Creative Life? You Can Figure it Out!

Book Review – Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo

This is a very useful book for animators and creatives as it will be part of your mindset for success, survive and thrive toolkit. It is easy to read, broken down into bitesize chunks and full of stories to illustrate her point. It is a practical book for transforming your attitude to what you are aiming to achieve with exercises at the end of each chapter to lead you through the process of finding clarity in what you want to do and building the confidence and focus to do it.

She offers a unique perspective as someone with multiple interests and both a creative and business career. The result is a book very relatable and useful for creatives building a career on their own terms. This post is a summary of what she covers in the book so you can decide whether to buy it, read it and get the full impact. I’ve also thrown in some interpretations and observations of my own as I relate to the topic.

Everything is figureoutable

You can figure it out, make animation

Every problem is figureoutable, if it’s not it’s a law of nature and therefore not a problem, it’s a fact of life. If you don’t care enough to figure it out don’t do it, find something else.

As an animator, I use the word ‘doable’. “It must be doable, let me figure something out”. It’s the first response of creative thinking, so I related to the title from the start. That’s why it’s a great book for creatives who want to grow.

She begins with a mindset warning to open the way to learning. The first destructive thought to avoid is ‘I know this already’ as mind shuts down, and with a closed state of mind, you won’t learn anything. Second destructive thought ‘This won’t work for me’. That’s just another way of saying ‘I don’t really want this to work’.

The way we think is an incredibly important factor for success because it becomes who we are and is reflected in what we do which results in what we have. Here are some of my favorite quotes from her on this theme:

“Everything in the material world is first created on the level of thought”

“Nothing exists in our world that does not first exist in our mind”

“Long term, your beliefs determine your destiny”

Envisioning is a large part of how we interpret the world. So “every belief has a consequence…. When you change a belief you change everything”, your environment can change, you will have different experiences, which will reinforce the change with evidence.

There is a confirmation bias in our minds “our brains tend to reinforce what we already believe”, so we actually look for evidence to support a belief.

But here’s the good news, because beliefs are learned “all beliefs are a choice and choices can be changed”.

The blocks we put in the way

we put blocks in the way, to stop us making animation

We will all make excuses as to why we can’t do something. But here’s the thing, do you really want to do it? Because we are often given an ideal we should strive for or we are told that we should be something, but do we really want it? According to Marie excuses are because we don’t really want to do something enough. At the end of the day, you will have plenty of reasons why you haven’t achieved something but that’s not the way to get results. Take responsibility, do you have reasons or results?

Time is often the biggest excuse. You don’t have time anyway so make time. Its really about what you actually value. Your time is spent on what you actually value, not what you think you should value.

Fear is another huge block. Fear of failure or success, fear of change. The best antidote to fear is action.

“Fear is not the enemy. Waiting to stop feeling afraid is.”

Fear is just a feedback mechanism. It is not telling you NOT to do something, it’s telling you that you have a high energy response to it. You may be misinterpreting ‘fear’ as an exciting readiness for something. Fear and excitement are closely related feelings, Marie tells the story of an actor who always chose to interpret stage fright as stage excitement, physically the two feelings where the same but the way he chose to name it differed and so did his response to it. If unsure of a decision, check how your body feels, does a choice make you feel expansive or restricted?

“Failure is an event. It is not a characteristic. People can’t be failures.”

Lack of clarity can be a block. Not really knowing what you want to do or how to progress from where you are. But action is the only way to find out what you want. Just do something, sometimes that could be anything. You will find activity through action. The reason we don’t like this idea is that by doing ‘anything’ we could be doing ‘the wrong thing’ which will make us waste time and resources, as well as leading to an apparent ‘failure’. But often it’s these adventures that give us more insight and a real advantage later, as we can creatively pull disparate experiences together to find a unique solution where others can’t.

“Clarity comes from engagement, not thought”

Believe in yourself is a mantra we hear all the time. But what does it mean in practice? I like the idea that we are all necessary parts of a whole, we have a mission to play a part in the grand scheme of things and our part links to everyone else. We have a dream to do something because it is in us to do that. As Marie puts it:

“You wouldn’t have the dream if you didn’t already have what it takes to make it happen”

Setting your mind to something

Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a physical part of the brain that acts as an attention filter. It sifts incoming data to take out anything that is irrelevant to what you have set your mind to. It also looks for opportunities, information, and people that will help you achieve the goal you have set in your RAS.

