On keeping moments for yourself and putting your digital social life in perspective

Photo by Gilles Lambert

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with my daughter after she got off school. Naturally, she did something astoundingly cute, so I unconsciously surrendered to the automatic reaction of reaching into my pocket and pulling out my phone to take a photo.

I took the picture. Opened Instagram. And then I hesitated.

See, I’ve written about this kind of thing before, but have lately fallen back into old habits. I’ve long used social media as a personal scrapbook. Photos of family, scenery, and special moments filled my feeds. But this year, I’m taking my life back from social media (well, at least some of it).

I want to keep more moments for myself.

I mean, seriously — why do we do this?…

Why do we put out our most sacred personal moments on social media to be judged, criticized, and scrutinized by other people?

Why should that fleeting moment with my daughter — a moment I’ll never get back — be a source of stress as I mentally churn over what filter, hashtags, and caption to use?

How could I subject the significance of that sacred moment (and countless others) to the preferences of others — many of whom I either don’t know, will never know, or would prefer not to know?

It’s amazing what we’ll do for a brief dopamine fix.

Now, we need to be gentle with ourselves when it comes to this. Yes, social media is inherently an egoic activity. We do it for attention, status, and confirmation (no matter how ‘authentic’ and ‘raw’ we say we’re being on there). It’s easy to virtue signal against it all day.

But the ego is an integral part of the human experience. We just need to be aware of what’s going on and own it.

I’m going to give you a quick look at how I’m going to try to handle social media this year. But I’m trying not to be too dogmatic about it. If I slip up and post a photo of my daughter holding a puppy or a selfie with a Chicago hot dog (yes, after almost two years of living here, I’m still a tourist), I have to chalk it up to being human.

  • First of all, I’m trying to pound into my own brain that I am the product on social media. Whenever I go online, it’s largely a business transaction. So I may as well use it to further my work as a freelance creator (or whatever you call what I’m doing here with this blog and whatnot). I mean, the .com should tell us something. It stands for ‘commercial’. It’s a commercial medium, not a scrapbook. I don’t fault people trying to sell things in an ‘authentic’ (whatever that means) way online. I follow several coffee shops, tiny home builders, authors, artists, musicians, etc. (and love the ads on Instagram — seriously, they’re so good).
  • Any family photos and videos that I take, I put into an iPhoto folder that I only share with close family and friends. These people don’t care about my blog or the work I do in the world. All they care about is my cute kid, my gorgeous wife, and my scruffy-yet-adorable dog (if I do say so myself).
  • As I said, I still slip. There are some personal/family moments that I can’t resist sharing on social. But I keep them on Facebook and Instagram stories (separate from my Instagram static feed, which I want to keep focused on blog/Patreon stuff).
  • I turned my Facebook page private and keep it as a curated personal scrapbook of sorts. I actually like how they provide a space to do this. Plus, Facebook is very much pay-to-play for business purposes and I don’t have the time or money to do that at this moment.
  • Twitter is a tricky one. I went through and deleted all of my old tweets (there are a plethora of apps with which to do this, just search for them). Twitter is so political, it’s toxic. I’ve also unfollowed everyone who triggers that primal urge to hate (you might know what I’m talking about). I don’t know if I’ll ever tweet much — I may even delete my account altogether. The jury’s out.

I hope this helps provide a new perspective on your digital social life. Claim those sacred moments back and share intentionally. If you understand the internal and external dynamics of what’s going on, you can hopefully get the most out of it. Social media doesn’t have to be a horrible, toxic thing — well, maybe just enough to enjoy:)

Enjoy that? To keep this blog going, take a second to support my work on Patreon (while enjoying some spiffy perks along the way)…

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Try to scare me

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

“Try to scare me, Dad…”

This is a fun little game that my daughter tries to play with me.

“You didn’t scare me… Try again.”

She doesn’t understand that this game almost never works, so she gets frustrated.. I’m hardly ever successful in scaring her when she prompts me to.

(Yes, if I escalate my scare tactics, I can get a bit of a jump from her. But not much.)

It’s a universal truth…

When you’re expecting it, you’re essentially unscarable.

(Now, I have to say, the best horror films are really good at scaring the sh*t out of you even when you know someone’s going to jump out from behind the GAHHH!)

Maybe this is the ‘service’ our fears provide. If we’re expecting something horrible, it can’t scare us very bad. So we live expecting the worst (so that, if/when it happens, we’ll be less shocked).

Only thing is, meanwhile, we work and live in a fearful and defensive inner world.

Oh, the client won’t like that. They’re going to tell me how horrible I am, so I may as well round the edges and make this thing mediocre now.

