Evolution is the process of many tiny incremental changes. And it’s a beautiful thing. We suddenly find a new purpose for one or more of our parts, but without significantly diminishing the old function, and it feels like magic.
Darwin’s work on natural selection says that among organisms, there is no such thing as better or worse, smart or dumb, good or bad, strong or weak. There is only well or poorly adapted to one’s environment.
This principle explains how we gain healthy stability in our lives. Just like the fated fish crawling out of the water and beginning to crawl on land, we too begin maneuvering our way to something that works.
Starting a new job often stimulates this kind of growth. We get thrown into a new role, a new team, or a new organization or industry, and finally we are able to utilize the full diversity of our talents on a regular basis.
We can flex those muscles we knew we had, but we were just waiting for the right environment in which to use them.
It almost becomes a game to see what part of ourselves we can bring to work every day.
Is your personality suited for the path you’re taking? Are you adapting your way into work that you’re uniquely suited for?
Byrne famously said that genius, the emergence of a truly remarkable and memorable work, appears when a thing is perfectly suited to its context. When something works, it strikes people as not just being a clever adaptation, but as emotionally resonant as well. When the right thing is in the right place, we are moved.
One of my good friends has struggled with this for years. Her talent stack is extraordinary, and yet, every few months, she finds herself spinning her wheels in the mud of frustration and dissatisfaction.
But her evolution will happen eventually. Nature is smarter than we are, it doesn’t need a reminder to never give it, and it has its own tempo and flow of which we are all only a small part.
Sometimes it just takes a while.
Hopefully she’ll still be around when the world is finally ready for her.
LET ME ASK YA THIS… Is your dissatisfaction stemming from a lack of talent, or a lack of platform?
They might well have protested at the dust
There are people in this world whose victimhood is their primary sense of identity.
They are looking for goblins in every shadow. Protesting every experience as a violation of their personal freedom.
But when we try to help or console them, they get annoyed. Sometimes horribly defensive and insulted. As if to say, hey now, don’t take away my tragedy. I’m planning on dining on that for a while.
In my own experience, it’s best to not add any fuel to this fire. Or even stand next to it. Because the over under of these people having a diminished sense of outrage is not in our favor.
They would rather we agree with them, so they can feel more justified in being a victim. They would rather sabotage themselves in order to return to their more comfortable and familiar state of misery.
It’s better to treat their martyrdom as a bell of awareness. A gentle reminder that we are not victims of the cosmos, we are victims of our own actions. And that as soon as we become capable of having expectations, we become capable of protesting about not having them met.
Neruda said it best in his poem:
You are the result of yourself. Don’t forget that the cause of your present is your past, as the cause of your future will be your present.
In a world where most of the oxygen molecules in our atmosphere are used for the purposes of sighing and bemoaning and complaining, taking this kind of responsibility for our life would literally be a breath of fresh air.
It’s a choice. Maybe the biggest one we make.
We can be victims of the moment, or we can become willing explorers.
We can be overwhelmed by circumstances, or we can become a masterful creators at play.
LET ME ASK YA THIS… What impotent protest is waste of your life and energy?
Anchoring periods of expansion with human healing
When asked if it was possible for someone to rehab on their own, my favorite television doctor made the following observation.
Treatment is not a solo process. It’s an interpersonal experience, and it must be done with other people.
His insight, though, is not exclusive to people with substance abuse problems.
Because even if we have never taken a drink or done a drug in our life, it’s still hard to change alone. All personal transformation requires a reorientation from self towards the other.
Buber called this the mystery of reciprocity, or healing though meeting. He believed that there was a spiritual quality of our interpersonal connection where the sense of self receded and was replaced by the experience of we.
Here’s one way to prove that out. Think about the many ways you have changed the most the past five years.
Did you make it out alive because you carried those difficulties on our own?
Did you transform into a better version of yourself entirely on your own steam?
Of course not. Doing so would only have intensified your pain. It’s more likely that your changes were accomplished not so much on your own, but by finding another person or persons who brought something to you.
Not that you can’t change on your own. But our deepest understanding of self develops within the context of other people. If we are serious about the growth of this thing up here we call the brain, interpersonal connectedness is the answer. Even if it’s just one other person.
To quote the famous scripture, where two or three gather in my name, the divine is with them.
Bottom line is, we can’t heal alone, and even if we could, we wouldn’t want to.
Standing too much on our own without the resources of others can make us vulnerable to relapsing into our former selves.
LET ME ASK YA THIS… How are you creating connections where healing naturally emerges?
We have to own our motives in order not to be a martyr
There’s an employee review for a telecommunications company that has the following title:
Are you killing yourself for someone who would replace you in a week?
Reading this kind of remark makes me sad. Because people who give some company the best years of their life are not heroes, they’re martyrs.
There is nothing noble about trying to please someone who will never be happy with you no matter how much work you do.
