The Foundation of Our Work

Is the foundation of your work your education?

Or maybe it’s your mission?

Maybe it’s your religion?

Maybe it’s your past experiences or some combination of the three?

If we look at this, we know that a foundation is informative of what we create over the course of our life.

That these beliefs and experiences can’t help but bleed into our work.

That say, Lin Manuel Miranda, had a foundation that always had the possibility of “In the Heights” and “Hamilton” as seeds inside of him.
And his development and courage thereafter are what grew them into existence.

But we don’t always consciously choose our foundation. In the early part of our life, this is circumstantial.
We are given a foundation, and it’s our job to use that soil in our own way.

The good news is that everyone has the raw materials to create.

The bad news is that everyone does not have the raw materials to create the same works of art in their life.

I could not, and should not write the play “Hamilton.”

But I am happy that Lin Manuel Miranda, did.

I could not, and should not build the company Space X, but I am happy that Elon Musk is creating it.

I could not, and should not be an IT consultant for the green energy grid.

But I am happy that the soil of someone else has led them there.

I am happy that they have taken what they had and made a harvest.

And I don’t complain about the soil that I’m given.

And the potential that you have is unique.

And you already have it, it’s yours.

But can we change our foundation?

Well, we can examine it, understanding it better to understand ourselves.

And we can add topsoil.

These are times when the mixture of our foundation drastically changes.

As Tyler Cowen calls them, “life-quakes.”

New paths and learnings that fundamentally shift a layer of who we are, changing our foundation, which changes our output.

But let me introduce a different possibility, if this talk of soil is worrisome to you.

I’ve noticed something else in my work with entrepreneurs who have found success in their fields, despite working in a variety of different industries.

And it has helped me recognize my own foundation…

And it’s helped grow other forms of success…

Their foundation is the regular creation of art.

This practice acts water and sunlight.

It’s a bedrock process that supports everything else that they do.

It’s a process that, when done for its own sake, helps them comfortably return to themselves again.

To make peace with who they are.

And to dig to find what is still waiting to be grown.


A Life Without Problems

Most things aren’t problems unless we make them so.

Unfortunately, we make problems of most things.

Over the past 2 years, possibly 4, or possibly since I was born, I have been on a journey to remove problems from my life. It would be safe to say that this way of living is common. That as we grow up we run into problems, and with each problem or obstacle, we seek to end it, to make it go away, to leave it behind.

But what is not common is the purpose and intention for how this is done. See, for me, it’s not that I am going about my life and suddenly a problem arises.

Rather, I seek problems out.

But why would someone seek problems out?

The reason that I seek problems out is because I believe that there is a way to move beyond a problem such that it never, or very rarely, ever occurs again. If this is truly the case, then the goal is to move through as many problems as I can in this life, such that as time passes there are simply fewer problems in my way.

In passing beyond each obstacle, I limit the number of obstacles facing me.

But aren’t there millions… infinite problems?

No.

There is a nuance to all of our problems, therefore they are all individual. But there are not infinite problems.

One could look at Maslow’s needs and say, “yes, there is a short list, but emotionally…”

Our problems are mostly one of emotion.

We keep ourselves distracted from facing these emotional problems thanks to the free entertainment of smartphones and screens.

So we avoid most problems, or we delay facing them.

They arise, and we turn away.

They arise, and we avoid.

Problems arise… and we put them off into the future.

This is a logical way to be if this problem continues to occur in your life.

You know that facing it equals pain. And that it will come back again.

But what if facing it didn’t equal pain?

What if facing it meant less pain forever after?

That if you truly looked at the scariest of problems it would disappear, like looking under the bed or in the closet for a monster. Its existence would be nowhere to be found.

This mission of seeking out and removing problems is the current that takes priority in my life above all else, as it is the one that benefits all else.

Who is most engaged, most helpful, most connected with others and the world, but the person without problems?

If your life is controlled by problems, your decisions, your actions, your attitude towards the world around you are constricted.
If your life remains controlled by problems, you will be stuck facing them, rather than facing life.

And in this way, you will miss much of the beauty that is around you.

As you brood and stew on your dilemmas, you will be unknowingly allowing moments to pass that do not come again.

Trapped in your mind is no way to spend a precious life.

And a life without problems is the most precious of all.

It’s here that you might imagine quotes that you’ve seen about how problems and obstacles make you stronger.

That you need something to go up against and conquer, and that this is part of life.

Do we really enjoy the struggle? And is the struggle the purpose?

I do believe it’s necessary to identify and conquer our problems. However where we may differ is that I believe upon conquering them, you should never have to face them again. When David slays Goliath, there is no longer a Goliath.

If David slew Goliath, and there was a Goliath again the next day…

Well, then we would be reading the Myth of Sisyphus…

So is there a possibility that you may slay your Goliaths and never see them return?

