Afraid of repetition

Should we be afraid of repeating ourselves?

Should we be afraid of not innovating, not being the first to uncover or express something…

Should we be afraid of seeming late to a discovery? Of being the last to know? Of appearing…less than a pioneer?

I ask, as I try to find the balance between keeping silent until I have something good to say…and making sure to regularly express myself as a means of discovery and discussion.

Breakdown is the process of building

Sometimes we feel like our life is a staircase…that each step should be building up to something higher and higher.

But the truth is, it’s more like a roller coaster.

There’s times you’re up high, and it’s pretty scary to get all the way up (even if you’re expecting it), and sometimes you have some pretty steep drops. Sometimes you loop back to where you came from and feel a bit disoriented from being turned upside down.

But although all the loops, falls, and rises seem to be chaotic…you’re always moving forward.

And although you don’t always see what’s coming, and you naturally get afraid and excited…you usually only feel real fear when you forget that it’s all on rails, that so many people have ridden this ride and survived it and loved it — not just because they made it to the end, but because of the ride it took them on.

You’re gonna go through periods where you feel like everything is breaking down around you, where all that you’ve known is discarded in exchange for the unknown.

These moments are reminders that it’s time for you to build again. They’re checkpoints for you to realize things have been going too smooth, and if you signed up for this ride called life, it’s time to get ready for a fall or rise or loop…but no matter what comes, get those hands in the air and get excited!

This is the ride.

What does “goodness” mean?

Does it mean good now (even if it might turn bad later?)

Does it mean it feels good, (even if it’s not good for you?)

Does it mean good for me (but not good for you?)
I hit on something this morning that helps me describe what “goodness” is for me, the kind of goodness I truly want:

Not just things that make me happy, but things that make me better, (whether or not I perceive them to be “good” in the moment I receive them).

Too many projects,

not enough projects.

Too much work, not enough work.

Too much excitement, not enough excitement.

It sucks to be in a perpetual state of paradox, but alas…balance is that which we keep trying to pursue (cuz if we got it, then we’d have it).

Operating in Extremes and Your Ideal Self

I generally hate extremes, but it’s come to my attention that my particular brand of personality seems to operate best in circumstances that are extreme.

So, it’s either taking things in very tiny bite-size pieces, or scarfing down multiple plates at a time.

It’s not ideal.

Or rather, it doesn’t match that one ideal that we all keep fooling ourselves into thinking exists. It’s a fairly inconsistent ideal, usually a moving target that tells us we should be exercising more (but then also exercising less), or that we should be reading more books, but then saying to skim for the parts that matter most, or that we should be earning more money, but then also to find fulfilling work even if it doesn’t pay as much…

The one thing that seems to be constant for the enigmatic “ideal” we keep striving for?

That we’ll never achieve it.

If we’re currently doing something that matches it, it seems to intrinsically shift on us in order to honor the fact that the only rule of the ungettable ideal is that it be un-get-able.

I don’t know about you, but chasing something you’ll never reach seems…tiring.

I’m getting off the treadmill of the ideal.

If I’m never getting somewhere, then I’m gonna make it somewhere I’d be proud to always be on my way to.

 

 

Breakdown by Further Self-Discovery

It’s tough learning about yourself.

That’s why most of us avoid it.

We deny people’s assessments, discredit any criticism toward us, and ignore opportunities to dig further into ourselves.

And for those who would just rather not think about it, it’s hard to blame them.

Who wants to break themselves down into bits of knowledge and causes and effects and behaviors and mannerisms and decisions….?

It’s feels much better to feel like one whole.

 

But the thing is, over time, that whole can start to break down anyway.

You can feel “fit,” but after a while of eating slightly wrong things and doing very little to strengthen yourself…the body will break down whether you like it or not. You can rest on the skills or knowledge you’ve gained, but the world will keep inventing things that will slowly render them useless. You can choose someone you love who loves you, but if you depend on feelings from today to last til next week, month, or year with no effort, you’re in for a loss.

