It's one of our early life's great quests, isn't it?
We each seem convinced of the need to somehow prove ourselves - to be someone of significance. We imagine that, one the other end of proving how special we are, lies the life that we are destined to live. With all of the money, friends, lovers, and/or (insert whatever you deeply desire here).
The path to find this significance can cause some to rise to the top ranks of industry, academia, the entertainment world and so on. It can be the impetus that creates a life filled with luxury and, if you work hard enough, meaning. But this search can just often turn toxic. Consider those who have carried out mass shootings, spewing violence into the world's safe spaces. Weren't they also after a kind of significance? Wasn't that, when we boil it down, likely to have been what Hitler was hoping to feel? Opinions may differ. But I think so..and this is my podcast. How's that for significance?
All joking aside, things get pretty manic and and ravenous when it comes to needing to prove ourselves in the world. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon (to use one of my favorite nonsense phrases) to figure out that those symptoms mean that we are disconnecting from the spirit.
What if, instead of striving, we simply understood that we are each masterpieces already and started from there? I don't mean "masterpiece" in a cheesy motivational book way. But in a very real way. If you are like many of us out here, you probably have certain things that you are incredible at and others that..well, to put it nicely, you suck at.
Why not look at who we are, take the time to "know thyself", and then develop our life around that? To me, it seems like an often missed opportunity to craft a happy and meaningful existence.
Next time that you are considering the direction of your life, think back on who you are versus who you think that you should be. Take full stock of yourself and play with the idea of making decisions based purely on your strengths and preferences. It might just chance how you experience everything.
Tonight, I'm off focus.
I can't seem to pull a string of thoughts together for anything, no matter how hard I try. For the last hour or so, I've been sitting here, trying to figure out what I should write about. But nothing is happening.
So, in the interest of honesty, I figured that it would be the most thing to do to talk about distraction. Those times when nothing comes easily and everything seems to telling you to give up, to throw in the towel and walk away.
Let's be honest. It's real. It happens. The question is, what do we do with it? Do we walk away and fall of our goals? Do we fight it, embracing the struggle? Do we learn to go with it, putting something down, generating some pages? Personally for me, the latter has always created the best result. It leaves me feel as if I've done something without being at war with myself, which always ends up being more draining than I anticipated.
Instead, I choose to go with it, writing about distraction and curiously looking at it. In this case, it's likely a combination of being overworked (which I am currently) and having eaten some carbs (which almost always scatters my mind, which I always seem to remember AFTER eating them).
So, while this writing is awfully convoluted and missing any particular direction rather that it's being lost, I encourage you to consider what you might do in your own creative life when you are scattered. In what ways might you still be able to create something when you can't perform at the level you expect of yourself?
I encourage you, as my writing mentors once encouraged me, to still get into the proverbial seat and take a crack at it. Make something happen. It helps train your mind and your will power. It helps you stick to the goal.
Maybe in the end, that's what this is all about tonight. Sticking with the process even when the going gets tough. Since I've set the goal of doing a daily podcast every day of 2018, I know that there will definitely be more times when it is hard to write or record it, but I'm committed to trying to overcome those obstacles as they arrive. I hope that you'll join me and I promise to always be honest about what I'm feeling.
I'm unfocused but yet, I'm here. That's how I know that I'll be here tomorrow...
You must know the dark to know the light.
You must know the sweet to mark the sour.
You must know how to feel nothing to truly know the rapture of passion.
You must know invalidity to know health.
You must know war to know peace.
You must know light to know dark, my friends.
For at the moment when your life does end
What colors that your days have made
Shall be told in the contrast you bade
The sweet from the sour
The rich from the poor
The lonely hallway echoes
Someone knocking at your door
And who could it be
A foe or a friend
For both are quite useful
When your life will one day end
So keep your eyes open, my friends
As the sun cross the sky
And know that changing of the light
Shall pass us all, by the by..
On a blog like this, we generally cover things like inspiration, motivation, and perspectives on how to get things done. Today, I want to talk about something different. I want to discuss the idea of dropping expectations for yourself.
I know, I know. This is a hotly contested topic among the self improvement crowd, who like to instead talk about always striving for new goals and working to make themselves better. I get it. I'm with them, but over time, I've come to a serious realization.
