How the best solve . . . everything

Months if not years from now we’ll be comparing notes about what we did during covid.

It will be a variation on How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Only this will be a more somber version, especially for those of us whose livelihoods were threatened, whose lives were put in danger — even for those who wondered, Good God how am I going to survive being pent up with these people!

It will have been more than a year in which the entire world had to decide was worth doing and what wasn’t. We all had to figure out how to worm our way through the new constraints.

Most of our covid projects were private, personal. But some were designed to be shared.

Like this one.

The text was mostly written when covid lockdowns began. In reality it was the editing, revising, tweaking, design and layout stages that were incubated during the pandemic.

But how timely! My own outdoors time shot up threefold.

I’m excited to share this with you — the official debut.

Click on the title to check out my new bookito:

It Is Solved By Walking
How World-Class Creators Solve Life

. . . . . . .

I think you’ll enjoy it, for these reasons:

— It’s short (a bookito : -)

— Stories abound, mine and others, some famous, some not — some of them amusing, all of them intriguing

— As one reviewer pointed out, it takes you to unexpected places. To small art towns, to spiritual sojourns, to where the 20th century really began

— You’ll get to walk with giants: world-class thinkers and doers who’ve had paradigm-shifting epiphanies while out for a walk

— You’ll meet up with everyday people for whom a daily outing is a delightful release valve

— You’ll find out why a simple walk has been the most common method for thousands of years to produce ideas, insights, and solutions to vexing issues

— There’s even a wee section extolling the physical benefits, cuz there’s some fascinating science there

For the creatively adventurous and the spiritually seeking, this bookito is for you.

Most of all, I think you’ll enjoy the read : -)

Here’s the link again so you don’t have to scroll ALL the way back up — check it out:

It Is Solved By Walking
How World-Class Creators Solve Life


Note: Summoning the muse

I was having a hard time getting through to successful artists. I would send my dutiful email detailing at length why they should exhibit at Studio E Gallery.

It was oh so earnest, that initial contact. Ticking off our years in biz, our affluent area, what stellar people we all were.

But it wasn’t working. Not often enough.

One day I loosened up. More in line with my persona, I decided to throw in a little impishness — and to discard the corporate art speak.

We are besotted with your work!

Crowds are massing outside, demanding to see your paintings. I’m afraid to turn them away, things could get ugly.

My wife is crazy for your artwork, please save my marriage….

Enthusiasm and a touch of goofy did the trick.

The first artist I approached with this lighter touch responded! She was tickled not to be getting the standard entreaty.

We’d been trying to land her for five years and all it took was adding a little humanity, a little levity.

Since then I’ve worked hard at infusing personality into my communications, just as I would with family and friends. It’s refreshing. Even those artists who are overcommitted for the foreseeable future circle back with a response.

When all else fails get lighthearted, get playful, get silly.

. . . . .

You know what summons the muse?

Playfulness —

Evan Griffith

For insights and stories on the connected creative life, check out these bookitos:

The Creative Morning Challenge

Burn Baby Burn: Spark The Creative Spirit Within





Wanted: Art maniacs

Meet Paul Tamanian — or The Tamaniac as he’s been dubbed.

They say Don’t judge a book by its cover. But in this case you must trust your instinct.

What you see in this pic is exactly who The Tamaniac is:

A no-holds-barred artist who breathes a creative force like few others.

For example, this is not Paul’s artwork, that car. That car is a side project.

And yet here he is on a sweltering day after working outdoors in sun and heat and bugs and sweat on his artwork, jumping into his side project for the fun of it.

Zoom in a little on the background in the upper righthand side of the image. That’s Paul’s house. One he designed and helped build on a lake outside of Tallahassee.

Zoom in on the background in the upper lefthand side. That’s an open carport Paul uses for his studio.

Some of his work his tackled in that shelter, though much of it happens just outside on the gravel driveway.

We’ve represented Paul Tamanian at Studio E Gallery from our first exhibit 25 years ago.

If you click the link you’ll see Paul slightly cleaned up, only slightly — because this dude tackles life like he tackles his art. Full on. If he’s not attacking the aluminum surfaces he works on, he’s full tilt into a side project.

Or he’s swimming. Or hiking. Or golfing. Or in rant mode about the state of the country.

I bet even his dreams are action sequenced. No floating fairies and lightning bugs over a shimmering sylvan landscape for him.

We were the first gallery outside of his local area to pick him up. And it’s been a ride the whole way.