Yes.

But is that the way that most people move through life?

No.

Why?

Because these problems are first and foremost occurring in a place that is entangled and difficult to parse out.

Emotional problems are difficult to see.

You feel the pain of Goliath’s fists but everywhere you look you only see smoke.

And because you don’t see your difficulty, you continue to wander lost, beaten at odd turns by fists you did not see coming and that don’t have a face of any kind.

The process of disentanglement, while arduous and nuanced, eventually clears the smoke.

And as the smoke begins to clear…

Problems show their face.

And as you see their face,

You begin to defeat your problems…

And suddenly less arise, and you become more free.

And becoming more free shows you possibility.

Of a life…

Without problems.


Misc. Reader Replies (March)

Re: Friday Coffee, Austin

I lived in Austin for 3 1/2 years. “Lived” is a misnomer though. I was working about 70 hours/wk. One of my favorite places in all of Austin is the park trails on the southwest side that go all the way out to the lakes (can’t member the name of the park though it’s rigt off the highways). They are a beautiful way to spend a day – biking and hiking.

If you’re a foody hit Central Market on a Sunday (they hand out free samples). Central Market is what Whole Foods wishes it could be and is the ONLY place I can find baked goods and fresh produce as good as in NOLA. They use as much local food as possible and it shows. It’s worth an hour if you’re in the area.

If you like bbq (I don’t know your diet) I would say there are 2. Salt Lick is the famous one. They are with sauce. But the truly special place is Kreutz’s in Lockhart (about 20 minutes from Austin). You get in line, there is a giant smoker, you order by weight (ask for the end piece btw), and you get saltines or wonderbread. No silverware. No sides. Eat by hand and dont ask for sauce. As a side: Mr. Aand Mrs. Kreutz divorced. She got the business, he got the bbq pit. That pit has NEVER been out. The put it on a flat-bed trailer (lit of course) and threw a parade for the relocation of it to the new building.

Great city. Have fun.
Chris L
Re: Friday Coffee, Austin

David,

Been sitting here with Notion open, wondering if it’s worth the switch from Evernote or not.. they recently sent me an email with a whole bunch of feature updates which I’m happy they’ve done.. all except one, I can’t copy more than one paragraph at a time from my phone app! Funny world we live in, asking ourselves if this new tech thing is actually making our progress more helpful, or just taking up a bunch of our time to do the exact same thing we were doing before.

Read an interesting reflection from a fellow about doing a 1 month social media fast. He came out with realizing a reason why he checks his phone so much is to see if he’s missing an important txt or email from loved one or clients. So, he got a cheap smartwatch to get the alerts on his arm instead of a phone he’d have to keep tucked inside his person somewhere. Neat idea. But then again, begs the question, do we want to be that instantly available? What’s wrong with responding to things the next day? Or later that day.

Been contemplating the abstractness of being distracted with little devices recently. Even sitting in a cafe with a laptop, which I love to do, we’re distracting ourselves and effectively shutting a door to perhaps more vibrant human-to-human interactions we could possibly be having. All situational dependent I guess.

Cheers,

.ned
Re: Friday Coffee, Austin

Hola David! Sweet seeing that you are in Austin. Make sure to check out Barton Springs (or “doggie springs”, on the other side of the members area)! Also, there’s a very bohemian hippie vegan spot on S. 1st past Annie (heading south) you should check out, it’s called Bouldin Creek Cafe. Kiks and I were hanging around there in 2016, holding down the Teysha fort at that very strange orange building on the corner of S 1st and Annie. Ancient Ink Tattoo is there too. Luar, Adam, Puppet, and Mark, those guys are great. Say hi if you wander in lol. Really great memories from our (brief) time in Austin. I can’t imagine how much it has changed in just a few years. I hope it still maintains some aura of that spaced-out slackerville USA character… It’s still the live music capital of the world IMO…. and, of course, the tacos, Dios mío…..

Let me know if you have some free time this weekend man! Would be sweet to catch up on the phone or Facetime.

un fuerte abrazo,

D
Re: The Things We Cover Up…

Hey David,

This one struck a chord and I felt like sharing my thoughts.

It’s easy to avoid addressing our issues and our insecurities. It’s the same as instinctively saying “I’m good” when we’re asked how we’re doing.

Another insidious thing that derives from this is that we might just end up pressuring others to lie to themselves.

“Hey, if that guy’s successful and not complaining, I certainly can’t allow myself to!”, they’ll say, not knowing we face those same difficulties.

It’s tempting to push it all under the rug, but this emotional clutters adds up and ends up suffocating us.

Sharing those doubts helps us make them tangible. They are now lies that have a shape, and so we can act upon them or be held accountable for them by our peers (and vice versa).