I’m never gonna get hired doing that thing I’ve dreamed about since 9th grade. It’s probably a path littered with disappointment and poverty and despair. I’ll just get this here job doing what I always have until I get that call one day out of the blue.

I really want to tell her how much I appreciate her, but she’ll probably just see it as patronizing and inauthentic.

You gotta let yourself be scared. Stop prepping yourself for the imaginary man lurking in the shadows.

If he jumps out, deal with him.

But until then, don’t let the illusion of him determine your path.

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Your superpowers are often found in the middle of your insecurities

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

I’m easily confused. I’ve always been a bit ‘slow’. When I was a kid, I was often labeled in my progress reports as ‘absent minded’ (and I quote).

Sometimes, when I’m caught up in my thoughts, this can translate to thinking I’m dumb.

But when I diffuse from that thought, I can see how being an easily confused person has made me a decent writer (if I do say so myself). Because here’s the thing…

I don’t — can’t — put anything down on the page until it’s either super clear to me, strikes a strong emotional chord, or makes me laugh. Because if I don’t get it (and there’s a lot I don’t get), it isn’t making it out there for your eyes. And I think that’s been of benefit to me in this crazy writing life.

The key point for today:

If you could step outside of your personal thinking around your insecurities, you might just find your superpower in the middle of your self-doubt.

One of my greatest creative assets has come from one of my most deepest insecurities. My self-dialogue (without me even knowing it) was, “Damn, why am I so slow?” Or, “Why can’t I stay awake during this class?” Now it’s, “This sh*t doesn’t make any sense — how can it be more clear?” Or, “This sh*t is boring, let’s make it more bold.”

It’s worth at least a look under the hood to see what you’re making up about yourself (or have accepted as reality from others).

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Your crucifixion story

by Eric Huang on Unsplash

It’s difficult for us in the western world to be able to relate to the crucifixion story in a direct way. I don’t know about your town, but they stopped publicly executing people a few years ago here in Chicago.

That being said, the felt experience of crucifixion is a deeply human one, even in our first-world life. Because here’s the truth…

Mixing it up with life will eventually result in some form of felt crucifixion.

Maybe your entire team at work has turned on you, made up lies, spread them around town, and is now ousting you…

Crucified...

Maybe your perfect spouse — the one who was your rock and the mother of your children, after all those years, has just broken the news about her hidden life with someone on the other side of town.

Crucified…

Maybe your addiction has finally reached a boiling point and as you look around, you see that those who mattered most to you are nowhere to be found…

Crucified...

Maybe you quit your job a year ago to give the Four-Hour Workweek thing a shot and have blown through your savings and now face working in the same industry you left only at a lower position because you’re now starting over from scratch.

Damn that Tim Ferriss...

I could drum up example after example of how crucifixion is experienced in our modern, western world. The Jesus story, just like any story, transcends time and culture.

Please know something…

Your crucifixion isn’t the end of your story.

In fact, crucifixion is a vital part of the human experience. I’d even go so far as saying that life would be incomplete without it.

Here’s the good news (which isn’t the same thing as the happiest of news)...

Due to the fact that humans are unbearably stubborn and shortsighted, we’re typically not open to grace unless our ego’s attempts have been rendered useless and we’re on the ground, tears streaming down our cheeks with arms towards the sky before we…

Surrender.

Surrender is different than giving up. Surrender is a conscious act where we shrug the weight off of our shoulders so life can carry us into something new. Our old stories are no longer working. Our goals aren’t good any more. So we say something along the lines of the four words that make up one of the most powerful prayers out there…

Here, God… You take it.

I won’t go any further than this today. We have to keep it focused as we step our way through the weekend. If you’re in a place of crucifixion or are healing from one, please know you aren’t alone. As happy as everyone seems to be on social media, experiencing deep pain in life is the one thing that can bring us together if we allow it to.

We all have felt the pangs of crucifixion in one way or another. Rest in that truth and feel the soothing relief of solidarity with all of humanity.

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How much how-to?

Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

I know that the go-to strategy for content these days — especially for creative freelancers — is to teach. To create endless how-to’s on your thing. To see your content as a huge Q&A library.

I want to challenge that right now. (Should be fun, anyways.)

Although I’ve put exactly zero research into this (I’m no marketing scientist by any means), I think that the online closet of how-to is about full. There’s not a lot of room left in that area of the internet. I can go to Skillshare, Udemy, CreativeLive, or a number of others to get a highly produced, cheap (sometimes free) comprehensive lesson plan on how to do virtually anything I want.

