I Love The Ambient Humanity Of The Workplace

“We leave a lot of happiness on the table.” There’s something different about you. Did you lose weight? Cut your hair? Buy new clothes? Change your nametag? Nope, I’m just happy. Damn. I had no idea happiness counted for so much. Which doesn’t mean I was unhappy before. But when you prioritize achievement over contentment, when you’re burdened by the belief that you haven’t done enough to be okay with yourself, happiness has a hard time bubbling to the surface. You have to roll an awful lot of rocks up an awful lot of hills, just to get a taste of that sweet air. On the other hand, when that anxious part of you is finally resting, no longer suffocating under an avalanche of maybes, it’s amazing how freely the vomit of happiness spews out. Inspired another happy guy named Scott.

“I love the ambient humanity of the workplace.” Trying to be creative alone is like trying to play basketball without a backboard. Sure, you might drain a few buckets here and there, but it’s a lot easier to score with a surface to bounce off of. Without that human exchange, you lose perspective. Your nose gets pressed too hard against your own glass. And you don’t realize how myopic or naive or uninformed your ideas truly are. Besides, all you really need is a fresh set of opinions. Not endless rounds of feedback. Not a full on brainstorming session. Just enough humanity to keep your creativity in check. It’s kind of hard to access that when you’re sitting your living room in your pajamas. Inspired by relentless collaboration.

“Resist the temptation to view those around you as objects and use them.” What do you see when you see people? Still one of my favorite questions of all time. I think it has a massive impact on how people experience you, and how people experience themselves in relation to you. What’s interesting is how your answer changes over the years. Do you see people as props in your personal play? As opportunities for generosity experiments? As spare parts to support your fragile self? As infinite sources of interestingness? As disposable pink spoons? As sales waiting to be made? What you see when you see people affects everything. And I wish more of us considered that. Inspired by The Paris Review.

“Discussing doing is a mistake.” A few years ago, I became so frustrated with the world’s inability to execute, I wrote a book about it. Fifty thousand angry words on the topic of taking action. Pretty proud of it. And I don’t even consider myself an angry person, but the only way to light a fire under people’s assess was to channel my emotions into something more palatable. Like a book. That’s the beauty of art. You can sneak in there and make people feel just uncomfortable enough to make a change. And while I have no way of knowing how many people I reached, I did run into my friend Phil this weekend. And he’s lightyears beyond where he was five years ago. Mission accomplished.

“Committed people deserve committed people and aren’t compatible with anybody else.” Love is not an isolated incident. There’s rarely one shining moment, one unforgettable experience of romantic perfection that proves she’s the one. To base the verdict of our relational rightness on a single kiss under the starts would be shortsighted and immature. I know because I’ve done it before. Me and my stupid cinematic imagination. The reality is, love is more of a slow build. An accumulation of all the corny little things we notice about each other. Like those two extra seconds of eye contact during dinner. Or the first time we cried on each other’s shoulders. Or those ridiculous sound effects we make that somehow communicate volumes. If true love were accurately depicted in movies, most people would walk out before the second act. Not me, man. Not me.

The Payoff Of Doing Homework As A Human Being

“This medium allowed me to engage all of my being.” What I dig most about my current job is, I’m able to tap into skills and passions and assets––that had no outlet in the entrepreneurial world––and use them to create value for others. It’s like I’ve been meandering through the world for ten years with a pocketful of plugs, and I just now found a wall with enough working outlets to plug them in. That’s the stuff meaning is made of. Working in a space that allows us to make use of everything we are. Having a place where we can become fully alive. And crafting a way to transfer that electricity to everyone around us. If one of our primary goals in life is to make ourselves proud, then this is a proven path to get there. Thanks for the inspiration, Maron.

“It’s hard to be a good listener with that many synapses firing.” The opposite of listening isn’t talking, it’s anticipating. That was always one of my biggest liabilities as a communicator. My brain was so littered with contempt for the past––and plans for the future––that I created disregard for the present. My cognitive decibel level was so high, there was no room left for other people’s ideas. Even if they were right. Even if they said exactly what I needed to hear. Even if I literally watched the words come out of their mouths. It was tough to listen with the selfishness knob dialed to eleven. But that was the old model. That was an outdated operating system. As my pronouns start to shift, and as the focus evolves from the me to the we, the mental noise level has started to temper. And I remind myself: Nothing to fear, nothing to prove,
nothing to hide, nothing to lose. Thanks for the heads up, Jess.

