“Don’t carry anything into the new year”

How is this for a pre-New Year’s resolution? Bri, The Angel Guy has made this his mission: 

“Don’t carry anything into the new year.”

He’s busy eliminating emails that have been junking up his inbox, offloading books that no longer fit his bookshelves, eliminating ideas and processes that haven’t been working for him.

It’s decluttering the old year before embarking upon the new one.

This way he eases into the new year fresh and sparkly and clean. He’s free! He’s free of burdens. What does that mean? It means he can pour his considerable creative energy into his projects for the coming year.

I especially admire how he’s sifting through ideas that haven’t served him well. The same with people. He’s foregoing what has acted as a drag — so he can free up space for what will boost his momentum.

Many will wait until New Year’s to start anew. They will gorge themselves silly and drag their bloated bodies into the new year, expecting change there. Others will leave the hard work till January, cleaning up, casting out, casting off — and find themselves bogged down by what was. 

Not Brian, he’ll be off and away . . .

You’re off to Great Places! 

Today is your day! 

Your mountain is waiting, 

So . . . get on your way! 

~ Dr. Seuss

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Where all creating begins

“If you can embrace not knowing, that’s when amazing things happen.”

~ Rose Umerlik

Rose is an artist. She was speaking of that point where you’ve internalized your craft to the best of your ability . . . and then you simply have to dive in and go past that. 

Those who create wonders have to wade out way past the area of firm footing . . . and then push off.

There are ways to push off into unknown waters while keeping a tether to things familiar. Those who create a side biz while holding onto a firm paycheck know this. 

As a gallery owner, I’m approached all the time by people who’ve skipped the first step — learning your craft so well that it is a part of you — yet they’ve leapt into the unknown. They don’t understand their lack of success.

If you find yourself flailing, go back to where all creation begins. Asking questions. 

When something is missing, questioning is the most direct route to its location.

Questioning is the most powerful method available to lead you beyond what you know.

Questions evoke responses, from your own brain and beyond. It is uncanny how questions you can’t answer yourself will be answered through another source . . . . But you must ask the questions to summon what you need.

Ask them. Ask pertinent inspired questions. Ask them of others. Ask them of yourself. Ask them mercilessly until you find answers pouring forth.

From the What creators do series.

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Dilbert creator Scott Adams on one of the most fascinating things he’s ever witnessed

Confiscated from . . . 

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life
by Scott Adams

This event took place during a class on public speaking:

On day one our instructor explained the Dale Carnegie method he would be employing. Rule one was that no one would ever be criticized or corrected. Only positive reinforcement would be allowed, from the instructor or from the other students. I was immediately skeptical. How was I supposed to learn if I didn’t know what I was doing wrong? 

. . . . .  On day one we sat like frightened squirrels, hoping someone would go first . . . . Eventually someone volunteered, and then another. Our speaking assignment was something simple. I think we simply had to say something about ourselves.  

For most people, including me, this was a relatively easy task. But for many in the class it was nearly impossible. 

One young lady who had been forced by her employer to take the class was so frightened that she literally couldn’t form words. In the cool, air-conditioned room, beads of sweat ran from her forehead down to her chin and dropped onto the carpet. 

The audience watched in shared pain as she battled her own demons and tried to form words. A few words came out, just barely, and she returned to her seat defeated, humiliated, broken. 

Then an interesting thing happened. I rank it as one of the most fascinating things I have ever witnessed. The instructor went to the front and looked at the broken student. The room was dead silent. I’ll always remember his words.  

He said, “Wow. That was brave.” 

My brain spun in my head. Twenty-some students had been thinking this woman had just crashed and burned in the most dramatically humiliating way. She had clearly thought the same thing. In four words, the instructor had completely reinterpreted the situation. 

Every one of us knew the instructor was right. We had just witnessed an extraordinary act of personal bravery, the likes of which one rarely sees. That was the takeaway. Period. 

I looked at the student’s face as she reacted to the instructor’s comment. She had been alone in her misery, fighting a losing fight. But somehow the instructor understood what was happening inside her and he respected it. I swear I saw a light come on in her eyes.

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Celebrating: Coincidences that matter

First, this from Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed*:

One time I was hiking up a mountain in New Mexico. It was March, the trail still covered with snow in places. There was no one around but me for hours until I came upon two people a man and a woman who had just come upon each other. We were three strangers who met on a mountain in New Mexico. We got to talking and somehow within the first five minutes of knowing each other we figured out that we all had the same birthday, and not only that, we were born in three consecutive years. As we were talking, three feathers blew up to us on the snow. We picked them up.