A fresh idea for content: Stop teaching how you do the thing and show us what you do with the thing.

Sure, give us some pointers every now and then. But I’d rather see you demonstrate your skill rather than teach it.

Take Casey Neistat for example. He totally could have started his career by posting how-to’s on filmmaking. And he probably would have done well. But, what did he do?

He made awesome videos. Scrappy, DIY (but super well done) stories that chronicled his mundane life (which has gotten less mundane in recent years) told in a way that no one else was telling them.

Now, he’s one of the world’s most sought-after filmmakers in his genre — yes, YouTube vlogging is now a genre, if you haven’t noticed. (And if he were to host a YouTubing class, it would be sold out in seconds.)

Why?

Because he lives his craft. He demonstrates it. Yes, he throws out useful camera reviews and tricks of the trade on occasion. But it’s a small subset of his work.

Tre L. Loadholt is a poet. She’s THE poet of Medium. No one else even comes close. I don’t see her spending time writing endless poetry hacks and how-to’s (thankfully). She’s doing the thing, not just writing about the thing. She’s both artist and expert (well done, Tre).

Demonstrate your skill. Show us your work. And then tell us how to do it. If you want.

Just know that teaching isn’t the only option. What we really want is to see your magic.

That’s what’s going to inspire us.


You can find more of Jonas’ work over at at Higher Thoughts, one of the most popular single-author publications on Medium. Subscribe to his daily-ish missives and musings at JonasEllison.com

Your part in the creative process is simple (but not easy)

“A person's feet on gray and yellow stairs” by Jake Hills on Unsplash

Let’s talk about creative projects for a moment. Maybe it’s your book, your blog post, your workshop, your sermon, your event…

Wouldn’t it be so great for the entire thing to flash in our minds from start to finish before we took the first step? To be able to see exactly how it’s going to unfold and to be guaranteed of its success before spending an iota of our time or risk on the thing?

Not usually how it works.

Here’s how it does work… We only see the part of it that we can grab on to.

That inkling, that idea, that initial pull. That’s the only area of our work for the moment. Taking the one step into that.

That tiny piece that you can see, you must start there and let destiny handle the rest.

If you want to bring a creative project into the world, your only job is to take the one step that’s lighted in front of you.

To give you a visual, think about entering a dark cave with a headlamp on. And not a very good one. Like, one of those Coleman ones from Target that only lights up about six feet in front of you (hey, better than nothing). Well, if you were really into spelunking (you spelunker, you), you’d have to take a step before the next six feet were revealed to you. And then the next.

That one first step of getting that thing down on paper — just the bit of it you can see right now — that’s your only work. That’s your part.

This post, right here, started as a text to myself that said, “It’s important to know our role in the creative process and not overcomplicate it.” That’s all I had. As I sit here, I started with that and more is unfolding (along with that awesome spelunking metaphor — damn, I’m having way too much fun writing that word — spelunking, spelunking, spelunking…).

This takes faith. Faith means being okay with not knowing exactly how this thing is going to unfold. It’s exercised by knowing your role — your only role — in the creative process: following your curiosity and taking the one single step in front of you.

Get your epic weekend event out of your head and on paper. Outline it. See it unfold out there, not in your brain.

You might surprise yourself with how it turns out.

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A case for magical thinking

Photo by Jeff Brown on Unsplash

I believe we live in an interactive universe. I see this world and my experience as a responsive system that talks and listens to me in every moment.

I believe that everything is inherently significant and that the only thing that can rob my life of its significance is my incessant personal thinking.

Is this magical thinking? Oh, hell yeah. I’m at a place now where I can readily admit that I’m unabashedly a magical thinker.

This hasn’t come easy. I was raised in a rational, western, male-dominated household. My dad was a computer programmer from way back in the day (one of the first wave of old school coders #cobol #c++). EVERYTHING had to have a proven, logical outcome.

And so I lived much of my life thinking that way. It served me in a lot of ways, but it also limited me.

Your life is a testament to the premise you’re trying to prove.

Want to prove that the world is a logical, rational place based on self-interest with no magic, no wonder, and no hope?

I think that requires just as much faith as my magical thinking does.

See, I want to prove something else. I want to prove that there is magic. That this responsive universe conspires for me and is hurtling me (and all of us) towards something wider and bigger than anything I can ever imagine.

I want to trust this thing. I want to struggle less. I want to know that dread is not the best emotion to get me where I want to go.

I want to parachute out of that premise into something way more expansive.

This is what makes me excited. It’s the route my internal GPS is signaling that I take.