I’ve heard this before, but I just looked up where in the brain it is! It’s in the brain stem and is the mediator for your overall level of consciousness. It filters the data from all of our senses and sends on what is considered necessary to the rest of the brain. From a scientific point of view, this system is far more complex than just career goal setting! But from our ‘self-development’ point of view it has a very useful function.


When I was making my student films, and indeed whenever I make a personal art project I study a lot. I read, I watch films, documentaries, I visit places. I bury myself in the topic of my film. So much so that I start to see the subject everywhere. I may even be standing in the supermarket queue and I will overhear a phrase relating to my topic. I will see images of that subject everywhere. It’s as if the world is full of that subject. I didn’t understand why back then. I thought it was mystical. But it’s a common experience. When you are pregnant you see pregnant women everywhere, when you buy a new car you see the same car everywhere. That’s the RAS in action.

Writing down your goals is a way of establishing them in your RAS. Apparently you are 42% more likely to reach those goals if you just write them down. How much more powerful is it to make a vision board, tell people your goals, read them over every day. Everything you do to get that goal deeply entrenched in your RAS will increase your chance of reaching that goal.

Progress not perfection

progress-not-perfection, in-making-animation

I’m not ready yet! This is one of my personal biggest blocks because I’m a planner. I like to meticulously research, understand and plan everything. But Marie says that you will never be ready, so start before you are ready. Her simple check is this, in 10 years will I regret not doing this?

“Action spawns courage, not the other way round.”

Her advice is – don’t do too much planning and research, its just another form of procrastination. To challenge this tendency put your time and money on the line, make a commitment. The best way to put yourself on the line and force action is to make a financial commitment because then you will be accountable to make it happen, you’ve put an important resource at stake.

Value growth and learning over comfort and certainty. The growth zone is also the discomfort zone. Growing can feel uncomfortable at times. But if you increase your discomfort zone, eventually that will become your new comfort zone, because over time it will start to feel familiar and then comfortable. This way you can keep increasing your comfort zone, and thus keep growing. Expect and embrace uncertainty, vulnerability, and humility embedded in every learning experience.

This is my favorite quote from the book “Progress not perfection”. We will never reach perfection. That’s the nature of perfection, it is unobtainable, at best it can be used as a continuous driver to help us always strive for better. But if we fall into the trap of thinking that we can or even ‘must’ be perfect, then that will close all possibility of action.

“Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order”

Anne Wilson Schaef

In practice perfectionism looks like this – failure, rejection, not being good enough, fear, looking for shortcuts, feeling like a loser, thinking it’s too hard, feeling out of your league, comparing yourself to others’ success, fearing setbacks, feeling insecure.

Progress looks like this – accepting that lots of failures are part of the process and this makes me stronger, I learn at each attempt, I am evolving, people are inspiring, this is a long term process, being prepared to explore new territory, new and exciting possibilities, done is good enough, curiosity and learning. This is a productive mindset.

You may well have a dream to achieve something that you don’t yet have the skills or experience to achieve. Make sure that you “mind the gap between your ambition and your ability….progress not perfection is the only way to bridge the gap between your ability and your ambition.”

Take small steps and be consistent. “Real change is practically invisible while it’s happening” especially when your journey is convoluted.

reaching your goal is a winding path in animation
Reaching your goal is a winding path in animation

Too many image quotes about reaching your goal are illustrated with the long straight road. But the truth is that from our starting point we will travel a squiggly line towards the goal that we reach. If we think it should be a straight line then at the first convoluted downturn and circle back we will assume we have failed and will give up.

We need a more honest model of what the journey looks like if we are to have faith and keep going. This is certainly true from my experience, and to add to that I believe that these round and about journeys are detours to pick up additional gems along the way. We learn so much more and can collect so many more pearls of wisdom and useful experiences when the journey is not a short straight line, which let’s face it would give us very little experience and appreciation of our goal when we get there.

Refuse to be refused and decline defeat

decline defeat, keep making your animation

Plan ahead for problems, so you feel prepared and they don’t take you by surprise.

Expect and embrace self-doubt, it’s not a sign that you should quit, rather it’s a sign of progress because you are expanding your comfort zone.

The power of positive quitting. Be brave enough to cancel a project that is no longer aligned with your values. “Giving up isn’t the same as moving on”, just ask yourself, what’s the next right move?

