Figure out life through the filter of nature
I made the decision to reinvent my career almost exactly ten years after I started my company. Literally, down to the exact week.
And I wondered if there was any significance to such fortuitous timing. So I went for a long walk in the park and ran the following thought experiment. How would this problem be solved in nature? After a few hours, something occurred to me. The number ten is by far the most significant labeling system in nature. Ten is the major organizing principle of the universe. It’s the mathematical base for everything. That’s why decades are such important life markers. There truly is something special about what transpires during a ten year period.
That information activated a professional transformation for me. I began to reinvent myself. To enlarge my concept of work. To expand the constellation of my identity as a creator. To keep more of my passions in play. And to mold my definition of a career to fit anything that excited and fed my soul.
What’s more, I memorialized my journey to finding the next stone on the path through a collection of songs, which ultimately became the centerpiece of this documentary.
That’s what’s possible when we tune into nature’s agenda.
How are you remaking yourself as you grow and as the world changes?
Create something lasting and uniquely yours
Ancient mythology convinces us that pride is the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins. In fact, many religions cite it as the source of all others. Worshipping the self and feeling righteous and creating an inflated sense of personal status, these temptations are the gateway drugs to the much harder stuff.
Fair enough. I can get behind that.
But let’s not forget, one of our goals in life is to make ourselves proud. It’s an existential requirement of all human beings. It’s one of the ways we make meaning in the world. When we take principled action that provides us with a satisfied sense of attachment towards our choices, pride is something we deserve to take.
Since finishing this movie, everyone I run into has been asking me how it feels to be done. And the only answer I can think to give, without reservation or guilt or pride or false humility, is that I’m so damn proud. I worked my ass off to make that documentary happen. It was a dream I’d had since childhood, and now it’s finally a reality. And that makes me proud.
Do you have any idea how good it feels to say that?
Ask yourself what it would take for you to really feel proud of yourself. Don’t let the cultural conditioning around the sinfulness of pride rob you of that meaningful experience. The decision to bite into something, do it really well, and then stand back and nod your head at the finished product, there’s nothing quite like it. To create something lasting and uniquely yours, something that you have complete control over, nothing beats that dancing smile of satisfaction.
Principled action is something nobody can take away from you.
Build your story where you are
Shakespeare didn’t open in twenty countries.
He had one theater and one audience. The people cherished his art, the artist cherished their attention, and together they made something magical.
That’s something I always wanted for myself. A homebase. A platform where I could hone my voice, grow my network and build my story. A place where I commune with my neighbors and lock into the historical, societal and institutional frameworks of my creative world. The word that come to mind was fixture, meaning someone firmly set in place that has been present for a long time and will continue to be so in years to come.
However, I knew that nobody was going to just give that to me. There was no sanctioning body desperately searching for a local songwriter to take residency.
And so, I decided to hire myself. To create my own platform out of whole cloth. I took my guitar to the park and started busking under the historic arch. Same place, same time, every week. Even in the winter.
And people started taking notice.
Soon, through a consistent presence and constant word of mouth, my name started to become associated with that place. And after about a year of singing songs under that arch, I had become a permanent fixture in the neighborhood. I had officially incorporated myself into the community, creating an expectation and a mythology and a ritual around my performances.
Hence, this documentary.
Proving, that you don’t need to wait for permission to create your own opportunity, build your own leverage and grow your own momentum.
Just hire yourself. Stick around and continue to do what you do, and eventually the right people will find you.
What stage could you commandeer and convert into a home for your creativity?
Cynicism is easier than actually making something
The world doesn’t need another cynic. Our planet has enough pessimism to last a lifetime.
That’s why it’s so important to be fundamentally affirmative, relentlessly encouraging and radically supportive towards one other. Because most people have already been discouraged, disenchanted and degraded enough. And the last thing they need is another scoffer to pour salt on their wounds.
On the other hand, believing in people costs nothing. And it has the power to change everything. I remember when one of my musician friends went in the studio for the first time. After years of writing songs, she finally summoned the courage to put them on wax. Hallelujah!
But once the album was done, she began to encounter resistance. Record producers, club owners, music critics and other industry professionals immediately shot her work down. Saying that the songs were uninspired, grating karaoke tunes at best.
She was devastated. To the point that she went into music hibernation for almost a year.
And so, when I ran into her at my songwriting circle, I asked her to share. And when she played the song, I remember thinking to myself, wow, this song is awesome. Not because it’s perfect, not because it’s catchy, and not because it’s radio friendly. But because it’s hers. Because it’s finished. Because she had the guts to sit down, slice open a vein, bleed her truth onto the page and share it with the world.
That’s enough. That’s a win. And nobody can take that away from her.
Are you trying to become best at what you do, or the best of who you are?
The barometer of value
According to a research report from the three largest media distribution services in the country, nearly two thousand press releases are sent out each day. That’s north of a half a million each year.
Now, some people argue that this marketing approach is a form of spam. Just another impersonal, insulting, shotgun strategy for getting somebody’s attention. And perhaps that’s true. But the press release process is still an inherently worthwhile experience. Not only because it challenges you tell your own story, but because it requires you to create value. Otherwise you wouldn’t be writing it.
Lefsetz famously wrote that having a new album is not a story. That with a twenty four seven news cycle online, he says, what happens in your life is not a story. The hard core already knows what’s you’re up to and the rest don’t care.
And so, perhaps the press release isn’t the point. Perhaps the point is having interesting experiences and creating meaningful things in the world, all of which earn you the right to write a press release in the first place. After all, before you write things worth talking about, you have to do things worth writing about. Life is subordinate to art, not the other way around.
The press release for my documentary certainly didn’t go viral, but it still earned tens of thousands of headline impressions and hundreds of online pickups. And to me, that was a victory. Because it showed that I did something worth releasing.
If you were arrested and charged with creating value for people, would there be enough evidence to convict you?