Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Plato famously asked this question in The Republic, the translation of which is, who will guard the
What’s interesting is, we all have our own version of this
question. And for leaders and creators and communicators, the one that weighs
us down is usually, how do I stay
inspired when my job is to inspire others?
You recalibrate the soul. You carve a path back to yourself.
And there are unlimited techniques and practices and rituals
for doing so. The experience of inspiring and reinspiring yourself is based on
each of our unique preferences and passions and predispositions.
I’d like to share a few of my own, in the hopes that they
might inspire yours:
Find and pull your triggers
Once upon a time, I used read books just to read
books. But when I became an author, reading turned into work. If a book was
open, I wasn’t just reading the words; I was trying to deconstruct the
architecture and opportunities around them. So I decided to start reading
fiction before bedtime. Mostly dystopian epics and gothic thrillers with female
protagonists. And what I found was, these books transported me to another place
where I didn’t have to work. I could just relax and let the words wash over me.
By doing so daily, it created a space where I don’t feel obligated to do
anything other than just soak it all in.
Do you have a personal haven that gives you sustenance
from the act itself and puts you back together?
Find a filter to process your
practice isn’t just a great physical workout; it’s also routine of confronting
and working through my emotions. And maybe it’s because the room is a hundred
degrees. Maybe it’s because I’m half naked. Maybe it’s because I’m staring at
myself in the mirror for ninety minutes and I have no choice but to work
through my own issues. But after a few postures, any feelings and emotions and
inner struggles that need to be dealt with, are.
Do you have a familiar
place you go when you’re feeling scared or anxious or confused or overwhelmed
and need to make sense of the world?
Find a way to burn calories instead of
I’ve had my bouts with anxiety, stress, unhappiness
and disappointment. Even a few bonafide panic attacks. But the interesting
thing is, every time I get busy burning calories, working hard, moving my
body, making meaning, helping others, taking care of my family, actively
engaging with my community, spending time with friends and working on the
project of building a life, I notice that I no longer have time to be
depressed. Because when we start making meaning instead of monitoring moods, life
gets a lot less depressing and lot more inspiring.
Do you have a highly
human experience, free of the existential torrents of life, which gives you
cognitive richness and psychic nourishment?
Find a way to cocreate.
I’ve always worked alone. Mainly because it’s faster, cheaper and I’m a total
control freak who doesn’t play well with others. But after about fifteen years,
it gets hard to be creative alone. Like playing basketball without a backboard. And so recently, I started collaborating
on a creative project with another artist. Turns out, the regularity of human
bonding diversifies your creative reservoir in new and exciting ways that
sitting alone in a living room never could. When you reach out and
cocreate with someone, you’re expanding your brain’s repertoire and getting new
wiring out of it. And that’s
the beauty of collaborative work. It doesn’t
help you find your voice; it helps you lose it. Because whatever you do
together makes the work different.
Do you know
how to discover your own kind and connect with kindred spirits through a shared
a way to reconnect to your original joy.
I made a name for myself writing books. Ask most of
the people who know me, and that’s what they know me for. But music was always
my first love. My original healer. My earliest container for mystery and
meaning. Since the age of twelve, writing songs was how I metabolized my life.
It was the closest thing to god I ever had. The problem is, once I started
writing books for a living, I became so busy with the profession of writing
that I lost contact with the passion of writing. At the peak of my career, I
was only composing a few songs a year. Not exactly prolific. Eventually, I
reached a point where I had built up too large of a debt to my artist. And I
knew if I didn’t find a way to reconnect to the original joy that made me a
musician in the first place, I was going to regret it. So I vowed never to lose
touch with something I loved so much ever again.
have a way to keep kindling handy, to keep up your original enthusiasm relive
the impulse that initially fueled your artistic energy reserve?
a sanctuary of aliveness.
A photographer friend of mine once told me that
camera is only a tool, but what’s important is your eyes and what you see in
your head. Ever since he said that, photography has become a key meaning investment for me. The
process of spotting life’s ephemeral moments, sneaking up from behind without a
sound, closing my palms around them like lightning bugs and releasing them back
into the world, brings me mountains of joy. Whenever I feel the well of
inspiration running dry, I take a break from work to go out on a neighborhood photo hunt.
Do you have a sacred practice
in a space of beauty that brings some measure of coherence back to your life?
Find an existential
first ten years of my career, meditation was my daily ritual for maintaining calmness
and sanity, managing anxiety and motivating creativity. The practice was
a combination of deep breathing, self-hypnosis, guided imagery and
progressive muscle relaxation. And I either meditated by myself, or went under
through guidance of an audio program my therapist customized. But the
interesting thing was, meditation never gave me more ideas. It did, however,
make the container bigger. Which makes it easier to catch the big fish when
they swim by,
Do you have a
portable, purposeful and private sanctuary that brings you back to center to
reconnect with the self, the body, the spirit and the heart?
a mini sabbatical.
The word sabbatical comes from the term
sabbath, meaning day of rest.
But the idea of a sabbatical dates back to ancient agriculture. Mosaic law
decreed that on the seventh year, a farmer’s land was to remain untilled while
debtors and slaves were to be released. When I first learned about that
etymology, it occurred to me that a sabbatical as exactly what I needed. To
leave the land alone. To emancipate myself as a slave to achievement. And for
someone who’s genetically wired for hard work, the hardest thing to do is
nothing. It’s the opposite of ambition and the antithesis of labor. It’s idleness. Blech. But as my dad used to
say, you have to learn to love what’s good for you. And so, last summer, I
decided to do nothing. For three straight months. And it turns out, for someone
who’s happiest when he’s productive and prolific, for someone who’s wired to
find satisfaction by adding value through toil, taking a sabbatical was the
best thing I could have done. By the time summer was over, I was completely
Do you have the
ability to leave the creative land alone by creating mini sabbaticals from your
artistic land alone?
If not, your challenge as a leader and a communicator and a creator
is to consider what it will take to recalibrate your soul and carve a path back
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?