Thanks for this email (and your initiative).
Gabriel
Re: The Things We Cover Up…

This particular email resonated with me as it (behind honest with yourself) transcends across multiple facets of life, family and business.

When I had to set boundaries for my Sister and Mother, due to their toxic personalities, it took a while to put my finger on the problem. This was it. To face their past was simply too to hard – they feared vulnerability and had identified as a victim for so long, they feared who they may become – and so live a lie. I was then able to forgive them for not having the eyes to see or the courage to change, but also knowing that I can’t help them, so was able to move on without them in my life, and without the guilt.

This thinking really helped with my Branding/Graphic Design business. I can see the signs of when some clients are really stuck in their ways and I know I can’t teach them how to pivot and grow their business. It’s a lot easier to understand it’s “not me”, my strategy or business processes.

T
Re: It’s a 24/7 World

“The problem is our best selves come out in the spaces between. In the “pause between the notes.”

I love this. Reminds me a bit of Bertrand Russell’s idea of the importance of idle time. We’re alwasy busy bees, even when we’re ‘relaxing’ we’re still so often staring at our phones, our social media accounts, our gaming libraries, news feeds and photo collections. Almost as if we’re scared that running out of an activity will somehow run us out of existence.

Actuelly, I’ve recently put a reminder into my calendar to just ‘create’. And what it means is to, once a week, take my time. No scrolling, no running, no watching, reading or playing anything. I just force myself to sit down in a quiet room with a piece of paper in front of me, allowing my mind to wander for a while – and if there’s anything to write about, I write it down, see where it takes me. I’ve found it to be a really nice way to see what’s really going on underneath the surface in the absence of input. When all that’s left is output in its purest form. I felt like it kind of matched the topic of your e-mail.

So thanks for this. It reminded me, once again, of the importance of idling. 🙂

– Maaike
Re: Breaking the Spell

Love it! Only comment would be that there seems to be a certain sense of duality between PRESENCE and living in the moment (a meditative life, if you will), and SEEKING, I.e living in the future and shaping your now in a way to get you to that future.

How do you navigate this duality? As it seems that they are inherently in dichotomy with one another.

Awesome email as usual.

– Abhi
Re: Breaking the Spell

thank you so much for writing these, the last few ones in particular have been so spot on for me, but this one, I had to print out and put on my desk. I keep going through cycles where I’m absolutely flying through work, and not just any work, but the most important, high yielding work I can do, and my brain just sorts this naturally and quickly as if there was no other option, and then inevitably after a few days of this amazing “speedy” brain mode, I start to slow, my mind starts to go crazy with anxious thoughts before bed and then I don’t sleep, and fall into a slump of a day, a week, sometimes much longer, and it’s terrible because the entire time I’m in the slump, I’m distantly aware of this vastly superior “brain mode” that I just can’t find the way to access.

This may not be exactly what you’re referring to, but in my own way I feel that it is similar. Being self employed, the urge to work 7 days a week, not because I have to, but because I want to and I like what I’m working on (when I’m in the proper mindset) is very strong. I have been trying very hard. It’s so frustrating when 99% of my productive days, whether it be ROI positive ideas / campaigns I’ve created, or just general life and company direction, come from this well rested “speedy” days, and then I fall into these slumps where my brain feels so lethargic and I procrastinate and “work” on tasks that I know deep down will never move me forward to where I really need to be right now.

I can’t help but feel that I’m wasting 50-75% of my life on these “slow days” and I’m trying to find a way to achieve this “speedy mode” more. I feel like I’m living as two people, one of them has an insane drive and focus and any obstacle can be overcome, and then some days I wake up and I already know I’m going to be useless beyond basic functioning that day. I know I’ve kind of deviated from your post a little and don’t feel like you need to analyze this, I just read so many of your helpful emails and I wanted to let you know that they have a huge impact on me and this one in particular.

Thanks,

Matt

Re: Breaking the Spell

Outside of my work, which is design ( I work for myself), I play the cello and I also love to dance ( I want to do more of that!) Playing cello takes extreme focus in its own way. It does not come easily to me at all, but I persist. I started as an adult. Dance is more of a release, but depending on which kind, can demand focus too (like a ballet class). These are very worthwhile diversions from work. I feel like I am using a different part of my brain. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it’s like letting a field lie fallow.

Natalie
Re: The Business Found Me

Hey David,

I’m late on this one, I’d been saving it to re-read instead of skim, and just got back to it. Man, am I glad I did.

This. This has been my sabotaging loop for a long time. Decades. Really.

” I feel some fear as I hit send on this post. That I’ll be misunderstood.

But that’s just the analytical part of me layering on top, asking if I’m “doing it the right way.”