Reading this summoned a memory. A week before I was to turn 19 I drove up to Cape Cod to find a job for the summer. A Florida boy, I didn’t know anyone up there. All I had was a contact from my Dad — a woman I hadn’t met, who’d stopped by his tire store for work on her car. She worked baking cakes and pies in a restaurant in West Harwich during the summer. 

I arrived . . . and in that week met three women who shared my birthday . . . (I know what you’re thinking — so was I!) . . . Three of the four of us got together for a mutual far-from-home birthday celebration. It was a sweet quiet affair, there we were, lone individuals who’d inexplicably found each other in time for an unlonely birthday.

. . . . . . . 
* Cheryl Strayed is also the author of the best, most soul searing book I read in 2013: Wild (from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail).

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I believe in science and I believe in magical thinking

I believe in science and I believe in possibility. What I mean by this is that I believe in science and I believe in so much more than science. Possibility encompasses what is known and unknown. It’s always been this way.

I love the scientific method for its questioning, for its corralling of human innovation and exploration into repeatable patterns. Patterns that we can use to our massive benefit.

But you know what is also true? Science lags reality. Big time. Science is only what we know today. Or our best guess at what we know today.

Our scientific knowledge has been incomplete — and often harmfully wrong — in every era before ours. To think that in our era science has answered all the big questions . . . or that today’s theories will stand forever . . . is to believe that we stand at the ultimate heights of understanding.

That’s vanity without any historical proof.

Is it radical to think that the science of our times might be upended by new discoveries in a thousand years — or a million? As the scientific paradigm of the 17th century has been by subsequent centuries of exploration? Hardly.

Some think that your thoughts cannot possibly influence what comes into your experience. Thankfully millions call bullshit on this and visualize anyway. They pray and affirm anyway. They expressify their inner spirit anyway. To great result.

Skeptics say you are thinking magically when you imagine that how you feel as you envision a better result can draw others to you who will speed you toward that result. Others you’ve never met.

Two generations ago it was considered magical thinking to suggest your thoughts could influence your own body. Now that once preposterous idea — scientifically, never spiritually — is so widely accepted that visualization is now simply what you must do if you are serious as an athlete. Or a corporate chieftain or an entrepreneur. Or ill with a disease. Or you with a dream.

One thing we know for sure is there is more! There is more more more to our universe, to our selves, to our understanding. It is living in this space that is possibility living.

That’s where I live. Loving what science has brought us — knowing there is more, so much more.


Part of the What creators do series.
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A surprising insight about limitation from Twyla Tharp

Excerpted from The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp:

. . . I broke my ankle working on the Milos Forman film of Hair. It was the first time in my life that I had lost my mobility, the first time that I would have to create dance in some manner other than on my body. It was the first time that I wouldn’t be able to show the dancers what I wanted but rather would have to tell them.  

That’s a huge difference for a choreographer. I managed to get through it; for eight weeks I went into the studio and forced myself to visualize what I wanted and then translate it into language that the dancers would understand. 

I didn’t enjoy it, but I discovered two new skills: One, I could verbalize my ideas better than I’d thought I could. Two, I had a talent for refusing to be defeated by reality. 

In this regard, my heroes are those who’ve prevailed over far greater losses than I’ve ever had to face. 

Henri Matisse was bedridden in his home in the south of France with only the use of his arms and imagination in his final years. But he wasn’t going to stop working. His mind wouldn’t rest. So he came up with a new way of working: paper cutouts. These exquisitely pure creations, out of the most childlike material, are some of my favorite works by Matisse. They are the essence of his art. I doubt he would have ever made them if some of his other skills had not been taken away. 

Alicia Alonzo, the great Cuban dancer, was blind for much of her career, but she still performed well into her seventies (the age is just as remarkable as the lack of sight). She could always tell where she was onstage by feeling the heat from the stage lights. 

The giant in this category of course is Beethoven, who composed many of his greatest works after he lost his hearing. Freed from the distractions of the new, he reconnected with the ideas and themes that had moved him in his youth, to mine the richness of his classical heritage. We can take great inspiration from this.

This is part of the What creators do series, where I look to people who are creating something meaningful in the world  and pass their insights on to you.