“A website is good ambient pressure.” The smartest sales motivator I ever made was building a calendar feature into my website. It painted me into an accountable corner. It forced me to fill more dates. And it shamed me for not having enough work on the books. Sound like a stressful tactic? It was. But when you don’t have a boss, an office or a staff, you sort of have to play tricks on yourself. You have to negotiate these jujitsu moves to keep the shit above shoe level. That’s the only way we survive as entrepreneurs. By taking our motivations and tendencies and weaknesses and leveraging them any way we can. Personally, my deepest human cravings were the need for an audience and the addiction to being heard, so I channeled those hungers into my sales process. And wouldn’t you know it? The day my website’s calendar feature went live, all those little empty squares started filling up quickly. Inspired by my dad.

“The payoff of doing homework as a human being.” My number one recurring dream is academic anxiety. It’s the end of the semester or the end of the project, and I have nothing to show for myself. No homework. No preparation. No nothing. I’ve let my team down, my instructor down and myself down. So I freeze. I feel helpless and overwhelmed and short of breath. And just when I start scrambling my way back to conscientiousness, I wake up. God that dream sucks. I can’t cope with the idea of not having work to show. It’s just not in my nature. Homework is my thing. It’s what I do. Plus, nobody else ever does it. Which makes me look good. Stupid dreams. Good looking out,John Mayer.

It’s Hard To Be A Leader From Your Living Room

“The megachurch is the only organization that is actually
working in our society.”
For someone with zero interest in organized religion, I sure do love a good church. Not just for the gorgeous architecture, positive music, joyful energy and strong community, but also because of the economic undercurrent. The church has the world’s best business model. Join us or burn in hell. That’s one heck of a sales pitch. Business students should tour congregations as part of their curriculum. Companies should pay close attention to how strategically churches are run. From hospitality to membership to marketing to leadership, there’s a mountain of wisdom to glean from religion institutions. God may not exist, but the church’s profits certainly do. 

“It’s hard to be a leader from your living room.” One of the major drawbacks of being a freelancer is, there are limited leadership opportunities. Video conferencing and social media and networking events are fine for connecting, but to effectively inspire, mentor, teach and encourage others, we need consistent, face to face interaction. We need a shared space where feedback and energy and communication can flow in both directions. We need the chance to understand and develop the self in the context of other people. Without that level of humanity, it’s not really leadership. Without other bodies in the room, it’s more like winking in the dark.

“People care way more about fake people.” Going cold turkey on television is one of the best life decisions I’ve ever made. I’m happier, more productive, more active, more relaxed and a hundred bucks a month richer. No regrets. However, this choice creates few problems. First, television is the best it’s ever been right now. The shows are smarter, the actors are better, the effects are cooler, and the media for watching them are cheaper and more accessible. I’m totally missing out. Second, it’s impossible to have a conversation with another human being without discussing television. I swear, that’s all people talk about. Not to mention, you have to sit through the goddamn sales pitch of why their show is the one show you should watch, and that if you and your wife have a open weekend, you might consider staying in and spending seventeen hours glued to the flatscreen. The third problem is, when people discover you don’t watch television, they’re not impressed like they used to be. Ten years ago, it was unheard of. Five years ago, it was admirable. Today, it makes you sound like an antisocial douchebag. Whatever. I still think there a thousand more meaningful uses of my time. Like listening to a podcast with filmmakerJoss Wheadon

“You can’t sit back and wait for people to be friends with you.” After a certain age, making new friends is hard. The working world isn’t like college. We don’t have the luxury of proximity, where there’s a thousand people around every corner. And we don’t have the benefit of the calendar, where there’s a hundred organized activities every day. People get busy with adult pursuits like career, community, marriage, kids and the like. Which means we have to work extra hard to create and nurture new relationships. Since we don’t have a shared history with people, we literally have to date our friends. And if that means making mix tapes for each other, sending goofy emails to each other and being proactive about securing time slots for hanging out with each toher, so be it. I’d rather flirt with another man than have nobody to go to lunch with. We can’t be a bystander in our friendships. 