I think I might see that turn signal of yours on too…

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It’s all around you

by Eduard Militaru on Unsplash

I’m not making this stuff up... Many have said it before... Being open and connected to the moment-to-moment spontaneous unfoldment of life is essential to creative growth.

We get stuck when we just sit and stagnate in our heads. And more of us today are doing ‘thought work’ where we spend large swaths of time doing just this.

I live on a slow street in Chicago. At a glance, it might look like a normal, workaday scene at any one moment — parents and nannies walking kids to school. People parallel parking (badly). Those annoying advertisement newspapers in pink plastic wrap being thrown onto porches like mass drive-by litterings.

Most of it, I don’t even notice. I might peek out every once in a while. Check on the weather (from inside — which is peculiar). And then it’s back to work.

But when I mentally step out of my self-obsession — if I can just press pause on my incessant and endless inner Netflix drama of, “How am I and how is my brilliant career going?” — long enough, I can see that there’s more going on right here than meets the eye.

There always is.

Kids are growing up. Parents are proud but terrified at the same time. The newspaper delivery folks are doing what they can so they can go home and hug their kids over a warm meal knowing their bills are paid for another month.

When we’re in adulting-mode, yeah, we see this stuff. We notice it. But we don’t allow ourselves to be swept away by the rich depth and density of life. We neuter our enthusiastic connection with it and keep focus stayed on our ambitions. We put the fearful, insecure ego in charge of telling us how our lives SHOULD unfold. And all the while, we miss the way they ARE unfolding (or are trying to if we’d just let them).

In our digital world, it’s more important than ever to get out of our self-absorbed patterns and admire the physical life happening around us.

When I think that this apartment is over 200 years old, I’m blown away of how many baby diapers have been changed, deaths have been grieved, job raises have been celebrated, and Christmas trees have been erected. Suddenly, I’m taken out of the littleness of my life and tossed into the largeness of ALL of life.

“Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music — the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself…”

— Henry Miller

This is where the good stuff comes from. Not from scanning through Instagram. Again. (Much love, Insta, you’re still my favorite.)

I mean, think of how many shortcuts you take. You take the highway when you could cruise through that really interesting, diverse, and quirky neighborhood you’ve been wanting to explore. Yeah, it saved you seven minutes, but what did it rob from your experience?

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!”

— Charles Dickens; A Tale of Two Cities

(And here we have an administration turning higher education into vocational career training — ugh…)

Forget yourself.
Forget yourself.
Forget yourself.

It’s when you forget yourself that you discover yourself.

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Ode to deadlines

Photo by Kevin on Unsplash

Lately, my life has been the embodiment of what happens when four deadlines converge in the woods (on the same week). Yes, a total cluster f&*k of stress, overwhelm, insecurity, and dread.

The deadline is the scourge of writers around the world, second only to that of the blank page/blinking cursor.

So, yeah… Deadlines have had me down as of late. What makes it worse is that I love my clients. Writing copy for them is a treat. Their businesses, their visions, and the work they do in the world is palpable (and they’re fantastic people to just hang out with — which I get to do). Which means disappointing them is unacceptable.

Playing a role in helping craft their visions is an honor — one I take seriously.

Too seriously, in fact, sometimes.

I caught myself several times this last week in a place of desperation. When writing, I noticed my shoulders tensing up, the scowl on my face intensifying as my fingers hammered the keys, and my breathing becoming shallow and abrupt.

Survival mode... 
Ain’t it hell?

Now, this is not my first rodeo. I’ve been here a time or four. I’ve grown to be able to catch myself doing it. And to tell myself…

It’s not worth it.

No matter the looming deadlines — stress and angst only kill the creative process.

Now, this is our normal, unconscious reaction. If you’re someone with a strong work ethic, you want (and need, if you’re a paid writer) to get it done. In time.

But beyond the function of propelling you into your seat to work, this kind of stress must be left at the door.

See, when you’re writing (or, creating in general, whatever you do) from a place of unconscious tension and fear, you work from a low, stuck, uncreative vibration.

And nothing good comes out of that. You get mentally, spiritually, (and yes, even physically, sometimes) constipated. The words eeeeek out onto the page. Your survival mind is also a fierce critic, so everything is dulled.

Now you’re getting more and more behind deadline and your work is crap because you’ve been writing in a low creative vibration.

Alright — what to do…

First, catch yourself. Notice what’s happening.

Then, stop. Put the pen down (or close your laptop).

Breeeeathe. In through the nose to a count of four and then out through the mouth to the count of four, relaxing your shoulders as you do so. Throw on a pleasant playlist on Spotify. No, not the death metal workout one. This isn’t the time. Grab the Norah Jones one (you know you have one). Hang out here for 10 minutes.