Who you think you should be and who you are can be very different things. Many of us have high aspirations, but are constantly fighting the pull between our goals and our actions. If we "fall off of the wagon" enough times, we start to feel that we are somehow incapable of actually making the changes happen. Then, we silently (or not so silently) beat ourselves up, trying to "get tough" on ourselves or, worse yet, making excuses for ourselves while knowing, deep down, that we just aren't truly committing to what we say that we want.
May I propose the idea that instead of going through this cycle over and over again, that we look at things a little differently. In this slightly off beat vision, there is no need to act hardcore, deny yourself, or do anything that strains you. Why? Because when you set yourself to strain over a long period of time, you will fall off. It's a basic tenant of our human willpower.
What if we first were easy on ourselves. We allowed ourselves to be exactly who we are without judgement. What if we took care of ourselves and then looked for a few places where we could tweak our behavior to get the most bang for our buck?
As an example, let's say that I have realized that I need to get up earlier. Well, forcing myself out of bed at an early hour, grumbling and sleep deprived might work for a few days, but eventually, I'm going to collapse back into my old pattern. Instead, what if you started clearing your evenings a bit earlier, allowing you to take a warm shower and easily downshift into a restful sleep. Go to bed early for a week. Then, after about a week or two, set your alarm twenty minutes earlier. Then, move your bed time back another twenty - allow yourself to acclimate and then shift your waking time again. - You get the idea.
The point here is not that you are forcing discomfort into your life. It's that you are working with your human tendencies instead of fighting against them and eventually beginning to shame yourself. You are taking care of yourself first, making it pleasurable and enjoyable on a deep level, not just pretending to be a hardcore self development junkie.
It's easy to consider: Want to be a writer - start a blog. Write a little every day and enjoy the process. Want to eat more healthy? Find amazing and healthy food that you love and have it for dinner once or twice a week. Starting finding more and more healthy dishes and build them into your diet over time. The goal should be to have a diet that you love AND is healthy for you.
I could go on and on, but the point has been made. Life isn't easy. You are so hard on yourself. Why not learn to be easy. Let it develop naturally and with limited struggle. You'll find that if you respect this principle and develop both the pleasure and level of engagement with your goals over time, they will stick far more than they ever have in the past.
Give a shot, see what you think.
There is one thing that many people the world over constantly pay for. It happens in every industry in every corner of the planet, separating the truly great from the mediocre.
It is the real "secret" of successful creatives as well as businesses, from Apple to Amazon to the "50 Shades Of Grey" franchise. It's our secret and not-so-secret obsession. What is it?
The world is full of people who are overworked, over stressed, and scared. It's hard enough to get through this life. So, for many, the opportunity to pay someone else to "take control" of an area of their life becomes deeply desired. It helps us relax into a direction provided by someone else.
If you are a person (or business) that takes the needs or wants of a group and seeks to fulfill them completely, you will be met with decisions from the larger broad strokes to the fine tuned aesthetic details. To the extent that you exert control, you curate the experience of your audience.
It's not just that you CAN solve their problem. It's also how you do it. How do they feel before, during, and after? To be truly remarkable, you must seek to understand, if not control. each of these steps.
Next time you are walking in public, notice the people around you. Watch the ways in which they willingly pay to relinquish power. Then, realize that you can be part of the solution, using your art to uplift or act as catharsis to your audience.
Watch how people actually spend their money. It will tell you so much about what they value. Do so without judgement. Just watch and observe what is happening around you.
It's both eye opening and enlightening to do so.
This one is for those who are suffering. The ones who are in the depths of illness, injury, chronic pain or conditions. Those who feel like each day is a battle. The ones who wake up many times in a night, flattened by pain, or sickness.
I know that you're out there. I hear you. - First, let me extend my deepest sympathies to you for what you must endure every moment. It's hard for many to fathom. My own experience, as limited as it was, has opened up my insight to what your world can be like.
