveman-like tools one uses when wheel throwing.

Just as I was ready to give up on it my teacher intervened and said this could be interesting and encouraged me to keep working with it. Because my perfect vase vision was dead, I said whatever, and just started playing with it. Manipulating the shape, using textures I would not have used, a glaze (several glazes) that were way out of my comfort zone because there was no risk.

My perfect vision was gone so who cares.

Well, that failed vase became the most interesting (and well-functioning) mug. It’s my favorite creation from all of those classes and every time I drink my tea from my “masterpiece” (ha!), it reminds me of an incredibly valuable lesson.


Let go of the perfection and you can amaze yourself.

Let go of your own (or others’) expectations.

Let go of what you think is the right way or the only way.

It’s only through letting go that possibilities outside of our narrow focus, skill set, or experience can emerge.

Yes, this applies to physical artistic endeavors, but it’s been a lesson that’s applicable (and that I am working to apply more) in all areas of my life. In relationships. With work. Even with how my day is going to go once I set an intention.

What are you trying to control or hold on to that really might be holding you back from something greater than you could imagine?

Here are some strategies to help you actually let go:

  • Focus on your intention from your heart versus the rules in your head.
    For example, my intention in taking this class was to have fun and learn a new skill… but my brain was telling me I had to create consistent pottery worthy of a dinner party for 12 and that kept me stuck, stressed, and in perfectionist mode, blocking my creativity.

  • Fail and see what happens. You won’t die. Something else will be on the other side of that failure.

  • Set your expectation to be amazed at what you can do, or achieve with someone. This sets you up for an experience better than the status quo.

  • Just tell yourself “f#*$ it!” and detach from the outcome. Focus on the joy of the journey versus the destination.

  • Practice mindfulness in the moments of frustration. Once you become aware of how the pressure or tension is showing up in your body (tight jaw, furrowed brow, tense shoulders), release through your breath. Come back to the present versus the storyline in your head.

  • Play. Like you’re a kid.

This isn’t always easy… like I said, it took me TWELVE classes before I was able to let go of the control and the perfection and let my natural creativity take the drivers’ seat.

Life is just one big experiment so I invite you to try it out. If there’s a place you feel stuck right now, that’s a good sign that may be where you want to experiment with letting go.

Let me know your successes or challenges with letting go and what happens when you do! It’s an amazing feeling when you can surprise yourself.