12 Secrets to Unlocking Your Most Creative Work

One of my favorite bloggers/photographers/creatives is Chase Jarvis. When I started working in the "creative field" he was my go to guy for advice, mentorship, and solutions to a lot of problems. Chase posted a blog in August that I've help shape the way I'm living my life in the season I'm currently in. I wanted to repost it in hopes that it may help someone else who struggles with the ADD/ADHD/OCD/ABCDEFG lifestyle. If you have a spare 15min, give it a read.


A lot of my breakthrough creative thoughts come to me when least expected. I’ve talked about “finding creativity” and “creative inspiration” all over the damn place… on podcasts like this and this (twice for example) or given a keynote on it here at SWSW.

That said, I’ve also learned from an entire life in the trenches as an artist what DOESN’T contribute to them (abusing myself, bad head space, partying too much), but more importantly, what does… I’ve learned that creative inspiration is something that can be directly CULTIVATED by putting yourself in a fertile environment. So I’m going to let ‘em rip. Here’s MY personal recipe — my day to day list — of things, states, and activities for cultivating maximum creative inspiration… and I’m guessing it’s different (and more achievable) than you think it is…

1. Keep a Schedule
This one is super counter intuitive to most — and why I’m leading with it here… For nearly my entire life I thought that schedules were meant to keep my creative self DOWN… that a schedule was the devil. That you had to live a life like Jim Morrison from the Doors to find creative inspiration. Come to find out that doing what you can to keep a schedule is supremely helpful for your creative brain. And I don’t mean 9-5… but I do mean some semblance of a schedule. Taking photos every day, writing first thing every morning, headphones on and painting from midnight to 2am every day…whatever works for YOU is what I mean. But the more you can schedule worktime, the better. Science tells us this, but so does my own lifetime of experience. The funny part? To this day it’s still my biggest challenge. 

2. Meditation
I spoke briefly about this with Austin Kleon on cjLIVE and with Tim Ferriss recently, but trust me: it’s a doozy. Every day, I put 20 minutes aside when I wake up in the morning and before dinner at night to sit quietly and just be still. I practice Transcendental Mediation (TM), but I’m not recommending a particular kind in this post here… I’m just saying that meditation works. It’s made the single biggest difference in my life’s ability to perform at a high level and run the kind of gnarly schedule that I run. What’s the effect? Clarity. My ideas are more clear than ever before. You’ve heard athletes like Michael Jordan talk about seeing the game around them develop seemingly in slow motion? Well that’s what happens to the chaos of a packed life when one meditates. This are infinitely more manageable, things are less prone to get me off my game — and … here’s the kicker… my creative thoughts come more freely. I find it 100x easier to get into that creative “flow state” I’ve talked about before and that science backs me on

3. Regular Exercise
Just like I thought schedules use to suck, I had no idea that being active contributes a huge amount to my ability to kick ass as a professional artist. Staying fit and getting your heart rate up during the day has even been shown in studies to increase creative connections and cognitive ability. When I’m in Seattle I go to this gym. When in SF, I see this guy. But given that I’m on the road about half the time, I’ll sneak in this 7-minute workout every day. Turns out that even just a daily 10 minute run can change my headspace. 

3. Get Plenty of Sleep
Like a lot of creative types, I’ve had a tendency in life to do a lot of my work late at night, or to forego sleep in favor of staying out or waking up early to get a head start on the day. I used to be proud of operating on 4 hours of sleep — and I did that for more than 10 years — with gusto. I thought it was my tool for getting ahead. But, while there’s no substitute for hard work, sleep is nearly just as effective. This is something I’ve learned very recently. Sleep is like the wonder drug. And I use it as such. In the same way I use (but don’t abuse) caffeine, when things start getting sloppy in my life, I go to sleep. Seriously. I will carve out a couple nights for 10 hours of sleep… and voila. I’m back on my creative game. (This is an other subject I touched on with Tim Ferriss on his podcast.)

4. Take Breaks During Your Day — and Take a Walk
It’s been shown scientifically that there is a link between talking walks and creative boosts, and I’ve found this to be true in my own life, too. Although TBCITOTWY, I occasionally take walks without my phone/camera & think about photographs that I would take (saying to myself “that’s a photograph, that’s a photograph” while imagining what scenes might look like if I shot them.) But it’s even more important for me to take a walk and do nothing but observe. Observe the light. Observe other people, observe the world. Walking is also a kind of kinetic meditation, without pressure of having to produce. Talk a walk.