Which is good to recognize. And I’ve taken it into consideration…”

For me, the wording – the loop – has been “Am I doing it right?”

Having done a lot of work understanding when it started, and presently being in the struggle how it played out, I wanted to share my story and reaction to your newsletter.

I went to school for one thing, which was itself a correction of a desire to do what I thought was less respectable, ‘not real work’ – Art. Because adults know Artist isn’t a ‘real job’, right?

However, I quickly realized that the field I was excelling in wasn’t the right outlet, so I began to learn different things, more creative things, and I found a way into a different, more creative industry.

I was – and in some ways still am – self taught; when I saw something I wanted to create, I dug in and made it happen. Things were hacked, used multiple programs (often trials), screen grabbed, smashed together, and output through equally elaborate work-arounds with hardware.

There were articles about how to do it easily, or how professionals did it, but I didn’t have the money or contacts for that. I just created my own solutions, got past the barriers, and even when it wasn’t exactly ‘right’ it was very exciting and satisfying.

But.

When I made the leap into a new job, I was immediately confronted with training on how to do things ‘the right way.’ Weeks of unlearning the things that had gotten me the job, of being reviewed on work of lesser quality because I was focused on how someone else had decided the creative process had to work.

Here’s the real, deeply insidious side to this genuinely critical event: It never stopped.

Just like you mentioned, Fear created a mental trap and had me in it from the start. I had made what people perceived as a huge, family affecting, rash, possibly immature decision and I couldn’t allow it to fail. I simply believed the stakes ofexternal judgment were too high and I doubled down on proving them wrong. I gave into the Fear.

On every project, in every studio, I looked for ‘the right way’ to do things. I subverted my own skills and confidence in order to conform, even going so far as to ask people with less experience “Am I doing it right?” And so the evaluation of my own work by other people’s standards just kept going, because I took it with me everywhere. Or maybe I took it wherever Fear led me.

In one sense it worked. I made it a very long time as an employee, survived layoffs, gained seniority, even made it in to management – though arguably on the strengths of my degree and previous career. But north of 50 and out of full time work since 2013, the price of this approach has made itself known.

I gave up my voice, my curiosity, my desire to create for its own sake, and have realized that finding them again isn’t simply a matter of changing offices, I have to go back and find myself again. Train myself to reclaim what was already inside me, what brought joy, what got noticed in the first place that I foolishly let go.

I look back at how creative I was when I had so little, and how now that I have more tools than ever, I’m the least creative I’ve ever been. I don’t have that part of me anymore that created freely, without restraint, that shared creativity without fear. It’s hard to accept I let it happen. Really, trying to get that back is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced.

And so I write this, in a way as catharsis, as encouragement to myself, to retell the story in a different way as a reminder I still have a fight to win.

But that’s not all.

I write to tell you, and maybe others you mention this story to – that I believe these words, this idea, are so very relevant to Creatives and the consequences around them are truly high.

I hope people read them, listen to them, roll them around when there’s no distractions, and hold them up against themselves. Depending on where we find ourselves at this moment of life, it may be uncomfortable or it may be confirmation, either way it will be Important.

For you to see this Truth now, and to share it with others, is encouraging and inspiring. I didn’t realize how much I needed to see someone call it out, to know that it’s not just me.

Thank you for reading, thank you for your writing, and take care.

– Don

Re: Mimicry

Just as unsuccessful is when we copy ourselves.

We’ve done something similar before but the inspiration for this project just isn’t coming.

But the deadline is.

We fall back on what’s worked before.

We’re thinking of what’s worked before instead of being open to allow creativity in.

It still works but feels a bit flat.

We dress it up but the spark isn’t there.

We hope others won’t notice…

…but we do.

We haven’t cheated but we haven’t created.

Hopefully, we’re uncomfortable with the feeling.

– Tom

 


Friday Coffee, Austin

Hey and hello from Austin, Texas, Ya’ll.

I’m writing from a cafe downtown after a bit of a walk around Congress. Last night I was treated to the food scene here. We started at Ramen Tatsuya (http://ramen-tatsuya.com/) which had a line outside the door and then ended up at Amy’s (https://amysicecreams.com/) for vegan ice cream.

I’d like to meet Amy Simmons sometime, her brand is amazing and quirky and the exact type of brand I was hoping to see in Austin. I will be looking out for others.

Their tagline is: “Without Ice Cream There Would be Darkness and Chaos.”

Other Brands I’ve Spotted

– Yeti HQ (https://www.yeti.com/en_US/flagship.html) is right by downtown.
– The Line (https://www.thelinehotel.com/austin/) on the river (I’m going to stop in, as I’m curious what shops are inside).
– Goop (https://www.austin360.com/entertainmentlife/20190208/gwyneth-paltrows-goop-is-coming-to-austin-with-sound-baths-and-tarot-readings) just opened a physical retail location here.
– Luminary Podcasts (https://luminarypodcasts.com/?country=US) , the “netflix for podcasts” who just raised obscene amounts of capital had some billboards up, no doubt for SXSW.

