Guilted into trying

Things are never perfect the first time around, a bit better than second, and mind a few tweaks, they seem be just about right in the third and fourth efforts.

The fear of failure is good quality control. It ensures that in the process of disrupting ourselves, we appreciate the challenge of ascendancy.

Riding the wave of uncertainty

The attempt to blaze our own trail is never easy. Being misunderstood for long periods of time dampens the mood. But there will always be more guilt in not trying.

Dreams require a ceaseless imperative of movement, the confidence to tread into unknown territory regardless of faith and doubt.

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Assume everything and nothing

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We suffer from a surfeit of choice. Stuck in indecision, we end up doing nothing at all. Perhaps intertia is the best solution in these dizzying times. Instead of forcing the issue, we let nature take its course.

But more often than not, life doesn’t move unless we do. It begs for action and a subsequent reaction. Even more, in doing, we realize how much more is invisible.

Passivity and dynamism coexist

Surrounded by a morass of distraction machines, it’s no wonder we permit the frustration of ‘what’s next’ chip away at our patience. “Patience is the key to joy,” wrote Rumi.

Staring into nature’s green space may not solve our problem, but it will help us think expansively. We can assume that the best answer lies beyond us. That is until we realize that the answer cramped inside us all along.

The wait never means never if we never get tired of waiting it out right now.

The search continues.

The placebo effect of a good luck charm

NASA engineers eat peanuts before every launch as a lucky charm. Picasso held on to his fingernail clippings to maintain his spiritual “essence.”

You can more read about artists and their peculiar amulets in Ellen Weinstein’s new book Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, and Practices of Extraordinary People.

Why do some creators hold onto some strange and unique amulets?

The primary reason for holding on to such talismanic devices is to establish an aura of positivity. As artists, the muse sometimes works against you, wanting you to fail or hide. Hanging on to or wearing an object of fortune allays those fears and sets the tone for confident action.

Elle photographer Gilles Bensimon likes to surround his photo shoots with items from his collection. You can see them on display at the Gobbie Fine Art gallery in New York. Writes Quartz:

Crafted from found objects—string and bottle caps from Phuket, a cracked mask from Venice, a piece of sea glass from Long Island, New York—the 74-year-old celebrity photographer uses them to ward off bad vibes on his set.

But lucky charms go beyond the workplace and creative endeavors. They also have everyday importance.

Everyone needs some type of pacifier to calm down, whether it’s the lucky necklace, rock, or prayer they cling onto before takeoff. These items act as security blankets, placebos, and in doing so, instill the confidence to proceed.

As they say, let go (or rather hang on) and let God…

Still ignorant, not stupid

A lot of people get dumber after college. It’s not entirely their fault. A job takes up all their time. Besides spending time with family and friends and doing chores — getting on with the business of living — a lot of free time is spent on staring at lite brites for entertainment.

“We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination.” — David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity

Experience makes us wiser but not smarter

As we age, we’re able to resolve practical matters with less effort. But therein lies a skewed perception. We accidentally interpret how things usually go as facts rather than acknowledging that’ that’s how the world works now. Change is constant, the possibilities infinite.

An educated person should never stop learning. They should revel in their ignorance, not as an excuse to know less but as a means of staying interested in understanding more.

The paradox of holding high standards

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The irony of holding high standards is that often times they prevent us from taking action.

Perfectionism can be a thought stopper rather than a thought starter.

Sometimes we can only solve a problem if we’re willing to let it go.

It helps to do things with a bit of insouciance.

We should feel free to rebel against our own seriousness time and again.

The only way to work is not to work, to resist the mindset of overtrying and overthinking.

Indecision never gave people more time.

‘What art-MAKING advice would your older-self give your younger-self?’

Senior Art Critic for New York Magazine Jerry Saltz posed an interesting question to fellow creators on Instagram:

What art-MAKING advice would your older-self give your younger-self? I’ll start with three.
1. Let go of being smart; don’t dismiss any idea as too dumb.
2. Bring the crazy.
3. Change the ways you use of making the same thing.

The advice in the replies blew me away. The common sentiment seems to be to push through CRAP (criticism, rejection, assholes, and pressure) and to keep making pieces true to the artist themselves. After all, the War of Art is a war with your own inner dialogue.