I Don’t Want To Be Afraid Of My Species

“If you’re different, there’s an otherness factor.” I recently met a women who worked as a midwife in a small African village. She said the most beautiful part about living there was, everyone looked each other in the eye. Even strangers. Especially strangers. I asked why, and she said it’s because there’s no fear there. The locals are connected in a very intimate, special way, she said, one that doesn’t have room for fear. Interesting. In New York, eye contact is considered offensive. A sign of aggression. Bordering on sinful. In this city, you feel like you don’t exist other than being an object to avoid. That’s what I love about wearing a nametag. It’s just friendly enough, just honest enough and just quirky enough that it wipes out some of the fear. Even on the subway or walking down a crowded street, people say hello before they even realize it. Cool. Inspired by white shame.

Culture is what keeps you from screaming in your car on the
way into the office.” 
My company receives hundreds of letters from prospective employees every week. I remember one designer in particular. She said there was no doubt she would be a perfect fit for our organization. And I thought to myself, if you had no doubt, why wouldn’t you just show up? Seems to me, confidence in one’s abilities would spill over into their executions, not their emails. It’s one thing to brag about being the missing piece of the puzzle, it’s another thing to physically snap that piece into place. Life rewards action, not intention. Companies hire people who instigate, not pontificate.

“If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs.” Awesome passage from Obama’s speech on the economy. Got me thinking about my favorite conspiracy theory––that governments, religions, businesses, media companies and other corporate behemoths have a hidden agenda to keep humanity small, scared, stupid and dreamless. It’s simply not in their best interest. A population capable of critical thinking? A society where ignorance is unforgivable offense? Not in this century. For that reason, I can’t think of anything more valuable than learning. The development of our total intellectual environment is always a worthwhile endeavor. For every book we read, that’s one less way they can control us. Jerks.

“People are basically good, and if you give them the right tools, they’ll prove it to you every day.” Biz Stone is right. Better to be occasionally disappointed than walk around with your guard up. That’s how I’m wired. I’m a people person. Human beings invigorate me with more energy than all the carbs in the world. I don’t want to fear my own species. I want to think the best of people,
to see everyone as good until proven otherwise, in the hopes that my belief
will encourage them reveal their better selves. I want to trust people until they give me a reason not to. Call me a humanist. Call me an idealist. But until I get stabbed on the subway, that’s the philosophy I’m going with.

Hell Isn’t Other People, Hell Is Trying To Change Them

“Hell isn’t other people, hell is trying to change them.” Why can’t you be more like me? That’s the essence of every argument in history. One person insisting that the other conforms to their version of what a spouse or a coworker or a friend should be. Unfortunately, our species doesn’t work that way. Minus a few exceptions, human wiring is a static operation. People may change a bit at the margins, but for the most part, we can’t run from who we are. And we shouldn’t try to. Nor should we ask others to try to. I’m reminded of the Sleep Better Pillow. Perfect metaphor for this problem. A neurosurgeon discovered that most sleep ailments and discomfort arise from an improper sleeping position. But instead of asking people to change the way they sleep, he created a pillow that turned their favorite sleeping position a healthy sleep posture. Pure genius. Instead of swimming against the current, he found a way to surf it back to shore. The only thing that changed was the board. You gotta love that level of respect for nature’s agenda.

“A storage locker is not a closet.” Fascinating insight from my organizer friend Amelia. What’s crazy is, fifty years ago, the term self-storage didn’t even exist. Now it’s a twenty billion dollar industry. Why? Because humans love stuff. I’m reminded of that truth every time I move. And it’s always a cleansing, spiritual experience to purge my possessions. That’s the best part. Expelling bags and boxes and bins of shite that I never should have owned in the first place. The sad part is, I always tells myself to remember that very moment every time I purchase something in the future. And I never do.

“I’m a music fan first, a musician second, a songwriter third and a lyricist fourth.” No wonder Keller is so successful. He’s got his musical priorities in order. And that’s a tricky balance to strike. We get so obsessed with the creation of art that we lose touch with the appreciation of it. When I meet writers who can’t tell me a single book they’re currently reading, it makes me want to papercut their faces into jelly. We have to know what great art feels like. We have to make time to still be a fan of things. We have to refill the inspiration reservoir. Otherwise we’ll be running on fumes, creating from a skimpy matrix, bouncing our perspective off a thin wall, working repetitively from our own narratives. 

