Ripping ideas from the cold morning air

I’m approaching a year of my six-day-a-week blogging journey here and it’s getting easier and easier to write each morning and put out something that is somewhat coherent.

There are still some mornings that the cold morning air hangs onto her ideas and I much pry them out like I’m extracting a diamond.

It’s getting easier and the tools to extract the ideas get sharper each day. The lesson I’m learning time after time is that many iterations will make you better and keep you sharp. Keep going.

No credit needed

It's easy to sit on the sidelines, but usually getting involved is just what the doctor ordered

If you want to get things done, do them yourself, don't worry if you get no credit, and don't rely on "everyone else" to get the job done.

You don’t have to have a perfect vision in your mind to start creating

I think I'm a thinker, but there is a temptation to keep thinking and not doing. So often it feels wrong to start because I feel guilty that if I think a little more it could be better.

But if I keep thinking I never get anything done. If Alexander Graham Bell kept thinking about how the phone could be the iPhone, he wouldn't have made the archaic tube-and-wheel-looking device that he created.

Without his archaic creation, we wouldn't have the iPhone.

My point is that Bell wasn't in a position to create the first smartphone so he went ahead and made the first phone. That was good enough and he'll always be remembered for it.

We need to be okay with creating the wheel instead of just dreaming about building a car. Do the doable.

It's easier to be an artist when nobody is looking

It’s easier to write these blog posts about stupid stuff because I know nobody reads them. But it's also depressing if nobody is looking at our art.

We want people to see and love our artwork, but too often we get caught in the trap of making artwork for this new audience.

The great artist stares down the fear of rejection from his audience and continues making the work that is true to himself.

The trick is to create artwork AS IF nobody is watching and as if the world has no critique to offer.

No matter the stakes, make artwork that you would make if nobody ever saw it. That's the good stuff, anyway.

I write here because I want to write each day. Whether an audience shows up bothers me none. I will write for one or one million.

Corners are awesome

Corners are everywhere and they're very reliable. They hold up buildings and they shape rooms. Most of all, corners are the place that doubles your available storage space.

You can put shelves in corners or you can stack stuff in corners. I've wondered at times how much storage my house would have if it had no corners.

So next time you start getting upset about something, remember the magic of corners and that we can all share in the joy of them. Almost anywhere you go, there is a corner within reach. It's a wonderful thing.

I'm smiling more often

Even the little changes can make big differences. No change means no change.

Smile when your face is resting. Think of the little things for which you’re thankful. Find quiet moments and meditate or think about one singular thing.

Lately, I’ve been trying to spend time thinking about why I think about things the way I do. Maybe I have too much time on my hands.

Anyway, I forget the point I was trying to make with this post, but I need to get into the habit of just doing even when it’s not perfect and these posts aren’t read by anybody so it’s easy to move fast and break things. Maybe I’ll carry that attitude into my other business ventures at some point.

Redefining failure feels better

Is it a failure to not get a good job and make lots of money to buy the house and car and vacation 2x a year?

Or is it a failure to not pursue your own passions and business because you aren’t willing to be broke for a few years?

Be redefining how you look at failure, you can open new avenues in your life to make a job you love and do work that you’re passionate about and get paid to do that stuff, too.

P.S. I’ve been writing a lot about failure lately. Not sure if that’s an indication of how I’m feeling deep down inside or is the word just dances off my tongue easier at times.

Failing at stuff

I begin with the best of intentions and I’m sure that I’m going to get the stuff done.

But it’s so easy for me to prioritize the non-urgent stuff and allow that to bloat and waste away the best hours of the day leaving me with hours ranging from 10pm-3am to do important work.

Often I’m left wonder what happened to the afternoon. I’m supposed to be good at this time management stuff. I think I am. Well, the planning plan I’m pretty OK at, but the execution requires self-discipline. That’s where I fall flat time and time again.

Setting out with the best of intentions is warm and fuzzy, but getting the work done is what matters. I’m OK with slow forward progress because that’s better than no progress at all.

Never stop, never give up, and never give yourself excuses. Fail forward, as they say, and keep striving for that better version of you.

You’re not good at that any longer

Then my buddy said, “It’s just like riding a bike, you never forget how.” But this isn’t really how skills work. As I heard someone once say, “skill is only for rent” you have to keep up the practice and the doing to get better–or even to remain good at it.

You can’t break off you drawing skills once a year and expect to be as good as when you were practicing every day. You can’t do that with anything whether it’s being a good photographer or being a good friend. Consistency and practice are what will make you better.

How to make everything more difficult

When things start to go bad, we tend to focus on the difficulty and the pain it carries. That’s how we make hard problems more difficult.

I rode my first 100km bike ride this past Saturday and for the final 10km I was not only feeling pretty tired but sitting on a bike saddle for 5+ hours leaves your backside feeling like someone took a power sander to some tender regions.

But, if I only agonized over the pain, the final 40 minutes would have felt like 4 hours.

Focus on the good stuff and it makes overcoming the bad stuff much easier.

Working with Parkinson's Law

Work is a funny thing. Tasks you schedule. Deadlines you must meet. The ability (or requirement) to work late. Work is a flexible creature that expands or contracts depending on the time you give to her.

So tighten those deadlines, force yourself to finish work by a set hour, and don’t let work carry you deep into the night. Because she will.

Remember Parkinson’s Law: "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion".

The not-to-do list

I saw an ad on Instagram last night while I was wasting time doing some scrolling and I only even half paid attention because I saw Tim Ferris mentioned in it. The add mentioned your “not-to-do” list.

I didn’t dig any deeper, but this is something I’ve always done (thanks, mom!) in addition to my “to-do” list.