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Check out what’s fourth on our ten-year old’s Christmas list — (or) — It takes care of itself when you are playful about it

He’s never made a Christmas list before that I’m aware of. Occasionally, because he sees me doing it, he’ll make a list of things he wants to do over the weekend. 

[When we make lists together about what needs to be done we make sure to throw in the essentials, you know something insanely enjoyable, like Run around the house screaming! — or Wrestle with Bodhi! (our German Shepherd) — or Throw Daddy in the pool! . . . Everything goes better after that.]

When I saw item number four on his list, I thought, this next generation’s going to be OK. Better than that — they’re going to shine.

Because it’s not just Zane. They’re all like this. These young spawn of humanity are all seeking to maximize everyone’s experience. 

Have you seen the laughter and sharing going on? The inventiveness?!

If not, sit down at a playground and treat yourself to an affirmation of what is playful and good. All we have to do — as adults — is not extinguish this impulse. 

What I’ve found out about kids is true of me as an adult. The best way to flourish — be it about homework or my work — is to make it meaningful and playful. Then energy spills in that direction. Energy leaps and bolts in that direction. You can’t contain it, the work takes care of itself. The work takes care of itself when you are playful about it.

. . . . . 

(The last item on his list presumably is because we live in South Florida.) (Nyah nyah.) (For now. You can nyah nyah me in August.)

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Shabat is coming: What the rabbi said

Maybe you’ve heard this story.

A man overwhelmed by a spike in his workload sought out his rabbi. He didn’t know what to do. His spirits were sagging. He was hoping for some kind of solace, some kind of insight from his spiritual mentor.

“Work harder,” the rabbi said. 

I imagine the conversation in this context, in the context of a Jew who observes shabat. 

Shabat is a day of rest and renewal. A day of connection, with family and friends and your Source. 

Jews invented the weekend, as far as I can tell. By codifying a day where no work could be done. As we know from modern-day work studies, those who work the most lose their effectiveness. Those who take breaks gain in efficiencies and energy.

I Imagine the rabbi’s advice in this context. Dive in. Do the work! 

Then do the shabat. (!) 

If you know your rest is coming, if you know your connection time is coming, you can even relish the work. And in the relishing prodigious energies are unleashed, shortcuts are discovered. And at the end of the week there is the sweet respite of shabat. Take it.

Part of the What creators do series.

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It’s a good day to live

Artwork by David Langley

Do you recall that phrase Crazy Horse, leader of the Sioux, shouted when heading into battle? It’s a good day to die!

In our times, an inversion of that sentiment is in order. 

It’s a good day to live. 

It’s a good thing to remind ourselves as we gird up for the modern day. So very little of it, if any, is life or death. There are so many spaces to live la vida luminous, even in a busy day. 

There are the smiles you smile to strangers, the letting in of some frenzied driver into your lane, the moment you can take to connect with someone — to laugh, to listen, to share a little something, even if it’s what you saw on Modern Family

You’ve got spaces in your day for playfulness, banter and camaraderie. You’ve got places you’re going where bringing your upbeating heart will leave some kind of sublime pixie dust in your wake. 

There are so many momentitos where you can let your inner shine peep through.

It is a good day to live. Declaring it helps make it so —

Declare it a-toileting, in the shower, in your car. Declare it as you set off into your day:

It’s a good day to live ———————

Then go live it.

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19 (mostly silly) questions to get your creativity on

1. OK — your butt suddenly has the ability to ink stamp a few words on a seat whenever you sit down — what would they be?

2. What was the last silly thing you did?

3. If you could be any cartoon character, who would you be and why?

4. Let’s say you could have an odd superpower — what would it be and why?

5. You’ve got 30 seconds to tell me your dream — what is it?

6. Are you a balloon, a key or a rock — and why?

7. If your middle name had to describe you, what would it be?

8. Who touched your heart recently and how?

9. What is cool about you?

10. I would never _____________

11. What’s a crazy thing that you believe?

12. If you could slip into an alternate life what would it look like?

13. Let’s say you could super stretch your arms to go as far as you want — what would you use them for?

14. Give me 10 unconventional uses for a glass.

15. You can change one thing about the world, what would it be?

16. You are the Prince or Princess of ____________

17. You can do one thing for one other person — what would you do for whom?

18. Let’s say you could have a Native American name — like Johnny Night Hawk — what would it be? (Say it after your first name . . . .)

19. You’ve got 30 seconds to say what is good about the world — go!

Part of the What creators do series. (Cuz, you know, they ask questions without set answers.)

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