You see, as a boy of 11, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in my left arm, given a 4% or less chance of survival if my left arm was amputated, underwent intense chemotherapy, some of which put me in a decently sized coma. I endured dozens and dozens of surgeries and had more medical problems, drug reactions, and late nights spent in sleep;ess agony than I care to talk about here. The point is that I know some of what it's like to go through pain, anguish, self consciousness, and the 3 am feeling that you are truly alone, desolate, and, in some sense, just waiting through each moment in the hopes that it will, one day, eventually stop hurting,
My mother, diagnosed with breast cancer years after I went into remission, once said to me "You know, everybody talks about how I'm so brave. But I don't feel very brave at all." I told her "Now you know. Courage isn't there when the grand rah rah speeches are given at fundraisers. It's there at 3 am, when you are grinding it out and it feels like there is no end in site. Courage exists when you have the guts to live another hour.."
And I suppose that's what I want to leave you with today. No matter your situation, whether it be physical pain, illness, or injury and/or emotional, psychological, or spiritual unrest and pain - remember that courage exists just in the next moment. And in the moment after that. You just have to keep living and surviving from one moment to the next.
Know that I and others like me know that you are out there. We know that you are struggling. And we ask you to stay strong. Keep surviving. Because once you come out of the darkness that surrounds you, you will carry a power and conviction that seldom ever glimpse. The world needs more people like that..
Each morning, we awake to a prison. Trapped inside, we are confined by the ideas and conceptions of "who we are" and "what we do". We unconscious do the same thing each day, eating the same foods, and performing the same sets of a behaviors over and over again, like human robots. The name of this prison is "Personal History" and we are the jailers.
One of the things that has become increasingly evident to me over the last few years is that many (including myself) tend to base many of our decisions based on what we "should do". Daring to step back and ask "Who is making these rules?" tends to open a recursive line of questioning that only stops when one decides to jump off the hamster wheel altogether and admit the truth: we do.
Some of us might protest that it is, in fact, others who define ourselves for us. But ultimately, we are the complicit ones. It is always our decision, although it's hard to admit it. Tomorrow morning, we could wake and decide to be somebody completely different, unbound by any perceived obligations or responsibilities.
However, most everybody, including myself don't do so. A sense of moral obligation, love, and dedication keep us where we are. And these are noble. They aren't wrong. However, remembering that almost all of these are a daily decision, something that we've chosen, can help us make the shift between thinking as a beast of burden and the free human that you are.
This is, of course, barring things that you can't control - illness, chronic injury in yourself and those you care for. However, from experience, limitations are sometimes also part of the illusion, which is a topic that I will visit during tomorrows episode.
Today, tonight, tomorrow morning - remember that what you are seeing is a choice, a prison likely of your own jailers. You can choose to leave or make it a functional paradise from where to grow. The decision is entirely yours.
Once upon a time, the greatest fire in recent memory ripped through the vast landscape of Kansas, leaving a desolate and charred corpse of what had been lush and green farmland before. All of the nearby towns sent their fire departments in to help in combating the blaze. But, no matter how they tried, they couldn't keep the inferno from spreading.
Not long after, when it seemed that defeat was imminent, a small fire engine appeared on the road, sent from a small town several hours away. Without hesitating, it sped past the other trucks and into the center of the fire, driving in circles and manically spraying this way and that.
Suddenly, something miraculous started to happen. The fire began to fall under control. The other fire engines joined in and, several hours later, the fire had been safely contained.
A week so later, the country held an awards ceremony. There they had several speeches from the County Commissioner and presented an award to the Fire Chief who was valiantly and bravely drove headlong into the fire. Along with the award, he was presented with an award of $1000. The local reporter asked the Fire Chief, "What do you think you'll do with the money?"
The Fire Chief smiled "First thing I'm going to do..is get that damned fire engine's brakes fixed."
My father told me this story years ago as an anecdote, but I have found it to be a very important realization in my life as a creator. You see, many times, we see other artists hurdle artistic milestones and make great work, it can be easy to think that it just somehow comes naturally for them. That somehow, they are able to pull things off with ease while we simply struggle.
Experience has taught me however, that nothing could be further from the truth. All of the titans that we all hold in such regard battle through the process just as much as you and I. Sure, they might have larger resources, they might have certain things made easier, but we can likely assume that for every advantage that they possess, there is just another stress of aspect of concern added.
