The fog of the present

Attaching yourself to the coming and going will steal your future. You have to listen to your life and follow its intuition.

Introspection is your observatory. The depths of inner space needs no telescope but your own attention. You can already see far enough.

“You must always know what it is that you want,” the old king had said. The boy knew, and was now working toward it.

— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist  

With such belief, landmarks pave themselves along the way. Routines build confidence.

The challenge is in seeing the world as many angles as possible while simultaneously having the courage to act on your own volition.

Like a rough draft, you experiment and reshape it later. It is the spirit that guides you settles you in, on purpose.

Setting sun

telescope science discover world

Whether you set the route or leave it open-ended, you can discover things along the way.

Constraints produce their own magic. They make you innovate based off what you have to play with. But so too do indefinite destinations.

Out of curiosity blooms everything.

The more we know, the more we want to know. We permit our heuristic temptations to guide the discovery process. The rush to fill ignorance with self-knowledge makes us feel alive.

The world is more like a playground than a camp. It begs us to take more information than we need. But in borrowing its widgets, we have to reciprocate to ensure what we put out or reinvent comes back to enrich nature itself.

The nothing special

Look for a way of life, unmoored from staring at the donut hole.

Conversely, the hybrid of work and life is what makes the donut whole.

The game of goal-setting is paradoxically non-interventionist.

You don’t attack the carrot, you chew on it slowly.

The policy of non-engagement holds into force the inertia of nature’s progress.

Overworked and lost in the myriad force of competition and conformity, you inevitably emerge with fewer exuberant efforts and more residual impact.

What remains is essential, remarkably slow, vanished is the hurry.

“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” — Virginia Woolf

A little more audience, a little more action

It’s rough and ruthless, but criticism saves you time. People aren’t trying to be mean. They’re just trying to keep you from banging your head into the same wall.

Scientists can’t continue publishing the same paper over and over again. Apple can’t just release another iPhone without drastic improvements. As they say, sameness destroys creativity.

Instead of giving up, what critical advice does is redirect you. Writes Tom Standage in Writing on the Wall:

“Adam Smith. He wrote much of his book in the British Coffee House, his base and postal address in London and a popular meeting place for Scottish intellectuals, among whom he circulated chapters of his book for criticism and comment.”

In search of a little audience, you get the feedback you need to keep iterating until we get it right. Naturally, the process is frustrating for all artists. Writes Fred Kaplan on John Coltrane’s experimental determination.

In a backstage interview with Coltrane during intermission at the Stockholm concert, a local jazz DJ noted that some critics were finding his new sound “unbeautiful” and “angry,” then asked, “Do you feel angry?” Coltrane replied, in a gentle, deliberative tone, “No, I don’t,” adding, “The reason I play so many sounds, maybe it sounds angry, it’s because I’m trying so many things at one time, you see? I haven’t sorted them out. I have a whole bag of things that I’m trying to work through and get the one essential.”

The fear of messing up is good quality control. The feedback loop is a critical ingredient to success. Otherwise, you may just be making something that never sticks.

Thinking, thinking!

@lilypadula

People don’t like thinking. It’s painful. Like denoting page numbers, you have to get your brain’s cells to assemble in an attempt to establish some order.

There’s a reason why there are so few philosophers and so many people attending entertainments. It is easier to sit back and play, to consume in our default setting rather than tinkering with abstract trains of thought.

Humans are thinking machines

It takes courage to challenge yourself to learn without concluding. Society obsesses with absolutes, stuck safely indoors while the explorers coast outside with effortless attention.

Magnetically lured to controlling the world, you forget that uncertainty is what makes thinking successful. Experimentation begets revelations, which leads to even more possibilities.

Doing is why there’s knowing, a result of thinking lightly about what could be.

Alone in the mess


You can never feel alone when you’re enjoying yourself.

Like a magnet, you’re drawn to do what we’re born to do. The vocation calls you like an ambient siren song dangling emotional clarity.

The goals that forced upon you are often dreary. They produce zero enjoyment, so fraught with ‘ought,’ threatening to stain the attentiveness to the present.

Keep your eyes on the prize.

The intuitive self, while sometimes feeling detached, invites you to travel down the road of discomfort for a long time.

Pursue the strength you think you have and embrace the pain.

The middle of the road is already too full of indecisive fence-sitters suffering at the glitch of mental software called FEAR.

Staying edgy…

The audience already exists. The hard part is getting them to pay attention to your story.

How do you gain a fan base in the era of distraction? You select a specific audience, even one person, and write for them.

Different is attractive. 

The first few years of anonymity are hardest but they are also the freest. You get to write what you want with zero expectations. It’s the recognition that threatens your edginess.

“Success blurs. It rounds off the rough edges.” — John Peel

The trick to longevity, therefore, seems to be in the durability of your original pursuit.

If you can maintain your uniqueness while sharpening the tools, why dumb down your art to maximize reach?

Yet, the harshest reality as an artist is that your work may never get noticed. Van Gogh only sold one print while he was alive, and it was to his brother!

Posthumous recognition or not, you can only try to do your best work, to stay dedicated and keep showing up even if no one cheers you on.

The fire within should create enough artistic rage to keep rejuvenating itself.

“We do with our life what we can and then we die. If someone is aware of that, perhaps it comes out in their work.” — Francis Bacon

Creativity is a form of prayer


We give anxiety power, and the right brain consciousness loves to conjure up imaginary bombs of self-destruction.

What if instead of keeping any worries in we could express them through outward movement, some form of art.

The art of fiction, the art of underwater basket weaving, the art of rolling dice — whatever you fancy as a release from the prison of unnecessary worry.

Keep in mind that anxiety is not a prerequisite for making stuff. All creativity is a form of prayer.