5. Get Away
I try to take small steps far away from work as often as possible. I’ll hit up the family cabin for a night, take a road trip, get out on our little boat for a few hours, etc., as often as possible. Sure BIG travel counts… like getting away on vacation, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about just a few hours, or an overnight… something to get you some physical separation from your stressors. For example, I got the idea for the Seattle 100 portrait project while lying in my hammock (on a break from work – where I went home for lunch and to chill out). I got the idea for doing the Best Camera app while up at our family cabin on Camano Island. Get some separation if you can, even if just for a couple hours.

6. Read More Books
As mentioned above, I spend a crazy stupid amount of time on planes, so I got into this habit of reading a LOT about 10 years ago. And I haven’t stopped. I intend to publish a reading list soon, so I’ll avoid going deep on titles here. But the point is to read… Get inspiration from others. My favorite genres are artist biographies. Second favorite = deep dives on any topic that I’m fascinated with at the time. Whether that’s the history of the internet or the psychology of creativity. Third favorite? New school books on business, and connecting your work with your life in a meaningful way. (Business wasn’t innate to me – everything I know, I read about or learned the hard way). Oh… one more genre….books that my friends write. I’m fortunate to have a wealth of friends who best selling authors and writers of great books. Couple recent examples = David duChemin’sRyan Holiday’s, and Adam Braun’s most recent books. I’ve also listed several books before that will recharge your creativity. More to come on this topic in future posts….

7. Learn to Teach Yourself / Hack Your Learning / Learn Online
It’s no secret that I got my start by teaching myself how to do what I do, but to this day, I’m an avid proponent of self-learning. Learning is not passive. It’s insanely active. In truth, that was a big motivation for starting CreativeLive, then taking that even bigger, so that YOU can have the opportunity to teach yourself -while following along with the top teachers and “do’er’s” and a worldwide community all your own.

8. Visualize Success
One of the best ways to stay creatively pumped is to do some visualization. It doesn’t have to be rigorous. I can be like letting yourself daydream. But it just so happens I do this with intention. I like to actively Remember why I started and think of what you want the end product to look like. One of my recent successful gigs — a campaign shoot for Samsung — was a literal visualization that came to me in a recurring dream. I kept picturing what this image from my mind would look like in real life (as you see in the video) and by the end of the shoot we’d made it happen. The point isn’t really about creating your dreams, it’s about believing you can be successful at whatever you choose to imagine. 

9. Immersion in Other Forms of Art
This is a big one: it’s crucial to get perspectives outside your chosen career/hobby/job/etc. This is one of my biggest “secrets” (but that I’ve been sharing for a decade.) Most of the things I applied to my own career that set me apart, came from thinking about / using influences from things outside of photography. To learn light? I took up oil painting. To learn how to shoot sports, I looked at fashion. And the list is a mile long… One of the reasons doing #cjLIVE is so essential to me is that I get so much interdisciplinary input. I’ve had musicians, artists, designers, writers, speakers, travelers, entrepreneurs, business titans, and more — all sitting right on my couch to chat for an hour or more at a time. These are my friends. This is where I get my inspiration. Talking to people in other disciplines informs my art, my work, and my side projects. Not only that, but it inspires me to do things outside of my comfort zone… and things that are completely unexpected in MY profession. It helps me be different, not better.

10. Make Things Every Day
Science says it, and I experience it. When I’m making things everyday — whether it’s writing or taking a photo or doing some — ANY creative craft… your brain pushes into new neural pathways. Quite literally creativity creates more creativity. The rote act of doing your craft — or ANY craft — is a primer for more creative mojo. Do not underestimate this. (My keynote on that topic here.)

11. Find Adventure
Put simply, I live in 2 modes: the adventure mode and the quiet mode. Adventure — whether that’s travel or putting myself in danger, or “living large” or whatever floats your boat… Putting yourself in the mode where you’re being stimulated and taking information IN is a critical mode for me. And I’d be it will be for you. Get into adventures. And…. then see #12.

12. Find Quiet
In contrast to #11 above, great ideas do NOT come in the heat of battle. Science says this as does my own personal experience. When you’re out in the world seeking inspiration and adventure, you’re most certainly “getting ideas.” But it’s actually the synthesis of the inspiration and ideas of others that makes the real difference in what you OR your ideas can become happens in synthesis. It’s the connecting of ideas into new ones where your greatest accelerants will happen. And this requires some calm after the storm. It requires quiet. It’s why your best ideas happen in the shower or before bed or when you wake early… because there’s less noise in your world at that moment. Find more time like that. Trust me.

