Day of Happy

Today’s post is inspired by Joel Robison‘s 100 days of happy project on Instagram! He just completed it last Wednesday! For this project, you take a photo of what you’re happy about in life for 100 days. While I’d love to participate in the project, I’m juggling this 365 project with work. Instead I’ve decided to blog today about things I’m happy about in my life!

A few months ago I bought Brooke Shaden‘s book “Inspiration in Photography” but I’m just starting to read it now! It’s so exciting to see an artist that I’ve watched grow on Flickr publish a book. It’s beautiful and I definitely recommend it!

After a couple weeks of procrastinating, I finally pinned maps onto the wall! It’s starting to feel homey in here!

With a gift card I received from my aunt for my birthday, I purchased Amanda Palmer’s upcoming book “The Art of Asking”. She’s a wonderful human-being and her music is fantastic. It’s incredible that she’s finally releasing a book!

Finally, Bath’s entire album “Obsidian” is incredible. I think I listened through this album 3 times today because I love it so much! Seriously Baths is an incredible artist!
Those are today’s moments of “happy” or “appreciation”. Maybe in the future, after this 365 project, I’ll do a #100daysofhappy or something! It’s a wonderful project and I encourage you to check out the tag on Instagram!

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P.S. Still happy about this:

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Spreading Creativity

The more that I work on this project, the more I understand how creativity works. We are told that creativity flows through artists like blood and can be pulled from at any moment. While many of us wish this to be true, often we’re left with an empty mind when we first approach the blank canvas.

Instead, inspiration and creativity flow like an unreliable water pipe. Some days we have fresh, clean water with high pressure, and other days we’re stuck dry. That’s why it is important to bottle that water when you have it. Write down your ideas and use them when you need it.

When you are feeling incredibly creative, usually you don’t have enough energy to complete all of your ideas. There’s too much thought and only so little time in the day. If you want to be successful, you have to find a way to spread your creativity.

 

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Creativity is a Habit, Cultivate it!

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Earlier this week I wrote about Twyla’s book “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life“. It’s my second time reading it and I really enjoy the writing style, the content, and beauty of the book. The design is incredibly pleasing and I couldn’t help but pick it up again.

In one of the chapters, titled, “Rituals of Preparation”, Twyla explains how creativity is a habit that we form rather than a gift from the gods. People used to believe that inspiration was divine, coming from the heavens when the gods granted it. Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat.Pray.Love.) has talked about this in one of her TED talks. While society no longer believes in Greek (or Roman) gods, we still linger to this idea that inspiration is external, generating from outside of us.

Twyla argues that inspiration comes from routine, and, thus, is created inside each person. She uses herself as an example, explaining that each day she wakes up at 5:30am to go to the gym. By establishing this regularity, she’s able to routinely create. Rather than waiting for a lightning-strike of ideas, she’s preparing herself to do her art. In this way, Twyla believes creativity comes from hard work rather than spontaneity.

Her book elaborates further but I’ll leave that for you to read.

To test this for myself I’ve started my routine. Working at night has altered my sleep schedule and I find myself sleeping through most of my free time. This week I’ve decided to change that and start going to bed immediately after I finish work. By going to bed a few hours earlier, I can get up at a decent hour.

When I roll out of bed in the morning, I begin the day by running 2 1/2 miles. This kick-starts my metabolism and jolts me awake. After finishing I have a big breakfast and sit down to write (much like I’m doing now). This simple routine improves the quality of blog posts, my mood throughout the day, and the amount of time I have for the activities I love. I find that I don’t feel pressured to write (like I do at 2am), and I can think clearly.

Nothing in this process directly generates inspiration or creativity, however I feel like I have an overabundance of both. It’s the accumulation of these tasks that support the artist inside. By doing the same activities daily, I wear into them. This is why writing daily, or a 365 project, works so well: you build the habits of creating each day.

When I combine the artistic task (writing) with other routines (waking up early, running), I build a system where my mind understands when to be creative. I get up, go for the run, and, internally my head goes “it’s time to create!” Then the creative juices flow and bam!, here we are.

While today is only day two of this experiment, I feel like I already agree with Twyla Tharp: creativity comes from hard work. There will be moments where you feel struck by lightning with new ideas but you can’t wait for the lightning to strike. You have to work for an environment that cultivates your creativity.

Again, I highly recommend this book. Look I’ve already linked it three times!

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Over the past few days my building has been repainted and, while doing the job, they disconnected the public WiFi. I’m updating the last three days of posts as we speak!

