success

2017-11-09-success_v01.jpg

What is the measure of success?

I’ve thought about this often. I expect most people, if you really pressed them, could give you specific details for what they would consider a successful life. It may be obtaining a job, reaching a level of popularity, achieving world-changing accomplishment, getting married to someone, reaching an amount of wealth, living to a certain age, becoming a member of a group, etc. 

We all want something out of life and quite often, we don’t yet have the thing we want.

But the problem with success is that we believe once we obtain it, we’ll be completely happy and utterly fulfilled. Often, whether we reach our far away measure of success or not, we end up disappointed.  

This disappointment can be soul-crushing at times. The many tragic celebrity stories of the past bear witness to this.

Toward that end, I found hope and inspiration from the experience and advice offered by K.M. Weiland in this lovely article:

6 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Protect Creativity

The way we measure success is important, but before we even get there, we ought to consider how we define it.

In Derek Doepker’s book, Why Authors Fail, he points out that success and failure can work for or against us based on how we define them. 

His argument is that we should view success as a process, not an event. The same goes with failure. 

If you only see success as achieving some milestone, then you’ll have some problems: first, if you don’t reach your goal, you will feel the weight of discouragement and failure. But if you do reach your goal, despite failures and setbacks along the way, the glorious feeling of achievement only lasts a little while. When it passes, you’re on to the next thing or stuck trying to repeat or hold to what you just did in order to keep the blissful feeling of success. You’re constantly searching for success, but never truly reaching it because there will always be something more, something bigger you can do.

If success is a process, then you can be continually successful, not just when you reach a goal. 

As long as you are doing the right thing today, you are living in success. 

Doesn’t that sound more rewarding than basing your success on some far-offgoal? 

Sure, you’re not gonna bat a thousand every day—you’ll have good and bad days—but you will have the same opportunity every day. 

Not only will success always be an option, it’ll be within reach. With this mindset, success is right in front of your nose, or rather, between your ears.

I believe every day is an opportunity to decide, and reach, your measure of success. So here’s to a successful today.

in a name

2017-11-02-name_v001.jpg

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the line from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” 

In a sense this is true, a person is no better or worse because of the name they bear. And yet, a name is not insignificant. If a rose were instead called a kwert, I doubt there would be nearly as many girls given the name. 

There is a sonic significance, a special feeling in the way letters are arranged to form a word. Besides that, many names have meaning in themselves. If you name your child, “Brave” it would no doubt have a very different outcome on the way they perceive themselves or others perceive them than if you named them, “Coward.”

A name matters. 

Think of those extra letters you get to add for completing a doctorate or becoming a medical doctor. They show something important about you. Same goes for a last name taken from a spouse during marriage or when an adopted child takes on the name of their new parents. It is a mark of inclusion, of becoming part of a family. It’s something Romeo and Juliet were not able to do because of the history behind their names.

Names can give you access or restrict you. They can inspire or incite anger. The name Robert E. Lee today is likely to draw out a strong emotional response in a conversation.  

Names have power.

I recall C.S. Lewis’s love for titles with a sense of wonder. He was fascinated by the title of the novel, The Well at the World’s End.

After reading the wikipedia article on it, I was interested to discover how both Lewis and Tolkien drew inspiration from the story, borrowing a few names such as "King Gandolf," "King Peter," and even a fast horse named "Silverfax.” 

Some of my own favorite book titles are The Name of the Wind, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and A Winkle in Time. Perhaps it is because of the way they hint at something unusual happening with a very large aspect of nature.

I think also of how important names were in the Bible. The meaning behind your name in some way dictated who you would become. God even gave some people new names after a major event or transformation had taken place: Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, and Saul became Paul. 

All this to say, if you have the opportunity to choose a name, especially for a person, maybe you should take it seriously. Or you could always go with a joke name. I’m sure your kids will appreciate your humor for the rest of their lives (I knew a guy in Elementary school named Rocky Mountain, and I’ve always thought Lisa Kar would be a good one).

in a moment

2017-10-26-moment_v001.jpg

This post is something of a follow-up to the previous one, on record.

I don’t think any of us truly appreciate how much weight a moment carries. Or maybe I’m the only one and the rest of y’all got it figured out but aren’t telling me. Hey, fess up already will ya?

