Unless It Costs Us Something, It’s Not Worth Anything

Everybody wants the scar, but nobody wants the scab.

We’re too impatient to wait, too accustomed to instant
gratification and too seduced by our something-for-nothing culture. That’s why we
seek shortcuts to boost our numbers, trick people into buying from us and,
eventually, get what we want without actually putting in our time. Because we

Why bleed for what we want when we can buy what we don’t need?

I’ll tell you why.

Unless it costs us
something, it’s not worth anything.

In any endeavor, there is no hope for easy conquest. It has
to be something we work for. Something that burns a few calories and puts a few
hairs on our chest. Only on the sacrificial field, only through the harsh and
revealing light of adversity, do we truly do our most meaningful work.

We have to be willing to bleed for it.

When The Story Doesn’t Belong To Us

The only stories that count are the ones we pay for.

The ones we suffer through, burn calories for, lose
everything from, change everything with and stop lying to ourselves because.

Without that expenditure, without that investment of
emotional labor, the story doesn’t truly belong to us. It may be superimposed
upon our memory, but it will never be scored upon our heart.

But when we get it right, when we courageously take
ownership of our experience; those stories demand to see the light of day. To
be given voice to. And to find a home in the hearts of those who would dare to

All we have to do is
grab a microphone.

Because if we don’t share it – it never happened.

Amazing Or Bust

We can’t be in the pretty good business.

We have to be amazing. We have to bring
everything inside that we have. We have to figure out a way to blow people
away, every time, in the most magical and unexpected way possible.

Only then do we have power. Only then do we have choices.

And it’s worth all the preparation. All the sweat. All the
early morning starts and late night finishes. All the moments when the towel
stared at us, wondering if we’d give it the satisfaction of landing in the ring.

We didn’t go through all that bullshit just to show up and not
be amazing.

Eminem told us to lose ourselves in the
music, the moment, to own it and never let it go.

Maybe it’s time we started acting like it.

The Belonging Sessions 002: AJ Lawrence from The Jar Group

The Jar Group is a data-driven agency of internet enthusiasts who produce
integrated marketing strategies and happy clients. They were named on
the Inc. 500 List of Fastest Growing Private Companies and Linkshare’s 2010
Agency of the Year.                      

I sat down with President AJ Lawrence, and posed three
crucial questions about employee belonging:

1. Good
brands are bought, but great brands are joined. Why do you think employees join yours?

For a large company, part of the tradeoff is security. Their
culture is secondary to increasing profit. For us, we provide our clients with
high quality work, but never at the expense of a great working environment.
After all, the work we do is strange. Not everyone can divide their minds into
five different areas at the same time, so we have to have a workplace that’s
worthwhile and enjoyable.                       

2. The
great workplaces of the world have soul. What do you do to humanize your culture? 

Companies can too easily get caught up in archetype language
that nobody understands. For us, we don’t have a simple, pithy answer to that
kind question. Our mantra is simply something we live. It’s work. We don’t hire
assholes. We make clients money, we don’t just get them press. And it’s more
than making clients feel good, it’s making them look like heroes. That’s how we
get more work.                           

3. Belonging
is a basic human craving. How do you
remind employees that they’ve found a home?

It’s not about reminding, it’s about engaging. We have team
lunches on Thursdays. Cocktail hours at the end of the workday. We take field trips to Coney Island together. And we’re clear on what we’re trying to achieve and what we expect of people. Too many agencies put efforts on long terms employees or rising stars, but why create a culture where there are tiers of people? We’re hiring the people we want to be here because they can help us do more cool stuff. And cool stuff might mean more work, but that’s part of the fun.

Thanks AJ!

Meet the The Jar Group team here.

The Voice We Most Want to be Quiet

We all hear voices.

That doesn’t make us crazy – it just makes us human.

The hard part is when the voice we most want to be quiet
starts to torment us.

Our natural instinct is to ignore it. Or run away. Or drown
it out. Or stick our fingers in our ears and pretend it’s not really there.

And with most voices, that’s a helpful approach. It protects
our dream, safeguards our vision and keeps us from demanding excessive

But it turns out; the voice we most want to be quiet is the voice
we most need to hear.

It’s the one worth listening to, creating from and
motivating ourselves with.

The Young Artist’s Guide to Playing For Keeps, Part 21

You’ve chosen an uncertain path.

You’ve adopted an inconvenient lifestyle.

