There Is Where We Got Carried Away

“I do not believe in unscrambling scrambled eggs.” Every time somebody asks me how I did something, part of me wants to slap them upside the head. I don’t know. I never know. That’s why it’s art. We should never feel obligated to explain our process. First, it cheapens the product. Once you know how the magic trick is done, you lose all of the effect. Second, it corrupts the process. Once you know how to give someone an orgasm, you ruin it by trying too hard every time. Third, it defeats the purpose. Once you bastardize art into a factory, it’s no longer art––it’s a combination lock.

“This is where we got carried away.” One of our technology vendors made that comment during a demo this week. Put a huge grin on my face. Sure enough, the product they demoed was mind blowing. Mind. Blowing. All because they got carried away. They chased a whimsy and let their imaginations run wild. And it took them to places they never thought possible. That’s innovation. Inspired by Walmart’s augmented reality.

“Individuality resides in the way links are made.” When I was in fifth grade, we practiced analogies. We’d compare things that were usually thought to be different from each other, but had similarities, i.e., knife : cut :: ruler : measure. I was smitten. Coolest exercise ever. Little did I know, analogous thinking would become an invaluable skill. The ability to notice patterns, make relationships between disparate subjects and connect unlikely dots is perhaps the most underrated skill on the planet. We just have to ask ourselves, “Did you ever notice that this looks like this?” Inspired by an interview with Anne Carton.

“With fame and reputation, you have to
follow your own act.”
 Robert Crumb makes a powerful point––success doesn’t breed contempt, it breeds expectation. The audience is waiting to see what your next trick is, and they demand it to be better than the first. And if you don’t deliver, they won’t be happy. Tough crowd. My thought is, why not just find a new theater?  

“You don’t need to write a novel if you
feel at home in the world.”
My wedding ring is made of meteorite. Fitting, since I’ve always felt like kind of an alien. But after reading this interview with Andrew Barrett, I’m convinced that the very feeling of alienation is the very fuel that makes great art happen. Thank god our society produces not-of-this-world folk who take ownership of their outsiderness and alchemize it into beauty. Humankind is overrated.

If You Can Measure It, It’s Probably Not That Interesting

“Why can’t people do everything the way I do it?” Comedian Jimmy Pardo summarizes the crux of every therapy session on the planet. Good book title. Isn’t that what drives us all mad? Isn’t that the baseline of every argument in history? People pleading to each other, “Why can’t you be more like me?” A deeper understanding about that fundamental dilema would answer most of our questions about human behavior. Which reminds me. What’s the deal with people hyper-focusing on pointless video games on their cell phones on the subway? Doesn’t anybody read anymore?

“If you can measure it, it’s probably not that
 Yesterday I was fiddling around with sentiment analysis applications, which 
identify and extract subjective information from published content. For example, the emotional states of tweets using the phrase “home schooled.” Well, that got me nowhere. Apparently it’s very hard to measure context with those tools. Instead, I started reading message board conversations between parents. Found some pretty interesting patterns. And while that process was more labor intensive, and while I don’t mean to universalize any particulars, I agree with Joi Ito that what can’t be measured, matters.

“Ruining your day in a quixotic quest
for fairness.”
 There’s this obsessive, vengeful part of me that loves to prove a point and teach people a lesson they’ll never forget. The problem is, it’s often more fun to think and plan and talk about it than to actually execute. Plus, anytime Ido make example of someone who pisses me off, it usually backfires in my face. And then the joke’s on me, not the original offender. God damn it. ThankSeth.

“Heads nodded in the distance, and
that’s all I needed.”
I thrive off of an audience. Performance is in my blood. But it’s not the bottomless need it used to be. These days, a
 little affirmation goes a long way. If I’m playing music in the park, it’s not about drawing a crowd or accumulating a guitar case full of tips. A smile here, a peace sign there, a kid singing along with his mommy there, and I’ll make a meal out of that. Who knew that would be enough? Turns out, once we come to terms with the ceiling of our narcissistic needs, life becomes a lot more satisfying. Inspired by Amanda Palmer’s lecture on dots.

“Men are sold a bill of goods about what they have to be.” I never bought into mainstream masculinity. Measuring your worth by how many women you’ve fucked, beers you’ve drank or sports you’ve mastered is a pathetic, outdated equation that deserves to be deleted from human consciousness. That’s all I have to say about that. For now. Inspired by an interview with Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho.

