You wanted to create something, but you had no idea what or how or why.
And then something inside you lit up like a bonfire.
You started recording, writing, designing, hiring. Working.
What was once a flash of insight turned into something tangible. People noticed. And you were even congratulated for your effort.
But then you hit a wall. Today’s numbers were the same as yesterday’s. What gives? Where did your momentum go? “There must be something fundamentally wrong about my approach,” you say. Distraught, you tear it down, scrap it, and fill up your trash bin with the prototypes of your dreams.
Finally, you start over from square one. A clean white board. A blank canvas. A fresh start.
There’s a simple alternative.
As my buddy Greg points out, overnight successes take a very long time. Resist the temptation to start over from square one. Instead, lay down the next brick. And the brick after that, and the brick after that…
Yes, we get busy. Yes, it feels as if we’re up to our necks in paperwork, with nothing on the horizon but deadlines. Yes, we take on too much for one person to handle. We wouldn’t wish all these deadlines on our worst enemy. And yet we take them on ourselves.
We litter our horizon with deadlines and due dates. We sign up for courses. We take on projects, assignments, tasks. We even have the audacity to start projects on the side, to start our own blogs, podcasts, newsletters. And so we tell ourselves and others, “I’m swamped with work.” As if it’s an accident. As if we’re trapped in a pool of mud, with no rope to grab onto.
We can reframe this.
Instead, we can choose to swim. We can choose to see these projects as opportunities that lead to better projects, which lead to better projects, and so on. We can be grateful that this project, however meticulous and banal, can lead to something better. We can be grateful that this online course will transform how we show up in the world. And we can keep using our creativity as an endless supply of connection.
“I’m swimming with work” means you’re glad – proud – to be working on this. (Unless, of course, you hate swimming.)
Today on the show I’m joined by my buddy Rich Hebron (@richhebron). Rich Hebron is a writer, illustrator, and public speaker from Chicago, Illinois. His podcast Rich Conversationsis available on Spotify, Apple podcasts, and YouTube.
I love this guy. Rich Hebron is a true renaissance man. In three words? Playful. Wise. Open. Rich Hebron is like an open treasure chest in the middle of an urban park. You walk through the city, distracted by the sights and sounds. But then you discover the park, like that big park in New York City. Sitting in that park is an open treasure chest. You peek inside. It’s full of ancient wisdom on how to live life to the fullest. That’s Rich Hebron.
When Rich was 22 years old he voluntarily lived homeless to see what it was like. He remembers those experiences to this day. And in this episode he shares what he learned about homelessness, and how we need to rethink what it means to live without permanent housing.
Rich brings the sort of joy to a conversation that reminds me why I love talking to people. This is only round one of a hundred more episodes we’ll have together.
Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation about books, museums, dinosaurs, life, death, rethinking homelessness (Rich spent months living homeless), and, of course, so much more.
Cheers, and here’s to your good health this week. -Paul
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Aristotle wrote, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
And it’s the mark of a conscious materialist to be able to walk around Walmart on Black Friday without frothing at the mouth.
Nothing wrong with shopping. Especially good shopping. Good shopping means slow shopping. Conscious shopping. Shopping for more of what you need, and less of what you wish you had.
Let’s apply this to our brains.
We can shop around, consciously, for new habits, thoughts, goals, beliefs. We can try on the 30-day jogging habit like we try on the Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat. And if we don’t like it, if we find out it’s not for us, we can choose something else. We can do Aristotle proud. We can entertain without accepting. Besides, that’s what shopping is for. Trying stuff.
P.S I realize now you can’t try on a plasma screen TV. (Do they still make TV screens out of plasma? Isn’t that dangerous?)
I think people can get a bit too, kind of, serious sometimes. You know ‘this note is so important’…Have some fun, it’s fine, you know, don’t worry about it. Don’t get too stressed.
I love when musicians know they’re not as important as The Geneva Convention.