We often repeat phrases of encouragement like, “live in the moment,” or, “be in the moment,” or the classic, “carpe diem,” which, shockingly, has little to do with fish or ten cent coins.

And I like all that stuff, I really do, but how to live it isn’t always clear to me. Moments and days aren’t easy to lay hold of. Time itself is tricky; it keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.

But hey, we’re talking about just a moment here. A fraction of time so small it’s hard to measure. Surely that can’t be so hard to grasp. And moments are so plentiful, like a bucket stuffed with fish, they should be a cinch to snatch.

Could be it’s because there are so many of them, we forget their value. And what do you do with it once you’ve got it anyways? I mean, it’s all wet and slapping you in the face now! The fish, I mean.

Maybe moments are more like a giant stream full o’ fish just swimming on by. Sure, you can get a few in a net, you can try to capture those precious moments, but, unlike pokemon, there’s no way you can catch them all.

Yes, moments are important, but does each hold the same weight? It doesn’t seem that way. But I do think every moment, even the most mundane, holds the great potential.

One decision can be made in a moment which entirely changes the course of your life. You might choose to quit your job, move, forgive someone, take up drinking, quit drinking, run away, get married, or even join the rotary club. A reputation may be destroyed in a split-second decision.

And unexpected things can happen in just a moment, ground-breaking, earth-shaking things. There is a magic to the moment.

Moments are plentiful, powerful, and unappreciated.

I might never be able to hold every moment sacred while also releasing it to allow time for the next. Still, I do try to pause now and then, just to take things in—to take a breath and notice where I am, to enjoy people I'm with, and to just be thankful for it all.

Once I have it all figured out, I’ll let you know, momentarily.

on record

2017-10-19-record_v001.jpg

My wife and I went to see a musical artist we enjoy, Josh Garrels, in concert recently. It’s the first concert we’d been to in a while. Such is the life of parents, but it makes me appreciate those rare events all the more. 

While we sat there, Josh’s angelic voice and the instrumental accompaniment of the other band members washed over us in waves of splendor. 

The sounds, the ideas expressed in just such a way, left us deeply moved. Many of his words and themes resonated with places and attitudes very familiar to us, especially those related to the concept of home.

Altogether, it created an experience which could not have been captured and replayed even with the best recording instruments. 

Yes, just about everyone has a phone now with a camera and mic built in. Yes, there have been some excellent live band recordings made into albums. And yes, Josh will play again at other venues, perhaps even the exact same songs in the exact same order. 

But none of it will be exactly like being there in that room at that time with those particular people. It will never be the same again, no matter how we may try to duplicate it. Same goes for any performance, musical or otherwise.

The magic of the moment is a special thing.

It reminded me of something I heard on the tech podcast, Note to Self. 

Study has shown that the more time spent taking pictures during an event, the less will be remembered later about the event itself. By taking photos instead of participating, you remove yourself from actually being there. You miss out.

I wonder how often this happens, in an attempt to capture the moment, we instead lose the ability to really enjoy the moment at all. Something to think about …

Anyhow, I did take a few pictures before and a very short video during, but for the majority of the time I just sat there, taking it all in. This is something I’ve been working on improving: worrying less about the recording and concerning myself more with just being present. 

I believe, as creatives, this can take us a long way toward inspiration and appreciation. 

Instead of trying to capture the moment, why not let it run free in its pure, wild form? I’ll have more thoughts on that later.

What do you think? Do you feel the need to capture the moment to be recalled and enjoyed later or do you set the phone down and open your ears and eyes to behold the beauty before you? Perhaps something in between?

background music

2017-10-12-bmusic_v001.jpg

I’ve recently come across a few articles about background music and how it relates to creativity. I thought you might enjoy the share.

This article covers evidence that happier music may promote more creativity thought.

This article, by esteemed author Ryan Holiday, discusses his habit of listening to the same song or set of songs on repeat like a madman, even songs he doesn’t particularly enjoy.

I’ve given it a bit of thought but haven’t dedicated myself to any specific method.

Typically, I’ll listen to instrumental music because I find words distracting, especially when I’m writing. Lately, that’s been piano music. I’ll often find a set on YouTube and then follow similar links.