 

The Rise of the Jack of all Trades

Finding your skills can be difficult, so two months ago I took a survey on Authentic Happiness that measured my 24 character strengths. My number one character trait was “Love of Learning”, and I think that it fits me well. People describe me as a Jack-of-all-Trades because I have a very broad range of interests. Needless to say, it wasn’t a shock to be told that I’m passionate about learning.

Currently there’s a stigma in our society that we need to specialize and that being a Jack-of-all-Trades is a bad thing. It stems from the phrase, “Jack-of-Trades but Master of None”. We think that if you have too many interests, that you cannot be skilled in more than one area.

This is a silly thought because with how much information passes our faces, it’s near impossible to choose one interest. This conflict stems from grade school, where we’re taught to “pay attention” and to “focus” on school work. The teachers tell us that it’s bad to lose focus or to daydream. What’s worse is that we think these traits are for children and that we’ll eventually grow out of them.

As we age, we believe that we need to focus on one subject. We should go to college and be a doctor or an accountant. The truth shows itself when you look at statistics about college students: at the University of Florida, 61% of students change their major (NYtimes). People simply have a difficulty in choosing one interest.

“Shop Class as Soul Craft” (Mathew B. Crawford) discusses this dilemma extensively. It focuses on how we’ve shifted from a society that desires “to know” into one that desires certificates and diplomas. It’s self-evident that we learn from a young age to focus on one category and get that diploma. This model of education and learning has destroyed Aristotle’s statement “All human beings by nature desire to know”.

The Jack of all Trades is rising in popularity again because we have a large volume of information at our fingertips. During my parent’s era, if you wanted to learn, you had to go to the library and find a book. Today, you can pull out your iPhone and learn about polar shifts or current quantum theories.

However, the education system is still built on specializing in one area. You either become a mathematician or zoologist. At best you can major in one area while minoring in another. You can’t minor in too many subjects or you’re clearly not a specialist. This sentiment lingers into our personal lives: we believe that we should only have a few interests.

As a Jack, I follow what I’m interested in. If I hear an electro-swing song and it has my fancy, I’ll go listen to more of it. When I’m scrolling through Facebook, articles grab my interest. Maybe one will be about animal testing in Europe and the next will be about the FIFA World Cup. It doesn’t matter what it’s about, as long as I’m interested in it.

Tim Ferriss has written about this on his blog, and he’s spoken about it in interviews before: our society measures success with dollar bill signs instead of with invigoration. The goal of life should not be to become rich but to instead to be passionate and interested. If you are bored, you have failed.

If we reorient the purpose of our life from getting a well-paying job into a life that we are passionate, you’ll find that the money doesn’t matter. When you find excitement in your daily life, you have succeeded. The more interested you are, the more you’ll find happiness in life.

When I took that survey a few months ago, I gained an appreciation for learning. I’ve found passion in my daily life and while I choose to specialize in certain areas, I don’t limit myself to one subject. If I find something that interests me, I follow it until I no longer fancy it. I urge you to do the same thing; find what lights a fire in you and make it part of your life. Blogging was a spark to my belly full of fuel, and I’ve felt more alive since starting this project. People aren’t born passionate, they learn to cultivate it in themselves. Find what you love and chase it, life is too short to stay in and watch TV everyday.

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Oh, and here’s some of the photos in color from yesterday!

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Life is in the Small Moments

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When you stand in front of a huge space, your mind wanders. You realize that in the grand scheme, you’re tiny. Your purpose on Earth doesn’t matter in the long run. You’ll be dead in another 60 years, or before this century is over. The world you will leave won’t be very different from today’s world. At the very least, we will still have wars, a separation between the poor and rich, and oppressive or manipulative governments.

These moments that make you feel small, hold onto them. When you realize you’re not important, you’re suddenly free. The obligations that you hold yourself to are gone. Jack Kerouac wrote, “No matter what you do it’s bound to be a waste of time in the end so you might as well go mad.”

Your life is too short to hold back your passions. To others around me, I look like I’m running around in circles. I chase every whim of passion that I find. This week I like painting, so I find an easel and do what I love. Next week I may love writing, so I’ll chase that too. Photography was a whim that I stuck with for a long time. Passion will invigorate you and make you feel alive, so when you find it, hold onto it.

The purpose of life is to be alive. If you spend much time staring out at the world, you’ll miss out on what you could become. These grand gestures, they’re not the purpose of life. You can’t spend your entire life waiting for these feelings that make you feel alive, you have to find what makes you jump with joy and smile wider than your face can handle.

Then you put yourself completely into it: emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Do it as much as you can and until you can’t do it anymore. Push yourself into it. Tell others about it and fill your voice with passion. Smile with your eyes and let them know that you’re alive. Let yourself know that you’re alive.

