Meet the Raging Tides With Radical Grace

In times of misery, our tendency is to try and outrun the

To do some emotional jujitsu on ourselves, sidestepping whatever inner conflict
bubbles up so we can move on before any of the punches land.

On the other hand, it’s also worthwhile to let everything register.

To sit with the mental waves as they come crashing in,
trusting that we’re at the threshold of something important, and we should pay
attention and keep going and run the extra mile just to find out how the story

Because the benefit of misery is, it gives us window into
our values.

And we all need help remembering who we are.

Commitment is the Constraint That Sets You Free

I don’t do moderation.

Commitment is my sword.

And I wield it on a daily
basis to slay whatever dragons cross my path.

Recently, my clients and
readers have been asking me a lot of questions about the relationship between
commitment and creativity. And although I’ve already written extensively on
topics like stick-to-itiveness and playing for keeps and treating commitment as
a technique, there’s still another facet of this philosophy that’s worth

one of my favorite books,The Art of
Looking Sideways
, famed visual designer Alan Fletcher wrote that the first
move in any creative process is to introduce constraints.

was referring to tangible constraints
like lines and borders and shapes and colors and physical space and time, but
also strategic constraints like job
titles and project management and market specialization and finding target
customers for your work.

yet, there’s a larger, more theoretical constraint that most creators don’t
think about.


That’s the ultimate constraint. Deciding that you’re going
to show up every day and create, no matter what. Treating your work as a daily
practice, thus professionalizing your art and using daily momentum to keep yourself
from feeling detached from the process.

Now, since limited scientific research has been published on
the psychology of personal commitment, experiential research will have to

William Hutchison Murray was a mountaineer and writer. He led
a four-month, five hundred-mile trek through the Himalayas that helped blaze
the trail for the conquest of Everest three years later. 

This man understood commitment. And although his powerful philosophy
on the subject has been widely cited and attributed to Goethe, the entire
passage actually originates from Murray’s book The Scottish Himalayan

“We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out
of our ruts. We had put down our passage money and booked a sailing expedition to
Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is
committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth,
the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. That the
moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of
things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole
stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of
unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could
have dreamt would have come his way.”

Ask any professional creator, there’s a mysterious dimension
to mundane work ethic. Commitment creates a gravitational field that draws good
things into it. And so, as a constraint, commitment is actually what sets you

In multiple ways:

Commitment is freedom from quality. When
you’ve committed to doing something everyday, there’s no stress about being
perfect or right or even good. Because you’re just going to be back tomorrow.
Today, it’s about focusing on quantity and continuity, trusting that everything
else will take care of itself.

Commitment is freedom
from choice.
When you’ve committed to doing something everyday, there’s no wasting brain cells trying to
figure out what to do. Because you’ve already made your own decision and
met your own standards. You can just keep your eye on the ball and let your
mind go. Meanwhile, this positive addiction creates extremely optimal conditions
for the brain to grow. Today, it’s about getting on with your life and
getting to work.

Commitment is freedom from results. When
you’ve committed to doing something everyday, there’s no finish line in sight. Because you’re not playing to
win, you’re playing to keep the game going. Today, it’s about the journey, not
the destination, which allows you to be fully present with the activity at

Commitment is freedom from inhibition. When you’ve committed
to doing something everyday, there’s no
limitations on taking shots and missing. Because you’re just going zero out
your board when you play tomorrow anyway. Today, it’s about suiting up, hanging
your balls out hitting it with all you’ve got.

Commitment is freedom from pressure. When you’ve committed to
doing something everyday, there’s no
need to put all your eggs in one basket. Because you’re distributing
your effort into small, consistent, doable increments. Today, it’s about the
daily practice, not the big game at the end of the season.


Commitment is freedom from focus. When
you’ve committed to doing something everyday, the daily measure of time and consistency builds compounding
interest. Because you’ve established a gentle flow that obfuscates
procrastination. Today, it’s about cadence and rhythm and momentum.

It’s the only constraint that matters.

Start with commitment, and let everything else fall in line.

That Which Nobody Expects, Everybody Remembers

The element of surprise is an asset.

Regardless of what kind of work you do, becoming a master of
the unexpected will take you far in life.