So if we break down anyway, what’s the point of taking control of that breakdown? What’s the point of learning about yourself and choosing how to respond respond to that breakdown? Why subject yourself to that process?

Because you can’t build yourself back stronger unless you first break yourself down.

You can fall into the hands of the world, or you can let yourself fall in your own hands…where you have some control and ability and motivation to prop yourself back up.

So, break down by choice, or by force…

…it’s up to you.

 

How Do You Measure A Day?

In mere hours and seconds?

In accomplishments?

In fulfillment?

In cups of coffee? (sorry, had to do it)

So many of our days disappear too quickly.

Don’t let them go by without noticing they did.

Because “whenever each day passes, a part of you has gone.” (Hasan al-Basri)

 

The Posting-to-Practicing Ratio

How much are you posting about it on social media vs. how much are you actually practicing it in your life?

I first thought of this concept in regard to my religious practice, but I realize it can actually apply to any field or pursuit you’re involved in.

You’ll go through certain phases:

1. The “OMG Have You Guys Heard Of This?” Phase

Posting-to-Practicing Ratio:

(Posting) A WHOLE LOT :: (Practicing) just a little bit

This is when you’re just getting into hacky sack or personal development or custom craftmaking, or whatever it is you’re into. You get excited at the prospect of this new world you’re starting to be a member of, and for a while, all you post about is this great new hobby of yours…and yet, you’ve only just started doing it yourself. At this stage, there’s a natural insecurity about the fact that you’re just not that deep into doing it yet, so you compensate by posting a lot about it. It’s natural, but at some point, you have to recognize that you’re in this phase, and you need to start moving on to the next one.

2. The “Look At Me, I’m Doing It!” Phase

Posting-to-Practicing Ratio:

(Posting) Moderately :: (Practicing) Moderately

This is when you’ve started putting in some work. You’re deeper into this now, which means you’ve taken a break from reading all the blog posts and Pinterest quotes and you’ve gone and started putting some of it into practice. This is the phase where instead of posting what others have said about this, you can add some of your own thoughts or post about your own learning or journey. This is when you start moving from being a consumer to a contributor. Many can get stuck in this phase, but it’s not a bad place to live in. You ontinually grow and learn without seeming too obsessed about it. If you do continue to grow, though, you might just graduate to the final phase.

3. The “It’s No Big Deal” Phase

Posting-to-Practicing Ratio:

(Posting) just a little :: (Practicing) A WHOLE LOT

Here’s where the serious students live. When you start getting really good at or deeply involved in something, you tend to not need to talk about it all that much. The satisfaction is no longer in just talking about it, because you’ve started to reap some real rewards just from the doing of it. Fluffy talk has now become fulfilling work. And honestly, “look, it’s no big deal.” 

“So I restore classic cars on the weekends and raise their value up thousands of dollars, it’s no big deal…”

“So I can now deadlift double my body weight and then some, it’s no big deal…”

“So I’ve been blogging every day for a year, it’s no big deal…”

(That last one is aspirational for myself, of course.)

The main thing to note about this phase is that when someone has to say “it’s no big deal,” that often guarantees that YES, it’s a pretty big deal.

Now, this is a phase that many don’t realize they want…until they reach it. We think satisfaction comes from vicariously living through others who are better than us (Phase 1), but then we put in some work and start to gain momentum and believe in ourselves a bit (Phase 2), but then, the work transforms into its own reward (Phase 3), and suddenly, I don’t feel the urge to post about it anymore. I don’t feel the urge to pick up the phone and take a picture of this amazing meal I pulled off…instead, I’d be content with just serving it to my loved ones and devouring it in their company. I don’t need to show off this killer outfit I just put together…looking at myself in the mirror and walking down the street, confident in my style, is enough for me. And yes, I’m giving quite a few more examples for this stage because this phenomenon can be applied to so many things, and I want to emphasize that this phase is about quelling “the need to post.” It’s a beautiful phase to be in, because it means you’ve dived past the surface (where most people live), and gone deeper, to the point where you no longer need a crowd to cheer you on. You’re self-actualized…and funnily enough, because we’re all internally seeking this stage and admire those who reach it, you actually get the biggest audience and following once you’ve reached this phase (and how funny it is to finally have an audience now that you don’t much care for one.)