Cultivate patience. It will take as long as it takes. There is no shame in doing what it takes to keep a roof ever your head. You may have to provide for your creativity, it may never provide for you. That doesn’t make it illegitimate. Elizabeth Gilbert (who wrote Eat, Prey, Love) took 20 years of work before she earned a living from her calling. It took Steven Pressfield 17 years before he earned a penny from his writing, and he wrote for 27 years before he got his first novel published.

“As an artist, you need the naysayers and the nonbelievers to add fuel to your creative fire”


You will always be being judged by someone, so get over it. “Everything you love is despised by someone else”, you cannot expect everyone to like the same things. What makes you special is that you love it, when others don’t. Marie warns that “the more you care about what others think, the more they own you”. Don’t give away all your power, give others the freedom to have their own opinion, and know the boundaries to your own views.

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because of course, when you finish something you can be judged”

Erica Jong

 “It’s not your job to like me, it’s mine”

Byron Katie

But don’t be too fragile, critical feedback helps you grow. Use what is helpful and leave the rest. Consider the source, do they know what they are talking about? Can this feedback be useful to you, by definition we are never perfect, we are all in progress, so take something useful and it will help you grow. Growing can be painful, feedback can be painful, that doesn’t make it wrong, its just means we are being taken out of our comfort zone. If the feedback is not from a valid source then feel sad not mad. If they are tearing you down their lives are probably filled with pain and hurt and they need others to take on their pain with them. You don’t have to. Have a laugh instead.

The world needs your special gift – you are here for a reason

your special gift, make your animation, no-one else can
Your special gift, make your animation, no-one else can. You may be the missing piece.

“The measure of our lives is not determined by what we achieve for ourselves; its determined by what we share, give, and contribute to others. When your dreams are connected to a sense of contribution beyond yourself – a family member, your co-workers, or a community or cause you deeply believe in – you’ll unlock wellsprings of strength, stamina, and courage you never knew you had. Most important, you’ll experience a greater sense of meaning and fulfilment, too.

To be clear, having dreams for yourself is awesome. We all, start there. Just don’t stop there. Connect your dream to a greater good. It’ll feed your soul and provide the emotional strength you’ll need to refuse to be refused.”

Marie Forleo

If you don’t play your part and do your special thing “you are stealing from those who need you most… the world needs that special gift that only you have”. That’s a powerful way to get the point across. Marie is determined to help people find their special gift and give it to the world. That’s the main reason I’m reviewing the book here. Creative and artistic endeavors can often be the most challenging because they are usually a labor of love. It often feels necessary to give it up, go get a proper job and do it later. But even if we need a job to keep us afloat, we must still continue our creative goals and know that even as a ‘hobby’ they are still completely valid.

Sometimes we make the excuse that we are no exception, its all been done before and often by better, more skilled people. Well, the truth is yes it has all been done before, but not by you and not the way you do it.

Imposter syndrome or ‘the fraud factor’ is very common for artists to feel. We commonly feel that we will be found out, people will discover that we are not really that good. That’s actually because we have a vision for what greater achievements are possible and we assume all other people can see that too. But they can’t.

“Even though I had sold 70 million albums, there I was feeling like ‘I’m no good at this’”

Jenifer Lopez

We feel that we are no good at something because unconsciously we have a vision of what we are trying to achieve and we are not there yet. We just get to feel the ‘not there’ part all the time and think that’s all there is. Marie offers ways to challenge this imposter syndrome:

Share the shame – Brene Brown explains that shame cannot live in the light. It’s a creature that can only thrive in dark places.

Start a Hype file – stockpile good things, reviews, compliments, achievements, awards, and look at this often. Remember, where attention goes, energy flows.

Shine your light OUT not IN – looking at how you can help others will distract you from looking at your faults and feeling like a fake. If you feel like a fake, just help someone else.

To conclude

Of the top 5 regrets of the dying, the most common one is:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

We all die in the end, so you may as well spend your life giving the world your special gifts.

Finally, the real secret to lasting success is – build a network to support you.

“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”

Helen Keller

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

Booker T.Washington

Hope you enjoyed this post, let me know if you have read the book and what you think of it. Was it useful to you? What was your main ‘take-home’ from it?

(P.S. All quotes are by Marie Forleo from her book Everything is Figureoutable unless referenced to someone else.)

If you want to buy the book, you can find the best prices on Amazon here (as an Amazon affiliate I can commission form qualifying purchases and this helps me to maintain this blog)

Thank you for reading and look forward to your comments!

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Lucy Lee

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