Creative Life

As a kid, my mom and stepfather had this really small collection of books that I thought was so cool.

I remember spending hours reading about Pen and Teller’s magic tricks, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding methods, and the interpretation of dreams.

These would ignite my imagination and allow me to peer into a new world.

Now that I’m a grown-up, I wonder often what would life had been like if there more for me to explore.

So every time I add to my now nearly 400-book personal library, there’s a part of me deep down that thinks about a child coming and pulling it from the bookshelf to see what’s inside.

I imagine giving them exposure to all these things I’ve found to be marvelous.

There are so many books a child would adore: The Complete Works of Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Matilda, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and The Cartoon History of the Universe.

“I have these,” I imagine telling them, “because these are the books that give me hope too. The world can be a scary place, and these books remind us, despite how bad it all can seem, there are always things to be happy about. There’s always wonder just beneath the surface if only we can remember how to see it.”

I encourage you to think about what that might have meant to you as a kid. Think about how awesome it would have been to have an adult show you that holding on to hope and happiness and joy were possible as long as you believe it is.

“Sometimes it seems as though our disagreements over everything–from politics to business to the designated hitter rule–are more serious and more divisive than ever before. People are making emotional, knee-jerk decisions, then standing by them, sometimes fighting to the death to defend their position. And yet, weʼre optimists.”

That’s the headline for the folks who manage ChangeThis, a project that publishes manifestos. They now have a list of over 60 pages of PDFs whose topics run the gamut: from technological innovation to ending racism with mindfulness to startup revolutions.

This project consists of some of the smartest people in the world laying it all on the line to try to move the needle on progressive ideas. I found it because I searched for The Bootstrapper’s Bible, a book dedicated to – you might have guessed – pulling yourself up from the bootstraps to create a thriving business.

Eventually, I’d like to download all of these. I think they’re that good. Enjoy.

I want to be authentic.

And I don’t think that makes me an amateur; I think it makes me human.

A professional is someone disciplined enough to show up when they don’t want to, while a hack is someone who shows up to give the audience what they want to make themselves successful.

There’s no legacy in pandering.

Most pop and country music will die like disco, and Bob Dylan will live on.

By the way, isn’t it ironic one of the only songs from such a distinct era is “Staying Alive”?

My list of heroes is growing, which means I’m discovering what I’d like to do, who I’d like to be, my individuality.

I’m becoming more disciplined, which means the bridge between that ideal individuality and reality is being built.

But the bridge is being built slowly, brick by brick. Almost just a brick a day.

And the blueprints for the bridge keep changing because the architect (me) keeps learning and growing.

It’s like I’m in school to learn how to build bridges and on the first day they said to make a blueprint and every day in class I have to adjust the blueprint as I learn more about good design standards.

Luckily, there’s a good foundation…

And this process is probably as it should be.

Two steps forward, one step back; two steps forward, one step back; two steps forward, one step back; STOP! Hold on! We had to turn left three steps ago; let’s change directions now.

Or to continue the bridge metaphor, we had to use iron support beams, not steel, deconstruct it.

It’s frustrating.

Truths of my life: 

  • My voice (unique perspective/artistic and societal contribution) will take a long time than I think it will to develop;
  • Life along the way will be confusing, uncertain, and at times seem downright impossible;
  • I probably will never reach my self-expectations because there is always room for improvement;
  • The foreseeable future will certainly involve a not-so-delicate balance between being too hard on myself and setting realistic, gentle goals; and
  • Despite everything, I will have to fight for idealism, faith, hope, and optimism, and this is likely going to involve a face marred by dust and sweat and blood and flawed, complex companions, not an idyllic trip through Oz with guileless, magic creatures.

And all that’s okay.

It’s more than okay, actually.

It’s expected to be as perfect as it should be not because I believe in some kind of predestination or destiny, but because this is the path I’ve chosen.

While others take the path of least resistance, I’ve chosen the one with great resistance, because that’s what leaders do.

Leaders are the ones who make hard decisions because they’re the right decisions.

Leaders are the ones who wake up every day and strive to be the example, despite the burden of high self-expectations, because that’s what the world needs.

The world has enough panderers, enough people who are comfortable appealing to the masses and to their own self-interest, enough folks who want money despite global suffering, enough people who just want good gigs.

