Tag: writing

On What’s Important And How to Say No

The realization that in the history of the human race, no one has ever survived old age is a profound one. Now, this doesn’t mean that we won’t eventually find a cure for ageing, and in my opinion Tim Urban has explained this beautifully. Let’s just for arguments sake however, say that we are not going to live forever, which means that we will someday run out of time in this beautiful world.

That means, that we have to make it very clear to ourselves what’s important to us. What’s going to matter, when we look back on our life? Will it matter what title we have at our company? Or will it matter that we had a lot of fun while we worked, and we got to spend our time with amazing people? Maybe we can do both. But I know which one is more important to me.

When we realize that our time is finite, we also inevitably realize that the extra hour or two we spend working, might not be worth it, if it means missing time with our fiancee, missed snuggles with our cat, a missed workout or whatever might else might be more important to us. Don’t get me wrong – if work is what’s most important to you, then by all means spend all the time you can doing it. I have a close friend who loves his job – and I’m fairly sure he would rather work than not, because it gives him an intense sense of satisfaction, and I still love him all the same.

My point is that our best course of action is to prioritize consciously, so that we don’t end up getting roped into things which we derive no pleasure from. We want to spend our time on the things which brings us the most value. This doesn’t mean skipping out on family get-togethers or only doing things which you want to do, but it does mean that we can say No without feeling bad or guilty. It means that we need to figure out if other people’s opinion are important to us, and if so, why?

Here’s the main point: I can’t decide what’s important for you. I can only decide what I find important and that only applies to me. If I can pass along a single idea from this post it is this:

Decide what is important to you and what is not, and make your best effort to spend your time according to that decision.

Do you have the right stuff?

If you’re a millennial like me, you’ve most likely grown up in a world where our basic needs were cared for.

We didn’t have to hunt our food, and we were pretty certain where our next meals were gonna come from. This has left some (most?) of us with a profound sense of longing and wishing for something more.

Many of us wish that there was somehow more to life than going to work and coming home and watching Netflix. This is not a complaint – it’s an outcry against the hollowness that many of us feel from our daily routines.

The words “There has to be something more than this” echoes in the back of my mind like an almost constant choir of haunting voices.

In my brief career I’ve managed to hold more positions than some people do in a lifetime because of this echo, and I know I’m not alone.

I know that many people feel this emptiness in their hearts and minds, and we all attempt to fill it in different ways – some with social media and TV, others with food and wine and some with exercise. There are people who foster children and yet others fill their hours with work to the exclusion of almost everything else.

When our father’s fathers and their fathers were young men, there was something to fight for.

A country, an ideology, an idea, a belief.

I envy the founding fathers, because they had an idea worth fighting for and an ideology worth dying for. They were willing to sacrifice themselves and die for the freedom we now have.

According to legend, John Adams aspired to be a politician, so that his children might be mathematicians, philosophers and poets.

And here we are.

With all the freedom to become anything that our hearts desire, but that very freedom is crippling.

It is suffocating.

It turns into FOMO.

But don’t get me wrong – I’m not an activist.

I’m not a radical.

What I want is for you to fight for what is yours. I want you to find an occasion to rise to. You have to find a challenge you can meet.

Live up to the ideals that made us who we are.

We must all strive to be better humans. To make a difference. To be bigger than just ourselves. To create something meaningful for others, however small.

That is how we move ourselves and each other forward.

That is how we silence the constant inner chatter.

That is how we show that we are made of the right stuff.

A few things I learned from five years of writing bad rap songs

Things are easy to over complicate. It’s hard to just be in the moment. But when we’re in the moment is when we do our best work. I could easily tell you a story of some famous person who struggled to do his or her best work and then stopped overthinking things and all of the sudden things just clicked.

But that would be too easy.

Too cheap.

So I’m not going to do that.

What I’m going to do instead is to simply tell you my story of writing. I started writing when I was 12, and I was feeling lonely at fat camp. My preferred style of writing was rap music – believe it or not – and as an entirely too white kid from an entirely too white neighborhood, this was a really embarrassing choice. In spite of that I managed to keep it up for the better part of five years, and it taught me a thing or two about myself. One of the things I learned was that I do my very best work when I don’t think too much. I do my best work when I get out of my own way and just go with the flow – literally. If I was an artist I might say something like “I am simply the medium through which the Universe speaks and my main job is to unclog the divine artery.” Thankfully I don’t consider myself enough of an artist to use those words, but you get my drift.

The main point of this post is that we can get a lot of very good work in, if we simply get out of our own way, and this post is a reminder to let your own creativity flow as freely as possible.

Peace.

Laugh, Fuck, Lift Weights, Repeat

There are few areas which are as telling of human behavior as the field of evolutionary biology and psychology. When we use the big historical lens to explain why we behave in certain ways many things become much clearer.

For instance, I’d argue that many – if not most – of the things we do, are attributable to gaining more status in order to find the most attractive mate(s), so that we may give ourselves the best chance at reproducing and passing our genes on to the next generation.

Incidentally, some of the things which we find the most enjoyable, are also some of the things which are good for us, and what I want to leave you with is the idea, that if we look at things in the light of evolution we’ll have a much better idea of what’s good for us and what isn’t.

If you want to know how you can better live in accordance with your true nature, think about how our ancestors lived – sitting around the camp fire, telling stories, laughing, chasing game, either with or without weapons.

Our mind wants our body to move any chance it gets. It wants to tell stories and pass on knowledge to the next generation. It also wants to pass on our genes to the and make sure that as much of our DNA as possible survives – if we have any one purpose that is it – trivial as it may sound.

So go out there and make sure you laugh everyday.

Fuck as much as you can.

Lift some weights.

