Short and Sweet Thoughts

Deconstructing Labels

For decades, I coasted on the labels bestowed upon me by others: smart, intelligent, talented. I could extrapolate to pad my ego and call myself gifted. The question I have to this day: At what?

I chased my curiosity with a blatant lack of regard for facts and reality. I knew nothing. People were around to tell me, but I didn’t listen. Why should I? I was told so many times what I would be and I liked what I heard. Why listen to the naysayers?

The truth about labels is they hold you back. They are the expression of blessing in the face of fear that you might not succeed: “Please god make my kid successful so I won’t have to accept the fact that I fucked them up with my nature and lack of nurture.”

Welcome to the middle of your life. No one cares to label you anymore. The old ones have crumbled with overuse; childhood’s one hit wonder. But overcome you must, even though it’s hard, because you never needed the labels. You knew who you were then, you know who you are now. You know what you want. It was the others who needed to label you, so they wouldn’t have to get to know the real you. To see you. To experience who you’ve become beyond the labels of youth.

It is the later years when labels reemerge to rewrite our history. The sweet lie we tell ourselves, on repeat, so one day we can die in peace.

Reflections Short and Sweet Thoughts

Take your time and enjoy the process

I get a lot of emails from the local business newspaper celebrating the latest round of 40 under 40. I’m glad some people found success in their 20s and 30s. But that’s not my story, and it’s probably not yours either.

I’m proud of what I have accomplished. As I approach my 44th birthday in a month, I realize that I will never be on the 40 under 40 list—or any list in reality—but I can look myself in the mirror and know I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do.

If you are struggling to be seen, validated, and heard, I understand that and feel you. I hope you won’t make decisions based on lists and recognition. I’ve disrupted my journey enough to know it’s not worth it.

In the meantime, let’s get back to work and keep building what is alive in our imaginative souls.

Reflections Short and Sweet Thoughts

Searching for the truth in conversation

I take interviewing people seriously because I’m searching for the truth and looking for wonder. Someone once told me during an interview to relax; it’s not 60 Minutes. True, it’s not. I’m not a journalist. I’m a soul explorer.

In every pound of pain and joule of joy, I’m looking for pure human expression in all its glory. Identifying the connection between meaning, purpose, voice, and craft is art and alchemy. When two people come together to share the stories that have shaped us, we have the opportunity to form a new narrative in the present for a better future for everyone connected to us.

That is the power of pure conversation.

Reflections Short and Sweet

Clarity is beautifully perplexing

When a question isn’t clear, the answer is equally unclear. You can replace “question” and “answer” with just about any word pairing and the logic remains true.

Problem and solution.

Process and outcome.

Life and death.

How do you find clarity?

Now that is a question.

Rants Reflections Short and Sweet

Email is the future…of what?

“They” say that email is the future of business. By cultivating an email list, you are able to sell directly to your customers, your fans, your loyal subjects.

I get the emails daily from my mailing list provider: “Do these things if you want to grow your list and make a ton of money.” Of course, it is tested and vetted in a variety of ways to make sure that the content converts into the currency of attention: opens, clicks, likes, and buys.

The decaying echo of these words off the cavern walls of my soul begin to lose their power. I become less interested in what the future will be and more fascinated with what the present moment is. I am intrigued by vectors and directions through the passage of seasons and time.

Do I really need all that “they” promise me I can have, become, and desire?

Ideas Short and Sweet

An outlet for your doubt

I’ve been thinking about doubt. Not because I’m wrestling with it, but because I’m wondering how I was able to work through it. I’m finally on the other side of a long season where doubt, insecurity, and a healthy dose of imposter syndrome gripped my soul. And it feels great.

For me, I’m learning that I need an outlet to express my doubt. A “doubt-let,” if you will. It initially took shape in my journal as I wrote down quotes and thoughts every morning. Then I started writing again, for no other reason than to get things out of my head. The result has been increasing confidence. Not to mention strengthening my creative process and deepening my imagination in my side projects and client work.

