Choosing

Happiness and Creativity

A person is who they are for a number of reasons, one of the main ones being that they are influenced by their inputs. What you consume has a huge influence on what you produce, and being deliberate about your consumption means you will be deliberate about what you create.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I am quitting my day job. One of my objectives for this new journey is to focus on developing my ability to choose happiness over wealth, creativity over recognition.

Happiness and creativity must be kept separate from wealth and recognition, because the former are things you can control, while the latter are not.

To Help Friends

Another part of my journey is to focus on helping loved ones, with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

This last weekend, I helped my cousin take a load of garbage to the dump. This wasn’t just any garbage. This was disgusting mattresses and moldy carpet covered in cat piss.

But, I didn’t mind doing it. In fact, I kind of enjoyed doing it, because it felt good to help him. Afterward, I felt energized to do more.

That being said, this new adventure may take me to dire straits at some point down the road, but having friends to lean on is a comforting thought.

The takeaway for me is this: I should expect to ask for help at some point down the road, without expecting to receive it.

Future Prospects

I am becoming increasingly of the mind that I never want to go to another job interview again. However, this may just mean I need to shift my perspective about possible job interviews in the future.

The thing is, I’ve always approached job interviews from a place of scarcity and desperation, which makes me nervous and anxious. This is now how I wish to show up in the world. I want to get to a place where an interview means I am the one interviewing the company.

I don’t want to see if I’m a good fit for them; I want to see if they are a good fit for me.

While the thought of being an employee again grows less and less attractive, I am aware of the possibility that I may end up hating self-employment. If that ends up being the case, I’ll need to be sure that my next job search yields a beneficial outcome.

A job is an input. It takes up space in your brain. If that’s the case, I want to be deliberate about which jobs I allows into my life.

The same could be said for my relationships.

Solitude

Both writing and spending time in nature are activities of solitude. The different is that one is output, and one is input.

I’ve been listening to “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport on Audible. One of the key purposes of practicing digital minimalism is to re-claim solitude.

Solitude allows us to think our own thoughts, free from input from others.

Part of the problem with social media is that it robs one of solitude if they spend too much time on it. This is a result of not being deliberate about inputs.

Final Question

Today, have you:

  • Helped someone else?
  • Spent quality time with your loved ones?
  • Spent time in nature?

Going in Search of Your Treasure

Social Media Detox: Day 9

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Did you ever achieve your dream?

Did you ever find your treasure?

If not, why?

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when the dreams of our youth begin to falter, because I think it’s a process that sneaks up on us.

Before we know it, we’re miserable in our job, in an unhappy marriage, and/or just plain dissatisfied with life.

This is often blamed by the amount of responsibility we accumulate over our lives. Once we start a career, have a family and a mortgage, our dreams tend to fall by the wayside. We spend too much energy in ways we never anticipated during our youth.

But, the reality is more closely associated with the fear that we’re not good enough. This is a bigger energy drain than the responsibilities we garner just by living our lives.

We abandon our dreams of finding treasure, or our “Personal Legend”, as Paulo Coelho calls it in “The Alchemist” (which you may or may not have seen me mention in 1-to-all of these posts), and so we stop searching.

When we stop searching for our treasure, life’s meaning begins to fade.

But we are creators.

We have to create.

So, if you want to search for treasure again, I’ve got a shovel you can borrow.

What I Did Today

Novel writing

Freelance writing for startup blog

Meeting with my cousin’s video game development team

Something I Learned Today

Those who really want gold mine for it on a daily basis until they find it or die trying.

Something I Read Today

“[Creative people] use their responsibilities as excuses for not pursuing their dreams. They underestimate the power of starting small and taking consistent actions.” -Srinivas Rao, “How to Make Creative Ideas Happen by Organizing your Life into Projects”

Twitter is an Old Cat Lady

Social Media Detox Project: Day Two

Twitter is like an old lady who leaves milk out on her porch.

The milk she leaves is Likes, Replies, and Re-Tweets.

Twitter users are like cats who come to the old lady’s porch every day looking for milk. Some meow or purr in exchange for milk, some just kind of hang around and watch other cats meow and purr. Many start to live at the old lady’s house and overindulge in milk.

And the old lady will leave out all sorts of stuff. Some days, there might be milk, others none at all. And some days, it may not even be milk; maybe it’s soda, junk food, rabid animals–the old lady has dementia, you see.

Those of us who choose to do a social media detox are like the cats hanging out in the neighbor’s yard, on the other side of the fence.

My experiment of only using Twitter through Buffer is like meowing every day from behind the fence. I don’t approach the porch. But I meow every day at the other cats who hang around the old lady’s house and drink her milk every day.