I have recently discovered, and greatly enjoyed, Mattia Vlad Morleo, after watching an eclipse video with a stelar musical composition.

Hey Creatives, I’d love to hear what your listening habits are when you want to be in a creative mode. Do you crank up the volume or need utter silence?

imagine

2017-10-05-imagine_v001.jpg

We’ve seen a lot of houses lately. That happens when you’re looking for a new place to live.

It’s fun to see how other people live, to check out different styles of construction and notice the changes over time—to recognize what is modern and what appears outdated. 

In the process, there's one habit I’ve noticed my wife and I doing: we speak about the house we’re viewing as if it were our own, even if it’s one we have no serious intention of living in. I think it’s a helpful practice, to pretend we already live there and imagine how our lives (and furniture) would be structured in such a place. It allows us to weigh out the positives and negatives of a future there. This is one of the many benefits of employing the imagination.

Our capacity to imagine is a spectacular thing. I heard this from copywriter and coach, Joshua Boswell, in a video course, 

“As humans, we have the unique ability to imagine and turn those imaginations into reality through a process called creation. If you don’t imagine something, you can never create it.”

Imagination is not only helpful, it’s essential for creatives of any field.

The wonderful thing about imagination is how accessible it is: anyone can do it anytime and anywhere. But not everyone does. It is a rare and valuable trait.

If you’re like me, you may hear the dear departed Gene Wilder singing Pure Imagination. It sounds so lovely, so magical. But let’s be honest, we don’t all have a bunch of money and a crazy chocolate factory in which to live out our wildest (or wilder) imaginations. Even the dreamiest of dreamers has their limits.

Like just about any part of creativity, there is an inherent challenge to living imaginatively. To be imaginative, you must be willing to overcome your own inner doubts and distractions and use your mind with purpose.

There is a balance to be found between giving your mind a direct focus but also allowing it to roam free.

These days, we can be so task-oriented, so goal-focused, we forget to take time to daydream, to “waste time”. 

Okay critics, I hear you, if our heads are always in the clouds, we’ll never get anything done, we’re in danger of being called a good-for-nothing layabout by some old-timey person (heaven forbid). 

So I say sure, it’s good to be a hard worker, to keep your head down and be dedicated to a task, but sometimes you need to look up and see the sky above you. Sometimes you have to step back and ask why you’re doing what you’re doing and, ultimately, where you’re going with it.

When we become so consumed with the t-crossing and i-dotting of day-to-day tasks, imagination becomes essential to help us get the broader view.

To imagine is to let your mind free, to allow it to think whatever it wishes, without hindrance.

Some folks will tell you imagination is a waste of time—a pointless, idle practice. And yet those people rely on methods and tools which were imagined by someone else.

Our imaginations may take us to far-off worlds, but it may be in those far-off worlds where we discover the keys we need in this world.

So whether you’re looking for a new place of residence or even trying to picture what life is like for someone who lives on the other side of the planet, I invite you to take a little time to imagine, to let your mind roam (with some direction). You may be delighted with what you discover. You may learn a valuable lesson you can apply today. Or you might just be weirded out by the thought of an entire workforce made entirely of oompa loompas.

a pause

In light of the Las Vegas shooting, and other events in recent history, I didn't feel like doing a regular post this week.

Instead, I wanted to pause. I invite you to do the same. 

Yes, creativity is important, crucial even, but there is a place for rest, meditation, and reflection. There is a time to stop, think, and feel. With so many changes going on lately, I have been learning this in my own life.

If you still want to read a post, this former one seems appropriate:

how to feel

I'll continue my regular posts next week. In the meantime, I encourage you to, as Romans 12:15 states, "weep with those who weep."

respond

2017-09-26-respond_v001.jpg

Welcome to the fourth and final installment of my series, The Creative Approach. The title of this one might remind you of a similar post, but I promise it’s different. Read on and I’ll prove it to you.

To recap (to put your hat back on?), the first two steps in the creative approach are observe and question. Once you’ve begun to take a look around and see what there is to see, once you’ve made some inquiries based on your discoveries, the next step is to form a response—a reaction, if you will. 

Every question begs for a response,

This is true even if the response is “I don’t know.” But if that is your response, it’s high time to start finding some things out.