“Hammering our lives into unfamiliar shapes.” It’s not that I fear change, it’s that I love routine. I’m perfectly fine with the future invading my life, so long as I find new ways to anchor myself amidst the avalanche of complexity. That’s my favorite part. Searching for new rituals. Creating a new repertoire for making meaning. That prevents insanity while hammering my life into unfamiliar shapes. Inspired by a book that inspired a book.

Honor The Is As Well As The Ought

“People thwart your expectations every way you can imagine, and in many ways you can’t.” For a long time, expectation was my drug of choice. I couldn’t kick that sweet candy if my life depended on it. Then my life actually did. No joke. I used to be so infatuated with the future, so intoxicated with the prospect of good things happening, that I literally forgot to breathe. I was cheating on the present with a mistress called the future. And like any love affair, what started out as an innocent game slowly grew into a dangerous obsession. Until one day, I woke up and couldn’t breathe. My left lung had collapsed. Before I knew it, I was being wheeled into the emergency room. But it’s not stress, said the doctor as he inserted my chest tube and morphine drip. Bullshit. Stress is always the culprit. And expectation is often the accomplice. Talk about a lesson you only need to learn once. Seven years later, I’ve changed my relationship with my breath. I’ve learned how to exhale the anticipation away. Meanwhile, expectation gets the cold shoulder. Inspired by Mo Meta Blues.

“Honor the is as well as the ought.” Eric talks about the importance of letting go of fairness and unfairness. Definitely an idea we don’t fully comprehend until we’ve been around the block a few times. I remember my first few lessons in fairness when I started my business. Specifically, colleagues who worked significantly less than me and earned substantially more. Drove me up the wall. Here I was, busting my ass fourteen hours a day, still living with my parents, and they were out drinking till last call, magically making six figures. What the hell? But bitterness didn’t get me very far. Nor did comparison. Turns out, our lives are
subject to a whole host of ephemeral influences. Nature has an agenda, and we’re not always part of it.

“When did we decide that a life without conflict was good?” What scares me about technology is, it’s turning us into a generation of poor problem solvers. Thanks to the magic of search engines, there’s no need to wonder anymore. Thanks to the power of geopositioning, there’s no way to get lost anymore. And thanks to the utility of smartphones, there’s no reason to turn to the stranger next to you and ask for directions anymore. This can’t be good for the species. If we don’t practice relying on the very things that make us human––instinct, intellect, memory and connection––than our most vital muscles will atrophy. Just because technology can help us solve a problem doesn’t mean it was a problem in the first place. Thank you very much, Sherry Turkle.

“If your life and energy is spent living in response to the opportunities that
come your way, then somebody else has dictated your mission.”
 Rob Bell makes a strong case about protecting yourself from opportunities. Couldn’t agree more. Especially when when the ego is in play. Saying no to gigs that dangle money and attention and power in front of your nose requires a ton of restraint. But if they don’t pass through your opportunity filter, you have to decline. It’s a painful in the moment, but what usually makes up for it is the future opportunity that comes your way. You just have to trust that something better is waiting. More often than not, it is.

I’m Attracted To The Evidence Of A Mind At Work

“Go enjoy something that’s raw, pure and unregulated.” Every artist needs an honest canvas. Some platform, be it online or off, where they can go to express themselves without the fear of the red pen. It’s art without editing, and it’s infinitely healthy for the soul. Even if it’s not your primary arena of expression, it’s still a necessary venue for creating meaning. Especially if you have a day job where inhibition is an endangered species. The cool part is, once you taste the sweet nectar of pure creation, once you feel what it feels like to have no artistic restrictions, even if only for a moment, it’s amazing what kinds of doors start to open up. Inspired by a Kevin Smith rant.

“I’m attracted to the evidence of a mind at work.” Since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by the places people do their thinking. Offices, workbenches, cubicles, desks, notebooks, workstations, libraries, art studios––to me, these spaces are sanctuaries. They’re the external sculptures of our internal syntheses. All beautiful and complex and messy in their own way. Matter of fact, this should be a television show. We’ll call it Minds At Work. We’ll travel around the world and interview smart, creative people about their workspaces and the thinking that happens there. Three places per episode. Hour long show. Probably on Discovery. That’s a million dollar idea. Inspired by an interview with Kevin Powers.