Know that nothing good comes out of this barrel of stress you’re rolling down the mountain in. Step out of the barrel (your ego is dreaming your stress up, so you can defy the laws of reality and step out of the barrel that’s careening off that cliff).

When 10 minutes is up, relax back into your work (don’t jump back into it). Know that this is a privilege. You get to do creative work for a living. You don’t have to test the city’s sewer lines for functionality. Things could be worse.

Your job is to create. You can only do this from a place of openness and enthusiasm. Seeing how detrimental stress is to the creative process can get you to jump to this higher place in a moment (that’s the great thing about the mind — all it takes is a shift in thinking to get there).

Enjoy. Create. Submit. Sleep. And get on with the great work you do in the world.

P.S. My good friend, Tom Kuegler, is throwing an online summit to help you become a full-time writer and blogger. It’s free and I had the fortune of being one of the presenters interviewed in it (along with other incredible bloggers such as Chris Brogan, Tiffany Sun, Tim Denning, and more. Being that it’s online, there’s no need to fly anywhere to attend. You can watch it for free on your couch when it airs (on March 20th). Click here to sign up.

☠️Warning☠️ Full disclosure☠️: That link above is an evil affiliate link. This means that, although the summit is free, should you then go on to buy something from Tom and he gets filthy rich, I might get kicked down a few bucks (at no extra cost to you).

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The devilish notion of reason

Photo by H E N G S T R E A M on Unsplash

William Blake often wrote about how we mix up God and Satan. He mentioned how many of us think that God is all about restriction, inhibition, caution, censorship, etc. Blake said that it’s those qualities that disintegrate the imagination and murder the innate freedom and passionate enthusiasm that wells up within us.

Blake called this inhibitive force Satan. “For nothing is pleasing to God except the invention of beautiful and exalted things.”

“Enthusiasm is the all-in-all.”
 — William Blake

Is Blake speculating? Is it irrational to put a ‘God’ and ‘Satan’ label on these qualities? Well, maybe.

But I’ll go ahead and take Blake’s word for it.

Something to ponder throughout your week.

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Please, influence us

“Close-up of a black leather saddle on a horse in a barn” by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Seriously. This is a direct order.

If you’re a good person with a good heart and a clear vision forward, jump on that high horse of yours and lead us somewhere awesome.

Do it unabashedly. Shamelessly. Influence us like you’ve never influenced anyone before.

Whatever doubt may be coming up — banish it from your conscious space. Get that Satan behind you and carry us forward.

So many people are lost and drifting and looking for someone/something to plug into. Unfortunately, the ones with darkness on their minds have no qualms about influence.

Better the lost plug into you than them.

Yes, there are those who think you should play small. Many of them are your friends and loved ones. It’s an unconscious thing, really. They just won’t know how to relate to you when you charge ahead.

That’s their problem. Not yours. 
They’ll figure it out. Or they won’t.

We need more people like you taking us somewhere that behooves us. But when you start charging ahead and seeing us riding along behind you, don’t let that shit get to your head in the wrong way. Don’t take a detour down a dark alley and shake us down for all we’re worth.

Remember, we outnumber you. You might get us once, but once enough of us unplug from you, you’re as good as done.

Keep that elevated vision in your soul and that high road in your sights.

We’re right behind ya.

(BTW, this one is for the ladies. Happy National Women’s Day ✊.)

P.S. Did you dig this post? How ‘bout I write you a personalized one? Click here to see how to make this happen.

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The futile escape from normalcy

“A kid running through a field with a sunrise as the backdrop” by Linh Nguyen on Unsplash

I’ve often heard one version or another of the following line from spiritual seekers…

If only I could get to [enter name of any exotic, far away land here], I’d be able to have a true awakening.

I’ve heard the same kind of thing from seculars in the creative world.

If only I could get those dream clients, I could start putting myself out there in a way that expresses the ‘real me’.

I’ll just come out and say it…

Your most profound spiritual awakening/creative expression can only be realized right here in this very mundane moment just as you are rather than in some idealized situation away from it.

Removal from life is simply not possible.

Wherever you go, there you are.

As within, so without.

Humans have been writing this stuff in ancient texts for thousands of years — it’s nothing new.

Escapism is a great relief, temporarily. But eventually, we come home to ourselves.

I don’t want to be taken somewhere else. I want to wake up to my life, my love, my work, my health, my creativity, my abundance — in this moment, right here in this messy apartment living room with kid toys strewn about the floor.

