Laura Vanderkam’s stripped-down, highly-useful definition of work

You know how some people use a mildly profane word to substitute for actual thinking?

For example: 

When someone uses crap (or shit or fucked upwhen they mean, alternately, the annoyances in their day, the mess in their home, how their body feels, what their coffee tastes like, what they think about political discourse, a friend’s appearance, the excesses of digital connection, the degree of imbecility they have to put up with from co-workers or the public or service personnel….

Words matter. Definitions matter. Sloppy thinkers lead sloppy lives mired in slop. 

<pausing a moment to let that outburst pass>

Effective thinking hacks like a machete at the unnecessary.

Do you want a definition of work that will clear your day of trivia? 

Here you go.

Laura Vanderkam defines work as activities that advance you toward the career and lifestyle you want.


Otherwise it’s not really work.

It’s clarifying, isn’t it, to have a concise definition of what constitutes real work for you. I know for me it does. Asking this question of myself eliminates emails I needn’t write, phone calls I needn’t make, energy I needn’t expend.

Even better, I can eliminate paths I don’t need to trod . . . because they’re not taking me in the direction of my career and lifestyle goals.

For an entrepreneur and a creative, it’s a thicket out there. Every idea seems like a good one. Every invitation is a potential connection . . . or story . . . or insight . . . or breakthrough.

Whatever helps us whack away the weeds is good. Maybe Vanderkam’s decluttered definition of work will be a good tool for you too.

Here it is again . . . yeah, I know this is all digital . . . you can scroll back up and take in its breathtaking simplicity with the flick of a finger . . . but I’m going to save you that effort so you can apply that energy to something enjoyable . . . that dream lifestyle you’re creating . . . without further ado, ladies and gentlemen . . . Laura Vanderkam’s definition of work, one more time:

Activities that advance you toward the career and lifestyle you want.

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, connection and whee! Once a month, maybe, if you’re lucky.


Praying to die

Today I’m sharing a young African-American woman’s story of coming through the abyss. Or as she puts it better, coming through pain and emptiness.

I keep hearing this refrain: that social media is a wasteland. That people only present idealized versions of themselves. That real connection is illusory.

Though I’m not long into my social media experience — I use Google Plus — repeatedly I’ve discovered the opposite to be true.

People share crushing moments. People share awkwardness. People share galvanizing moments. People on social media will share their vulnerabilities and their triumphs if you are open enough to share yours.

If you’re not, then you can still content yourself with scads of cute cat memes. And pretty pictures accompanied by the best thought bubbles the world has to offer.

I’m going to get out of the way here and let Ms. +MzIng tell it like it is. 

First, in her own words, here’s why we’re not using her real name at this point:

You can share my story and use my Google+ pseudonym as I prefer not to reveal my true identity to the public. As things currently stand, there are many in my everyday life who would not understand my “awakening.” I am not prepared to deal with the fallout from that revelation at this time. 

Second, though Ms. +MzIng claims to be no writer, I’m continually touched by her. To the point of having to dab my eyes! Mostly out of elation for her turnaround . . . but also out of sympathy for her journey.

Here is an example of her humility and spunk, from her email after I asked if I could share a portion of her story:

How honored I am by your request to share my story! I have often thought about sharing a success story with the world. I thought I had nothing to share, just yet. I wanted to share not because of how amazing I think it is, but how common place. 

I feel no different than anyone who’s been knocked down by life, yet somehow managed to get back up…stronger than before. I’ve wanted to inspire others who’ve felt like nothing, that it’s possible to increase self-worth.

Like so many who come through the fire, what she wants most is to reassure others that they too can make it through. 

Here’s Ms. +MzIng, moving from praying to die to an emoticon wink at the end of her story: 

I know you’ve been there too, so you understand that it’s grow or die. I know I can be dramatic, but I believe that those are the only 2 choices available to you when you face the dark night of the soul. 

And I did feel like dying many times while in that place. I prayed for it, wished it, spoke it, but for some reason I was still here. And it wasn’t that I loved life so much (then) but I couldn’t bring myself to do it on my own. And one day I read something on a forum that changed my perspective completely.

For some time I had been reading that the “dark night of the soul” was to bring you to “yourself.” I understood the need, but couldn’t figure out the why or how. All I could see was the pain I was living and the emptiness that preceded it.  