He started in ceramics and over time moved to two-dimensional surfaces before finding his ultimate home on aluminum.

He easily moves back and forth between the flat surface of wall art to curvilinear sculpture evoking sails or clouds, ancient totemic forms even.

My point is this: Art maniacs find a way.

When the Studio E team is looking for artists we look for committed zaniacs like Paul. People who commit to their art.

Because the committed always find a way.

You know this.

And you know this too. Commitment is merely showing up each day to do the work.

If you’re stuck, if you’re waffling, if you’re scrolling through your phone hours a day rather than doing what you claim is important to you, take a page from the Paul Tamanian playbook.

Jump in every day.


You may not have a glorious air-conditioned workspace stocked with lattes.

Neither does Paul.

But he found a way decades ago to do the work around his full-time gig.

And he did it consistently enough till his art became his full-time gig.

Ladies and gentleman, if you’re looking for inspiration, scroll back to the top of this page.

Check out Paul in the photo.

There’s nothing glamorous here.

He’s not sipping from a brandy snifter. He’s not reclining in a plush fashionista armchair. He’s not surrounded by coffee table books or pretty assistants. He’s not toking exotic sinsemilla.

Not that he wouldn’t mind some of that at the right time — quitting time.

You can tell by the pants and shirt, by the hat and gloves and footwear. These are clothes a working artist wears every day.

That’s commitment.

That’s all you need.

Keep at it, and you too may be lucky enough to find yourself on a Florida heatlamp summer day enjoying the hell out of your side project.

Only after you’ve done the real work, of course.


The moment you summon the courage to disappoint nearly everyone in your life

“I found myself at one of life’s crossroads, the “safe” path leading in one direction, uncertainty—and possibility—in the other.

Eventually I came to realize that a calling is just that: a whisper in the distance. Most of us don’t wake up one day and decide we were born to be a horse veterinarian or an opera singer. That’s a story we tell ourselves after the fact, once we’ve found ourselves wherever we happen to end up.

No, a calling is an intuitive hint, a tug we experience when we’re doing something that feels right: This is awesome! I’m going to keep doing this and see where it takes me.

If we keep listening to those hints and letting the tugs guide us, if we heed the call, we soon find that we’re walking our own path. No matter where we’re going, we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be.

So no, I didn’t suddenly realize at the age of twenty-one that I wanted to be an artist, an action sports photographer, or the founder of an online learning platform. I simply decided to listen to my gut. I knew I wanted to take photos, simple as that. As long as I was doing what felt right, I figured, the rest would figure itself out—and it did.

This was the moment I summoned the courage to disappoint nearly everyone in my life. For the second time, I abandoned my plan for the future and took my first, hesitant step on a new path, the path in pursuit of my creative calling.

I’m still on that path today, and I’ve never looked back.”

From Creative Calling: Establish A Daily Practice, Infuse Your World With Meaning, and Succeed In Work + Life by Chase Jarvis


If you’ve got a hint of an artist in you, now is your time

In this time of coronavirus creators have a choice. They can do what my wife and I have done — check news and feeds like an IV anxiety drip every so many minutes. Or they can enter into retreat mode.

Creative retreat mode.

— or —

Spiritual retreat mode.

Better yet, since we know creativity and spirituality are interwoven, you can go on a creative spirit retreat within the confines of your own home.

Which is what we are now doing in Casa Griffiti.


Ann’s a painter. I’m a writer. When we’re not running an art gallery.

I was discussing this creative spirit retreat idea with my friend Russell Harris. He’d been thinking along the same lines. With a twist:

“If you’ve got a hint of an artist in you, now is your time.”

Yes, I agreed!

Then he added:

“You don’t even need to be told.”

Russell elaborated. You know this innately. You know this deep down. Don’t push it aside. If you don’t seize this isolation time to create, then you won’t ever.

The whole world is stopping.

You can choose feeds, streaming, movies, news, or binge watching shows.

Or you can choose your passion project.

(And still fuck off to your heart’s content at the end of a productive day.)

(It’s not binary, one or the other. Choose creation and entertainment can still be wedged in.)

Now is your time!

You can emerge weeks or months from now having grappled with your creative work — or your spiritual work — or your mental and physical renewal.

Or you can emerge blinking into the light of regular life again fatter, bleary eyed, having kept up with the minute-by-minute drip of bad news, having escape-watched entire libraries of serial TV.


There’s a better form of escape — into your work, into your personal renewal.