When these great moments come, they make you feel small. They remind you that you’re human and mortal. We feel alive when we experience this because we know that our time is limited. When we grow appreciation for our passions, we feel small. We realize our short time on Earth and recognize that we don’t have much time to do everything.

That feeling you get when you have those grand moments can be experienced daily. Find the fire within yourself and throw coal on it. Cultivate what you love into your life and you will be fully alive. Life is in the small pleasures, not waiting on the grand moments to happen. Grab life by the foot and chase it down until the end, that’s really all we can do to become passionate and alive.

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There is Never Enough Space!

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The limits of the human mind stretch only as far as we can imagine them. Or this is what I thought when I was younger. Before I got my first regular job, it seemed like I could process an endless amount of information. As the 9-5 wore on me, my energy started disappearing and I’ve found myself with a mind full of ideas that I don’t have the energy to process.

The image above is of my work area in my room, which isn’t that big. I’ve always been a believer that your mind is infinitely larger than any area you could work in. To make my space fits this idea, I have 6 white boards which are constantly changing. Although they’re small, they are great scratch-pads that I constantly have access to.

The two that are on the left are my most used, they face me when I get out of bed. These are erased almost daily and consist of extremely short-term goals. If I’m having a rough day and can’t organize my thoughts, I’ll write out what I need to get done. Some days this may be: “eat, do laundry, write email to ____, go to bed at 8”. Ideas for my daily blog posts appear here as well and can last for a few days.

The one on the bottom right is called my “If I could do it, it’s here” board. It’s a place where I write all my crazy dreams: the famous people I want to interview, the shots that require traveling to the other side of Earth, and all the locations I want to go. Many of these dreams need a lot of money (walking across northern Spain), fame (interviewing Emily Haines of Metric), or otherwise seem impossible. At the end of the week I erase it and start a new dream list. I know which dreams are valuable because they show up continuously for months.

The two on the top right continually change and are just used as blank space where I can write concepts out. The board on the right has bands that I want to explore. You know that feeling when you’re hungry, so you go to the fridge and find that you don’t have anything you want to eat? The names written here are to feed me when I feel particularly bored with the music I have.

In this image you can’t see the calendar/whiteboard to the left of my desk. This is where I write out ideas that need planning. To be honest I haven’t used it as much as I should but I’m reassured that I could organize my time if I had more of a need to.

Finally, I have a large whiteboard that sits next to my bed. It’s the master whiteboard where I directly organize my thoughts. When I’m reading a book that had too much information or I want to digest the content more effectively, I write out the ideas here. Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek has many complex ideas that I understand better when I’ve written it down. This board also is used when I’m creating an interview and I want to do research about the person I’m interviewing. I can digest information better from a distance – that’s why these boards do.

Now that I’ve explained my space and process, why do I need to organize my thoughts? Am I some sort of crazy person? Well, I’ve found that my ideas are much more complex and multifaceted than I can process. Think about all the projects an artist has done and how much information it is. By writing it down in front of you, it becomes easier to digest. You can see that two projects overlaps or that a person took a hiatus.

Furthermore, I’ve found that I use my time more efficiently. In the past, especially during this 365-project, I’ve made the silly decision to write late at night. This is a bad idea because I am horrible at coming up with ideas at night. If I have a whiteboard of ideas in front of me, I find that I can write about any subject.

Even today is an example of this: it’s currently 11pm and I just started writing. By putting down these ideas, I have been able to write on a subject and create better content. While it isn’t the best idea to procrastinate writing, I find that recording notes throughout the day helps me write later at night.

What are your techniques for retaining inspiration and ideas? What does your work space look like? I find that I use post-it-notes often and write on many notebooks. Do you do the same? Let me know in the comments below!

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The Tim Ferriss Show

If you haven’t heard of Timothy Ferriss, you need to go read his brilliant books “The 4-Hour Workweek”, “The 4-Hour Body”, and “The 4-Hour Chef”. Each book is based on of Ben Franklin’s model of “Healthy, Wealthy, Wise”. They break down into experiments that Tim has conducted on himself and his friends. It ranges from living the life you’ve dreamed to how to catch a pigeon with your hands and cook it. During this 365 project I’ve written about concepts inspired by his books, especially “The 4-Hour Body”.

Recently, Tim has started sharing podcasts with friends. Each one is so unique that they’re difficult to explain. If you read any of his content, you’ll enjoy his talks.  The one that’s below was his first podcast and the rest are available on his website http://thefourhourworkweek.com/

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