I’m reminded of my favorite scene in The Devil’s Advocate, when Al Pacino reveals his litigation philosophy
to apprentice lawyer, Keanu Reeves:

“I’m a surprise,
Kevin. The jury, the witnesses, and opposing council, they don’t see me coming.
And that’s why I win. I’m the hand up Mona Lisa’s skirt.”

The question is, why does the unexpected work so well?

Because the human brain loves surprises.

When something
breaks our patterns, violates our expectations or upsets our schemas, there’s a
biological response.
Surprise sets off a chemical reaction that triggers
alertness, snaps our brain to attention and sears the moment into our memories.

“No way. Get outta
here! Are you serious? He didn’t.”

Did you know there’s actually a name for these exclamations?

They’re called reaction
The American Sociological Association ran a study that defined the
expression of surprise as “an eruption or leakage of internal, individual,
physiological or psychological states.”

Which makes total sense, considering the word surprise
derives from the verb surprendre, or,
“overcome with emotion.”

And what’s interesting is, the brain isn’t the only body
part involved.

Our mouths and fingers have a reaction to surprise as well.

Because of our native programming, once the surprising moment
comes and goes, there’s an innate human urge to pass along the story about what
surprised us. We can’t help ourselves. Humans are hardwired as social
creatures. Storytelling is the glue that holds our communities together. And to
share is to belong.

Ultimately, if we want to become known for a unique way of
interacting with the world, being unexpected is a great place to start.

Because surprise isn’t just an interesting story, it’s an
interactional achievement.

Scott’s Sunday Sentences, Issue 013

Sentences are my spiritual currency. 

Throughout my week, I’m constantly scouring and learning and reading and inhaling and annotating from any number of newspapers, blogs, online publications, books, articles, songs, art pieces, podcasts, eavesdroppings, random conversations and other sources of inspiration.

Turns out, most of these sentences can be organized into about eleven different categories, aka, compartments of life that are meaningful to me. And since I enjoy being a signal tower of things that are interesting, I figured, why not share them on a regular basis?

In the spirit of “learning in public,” I’ve decided to publish a weekly digest of my top findings, along with their respective links or reference points. Sentence junkies of the world unite!

Creativity, Innovation & Art 

“They might not agree with you, but they like how you got there,” from an interview with George Carlin.

Culture, Humanity & Society 

“No one goes there imagining how they can contribute to the city, people go to there to get their picture taken with the city in the background,” from Moby.

Identity, Self & Soul 

“You, less than, is a lie,” from Pam Slim’s new book.

Lyrics, Poetry & Passages 

“Everybody who is honest is interesting,” from Stefan Sagmeister.

Meaning, Mystery & Being 

“Happiness spreads up to three degrees of separation from us,” from Emma Seppala.

Media, Technology & Design 

“Is there a new behavior here that you can see one hundred million people doing?” from Business Insider.

Nature, Health Science 

“Nature does not depend on us, we are not the only experiment.,” from Trimtab.

People, Relationships & Love 

“People are looking for proof that you can be amazing so that they can be amazing, too,” from The Flinch.

Psychology, Thinking & Feeling

“A relentless willingness to root out the ways we limit or deceive ourselves from seeing what is,” from The Fifth Discipline.

Success, Life & Career

“All the bullshit that pulls us away from what we’re trying to do, that’s the villain,” from Steven Pressfield.

Work, Business Organizations

“No business model remains intact past the first customer interaction,” from Hugh’s new book.

See you next week!

Are You Someone We Can Build Something Around?

You’re not here to be helpful addition.

The goal is to get woven into the organization fabric.

To be a stand for other people’s greatness. To be a fixture they
can build something around. To be a solid foundation with deep roots, from
which dozen of other branches can sprout and flourish and seed the rest of the landscape.

And if that’s going to happen, you have to bring something
brand new to life. You have to create something from whole cloth and deliver in
a way that the organization would be happy to have repeated.

When I worked at a digital marketing agency, I created and
operationalized an accelerated strategic framework called thinkmapping. The
process combined research, storytelling and visual design and turned it into a platform for sharing ideas and
observations and insights with clients.

But over time, thinkmapping evolved into more than just a
whiteboard experience, it became part of our brand. Something we were known
for. Not just a social object, but a communication ritual. A winning
presentation style that expanded our ability to engage our audience. And a key
deliverable in our client strategy process.

I was now woven into the organizational fabric.

Mission accomplished.

Are you someone we can build something around?