Webflow

I spent a bunch of the weekend going through Webflow (https://webflow.com) . I was raised on Squarespace, and before that, Tumblr. I skipped the computer hacker-kid phase and instead chose to play sports. In retrospect, dumb decision.

Then again, electrical engineering and programming aren’t my thing, for me, it was sports and…

Art.

Particularly Sketching on the pad with a pencil or charcoal. That was until I took a film photography class.
We still had a darkroom, and you’d spend the weekend taking images and then developing the negatives.

You’ have your hands stuck in a black bag trying to reel the film out of its container without it getting exposed to the light. Then you’d head into the tight quarters with the trays of chemicals to see if what you shot was any good.

I’m a messy creator.

I need to get all of the ideas out and then cover up or erase or run it through a few times before the right piece shows up. So the more roles of film, the better.

It’s kinda like my Mac, which expands and contracts based on projects, from clean to cluttered to clean again.

Expansion

After stepping out from the day to day of Death to Stock I had to explore new areas. I had to mine the archives of what I learned along the way. I had to understand the landscape I’d traversed, not to go backward, but to go forward.

And this leads to an immediate wave of creation. This newsletter being part of that wave. But many other projects, too. And many other conversations.

Many other messy experiments, until…

Consolidation.

You refine what you’ve gathered from these experiments and find focus. Not just focus in terms of limited scope, but focus on a big vision.

You being to see with more clarity, like the image developing in the water as it comes to life and into view.

And now you see the new mountain.

You look back and you see the valley you came from, and the previous peak back in the distance that’s barely viewable through the cloud cover. And you return your gaze forward and gear yourself up for the ascent…

But before you leave, you train.

For me, that means forming of the ritual. It’s the uncompromising devotion. It’s the practical experiments.

It’s testing the potion, and then going back to the lab based on its effectiveness.

I’m feeling really energized, but know that this is a long journey ahead, so I’m not getting too overzealous tiring myself out too quickly when it’s a long climb.

Workflow

Part of this recent reflection has been a refinement is workflow. Most systems we use are 5-10 years old. But to adapt to the technology of the day is to maximize your leverage.

You test out new tools, and ask yourself, as the Amish do, “Will this help me accomplish my goals?”

And is there a multiple that makes it worth switching costs?

And some new questions:
* Where would you begin if you were to start from scratch?
* What tools are available today that weren’t available 5 years ago?
* What functions do I perform which should never be outsourced, but instead support me? And which functions should I outsource?

The answer is not always technical, but it’s the easiest to cover. I could give you a list of tools, but the truth is they work in unique ways to the individual, and are entirely dependent on what’s being done.

Right now my focus is on developing a workflow that uses smarter tech to help outsource minute that I don’t want to think about. It means batching tasks. And mostly I’m hacking stuff together with Zapier (https://zapier.com) , Webflow, Pocket (http://getpocket.com ) , Airtable (https://airtable.com/invite/r/BkckmEyP) etc. Ben Tossell (https://twitter.com/bentossell) has been a big help here.

I don’t intend to indoctrinate you into the world of Weblflow and Zapier just yet. But I have a note that will bug me if I don’t get to it.

Thanks

Thanks to Super (https://twitter.com/suprasannam) for some help on dissecting a few ideas and viewing them as drafts.

Thanks Marc (https://twitter.com/MarcEglon) , for including me in your roundup of newsletters and for sharing your digital hackpreneur mag with me.

Thanks Daria for forwarding this to your friend.

Thanks Elisabeth (https://www.instagram.com/etavierne/) for sharing on Instagram.

Good Catching up this morning over coffee, back to it.

Speak soon,

xx David

 


Marketing is Leadership

Inside any given business…

“Leadership” is abundant. There will be coaches, books, meetings all about how to instill leadership into the culture.

But Marketing… is scarce.

If the reverse were true, we would be happier, and more productive.

We forget that a company is a story.

That what we do for work, how we spend our time, what we buy, what we wear, where we travel… all stories.

And that instead of getting caught up trying to “Lead” we would instead recognize that, and then help shape the stories of the people in our sphere in a way that grows their abilities, understanding and engagement.

See, stories change someone because they help someone opt-in, rather than acquiesce their control.

But demands are what leaders use to put you under obligation.

They force a narrative of a fear which shrinks you.

Demands are what we hated as kids.

Obligation is the eating of raw vegetables.

Stories are us daydreaming for hours, thinking about who we want to be in the future.

