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Some “artists” get material success at the moment, but they don’t have any staying power because they aren’t following the truth that’s in their hearts. They’re just trying to appeal to whatever’s popular. Today, I think this is seen as mumble rap artists. Early examples might include those that were caught up in the skinny jean era of the late 2000s like New Boyz (I’m sorry these are all hip hop examples. It’s the genre I have tended to enjoy most.)

Robert McKee says these artists are by definition hacks.

Steven Pressfield quotes McKee in his book The War of Art. Here’s how he puts it:

When the hack sits down to work, he doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for. 

I love this. It makes me think of so many artists. So many folks just want to blow up and then act like they don’t know nobody. They want to just make it big, have tons of fans, tons of money, and fame. But in my opinion, if it’s not from the heart, it’s not worth doing. It’s not worth doing because when you look back on your career you’re going to see that you did nothing of substance. You didn’t live for anything you believed in. That is, of course, if you reflect on your choice.

You can rationalize it, but it’s true – you sold out for popularity.

There are notable contradictory arguments to the position that you shouldn’t just write from the heart. Seth Godin says that authenticity is useless, and what really matters is being useful. R.L. Stein says, “Write from your heart; write from your heart; only write what you know and write from your heart.” I hate that because it’s useless. I’ve written over 300 books – not one of them was from my heart. Not one.” This is from Sean Platt’s book 365 Things I Learned The Hard Way. And you could say that to some degree you have to do what people want if you want to make a living.

I get it. But there’s a difference between making a living and blowing up. According to Kevin Kelly, you only need 1,000 fans to survive.

Here’s a question I encourage you to ask yourself: how many great artists do you think that we would have if everyone just did what was popular during the time that they were alive? Here’s another one: how many artists didn’t get famous until after they died. Here’s the answer: a lot. I know it’s a lot. For example, Henry David Thoreau. If Thoreau had cared about what was popular, he might not have ever written civil disobedience – the text that inspired BOTH Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

You have to listen to your inner voice, follow your internal compass, and move toward where you feel resonants.  Seriously, don’t worry about being popular. It’s overrated.

Check out this video by Robert Mckee for more inspiration.

 

 

This post helped me write this article.

There is a maxim which states that “the quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you pose.” Thus, it can be inferred that should we strive for a great life we must contemporaneously strive to arrive at great questions. But how to go about this?

A close examination of history reveals that there have been ignorance, distasteful popular opinion, and a general inclination toward vice among the masses. Standing apart have been a relatively small collective of reflective and dedicated men and women, committed to seeing wisdom prevail, committed to asking great questions.

They found their questions and contributed greatly to life by reading literature that provoked insight, i.e. classical Greek, Latin, and Roman literature. Examples of great writers include Plato, Xenophon, Plutarch, Hume, Aristotle, Cicero, and Shakespeare.

 

I have made a couple of big decisions in my life recently.

I am done with social media except managing it for the organizations I serve, and I’ve also quit listening to podcasts and eating meat.

Social media became too much of a means for unhealthy social comparison, it’s a negative influence culturally, and it is a waste of time. In the time I spent scrolling through Reddit at lunch I will now read a page or three of a book.

After discovering This is Broken I now have a lot of really great books to read, which probably will offer more transformative narratives than podcasts. I likely will go back to some favorites if I am really craving them like InvisibiliaAkimbo, and Hidden Brain. My focus certainly will be books, though.

And I believe not consuming meat is a more healthy and ethical choice.

Finding and growing good habits is challenging. Other habits I’m striving to incorporate are running a mile a day and 15 to 25 minutes of yoga, daily moisturizer, appropriate application of sunscreen, brushing my teeth with my non-dominant hand, wearing sunglasses, and making my bed and cleaning my room every day.

Eventually, I’d like to incorporate nightly journaling, meditation, and when I get time, fiction writing.

Most people are average, don’t be.