The world needs people willing to sacrifice themselves to serve something: what’s good, what’s true, what’s hurting, and what’s vulnerable.

So I guess, yeah, my life is hard, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

I didn’t publish any posts this weekend.

Instead, I chose to immerse myself in moments.

I think I won’t publish from now on between Friday and Sunday.

I need these moments.

Because these moments allow me to immerse myself in myself so that the writing during the weekdays can be better.

They allow me to live a better life.

They allow me to explore.

And discover the things that need changing.

I wanted to write daily, but it’s simply unsustainable with the amount of work I have to do.

For that, I am sorry.

But the writing will be better this way.

And (I think) it’s only for now.




An illustration from Enormous Smallness, a biography about E.E. Cummings, an inspiring hoper

I’m stressed
Overworked and just a mess
I like to practice mental rest
Mindfulness to soothe distress
I’d like to write, read many books, and plan for tests

And plan for papers

And plan for work

And plan for plans so I can practice mental rest

But I’m upset
I’d like to explore and play and swim and joke and snort
And cuddle in a pillow fort

But I’m pressed for time
There’s much to do
Seriousness about hullabaloo

People in charge have decided that funs too fun
And, “Well, there’s a time for that”
It’s set for seven; haven’t you looked?
It’s there within our discipline book

You’re grown now, after all
If you’re to succeed, you must learn to settle with less
What’s all this with creative work, sincerity, and imagination?

Don’t you know the worlds at war?
Our nation’s facing several disgraces
Don’t you know there are czars and greed?
Don’t you know you there are drunks in bars and poverty,
Anxiety, and people in the streets with no food to eat?
Responsibility means you must pursue industry

Adults show up, despite disease
You’ve committed; our society requires you to be
Tired and buttoned-down – to the tee
Speaking of, have you practiced your golf swing?
You’ll need to if you will compete most effectively

Be grateful, it once was worse
Children had to work and didn’t learn
And hours lasted and smoke would burn in city streets

You see: the world is unkind
People lie and care for their lives
They forget they’re kids inside
And choose to hide behind a role that they decide

It’s confusing, I know; I feel it too

And what are we to do?

There’s a secret thing
I’m so happy to share with you:
Don’t listen to those authorities

It’s scary, I know, but success just needs faith and hope

Don’t sacrifice who you are inside
To be a part of something that makes people mope

Hear your heart and help your friends
You might need to plan now and then

But it’s okay to take the time for jokes and snorts and pillow forts

And live your life
Don’t give it up; just keep focus
Practice your passion and commit some time
You might fail but eventually you’ll notice

You’ve built a life you love
And the dreams people told you to believe were true
They were just a bit tough
There’s no right answer
So don’t worry, keep going, and do what’s right for you

Adam Grant in his book Originals relays a lot of useful information. I’m about halfway through the book and already have learned about the relationship between what Internet browser is used and productivity, how to better guarantee your ideas are hits, and the different factors involved with selling a novel idea to an organization.

But my favorite thing I’ve learned is this: Artistic interest drives intellectual accomplishment.

A study that looked at differences in levels of interest in the arts between Nobel Prize-winning scientists from 1901 to 2005 and their scientific peers revealed that the awarded group was dramatically more likely to be involved in the arts than less accomplished scientists. The chart below illustrates this.

Additionally, Grant notes that “a representative study of thousands of Americans showed similar results for entrepreneurs and inventors. People who started businesses and contributed to patent applications were more likely than their peers to have leisure time hobbies that involved drawing, painting, architecture, sculpture, and literature.”

The personality trait that most associated with an interest in the arts is called openness. This is “Openness to Experience, or openness to considering new ideas … [It] describes a person’s tendency to think abstractly. Those who are high in Openness tend to be creative, adventurous, and intellectual. They enjoy playing with ideas and discovering novel experiences. Those who are low in Openness tend to be practical, traditional, and focused on the concrete. They tend to avoid the unknown and follow traditional ways.”

This definition is from Truity, a website that allows you to take a test to measure your level of openness and four other major personality traits. If you’d like to learn about your level of openness, follow this link to take the test.

[Note: Sorry about the late post. My laptop charger isn’t working, and yesterday was busy. We’ll be back on track tomorrow.]