Obligation is putting up a facade about who you are now, despite your future dreams.

Stories are a shared vision for the future.

And so there is great responsibility in the stories we tell and the ones we propagate.

And each day you have the power to open a door.

Or give permission. Or show possibility.

What are conferences and TED talks but giving people permission?

What are podcast, and magazines, and music videos and meetups but giving people inspiration and then permission?

The permission to act in a different way.

The permission to walk through a door.

The permission to act.

You know, after talking to thousands of artists from everywhere to the Scottish Highlands, Hong Kong and Brooklyn, I’ve identified the number one fear.

And the number one fear is…

Success.

We’re terrified of our own success.

We’re terrified of who we might become if all of our problems are gone.

Sure… take some of my problems.. but all of them?!

Sure give me some responsibility… but all of it?!

We’re afraid because we’re afraid to drop the story and pick up the new one.

We’re afraid that if we let down the mask of shame and obligation…

“Will we still be valued by the people in our lives, of whom we’ve become comfortable and accustomed to pleasing in the way we’ve acted in the past?”

We’re scared that the reality is, each of us has power to change things.

But the truth is through walking through the door of growth, you will just be you still, except with more influence and opportunity.

The new story you can adopt will be you, just with less stress and shame.

That the story you can tell yourself and others in your one life can be those that give permission and open doors instead of put up walls and demand that others conform.

Leadership is not founded on obligation and “Leading” but on changing the people around you to become more successful than they thought they could be.

And you’ve got the power to do that tomorrow.

No, today.


Breaking the Spell

There is a pattern that keeps playing out in my life. And I’ve tried to break it at least 1,000 times before. And as I’m becoming more aware now, I’m understanding the nuance.

The pattern is this:

I’m getting into the flow of my work. Over the course of a few days, I’m increasingly attracting more results to me and my output feels effortless.

I’m taking action without thought, and the results are that each task I do is effective.

In these two or three precious days work comes naturally, as does what to do next.

And then I falter. Somewhere I give in to a passing thought or desire or curiosity.

It used to be I would break this spell by going out on the weekends. I’d be feeling so great from how deeply engaged I was in life, that I’d think I was on top of the world, and thus could party, go out, and let loose a bit.

This would derail me off track.

Later, after I have changed my lifestyle so that it’s not partying that I do, instead, I am feeling so great, that I continue to force work into the weekend, and take it too far.

I would work so much, that I attempt to put in more than I have in me.

This equally puts me off track.

What I’m seeking is full engagement, 24/7.

To work without effort, to take action without trying, and to keep a flow in my life such that doesn’t get broken.

But there are so many places and ways for it to break.

So many areas for distraction. So many places where my energy can leak.

I attempt to let loose, and I overdo it and lose it.

I attempt to continue my work through the weekend, and I force it and lose my hold.

I attempt to keep a balance and I get distracted.

I attempt to give myself downtime, which wanders either through boredom or forced attempts to continue to build my skills, which come from a reactive need to NOT be how am I being, and again I lose it.

This quality I’m after is what people would call “presence.” But it’s not really about my focus, rather my attitude, and, you could almost say it’s a keeping a sort of “distance” from my focus. I’m not sure if you know what I mean? But it’s something like being so fully invested in what I’m doing, that I am equally distant and separate from it. This is something that I’ve found to be not only pleasurable but also effective.

It is the opposite of drudging through life.

And finding this sweet spot is the only area in which I am constantly vigilant.

And, now, I understand that you might say that this drudgery is a part of life.

That events happen outside of our control and you cannot keep whatever space it is you’re speaking about. Or that this is what “life is.”

But I believe that is untrue.

As the nature of everything I do which puts me back into the frame of my work and breaks my pattern does so because it changes something inside of me. It changes the subtle flavor of how I approach my work. A slight bit of fear, or reactiveness, or shyness, or feeling like a fraud, or feeling like I am unequipped to handle today’s task, or like I’m somehow not in charge, and all of these things change the subtle

And what I’ve found is that it never has to do with the outside circumstances.

It only appears that way. And that certain circumstances spark these changes, but the proportion and reaction depend on my own beliefs because many of the outside circumstances that throw me off track are blown out of proportion.

Many of the outside circumstances cause a change in me but then go back to normal a day after having a freakout. And if that’s true, why react at all?

And slowly I’m finding my way out of the pattern.

I suppose this is what mastery and craftsmanship is like. A steadying of the hand.

Experience, which allows you to find yourself back into a flow despite changes to the terrain. Jumping into the flow and using the unknown and the change in circumstances as a way to deepen your practice, rather than break from it.

What used to be minutes of focus, became hours became days.

What is becoming clear to me now, is a question that by understanding, shows me the way out.

The question is:

“When does life become work?”

