Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Reflections Thoughts

Addicted to Infinity

It took longer than usual to recognize a significant problem that took root in my daily routine over the last few months: I’ve become addicted to infinity.

Instead of spending time in the morning reading books, I was flinging birds at pigs and bubbles—over and over—until I completed the daily tasks or ran out of lives.

Sure, my skill in digital bird throwing was increasing, but I recognized that what was once an enjoyable break from the stress of the day quietly became an addiction. I was numbing my emotions, checking out of the present, and opening myself up to advertisements so I could get more lives, gems, and a semblance of pride.

The digital world is lovely; the pros are as endless as the cons. And that is the problem. Unless I make an effort to construct boundaries and limits, I will constantly be refreshing algorithmic infinity instead of creating an actual future with images, words, stories, and curiosity.

What was I hiding from in the addiction of infinity?

Choice.

I have chosen, and now I step into digital withdrawal.

Categories
Randomness Reflections Thoughts

Give change a few days

Day one of my four-month journey to write my first book. I planned to get out of bed at 5:30 AM to make coffee, get settled into the couch, and begin capturing what’s in my mind.

The alarm greeted me at 5:30 AM after an interrupted night of sleep. I stumbled out to make coffee. Measured the beans and poured them into the grinder. Just like I’ve always done for years. Pressed the grind button and something was wrong. It didn’t sound right. Was the motor burnt out?

*Sigh*

I made some tea and got to work. Once I finished my hour of writing, I went to the store and bought a new coffee grinder. I chose a different brand because it was five dollars cheaper than the brand of my previous grinder.

Walking to the self-checkout, I was joyful, “How exciting, change is good! Yay coffee!”

I got home, gave the grinder a slight clean and preceded to fill it with coffee beans. It was significantly smaller and didn’t hold my usual amount.

While grinding away, I started wondering about the best way to get the coffee grounds into the filter. The setup was fundamentally different than my old grinder. I tipped the unit upside down, removed the lid, and got some grounds in the filter with a healthy amount on the counter.

Messy.

Grumpy.

Need coffee.

*Sigh*

“I hate this coffee grinder,” I told myself.

“It sucks,” I whined while the coffee brewed.

“It doesn’t do what I want it to do,” I lied to myself.

Then a different thought emerged, “What if you tried another way to make coffee?”

Change is hard. It requires you to look at life in a different light with a new lens. Give it a few days, it will be okay. In the meantime, clean up your mess and drink your coffee.

Categories
Reflections Thoughts

Misinterpreting my weaknesses

I’m stubborn, obsessive, and opinionated; I always thought these traits were weaknesses. Year upon year, day after day, I hid them from others and shoved those feelings aside in order to fit into a box, a genre, a lane.

What I didn’t realize as I fought to find and blaze my own trail through life, what I didn’t truly understand at the deepest level of my being: these traits are not weaknesses, or even curses, but blessings.

Not because I am against anyone or anything who wants me to live up to their definition or expectation of me, but because the scales have fallen from my eyes and I see who I am and what matters to me.

I finally accept it all.

And that is how perceived weaknesses become superpowers.

Categories
Ideas Reflections Thoughts

A New Story of Collaboration

Tonight I’m participating in a workshop led by my friend, Diane Gibbs, in which the participants answer the question, “What makes a great collaboration for you?”

At first glance, my answer reveals an old story that finds its roots in events that happened decades ago: “I don’t collaborate. I’m not a good collaborator. I’m not a team player. I’ve been burned too many times. I’m destined to be alone in my efforts.”

But as I sat with this question, I thought about my clients, side projects, and relationships. The more I sat in silence and listened to the quiet truth buried beneath the noisy lies, I heard it, a new story of collaboration.

So what makes a great collaboration? When the partnership is a true partnership, when each of us has a role that strengthens the other, and most importantly when we are clear on why we are collaborating.

I can’t help but think about Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, in this context. However, you don’t have to “start with why.” As long as you define the why together, the roles can sing in harmony.

Like most students, I hated group projects in school. But as an instructor, I saw the value in them. Instead of blindly expecting groups to figure out what true partnerships looked and worked like, I guided them. There was an equality of effort across everyone involved. Even the weakest team member played a vital role, allowing the team to produce more substantial work.

Roles can be tricky, especially for people who have various strengths, talents, interests, and passions. That is where the “what” and the “how” enter the collaborative dance.