It’s the corporate version of unrequited love. People wait around like codependent puppy dogs, waiting for the company to reciprocate the love they confess to have for them. And the story they tell themselves is that their unselfish and stoic willingness to accept suffering will not only be appreciated, but rewarded.
Business doesn’t work that way. Employers won’t hesitate to shitcan people at the drop of a hat for any reason that fit their business needs. Because most of these companies are operating out of fear, aka, protecting assets and trying not to lose; rather than operating out of greed, aka, producing opportunity and trying to win.
It’s not malicious, it’s not personal, it’s economics. And that’s okay.
Accepting this is the first step towards freedom.
Crawford, the original and some say best supermodel, made the following comment about the fashion industry:
This business will use you, so you better use it back.
This insight applies across the board. We have to own our motives in order not to be a martyr.
One way to insure ourselves against such a soul death is to focus on systems, rather than goals. Adams writes about this key distinction in his book of business failures:
A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. But if you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal. And the advantage to systems is, they have no deadlines, and on any given day you probably can’t tell if they’re moving you in the right direction. Meanwhile, you’re feeling good every time you apply it, rather than having goals and fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn.
And so, if nobody seems to appreciate the fact that you are killing yourself for them, perhaps it’s time to transition from goal to system. Shift your approach to doing the work because it builds value, creates meaning, earns money and stimulates growth.
Otherwise you might kill yourself making tiny dents in a massive pile of somebody else’s shit projects, only to be unceremoniously dismissed for your efforts, and left to rot as shells of your former self.
Own your motives. Treat it as a system to achieve your meaning making mission, regardless of results, regardless of recognition, and nobody can touch you.
LET ME ASK YA THIS… Are you a person with goals or a person with systems?
We are all full of shit, but knowing that is what sets us free
Nobody knows anything.
We’re all just guessing.
Humans are poor historians and even poorer predictors of the future. In a world where people have falsely predicted armageddon over two hundred times, not to mention the coincidence that the average person stores between five and ten pounds of feces in their colon, maybe it’s time to admit to ourselves that we are all full of shit.
And so, let’s stop pretending that knowledge is the panacea for our power. Let’s stop assuming that expertise is the skeleton key that will unlock the doors of our dreams. Let’s stop telling ourselves that knowing what we’re doing is the prerequisite for success.
Having worked as an entrepreneur for the past twenty years, and also as an employee for the past ten years, my career is proof positive that you don’t need to know as much as you think you do.
In my experience, knowing deeply isn’t as critical as caring intensely, imagining creatively, connecting genuinely, launching quickly, working passionately, executing efficiently and enjoying wildly.
Besides, isn’t the bulk of life swimming in a state of not knowing, feeling that adrenaline rush of panic and disbelief when we are caught unprepared, in situations beyond our control?
Hansel, the mythological male model and also my role model, is a perfect example. He cares desperately about what he does. Does he know what product he’s selling? No. Does he know what he’s doing today? No. But he’s here, and he’s gonna give it his best shot.
This philosophy may seem absurd, but to me, it points out the inherent hypocrisy of the human condition.
We are all full of shit, but knowing that is what sets us free.
LET ME ASK YA THIS… When you do not know what to do, what do you find yourself doing to find your way?
The Personal Creativity Management Manifesto
Prolific, my new software as a service company, was founded upon a simple principle.
Personal expression is a bedrock human need. Bettering our relationship to creativity is a moral imperative of our species.
But most people stand in an unfortunate relationship to their own creativity. They have few ways of quantifying or speaking sensibly about it.
Hence, the launch of Personal Creativity Management. It’s just my life philosophy in ones and zeros.
Now, since the product embraces a new and different way of approaching the creative process, I wrote a manifesto to summarize and simplify my point of view. Enjoy!
THE PERSONAL CREATIVITY MANAGEMENT MANIFESTO
1. Creativity is systematic, not sporadic.
2. You are never starting from scratch.
3. Volume and speed trump accuracy and quality.
4. Mindset matters more than environment.
5. Giving yourself permission is half of the work.
6. If you don’t write it down, it never happened.
7. All forms of emotional tension are usable.
8. Whatever is unsexy gives you leverage.
9. You have plenty of time to do everything you want to do.
10. If fulfillment isn’t the answer, then rephrase the question.
11.Energy is the organizing principle that gives you the greatest momentum.
12.Nobody is paying attention anyway, so you may as well enjoy the process.
# # #
These statements represent what I believe are the most important principles about PCM.
Essential ingredients to our prescription for misery
The best decision we can ever make is to stop choosing. To allow the countless other available choices to become irrelevant and accept our path.
Bonheoffer, the renowned theologian and political dissident, gives the following advice in his book of daily devotions:
The question about whether or not we have made the right beginning no longer needs to be asked, for it would drive us into fruitless fear. Our job now is to learn to understand ourselves as people who have been put on the right path and can do nothing but travel it.