And repeat.

Early and often,

How You Can Use Fear To Make You Stronger

Ever since I was a kid there have been things which have scared me to no end. The first time I was ever really afraid of dying was when I was 8 years old, playing hockey. I remember it very vividly – I was afraid my hockey stick would break and somehow cause me great injury. Naturally this never happened, because the odds of that ever happening are less than miniscule. It didn’t stop me from being afraid of it however, and for as long as I can remember I’ve been afraid of various events that never transpired.

What I’ve learned from this, is that there are a few ways to handle fear – fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of failure or any number of other fears you might conceive of. You can either succumb to your fears, which means that you let your fears hold you back from doing things, which might be a good idea in the case of crocodile wrestling, but which might not be a good idea, when it comes to asking that girl out. You can also choose to do things in spite of your fear, or you can investigate them and figure out exactly why something scares you, in which case you might learn a thing or two about yourself.

The many faces of fear

All three of these modes of dealing with fear have been useful to me, to some extent – for instance, I was overweight as a child and had to go to fat camp, which has instilled a borderline unhealthy fear of ever becoming overweight again. This, however, has also allowed me to cultivate a few healthy habits in terms of sleep, nutrition and exercise, and has spurred me to educate myself on this subject matter, more than I otherwise would have, and for that reason, I’d argue that this fear has turned out to be a net positive for me.

So fear can actually help you in a variety of ways if you know how to harness it correctly. Fear however, can also be detrimental to your well-being. More than once, I’ve found myself in a rut, because I’ve been afraid of something. For instance, I’ve been afraid to put all my effort into something, because I’ve been afraid of what happened if I failed. The result of this fear is simply that I’ve done work, which has been of poorer quality than I would otherwise have been able to deliver, and there is no benefit to this whatsoever. This is an instance when fear is very clearly and unequivocally holding me back, and I’m sure you can think of instances in your life, when you’ve experienced something similar – because fear is a very human emotion, it happens to the best of us, and the best we can do is simply to recognize it for what it is, and act accordingly.

Action-plan

So what is the best thing we can do, when we recognize that some fear or other is holding us back? One thing I’ve found to be exceptionally helpful is to confront the fear that is impacting my life, and writing down what might happen should it come fruition. For instance, if I put all my effort into my work, and I still fail, I will gain a realistic knowledge of my current skills, and I will obtain an understanding of the areas where I need to improve. As long as I keep in mind that everything in my life is subject to change, and if I apply what I know, I can grow based on the feedback I receive from my work. This is such a powerful strategy, that the very that there is something to be afraid of in this regard seems ludicrous.

When we see fear for what it is – namely a feedback mechanism which allows us to recognize and work on our weaknesses, we become that much stronger, and fear loses its death-grip over us. Keep in mind however, that not all fears are bad, and we must be aware that there are good fears and bad fears. Fears which keep us from acting stupid and fears which keep us from achieving our dreams, and the better we are able to distinguish between the two, the better our lives will be.

 

How Routines Make You Creative

Many well-known creatives including Tim Ferriss, Steven Pressfield and Ed Catmull have spoken highly of the positive influence that routine has on creativity. That is to to say, if you want the highest creative output, you must schedule when you’re going to be creative.

This might strike you as odd and counterintuitive, but the fact of the matter is, that if you want the highest creative output, you must condition your mind, in the same way you’d condition your body to lift heavy weights. What I mean by this is, is that inspiration rarely strikes a random person on the street, who is then possessed to write a masterpiece. Much more often – not to say always – creative output is a result of years of prolonged effort and hard work.

To illustrate this, let me tell you about the time I went to visit the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. There is no doubt that the man is a creative genius, and he has produced a number of masterpieces which are absolutely astonishing. He also started out however, as a terrible painter, who painted some of the most uninspiring pieces I’ve ever seen, like his painting of Potato Eaters:

Image result for van gogh potato eaters

I’m not sure what to say about this painting except for the fact, that it is a far way away from some of his later masterpieces like Starry Night

Image result for van gogh starry night original

What I’m getting at here is that creativity takes time to develop. It doesn’t happen overnight – not even for Van Gogh.

This means that if any of us are going to have a fighting chance at anything close to the creative output of a Van Gogh, we’re going to make a habit of being creative. We’re going to have to routinely exercise our creative muscles. Aristotle rightly phrased that excellence is a habit more than anything, and excellence in creativity is a habit as well. If we have creative aspirations, such as writing, creating a podcast or painting, we must schedule our efforts and optimally exercise our creativity on a daily basis.

Another thing to consider, is that you don’t have to schedule hours and hours of work every day. In fact, I don’t believe that is the best use of your time, because if you do that, then you risk burning out quickly. What has worked for me, is to break creativity – or any other matter really – down into its smallest constituent parts. What this means is that because I want to write, I make a habit to write 300 words every day, which takes around 30 minutes. This habit is small enough to ensure that I continue, and stick to it every day, and it is big enough to ensure that the output is worthwhile. Obviously, there is nothing to say that I am not allowed to write more than 300 words, but 300 words is the minimum.

What I’ve found is that writing this little bit every day is more than manageable. Most days I go over, and I’d say that I usually average between 750-1250 words per day – let’s call it an average of 1000 words per day to ease the math. That’s 365.000 words per year. That’s around four full length non-fiction books, or three very long novels. Now obviously, not every single one of those 365.000 words are going to be superb, top notch quality, but I’d be surprised if at least some of it wasn’t at least halfway decent.

The point here is that all of us can be creative, and produce content for others which is worth consuming, if only we’d make it a habit, and I’d love to know more about you and your creative habits.

What are your thoughts on how to become more creative, create better content and getting into the habit of creativity?