To use a well worn analogy, the creative giant is often like the image of a duck, seemingly peacefully gliding across the water. Only, if were to look underwater, we would see the duck's feet paddling like hell. One of the great powers that I have been learning to develop myself is how to conceal my efforts in order to let my results define themselves. It's a subtle art and is used by many of the best out there today.
So, next time another's work makes you feel inadequate or somehow less-than, remember the story of the fire engine, and realize that maybe, just maybe - they're going at it so hard because they've lost control of the breaks. It's a matter of survival.
About six weeks ago, I was involved in a serious car accident. My mother and I were talking and laughing sitting next to each other, and then in a blink of an eye, a white pickup truck appeared lengthwise in front of us. We had less than a second to comprehend was about to happen. I swerved as best I could, angling the impact away from my mother.
The next thing I remember is the cab of the car being filled with the white powder that emits from airbags when they've deployed. A thick haze in the air. My next thought was that I couldn't breathe..and if I couldn't breathe, my asthmatic mother definitely couldn't. I tried to open my driver's side door, but it wouldn't budge. I then prepared to smash open the sun roof of the car, but luckily decided to try the power button first. It worked. Thank God.
Air poured in and we could suddenly breathe again. My mother was a bit banged up, but ok and in a seeming miracle, so was I. Suddenly, I heard a sound next to me. Outside of my door, eyes wide with concern, was a young man in his late teens. He helped me pull the door open. He asked if we were alright. When I told him we were, his eyes welled up with tears. "I am so, so, so sorry. I could have killed you."
In moments like this, things tend to become crystal clear. All of the haze of the daily mundane dissipate and you remember who you are. I embraced this man, boy, really - and. I remember myself saying "That moment is past. Here we are. There is no anger here. Just love. Let's take care of each other as we get through this." This time he embraced me.
The situation has played over and over in my head since then and I have found a striking similarity of that moment to those I have experienced in other near catastrophic situations or in the hospice room, as the line between this world and the next grows thin.
When we remember who we are, when all of the silly things that hold us back have vanished, what do you represent? What do we stand for? What would we tell those around us if we thought this might be the last day?
And then, let us consider why we ever put that off. Why do we wait? Why do we allow ourselves to not engage with those we love every day in a way that matters?
For me, this is at the center of mindfulness training. Sometimes, love is mundane. But, those things can be as simple as telling them "I love you" as you leave or, even better, just anytime, for no reason at all, other than it's truth.
I invite you to join me. Let all of the silly, petty, and mundane things fall away. Realize the gift that is life and the blessings that are those you love. Then treat them that way. You might be surprised how life starts to treat you back..
Within the vast echo chamber that is our culture, there are new shiny status symbols, methodologies, and technologies that spring up every year, every month, every...well, some times it seems like there is a new one every five minutes, doesn't it?
There is always a new Iphone, a new tablet, a new more powerful than the finger of God tool that will finally help you become the artist you were born to be. But the truth is..it's all bullshit. And deep down, we know it.
I'm not saying that equipment isn't important. But I'm also not saying that it is, either. What is important? The ideas. The execution of those ideas using the tools that you have. So many times, I've seen artists in the clutch of the word "just".
"If I just had this piece of gear..."
"If I just...."
To me, "just" is a dangerous word. While I will revisit this in a later episode to give it the proper due, I'll say this. To the extent that you release the word "just" from your thinking and vocabulary, the more you open your team and yourself to truly take action, from where you are now.
This leads us to the concept of "First Principles", a phrase which is defined as "the fundamental concepts or assumptions on which a theory, system, or method is based". In other words, it's about basing all of your decisions on the things that actually matter when it comes to achieving your outcome.
It's not about the gear. It's about how you can effect your audience. The deeply depressed person who really needs to hear your song? They don't care what kind of monitors you have. What they care about is "will this connect with me where I need it to".
While a complex preparation might provide a fascinating background to a hungry diner, the most important thing is how she is served, and how the textures and flavors of the food resonate with her palate.
Forget what everyone else is saying that you need. Sure, equipment is important. Do the research, take action and get moving. Remember first principles and what we're really going after in the first place.