Of course, there is an even further bonus phase that you could reach if you really wanted to:

4. The “Why Would I Post It? This Is Just Me” Phase

Posting-to-Practicing Ratio:

(Posting) nothing :: (Practicing) everything.

(Otherwise known as: living.)

This is when you adopt the mindset of your grandparents. Your grandparents are epic, but at the same time, they did incredibly difficult things (like immigrate to a country where they knew absolutely no one, or manage a farm full of animals since they were kids, or traveled the world, on a boat)…and guess what? They don’t even know what “social media” is (or they don’t much care for it).

This is when you’re content to live your life, practice your craft (or religion or skill) quietly.

And maybe, just maybe, you think to yourself: “This would be a good story to tell my grandkids.”

🙂

~~~

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Chase Your Fear

Don’t let it chase you.

Fear is good. Fear shows you where you need to go next.

You can only grow more confident by facing that which you’re not too confident about…and whether your succeed or not is immaterial. Simply moving toward the fear starts to unravel it.

Enjoy it for a minute, then move on to the next thing that scares you.

How Much Is Growth Worth?

Is it worth your time?

Is it worth your attention?

Is it worth your investment?

How much do you value your continued growth?

I’ll tell you what. At least in my estimation, almost any amount it takes to keep growing…is usually far less than the cost of staying the same.

Dear Friend

I know it’s been a few days. Call it a vacation, or, more rightly, a momentary lapse in judgement.

Whatever it be, I’m back, and I hope to keep it that way.

Creativity Doesn’t Come From Chaossss. It’s Actually Quite Boring.

I love the Joker as much as the next guy, but I’m sorry, being an “agent of chaos” doesn’t lead to creative output.

Too often we think that creativity or artistry has to come from some sort of chaotic freedom, you have to be unshackled by the norms and disciplines that the “rest of us” abide by.

We think that the creatives are these weird souls that need to operate in some twilight zone that’s neither understandable nor quantifiable.

I get it. Creativity is hard, and it’s easier to say it must be some “random” gift from above that only applies to the weirdos and artistic-types.

Easier, that is, than actually doing the work of being creative.

What is the work of being creative?

It’s surprisingly like every other kind of work: You set goals, boundaries, and deadlines. You show up, every day. You take breaks when you need to. You spend time researching and saturating yourself in your field.

Yes, your output won’t be as consistent and easily made as a McDonald’s happy meal.

But that doesn’t mean good creative work is some miracle, a lightning bolt, a shooting star, a rare comet that only shows up once a millennium.

You CAN have a creative career. You CAN produce creative material regularly. You CAN be a consistent creator.

How to be a consistent creator?

Consistently create.

Don’t wait for inspiration.

Let me be the quadrillionth person to say it: Write every day.

Create every day. Make whatever it is you make, every day.

And now, to conclude, here’s a series of other people’s statements that have guided me in my own creative journey over the years:

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”

— William Faulkner (or did he?)

“80 percent of success is showing up.”

– Woody Allen (or did he?)

If you’re writing for two hours a day at a certain time, your brain will start to adapt and show up at that time, almost like muscle memory.

– From my notes on a webinar by Sameer Gardezi on Perfecting the Craft of screenwriting.

“Don’t get it right, just get it written.”

– James Thurber

“Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it.”

– Seth Godin, the inspiration for this blog, read more about why he thinks this is a good idea – it’s a treasure trove of insight.

 

 

Wedding Celebrations

I helped to film two weddings this weekend, which got me thinking a little about how I used to view weddings when I first started filming them, compared to now.

Weddings are a celebration of love, I used to think.

What do I think now?

Weddings are a celebration of love…followed by a lifetime of discovering that love is not itself always a celebration. It is patience, it is empathy, it is tolerance, it is sticking around despite the parts that don’t feel like the wedding day anymore.