All Art Is Selfish Art

I’m a big believer in selfish creation.

Making art for
yourself and nobody else.

Not the critics, not the masses, not the powers that be, not
the mainstream media, not the competition, not the gallery owners, not the
distributors and not the cool kids.

For you.

And in my experience, there are two ways to approach this

One path is to work from an achievement orientation, focusing on impressing and improving yourself.

For example, every time I write a song, I always try to
incorporate at least one lyric or chord or strumming pattern or vocal variation
that I’ve never tried before. It’s execution to the power of elevation, and it
always makes me feel proud because I topped myself, albeit on a small scale.

The other path to selfish creation is adventure oriented, focusing on delighting and surprising yourself.

For example, every time I write a book, I always try to
include one sentence or paragraph or footnote or obscure reference that nobody
will understand but me. It’s execution to the power of elation, and it always
makes me feel gitty because I charmed myself, albeit on a small scale.

Either way, it’s all for me.

Are you productively selfish?

Participating in the Energy Exchange

Energy is
interactional currency.

If you want to lead
the people around you, pay attention not only to what you do that gives you
energy, but what you do that
gives others energy

I learned this lesson busking in the park.

Turns out, playing and singing music as loud as you possibly
can in a public space with amazing acoustics gives people energy. It’s the coolest thing. As folks walk past,
you can literally watch their faces and bodies changing. They dance and hum and
smile and wave and sometimes drop a dollar in the case, and it makes you feel
warm inside for having participated in the energy exchange.

Which is helpful when it’s thirty fucking degrees outside.

The point is, being a leader isn’t about how people
experience you; it’s how they experience themselves when they’re around you.

Contributing Meaningfully to People

I believe in a few things.

First, I believe in contributing meaningfully to the growth
and well being of every person connected to me. Second, I believe the greatest
contribution you can make to someone’s life is to help that person love themselves

Here’s what might work:

Instead of encouraging people to become more of what they
are, empower them to become what they never thought they could be. Help them
believe that something bigger is possible for them. They will love themselves more.

Instead of giving people a list of books to read, make a
meaningful contribution to their cognitive life. Deliver insight in a way that
it becomes fundamental to someone’s worldview. They will love themselves more.

Instead of demanding people change who they are into
somebody different, invite them to channel who they are into something
different. Help them see where they’re already successful and how to translate
that into another arena. They will love
themselves more.

Instead of being the voice of counsel, be the voice of
vision. When you breathe the same air
as someone and look them in the eye and say, I believe in you, talk about their future like it’s right around
the corner. They will love themselves

In short, infecting over affecting.

Listen to Scott Ginsberg’s Interview with Travis Jenkins on The Entrepreneur’s Radio Show

I recently did an extensive interview with Travis Jenkins from The Entrepreneur’s Radio Show.

We dug deep. The topics we explored include:

How to make a name for yourself, creating a business around your brand, making connections, the writing process, finding balance between brand and business, speeding up your success and dealing with stress.

Oh, and I also sang a song about hippopotamuses.

You can stream the interview here, download it here or read the transcript here.

Finding the Needle in the Haystack

My mentor used to have a saying:

They are never going
to do it, but they will love that you did it for them.

I’ve found that mantra be true in almost every area of
business, from public speaking to sales and marketing to client service to
mentoring relationships. The trick is keeping your antennas up for new ways to
leverage it.

A few months ago, I was doing research for a strategic
planning project when I came across a goldmine of a website. Glassdoor listed over
a thousand anonymous employee reviews for the very company I was auditing.

The best part was, most of them were scathing.

And I thought to myself, wow,
there is no way human resources has read any these.

Why would they? They’re busy professional with millions of
dollars to protect, thousands of employees to manage, hundreds of tasks to
accomplish and dozens of meetings to attend. They simply don’t have the time.

I do.

So I started reading, annotating, classifying, synthesizing
and interpreting every one of the thousand reviews. The work was tedious, but
by the end of the week, I had accumulated a massive collection of valuable
insights and strategic recommendations. And that document became a leverageable
asset to be used subsequent meetings and presentations.

Now that’s what I call big data.

The lesson is, if you know they’re never going to do it, why
not do it for them? Sweat, diligence and volume, combined with surprise, delight
and generosity makes for one hell of an interactional combination.

Show people you’re willing to find the needle in the

Then poke them in the ass with it.

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