From behind the fence, I can’t tell if the cats on the other side are paying attention, or if the old lady leaves out any milk or not. It doesn’t matter. Because, behind the fence, in the neighbor’s yard with other cats, I have everything I need already. I just like to meow at the old lady’s porch.

So, what happens when the old lady sees that the milk has been untouched?

She will stop leaving out milk.

But, that doesn’t matter, because we cats in the neighbor’s yard don’t need her milk. We just want to bring her cats to the yard, because we have milkshakes and are happy to share.

And if the old lady’s cats hear us meowing every day, eventually, some of them might get curious and investigate the neighbor’s yard.

And they will see that we are happy behind the fence.

Hopefully, they will join the milkshake party.

And if only one new cat joins, I will count that as a success.

What I did today

  • Write novel 90 mins
  • Budget for July
  • Exercised 30 mins
  • Worked on pitches for my freelance writing gig

Something interesting I read today

Focus is a Privilege by Roxanna Asgarian.

This reminded me of the obligation that comes with such focus. If we have the time and resources to focus on something that matters to us, we should absolutely spend more time doing that, because not everyone has it so easy. Who knows? Maybe our focus could spawn a project that would help those with greater needs.

Something interesting I learned today

That everyone needs a good milkshake.

Social Media Detox Project: Day One

Here we are! Day One of my Twitter detox. If you haven’t already, you can check out what this project is about here.

These posts are going to highlight the things that I spend my time doing now that I am not using any social media apps except for Buffer.

I am still figuring out the structure of these posts but I think each post will include something similar to the structure below.

What Did I Do Today

  • Worked on novel for 90 mins
  • Launched the QA page for SMDProject July
  • Exercised
  • Scheduled a few tweets for Buffer
  • Watched a development stream for my cousin’s forthcoming video game

Something Interesting I Read Today

I’ve been reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and am loving it. This book could not have come at a better time in my life, which is also interesting because the book itself contains the theme of the universe working in your favor.

The book contains many simple truths written in a beautiful way. Here is one that I think is relevant to the theme of the month:

…people become fascinated with pictures and words and wind up forgetting the Language of the World.”

And here’s another just for fun:

Whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe.”

Something(s) Interesting I Learned Today

  • That I am 100% ready for this thing to fail and to reach no one at all. And that’s okay.
  • I am working to bring myself out of the mindset that this is all just to gain an audience. I have decided to commit to the month of July to finish this project whether or not anyone reads anything I have to say. I have quit too many creative projects in my lifetime, so now its time to start one with a defined end point and see it through to completion.
  • I want to do this to remind myself that I have 100% control over my projects themselves, even if I have zero control over how they are received.
  • I also want to use this opportunity to practice deep focus. My mind tends to wander quite frequently, so I want to work it like a muscle and harness that focus.

You Can Join Too!

Feel free to get in touch if you want to share in this MAGICAL experience.

Just imagine: a life free from the bonds of social media…

Just imagine………………………………………………………………………………….

A Message to the Online Writing Community

We creatives prevent ourselves from succeeding.

We put food in our bodies that drains us instead of fuels us.

We scroll for hours through endless social media feeds.

We sit on the couch and watch mindless TV.

We obsess over other peoples’ lives and tell ourselves we are not good enough.

We succumb to The Twitch and create a self-perpetuating cycle of poor decisions.

Ultimately, we hold ourselves back.


The Way We Live

Our habits build over time and inform the decisions we make each day. Our decisions inform the way we live our lives.

The way we live our lives informs what we write about and how often we write.

And time passes — minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years float by in a surreptitious bubble, unnoticed, our gaze averted by the latest trend, controversial Tweet or buzz-worthy Netflix show.

We find ourselves in the exact same place we were a year ago, struggling to find the time and energy to write.

No new ideas are revealed.

No inspiration forms.

No change has occurred.

And so, our story is abandoned and our potential is wasted.

The potential to change someone else’s life because of something we would have written vanishes.

If we only had the time.

If we only had the energy.

We didn’t try, but at least we didn’t fail.

We’ll do anything to maintain that reality. Anything to keep us safe; away from the challenge of writing the book that lies hidden beneath piles of self-doubt, apathy and conformity within the dusty attic of our minds.


Unsatisfying lives, unsatisfying stories

It’s the same with stories. If we’re reading or watching something, and there is no character change, we feel duped; like our time is wasted.

And we writers are passionate about works by other writers. If our appetite for a good story is not satiated, we don’t just feel unsatisfied by the story — we hate it!

