Let's get this handled right out of the gate: I do not condone drug dealing. I don't promote a life of crime, the drug trade, organized crime or brutal street violence. Cool? Cool. (No letters, please.)
In the winter of 2009, a strange set of coincidences led me to find an intense self development concept that I found to be very effective. The odd thing about this concept was that it came from Mr. American Gangster himself, Frank Lucas.
At the time I was introduced to backtracking, I was in a slow ascent from a dark place. Recovering from an intense and mutually destructive relationship, I had yet to find my bearings. The philosophy I had been exposed to by my martial arts teacher helped a great deal in gaining a perspective on the situation, but somehow, the path to take from where I stood eluded me.
It was in the moment I was the most lost that an answer came.
Late one night, while watching the special features section of "American Gangster" DVD in my apartment, I heard Denzel Washington refer to Frank Lucas going on a "Backtracking" trip, where he would shut himself in a room with only a desk and a chair for weeks at a time. There, in silence, he would write down everything he could remember in his life, from the large events to the small. From that room, he was able to see long term patterns and tendencies that he had that had previously been hidden from him. It also allowed him to become a grand strategist for his life, planning movements and turns long before the opportunities would present themselves.
It was interesting idea, so I jotted it down, thinking I would explore it later. The next day, while reading Robert Greene and 50 Cent's "The 50th Law", I came across a chapter about Lucas and backtracking. Taking the clear hint, I tried to research it a bit more before realizing there is very little information about it.
The lack of information is probably because:
A) Taking advice about life from a drug dealer is generally frowned upon (although I can't imagine why)
B) Backtracking seems like a lot of work.
Backtracking allows you to confront the unfolding story of your life head on. You will see behavioral patterns that might surprise you. You will mostly likely be interested to learn about strengths and/or weaknesses that you didn't even know you had. But in the end, after having to face down the angels and demons of your past, you will be left with something you can work with to create the life you really want. Backtracking is a great way to face the monster of our past, whatever it may be and conquer it.
It is a bit of work, but it's worth the time you put into it. There is a method however. Here is exactly the concept I used before changing my career and starting my company, Iedima.
(You will need a good amount of loose leaf paper, pens and a notebook.)
Setting The Stage
1, Clear your calendar
Just as you sit down at your desk to begin this project, you will inevitably have something or someone come in and disturb your time. It is almost cosmic in it's frequency. The only way around it is by totally and actively clearing the time you are going to commit to getting it done. You will need at least 3 to 4 hours. (Don't worry, there are bathroom breaks involved..)
2. Use paper and pen
Put away the computer, the phone and the TV. I mean it. Put them AWAY. You will be very tempted to "just check something" and end up losing your focus. Don't allow them to be an option for you until your 4 hours are up. The best way to stay on task is to use paper and a pen, with no other reading material or distractions around. Why do you think Lucas only had two pieces of furniture in the room where he would backtrack? The answer is simple. He needed to FOCUS.
3. Draw the curtains
Low light seems to work best for deep memory work. Candles and incense, as long as they aren't too powerful, provide an environment conducive to the project at hand. They also have been shown to increase decision making ability when combined with lower light in several tests.
<Bathroom/Beverage Break> (See, I told you, didn't I?)
4. Create A Yearly Timeline
Write each year from the year you were born to the current one. Make sure to leave a decent amount of room between each one so can fill things in.
5. Fill in all the large events in your life by year, starting from beginning to present
Just a quick description will do. Don't get detailed yet. This will, unless you are Jason Bourne, be easier than you think. Skip the mid-sized to small stuff for now.
6. Look For Patterns
Now that you have something to work with, look for the way your life flows. Look at the way things earlier on led from one major event to another. Are there patterns? Has a particular thing happened more than once? Write all of these observations down in your notebook.
7. Go in closer and repeat
Now, go back through the years and write down every mid-sized event of piece of information you can remember. Repeat the above steps, find patterns and then go smaller until you can barely remember anything.