As a creative entrepreneur and guide, my clients often hire me in one of two capacities. The first way is when someone wants to create something—a video, a podcast, an email newsletter, a book—and they know what they want to say. They need help to best package those thoughts into a compelling, insightful, and sometimes entertaining product. The second way is equally interesting. They know how they want to show up in the world, their creative identity is firm, but they don’t know what to say.

My collaborations soar when I am fluid between the “what” and the “how.” There will be overlapping actions between the “what” and “how” throughout the creative process. But when I play to my strengths within the relationship and allow my collaborative partner to do the same, we create great work.

Finally, as we work with the understanding of what our “why” is, it becomes our guiding light as we move forward in the darkness of doubt, the fog of fear, and the blinding sun of success.

Categories
Thoughts

How do I feel about listener statistics?

My podcast host recently made a change to listener statistics to include partial listens, in addition to full listens. If I so desire, I can go down the rabbit hole of seeing how many partial listens were in the first few seconds, 25%, 50%, or 75-99%.

For the data-obsessed, like myself, this is fantastic information. I can make some highly educated guesses about where people lost interest and whether or not I am producing compelling enough episodes that people want to finish.

The fascinating thing about listener statistics, whether total or partial, is the story I end up telling myself about what these numbers mean.
When the numbers are what I deem “positive,” my self-talk gives me a metaphorical pat on the back. When they skew in the negative direction, the story quickly shifts to a tragedy. “I suck and people finally realize it,” I whisper to myself.

But could there be another way to approach the interpretation of listener statistics?

When the only number I had access to was full listens, I felt compelled to maintain the status quo. The more I looked at and explored the partial listens, the more I noticed a curious feeling emerge: a desire to shake things up and experiment with new creative ideas. Not to prove myself, but to have more fun, express my thoughts more boldly, and see what the show could become.

What story will you tell yourself as you explore the statistics attached to your creative projects?

Categories
Reflections Thoughts

What does it mean to listen?

I finished the chapter in See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love by Valarie Kaur about listening. It got me thinking: What does it truly mean to listen?

To not only hear the words being said but to feel the emotions present—and simultaneously hidden—in the infinite moments of our lives.

As a podcaster and documentary filmmaker, asking questions is a fundamental skill that I wield daily. But to excavate the stories and emotions of those before me, I must listen to their words, feelings, and emotions. To what is not being said. To the tension or electricity in the room.

But I must also be present to my body, mind, and spirit. Am I tense or loose? Am I thinking about what needs to be said? Maybe I have entered into the world of judgment, telling myself how much better I am than them or how awful I am in comparison.

What if the most potent form of listening is the suspension of judgment? To stoke curiosity and wonder like a dying fire in the frozen dawn. So we can all come around the fire and find rest.

It’s one thing to listen to someone else, but what about listening to the voice within? The spark of an idea, a thought for a new future, a dream, a direction. Listening to ourselves requires three simple yet challenging actions:

  1. Get quiet.
  2. Discern our voice from the cacophony of noise within and around us.
  3. Pay attention.

I’ll take it one step further: What do you do with what you hear? Could it be that action, actually doing something as a result of what we heard, is the ultimate expression of our listening?

Categories
Things That Blow My Mind Thoughts

“Infinite Creative Source”

I find it’s always the simplest phrases that capture my attention, stick in my mind, and drive me deeper into understanding what they could mean.

During my morning reading time, I came across the phrase “infinite creative source” in the book Creative Authenticity: 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision by Ian Roberts. This phrase describes the current of creativity that flows within us, perhaps like a river or electricity.

Some pay attention to it and draw forth from its abundance. Others ignore it because they can’t see it, hear it, feel it, or discern its existence beyond the noise within and around.

As Roberts writes, what we discover when we tap into this “infinite creative source” is the art beyond the “personal stuff” that will resonate with others. Roberts describes this art as a revelation.

What are the revelations that you see, hear, feel, and resonate with as you dip your soul into the “infinite creative source”? How will you allow these revelations to grab hold of your energy and desire to create?

Stories are fundamental to our existence and co-existence on this planet. Our personal stories matter because they are the vessels that draw creativity from the “infinite creative source.” Much like a bucket to a well or an excavator to a patch of earth.

If we don’t know our stories, how will we ever know what is possible?

It is when we know the size and shape of our personal stories—whether small or large—that we can see how little we are in comparison to the massive expanse of the “infinite creative source.”

As I dip my hand into this abundant source of creativity, I feel the rush of movement. I feel humble, small, yet powerful. I close my eyes to listen for the quiet whispers to be unearthed in this space.

My heart races.

What a rush.