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?)
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.
Every idea you have, every concept, every word, every utterance, every tone…all of that is influenced by those around you anyway. You’ve got to acknowledge that and embrace that and ask, ‘how can I mix those together?’ Each of us is a completely different combination.
Salman has a heart of gold. I promise that you’ll finish this podcast with more inspiration than you had when you started. He’s one of those rare souls who knows how to do what matters in life without taking himself so seriously. Every time I interact with him, I feel a radiant golden energy enveloping me in a reassurance that it’s okay to be myself. I hope you feel the same way after listening to our conversation. Please enjoy!
Giving advice on Twitter (3:00)
“Insecurity work” (5:00)
Layers in writing (8:00)
“The hardest part of writing is talking about myself” (13:00)
Aren’t we all polymaths? (20:00)
“Being yourself isn’t the most effective growth strategy” (26:00)
We find the answer when we first ask, what are we?
Well, I know what we’re not. We’re not a collection of numbers.
We like to focus on growing our metrics. Get more subscribers. Get more followers than we had last Thursday. But the numbers don’t define us. The numbers are something that somebody else invented. And we’re not defined by something that exists outside ourselves. So we shouldn’t tie our self-worth to something external. Because what exists outside ourselves could be taken away from us.
Put some distance between you and what you see. Who you are isn’t what you see. You’re not your social media numbers. You’re not the number of people retweeting your latest bit of wisdom.
What’s dangerous about tying our self-worth to numbers is that a number can always be higher. And it can always be lower, too, which is why we prefer them to be higher. Lower numbers means we’re less significant. Higher numbers means we’re accepted.
You’re a collection of experiences. But, like the numbers, you don’t have much control over your experiences, either. You couldn’t have asked your mother for an abortion.
But what you always have is control over your perception. You can choose how you’ll perceive the fact that you were born.
We lose our wallet in the same place we lose our self-worth. “Oh, it’s right in front of me.”
What’s in front of us is what blinds us. What we see always hides something else.
If you’re seeing numbers all day, then you’ll unconsciously tie your self-worth to the numbers. What gets measured gets managed, right? What gets measured gets managed by our ego. It’s our ego’s job to tie our self-worth to what we’re seeing on a day to day basis.
This is why it’s healthy to disconnect and go for a walk. Put nature in front of you, and you’ll soon realize how expedient the numbers are.
Because of the Internet, I’m more empowered to become better, and I’m able to seek the direction that I’m allowed to seek.
Do you have any friends that you don’t speak to for more than a decade, and then you pick up right where you left off as if no time passed? That’s the kind of friendship that I have with NoxyTango. About 12 years ago, we met through a game called Runescape. We would spend hours on this game, creating “Runescape music videos,” increasing our fishing lvls, and forming a group of friends that we still keep in touch with to this day. Then, we became adults. And we didn’t have a full conversation until the time of this recording.
Please enjoy my talk with NoxyTango about the struggles of creativity, old-school Internet culture, and how the Internet brings us closer than we can imagine. I had a blast recording this, and I hope you have a blast listening to it.
Here’s a look at some of my favorite pieces by Noxy. I highly recommend you follow her art. It’s going to bring more color to your world (even though I’m about to list only black and white pieces. Sorry, I’m a huge fan of black and white.)
And you can watch her animations by clicking here.
Runescape nostalgia and mid 2000s culture in Noxy’s art (2:00)
How Noxy discovered her art style, how colors influence emotion (4:00)
Pros and cons of digital art versus non-digital art (6:00)
Noxy’s influences (8:00)
Being an artist with Aphantasia, on my Synesthesia, and embodiment psychology (9:00)
Not being defined by your struggles (23:00)
How the Internet creates micro bubbles of community (26:00)
Being represented by our artwork, not how we appear in real life (28:00)
The dangers of being famous (31:00)
How the Internet has impacted her art in a positive way (35:00)
Why nice comments are so valuable to an artist (37:00)
“You’re good…for a girl” (40:00)
Defining masculinity and femininity for yourself (43:00)
Noxy’s writing process, and her upcoming novel (45:00)
Are we building to signal how many bricks we’ve laid?
Or are we building because we see a problem that needs solving?
Measurements are necessary, of course. The architect needs to know the proper amount of all the materials and the cost of each.
But we always have the option of turning measurements into signals of our influence.