“Will the thrill of your passion dissipate once it becomes a daily task?” When you’re an entrepreneur, that’s a very intimidating question. I remember the first time my mentor brought it up. I thought to myself, that’ll never happen to me. How could I ever get burned out on this? I was wrong. Turns out, people who convert their passion into their profession are vulnerable to the bastardization of ambition. It’s one thing to create for the love of creating, it’s another thing to create for the lure of stakeholders. And if you’re not careful, you wind up violating the purity of something you hold dear in the name of business growth. Sheesh. Is any brand that important?  

“A camera is only a tool, what’s important is your eyes and what you see in your head.” Photography is awesome. Not just because you get to wear a cool vest with lots of pockets, but because you get to spot those ephemeral moments, sneak up from behind without a sound, close your palms around them like lightning bugs and release them back into the world. It’s a beautiful process I’ve fallen in love with. Not unlike listening for sentences to take down in my notes, scouring for moments to turn into images has become one of my favorite ways to stay engaged and present with the world. The next step is converting all these photos into some kind of art project. Stay tuned for that.

I Felt Like Who I Always Thought I Should Be

“Rather than judging experiences, just be with what is.” Lernstift is the first pen that vibrates when you make a mistake. After watching the video, I’ve decided I don’t like this product. Here’s why. The art we don’t intend to make is often the best work we
create. Creativity isn’t about avoiding or preventing mistakes, it’s about following
them down the rabbit hole and seeing where they take us. That’s the real
life lesson children should be learning. To love whatever happens. To stay with
their reality and trust that it will lead them to where they need to go. Not to fight nature. Not to scrub life clean of imperfection. But to treat mistakes as guideposts, not goofs, and open themselves to the flow of inspiration in the most natural way.

“Hack your own dictionaries.” We’re told to judge people by their actions, not their language. I think that’s silly. Nothing against behavior, but sometimes language is the only filter we have. In fact, when I first meet somebody, I immediately take notice of their word choice. It speaks volumes about who they are, what they value and how they define things.Especially how they define things.That matters more than the word itself. Show me someone who rejects definitions that have no relationship with reality, and I’ll show you someone who will have no problem getting hired. Inspired by thisvideoabout puritanical, outdated marriage language.

“I felt like who I always thought I should be.” I’ve been having a lot of those moments lately. Where your current experience matches your childhood expectation. Take busking in the park, for example. It’s become my intersection of multiple lifelong passions: Music, writing, performing, communing with nature and connecting with humans. Holy crap. Consider this emotional landscape. It’s surreal because I never thought it would actually happen. It’s scary because I think about what I could have become if things were different. It’s inspiring because it validates every choice the world told me was insane. And it’s calming because it overwhelms my heart with a flood of enoughness.Exhale. Inspired by Jay and Silent Bob gettingold.

“Perhaps the tendency to war is not in our biology, but our sociology.” The idealist in me wants to believe that people are fundamentally good. But the skeptic in me wants to argue that humans are naturally selfish weasels who commit violent acts of cruelty and stupidityI don’t know. I may never decide. It all depends on how grumpy I get as I grow older. But I’m hopeful. Reading this article about our warlike nature has opened my eyes. Pretty interesting stuff. Makes the point that humans aren’t so bad, when they’re alone. The problem is one of human environments and social structures, not humans individually. Interesting.

“Collaborative work doesn’t help us find our voice, it helps
us lose it because whatever we do together makes us different.”
 This summer, I began collaborating on a creative project that, historically, I worked on alone. It’s been a fascinating contrast for numerous reasons. First, the diversification of our idea reservoir. Now that I have a team, terrific insight, that I never would have found alone, consistently floats to the surface. Second, the opportunity to practice trust. There’s just something magical about passing the ball to someone on the team and knowing they’ll be there to receive it. Lastly, the regularity of human bonding. That’s the tradeoff when you roll solo. What you gain in efficiency you lose in loneliness. Turns out, there’s more to life than getting shit done.