Since we can’t remove ourselves from life, our only option is to join with it. To love it. To love and accept ourselves in it.

Love will transform normal, ordinary, life into extraordinary life. It will end our desire to remove ourselves from life.
 — A Course of Love

This isn’t about accepting what we don’t like. It’s not about spiritually bypassing our dislikes. I’m not suggesting ‘making due’ with the outer conditions of life (the job, the non-job, Janet from accounting, those unpaid bills, the sickness, etc.).

It’s not about accepting externals. It’s about accepting internals and freeing yourself up for... More.

It’s about accepting that you don’t like whatever it is you don’t like. Then, and only then — when you’ve accepted how you feel — can you respond to your life truly. Only when you’ve accepted how you feel do you quit placing the permanent labels on the externals of your life ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Only then can you deal with anything from a place of peace and relaxed movement.

We’re talking about radical acceptance of Self in relationship to your life.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the stuff/places we think will take us where we want to go — IF they show up in their proper place as effects of inner-change, not attempted causes of it.

It’s just a matter of getting the equation right.

I swear, if I trip over that toy unicorn again, I’m gonna freak…

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Creativity isn’t a luxury

“Mini crayons lay against each other on white surface” by Foto Garage AG on Unsplash

It’s really not. Never has been. It’s our nature. And as much as we can deny our nature, that doesn’t make our denial true.

The argument that says creativity is a luxury is just a great excuse not to create.

The technical stuff, the stuff you can learn in a 6-week course or a trade school… That stuff is being automated faster than we can learn it.

Our creative nature is the only thing that separates us from the machines. And the machines are getting faster and faster every nanosecond.

But shall we never forget… 
We created the machines.

Never forget your proper place. Your spiritual inheritance as a creative being is a big deal.

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Multipotentialite Showcase: Jacob Witzling

I wrote the other day about my new realization that I am, in fact, a multipotentialite (someone with a lot of different interests and the inability to specialize no matter how hard I try). And I got a lot of emails from folks who resonated.

So I’m kinda geeked out over this discovery right now. This means that, whenever I see someone in my boat, I get a little giddy (because solidarity, right?).

Well, I want to take a sec to honor another multipotentialite because he did something particularly bold as far as online-persona-type-stuff goes.

Let me say now that most of my Insta feed consists of #cabinporn. I love cabin porn so much. I’m a fiend.

That’s when I ran across one of Jacob’s photos. I clicked through to see the rest of his work and noticed that he had quite a following (107k followers, currently). Although his page is chock full of some of the best cabin porn I’ve ever seen, that’s not what really stood out.

What stood out was how he worded his profile…

Yep:

‘Cabin builder and 2nd-grade teacher.’

The first part of it — the cabin builder part — is obvious. But he totally flaunts the fact that he has a day job doing something totally unrelated to cabin building.

This flies in the face of traditional internet marketing/brand-building wisdom and I love it. I don’t know about you, but I was taught that, in order to grow a following, you had to dig into a certain niche in order to be an ‘authority’ in that particular area. This also means, no going outside that boundary.

But he’s like — yeah, I love building awesome cabins plus my day job is pretty great too. He could have left the teacher part out and gone all-in on the cabin builder side. No one would have blamed him (most wouldn’t have known the wiser). They would have seen his Instagram page and asked themselves, wow, how do I do what he does and make a full-time living as a cabin pornographer?

And they would have been fooled. Because Jacob has a job that (maybe?) supports his passion. He fully owned and flaunted his multipotentiality.

And that, I think, is commendable.

Rock on, Jacob. Rock on, multipotentialites. Own your random lives, flaunt that day job, and thrive as only you can.

P.S. If any great photographers/sponsors are reading this, I’d love for you to partner with/hire me to help with your cabin pornography efforts. Not to take the photos (although I do take pretty mean iPhone shots), but I could write really sexy stories and descriptions of cabins that other cabin porn addicts might get all aroused by. Just putting that out there.

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On letting go of trying to predict the outcome

Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

There are so many stories we hold true (at least, I don’t think I’m talking to myself here) that hold us back from our inherent good.

You know the stories I’m talking about, right? A lot of them are rooted in predictions.

Nah, I don’t want to create that workshop. I doubt if anyone will sign up…

Nah, I don’t want to write about that idea because then someone else will steal it and make a bunch of money from it…

Nah, I don’t want to get a job at Starbucks to float me while I focus on my screenplay (I mean, what will my father think of me?)…

Nah, I don’t want to take out that jargon from my website — all of my clients will leave and I’ll die broke and alone.

Any of these sound familiar?