So, there you have it! Those are a few creative tactics that’ll up your creative game. I talk about this stuff a lot (and here’s another post on “creative habits” right here if you dig this stuff). As always, I’m sure you have dozens of your own tricks and experiences too. Of course feel free to share them in the comments below or on Twitter/Fbook/G+. I’d be all about learning some more creative ninja mojo from you as well.


Why You Shouldn't Follow Your Passion?

My friend Austin sent me this article this morning of TV personality Mike Rowe responding to a message from a viewer. This discussion is unbelievable, take a read for yourself. (Original link at the bottom).


Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” has made a habit of going viral on the Internet by responding to fan questions, like the time a fan told him to prove he was the real-deal and wasn’t living a posh celebrity lifestyle and Rowe responded by giving a photo-tour of his apartment.

On Tuesday it was Stephen Adams of Auburn, Alabama who wrote in questioning anow famous speech in which Rowe said “follow your passion” was the worst advice he’d ever received.

“Hi, Mike. Let me begin by saying that I love what you and your foundation are attempting to do,” Adams wrote. “However, I’m confused by your directive to NOT “follow your passion.” I think it can be safely argued that if no one followed their passion, companies like Apple, Microsoft, Dow, and many more wouldn’t exist. If no one follows their passion, who innovates? Who founds companies that provide jobs for the outstanding workers that your foundation aims to help?”

Rowe’s complete response can be found below:

Hi Stephen

A few years ago, I did a special called “The Dirty Truth.” In it, I challenged the conventional wisdom of popular platitudes by offering “dirtier,” more individualistic alternatives. For my inspiration, I looked to those hackneyed bromides that hang on the walls of corporate America. The ones that extoll passersby to live up to their potential by “dreaming bigger,” “working smarter,” and being a better “team player.” In that context, I first saw “Follow Your Passion” displayed in the conference room of a telemarketing firm that employed me thirty years ago. The words appeared next to an image of a rainbow, arcing gently over a waterfall and disappearing into a field of butterflies. Thinking of it now still makes me throw up in my mouth.

Like all bad advice, “Follow Your Passion” is routinely dispensed as though it’s wisdom were both incontrovertible and equally applicable to all. It’s not. Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it. And just because you’re determined to improve doesn’t mean that you will. Does that mean you shouldn’t pursue a thing you’re passionate about?” Of course not. The question is, for how long, and to what end?

When it comes to earning a living and being a productive member of society – I don’t think people should limit their options to those vocations they feel passionate towards. I met a lot of people on Dirty Jobs who really loved their work. But very few of them dreamed of having the career they ultimately chose. I remember a very successful septic tank cleaner who told me his secret of success. “I looked around to see where everyone else was headed, and then I went the opposite way,” he said. “Then I got good at my work. Then I found a way to love it. Then I got rich.”

Every time I watch The Oscars, I cringe when some famous movie star – trophy in hand – starts to deconstruct the secret to happiness. It’s always the same thing, and I can never hit “mute” fast enough to escape the inevitable cliches. “Don’t give up on your dreams kids, no matter what.” “Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have what it takes.” And of course, “Always follow your passion!”

Today, we have millions looking for work, and millions of good jobs unfilled because people are simply not passionate about pursuing those particular opportunities. Do we really need Lady GaGa telling our kids that happiness and success can be theirs if only they follow their passion?

There are many examples – including those you mention – of passionate people with big dreams who stayed the course, worked hard, overcame adversity, and changed the world though sheer pluck and determination. We love stories that begin with a dream, and culminate when that dream comes true. And to your question, we would surely be worse off without the likes of Bill Gates and Thomas Edison and all the other innovators and Captains of Industry. But from my perspective, I don’t see a shortage of people who are willing to dream big. I see people struggling because their reach has exceeded their grasp.

I’m fascinated by the beginning of American Idol. Every year, thousands of aspiring pop-stars show up with great expectations, only to learn that they don’t have anything close to the skills they thought they did. What’s amazing to me, isn’t their lack of talent – it’s their lack of awareness, and the resulting shock of being rejected. How is it that so many people are so blind to their own limitations? How did these peope get the impression they could sing in the first place? Then again, is their incredulity really so different than the surprise of a college graduate who learns on his first interview that his double major in Medieval Studies and French Literature doesn’t guarantee him the job he expected? In a world where everyone gets a trophy, encouragement trumps honesty, and realistic expectations go out the window.

When I was 16, I wanted to follow in my grandfathers footsteps. I wanted to be a tradesman. I wanted to build things, and fix things, and make things with my own two hands. This was my passion, and I followed it for years. I took all the shop classes at school, and did all I could to absorb the knowledge and skill that came so easily to my granddad. Unfortunately, the handy gene skipped over me, and I became frustrated. But I remained determined to do whatever it took to become a tradesman.

