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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Ideas often come indirectly

We know our ideas indirectly. 

We all take our influences, deconstruct them, and build new concepts from those bricks. 

Growth results from experimentation. Then we improvise and make more things happen. 

We can’t possibly see the value in what we’re doing without bold execution, first and foremost. 

We produce, constrain, keeping what’s valuable while going beyond convenience. 

The tools help shape our thinking along the way. For example, pencils, computers, and artificial intelligence serve as aids augmenting the mind. 

Pity we don’t play more with what we have. It’s all there at our disposal. There is no ceiling to inventiveness. 

Yet, most of us play the role of consumer, making up stories about our tools rather than bending them during practice. 

As part of the creative community, we market to the makers. As a result, innovation spreads to fixation, as others replicate the madness into their own productions. 

Ideas, tools, culture — they all reveal what we’re like inside. They make meaning and spread indefinitely. 

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Productivity & Work

The unfinished symphony

The mind moves toward more interesting, attractive things, but especially to those things undone. What is it about the staying power of an unfinished symphony? 

The Zeigarnik effect says that we remember open tasks more so than completed ones. So we disregard the information we crammed in the night before just following the test. On the other hand, we hold on to any knowledge that may pay dividends in the future.  

Work makes an indelible impression. The writer never stops writing; the painter never stops painting; the doctor never stops attending to patients. The professional always thinks about the ongoing job despite the completion of any task. There’s always something to toil on next. 

The worker persists if only to think things through. What’s actionable stays top of mind. What’s unactionable remains forgettable. Everyone needs a challenge of a challenge to feel alive. 

Making meaning removes meaning. The environment pulls our attention toward a finish while directing our emotions toward the incomplete. The craft is never finished, merely refreshed.   

Labor — if we can call it that — begets a burning desire to be excellent and takes on the all-important freedom to fail. Professionals ride a power wave of intrinsic motivation with the ultimate result redefined. 

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Effort: The great harvester of attention

Attraction retains a gravitational pull. What maintains attention determines the going.

The extra push acts as both a need and a vocation. What’s complete ages rapidly — it’s better to follow a direction than reach a destination.

Motivation runs fickle, cycling through ebb and flow. Grit, on the other hand, is the true game-changer. When combined with an elastic mindset, it offers impressive persistence to change out of our control.

Laziness and confusion exist in dehydrated behavioral states, an excuse to suck in the most boring parts of our lives. How, then, do we make feelings of aliveness stick?

Excitement, dreams — all life is there written for the harvest. Effort releases the uncertainty valve and compounds under the intact sky.

Practice is everything, in principle, as it builds a future very much worth getting to. But if we can’t enjoy small celebrations along the way, it’s time to refocus our attention.

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Arts Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Artists are scavengers and tweakers

Artists are scavengers, modern-day hunters of information. And they pluck inspiration from everywhere: people, places, and things. 

They even gather resources through error. Mishearings, misspellings, and mistakes are idea producers. 

The creative process is two-fold. Ideas bloom, and then they require execution and management. The producer thinks about them, reads about them, talks about them, and ultimately acts on them. What emerges is something fresh and original.

Artists are continually developing novel techniques, ways of seeing, thinking, being, and diligently applying those efforts from various tools onto the canvass. 

The painter studies the way light falls on an object; the sculptor manipulates a hunk of marble to carve a figure; the poet converts a banal phrase into a haiku; the photographer reveals an obscure item plain eyes miss; the musician observes how a note lingers and uses it to create a melody that fits the song’s mood.

No matter what medium is involved, the creative process is the same. It starts with experimentation, struggles with tweaks, and ends with precision.  

The best artists study, learn, practice, and perfect the skills they need to imagine and design. Creativity is impossible without attention and effort.   

The never-ending search to consume and build something unpredictable keeps life interesting. Like nature, art is not static and remains subject to change. 

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Arts Creativity Productivity & Work

Creativity is a game of inches

It comes as no surprise that lousy work begets good work — the more one creates, the more they have to play with. 

People mistakenly believe that successful artists excelled all along. In reality, what the viewer sees are remarkable stories told by people who decided never to give up

The internet is a great liberator because it allows anyone can show their work. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee anyone’s going to see it. 

It’s nearly impossible to stand out when everyone’s an Instagram photographer. The world’s drowning in jpegs that all look alike, punctuated by countless candy-colored apps begging for attention. 

It’s no surprise that artists do their best work while toiling in obscurity. They may emulate conventions at first, but starved of significance, the creator begs to be different. 

It takes a lot of time and a ton of practice to develop both good taste and a unique craft. 

When we create for ourselves, rage into our work, the world becomes our oyster. “It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found,” once said English pediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott. 

From stylization to originality, cultivating talent unfolds slowly into a game of inches. The only guarantee is the willingness to try repeatedly for a breakthrough.

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Arts Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Tighter the brief, the deeper the craft

Once we commit to a creative project, we make choices within it. We narrow down everything into a tight brief so we can build something conclusive.

The frames in place help guide our unconscious decisions. There’s no blur between what we’re making and what we want to make. 

Slowly but surely, we commit to a process despite all the doubt. We gather a proper stream of blood flow and breathing, focusing free-flowing talent into a concentrated effort.  

Distracting opportunities have to die for the most important craft to live. 

We don’t need more of anything; instead, we play with what we already have. We hunker down on the front lines and figure out how to shape our materials. Boredom is welcome, as it provides the opportunity we need to have the next big idea. 