Your choice.

(Now is your time.)

(My time too. I write these Notes for me, because I need them. I share them with you, in case they resonate.)

Now is your time.


It’s mine until it’s yours

In a conversation with chef and woodworker Dave Beck, he described his mantra:

It’s mine until it’s yours.

Meaning —

While he’s creating a piece of furniture he can work it in any direction he sees fit to the best of his ability. He can craft a woodworking project to his aesthetic ideal without constraining himself to others’ expectations — if he wants.

After that, it’s yours — the recipient’s, the purchaser’s.

At that point it no longer belongs to Dave. The person in possession of the meal or the furniture can do as they wish. He’s no longer part of the equation. His work is done. He’s released it into the world — and what the world does with it is not his concern….

They can shorten the legs, remove slats, augment or adorn.

If a meal, they can oversalt it or kill off every ounce of nuance with sriracha.

(That’s a thing now. I’ve witnessed the murder of many a meal in this manner before even a bite’s been taken.)

His concern is to create and release. After that, it’s yours. Do with it what you will.


The best writing advice I’ve not been able to follow

In Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott suggests beginning writers should quickly get their ideas rough and messy onto the page. In fact she advocates they should go as fast as they can to lay down a shitty first draft — her words — because it’s in the subsequent drafts that mud turns to clay then into pottery.

Or pigment turns to composition turns to art.

Or a few whistled notes become a riff become a song.

Hey Jude started as a line to John Lennon’s 5-year-old son Julian as Paul McCartney drove to see him following Lennon’s abrupt departure from the family for Yoko Ono — because the moment weighed heavily on McCartney and he thinks in song.

Hey Jules, don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better, it began . . .

Other than Hemingway’s famous dictum — to stop writing each day before you’ve exhausted yourself, so the not-fully-fleshed idea sucks you into the text the next day — writing a down and dirty shitty first draft is the best advice I’ve heard.

But I’ve failed at it miserably.

I’ve tried. Many a time. I’ve tried to get it all on the page spitting fast and gritty, like the Joker applying makeup. But it hasn’t worked for me.

Turns out no matter how much I try to dash to the finish laying down jumbled thoughts along the way to be stitched together later, I revert to this process instead:

Wherever I am in the bookito I’m writing, I start each day several pages back and tweak and chisel my way to where I’ve left off — and this pulls me forward!

So I’ve re-written each page several to dozens of times by the time I get to the end of my first draft.

This week I nailed my first draft of It Is Solved By Walking. (Subtitle: How World-Class Creators Solve Life.)

It’s the first comprehensive draft. Which is what makes me think of Anne Lamott and her brilliant advice I can’t seem to follow.

Here’s the thing: There’s advice out there that works well for most people but won’t work for you. And even the people giving that advice will nod glowingly in your direction for doing it whatever way works for you.

As long as you find a way that works for you.


What is entrepreneurial?

A good friend asked me this the other day: What makes you entrepeneurial?

First the easy answers came to mind:

My Dad started his own business and I worked in it. A tire store. That was invaluable.

I grew up in America where going out on your own is a national directive.

But I wanted to tell him something real — something that felt truer — he was sincerely asking for his own reasons — I wanted to reply with equal sincerity.

Then I hit upon something that felt foundational:

“It’s a willingness to do something different.”

While it’s true that my Dad’s biz was influential — and it’s true that culturally I’m surrounded by the prompt to start something, anything — the fundamental ethos driving entrepreneurs is in that keenness to try something new.

There were millions of far more entrepreneurial sorts than I growing up in the former Soviet Union during it’s most state-run days … Because these Soviet millions were far more willing than I to try something different.

There are heaps of people with entrepreneurial parents in the U.S. who don’t start an indie biz. And for any of us who’ve been ensconced in corporations, you also know there are scads of corporate citizens who thrive trying something different all the time.

Trying something different starts on a whim before it becomes a mindset.

You try something different to get that potential romantic partner to notice you.

(My apologies to Pam Covey for mailing England Dan & John Ford Coley’s single I’d Really Love To See You Tonight to her. I was 16, meaning that line “I’m not talkin’ about movin’ in” super duper applied.)

(What?! What am I saying?? It worked — I take that apology back!)

You try something different to make money when you’re pre-pubescent. In my case, it was biking to a 7-11 and buying up candies and sodas and selling them for 1 to 5 cents more apiece at the entrance of the dirt walking path to the beach next to our home.