8. Find Your Vision
Vision is an overused word. But in this case, it means "what do you want the various parts of your life to look like?" Close your eyes and breathe deeply for awhile. In your minds eye, imagine life as you would truly like it. Notice the details.
After awhile and when you feel comfortable doing so, come out of that and write down what you have seen and what you wish to create. This is what you are going to work from going forward.
9. Review Your Findings
Now that you have made a good amount of notes looking at the events of your life and the patterns that may have shown themselves, write them out simply. Put down the core essence of what it is.
10. Take responsibility
Negative patterns and events in your life might not be your fault. But blaming anyone or anything for what has happened in your life, while possibly justified, is adverse to getting use out of a this sort of technique. At least for the moment, try to suspend your resentment and think of ways you have or can stop them from occurring in your life. How you respond is your responsibility.
11. Design your "Grand Strategy" based on your vision for the future while taking the information from the backtrack into account.
As you commit to a plan to achieve what you what you have decided to go after, make sure that you take the way you have naturally behaved up to this point into account. For instance, if you have never worked out a day in your life, than don't plan to hit the gym everyday for four hours. Taking the time to slowly introduce habits really pays off. Besides, now that you can plan on a much larger scale than most other's do, you can add minor habits bit by bit until the entire lifestyle change happens without the usual dramatic (and high failure rate) mind based mega change.
This technique, while almost obvious, is very powerful. Most people can't remember what they had for lunch yesterday, yet here you are, knowing the ebb and flow of your life. But not only that, but you have a plan to create the future that you wish to experience. Now go make it happen.
P.S. In order to change some of the behavior, it might become necessary to change old, built in behaviors. In that case, I recommend NLP or, if you are the disciplined sort, Zen meditation.
How To Live From Your Creative Source No Matter Where Life Takes You
By Michael Amidei
Artists are the echoes of God.
We are the resounding of creation, now manifesting in perpetuation.
We take what is and infuse it with what might be.
We can take simple ink, or paint and canvas or paper and shape the world with it.
We can cause riots (Salmon Rushdie). We can influence nations (Uncle Tom's Cabin).
We can shift the very consciousness of our existence.
Have you ever heard a musician play?
Or a singer sing, quietly and slowly, majestically breaking the hanging silence?
Is there any doubt that that is not only the sound of the spirit,
but the common shock wave of humanity, resonating throughout our collective unconscious?
Is there any doubt that what a blues man plays in New Orleans does not,
in some way, reverberate in the spirit of a young boy, waking in the early
morning inside an orphanage in Nepal?
As men and women, as people, we know that the arts are who we are.
They are our highest aspirations. They are what we wish that we could become.
To create art? What could be more noble than that? What could be more
worthwhile than that?
In the future, most of our names will be forgotten.
But our music, our words, our films and our art can remain.
And remain they will, in service to others, connecting their time with our time.
And they will know that they aren't alone, just like we know that we aren't alone,
because of the art of those who came before us.
So, in honor or the noble pursuit of the arts. I humbly ask you to continue creating. Don't stop. Do whatever it takes.
The world needs you. It needs us.
Art is important. It really is. In fact, it's so important that if you can do it, you'd better do it and get it out to as many people as possible. Why? Because it makes the world a better place.
It took years for me to come to terms with myself as a truly creative person. I literally thought composing symphonies, doing graphic art, writing books and making films was were things that everyone did. As I grew up, I indulged more than others, in "creative" type pursuits and made a decent living from time to time, but in the end, I was pretending to be what someone else wanted. I wasn't living from my creative source.
Doing what I thought you were supposed to do, I stepped into the world of corporations and allowed myself to work in areas that I simply didn't care about and that didn't require me to do what I do best. Create.
It wasn't until I took an intense silent sabbatical - where I literally looked through every bit of my past and dreamed up what I wanted in my future, that I realized what I had been missing. Creation is a part of me. It is the thing that gets me up in the morning and then thing that keeps me awake at night. I love it. I breathe it. It is part of me, through and through.