In the same way, if we see things in our lives that we know we need to change and then do nothing, the feeling of dissatisfaction grows and, in some cases, turns into self-loathing; a dissatisfaction with our own life story.

The way to combat this is easy in theory, hard in practice.

It’s about three basic things:

1. Making plans

2. Taking actions

3. Repeating over and over.

But, before we do any of that, we must get over the hurdle of ourselves.


Not caring what naysayers say

In order to get to that point of taking actionable steps toward meaningful change, we must get over the fear of what others will think.

That fear stops us in our tracks, keeps us from moving forward and prevents us from writing something important.

We create scenarios in our head that are different from reality but have the consequence of keeping us pinned down.

I think one of the keys to creative success is posting creative content without regard for how it will be received.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t listen to others.

Constructive criticism is invaluable and helps us view our work through the eyes of another in a realistic and meaningful way.

But if the feedback we receive is not constructive in any way, it can be safely ignored. If we don’t focus on destructive criticism, it’s far easier to move forward.

We’ve got enough working against us as it is (i.e. ourselves).

The fear of what others will think leads us into the realm of excuses. Whatever reason we can conjure up to not do the work becomes our default.


Creating Excuses

The transparency created by social media can be a positive thing. On social media, we can find our tribe. We can interact with people we wouldn’t otherwise be able to. I have met many people online who I really enjoy interacting with. It is an unprecedented time in history and is truly amazing.

The problem occurs when:

  • Social media acts as a substitute for a real, physical social life rather than a complement.
  • We validate our feelings of guilt over not writing by feeding the thing that is distracting us from writing in the first place.
  • We compare ourselves to those we deem more successful.

Then the feedback loop, the cycle of negativity in our minds starts up again.

We writers create any number of excuses to not write; to avoid it; to put it on the back burner. Yet, the fact remains that writing is work, and requires a great deal of concentration in order to do well.

With social media, our concentration is impeded and excuses become far easier to make. Social media becomes our distraction from the fact that we are distracting ourselves from writing.

We make excuses and write posts about how we just can’t seem to write; we just can’t focus. Then we place that focus on social media for the next hour, and see others on their own writing journeys who also struggle, which helps us feel better about ourselves.

We can absorb the reality that there are others just like us, struggling just as we are.

Too much social media is like too much sugar: hypes us up and makes us feel good before the inevitable crash. It becomes the cause and solution to our problems.


An Obligation to Improve Ourselves

If we arm ourselves with a self-defeating attitude we reinforce the status quo, which is this:

I’m not good enough.

But the cold hard reality is this: we cannot get good at the thing if we always look for excuses to not do the thing.

Pushing through the fog inside our minds is part of the process of getting better.

And the less distracted we are, the more the fog begins to lift.

If we make positive changes within ourselves and are solid with who we are, we can share that positivity with others. Each of us has a unique worldview; we can say things in a way that no one else can.

And we should share our worldview, because the world is changing:

  • whether or not we like it.
  • while we distract ourselves and hole up inside our bubbles of safety.
  • and we have full access to what it has to offer.

If we want to succeed, if we want to reach others, we must work harder than we ever have before.

We must be committed to doing the Deep Work and allow it to inspire us.

We must be willing to make ourselves vulnerable.

We must make sacrifices.

But…

We must also take care of ourselves.

We must fill the well with that which nourishes our bodies, minds and souls.

Eat well. Exercise. Make sleep a priority.

Use social media responsibly.

If You Do That…

You can handle it.

You have support.

Don’t feel guilty. Many of these behaviors are programmed into us and are difficult to alter…but not as difficult as you think.

It’s never too late. Change is possible.

Our ideas, our world views are worth spreading.

Our ideas percolate, reverberate, circulate.

And duplicate.

For better or worse.

If we each took a single step forward, the ripples would flood the world.


The Point

In a perfect world every writer would have a finished book.

But that’s not the case, because writing is hard.

On the long and winding road we will inevitably encounter challenges from time to time. And sometimes, stepping away is the right move. But if we remedy every single challenge with distraction rather than perseverance we rob ourselves of the opportunity to improve. Not only that, we rob others of the chance to experience what we can really do.

So…what can you really do?

What are you truly capable of?

If you are fearful or hesitant about sharing your writing or ideas in general, take some time to evaluate why.

What are you afraid of?

Do those fears clash with who you really are?

We need your writing.

We need you.

Don’t underestimate what you are capable of.

Don’t sell yourself short.

And…

Write.

Even if no one ever reads it.

If you need some more encouragement read these:

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? By Seth Godin

Minimalism, Success, and the Curious Writing Habit of George R.R. Martin by James Clear

And listen to this podcast:

The Ground Up Show

They’ve changed my perspective about everything.