One day, I brought home a sconce from woodshop that looked like a paramecium, and after a heavy sigh, my grandfather told me the truth. He explained that my life would be a lot more satisfying and productive if I got myself a different kind of toolbox. This was almost certainly the best advice I’ve ever received, but at the time, it was crushing. It felt contradictory to everything I knew about persistence, and the importance of “staying the course.” It felt like quitting. But here’s the “dirty truth,” Stephen. “Staying the course” only makes sense if you’re headed in a sensible direction. Because passion and persistence – while most often associated with success – are also essential ingredients of futility.

That’s why I would never advise anyone to “follow their passion” until I understand who they are, what they want, and why they want it. Even then, I’d be cautious. Passion is too important to be without, but too fickle to be guided by. Which is why I’m more inclined to say, “Don’t Follow Your Passion, But Always Bring it With You.”

Carry On
Mike

Original Article

What do you think? Comment below.


50 Things About Millennials That Make Corporate America Scared Out Of Their Mind

In 2013, Joel Stein deemed Millennials the “ME Generation.” The TIME contributor called Generation-Y selfish, egotistical and lazy. He also noted, however, that we may just be the generation that will save us all.

Per usual, no one knows what to make of us. Our parents scorn us, then praise us. They lament over our technological dependency, then ask us to set up their iPads. They tell us we’re lazy, then ask us for a loan.

Our generation is an anomaly. We refuse to do things their way, so they call us entitled. We refuse to sit in cubicles, so they call us spoiled. We refuse to follow their plans, so they call us stubborn. What they are slowly realizing, however, is we’re not lazy, stubborn or entitled. We just refuse to accept things as they’re given to us.

We refuse to accept that life must be dictated by a job we hate. We refuse to go to work in suits and ties when we’re more productive in sneakers and graphic tees.

We refuse to adhere to work schedules that don’t work. We refuse to allow the corporate culture to suffocate our creativity. We no longer see adulthood as the end of our childhood, but the beginning of something even more liberating.

We’re not going to hand our souls over to men in suits or women in pencil skirts. We’re not going to work for companies we don’t respect. We’re not going to wake up every morning dreading the 9-to-5. But we’re not going to sit back and sulk either.

We’re going to innovate. We’re going to change the game. We’re gonna show our parents, Corporate America and everyone else who refuse to take us seriously that we’re not lazy, entitled nor egotistical. In fact, we’re the kids who are going to take your jobs and throw them away.

Like that girl you can’t understand, Corporate America has gone from scorning us to fearing us. The bosses don’t understand why we’re not pleading to work with them, why we’re not wearing suits to interviews and why we aren't trying to make a good impression on them.

They don’t understand why we’re not lining up after college for a spot on their factory lines. They don’t understand why we don’t want to make five figures under fluorescent lighting or why we’d rather be broke than bored.

We gave you a shot, tried you out and decided you weren’t for us. We saw how you treated our parents, grandparents and the bottom percents and realized you weren’t that good of a guy.

Much like why our generation is full of more singles than any before, we’re just not willing to settle. We’re going to keep doing things our way, keep striving for that ideal life, even if it makes everyone else uncomfortable.

1. We play by our own rules.

2. We don’t take the first answer given to us.

3. We don’t care about getting into trouble.

4. We’re willing to work for nothing if it means being happy… Despite being in debt.

5. We know how to beat the system.

6. We’re always trying to change the game.

7. We have social media on our side.

8. We like a good fight.

9. We don’t care about the perks.

10. We hate that “good ole' boys club".

11. We’re not about climbing the ladder, we’re about circumventing it.

12. We ask for what we want rather than implying it.

13. We’re not afraid to quit if we don’t like what’s going on.

14. We’re not on that suit and tie.

15. We’d rather start work at 10 and finish at 10.

16. We’ve got youth on our side.

17. We don’t have a chip on our shoulders.

18. We know technology.

19. We’re more educated, by the book and the street.

20. We’re not interested in office politics.

21 . We have less to lose and everything to gain.

