It was a thursday afternoon on my 9th day of my first job out of business school. My stomach was hurting and the guy I was working for was an idiot. I thought about another month with him and could see day I was going to be fired. So I grabbed my bags and walked out of the door.
That was one of the most important moments of my life. Some people thought I was insane because I had just finished a 6 month job search and quit in two weeks. The next day I was back in the water. The other surfers in the lineup said "we didn't think you would last very long out of the water." It didn't make logical sense, but it was what I knew in my heart I had to do.
In that moment my career as a salesperson ended, and my sacred calling as an artist started. Of course there was a gap between who I was and who I wanted to become:
- 5 years filled the gap
- Blank pages got littered with ink to fill the gap
-100's of conversations behind a microphone filled the gap
- Everyday I'm filling the gap
When you reach your destination, there's always a new gap.
A year ago I wrote down an idea in a notebook for a gathering of like minded people. I stood in the presence of remarkable misfits like my friend AJ Leon and decided it was time for an event that went against best practices and challenged what I had seen so far. I neglected conventional wisdom in the hopes of creating something unmistakable. And what affectional refer to as the wedding which I will not have a wife at the end of was born. To people attending, it's the Instigator Experience. It's what I knew in my heart I had to do.
Somehow when you give into the things you know in your hear you have to do, the universe meets you half way. I know its sounds like new age psycho babble. But the only way to really understand it is to experience it.
What you know in your heart you have to do doesn't meaning leaving your job. It could take many forms.
Sarah Steenland was making cartoons almost daily when we first "met". And it's clear that was in her heart, what she knew she had to do. Today's she's impossible to ignore, impossible to miss, and unmistakable.
Christina Rasmussen knew in her heart that she had to pull people out of the waiting rooms of life
There must be something you know in your heart you have to do. And if you don't know what it is, look for it. Finding it may be the greatest gift you receive in this lifetime.
1) Hire amazing people.
2) Don't compromise on a damn thing.
3) Put in the extra effort, even when it's a pain in the ass.
4) Become the benchmark, set the standard, and obliterate that standard over and over again.
5) Take pride in the parts of your craft that people will never see.
6) Have the guts to destroy bad art
7) Push people to live fully, die empty, and leave their hearts on stage. They will hate the process, but love the result.
8) Always look at anything you ship and ask yourself, "how could it be better"? Iterate accordingly.
9) Be ruthless in service of the tribe, the audience and the fans.
10) Don't be afraid to admit that the work is not up to par.
11) Say no when you have to
12) Say yes when you feel compelled too.
13) Own the truth of who you are.
14) Model your heroes and role models. Don't mimic them. Imitation is not the greatest form of flattery. Adaptation is.
15) Ask yourself upon completion "is this unmistakable?" When the answer is no, start over
"I've spent so much time ignoring the truth of myself." - Janelle
There's always a distinction between the older and younger people that I interview on the UC Podcast. When I talk to someone who has ben through hell to get to where they are, they seem to be finished with the identity crisis. Adversity, pain, and loss have turned them into more of who they are.
By the time most of us reach adult life, our true identities have been buried under layers of parental advice, peer pressure, criticism and expectations. One of the few useful things I learned in business school was a lesson on identity. An accounting professor stood at the front of the room during orientation and said "You will not recognize the person sitting in that chair 2 years from now."
I'm sure I probably wouldn't even want to have a a drink with that version of myself. He seems like a complete stranger to me. So then how the hell do you get back to the essence of who you are? For me, it's been through words and waves.
Making art is a process that reveals the truth of who you are.
It strips away the layers of BS we've accumulated over decades.
It's the journey that takes you from who you are to who you need to become.
It's the sacred calling that liberates us so that we can make our contributions, dents in the universe or whatever you want to call it.
Ignore that calling at your own peril.
We're all capable of paying attention to that calling, answering it and living through that lens. But we're not all willing. Maybe that's what separates the amateurs from what Steven Pressfield calls the pros?
Are you willing to show up every day with no guarantee of an external reward?
Are you willing to look like a fool?
Are you willing to create art that some people won't get?
Are you willing to drown out the voices that hold you back?
Are you willing to stop reading this, shut down Facebook, and start making art?
You're definitely capable. But are you willing?
Your identity crisis must be self declared. You have to develop the awareness that you've lost sight of the person you were meant to be. It doesn't just happen once. Life is an identity crisis and a continual battle to stay in touch with the truth of who you are.
The only way I know to fight that battle is with words and waves.
"Are is not a result; it's a journey. The challenge of our time is to find a journey that is worthy of your heart and soul." - Seth Godin
I don't know where you are at the moment. Maybe you're on such a journey. Maybe you're trying to escape the self inflicted prison you live in. I've lived in both these places.
Our self inflicted prisons are insidious because eventually we become institutionalized in the prisons of our lives. We stare out of that window into greater significance. It becomes a game of "out there" and "in here."
Don't make too much of a ruckus
Lockstep and conformity
Not everybody can….
This will be perfectly safe. You'll live. But you may not be alive.
Some people simply accept this as their fate. In the movie Shawshank Redemption, there's a critical moment when Morgan Freeman decides that he's become institutionalized and could never make it on the outside. I believe we all have moments like this in our lives. But they don't just happen once. They happen over and over again.
On that first step out of the self inflicted prison for your soul, walls will crumble. That window into greater significance will shatter. And the entire lens through which you see the world will become one of greater significance.
But those walls….they protected you. And now there are no walls. There are holes in your armor where your heart and soul could be pierced.
In these moments you may feel alone. But you're not. Something has brought those walls down. God, divine intervention, or some force that beyond your rational understanding has intervened with the universe so that you could start a journey worthy of your heart and soul. I've chosen one of words and waves.
In that moment, you can take another step forward. Or you can turn around, what the walls come back up, and stare through that window into greater significance and wonder what might have been.
- The Unmistakable Creative Podcast2010 - present
- Forrester ResearchAccount Development Manager, 2003 - 2005
- Nielsen Media ResearchClient Services Manager, 2006 - 2007
- Monster Cable ProductsProduct Marketing Specialist, 2005 - 2006
- Intuit Inc.Social Media MBA Intern, 2008 - 2008
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