That is some of the most biting and wise advice I’ve ever received. But, it doesn’t answer the natural follow-up: okay, sure, but how do you not be average?

Tom Peters in his book The Pursuit of Wow offers a wide array of insights. So many, in fact, it can feel like he’s just throwing out all he’s got so hopefully something sticks – and most of it is sticky.

How to not be average 101 (AKA 3 steps to turning pro):

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare… prepare. The pros put in as much as one hour of preparation for every minute of their meetings. How are you going to compete with the person who’s already analyzed the budget five times and can demonstrate on the day of the interview multiple avenues for cost-saving?
  2. Send a handwritten thank-you letter.
  3. Show up. It doesn’t matter how you feel. Show up. Show up to do your work. Show up to introduce yourself. Drive 100 miles for a ten-minute meeting. Show up.

 

I recently got an Instagram. I think it’s a fun way to promote ideas, people, and stuff I care about like libraries and comic books. But since joining I’ve noticed something interesting. Namely, it reveals things about people I didn’t realize.

It shows me that people I know like pictures of scantily-clad women. It’s surprising, but perhaps shouldn’t be. I mean it’s normal, I guess, right? And I suppose it could be much worse.

About two months ago, I watched this movie on Netflix called The American Meme. It showed how there is a subculture in America (presumably youth culture) that loves to watch people just act like idiots.

It’s like total Epicureanism – the worship of mental pleasure; ultimate indulgence in absurdist vice, hedonism.

I’m not sure if society has always been plagued by such debauchery or craving to witness irrational, thoughtless activities. Surely, we’ve been racist, sexist, greedy, and selfish for a long time.

However, I think today it’s evolved into something much more extreme, which has been perpetuated by media.

There are so many movies that glorify sex or objectivism, alcoholism, and drug abuse. What’s more, the celebrities in these films have become staples of cultural paradigms thanks to a rise in magazines like People and J-14. I don’t know the answers to these issues, nor do I have them widely explored.

I’m bringing them up because I think it’s important to have an open dialogue about where we’re moving as a society. This conversation at this point might be trite. Think about how many people were up in arms about the rise of rock n’ roll, MTV, hip hop, and Eminem’s mainstream success. The list could go for hours. Though it’s continually necessary to think about whether we’re creating fertile ground for the healthy, thriving development of our children.

These thoughts have led me to start thinking about cultural theorists such as Karl Popper and Theodor Adorno, as well as concepts related to post-consumerism and post-materialism. Hopefully, I’ll get time to read these in the next 3 to 5 years. Meanwhile, I am just striving to get my daily actions in order by reading books like Good to Great and The War of Art.

You can’t change the world until your own motivations are right.

You think you know better, but you don’t. If you were really smart, you would know that every person has something worthwhile to teach you and that there is so much left to learn.

You look down upon those with less culture, propriety, or education, and in so doing reveal your ugly shallowness. The only thing that matters in this life is your character. The work you do in this world must be for good. If it is not, you have lived a selfish, and therefore, poor life.

You are not unique. Most people want distinction and to see themselves on a cultural pedestal. It’s called superiority or illusory bias.

Again, like most, you believe you possess something of higher intrinsic value than others. You just won the birthplace lottery and have a little more knowledge to back it up. But knowledge isn’t the absolute truth you have the same claim to as all of us, and facts are useless if they are not actionable.

If you read more good books, listened to more perspectives, and/or really got to know the people you looked down on, your lack of virtue would be mirrored back to you – your materialism and vanity.

It’s easy to embrace pride. It’s hard to practice vulnerability and accept the fact that you really have no idea what you are doing, but if you tried, it’s possible you could do really great things for the world.

However, you’re settled on petty. You have all the answers, right? You boldly hold the ultimate honor of standard-bearer because of your privilege.

I’m sorry, but you’re sick. Take a hard look at yourself because we’re all in this together, and your ego is harming others.

Love your neighbor, accept and include your peers, and try to do the right thing.