As I often like to do, let’s look at the role response plays in storytelling. A story where the protagonist does not respond to events around them is hardly a story at all. If Bilbo from The Hobbit stays in the Shire, we’ve got no adventure and he's Ringwraith meat in no time. If Luke stays on Tatooine, the rebellion loses and he's Jawa jerky. If Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen from You’ve Got Mail doesn’t stand up and fight for the survival of her little book shop, it simply goes under and the story is over. Yes, I just referenced a chick-flick, what, it’s a good movie and it's got Tom Hanks, so there!

If we refuse to engage with our world, if we wall ourselves in, close the blinds and click shut the ten locks on our doors, what will we gain? A sense of security? Possibly. But it looks like more like defeat to me. What happens when everyone lives this way? Creativity dies and we have no stories to share. A downright shame, I say!

To respond is to do something, to take action.

It’s not enough to wish and wonder. Take a look at the information you have gathered through your observation and questions then find creative ways to address it. Here is one question that will lead you to a response, "what now?" When you live out the answer to that question, you put your creativity to work.

I knew a guy in college who discovered a unique way to potty train his boy: playing the ukulele. According to my classmate, it was the only thing he found that would work—after many other failed attempts. He had a problem (a kid who refused to be potty trained) and his response was to look around at what he had available and test it until he found a solution.

But the answer to the question “what now” doesn’t always have to be a solution to a problem. Perhaps you simply want to develop a hobby. For example: if you’ve learned about a local scrapbooking club, why not join and see how you like it?

There are so many ways to respond to, “what now?" If there is a group of neighborhood kids you often find kicking cans down your street, why not go play hacky sack, show them how to yoyo, or set up a little soccer field? Maybe invite their parents over for dinner afterwords. 

If you see the same homeless woman on the way home from work every day, why not buy her a flower, or make one out of paper? Hey, nothing makes me feel special like a little origami. 

If you pass by an interesting little shop, why not pay them a visit, ask the owner a bit about their life and maybe even write a story about it (or at least a journal entree)? 

Instead of just hitting the like button the next time you see a good post, why not comment how it made you feel, or even talk to the one who posted it in person, who knows where your discussion could lead? Engage, engage, engage.

Is there someone in your life—such as a coworker or acquaintance—who might be able to mentor you or teach you an interesting skill, say woodworking or how to play drums? Is there someone in your life—a friend’s kid perhaps—with whom you could share your experience and offer help through instruction?

A creative response can be as big or as small as you want it to be: a 15 minute project or a lifelong work. However, if you haven’t given much time to creativity in the past, I encourage you to start small. 

As you’ll see, the more you take the creative approach, the more you will exercise your creative muscle and the stronger you’ll become.

---

That’s it for now folks, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little romp through the creative approach. If you’ve got any thoughts or experiences on the subject, why not respond by sharing them?

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, when has your response led to an unexpected reaction from someone else? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Links to the rest of the series:

The Creative Approach

Observe

Question

Respond  (current)

question

2017-09-19-question_v001.jpg

And now, the third installment of my series The Creative Approach. As a reminder, the three parts of the creative approach are: observe, question, and respond. We arrive at the second part: question.

During observation mode, you took a good look at your surroundings, a practice I encourage you to continue for the rest of your life. Now it's time to ask some questions, even the silliest, most ridiculous ones; there is no bad place to start.

As I've mentioned in other places on this site, "what if" is one of the most important questions you can ask to get your creative brain in gear. Asking, "what if" can lead to some very big ideas, but it starts out small.

What if the mailman really wanted to be a psychiatrist? What if the birds outside my window started singing Elvis? What if my commute took me through a secret tunnel to a magical world made of creamed corn?

All fine questions. But let them lead you somewhere more practical. What if I took time to say hi to the mailman (or woman, or mailperson) and find out what their interests are? What if I took a little time every morning to pause and listen to the birds chirping before getting caught up in the usual routine? What if I shifted my schedule or carpooled to shorten my commute?

“What if” is a great place to start, but don’t stop there. There is an endless list of questions you could ask about an endless number of things. The point is to get your mind working in a certain way, to open it up for possibility and potential and then to hone in on a purpose. If I can wonder about the possible existence of some magic city built upon creamed corn (instead of rock and roll), then finding a way to get my life a little more organized isn’t such a stretch.