Until someone just clearly stated that even if you don’t love yourself, just tell yourself as often as possible throughout the day how in love with you you are.  

I had nothing to lose at this point, so for 3 days I did so religiously. 

In the beginning I was lying to myself and I knew that. But it may have been on day 4, I woke up with the realization that I was in love with myself. Everything was different at that point. I also had a sense of who I am. That sense of self isn’t fleshed out at this point in time, but I know it is on a soul level. 

I also now know my worth. I have value if only to myself. I know what I deserve and what I will no longer allow in my life. 

I know, too, that I want others to achieve this self-love if they haven’t already arrived for all the reasons that kept me from this place. 

I have to be grateful for the pain, and how it came into my life. I have to be grateful to the one who gifted me with it. I know it was not intentional, but circumstantial. It served its purpose for me. Look at me now! ;-)

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for (occasional) notes at the intersection of creativity and spirit. Once a month, maybe.


The higher math we don’t yet understand

Universal, unconditional love is higher math we don’t yet understand. What I mean is this: One day we will empirically be able to show how pure attentive love-joy changes reality.

And what I mean by that is future instrumentation will gauge the intensity of the love force emanating from someone. Or from a field, say of peace agents sent into a domestic abuse turned hostage situation. 

We’ll be able to measure the love and peace vibe undulating outward from peace practitioners. And we’ll know how much of this as-yet-unmeasurable energy it will take to pacify the situation without further violence.

It’s coming. It’s coming. We simply don’t know yet our own powers for radical positive change. 

(But we’re learning.)

The higher math of pure sweet blissed-to-the-max uber-love is coming to our species.

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, connection and whee! Once a month, maybe, if you’re lucky.


Clarity, a love story

Much of today’s angst comes from one thing. Actually, it springs from too many damn things . . . but it’s genesis can be summed up in a phrase:

lack of clarity

Here’s an example from my own little life. If you were trailing this blog this summer you know we embarked on an epic art road trek. Covering more than 30 states. If you count the ones we were in twice, it was closer to 40.

It was a work vacation with my wife and son . . . and for two crazy intimate weeks, my Mom tagged along. We’d not had the chance to do this all together before, so it was electric. Except when it wasn’t.

Early in the trip some kind of free-floating dissatisfaction snuck into my experience. It was an unspecified unease, increasing the longer into the day I went, no matter what I was engaged in. 

In a quiet moment its source leapt out at me. I was anxious about the creative time I wasn’t getting in. There simply wasn’t enough time for the art travel and family fun and taking on a new writing project. It was gnawing at me.

When I clarified to myself that the trip was about family and our art biz — first and second — the tension dropped away. I’d just finished writing a bookito before we left; there was no need to weight the trip down with another small book project.

It was easy to prioritize once I thought out my real priorities. 

I still managed to get creative time in. But I was clear it was of lesser importance for the duration of the trip. So though creative time decreased dramatically, a bliss wave of satisfaction swept through the days. 

Clarity will do that for you.

Lack of clarity is the source of most of my tension. When I take the time to get clear on what is most important — and flow with that — frustration melts away.

Clarity, this is a prose piece to you. I honor you, baby! Every time I neglect you my body bloats with dread. It’s always a gnarly, dissatisfied feeling, seemingly oozing up from nowhere. 

Getting clear lightens a heavy load.

Clarity will do that for you.

If lack of clarity is tangled bed head, then clarity is the quickest-acting detangler known to humankind.

Clarity, I love you so.

Unlike most of my loves, I, uh, forget about you often. But, Clarity, when we reconnect, you and I . . . fireworks—

For you 

Evan Griffith
Add a little creative soul to your life. Click here to join the subscriber list for — you know — the occasional thing in your inbox.


The one thing

#Truth from the movie City Slickers:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? 

Mitch: No. What? 

Curly: This. [He holds up one finger.] 

Mitch: Your finger? 

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit. 

Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the “one thing”? 

Curly: That’s what you’ve got to figure out.


I want those 4.5 hours back

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Researchers estimate we lose 28 percent of an average workday to multitasking ineffectiveness.

~ Gary Keller, The One Thing

Assuming you sleep 8 hours a day and you are awake 16 hours of the day, that means you lose up to 4.5 hours a day from multi-tasking.

Jeezy criminy crickets — that’s a colossal amount of waste.

