Take Action

Have you ever wondered why some people fail and others succeed? I've been curious about this question my entire life. At 25, I've lived just enough life to see friends I've grown up with make something of themselves. Some are now lawyers, doctors, celebrities, and others are still at the same place in life they were at 18 years old. Why is this? Some say it's environmental, other studies show it's time management, education, etc. I want to take a few minutes and raise some thoughts that aren't exactly in the self-help books of success.

As 2018 started, I reflected on what 2017 taught me. I realized there were points in 2017 where I was creating so much and other points where I was lazy and unmotivated. Have you ever been at that point – laying in bed wondering, "how did I get here?" I had a few of those last year. Through those moments I learned a lot about myself. I'm inherently lazy, as much as I want to be a morning person, I like to sleep, and most importantly, if my mindset wasn't right, I wasn't budging.

How does one go from lazy and unmotivated to feeling as though they've conquered the world? Ok, so that might be a little bit of an overstatement. For me, it has everything to do with mindset and environment. I'm going to share a few points on things that have helped me become more motivated and less likely to stay in bed all day. Disclaimer: I'm not one to read books or post on Top 5 Habits of Successful People, or Eat these three things to become a better Communicator, personally I think it's all BS. You've got to create a system that works for you. There isn't one path to success, these are just a few things I've learned over the years to help me focus and get work done.

Turn It Off

This is something new I've been doing and it's helped me focus more than anything else. When I start working on a project that I know needs full attention, I turn my phone off. Usually, during the day I keep it on silent and turned over on my desk. This ensures that I'm dictating my day instead of my phone directing where my time goes. This is probably a good time to mention that I have no notifications turned on. I receive texts and email popups, everything else is turned off. This seriously has become a lifesaver for me, that way I'm checking my phone when I schedule that time to do so.

Morning Routine

Unfortunately, I don't always follow this, but I'm definitely getting better at creating and sticking to a routine. I don't check my phone first thing in the morning. I don't want to get sucked into the abyss that is Snapchat or Instagram stories. I try my best to get up, have my coffee, and open a book. It's like prepping your mind for a more focused and productive day. You could even call this a meditation time, a time to clear your head before the craze of life happens.

Dwell in Joy

This is probably the most life-changing piece of the weird puzzle I'm creating. Mindset and attitude is everything. Choosing to wake up, be thankful, and be happy is one of the biggest components of productivity for me. Regardless of where you're at in life, choosing this mindset develops habits of gratitude that benefit not just you, but others as well.

I'm not sure that any of these suggestions are prescribed by the self-help books of today, but I do know that they've been working for me. I'm realizing more and more that the life we desire is ours to create if we simply take action and create it. Environment, resources, and ability aside, it all comes down to you. To quote Ghandi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Get out there and start creating.


Thomas Edison once explained that in inventing, "the first step is an intuition–and comes with a burst–then difficulties arise." What set Edison apart from other inventors is tolerance for these difficulties and the steady dedication with which he applied himself toward solving them.

Life is hard. Work is hard. Dreaming is hard. The good news is, it's okay to be discouraged, but it's definitely not okay to quit.

I failed this week. I failed big time and it's only Tuesday. But as I've been reading and studying the past months, I've become okay with pioneering into the unknown only to end up a total failure at the end. Fortunately, failure shows us the way. I seem to talk a lot about failure on the blog, but I'm growing more and more okay with doing so.

This month I'll be 25 years old. Quarter life crisis time (Is that a real thing?). It might sound crazy but I've been a little stressed out. My mind hasn't been clear, I haven't been as productive as I need to be, and I'm failing more and more each day. However, in all of this fear, emotion, and stress(?)–gosh I sound like a 16-year-old-girl–I've found that persistence is the key. Keep waking up, keep pursuing, keep hustling. As I think about men like Thomas Edison and the persistence they had, I realize what truly being able to create means. That in itself is persistence. Youtube star, Casey Neistat, is always saying, "Just keep uploading," that in itself is persistence and a true testament to what makes someone great.