  • mepeterson.art 1) master the core skills and time honored rules of the old world painters. It will be boring but worth it. 2) Promptly forget the rules and routinely misuse the tools.3) Make YOUR art. Straight and unfiltered. 4) Don’t push so hard to sell. Let the art lead the way: it’ll find its own audience or not. 5) Stay curious about everything not just art and be bold. 6) Have a personal standard: make paintings that can stand on their own in the time honored tradition of painting. Many won’t know, you will.
  • mandelau 1. Be brave and fearless 2. Generously share what you’ve created with anyone who’s interested.
    3. Don’t listen to (or read) criticism about your own work…negative or positive
  • johandeckmann Trust your gut. But before that be able to feel your gut in the first place. Then act accordingly
  • the_lynne_avril Talk with the painting – it will tell you what to do.
  • didihoffman4 As Auguste Rodin told his protege Malvina Hoffman, the reason for art is to show truth in nature – to express in whatever form the universal truth He believed one should first be a master of technique and drawing – from there the artist would then have the ability to express in their own way. He didn’t really believe in a specific style. He wanted the artist to be true to self and to express only truth. He saw art as a very serious craft that should not be trivialized.
  • studiollondon 1 – you can’t trust your eyes if you’re imagination is out of focus – mark twain 2- comparing yourself to others and not trusting your ideas leads to unnecessary paralysis and creating crap because you’re not being true to yourself. 3- go with your initial instinct and work it out. You’ll know what feels right to you and what doesn’t to work out in the end.
  • wanderlustyes You don’t need more space. You can work in your closet. You need time alone. Don’t spend your time trying to get money to get more space. Allow yourself the luxury of being bored. Allow yourself the freedom of restriction. Do it over and over and over again.
  • rosettihnw 1. Get a good well paying job. 2.Raise a family and save your money for retirement. 3.Retire and paint your heart out.

That last comment reminds me of what Brian Eno said about art: “Art is everything you don’t have to do.” It also reminds me of Hugh Macleod’s ‘sex and cash theory‘ which encourages artists not to leave their day job.

Too many interests, more than one skill

We need doctors who specialize in heart surgery and spend 100% of their time helping other people. But we also need polymaths (Newton, Darwin, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.) to combine ideas to push society forward.

As Dilbert’s creator Scott Adam points out, achieving excellence is rare.

If you want something extraordinary [in life], you have two paths:

1. Become the best at one specific thing.
2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility. Few people will ever play in the NBA or make a platinum album. I don’t recommend anyone even try.

The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.

The fox and the hedgehog

Said the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” When it comes to survival, all the hedgehog has to do is protect itself with the skill of its spines. But the fox is more versatile. It can adapt against a multitude of predators and different scenarios.

Furthermore, our success may hinge on what two or more things we can combine. We should think about our life experiences and how we can merge them with preexisting skills. We have the responsibility to create our own vocation if it doesn’t yet exist.

Both experts and practicians make the world a better place. One can’t exist without the other.

How to avoid the comparison bubble

How to avoid the comparison bubble

It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison bubble. You always want what we don’t have. You are incorrectly taught to copy, just as you’re erroneously taught to think in absolutes.

Celebrate what makes you unique

You should do what makes you unique. You should feel free to steal ideas from other people and build on top of them. Don’t just copy-paste.

The worst nightmare will be looking back on your efforts and thinking we you just couldn’t be yourself.

Being different, standing out, is what should push you on.

If you need more encouragement:

Decisions are either ‘irreversible or reversible’

'Failure to experiment sufficiently', #quotes, ralph waldo emerson, experiment quotesSometimes your work is just going to be a 5 out of 10. It’s not worth scrutinizing every performance. The only ill is in hesitating, not starting what you think you should do.

Jeff Bezos has an interesting system for making decisions. He sees them as either irreversible or reversible. The simple heuristic pushed him to start Amazon, knowing that he could just go back to his old job if things didn’t work out. Writes the Farnam Street blog:

“Bezos considers 70% certainty to be the cut-off point where it is appropriate to make a decision. That means acting once we have 70% of the required information, instead of waiting longer. Making a decision at 70% certainty and then course-correcting is a lot more effective than waiting for 90% certainty.”