Even assuming you’re not attempting to multi-task throughout most of your day, simply gaining one hour back is so significant it’s as if you add years to your life. 

Not at the end of your days when you are enfeebled. But now, when you are capable, bursting with vigor, ever ready to swat down drones and whatever other obstacles may be in your way.

Single tasking has never sounded so sexy.

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, connection and whee! Once a month, maybe, if you’re lucky.


Why obituaries turn Austin Kleon on

For a life-affirming take on obituaries, enjoy this excerpt from Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon:

Obituaries are like near-death experiences for cowards. Reading them is a way for me to think about death while also keeping it at arm’s length. Obituaries aren’t really about death; they’re about life.  

“The sum of every obituary is how heroic people are, and how noble,” writes artist Maira Kalman.  

Reading about people who are dead now and did things with their lives makes me want to get up and do something decent with mine. Thinking about death every morning makes me want to live.

Whatever it takes to get the juices flowing. Kleon reads obituaries in the morning as part of his get-started ritual. It’s one of the quirks that endears me to Kleon. I pop a Dew, he scours the paper for death.

Plus, you’ve got to admire his just get your work out there however you can philosophy.

And his refreshing simplicity, in his art and in his message. 

Oh, and he lives in Austin, Texas . . . and he’s named Austin. That would be like me going to Evansville.

So many things to like about the guy. He’s an artist-writer-creator you should check out. Just click on his name in the first sentence above.

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, spirituality and whee! Once a month, maybe, if you’re lucky.


Meditation is . . .

Meditation is . . . 

— the hole in the donut

— a caesura in a song

— sleep after climax

— the pause before . . . anything

— the unshackling

— an air pocket beneath a waterfall

— the sound in your mouth when it’s not talking

— the unfired synapse

— negative space

— positive soul

— the unthought between two thoughts

— the eternal in a moment

— you, stripped away

For you 

Evan Griffith
Add a little creative soul to your life. Click here to join the subscriber list for — you know — the occasional thing in your inbox.


We have lounge chairs; we have a hammock . . .

We have lounge chairs; we have a hammock. We have a pool; we have couches strewn with comfy pillows. Still, the most calming invigoration known to humankind is found sitting upright, lost in the soft unfocus of a singular focus: Meditation.


The twice-lived experience: Call for it, it will come

Yesterday I was kicking back in a second-row captain’s chair in the new MoFave van. Dozing really. My cap pulled over my eyes, side door slid wide open. Windows open, breeze bustling its way through to get at the trees on the other side. The Weeki Wachee River splayed out in front of the van, only a few feet away.

An hour earlier a baby manatee swam around and under my kayak as if I were his Mama.

Only twenty minutes earlier my niece and I had climbed out of the river, after kayaking (me) and paddle boarding (she) at a good clip for a couple of hours. Her older sister was waiting to whisk her off to a going-away party for a friend. I settled in to wait for the eight remaining family members to come bobbing by.

Mid-nap I awoke with a smile. You know what blissed me out and woke me? A breeze of a memory. 

It was only maybe three or four years ago I’d used this very experience as a visualization tool — for this very van. At the time, post-crash, it was an impossibility to be dreaming of a new van, one that would: 

1) work like a horse for our gallery (Mo = mobile ops), 

. . . and simultaneously. . . 

2) play like Tom Robbins high in the middle of one of his fantastical novels (Fave = family adventure vehicle). 

In visualizations both written and daydreamed I had played out a scenario like this one:

— I was relaxing in the MoFave, parked under some trees

— Water was nearby; I could hear it through the open windows

— We’d just had some kind of family fun together time

— The gallery was running smoothly without me at that moment

— My creative work was so fulfilling that I was lost in contemplation of the project I was working on

To live this experience with only minor modifications jolted me from my nap. It’s not that I was thunderstruck. It was more like a quiet hell yeah moment. As in, 

Hell yeah, that’s the way it works. Keep on dreaming. Keep on creating. Keep on moving. Shower as many people as you can with love energy and watch this flame spark even higher. Spread the word. Lighthearted dreams wiggle their way into your life sooner or later. Keep the faith. Keep the dream. Keep the creativity flowing. Be alive to the openings around you . . .

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for (occasional) notes at the intersection of creativity and spirit. Once a month, maybe.