22. We don’t pursue the paycheck, we pursue the passion.

23. We have that "all or nothing" attitude.

24. We are trying to beat the system, not just work with it.

25. We don’t have to go to college to get ahead.

26. We’re getting married later and working younger.

27. We’re listening to our women.

28. We want freedom more than anything else.

29. We would rather die a slow death than sit in cubicles.

30. We know they need us more than we need them.

31. We distribute the news, not the other way around.

32. We don’t care as much about profit as we do the product.

33. We’re willing to listen to one another.

34. We understand whom we’re talking to.

35. Social stigma's are out the window.

36. We’re open to listen to those who don't have the same views as we do.

37. We know what makes us happy.

38. We know what doesn’t make us happy.

39. We learned from our parents mistakes.

40. We’ve defined them, they haven’t defined us.

41. We’d rather travel and be poor than be rich and never see the world.

42. We don’t take life too seriously.

43. We understand we’re all going to die someday.

44. We’d rather have experiences than bank statements.

45. We refuse to hate what we do.

46. We know there’s always a better way.

47. We want careers, not jobs.

48. We have passion.

49. We have morals.

50. We have each other.


Link to Original Post: http://elitedaily.com/life/50-things-millennials-make-corporate-america-uncomfortable/758330/ (My post has been modified)


4 Time Management Tips For Leaders [ReBlog]

I get to meet lots of leaders. Some are young, some are old, but without a doubt the ones who get the most done always manage their time well.
Most young leaders I meet have no idea how to manage their time. I’m one decade into what I pray will be a lifetime of ministry, and I have made plenty of mistakes, but there are four time management tips I have learned. I pray these will help you as you grow in leadership, by God’s grace.

1. STOP

Most young leaders do too much. In my early twenties, I tried everything out and was average at lots of things, but not good at very much. It was a smorgasbord of singing on a worship team, leading a community group, running a video camera for live events, making announcements, overseeing activities at a summer camp, and on and on. The only connection was that I did them all. I was well on my way to epitomizing the slogan, “jack of all trades, master of none.”

Most young leaders do too much.

It’s fine to try things out, and it’s natural as young leaders find their place. But eventually you need to find what you are uniquely able to do that others can’t do.

The New Testament church is often called the body of Christ. Paul explains that members of the church have been given gifts and need to work together as members of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12). How has God uniquely gifted you? What has he called you to do?

2. SABBATH

It was my first vocational ministry job as a youth pastor in an established church. I was new to the church, students, and ministry rhythms. There was much to do, and I was excited to do the work. For the first few months, I could not stay away from the church. On my intended Sabbath day I would sleep in, but eventually I would go to the church because there was work to be done. Those months I wore myself out because I did not allow myself to rest.

Eventually you need to find what you are uniquely able to do that others can’t do.

You have to take a day off to rest or Sabbath. It is counterintuitive, but you are actually more productive when you take time to rest. God set the pattern for us when he worked for six days and rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2). When you take the time to Sabbath, you should not only rest, but also connect with your Lord and Savior. Learn to rest.

When do you Sabbath? What does your Sabbath look like?

3. SET PRIORITIES

Make sure what’s most important gets done. As a young communicator in ministry, I would get everything ready for that week’s service before starting the message. In my mind, it was more efficient to get 9 of 10 things done than to get 1 of 10 things done. As you can imagine, there were lots of bad messages taught and preached. Leaning into my natural gifting was not enough to make up for not prioritizing my preparation.

You are actually more productive when you take time to rest.

Having a to-do list can help you get things done. Having a prioritized to-do list helps you get the most important things done. Setting priorities allows you to arrange your time to accomplish your goals. Even Jesus stayed focused on the mission he was sent on.

What’s the most important thing for you to accomplish this week, this day, and this time-block?

4. SAVE SPACE

Ministering to people happens when you least expect it. Working for a church, I quickly realized that people dropping in unannounced was the norm.

People needing to meet with me, their pastor, started to mess up my schedule. Didn’t they know I had ministry to get to? I doubt many of those people left feeling well cared for by their pastor. God was kind enough to lead me to realize how wrong I was (Rom. 2:4).

Ministering to people happens when you least expect it.

Save space in your life for the unexpected. I have found that the random conversations, interruptions, and drop-in meetings often are some of the most fruitful times. I have learned to set aside margin in my day and week for people and things I did not plan for. Think of how many people Jesus ministered to who interrupted him along the way.

Where is the space in your life?

[Reblog, Original Article http://theresurgence.com/2014/02/27/4-time-management-tips-for-leaders]


Are You Ready For The Journey?


Climbing The Mountain

There once was a young man who lived in a valley. This valley was very deep in the woods surrounded by tick forest and vast rivers. His life was rough. It felt like every time he tried to leave his home and pursue something greater, something better than his valley, it was just one disappointment after another. He often dreamed that things would change. Sometimes he would make his way to a clearing in the valley and look up and the majestic mountain peaks that towered high about the valley where he lived. He would imagine himself standing on the peak of the mountains that surrounded him. In those few short moments he felt better, then he began comparing the mountain tops to his valley, and it only made him feel worse.

Read more