First we try, then we deduce

If the door swings both ways, why not give whatever we’re passionate about our best shot. The worst that can happen is that someone slams the door in our face or locks the other side. And that may be just the message that it’s time to pivot. They’re meant to astonish us, to jolt us out of our everyday thoughts:

We don’t need to collect all the information before we endeavor. We can reduce indecision by replacing it with the astonishment of doing. There is little reason to think in absolutes. Wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” —Ralph Waldo EmersonClick To Tweet

Belief + Doubt = Sanity

BARBARA KRUGER: BELIEF+DOUBT
Belief+Doubt by Barbara Kruger

We dump our problems on tomorrow because we can’t handle the anxiety of today.

Time keeps moving on its way, unimpeded. We’ve already lost.

Yet there’s still a sense that one day, we’ll snatch time and ride the wave of an opportunity to change society.

‘Belief + Doubt = Sanity’

All we can do is show up to the world, not hide behind in its shadows. ‘Excellence is the next five minutes,’ and then the next five minutes after. And so on, with unparalleled lightness.

Attitude is the most rational day to day decision. Only then can we go on a critical run.

Freedom from the to-do list: ‘The Art of the Wasted Day’ by Patricia Hampl

The pace at which we move is extraordinary. Look out the window. Stare at the seagulls. Nobody has time for that!

Obsessed with productivity or the pursuit of distraction, we’re never not doing something. Even when we’re bored, we’re making lists or planning them out in images on a Pinterest board.

As Umberto Eco once said, “We like lists because we don’t want to die.”

But Patricia Hampl’s new book The Art of the Wasted Day wants us to reconsider time management by removing the burden of the to-do list and daydream instead. She encourages us, especially in our old age — what she calls the third stage after youth and middle age — to let go of the over-scheduled life.

The to-do list that runs most lives through middle age turns out, in this latter stage of existence, to have only one task: to waste life in order to find it. Who said that? Or something like that. Jesus? Buddha? Bob Dylan? Somebody who knew what’s what

Wonder, rather than pursue

Why keep adding to the list tasks like meditation and yoga? The urge to scratch the itch or check the boxes means more doing rather enjoying the freedom of idleness.

Patricia Hampl encourages us to be ok with making unscheduled time and doing nothing at all. She wants to remind us that it’s ok to pause and dance with pure nothingness. We can always get going again.

Loafing is not a prudent business plan, not even a life plan, not a recognizably American project. But it begins to look a little like happiness, the kind that claims you, unbidden. Stay put and let the world show up? Or get out there and be a flâneur? Which is it? Well, it’s both.

The froth is coming off

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With the right instructions, the unfamiliar becomes manageable.

We follow the recipe with the hope that the convoluted reality seeps away into the froth.

Yet, had we followed our instincts we may not have gotten stuck in the first place.

If we don’t take Google Maps with a grain of salt, we will find ourselves submerged under water.

Knowledge is visceral. The rest is streaming.

The space between our ears

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gif by mestrefungo

The space between our ears, where what we know or think we know contrasts the reality of what we should see.

We are the opposite of a child, turning a blind eye to the openness that foments growth. As adults, we stop asking why at the most fundamental level.

Stuck in a cobweb of exciting lies, unable to dust away the boredom of truth. Reality is too sober, but that’s also why it works. It keeps us grounded in the facts.

The benefits of walking in nature

The benefits of walking in nature

One of the main benefits of walking in nature is that trees inspire feelings of awe. According to research done by psychology professor Dacher Keltner at UC Berkeley, awe benefits not only the mind and body but also improves our social connections and makes us kinder.

Spending time outside is also vital as a destressor. One study found that camping gets the stress hormone cortisol back under control. Even sitting near trees at the office help calm us down with “softly fascinating stimulation.”

Spending time outside has many benefits including improving short-term memory, sparking creativity, lowering blood pressure, reducing fatigue, strengthening focus and more.

The benefits of walking in nature
The Hyperion: The world’s largest tree located in Northern California (Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic)

Nature is a higher power

Knowing how little we stand in a swathe of gigantic trees also puts life in perspective. Wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay Nature:

“Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.”

Nature soothes the sense of self. It reminds us that we are less significant we are, and that fact may make us happier we’re here.