And the answer is…

“When I am disengaged.”

xx David


My Growth has Stalled, Should I Change Career Paths?

Member Question: Since so much is limited by the budget of local businesses we work with, I’m feeling like my growth has stalled out. And I’m also questioning if I want to stay in web design or pursue something where I get to interact with humans more. (Maybe video storytelling?) Any suggestions or encouragement for how to move forward?

Background: I am a millennial who has been a web designer in a small city for 3 years now.

–– Stephanie, Fort Wayne, IN

Reply to Stephanie with your thoughts! (https://deathtostock.typeform.com/to/cceBUo)

I think the deeper question here is determining the work you personally want to do.

“Web design, or video?”

Then, it’s finding the clients that benefit from that work.

The current client climate and work is more of a litmus test for if you’re on track or not… Right now that’s flashing a type of warning sign. That means it’s possible that it’s the clients. Or that it’s possible that it’s the type of work.

Thinking in terms of your options…

A. Continue as is.

B. Seek clients with web design needs that take you to your personal edge of growth with the work.

C. Sell a new service to future or existing clients to experiment.

———
Breaking them down…

A. Continue as is. (I don’t judge any choice here)

Maybe it’s best for me to just tell you “Stephanie, you’re doing work that is helping your clients, and being focused on them and attentive to their needs is the best way for you to find joy in your daily work.

You’re doing great, just always be on the lookout for more ways to help, and your own way of adding art to your interactions (even outside of web design).”

B. Feels like the path that would best help you understand “Is it web-design, or is it the client?”

Can you get in touch with a web designer who is currently doing the type of work that you hope to do someday, and simply ask them if they are enjoying it? And how long it took to get where they are? etc.

You want to get a vision for what your work *could* be if you decide to pursue it.

There’s no point in climbing Everest if you hate the view at the top…

C. Should happen naturally, and you should start way before you’re ready. Just DO the service for a client and ask for permission later.

Take photos, or video etc. and then be like “hey, I’m learning this and I thought this could help with your work right now, is this useful/helpful for you to use?”

Does that sound like not something you want to do?

…Well, then you probably don’t really want to do it anyways!

Thanks for sharing your question, Stephanie, and I’ll let others chime in with their thoughts.

xx David

 

 


Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale…

Enjoy this moment. Somewhere something you’re doing is going well.

The bed you lay down in is warm and comfy.

Your tea is perfect.

You step outside and feel the sun.

At this moment things are good.

Exhale…

A problem or obstacle is coming. Of this I’m sure.

We can simultaneously see what’s good, and expect the next challenge.

This bed is comfy but you must get out of it.

This tea will soon be cold.

Today’s win is the moment before tomorrow’s loss.

This is the rhythm of your life.

Obstacle, and Achievement.

Comfort, and Discomfort.

It’s easy to be swept into this like a tide, caught off guard with each new wave that comes, good or bad.

Happy when times are good.

Shocked when times are tough.

But that would be a mistake in not seeing this game for what it is.

Having awareness of this rhythm, we can come to understand it.

To savor the good moments while knowing it’s temporary.

To expect the obstacles to come, and laugh at their arrival.

It’s like your problems are knocking at your door, and you can try and hold the door shut.

Or you choose to let them in.

Because both are the same coin.

The error is in your perception of duality.

In seeing them as separate.

In getting hit by waves you aren’t expecting.

Instead of recognizing that this…

Is the rhythm.

 


The Things We Cover Up…

 

Keep us stuck.

The thing that is most difficult about being stuck is admitting it.

It is Honesty that frees us and opens us up to new possibilities.

In our professional lives, we lie to ourselves constantly. Not the type of “lie” that we’re taught about in grade school, the “lie” that is mean or hurtful to others.

Emotional lies… with ourselves.

The lie that we are writing a book (when we haven’t written it in months).

The lie that the business is going great (when we haven’t kept a clear record of our income in a decade, and the desk is disorganized).

The lie that our menu is a smash hit (when scarcely any customers are coming through the door).

The reason we lie emotionally, with ourselves is to save ourselves from the pain of admitting our inaction. It’s a refusal to look at things as they are, for fear of what that might mean for our identity.

But the interesting bit about emotional lies is that somewhere deep down we use them because…

We want to project them as reality.

And the great irony is that if we wanted them to be a reality…

The fastest way to make that happen is to reveal the lie.

There is a giant leap forward that comes with truth and honesty.

There is progress the minute we pull down on the sweater that you’ve kept over our eyes in avoidance.

And at this moment we have the opportunity to see new steps appear that may work, which deviate from the circular path we were so comfortable walking along.

Recognizing honestly where we are.

Knowing honestly where we wish to go.

Seeing the truth is a catalyst for progress.