Few Have Paid So Dearly For Their Idealism

“The gradual shifting from promotion motivation.” Happiness evolves as we do. As we get older, certain activities, pursuits or experiences that held meaning for us five years ago may seem pointless to us today. For example, part of me that wishes I still enjoyed going to movies alone. But most of me knows there are a dozen better ways to spend two hours of my life. Especially when I have someone to share them with. Inspired by an outstanding article on a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

“Anything you write can scratch an opening in a scarred up heart.” The hardest part about writing isn’t pressing the publish button, it’s praying that another person in the world will care that you pressed it. Fortunately, the Internet proves that whatever you’re experiencing––and whatever you’re feeling about that experience––you’re not alone. There are a thousand other people on the planet who can relate. Inspired by Amanda Palmer, who never fails to fireinspirationinto me. 

“This town is so filled with celebrities that it tricks you into thinking you’re a celebrity.” Before relocating to New York, my fiance and I met with a friend of a friend who grew up in Manhattan. Here’s the warning she gave us:People will feed you with things that will make you feel
bigger than you are.
 I never forgot that. And hopefully, as long as we live here, I never will. There’s nothing more dangerous than an inflated sense of self. Inspired by aninterviewwith Mike Birbiglia.

“Few have paid so dearly for their idealism.” Over the years, I’ve spent time on both sides of the idealism spectrum. As an artist, it was an asset. Idealism got me heard. But as an entrepreneur, it was a liability. Idealism didn’t get me paid. Eventually, I learned to compromise. I found a balance between blue skies and green dollars. And I retained just enough idealism to prevent cynicism from busting through. Inspired by Gabby Gifford’s commencement address.

“If you cannot delude yourself into thinking your work is signifcant, find another career.” You’re told to love what you do. But since there are days, sometimes even weeks, when that just ain’t gonna happen, loving what you do is only part of the equation. Meaningful work comes from a combination of loving what you
do, but also loving how you do it, why you do it, where you do it, when you do
it, whom you do it with and whom you do it for. Inspired by avirtual tourof Edward Wilson’s office.

You Will Use Everything You’ve Ever Learned

“Make the rest of your life happy.” What good is an blossoming career if you have nobody to share it with? What good is a ton of money if you’re too stressed to spend it? What good is an impressive client list if you don’t have a decent friend list? Those are some of the mistakes I made by being too focused on my career. Turns out, happiness doesn’t have the same effect when it’s not diversified. Thanks for the inspiration, Ron Swanson.

“One of the greatest tools you have as a
songwriter is anonymity.”
 Reading this article about Shane McAnally proves there’s something beautiful about moving away from the spotlight and working quietly. Cranking out songs, selling them for heaps of cash and watching the rockstars sing them as you sit back and play with your kids? That’s the best of both worlds. You retain the beauty of crafting the music without surrendering to the bullshit of hawking it. Sounds like a dream job to me.

“What he lacks in output he makes up in opinions.” I’ll giveBilly Joela pass on this one. But for any other artist, if all you do is complain, that doesn’t count as work. If all you do is use social media to rant about social media, that’s not art. You’re not being productive, you’re being annoying. Go make something. Sheesh.

“Godlessness never goes out of style.” For years, I gorged myself at the buffet of religion. Tried almost everything. But eventually, after about six trips to up the bar, it finally occurred to me that I wasn’t even hungry anymore. So I stopped eating. And the strange thing is, I’ve never felt more satisfied. Interesting. Can God still have a sense of humor if you don’t believe in him? Inspired by an interview with Ira Glass.

“Advertising doesn’t
add value, interactions do.”
The organizations that have the greatest impact
are the ones thatcreate
an unavoidable, irresistible call to interaction.Not action, interaction. Meaning, real humans connecting with each
other in a real way. Asking customers to fill out comment cards isn’t
interacting with them, it’s just wasting paper. What is the obvious space for
interaction to happen in your industry? Inspired by a heated discussion atPOKE.

“You will use everything you’ve ever learned.” That was the advice Johnny gave to Conan, twenty years ago. Love this concept. I think of it as compressing your personality. I will make use of everything I am. I will demonstrate all of my skills at once. I will bring all of myself to everything I do. I will take all of my assets and alchemize them. I will create micro moments of individual expression. I will fulfill my whole capacity for livingthrough the
firepower of my creative arsenal. Not a bad way to work. Inspired by an interview with the funniest man alive.