You’ve embarked upon an unconventional journey.

You’ve felt the voice inside you growing more urgent.

You’ve committed yourself enough so you can’t turn back.

IN SHORT: You’ve decided to play for keeps.

This is the critical crossroads – the emotional turning
point – in the life of every young artist.

And I’ve been there

From my latest book, Writing is the Basis of All Wealth, here’s a list of suggestions to help you along the

1. Lessons are for losers. Some musicians were never that good at playing music. They
just represented something important. Whether they created a spectacle, built
an emotional connection, told a remarkable story, started a movement, inspired
a revolution, changed popular culture, defied the norm, crossed categories,
gave voice to a new generation or raised global consciousness, the fact that
they didn’t have a lot of talent didn’t matter. They had bigger fish to fry.
Which doesn’t mean talent is unimportant, just not as necessary as we once
thought. If I were starting as an artist today, I’d invest more of my time
creating, connecting, inspiring, dreaming, shipping, sharing, risking,
performing, promoting and engaging, and less of my time taking lessons. 

2. The power
of germination
. I’ve always been an excellent producer. It’s just my
nature. I’m impatient, I’m a quick start and I’m an executor. I take action
without waiting for permission, and I turn a seed into a forest before most
people realize it’s raining. Lately, though, I’ve been practicing the fine art
of waiting.Instead of my normal tendency to drive towards closure, I’ve
consciously created more time for things to germinate than is comfortable.
Instead of obsessing over the branding of my next project, I’ve moved forward
without satisfying my need to label everything. It sucks. Letting go of
a process that’s been good to you is always a bitter pill to swallow. But
despite my impulsive nature, despite my predisposition to execute with all my
might, I’m starting to learn that anything worth doing is worth waiting for. 

3. Center
doesn’t serve us.
Only when we work from our edge does the real juice
emerge. That’s
where all the action is. That’s where we get the best view, find out who we
really are and have the most potential for change. The edge is where we’re most
challenged to bring forth our best ability.
Great art lives there. It’s where we find the finest, bloodiest expressions
of our experience. And if we’re willing to crush the boundaries of our creative
capacities and make something truly special, truly new, it has the power to
change people forever. If that means
we have to try a new genre, so be it. If that means we have to experiment with
a new medium, so be it. If that means we have to venture out into a completely
different venue, so be it. We didn’t
pursue a career in art to work from the middle. Save the yellow lines for the

4. Bad is
Who are we to judge if an idea is good? That’s not our job. As
artists, our job is to notice. As artists, our job is to render our unique
experience. As artists, our job is to treat everything we discover with deep
democracy. Only time will tell if it’s any good. Millions of people thought
Christianity was a bad idea – but they still wrote it down. Later, over the
course of hundreds and thousands of years, that idea went on to change the
world forever. Bad isn’t good, bad breeds good. How many bad ideas did you have last week? 

5. Transition
from creation to discovery.
Instead of sitting down with form already in
mind, we arrive at the page, the canvas or the clay trusting that the sculpture
is already inside the stone, knowing that our job as the artist is to simply
chip away. Instead of attaching ourselves to a particular approach, we commit
to an unknown process, thinking less and emerging more, allowing everything to
come out from the center of us, as opposed to blindly throwing spaghetti
against a predetermined wall.Instead of our tendency to drive
towards closure, we consciously make more time for things to germinate than is
comfortable, sitting with their namelessness, slowly waking up to what
is true about ourselves. The cool part is, while discovery takes longer,
requires more uncertainty and asks us to be more patient and vulnerable than
we’re used to, the work that results is truer, better and bolder.

6. Circulation
is everything.
If we never ship anything, it doesn’t matter how talented we
are. We may as well be winking in the dark. As creators, our primary task is to
create. But a close second is to circulate. To share as much as we can, with as
many people as we can, as often as we can. That’s why we got ourselves into
this whole mess in the first place – to be heard. Steve Wozniak, someone who
was constitutionally disinclined to share, still had a mandate to circulate. He
knew he had to ship or risk fading into obscurity. Fortunately, his pal Steve
Jobs came along to nudge the sharing process. And they shipped one of our
world’s most important innovations. We can never let the fear of failure trump
our desire to express.

REMEMBER: When you’re ready to play for keeps, your work will never be the same.

Make the decision today.

Show the world that your art isn’t just another expensive hobby.

Closets Are For Shelves, Not Selves

We can only closet off the unholy parts of ourselves for so long.