A friend of mine pointed out that we shake our heads at anyone who flaunts their income. But when we see people we like signaling how much they’ve earned off of their products, we let it slide. We become enablers of the behaviors we shake our heads at. Because they’re doing it “holistically.” They’re sharing their secrets to success in under 280 characters. To us, we feel like we’re part of their journey. Because if they can build something with only a few viral messages, so can we, right?
As creatives, as builders of remarkable things, we have a choice: solve or signal?
I used to believe that personal branding is personal.
Personal branding is tailored. It’s tailored to the subjective experience of whoever engages with your work.
Everyone perceives the world in their own way. And your audience experiences your work in their own way, as well.
Alice reads a blog on productivity because she wants to learn how to get more work done. But Joshua reads the same blog as Alice because he’s a productivity fiend. Not only is Joshua looking for ways to be more productive, he’s seeking the hottest productivity tricks to share with his friends. Same product, different experience.
Personal branding isn’t exclusive to the entrepreneur, or the YouTube star. Personal branding is the feeling you get after eating your favorite meal. It’s not about the actual work while it’s happening to or around you. Because that’s when you’re actually in the thick of it, and you’re not aware that there’s magic happening. But afterwards? After you’ve complimented the chef? After you’ve left an unusually generous tip? That’s when you know you’ve experienced something remarkable.
And as an artist, or an academic, or a well-groomed professional, you have a personal brand. You have a stamp. You have a footprint to leave behind. “This is the work I’ve done for you. I’m proud enough of this work to put my name on it.”
You can do personal branding even if you don’t leave your name on it. Consider the work of an anonymous Japanese chef. Anyone who eats this chef’s curry udon, without knowing the chef’s name, knows who cooked it. The branding is in the hard-work of delighting the customers after they’ve finished their meal.
Do you think about an actor’s performance after the credits roll? That’s personal branding.
Do you think about the taste of the first sip of your morning coffee, when there’s no more coffee left? That’s personal branding.
Personal branding is how your readers think about your blog while they’re daydreaming.
It’s how your audience geeks out about your work behind your back.
It’s how they’re spreading messages (good or bad) about your work through social media and emails.
But you don’t “create” a personal brand. When you lean into yourself, you create a body of work which becomes an obsession for your fans. This is why artists sometimes respond with, “I don’t know, it just sort of happened” when asked how they got the ideas for their best work.
No great works of art are made by force. They “just sort of happen.”
Your true fans are those who obsess over the work that “just sort of happened.” And when you have thousands of those kinds of fans, that’s when you know you’re good at personal branding.
Personal branding is about showing up, uncensored, unfiltered. But that isn’t the same as offensive or rude. It’s about adopting the mindset of the professional who doesn’t take themselves too seriously.
If you’re dealing with impostor syndrome, or self-doubt, please consider scheduling a chat with me. I’d love to help you get unstuck so you can make work you’re proud of, and share it with folks who care.
When I started this blog, I was afraid. I didn’t use hashtags on my posts because I didn’t want to draw much attention to my writing. And for that reason, I didn’t comment on anybody else’s blog, or share anybody else’s work, either.
But every burst of progress that I’ve experienced came from a source of fear. I was afraid of networking, so I started reaching out to writers on Twitter. I was afraid of rejection, so I started asking some of those writers if they’d like to be a guest on my podcast.
And by acting on my fear, I’ve learned a lesson. Whatever it is you’re putting off because you’re afraid of doing it, do it.
You don’t need to do it all day. Your body and your mind can’t sustain that level of stress.
But for an hour a day? You can manage that. An hour a day to answer the questions: what am I most afraid of doing right now, and what do I need to do about that?
In Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig tells us that the top of the mountain defines the sides of the mountain. The top of the mountain is your goal. Your goal is what signals to you what’s worth your attention as you climb to the top of the mountain. Your goal is what gives value to the actions you’re afraid of taking.
The higher up the mountain we climb, the more we need to focus with each step. And that’s exhausting. So we ask, “well, I started this climb, and that was difficult enough. What more do you want from me?”
A lot more.
You might believe that who you were yesterday is 100 times braver than who you were a week ago. And you’re right. But who you’ll become after you do what’s scaring you today is 1,000 times braver than who you are now.
You aren’t the person who started this climb. You’re the person who keeps climbing.
So, for an hour, do what you’re afraid of doing. Send that cold email. Promote your work. Sit in front of the camera, and speak to us.
Then, take a break. Look over the side of the mountain. Celebrate. It might not feel like it, but something happened. For an hour, you became less afraid.