Preach The Gospel And Sometimes Use Words

mess is a sign of an active mind.”
 As far back as I can remember, my room was always mess. Not in the sense that clothes were scattered everywhere or beer cans were strewn about. But every inch of my walls were covered. Pictures, magazine covers, posters, found objects, neon ceiling stars, random stickers and personal artwork completely engulfed my room like an amoeba of inspiration. Best decision ever. By surrounding myself with a perpetual collage of creative stimuli, it was impossible for my mind to run idle. And I began laying track for an artistic foundation that would still matter decades later. Inspired by an interview about Neil Tyson’s desktop.

the gospel and sometimes use words.”
 Looking back, I don’t remember my dad teaching me how to be a man. I don’t remember my mom teaching me how to be polite. I don’t remember my parents teaching me how to be a conscientious, disciplined worker. Why? Because instead of teaching those things, my parents lived those things. Hewasa man. Shewaspolite. Theyweredisciplined. So instead of taking notes, I just followed suit. That’s what kids do, right? They take cues from behavior, not language. A good reminder that values aren’t taught, they’re caught. Inspired by an amazinginterviewwith Rob Bell.

choice that I rationalized as fate.”
Once we admit to ourselves that it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t god’s will and it wasn’t the universe’s magical plan to conspire against us, we can actually take ownership over our behavior. What a glorious, freeing moment. We realize there’s no external force coercing the trajectory of our lives. We finally discover that we are the result of ourselves. From that place, anything is possible. Inspired by Footprints of God.

“Get out of the basement and go play for people.” Musicians have a few options. First, there’s open mics. You show up late at night, put your name on the list, sit there for an hour pretending to be interested in the other bands, then play two songs through crappy house equipment to a moderately interested audience and hope that somebody comes up after your set and thanks you. Another option is to pick yourself. To find a public place with amazing acoustics, set up your gear and play whatever you want, as loud as you want, for as long as you want, to whomever happens to be walking by, having the time of your life. I’ve done both, and the second approach is infinitely more meaningful. Inspired by the fancy fingered Doyle Dykes.

“There is creation inside them, but they won’t
set it free.”
 When we encounter that thing that sticks inside of us and says now, 
we have a human obligation to let it out. Not necessarily perfectly. Not necessarily for money. And not necessarily on the web for all to see. But ideas aren’t meant to stay that way. Whatever expression is crawling around inside our brains, it doesn’t belong there. We need to get it out. If only for the experience of expelling it. Start today. Inspired by the best book I’ve read all year.

I Never Discovered A Fact I Didn’t Love

“Thank you for repairing the chip in my funny bone.” Kevin Smith recently received that compliment during the question/answer portion of his podcast. Nearly made me cry. To see that your art helped a humorless person laugh again? That’s about as good as it gets. I met a woman like that a few weeks ago. Wouldn’t know funny if it swallowed her whole. Even we whipped out our best material, still, crickets. So sad. I wonder if she has teeth.

“We have a wonderful floor for your great shoes.” That’s what the train conductor said to a disrespectful passenger who stretched his feet out on the seat. Classic. Here’s why that moment made me happy. First, she was fundamentally affirmative. Second, she was completely friendly. Third, she was funny enough to diffuse the situation, but stern enough to show she meant business. You could build an entire course on customer service around that one sentence.Respect.

“Make art because when it’s in the world, the world feels better.” Fame and fortune can go to hell. Expecting nothing beyond the satisfaction of creating something
awesome is enough motivation for me. I think that’s the problem with artists. They attach too much entitlement and expectation to their work. Instead
of enjoying the adventure of the moment, falling in love with the process and
soaking in the stillness of the experience, everything is vehicle. Another opportunity
to be a mercenary, always trying to get somewhere, never trying to do something
great, only hoping to exit. Wherever people are in the artistic food
chain, there’s always somewhere else they need to get. The point is, we don’t always have to be digging for
treasure. Sometimes digging is the treasure.

“I never discovered a fact I didn’t love.” Even if it scares us. Even if it contradicts our beliefs. Even if it makes us rethink our opinion. Even if it’s an inconvenient truth. Even if it’s dangerous enough to change us. Even if it’s inconsistent with the fairytales used to scare us into good behavior. If all humans reach this level of sheet mental flexibility, there’s no problem we can’t solve. Inspired by an interview with ecologist Edward Wilson.

“There’s more to life than simple euphoria.” Irrational exuberance isn’t the only form of happiness worth having. Nothing against overwhelming joy, but sometimes when we say we’re happy, what we really mean is, we’re satisfied. When I drag my saggy bones out of yoga class at seven in the morning, sweat pouring out of me like a carwash, feeling pain in muscles I didn’t know I had, happiness isn’t the first word that comes to mind. But the satisfaction of doing something meaningful, healthy and challenging––while the rest of the world is still hungover and asleep––now that’s the stuff life is made of. Euphoria will be there when I need her.