Whatever is inside of us, eventually, somewhere, is going to
come out.

The exciting part is, once we give people a profile of our
soul, once we start talking about what we’re afraid for them to know about us, our
world changes. We experience the freedom that comes from refusing to hide. And those
brave enough to listen, use our stories as mirrors that reflect their truest

As of late, I’ve gone out of my way to share more of my dark side. From health problems to relationship
blunders to creative burnouts to business mistakes to communication breakdowns
to the trappings of meh, I’ve started sharing more and more about
what happens in my life behind the scenes.

Not all the time. I’d hate be one of those people who lives
his life like an open wound just to accumulate a few extra column inches.

But it certainly feels good to get that darkness off myself.

Closets are for shelves, not selves.

Are You Paying People In Their Preferred Currency?

During a heated discussion on reward and recognition, my friend Julie, who works for a charitable art foundation, said something that captured my curiosity.

would rather get a holiday party than a holiday bonus.”
Her theory was, a check for a thousand bucks could buy a lot of cool stuff. But
a night of celebration could deepen intimacy, create memories and build
friendships that last forever. To Julie, that was worth a lot more.

Of course, that’s just one person’s opinion. She values belonging and
connection over money, but I imagine all of her coworkers wouldn’t
automatically agree with her.

And they shouldn’t, either. They’re human beings. Each person speaks a
different love language. And if we want them to stick around, people ought to
be paid in their preferred currency.

Me, I would have taken the holiday

The Definition of Writing Has Changed Forever

Sometimes it’s easier to enter through the side door.

That’s what I told a friend of mine. That if we don’t enjoy
the act of writing – yet have the urge to capture our experience and share it
with the world – what we need is to expand our definition of writing.

Because once we expand the definition, we change the
context. Once we change the context, we lower the threat level. And once we
lower the threat level, there are fewer excuses to prevent us from getting

Originally, writing meant, “to carve.”

Later, writing meant, “to put ink on paper for others to

But now that paper is going away, now that ink is has
evolved into a digital medium, now that reading isn’t the only form of consumption,
and now there are more methods of “putting” than ever before, the definition of writing has changed

Now, sending a text is writing.

Now, publishing a blog is writing.

Now, recording a podcast is writing.

Now, tweeting our thoughts is writing.

Now, posting a status update is writing.

Now, shooting a video message is writing.

Now, instant messaging our friends is writing.

But we’re still carving. And that’s the key.

Because even if what we say sucks, even if nobody listens, even
if we don’t think of what we’re doing as writing, end even if the world is too
stubborn and close-minded to classify it as such, anytime we take a moment to render what’s in our hearts, we’re writing.

And once we grasp that concept, once we give ourselves
permission to enter through the side door, the process become a lot less
threatening and lot more fun.

The Belonging Sessions 001: David Schwarz from HUSH

HUSH is a design agency. They produce digital content and experiences that are
unique in creating brand recognition for their clients.

I sat down with David Schwarz, one of the creative partners, and posed three
crucial questions about belonging:

1. Good brands are bought, but great
brands are joined. Why do you think employees join yours?

Our team members are hand picked Renaissance thinkers and makers. They want to
flex their brains in as many ways as possible. And it sounds cliché, but
when people are able to affect a creative culture, this leads to great
work. We’re over rock star talent. It’s more about who we want to trust our
lives to. We’re interested in projects that we don’t know completely – where
we’re learning something new. As a result, our clients trust us with the
vision to do new things and take risks. This is where we work – on the fringes
of new, places where everyone is always super excited but often super scared. 

2. The great workplaces of the world
have soul. What do you do to humanize your culture? 

Workplaces can help a company’s soul, but only people can define it. At HUSH,
employees operate in a place that already knows they’re smart and unique. When
they walk in the door, they’re ready to work hard and move forward, even
if they’re on their heels and in the midst of a steep learning curve. No
machismo or bravado here, just the willingness to say, “I don’t know. Help me.”

3. Belonging is a basic human
craving. How do you remind employees that they’ve found a home?


We let employees have their own aesthetic world, create, write, build and
arrange the way they want. They make their own bed. They control their own
music. And every week, we have meetings to show work from previous week –
because sharing work across people and teams rounds out everyone’s perception
of their own home. We don’t hand out gold stars, we just show great work – and
we learn about each other as more than just a position or a project.

Thanks David! 

Meet the HUSH team here.

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