Step Into "What's Next" with Integrity and Intention
In any endeavor that matters, it's one of the most important questions you must ask yourself. "Is this worth it?"
When do you hang on? When is the right time to let go? These are big, hairy, wicked questions to which there is no absolute answer and rarely a clear one. Turns out, however, that an answer lies in your attachment to your work and the stories you tell yourself about it.
Creative’s of all stripes (and you are a creative), struggle with attachment. You love your work and those you do it with and for. You can’t help but fall in love with both the work and the people.
Which makes it really hard to quit and walk away, even when doing so will serve both your best interests and those of the people you work with and for. Seth Godin speaks frequently to these issues. His advice? "Ignore sunk costs" and "Recognize the Dip."
Sunk Costs are investments made in the past that were poorly conceived, are outdated, or aren’t serving you or your...
“Look inward. Don’t let the true nature or value of anything elude you.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.3
Appreciate or value? Creatives really wrestle with the distinction. So do thoughtful members of their audience.
There are several ways to express appreciation for worthwhile endeavors. Clapping, a smile, maybe a nod during a live exchange. A “Like,” “Comment,” or “Share” during an online one.
But when you value someone’s efforts, you go a step further. You invest, tip, or otherwise contribute. You validate and encourage efforts worth supporting.
What do you appreciate? What do you value? How do you express each?
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
P.S. - Do you...
“Have I done something for the common good? Then I share in the benefits. To stay centered on that. Not to give up.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 11.4
The bookstore and library have a Self-Help section, but not a Help-Others section.
Humans are inherently social and collaborative beings. There's an evolutionary imperative for this. In the beginning, we were neither the strongest nor the fastest creature scuttling about the landscape and there were stronger and faster creatures out there eager to turn us into lunch.
It was banding together that enabled us to survive. This led to language which led to the development of our neo-cortex. And this all led us from being frightened furballs hiding in caves to becoming the hairless apes that dominate the planet.
Fast forward to today. We've discovered that living and working with others boosts not just our productivity and success, but our mental, physical, and spiritual health and happiness. There's plenty...
I listened to a podcast a few days ago during my cemetery run that featured Sam Harris and Dan Dennet arguing about free will. It was an interesting, but ultimately fruitless, exchange.
Are we the masters of our destiny or our lives fated?
The answer is unknowable and even if it was, knowing would be more harmful than helpful.
Either way, each of us has a role to play.
The most helpful and healthy approach to the question of whether our lives are decided by us or by providence is this. Accepting that life doesn’t simply happen to us but through us. This is the path to experiencing more well-being and prosperity in our work, lives, and relationships.
In each and every moment we find ourselves in is the opportunity for us to choose how we frame our circumstance and what we decide to do next. At the very least, we are in charge of these choices.
Stepping forward with thoughtful intention, generous motivation, and an aspiration that is giving and kind is a choice we can...
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.” - Viktor Frankl
Work worth doing, concepts worth pondering, talents worth cultivating. These require a desire to embrace challenges and uncertainty with curiosity and courage.
The importance of commitment, dedication, consistency, generosity, and resilience are not unfamiliar to people like us.
But fear of failure is also a constant companion when you’re engaged in endeavors that matter. So are anxiety and Resistance. These forces try to push you to the convenient, the boring, and the dumb through guilt, shame, and a false sense of security. They tempt you to remain humble and hiding.
The good news is that there are workarounds, antidotes, and alternatives to fear, anxiety, and Resistance. These solutions exist in many traditions and disciplines. But I offer these “answers” by ancient Stoic philosophers on how to avoid to the urge or...
Do you spend more time than is healthy focusing on outcomes that are beyond your control? I know I do! Attachment to results that are beyond your determination is not just unhealthy, it's a path to suffering.
In any moment all you really control is how you frame things and what you do next. Whatever the situation or circumstance, you can choose to see the opportunity.
It's likely you will encounter adversity, a complication, or some predicament today. Maybe you already are. How will you face it? Will you wish for things to go your way, or will yourself to find the opportunity?
Keep flying higher!
"You must build up your life action by action, and be content if each one achieves its goal as far as possible - and no one can keep you from this. But there will be some external obstacle! Perhaps, but no obstacle to acting with justice, self-control, and wisdom. But what if some other area of my action is thwarted? Well, gladly accept the obstacle for what it is and shift your attention to what is given, and another action will immediately take its place, one that better fits the life you are building." Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.32
Your life, your work, your year. When you look back at each of these, you can lose sight that they are built from months, days, hours, and minutes.
But it’s in each moment that you have an opportunity to start, or try, or test.
Each moment provides you an opportunity to face obstacles, misfortunes, and challenges with clarity and equanimity.
Each moment is a chance for you to succeed or fail, but always to learn, to grow, and to...
“All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment, action for the common good in the present moment, and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way.” — Marcus Aurelius
I had a fascinating discussion about Stoicism and creativity recently with my friend Chris Gill, Professor Emeritus of Ancient Thought at Exeter University. Chris is a deep thinker, a humble soul, and quiet dispenser of profound wisdom.
During our chat, we discussed acceptance.
As human beings and creative souls, we so often and easily attach ourselves to things beyond our control. Recognition, compensation, the opinions of others. These may appear important. They aren’t. The measure of our worth and that of our craft is reflected in how we approach them and toward what purpose we intend to serve.
We don’t control how we or our work are received. We must accept what comes. Resisting this is a path to suffering.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
Do you seek excellence in the work you do or an endeavor you engage in? How do you "level up" in an enterprise worthy of your time and effort?
It's one of the most profound lessons I learned in Seth Godin's altMBA.
Work we do for others is done better when it's done with others!
I believe in Epictetus' maxim, "Progress is not achieved by luck or accident, but by working on yourself daily." But that "work" is pretty useless if it doesn't also elevate and enhance the lives of others. Toward that end, the advice of Seneca comes in handy. "Associate with those who will make a better person of you."
Find your people. Peers to train with, encourage, and support. Mentors, guides, heroes, and teachers to learn from. In turn, share, teach and train those you serve.
Navel gazing, self-help, and personal development that doesn't serve a greater good are pretty pointless (and a bit...
“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist
when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso
In The Stoic Creative, I assert that creativity is an inherent human impulse. If you don't agree, think back to your childhood. A time you were a fearless and unselfconscious creative. Who doesn't remember playing with blocks or dolls, drawing and coloring, dancing and singing songs, or simply telling stories?
There are some interesting studies on where creativity comes from, but I find how creativity happens far more interesting. How is it that you struggle so hard to be creative one moment, only to have inspiration strike "out of the blue" during a walk or shower?
I don't care where creativity comes from, I'm just grateful that it comes! And I find regularly sitting down to work is an invitation creativity finds difficult to resist.
Like a cat, creativity paces warily out of reach when you call it, but as soon as you sit still and turn...