Why are we always told art needs to come from pain? That musicians must treat each chord as their magnum opus, the culmination of suffering that comes from a lifetime of indentured servitude to the muse of tortured creativity? Must we sob instead of dance?
Andy Jenkinson, aka Ceephax Acid Crew, is one of the most slapdash musicians out of the UK. For more than 20 years, he’s crafted everything in his world himself. From tunes to outfits – it’s all him. It’s all Andy.
You reach peak authenticity when your art reflects your personality. Ceephax is living proof.
He uses old synths because he loves to. He collects jumpers because he loves to. He makes music because he loves to. He loves his craft more than you love yours, and that’s why I love him. We must not sob when we listen to Ceephax. No. We must dance.
This 10 minute interview with Mr. Jenkinson is a goldmine of advice for creative people. (Also includes a shot of him throwing a synthesizer into a basketball hoop. There’s a metaphor somewhere.)
“If you do everything yourself, it just makes everything pure”
The wandering vagabond, the lone samurai, the traveling swordsman — those are myths. Legends. Fairytales.
We’re not wandering vagabonds, equipped with nothing but a rucksack of supplies. But it’s fun to pretend we are (I do it all the time). It’s fun to pretend that we’re one of the last freelancers in these parts, going where the wind takes us. It’s fun to pretend we work alone, we don’t need any help.
But we do need help. Help from friends, family members, passing strangers. Help from other voices, critiques, suggestions. Without the help of others, we trap ourselves in arrogance and oversight.
My buddy Rich told me that we’re always taking people with us. We’re always carrying with us lessons from friends, peers, family members, even passing strangers we meet in our travels. We’re always filling our rucksacks with memories of those that came before us and those that are here with us today.
I wouldn’t be writing this if it weren’t for your help. Thank you.
Self-improvement advice in three words: do difficult stuff.
By learning a language, you’re also learning discipline (showing up), humility (I don’t know this), and sacrifice (I could be watching Netflix). It takes a lot of saying no to anything that isn’t studying, and a lot of feeling stupid because learning a language is like…learning a language. Learning a language is hard. That’s why it’s rewarding.
But what about easy stuff? Stuff that comes naturally to us? Stuff we have a knack for? Is easy stuff unrewarding? Unfulfilling? Should we only do hard stuff?
No, we shouldn’t. We can apply the meta-skills (discipline) needed for doing hard stuff to easy stuff.
Pick something that comes easy to you. Something you could do in your sleep.
Do that thing. A lot. (Translation: apply discipline.)
By doing it a lot, you’ll end up doing it better.
And once you start doing it better, people will notice. People will notice, and they’ll wonder how you make it look easy. But what they see on the surface is your talent. What they don’t see – what they couldn’t have seen – are the thousands of hours you spent showing up to practice.
Never have we been so torn between busyness and idleness than today.
When we’re busy, we’re guilty of haste. When we’re idle, we’re guilty of sloth.
But that’s all I have to say about that. I’ll let Cullin do the rest. He wrote yet another fantastic newsletter last week. It’s a guide on how to slow down. I hope you’ll check it out. And I hope you’ll press your foot down lightly on the breaks this week.
Every time we download a new app on our phone we grant the notification overlords permission to invade our consciousness. When we’re with our friends and loved ones, we marvel at the places we’ll go and the things we’ll do together. Oh how haphazardly we relinquish our attention to a cell-phone chime and a day-dream.
Much writing advice discourages big words. This advice is mostly geared towards new writers. New writers like to sound smart. And so they decorate their paragraphs with verbose cacophony that’s harder to decipher than a corporate apologia. But we know that people who are actually smart explain stuff with clouds, cats, dogs — the kind of symbolism even a dolt like me can understand. And so we’re told that simple language is best.
But there’s a difference between decorating your point with jargon and explaining with eloquence. And if we need to look up a word in a dictionary, is that the writer’s fault, or ours? What’s wrong with having a rich vocabulary?