The beauty of this approach is, it’s forward focused. Rooted in mindful acceptance and peace. Whereas shrinking from our commitment creates doubt, which quickly eats away at our joy. Not to mention, makes us prone to a wide range of psychological problems.
Professors who conducted the landmark study on indecisiveness found that people who constantly doubt their own judgment are especially prone to mood swings and anxiety and depression.
In fact, they created a doubt scale to measure the consequences of having a poor opinion of one’s own judgment. Here are few of the questions that caught my attention. As you read through these, consider whether or not they reflect your behavior around decision making.
In making decisions, do you often tire yourself out by switching back and forth from one conclusion to another?
Do you have a tendency to change your mind according to the last opinion you hear?
After deciding something, do you tend to worry about whether your decision was wrong?
Each of the examples are either trapping in the past or obsessed with the future. Both of which create a suffocating burden of worry.
Which doesn’t suggest that you should change your decision making style, but it is important that your method of making decisions develops as you do.
And so, if you’re the kind of person who gives diminished weight to their own interpretations and perspectives, ask yourself what that may be costing you.
If you have always been habitual in nothing but your indecision, try focusing more on traveling and enjoying the path, rather than debating and fretting about it.
The decision to stop choosing is not an easy one to make.
But the closer we can get to that place, the more liberated we will feel.
LET ME ASK YA THIS… How many of the decisions did you make yesterday that had absolutely correct answers?
Bring clarity to the team’s collective execution
Startups tend to be volatile and chaotic. There isn’t one in town that wouldn’t find that gift of clarity valuable.
Because it fosters execution. If you’re the kind of person who leaves things more organized than you found them, it’s amazing what kind of output that generates for the team.
Hyde writes that one of the reasons ideas are treated as gifts is because they accomplish the task of assembling a mass of disparate facts into a coherent whole.
It’s an underrated workplace skill.
One useful practice for delivering clarity is called walking the factory floor. Meaning, locating the projects, tasks and initiatives that have been idling in limbo for too damn long, and giving them new life.
Most startups have a of list for these things, typically on their internal drive, company server, or dry erase board collecting dust in the corner. It’s an inventory of ancillary ideas that have been put on the backburner but would add real value to the organization.
If only somebody would take ownership and move them forward.
That’s where the gift of clarity comes in. If you’re the kind of person who can walk over to the parking lot and bring clarity out of the chaos, ultimately helping the rest of the crew walk away with greater peace about the actions they need to take, the powers that be will be reminded of your infinite value.
Reminds me of working at my first tech startup. They had hundreds of employees and had been in business for four years, but still didn’t have any brand messaging guidelines. Their marketing team simply never got around to creating them.
That was unacceptable to me. It offended my sense of order and rightness. How are we supposed to grow our company if we don’t have clarity around who we are and what we stand for?
Hell, it wouldn’t require hundreds of hours of development or design time either. Just a nice, organized spreadsheet. Something simple to assemble our mass of disparate facts into a coherent whole and get everyone singing from the same hymnal.
The process was messy and unglamorous, but nobody else was going to do it. May as well be me.
This experience taught me a valuable lesson. All of us should strive to leave things more organized than we found them. To pull ideas out of the parking lot and onto the highway, bringing clarity to our team’s collective execution.
As the people around you navigate the ambiguity of startup life, figure out how you can be the dependable person who brings the gift clarity.
LET ME ASK YA THIS… Where might there be a match waiting for a spark?
When being prolific is merely inhaling & exhaling
Stravinsky was not only considered one of the most important and influential composers of the twentieth century, but also one of the most prolific.
He ranged in subject and emotional temper, and restlessly diversified his style throughout his career.
But the volume of his musical output wasn’t just an urge, a task, a project, an occupation, a compulsion or even an addiction. It was simply who he was.
In his biography he explained:
Composition was this daily function he felt compelled to discharge, and he made things because he was made for that, and could not do otherwise.
This is where prolific people live. The abundance of their creative expression, inspiring and even intimidating to some, is merely inhaling and exhaling to them.
Making things is the most natural way for them to engage with the world. Creating is the activity that is the biological extension of their personality.
It’s something they make part of normal life, rather than something special and separate from it.
It’s like my mentor used to say:First you write the book, then the book writes you.
Because in the creative process, we don’t just make things, we make ourselves. We metabolize our lives and the world. Discovering what is going on inside of us through the process. Without any goals out ahead other than that the place our creating is taking us.
P.S. Not as prolific as you’d like to be? Check out my new software. Prolific is The World’s First System For Personal Creativity Management (PCM). Create your new account to get unlimited access to 300+ creative tools, 2 books, and daily how-to blogs delivered to your inbox. Now only $12 a year for 100 83 exclusive Founding Members.
Introducing Prolific, The World’s First Software For Personal Creativity Management (PCM)
Anyone whose livelihood revolves around making things struggles with motivation, focus, fear, overwhelm and the like.
Creative resistance cannot be eliminated from our lives. What we can do, however is diminish its ability to derail progress by being in harmony with probability.