My point for today's entry is simple. I'm going to keep failing, keep grinding, and keep persisting. It's the only way. This five-minute write was a much-needed therapy session to myself. Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

People Pleasing

People pleasing is a disease. Click To Tweet

I've suffered from this my entire life. The desire to make anyone and everyone happy. Whether that is in my personal life or business life, I've gotten myself in a lot of trouble because I want to make those around me happy. Today I was able to have a much-needed come to Jesus moment with a few close friends and with myself. This brings me to the deeper question of what it really means to say "no." I'm horrible at this. However, what makes a good leader and an even better boss is being able to say no. I did some soul searching and wrote down a few things I observed about saying no and how I can be better at setting personal and professional boundaries.

  • A question is simply a question, not an obligation.
    • Just because someone, maybe someone of significant importance to you, presents a question; doesn't mean you are obligated to say yes. Saying no even when it's uncomfortable shows that you're taking steps to create boundaries.
  • It's not personal. 
    • So many times I think that if I say no to someone they are going to take it personally. No doesn't mean you're saying no to the person. You're simply saying no to the situation.
  • People Pleasing sets unrealistic expectations.
    • If you're in a situation where you're always the "yes man" this creates a cycle of unrealistic expectations not only in your business life but personal life as well. Add money into the mix of this one and you're destined for a horrible meltdown at some point.
  • People Pleasing will take you down.
    • Let me balance this by saying, people pleasing isn't hospitality. It's the abnormal desire to always say yes, always be available, and always be the one to turn to – but none of this in a good way. Over time people pleasing creates passive aggressive tendencies, reduces the ability to enjoy people and activities, and lastly creates burnout. I realized in most of my people pleasing that I was forgetting about the most important person, and that's myself.

Taking care of yourself is essential. In your personal life and business life, people are expecting you to be the best you there is. It's hard to take care of yourself if you're always on for other people. So how do you combat this? I've taken a few steps this year to get my people pleasing under control. Here are a few things I'm doing that might help:

  • Turn everything off.
    • I've started segmenting my time. At the office my phone and all social media stays off for a period of time, then once I complete x, y, z, I take a break. The most important example of this is my mornings. I like having time to myself in the morning. This means I've had to get up earlier and I don't even look at my phone until about 8A each morning. By waking up around 6A(ish) this gives me a solid two hours to read, reflect, and invest in myself before I start the day.
  • Email isn't everything. Communication is. 
    • If you're like me and work in an environment that requires constant communication, it can be hard to not instantly respond. I've found that making you schedule clear to your friends and clients is essential. For example, I've started a series of "days" at the office. Design days, communication days, fun days, etc... If we're having a design day, I'll simply post an away message on my email informing everyone what's going on. It's simple. Clearer communication.
  • Forget social media.
    • My life and about half my income is dedicated to social media, so it's impossible to actually forget. However, if you're wanting to be productive and get things done, limiting social time is essential. Social media creates fragment in our leisure/productive balance. I was getting to the point where I'd check twitter while I waited for a browser to load, next thing you know, 10 minutes later, I finally managed to get back on task. These fragments add up and you're ability to achieve deep work dwindles.

Wishing everyone a Happy Monday! Thanks for following along on this journey to be come more productive and produce more work that matters.


Voting in 2016

On this election eve, I felt the need to address something that I've been thinking about for almost a year now. We see celebrities, politicians, our peers all say "go vote," "it's your civic duty," or "your opinion doesn't matter if you don't vote."

The reality is voting is your right and only that. It's not a duty, it's not a moral obligation – it's a right. If you feel conflicted whether because of religious or personal beliefs, no one should make you feel inferior for not participating in a voluntary act.

This election has been so heated and the American people are more conflicted than ever. We need educated voters to step up and vote. We need young people who believe in the democratic process to vote. We don't need those who are simply voting for "the lesser of two evils." Am I out of line for saying this? Does this go against everything America stands for? I don't believe so. Look at the Evangelical community, they didn't even turn out to vote in mass until the 1970's.

If you are at odds between the two candidates, it's ok, take a deep breath with me – it's going to be ok.

Personally, I feel there is a clear choice in this election. I was conflicted at first, but then I took a big look at a few key points that were important to me. This allowed me to go in, vote, and feel confident about my candidate. You might feel the same way but still be in the dark. It's ok. For those of you that are passionate about either candidate and are educated on the issues - VOTE. This is your time to represent your country and candidate using your right given to you by the United States of America.

I leave you with one of my favorite Roosevelt quotes:

A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.
- Theodore Roosevelt

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.