The Identity Trap

Under the bridge, one of Red Hot Chilli Pepper's most famous songs was not supposed to exist...

And some of your best work will probably never see the light of day because of the same reason...

The identity trap.

RHCP's frontman Anthony Kiedis was writing the songs for the album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, when their producer, Rick Rubin, shows up:

"What are you working on? Show me the songs you're writing."

Anthony shows him a few of the sexy, heavy funky songs he was writing.

"Ok, that sounds good," says Rick... "Anything else in the book?"

A little embarrassed, Kiedis responds:

"I have a poem. It has a melody, but I don't think it's really for us."

Rick wants to hear it anyway...

So Kiedis sings it and Rick is blown away:

"That's your best song."

Kiedis still insists "I don't know... it's just a poem."

But Rick has none of that: "Bring it to the boys. Show them the song."

That's how Under The Bridge was born.

In a recent interview, Kiedis himself revealed that without Rick's push, the song would probably never have made it to the album.

You see… that's not an isolated case. The same thing happens to me, to you, and to a lot of other creatives out there.

James Hetfield from Metallica also didn't want to show his bandmates the song Nothing Else Matters.

All because it "didn't fit the identity of the band."

But the thing is...

If we want to create unique and meaningful work, we must be careful with the identity trap.

If you've already experienced some success with your work, you'll be tempted to keep reproducing the same thing time and time again.

But doing something just because it's what's expected from you can kill your creativity over time.

It will raise your fear of pushing the boundaries. Of exploring new territories. Of connecting the dots.

The identity trap will put you in a box.

And what's even crazier, it's that people who haven't even gotten started also suffer from it.

Because they project the identity they think people will expect from them, and don’t let their imagination go beyond that.

Ok, so what should we do to avoid this trap?

Two things: We have to be deliberate about our practice AND choose who we ask for feedback wisely.

The first one is simple.

Create a rule for yourself that 20% of what you create will have to be outside of your comfort zone.

You'll have to look elsewhere for inspiration. You'll have to let weird and "bad" ideas flourish. Give them some water. Don't discard them right away.

And then once you have their first iteration, show them to the right people.

People like Rick Rubin, who are open to new ideas. People who instead of bashing your ideas right away, will ask you questions. They'll be curious to know more about them. And their questions will probably help you take your ideas even further.

If you don't have one person like this in your life, go look for it. It'll be worth the effort.

Because maybe... Your Under The Bridge is closer than you imagine. You just have to let it bloom.