Let your questions take on more focus. Write down a few problem areas in your life (start with small ones) and begin to ask questions about those. For example, if your problem is: I don’t get to sleep early enough, you might ask yourself the following: why do I want to get to bed earlier? What keeps me up so late? Do I know other people with this problem and what have they done? What will happen over time if I don’t fix this?

Questions lead to new thoughts which lead to change. However, it isn’t instantaneous. Just as it takes an entire novel for a character to complete their arc (sometimes a whole series), it will take time for you to change, for you to become a change-bringer. However, questions are an important and necessary step on the yellow creamed corn-brick road to change (yeah, it’s more than super corny, it’s kinda gross).

Once you’ve spent enough time asking questions which lead to other questions, like any good detective, you will eventually want some answers. Stay tuned for the next and final gripping post in the series: THE RESPONSE! (I’ll leave your mind to play that dramatic horn sound)

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, when has a question led your mind down unexplored avenues? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Links to the rest of the series:

The Creative Approach

Observe

Question (current)

Respond

observe

2017-09-12-observe_v001.jpg

What you are about to read is a continuation from my series, The Creative Approach.

As you may remember, the three steps to a creative approach are observe, question, and respond. Let’s tackle that first one: observe.

What does it mean to observe? 

Open your eyes. Seeing those words, I can’t help but think of the opening lines in the song, “Always,” by Erasure, which is obviously about the endless struggle to be creative amidst a contrary society. Alright, it’s open to interpretation. 

Where were we … oh yes, observation! So, where exactly should you begin? Why not start at your own front door? Step outside and take in the world. Take off your headphones for a minute and look up from whatever mobile device you’ve been glued to. This is more than a brief glance—let it all in.

While you’re in observation mode, don’t worry too much about trying to get something out of it. Just let things come to you as you discover them. Notice all your senses: what are the sounds, smells and even tastes? Don’t go licking light poles though, people might call the authorities on you—trust me on this one. 

Consider, how do you feel when you first step outside? Refreshed by the first breath of a new day, reluctant to be shoved around in a tight crowd like cattle, dread for an oncoming storm? Is it hot or cold, wet or dry, windy or calm? What sorts of people or animals are nearby and what are they doing? What do nearby buildings or landscape features look like? All these things may seem mundane at first, but when you really stop to take notice and record, you will begin to see things you haven’t seen before.

One common struggle is to look outside oneself. We spend the vast majority of our time thinking internal thoughts about our own wants and needs and, because of it, our surroundings go unnoticed. 

To be creative, you first have to appreciate your environment. Your environment is where you can draw inspiration. To be stuck inside your head all the time is to miss out. As you begin to look around, you’ll be surprised how a shift of focus will change the way you see the world.

A friend of mine recently published his first children’s book, What Do You Notice, Otis? I love how it encourages kids to pause, observe, and interact with the world around them. Sadly, this has become a neglected practice for many a person (regardless of age) today.

Observation isn’t hard, most of us have just gotten out of practice. But anyone—even a distracted, oblivious guy like myself—can do it. 

For example, on my drive to work I’ve noticed many things I found peculiar: a man wearing blue latex gloves while driving his beat-up silver Honda, another guy holding his leaf blower upright and swinging it as if he were playing a guitar, a girl with a large brace on her leg following her friends who were all in fancy dresses, and a young man who didn’t appear to be homeless with a sign asking for college money. Each of those could be the makings of a good story.

Now it’s your turn; take a moment to pause and observe in the world around you, or, even better, schedule some time and find a place to so do. You might even want to take a journal along for recording purposes. 

When you stop to look around, you’ll discover a world which was previously hidden to you, though it may have been right under your nose (it also helps you avoid stepping into anything … unpleasant). This will set off the sparks to ignite your creative drive and get those wheels in your head turning right round. Besides all that, you’ll find observing can be very fun (I myself am an avid people-watcher).

 

Here’s looking at you kid,

A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, do you make it a point to stop and take in your surroundings? If so, what have you noticed lately? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Links to the rest of the series:

The Creative Approach

Observe (current)

Question

Respond