He’s So Successful That He Carries Nothing In His Pockets

“Bind them to the
mast as they sail past alluring women.
” Contrary to popular conditioning,
not all men are unthinking troglodytes susceptible to the bewitchings of anyone
with a skirt and a heartbeat. Yes, all men are stupid. But not all men are savages.
We may think about sex every seconds, but that doesn’t make us cheaters. Despite
our manly wirings, some of us actually choose to defy archaic gender clichés.
Some of us choose to reject mainstream masculinity. Some of us know that the best way to block a punch is not to be there. Probably because we have
intelligent, respectful men in our families to model. This rant brought to you buy a court case that never should have happened.

“He’s so successful that he carries absolutely nothing in his pockets.” You have to admire that kind of freedom. Clearly a man with nothing to fear, nothing to prove, nothing
to hide, nothing to lose. P
ersonally, I’d feel naked without my notepad. The wallet and phone I could do without. But not having access to a writing instrument at all times would induce a panic attack. Even if I never write anything down, as long as I know the notepad is there, I feel whole. It sounds silly, but writing is too much a part of my being to be separated from. Inspired by the godfather of conceptual art.

“Most people can’t validate themselves so they seek it in arbitrary things.” When I first started doing yoga, I would keep track of how many days in a row I practiced. It made me feel strong. But after a while, the number started creating an expectation. I would think to myself, “Now that ten days have passed, I bet my body will fatigue…” Sure enough, the next day I would leap out of bed with searing calf cramps and race to the fridge to suck back waters until the pain subsided. So much for feeling strong. Reminds me of Dara Torres, the oldest swimmer ever to earn a place on the Olympic team. She said the water doesn’t know how old you are. Funny what’s possible when we stop making gods out of numbers.

“Trust your ability to sit down and respond to something.” I believe creativity is a function of organization, discipline and consistency. I also believe in treating the unknown as an encyclopedia. Trusting that the ideas will come when we need them to. It takes several years to get to that point as an artist, but it’s all part of maturing as an creator. Yes, it’s scary as hell. But it’s how the world works. You have to trust that the forest will provide. Inspired by abookabout staying sane in the arts.

Eat Bitterness With Relentless Training

“I wanted to create a way to meet people through music.” That’s why Shawn Fanning createdNapster. Not to make money. Not to get girls. Not to reinvent the industry. Not to piss off the record labels.But to help people connect. Talk about good intentions. And that’s exactly why Napster worked. That’s why there were eighty million registered users at its peak. Music isn’t just the healing force of the universe, it’s life’s binding agent. It’s not just for listening, it’s for leveraging. And if today’s brands were smart, they would take advantage of Shawn’s equation. They would build something that allowed people to share their humanity.People first, parts second. Your product doesn’t have to be about music, per se, but it does have to be about bringing people together through something like music. Otherwise it’s just another website.

“Work is where you go to find out who your true self really is.” We can read all the psychology books on the shelf. Do all the personal reflection exercises in the world. Go to therapy every week. Meditate for hours a day. Even journal until the ink runs out. But the best way to figure out who the hell we are is to do real work with real people for real money on a regular basis. Otherwise we’re just winking in the dark. Feedback may be overrated, but it’s still necessary.

“Eat bitterness with relentless training.” Fascinating article about the next Tiger Woods. He’s only eight years old, but he’s on the path to greatness. Why? Because he feasts from a small plate, and stacks them as high as possible. Yes, that’s the polar opposite of our indecisive, buffet-style culture. But frankly, I think we’ve grown tired of all these godforsaken choices. Enough with the variety. Let’s just pick something, stick with it and learn to be okay with the result. Better to make a choice and get on with our lives comfortably, than be plagued by doubt wondering about what could have been a marginally better option.

“Anything that gets in the way of my focus to create gets cut out of my life.” Prolificacy is a function of portability. Building multiple, mobile creative environments that allow you to snap into work mode at a moment’s notice. My personal favorite is the sound recorder on my phone. At night, I lay down parts of songs I’m working on––a verse here, a chorus there––and during the day, I sing to myself on the subway or during my lunch break. This keeps the material fresh in my mind, even if I can’t access my primary instrument, even if I’m miles away from my main songwriting station. Inspired by John Zorn’ssixtieth birthday.

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