Here’s the three-step process where elated hope is followed up by immediate disappointment, thusly resulting in mediocrity…

Step One

We get a clear signal that something awesome wants to be created through us. It feels incredible. Wow. We’re flying high on the possibility of this new idea.

Step Two

Our head takes this holy moment and effectively shits all over it using past data (usually from the biggest, scariest failure it can find) to predict the outcome.

Step Three

Rationalization kicks in to make us seem ‘reasonable’ for accepting the murder of our dream.

Well, here are a couple mighty questions that have been helping me kick these stories to the curb where they belong.

I’ll start with the biggest one…

Can I let go of the idea that I can predict the outcome of my life?

Can I rest in the truth that there might be more in store for me than any prediction can show me?

Does past performance always indicate future results?

We need to stop playing so much defense.

Less predicting.
More trusting.
Amen.

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The human yearning for surrender

“A person stretching out their arm and hand in the forest in Julington Durbin Creek Preserve” by Natalie Collins on Unsplash

Have you ever had the chance to just… float?

Maybe it’s been in a literal sense out in the middle of a lake lying down on a paddleboard with absolutely nothing on your mind besides the fleeting moment.

Or maybe it’s been more of a figurative thing where you’ve experienced a floating sensation during meditation, prayer, sex, art, etc.

Isn’t it… Amazing?

There’s something enlivening about surrendering our human control and letting the forces of nature hold us up. No straining. No struggling. Just floating.

As Brian Eno said here

In our culture, most of the encouragement is to take control. What we like doing — that’s the reason we enjoy sex, drugs, art, and religion — what we like doing is surrendering. They’re ways of losing yourself.

I see it all the time in several of my chosen fields of interest…

In entrepreneurship, it’s all about taking control and making sh*t happen. Hustling. #JFDI.

In modern spirituality, it’s all about hitting perfect Yoga poses, meditating like David Lynch, or summoning the Law of Attraction and proclaiming to the universe what you want so it brings it to you.

In creativity/writing, it’s all about how Stephen King or Anne Lamott or Steven Pressfield ‘does it’.

It’s all about doing, perfecting, and getting it right/better.

Our human egoic control-freakishness has gotten out of hand. Especially since we now have the cultural notion that we can fully manipulate our individual worlds via our smartphones.

In the modern world, we have this inner conflict going on where the ego is sprinting towards more control, but the soul is yearning for more surrender.

This is why people are sprinting en masse to South America so they can trip out on ayahuasca. Not judging here, and this is nothing new, but is this not a thing?

Can you feel it in humanity right now?

Reversing the course of this cultural river is going to take time, patience, and care. But I ask you, right now, just to notice it.

Where are you white-knuckling your life, work, and art? What are the areas of your experience that you find yourself banging your head against a wall?

Know that you have every ability to surrender into the bliss of this very moment, right where you are.

No ayahuasca required.

(Special thanks to Alice Karolina Smith for the Brian Eno video 🙏 )

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You and your Sabbath

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I’m going to start with the point and then I’ll back it up from there…

We have to take a break from our work. No matter how much we love it (but especially if we don’t). It’s good for our work. And it’s good for us.

Yes, I’m talking about the Sabbath. No, I’m not trying to get you to be religious. This is timeless practical wisdom, so hear me out…

Right now, Monday is our family day. This is awesome because it’s the day that the rest of the city works, so we can go do fun stuff without the crowds.

But really, it’s the only full day that works for us. Since my wife works with high school students, Saturday is her busy day. Since I do ministerial things, Sunday is a busy day for me. We’re both busy Tuesday through Friday and so, Monday it is.

It’s a luxury that’s working for a short while. Soon, Rory will be in kindergarten and our awesome family Mondays will be no more. (Don’t make me cry right now, okay?)

It’s unconventional, but Monday is our Sabbath. It’s hard enough to take a Sabbath day on Sunday (when it makes sense), but taking it on Monday when the rest of the world is working (and some of that world wants you to work too) is a super-extra challenge.

And it’s a super-extra-duper challenge when you actually enjoy your work like my wife and I do. Keeping myself away from my work is like lifting a damn elephant off of my chest (albeit a tiny one, because my current bench press standing is meager at best).

You don’t have to be religious to benefit from the age-old spiritual refreshment that comes from taking a Sabbath day.

A day that proclaims to the world — but more importantly, to yourself — that you are not a slave to your work.

(We can take this suuuper deep because we can start asking ourselves what we’re slaves to — our phones, our diets, our habits, our self-doubt, etc. — but I’ll keep this missive short.)

Call it a Sabbath. Or just a weekly day off. Whatever you name it, it’s not easy for the ego.