We need to face it though. For the majority of us, the dreams of rockstardom, being a megarich painter or being a bestselling author won't be realized. But why do they need to? Ask yourself - was it really being a rockstar that was important to you? Or is doing your music in your way what really mattered? It's really easy to get caught up in chasing some version that others have told us is what we should pursue with our art. Screw that. Strive to create the best you can. - All that stardom stuff, if you really research it, sucked to live through, anyway.
Knowing this still wasn't enough for me. How could I reconcile my desire to create with the real world responsibilities around me? Call me slow, but I didn't have the answer. So, I set out to find it how artists could create, live well and make a real impact on the world around them. My learning came from many sources, from a professional painter/amateur boxer to a poet who works the late nights at an emergency room. The answers, as you would imagine, were as varied as the people who gave them.
(NOTE: This presupposes that your art is already at a professional level, so if you need work, go get it and come back to this. )
Principle #1 - Define Yourself (Niche)
I know that, as artists, we are constantly working to define ourselves. I get it. But what I'm talking about here is that a "niche" can massively help you when it comes to finding a large audience to gift your art to. Are you a painter of macabre images based on fables? Cool. You can build on that. But it becomes really hard to build on that PLUS your penchant of cheery pastel landscapes. Pick something and stick. Just for now...
Or just put the cheery pastels in your closet for when you decide to "go electric" aka Bob Dylan.
Principle #2 - Be Authentically You & Focus On Creating The Best Art Possible
Way too many people get lost in the business side of things. They didn't start out that way, it just became more and more a part of their lives as they tried to "make it" in their particular scene. Lose all that. Make friends and make contacts. Make contacts your friends. But 100% of your energy should really be on making the absolute best art that you can.
Be you. Acting like someone else is, in someway trying to buy their success by emulation. Don't worry about that. Be you. You are enough.
To quote a very successful rock act who finally had a hit after years and years of struggle, "It's funny, but when I finally just focused on making the best music I possibly could, all the business snaps into place on it's own." It's a bit of a simplification, but it's not far off. Take care of the art and build the business as it is needed.
Principle #3 - Treat Your Work As A Business
This is probably the most tired piece of advice I have heard given to artists. It's a cliche. And, like a lot of cliches, it is based on truth. Just as there are a ton of creatives who treat their art as only business, there are a ton that simply create, don't work on the business side at all and then complain when they don't have people beating down their doors.
You have to learn about how to share your work with others. Get educated on marketing, business, etc.
You also need to learn strategies of how to share more of your art with your fans. Would they like a calendar of your work? A vinyl version of your new CD? How can you make both your art and the presentation of your art the best it can possibly be for those who want to experience it?
Believe it or not, that is 98% of all business.
Principle #4 - Stay True To Your Work
As funny as this might sound, some people need to hear it.
"I hereby give you permission to work a day job and also create your art. In no way does that make you a failed artist if you can pay your bills. Just do the best you can making it and getting it out there. You don't have to become famous. You don't have to even make a full living as an artist. Make every effort, but for love of God, don't ever change your art to fit the demands of the industry. That makes you a sellout. Seriously...don't do it. "
Stay true to what you feel called to do. That's the reason you are "qualified" to do that particular work.
By learning and applying what you learn, you can eventually move to making a living at creation. It's very true. There is great information about various forms of how people do this all over the web.
But the pressure is off. It's okay. The fact you create and get it out there is enough.
Principle #5 - Keep Learning
No matter how successful you might become. No matter how good you think you are, you have to keep growing. Do it, not for a competitive edge against your colleagues, but because you are participating in the unfolding an development of the art form in expression through you. It is one of the most noble parts of being a creative artist.
There you have it. They seem simple, but once I got them, it changed my perspective. I didn't have to worry that being a musician was either a full time gig or a failure. Instead, I could technically put out the music I wanted to the people who wanted it and realize that I am doing exactly what my creative source, my spirit dictates. That, in the end, is what creation is all about.