And once the art is out there, it’s out there. We try not to take feedback personally — not to repress or ignore negativity — but to acknowledge we shipped! 

How we perceive our work is more important than how others look at it. Society is either too polite or doesn’t care. Passion, care, sticktuitiveness — these traits are leverage. 

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Working backward

We all know what we want. Our main challenge is in getting there. 

If we take our end-destination in mind and outline the steps to reach it by working backward, the goal suddenly becomes less intimidating.

The only way to “control” the future is to steady our mentality and take immediate action. Making progress requires both urgency and patience with the process. 

Mastering each step fortifies the fundamentals and strengthens our “why.” Knowing our purpose helps push us through temporary and unforeseen hurdles.

Greatness is scarce because so few people want to endure struggle. Failure is integral to the process of learning.  

There are power and magic in practice. Only the indolent think they can perfect the work in theory — all talk, zero execution. 

The art of pertinacity demands that we keep going — it may be the bravest thing we ever do. 

Get the pen and paper out. Feel compelled to identify what we want and map out the road it takes to get there. 

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Quieter times

The covid crisis reminds us that time is precious. It untethers us from the plague of 24/7 always-on work culture and permits more pockets of free time to do whatever we want: make dinner, spend more time with family, explore a side interest. 

The pandemic gives us our time back. Working from home saves us from the extra hours put into commuting and face-to-face meetings. It also increases our productivity, as we can shape our surroundings and get comfortable in ways that enable intense focus and absorption. 

Electronic communication’s invisibility cloak allows people more time to think in silence rather than countdown the clock in useless meetings and brainstorm sessions. Being outside the office disconnects us from the suasion of group-think and overall herd mentality. 

Never underestimate the power of pause and the power of independent, reflective thought. Thinking alone is not just an idea producer; it’s also an intrinsic motivator. When we find meaning in our work and enforce our own decision rights, we become richer workers. 

The ‘black swan’ Covid-19 catastrophe — entirely unpredictable and damaging (2.69M deaths as of March 19, 2021) — offers the chance to eliminate the inefficiencies (e.g., going to an office five days/week) driving us all insane. For better or worse, we connect through wires

Time is invaluable, in some ways more important than money. We have to work now, live life now, and do our best for ourselves and others. In such quieter yet anxious moments, we realize that there’s no need for dumping problems on tomorrow.  

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Aging with energy

We are constantly searching for a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Why are we even here — to suck the land dry? 

We force meaning into the world with the hope that an outer stimulus ricochets back to accentuate the pulse. 

We risk everything to feel something, encouraged by the mechanisms of error. 

Life is an experiment. First, we act, then we deduce, making sense of the world by categorizing our reactions to it. The never-ending to-do list forces humans into overdrive. 

Evolution is more than about survival. It’s also about the resistance to boredom. “All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Blaise Pascal

We push ourselves to stay interested and excited. We pay the costs for playing it too safe and overthinking. What a pity it is when we leave it too late!  

We deploy attention to the endless opportunities and challenges ahead — and then we wonder why we’re exhausted. How does one keep going? 

The race between our need to mature while remaining child-like explorers is an extant struggle. The mind hears what it wants while the body takes it personally. 

The flow becomes more effortful with age, yet the knowledge comes easier. With the extra push, we go far further than we could imagine. 

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Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Throwing a rock into a hard place

Stuck between the intention and the act, we often fail to carry out what we’re meant to do. 

Motivation is fickle. Distractions are plentiful. Doing is not a matter of talent but discipline. Every repetition is a bicep curl for the brain. 

Wrote William James in The Principles of Psychology: “This very day I have been repeating over and over to myself a verbal jingle whose mawkish silliness was the secret of its haunting power. I loathed yet could not banish it. What holds attention determines action.”

What holds attention predetermines action and protects us against the pitfalls of the next shiny object or stirred emotion. 

Focus is our only guard, without all the narrowness of attention. We need to keep our eyes on the donut over the donut hole. 

So we keep going, showing up despite there being no guarantee of happiness at the end of the tunnel. 

Greater use of the palette insulates the individual from the dizziness of anxiety and the needless aim for the pedestal of fame.  

A creative flow hardens the brain’s sticktoitiveness and summons a type of artistic unity. 

We throw the rock into the hard place. The daily practice is our only durable storage. 

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Arts Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Crafting confidence

Confidence is fickle. Better to start before you’re ready than wait until you have full faith in yourself. 

The key to crafting confidence starts in the imagination. If you can armor yourself with enough courage — even if it means acting slightly overconfident — you’ll have revved the engine for risk-taking. 

Synchronicities also tend to happen when you’re feeling more upbeat than depressed. Anxiety and darkness, while integral to artful thinking, impair memory and squanders productivity. The maker wants to establish a long-term rhythm of creating rather than weaning off the fickle energy of short-term dopamine.    

Even the wisest men need psychological tactics to regulate the monkey mind. Expectations drive achievement. Of course, one should expect sensible outcomes — no one becomes the best or gets rich by merely thinking it. 

Patient with results, impatient with action

Pace, purpose, and practice are everything. Only a few are geniuses; most are late-blooming opsimaths. Like the Japanese artist Hokusai once said, Until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At 110, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.”

Do anything enough — even if it takes decades — and you’ll begin to find your own style and workflow. Hard work usually compounds into something greater than expected and ultimately supports the joy of living.