You try something different with the hope you can become ambidextrous once you discover there’s such a thing. As a teenager I threw a tennis ball left-handed for hours against our sloping roof, ate with my left hand, even started playing ping pong as a lefty.

Some things didn’t work so elegantly left-handed. We won’t discuss those here…

You think you might like the freelance lifestyle, so you try it. Twice. First as a proofreader — oh glamorous profession! Later, as a graphic designer.

You try something different for physical fun. You go on an overnight bike trip, a three-day canoe and kayak trip — not long after you’re quitting jobs for such extended adventure. In fact, this becomes your MO into your mid-thirties . . .

. . . Till you start up an art gallery, which becomes an all-consuming adventure of trying different things. All. The. Time.

What happens when you try something different?

Implied in that phrase are several key points:

1: You are taking action!

2: You doing so in a slightly to radically different way than accustomed.

And . . . so important . . .

3: You can’t help but note whether in some small way it worked or not.

It turned out my friend was trying to figure out if he could become entrepreneurial — if it was innate or could be learned.

As long as you’re willing to try something different, yes, you can become entrepreneurial.

The key is to start with non-monetary aspects in your life. Small things. Health, diet, relationships. How you shop, how you shower, how you make a friend.


And there’s this final thought I passed along to my friend:

Whatever you’re curious about trying, it’s got to be today. Not Thursday. The future doesn’t exist, but today does — you’re in it.

You’ve got to jump into it today in some small fashion.

There’s always some tiny step that can be taken today when the urge to try something different comes up.

(Now . . . you know this . . . yet I feel I must say this in the interest of full reportage. Feel free to pronounce that in a French accent. Reportage.)

(The second principle of being entrepreneurial is keeping at it. You simply keep trying and doing and reflecting and trying and doing until you’re moving in the direction you want to go.)

(Like an unstoppable train.)

(Is there such a thing? Don’t all trains eventually stop?)

(Like a future electric car running on solar all day long.)

(Like our dog goes after a lizard.)

(You’ve never witnessed such intensity — and glee!)

(Yeah, like that.)


Forget finding your calling, follow what’s surfacing

Too many of us crave a mythical calling when all we really need is to pay attention to what is emerging. And get more curious about that….

If you’re frustrated with the idea of finding your calling, follow what is surfacing.

The biggest open secret among connected creatives is not that they necessarily had an epiphany at age eight about what they wanted to do with their lives, it’s that they stepped bit by bit into activities that called to them.

There’s a difference there — a calling, a life mission, only comes to a few. But following where you’re called from where you’re at — that’s available to us all.

When I talk to creative individuals so very few have lived a straight-arrow line to their ideal way of life. Instead, being flexible enough to follow pathways that pique your interest even if you don’t know where they lead — that’s the zesty sauce for fulfillment.

Young Steve Jobs took a calligraphy class. Later this influenced the elegance and design of the Apple interface.

If only he’d also enrolled in a non-abusive communications class.

I bought a computer before anyone I knew had a computer. It had no hard drive. I had to code basic formatting we take for granted today — bold, italics, indents.

I bought it for writing — to this day still the most expensive writing tool I’ve ever invested in. Yet it opened up a wondrous world to me that remained closed for others too long.

I was intrigued by how computers could make things simpler. When I found myself moving into the graphic design world — following an interest in the department next door — I rapidly moved up the ranks because many designers at the time were daunted by computers.

Imagine that.

Today you can’t shake a designer loose from their device. Then, it took an outsider to help ease the way into the digital domain.

I write this because I speak to so many who are horrified they don’t know their calling. From their twenties to their sixties, people of all ages are frozen by this cultural notion that we must follow our calling.

Like computers at their best, it’s simple — you don’t need a calling, just put your energy into what’s surfacing in front of you.

What’s intriguing you?

That’s all you need to know.


Note: Surprise yourself

Robert Frost once said:

“No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Isn’t this true of all art forms?

I watch my wife Ann — a painter — grapple with her work in her studio. For hours. It’s the unexpected outcomes that work that thrill her most.

There are plenty of unexpected outcomes that go awry, that suck, let’s be honest.

Still — there’s a surge of satisfaction when something unexpected elevates the piece beyond where it was moments before.

That’s the kind of surprise we’re looking for when we work.

. . . . .

— Surprise yourself —


For insights and stories on the connected creative life, check out these bookitos:

The Creative Morning Challenge

Burn Baby Burn: Spark The Creative Spirit Within