When doubt enters your mind, what do you do?

How do you respond?

Short and Sweet Thoughts

Diving into the world of story

I think of stories in three parts: 1) my story; 2) your story; and 3) our story. I don’t believe we can ever truly get to our collective story without first excavating the story within each of us. What will we find in the deepest parts of ourselves? In the darkest depths of pain, despair, and longing? In the substance of our hopes and dreams?

In Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer, he gives us a glimpse of what the answers to those questions could be: “Go far enough on the inner journey, they all tell us—go past ego toward true self—and you end up not lost in narcissism but returning to the world, bearing more gracefully the responsibilities that come with being human” (p. 73).

This inner journey scares people, so they push aside their own story. They mine the stories of others in order to know how to live. They create a shared narrative for a variety of personal reasons: not wanting to appear selfish, pursuing something larger or more meaningful, or simply believing that every story matters except their own.

My story matters because I learn a valuable lesson about myself: the answer to the question, “Why?” It is in my story that I begin to understand my values, beliefs, and motivations. My sins, biases, fears, and judgments. My strengths and weaknesses.

This story is tremendously valuable because it provides a hook to hang the stories of others upon. When I truly know myself, only then can I let myself go without fear. It is in the deepest of knowing that I can let the worries and anxieties melt away. The noise fades away, leaving the silent wonder within to guide me to finally hear the stories of others.

Short and Sweet Thoughts

Motivation and Momentum

I am a fan of making to-do lists each day. Sometimes I put so much on the list that I get overwhelmed and psych myself out to the point where it’s a struggle to get anything done.

One thing I have learned is that there is a certain amount of momentum needed to get creative work done. It can be a matter of a few minutes of sitting down without any distractions and starting a task in order to feel properly motivated. From this point, the task picks up momentum and is one step closer to completion.

Short and Sweet Thoughts

Are You Willing to Suck?

I’ve been working on a new project and there is a strong desire to make the launch perfect. While I am pushing to make the product the best that it can be—based upon my current skills and abilities—I also realize that perfection is not possible. I can only make it as good as I am able to today.

Could the temptation of perfection be summarized as a desire to bank on tomorrow’s abilities today without any idea of what those abilities will be?

I can make assumptions that I will be better in the future at what I do. As I look back over my career, I am a much better filmmaker today than when I started 16 years ago. I can only assume that my work will get better in the future. But the only way for that to happen is to consistently ask myself an important question, “Am I willing to suck?”

While I have released a lot of work in the past two years, from podcasts and videos to newsletters and blog posts, I also have not released work because I didn’t want to suck.

If I never release the product, I can keep working on my abilities, pour them into the project allowing it to improve. Or I can just answer the question—”am I willing to suck?”—with a resounding yes and press the Publish button.

Short and Sweet

Back to Basics

As technology gets more complicated, images and movies get closer to reality, and stories get increasingly episodic and long-winded, I can’t help but embark on the journey of rediscovering and returning to the basics.

When I watch a superhero genre film, I am not inspired to create. I sit, I consume, and then I want to watch another. When I watch a film where I can see a path back to the basics of the craft, I want to go make my own movie.

When I see a website that looks like it was generated by a human being and has personality, I want to dive in and see how it was made. If the markup and code is readable, I can see a path back to the basics.

Emphasizing the basics has nothing to do with being a perpetual beginner or avoiding complexity. It is about simplifying your toolset so that you can tell effective and meaningful stories.

Take the blues guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan. He capitalized on stripped down blues scales and minimal equipment in order to infuse every note with meaning, emotion, and humanity. I wonder how much would come through if he was playing with a modern-day computer-controlled guitar rig that has buttons, taps, switches, knobs, and pedals?

It all comes back to the original intent: why does this project exist? Why does this story need to be told? The basics help you answer those questions.