Kicked Fear In The Ass And Lived To Tell The Tale

“What kind of stove did you use?” Nobody ever asks that question to the chef of the restaurant. Because it’s not the tool, it’s the perspective of the artist using it. If you’re a master, you can make do with anything. Amateurs lean on equipment as a crutch to compensate for mediocre abilities. Professionals don’t care if they’re using a Nikon D3200 or an iPhone. The pictures will still be amazing. Inspired by a conversation with George the photographer.

“Nobody knows shit, so trust your instincts and enjoy the ride.” In a book full of advice for young musicians, this passage really stood out for me. That’s the problem with advice, people assume their specific past matches your infinite future. Rarely the case. The smarter approach is to just start, make our own mistakes, learn things the hard way and keep our distance from people who are chomping at the bit to say they told us so. Sticking your fingers in your ears and ignoring everybody is wildly underrated.

“I got taken for a ride before I was ready to go
on one.”
That’s how Chris Rock describes the early days of his comedy career. What’s interesting is, it just as easily could have gone the other way. Sometimes we get 
too successful, too early, too often. And because we realize our dreams long before our maturity is strong enough to contain the experience, we leave behind a trail of
missed opportunities, wasted attention and underleveraged exposure. Money loves speed, velocity creates stress, and stress
kills people. Careful folks.

“Kicked fear in the ass and lived to
tell the tale.”
 Somebody said that to me on Twitter, and I thought it was a great line. But here’s the thing. Fear doesn’t go away, it justchanges shape. When I was running my own business, I feared the empty calendar, the blocked brain, the depleted constitution, the unwanted offering, the jailed expression, the rejected deliverable and the ambient pressure of working straight commission. Now that I have a new gig, the fears are different. It’s more about not letting my team down, not creating value for the organization and not wasting resources.

“Curation is not a substitute for achievement.” If you’ve interviewed a bunch of successful people on your
blog, you might know what it takes to be success, but it doesn’t mean you are,
or will be, successful. If you’ve pinned three hundred boards of cool household
items on Pinterest, that doesn’t make you an interior designer. Reading about pushups doesn’t make you stronger, doing them
does. Inspired by Gary Vee.

Looks Great Except Change Everything

“Build a lexicon for what sets your heart on fire.” Yesterday I read the most engaging book of the year. It’s called The 360 Deal, which brings together short articles by a diverse range of people with a lot of experience in music and the business. As soon as I put the book down, I walked straight into my room, picked up my guitar and started writing a new song. That’s precisely the kind of reaction you want from a book. The above passage about amassing a creative inventory especially hit home with me. 

“What you’re hearing is the sound of a squealing dinosaur.” Michael Moore made an inspiring point on Bill Maher last week. America isn’t as screwed as we think. This next generation of citizens are amazing: They’re politically involved, professional proactive, smart as a whip, don’t like guns, support gay marriage, don’t know what racism means, couldn’t care less about religion and couldn’t be bullshitted with a ten foot pope. I love these people. They are our future, and for the first time, I’m legitimately convinced that we’re going to be okay.

“Looks great except change everything.” Yesterday I overheard a conference call in which a client actually made this statement. Priceless. And yet, that’s the problem. Nobody judges anymore. We’re hyper sensitive, obsessed with being politically correct and terrified of hurting people’s feelings, so our feedback lacks enough truth to actually improve anything. Do business with any other country in the world, and they’ll tell you straight up that your work is shit. It stings, but ultimately makes the work better in the end. Plus, it speeds up the process. Sugarcoating is the great time suck. 

“Online statistics are a way for
nobodies at home to feel glorious.”
 Lefsetz hits the nail right on the digital head. Page views and unique visits are the last refuge of the deluded. When I think back to my days of obsessing over web analytics, it’s borderline laughable. Sure, I gloated to my colleagues about getting twenty thousand hits a day, but I also lived in my parents basement and worked a part time job so I could keep my website up and running. 

people is good for ratings.”
 That’s one of the main reasons I don’t watch television. Life is scary enough. There’s a surplus of fear, and we don’t need any more of it. Sadly, the 
mantra of the media is, if it bleeds, it leads. There’s no such thing as a reality show about people getting along famously. All the more reason to stop participating in other people’s drama and start living a lives worth telling stories about. Inspired by another Dr. Drew rant.

“All of the homeruns are usually contested.” Wait a minute. You’re telling us you want funding to build an online encyclopedia, that’s free to all, that anybody can edit, that contains the sum of all human knowledge? I would have given my third testicle to be in the pitch meeting for that startup. Behold, the beauty of innovation. If people don’t think you’re crazy, you’re doing something wrong. Inspired by a fascinating interview with Joi Ito.