There are plenty of genuinely happy artists that express themselves through their work. I’d say Paul McCartney is one of them, for instance. But there’s plenty on the opposite side of the spectrum like Francis Bacon or Vincent Van Gogh, whose paintings allowed them to release inner demons.

Transmuting either happiness or anxiety into a blank canvass helps prevent any excess storage.

“The talent to make art accompanies the need for that art; they arrive together.” — John BergerHere is Where We Meet

‘I wish I’d spent more time on…’ and ‘I wish I’d spent less time on…’

Imagine you are eighty years old – assuming you’re not eighty already, that is; if you are, you’ll have to pick an older age – and then complete the sentences ‘I wish I’d spent more time on…’ and ‘I wish I’d spent less time on…’. This turns out to be a surprisingly effective way to achieve mortality awareness in short order. Things fall into place. It becomes far easier to follow Lauren Tillinghast’s advice – to figure out what, specifically, you might do in order to focus on life’s flavours, so as to improve your chances of reaching death having lived life as fully and as deeply as possible.

Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

Freedom is slowing down

It’s a canard to think that you must use an electronic device for everything productive. A computer is a doing machine, not a thinking machine.

Your best thoughts happen when you’re disconnected, in the shower or on a walk. They also happen when you slow down, pen in hand letting each idea match the pace of the ink.

“A good idea doesn’t come when you’re doing a million things. The good idea comes in the moment of rest. It comes in the shower. It comes when you’re doodling or playing trains with your son. It’s when your mind is on the other side of things.” — Lin Manuel Miranda

Human beings aren’t meant to operate in high gear for long periods of time.

There’s a reason commas exist. They prompt intentional interruptions to bring you back down to earth in a mental pace that’s more tortoise-y and less hareish.

The obsession with speed is self-defeating. It thinks without thinking, aiming for security that leaves you more emotionally insecure.

Permit your reptilian brain to breathe into your inner experiences. The key to security is the freedom to be insecure, to live and let go, even if that means doing nothing but float at any moment. The best device is the rest.

Beliefs are fuel

It’s the belief that kills. But a belief can also propel action. In many ways, it is the best medicine in the world, a placebo nocebo.

Without belief, we’d never try. Without belief, we’d never stick to our gut and strike up the confidence to take a risk.

Without some form of fabricated hope, we’d never even start.

“Dream big. Start small. But most of all, start.” — Simon Sinek

Belief is a wonderful exercise in absurdism. No matter how fantastical, our minds can give it life. And we become antifragile.

The reason belief works is because we give it life. Even accidents or failures that reject our beliefs and display our vulnerabilities reroute us into clearer directions.

Beliefs inculcate the feeling of knowing. Whatever we attach to our beliefs, they manifest themselves in real life.

But here’s the thing: we can’t try too hard. Beliefs were never meant to be forced. At the end of the day, all believing is betting.

‘How very odd it was to live your life so decisively’

In fact, he really wasn’t open to possibilities at all, now that she thought about it. How very odd it was, she thought, to live your life so decisively, to be so sure of how everything should be, as if everything in life was black and white instead of various shades of gray.

Karen McQuestionA Scattered Life 

Train the mind to see

We all want to be ahead of the game. But nobody knows anything, nor do they want to do the work. They just want to hear advice that sounds good.

The problem with advice is that what usually works for one person rarely works for another. Success happens in so many different ways. All that matters is we keep swimming towards our next destination.

But where on Earth do we go?

Sometimes the best direction is a mere adaptation, we start with what we have and ace it. Elasticity guarantees that we’ll have come out changed.

The best way to verify that you are alive is by checking if you like variations. — Nassim Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

How well we cope with life’s unpredictable challenge predetermines how far we’ll go. Attitude, motivation, these are the variables under our control.

The intention of the mind facilitates the intention of the eye.

There’s no such thing as a four-hour work week. It’s the sorcery of such lifehacks and shortcuts that when unachieved, inhibit the consistent little actions that create waves.

Off the grid

jeremy-bishop-408926-unsplash.jpg

In the age of constantly connected fantastical devices, getting lost is the dream of man.

Everyone wants their Walden moment, a chance to detach from the rapidity of tech’s connectedness.

Ironically, we are more lonely than ever before because we are having less intimate connections.

We also get stuck outside ourselves, lost in a false urgency to build a brand identity that’s erroneous as the masks of avatars we hide behind.

We yield a multitude of personas, one real, one online, with the inevitability of becoming cyborgs.

While the robots may make human work redundant, perhaps they will also free up a life worth living again so we don’t have to get lost.

The hidden power of less

Less isn’t necessarily better than more. However, it appears that in most scenarios that it is most often the case.

  • Less participants, more effective meetings
  • Less worry, more action
  • Less ownership, more renting
  • Less eating, more exercising
  • Less internet, more human interaction
  • Less Instagram, more non-filter
  • Less stuff, more happiness
  • Less hate, more love
  • Less cheating, more honesty
  • Less work, more play
  • Less time, more focus
  • Less wishing, more invention
  • Less global, more local
  • Less volume, more silence
  • Less driving, more carpooling
  • Less fighting, more cooperation
  • Less success, more failure
  • Less men, more wom-en
  • Less print, more trees
  • Less self, more generosity
  • Less lizard brain, more confidence
  • Less lateness, more punctuality
  • Less shipping, more digital delivery
  • Less jpegs, more studio visits
  • Less quantity, more quality
  • Less sadness, more laughter
  • Less blindness, more realism
  • Less fright, more audacity
  • Less seeing, more insight
  • Less impulse, more abstraction

If you flip these around with more preceding less (e.g. more lateness, less punctuality), they reflect a bitter insight. Presentation predetermines the prism of observation.