And so in a way, it is true progress…

That we refuse to see.

xx David


Russian Doll on Netflix

 

Right now we swap through Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon equally. I “cut the cord” 6+ years ago. Some time in college. I could always find sports if I needed and everything else I pirated. Until now, thanks to the streaming services. The $15 is well worth the convenience, and so like burning CD’s disspeared because Spotify legitimized music, now we see the same for TV.

Well, it used to be that TV played to the masses, and therefore made garbage which we willingly consumed. I’m not saying it’s not fun to occasionally watch the Voice or the Kardashians, but if you’re looking for plot and writing this is not where you turn.

But on the big screen, movies, we also turned toward mass, which is why there are rarely original movies anymore. Instead, we get sequels, remakes and brand extensions. We get Super Heroes, redone westerns and Star Wars spin-offs.

These serve a purpose, but Netflix’s investment in media was about giving us something new.

Not that the way we purchase TV will be. Everything will be bundled and it will be just like it was before, except now the bundles are online and the cable companies stream to your phone.

But I’m not complaining because we’re getting a choice.

And we’re getting quality.

Netflix is spending on data, using algorithms to help not only drive creative but drive suggestions. Then again genre creating creative is never formulaic.

So Netflix can identify the zeitgeist, but likely can’t spur it, at least not in the early days.

What they will do efficiently is capture it. They’re positively having a moment right now. They’re putting out hit.

“Bird Box” Marie Kondo’s show, and now the “Fyre” doc which I thought was less informative and made me more uneasy as compared to the Hulu version.

Either way, they’re driving eyeballs, investing in creative, and are unafraid to deliver in niches like comedy and cooking.

Like we saw with the recent Gimlet acquisition, original creative is selling at a high multiple.

Maybe more than software! The economics of owning a license in your backlog is phenomenal, that is if they have staying power. And it’s almost impossible to know if that’s true upon release. In fact, many shows look like duds before they become cult classics. The “Cult” makes them into something that is so big they continue to stream for a decade. Like Seinfeld. Like Star Trek. Like the Office. Like Stranger Things…well that may not be the case.

Not that we’ll see many more buyouts like that. Gimlet was perfectly positioned in a growing market, and now Spotify is looking to grow the pie that they’re helping bake (and then eat).

But original content satiates the appetite of current subscribers and it draws in new ones. So not only do hits drive views, but they drive attraction of creators to the platform.

Netflix has the advantage of the head start.

Amazon has the bundle.

Hulu is partnered up with the big players like Disney.

The Data is key, but Netflix suggested is not always on the money.

For that, we still go to recommendations from other humans, either individually or en masse a la Rotten Tomatoes.

Which is where I saw a note about Russian Doll in Kevin Kelley’s Reccomendo (http://recomendo.com/) newsletter.

The premise is about facing your demons; but the plot is about Nadia, a frizzy red haired, gruff 30’s NYC dweller is stuck repeating her birthday in a “Groundhogs Day” like fashion.

Each time she dies she ends up back at her own birthday. And at the party are characters from her past (and her future) which help her reconcile some hidden burdens that she’s kept below the surface.

And the characters are simple at first, but as the loops progress, we see more texture and stories and eventually…

Everything that was kept inside and buried comes to the surface.

This show is like therapy, except the stakes are more dramatic and it’s messy, the way it is in real life. Loops happen more than they should before we learn. And try as we might to avoid our demons, someday there is a reckoning.

Like how Nadia falls down the stairs and ends up back in the bathroom again because she misstepped her loop.

But how do you know when you’re in a loop? And what is the misstep that’s keeping you there

What is it that will release you?

That’s hard to see, but its’ easy when it involves other people. These are the rough spots, the overlaps of emotion, self-interest, unrequited love or unmet needs that other people bring out in us.

So the person that you thought you were… is that who you truly are?

And can you escape the person that you grew up as?

Nadia avoids her past, it’s a non-starter.

On the other hand, Alan can’t face the future.

He can’t be alone but everywhere he goes he feels that he is. It’s a hole that is impossible to fill.

And this bent in his mindset harms his relationships and makes them unbearable.

On the other hand, Nadia is a natural repellant. Can’t commit to a long term relationship and pushes others away as soon as they get close.

But the two of them are linked in a new dimension.

And I won’t give away the ending but it does what shows rarely do, it leaves you feeling satisfied.

And the art of the show was how right as things get repetitive, something happens to hold your attention.

This is the power of TV. To reflect life not because it’s so similar to life, but instead because it puts together a narrative that reflects how we feel.

In Russian Doll we see two people hiding their demons who are forced into putting down their armor less they stay stuck in a loop for eternity.

And who knew that taking the armor would lead to better relationships with the world…

And with each other?

https://www.netflix.com/title/80211627