Work Is A Primary Expression Of Who We Are

“The forest will provide.” I’m in love with the idea of trusting my environment––and the people in it––to nourish and support me. Whether it’s borrowing an extra pair of yoga shorts from the lost and found, depending on my improv partner to say the next line or leaning on a teammate during a during an exhausting client presentation, knowing that my back is always had is a beautiful (and new) thing for me. Having operated my existence as a one-man show for so long, the experience of real, constant human support in every area of life is pretty cool. Inspired by the changing seasons.

“Start exercising that muscle.” Aspiring is for amateurs. Whatever we want to become, all we have to do is start doing that thing. Not believing in our hearts, not affirming to ourselves in the mirror, not writing down our goals and not telling people our plans. Physically doing. The moment we take action on something, we earn the right to tell people that we are that something. It’s a simple, binary equation. Either we are or we aren’t. Action doesn’t have a preheat setting.

“Selling out means buying in to someone else’s system of values, rules and rewards.” You can still take the money. You can still work for clients you don’t love. You can still take an advantage of the opportunity. You just have to stay consistent with your beliefs. I’ve taken plenty of gigs I wasn’t super excited about, but none that I was ashamed of talking about. Except the one time I gave a speech at that Nazi rally, but I let it slide because those guys had amazing cupcakes.

“Work is a primary expression of who we are.” Regardless of the job we do, regardless of the payment we receive and regardless of the place we do it, anytime we do what needs to be done, we show the world who we are. Work is the great revealer. The old saying that how you do anything is how you do everything, is completely true. Inspired by the sheer pain of volunteer management.

“To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed.” The most satisfying part about the wedding planning process is deciding which of the bullshit institutional marriage rituals don’t hold any meaning for us. Garter tossing and cake eating are the most awkward, pointless wedding customs on the planet, and everyone knows it. Everyone. For our wedding, we’re creating our own customs and not marching in lockstep with a culture that doesn’t matter to us. Amen. Inspired by a speech by cartoonist Bill Waterson. 

There’s Too Much Misguided Persistence

“If discomfort is medicated, there’s no movement.” Love this insight from comedian Doug Benson. Reminds men that I’m eternally grateful for all of life’s low points. If we’re never sad, we’re never aware what happiness feels like. If we’re never kicked in the crotch by the golf shoe of reality, we’re never angry enough to make the necessary changes. The answer to discomfort isn’t popping pills, it’s giving thanks. 

“There’s too much misguided persistence.” There’s a fine line between following up and being a stalker. Whether it’s looking for a job, closing a sale or getting a date, if we don’t demonstrate a valid reason for our persistence, we’re just annoying. Irritating our way into people’s inboxes isn’t a wise approach for getting attention, earning permission or solidifying trust. Persistence is like tofu, in that it takes on the flavor of whatever sauce it’s immersed in. If we fail to pair persistence with value, the flavor ain’t right. Inspired a stack of dusty resumes.

lack of privacy is someone else’s wealth.”
Jaron Lanier argues that our personal information is
 form of currency traded among the very rich. Interesting point. My thought is, maybe a little less privacy would go a long way. One of the reasons I want everybody to wear nametags all the time everywhere forever, is because nametags eliminate anonymity. They create a social contract that you resign every day. And when you wear a nametag on your chest for all to see, publicly, you’re more apt to consider the repercussions of your actions. Yes, there’d be a little less privacy, but there’d also be a lot more civility. I don’t think privacy should be eliminated completely, but if we’re already living honest lives with little to hide, do we really care if the president of some tech company knows which ex-girlfriends we stalk on Facebook? Instead of burning calories bemoaning a battle that we can’t win, maybe we should focus on living lives we’re not ashamed to share.

“Please don’t think I care.” Sara Silverman’s TED talk got me thinking about how people love to go out of their way to remind the world how much they don’t like, aren’t interested or couldn’t care less about certain things. My thought is, if you care so little about it, why did you spend fifteen minutes telling me about it? If you’re going to not care, at least learn to do it right. Selective indifference is a fine art. Point being, if you’re ever unsure why people act the way they do, when in doubt, blame it on overcompensation. That explains everything.

“I finally feel like a whole person.” It’s been exactly one year since I retired as an entrepreneur. And as I reflect on how different life is now, the word wholeness comes to mind. It’s a combination of many things: Being engaged to the right person. Being employed by the right company. Being motivated by the right reasons. Being connected with the right community. And being focused on the right meaning. Doesn’t mean I’m happy every moment of the day, but there’s something infinitely satisfying about feeling like a whole person. Jesus Christ. Finally. 

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