Self-Doubt is a Fucking Creep

If you’re like me (human) and you have creative pursuits, you have likely experienced the sensation of an imp that tends to reside inside the lot of us. It prickles your chest, thumps on your brain, sets fires in the happy part of Emotion Village. There it is, the damned little bugger, lurking over your shoulder, licking its lips, telling you that you’re a failure and you’ll never amount to anything.

Fuck that guy.

His name is Self-Doubt. And he’s one of Failure’s Shitty Cousins.

Self-Doubt’s Tragic Backstory

Self-doubt is rooted in our biological need for acceptance. Back in the days when societies were first starting to form, the alternative to acceptance was banishment, which was the equivalent of death for many in the harsh wild. Then humans got smarter, and the Survival instinct linked with Acceptance was cut. Survival took another step towards its degradation, while Acceptance blossomed into a more aesthetic desire.

So now, acceptance is no longer associated with life-or-death situations; unfortunately, no one got that memo to the ancient part of our brains. Acceptance still has its roots in survival. Either way, it stands to reason we would adapt in this way.

Meanwhile, over the course of human evolution, the Survival Instinct cut more and more links with our various emotions and desires and eventually split off into a bunch of different, smaller demons.

Self-Doubt: Present Day

One of those demons did not go quietly into the night. When the Survival Instinct associated with Acceptance started to shrivel up and split off, one of the demons had a brief moment of enlightment. Just because humans didn’t need to use it for survival anymore, didn’t mean it couldn’t be “useful” elsewhere. It knew it could evolve, so it did. During this breadth of time, it started calling itself Self-Doubt, informed the entire brain community of its existence, aged with humankind and became what it is now: a creepy, wrinkly, clever old man inside our minds.

A Shitty Cousin of Failure, Self-Doubt often teams up with Addiction. This winning duo really knows how to get to us. Together, they energize themselves with modern technology–a technology called social media that grants us lucky humans the luxury of spending hours upon hours comparing ourselves to the best of the best and grasping for imagined, inconsistent rewards. And once we get those rewards, we want more. It is the same type of thing that goes off in the brains of those who gamble. But that is for a different post.

These days, Self-Doubt does not really serve any other purpose. For all its cleverness, ultimately, it is really just a blubbering old man, trying to keep us firmly rooted in the past. It whispers in our ear, pushes on our hearts, does everything and anything it can to prevent us from evolving. One thing we can learn from Self-Doubt is that we need to adapt and evolve with the times, just like it did. We need to be able to pay attention to our emotions and identify it when we sense it creeping up. We need to be aware of it when it starts munching on our minds, before it grows larger and takes up more real estate in our heads.

My Strategy for Fighting Self-Doubt

Those who are the best in their chosen field can only show us what they are now. We don’t see what they were and the struggles they went through (unless they documented on video their entire journey to the top, which is rare). They struggled, just like what we do, against Self-Doubt. The difference between us and them, is that they learned how to push past it; how to fight back. And they kept going. They continued to evolve.

I personally feel that the only way to fight self-doubt is to evolve. This is easier said than done, of course. As I have said before, self-doubt is clever and has been living inside our brains in one form or another for a long time. It knows all the secret passageways leading to our conscious thought, so ignoring does not seem to be the best solution. If we ignore it, eventually it will find another way into the forefront of our mind. Not only that, it will probably have grown much larger. Once it reaches its full potential, it will shroud every ounce of our desire in its poisonus canopy of assholery.

Here’s what I’m trying to do: when it pops its little head out like a prairie dog from the crevices in my brain (which I just learned are called sulci), I will:

  • Acknowledge its presence
  • Stop whatever I’m doing (writing, Twitter, etc.), take a few breaths and pay attention to the effect that it is having on my emotions
  • Ask myself what caused it to appear and be completely honest with myself
  • If I can, write how I am feeling
  • Meditate or exercise

I tend to stay away from whatever activity I’m doing for a while whenever self-doubt appears. When I feel I’ve adequately processed my emotions, I give myself permission to return to said activity (Twitter, etc.). If I wrote down my emotions, whether on the computer or on paper, sometimes I will keep them; other times, I will discard them.

This strategy does not work for everyone. The brain is a complex maze. For those with depression or anxiety, it is not that simple. I cannot help in that case. I can only share what I know works for me. If you battle with any type of mental illness, please seek professional help.

Redemption(?)

Ultimately, Self-Doubt will likely never go away. Not completely. It is one of the ancient emotions, part of us. But, if we learn how to handle it, to control it, perhaps Self-Doubt will turn from its bitter, creepy ways, or at least show potential to evolve into something more positive for humanity.