But in order to put out the work that best represents you and live a worthwhile life, the soul needs to breathe.

Yes, it’s a challenge, but it’s one worth fighting for.

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I am a multipotentialite

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Conventional internet wisdom (yes, we’re making this a thing) tells us to find a niche. I’ve even touted this sentiment myself. However, I think I’ve fallen into the same misunderstanding that many others have, which is that this notion means that we must all be specialists.

Come to find out, that’s not it at all (more on this in a sec).

However, in my previous ignorance, I jumped into the shoes of one specialty after another trying to find the right fit. I went all-in on being one thing. And then the other thing. And then…

As soon as one started to feel comfy in one pair of shoes, I’d get… Uneasy. Or bored. Or claustrophobic.

If you can relate, you’re likely a polymath. A renaissance person. A multipotentialite, as Emilie Wapnick calls us.

We like different stuff. And that’s awesome. We can even make a living doing this today.

We polymaths can smoosh our interests together and make a living by serving a certain subset of humanity who cares.

I mentioned Emilie Wapnick because it was her TEDx talk (I’m a couple years late — sorry, Emilie) that made me realize I’m one of them. I’m a multipotentialite. I can’t get myself into a neat and tidy package no matter how hard I try. And I guess that’s perfectly fine (even though I still can’t answer that question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”).

Ahhhhh. My shoulders loosened so much on that discovery. When I looked at my most important work — this very publication — it was as clear as day: I like to write about… Life. And life involves seemingly random stuff. But it all kind of works out. And people seem to like it (matter of fact, I just learned that it’s the #1 single-author publication on Medium, which I’m still processing).

I can be me. All of me. And I can serve you in a way that no one else does, as random as that may be.

I can write about spirituality and creativity and business and writing and my kid and my beard and love and poetry and… Yeah.

Somewhere in the middle of all that is a thing. A life. A life that, I’m sure, I’m not alone in. A life that you can relate to and glean wisdom and insight and LOLZ from — if even a little bit.

We only need a few to serve. The ones as weird as us.

Jesus only had twelve. Look how that turned out. (Maybe good — maybe bad — depending on how you see it.)

So, if you’re a multipotentialite, welcome. We’re kindred souls.

Know that niching down and finding your tribe does NOT necessarily mean specialization (although, it can).

So go forth, share wildly, and serve deeply.

And when they roll their eyes and say, Well, THAT was random, you can smile and say… Yeah… Thanks…

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Do you really have to?

There’s a short three-word phrase I invite you to examine in your inner dialogue. That phrase is…

“I have to…”

I have to wait for them to give me the go-ahead.
I have to get better at writing to share my work.
I have to get up at 5 am.
I have to let the client have her way.
I have to be strong.
I have to be happy.
I have to get back at him.
I have to be really nice to my wife.*

(*This one is probably true.)

You get the point.

But really…

Do you have to?
Or is your ‘have to’ serving as a really useful scapegoat?

Tough questions are often the best ones.

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Being where you are

“A man standing in a tunnel in a field in Redding, wearing a pair of black Nikes” by Japheth Mast on Unsplash

When you’re in the content-creation world, there’s a temptation to be someone you’re not. This is the nature of the internet. We can drum up whatever profile we want on social media and create content around it.

(Kind of like the self-appointed #thoughtleader. I digress.)

I recently fell into this trap a bit, but not in a deceptive way…

When I first signed up for divinity school, I was so enthusiastic that I decided to own the part. I started taking on the role as a minister and spiritual teacher when in actuality, a quiet-but-wise part of me (you know what I’m talking about, right?) didn’t feel that I was quite there yet.

I got way over my edges and it got to be too much. I had to come back to center and own where I was knowing that I will evolve, in time, to the next phase — whatever that turns out to be.

When I did that — when I owned the fact that I’m still a working writer who has a fairly high proficiency of (but is still in learning-mode about) spirituality, I could be much more easeful about my content. I could consider offering more services that were in my wheelhouse rather than stretching for a competency that I haven’t yet gained.

In this online world, we can easily make up a fake life. This always has consequences.

Readers can energetically tell if you’re bullshitting. Even if you’re not trying to be devious, you’re still bullshitting nonetheless (mostly, you’re bullshitting yourself).

One day, I might be firmly and comfortably in that world that I was stretching to. And that’ll be great. But right now, I’m here. I’m kinda straddling two worlds — the old and the new (the professional writer and the burgeoning minister). And that’s beautiful.

Come back to the ground beneath you. Own where you are. Love where you are. And as you grow, your story can organically change along with you.

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