To the happy couple(s) all ’round.

May you learn to be happy with the fact that it’s not always going to be happy…and May that person by your side make you happy enough to endure the parts that won’t be so happy.

Clarity from Confusion

It’s funny how muddled and unclear things can become in such a short time.

You move along your path, but as you move forward, it’s easy to take a detour, or to forget where you were going, or somehow just get lost on the way there.

But the beauty of confusion is that you can only arrive to clarity from confusion, and arriving to clarity is one of the best feelings in the world.

But the pleasure of that solution wouldn’t exist without the pain of the problem.

Remember both sides of the coin as you march forward in your journeys.

Faith fluctuates.

اَلْإِيْمَانُ يَزِيْدُ وَيَنْقُصُّ

Faith increases and decreases.

It’s normal.

Don’t get too comfortable. 

Just like it takes faith to keep you working, it takes work to keep your faith.

The Most Successful Choice I Kept Making…

…was to keep making choices, despite the failures.

Above (and below) is a picture of two draft versions of my poetry book that you’ll never see (and I couldn’t find the first draft called “Music To My Ears” with an even more egregious cover design).

Chain link fences and bacteria are great book cover designs, though.

It wasn’t just that I designed, laid out, and bought some revision copies of a book, trying to self-publish it like my older brother did with his, it’s that I wrote dozens and dozens of poems over my pre-teen years, and chose around 75 to put in this book…why?

Because when you’re a kid, you do cool stuff and you don’t ask why. You produce a huge volume of content, and hey, maybe you get better, or maybe you learn along the way (even if the lesson is, “you probably shouldn’t publish a poetry book when you’re 12”).

When you’re a kid, you don’t try to figure out the ROI and product market fit of some project before you allocate resources toward it — you just try it.

This is what’s molded me into what I am today, and what I’m continually becoming: The willingness to keep trying new things.

I’m getting closer to building a life where I get to do what I want and doing it very well…but boy did it take a lot of trial and error to get to where I am.

So, what are you waiting for? Try it. Whatever it is. Try it.

You risk more by doing nothing.

I’m not my 12-year-old self anymore, but boy do I admire that kid for doing cool stuff way more often and with way less hesitation than I do now. We often think about what we would tell our younger selves, but not as much about what we probably need to hear from our younger selves.


I guess I’d give my older self “Some Advice.” In 3 parts. God, what was I thinking?

The Shift Is Mental

And it only takes one simple turn — choose something that you’ve unconsciously been believing about yourself, and then tell us the reasons why it’s dead wrong.

Change isn’t about changing who you are — it’s about seeing yourself for more of who you really are (and taking back control of your own definition).

So tell us why the way the world’s defined you is dead wrong — and then lean in to the person you really are.

Big Swings and Big Misses

I know how to talk authoritatively.

But I also know when what I’ve talked authoritatively about, turns out to be something completely wrong, or something I later disagree with, or something that’s been disproven now.

I recognize the mistakes I’m going to make.

The only alternative is to never risk making a mistake, to always come half-hearted, never fully committing. And that’s just not me…because growth is life and that looks like death to me.

But although I recognize that my Big Swings will result in a lot of Big Misses, that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, or be embarrassing, or something I might regret.

We all regret what didn’t end up working out, but we can’t have the things that worked out if we didn’t try something.

Someone I’ve followed for a while now, Ramit Sethi, adopts the mindset that after you’ve made a mistake, you say: “It’s not a failure, it’s a test.”

When you look back you don’t see that you tried something and it failed, you see that you tested something and it failed so now all there is left to do is to test the next thing.

I’m trying to adopt that mindset, but man, it does require a lot of maturity, and the real key is that you have to learn from the test.