You rough out what you need to get done that day, but also set boundaries (which are usually more simple, more direct, and easier to follow). Those boundaries are things like:

1. Don’t use my phone for the first 2 hours I’m awake.

2. Don’t use the computer before doing morning reading and meditating.

3. Don’t do any social media related things in the first four hours of work.

4. No email or phone calls/texts before completing the high priority items.

Set some boundaries. They help to add shape and structure and will make you a more effective worker every day.

One is better than zero

Making something that is pretty good is better than making nothing at all.

If you make a product, service, photograph, video, painting, etc… that one person enjoys, watches, consumes, etc… that’s better than zero. Don’t let your perceived lack of an audience keep you from doing that thing right now. Also, probably more than one person is interested.

If a perfect video is worth 100 points but takes you one week to produce and a pretty good video is worth 50 points, but only takes a day to make, you could make six of those videos a week.

Six pretty good videos are “worth” 300 points, therefore, meaning you introduce 3x the value into the marketplace by creating pretty good artwork.

If you’re commissioned to create perfect, do it and charge the amount to ensure the value and time aspect of your work is fairly compensated, but don’t let a chase of a perfect work stop you from starting. There is more value in creating pretty good work for all of us.

Pretending everything is okay can be fun

...or not so fun. I missed a couple of blog posts and I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts the past couple weeks. It’s strange. I know what I want to do and what I need to do, but I’m just not getting everything done.

Isn’t it funny how that works? I can step back and watch myself intentionally choosing to do low priority tasks that are easy because I don’t want to deal with the higher priority stuff that is marginally more difficult.

And as the cycle of life works, the things that bring immediate pleasure to you (outward-to-inward pleasure) that always feel great at the moment, but within minutes, they leave you feeling pretty crappy about your choice. (inward-to-outward pleasure is derived by achieving goals, sticking to your plan, being a productive person, doing good for others, etc…)

No worries. I’ll just make another bad decision to make up for the first bad decision. And so the cycle repeats.

I think it takes a vicious moment of honesty with yourself and discipline to see what you’re doing and the disciple to shut it all down and focus on the couple important things you need to get done. Go get it. Now.

Wiping the slate clean

One of the many beauties that may be found on any given Monday is the re-birth of the week. The fresh start. The clean slate. Days of potential lay ahead.

The question is, what will I do about it? Waste it watching another YouTube video or mindlessly wasting time re-shuffling paper and checking email, Instagram, and Reddit one more time? Or will I get something done this time around?

I always tell myself this will be the week where I’m really focused and working harder and smarter than before. I’ll never give up the chase of getting better and every Monday gives me renewed focus and fresh hope.

Losing sight of my goals

I started writing these short daily posts late last November and my goal was nothing more than to just write a couple of thoughts a day. For the past couple of weeks, there have been many mornings where I didn’t want to write. Even getting a couple of sentences to come out felt like I was pulling teeth.

I always do this. I set out with one goal and midway through I start setting other expectations (like thinking every blog post must be perfect, make perfect sense, and be a literary masterpiece) and I fall into this spot where I would rather put out nothing than put out something I at all think may be sub-par.

The lesson I’m learning is that in almost everything the showing up and doing the work is most important. I set out to write every day, not write a masterpiece every day. So if I write a few sentences of trash in the process, c'est la vie.

Show up, do the work as best you’re able, cut yourself slack if it isn’t perfect, and just keep going.

To be honest with yourself

To be honest with yourself and able to critique yourself and accept critique is a sure mark of a successful person.

Self-critique is really hard because we usually think we’re great at the stuff we’re terrible at and horrible at stuff that we’re actually pretty good at.

The being honest with yourself part is pretty interesting. It requires humility and a recognition of your capabilities as well as limitations.

What’s hard is what’s good

Pleasure is a fickle lover. It’s an external high that numbs you at the moment and leaves you with regret afterward.

I should clarify here that pleasure coming from inside of you and working its way out is great. You work to climb the mountain and you derive pleasure from the accomplishment. You bust your hump at work and the promotion is sweet. You study like your life depends on it and the high scores are as the sweet syrup of victory flowing down to you.

But the external pleasure that comes first from the outside, binge-watching that Netflix series, spending all day browsing YouTube, indulging in the various hedonistic tendencies of many folks in our day and age, etc… are all superficial numbing agents at best.

Chase that which is difficult. Look to better yourself. Get after it. Go for the hard stuff. Believe you can do it and then start. You will derive long-term satisfaction from doing that which cultivates true, inner happiness.

I want to be great at doing everything

To get exceptional at doing something you need to spend a lot of time and effort.

My problem is picking only one or two things. I want to be great at doing everything. I want to shoot photos, read amazing books, write stuff that connects with people, learn everything I can about history, philosophy, religion, psychology, and medicine, I want to lift weights, ride my bicycle like a pro, make top-notch videos, be an amazing logo designer, be amazing at drawing, at illustrating, motion graphics, social media marketing, I want to be an amazing chef, and I want to combine all that stuff while traveling to cool places in the world and share everything via videos I make while doing all that stuff.

But the truth is, without focusing on being great at a couple of things, all that other stuff most-likely won’t come. You need your hits, but you only need a couple of hits. Most artists get popular on the back of a song or two. If it’s good enough for them, it’s probably good enough for you and me.

Get good (really good) and start making stuff and the hits will start coming.

The easier things get, the harder we make them

The better things getter, the more we tend to expect things to get even better.

Hence begins the long walk down the road toward entitlement. It seems to be a first-world problem for the most part. We expect more because we’re special (or so we tell ourself).

I think the key is to find contentment, real contentment, with where you are and what you have. Never let the fire inside of you die of complacency, but don’t mistake complacency for being thankful with the good stuff you have now.

It’s a delicate balance and one that far too often we fall afoul of.