This is what you need to create

Uninterrupted time is the fodder for creativity. As yeast is to bread, solitude is to the creative process—essential.

Without the quiet moments and lingering stillness, words that move us wouldn’t be as moving, paintings that stir us wouldn’t be as stirring, inventions that help us wouldn’t be as helpful.

Creation best happens in the quiet while you are lost in your thoughts, connecting disparate ideas, forming new ones. That occurs when no one else is stirring, during the twilight mornings before the dawn breaks or long after others are fast asleep. When they rest, you work.

You seek silence because you know that’s when inspiration roars.

It’s in those moments, you get lost in the matter at hand, discovering a deep satisfaction, mesmerized by the task, as you enter a state of flow; and it’s just you and the work, dancing freely.

Being alone can be more than just productive; it has been known to produce tears, weeping even. We can’t be isolated for too long. We are meant to be with others, connected.

Yet, solitude helps us connect with humanity differently. It may not be like grabbing coffee with a friend, looking into their eyes as they speak, hugging them as they go; it’s a different kind of connection. What we create enters into the meta-conversation. It’s making a statement to the world. It’s the act of handing others something useful, compelling, beautiful.

When we create, we give the world ourselves.

In solitude, we love.

An important thing I learned from being laughed at

Everyone laughed, and I was the butt of the joke. I hated it. But I realized something about life. 

A group of us sat around a large circular dining table, and a newly married couple started talking about how they met. It was a great story with surprising twists and turns. And then a guy shared about him and his girlfriend and how he wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. So I said something from my story to comfort him. It was revealing and somewhat vulnerable. But I thought it would help him, so I put myself out there. Then he turned it around and made it into a joke about me–and everyone laughed heartily.

It felt like being kids on the playground, except we were in our thirties and forties. It was silly, but real.  

It’s most introverts nightmare—to be outed, and publicly, and I’m an introvert. The embarrassment didn’t show on my face. But it was there, along with disappointment and disdain.

Afterward, as I played the moment over in my head more times than I’d like to admit, I was tempted to stop opening myself up to others. It seemed futile, useless. But truth be told, the utility had nothing to do with my reaction; I just wanted to protect myself. 

And I realized that I shouldn’t let any person stop me from giving of myself, being vulnerable, sharing my story—even the revealing parts—and living as I ought. Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly (affiliate), writes that vulnerability is fundamental to our being.

“Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”

Brené Brown

We shouldn’t let others stop us from sharing our lives, opening our hearts, living with purpose. The cost is too high: we would lose you.

You have ideas, insights, knowledge, feelings, stories that can impact those around you for good. They are the inner workings you’ve been ruminating on over the years. Share them. Yes, someone may make you the butt of their joke; they may transport you back to middle school. But that doesn’t diminish the great value you can give to the world. Give generously.

Be vulnerable.

Sometimes to forget is the most powerful thing you can do

Sometimes forgetting is the best thing you can do to become who you were meant to be.

Forget that you feel like a failure and that you can’t do this or that and the mistake you made back then.

Forget thinking that you’re not enough, that you don’t look a certain way, have the credentials, talent, network, or the perfect quaff of hair.

Forget comparing yourself to others who have more of more—more money, friends, cars, sex, lovers, homes, children, followers, beauty.

Forget the shame and guilt that you carry around you like lead weights; you aren’t what you think you are; you are far greater, more magnificent and beautiful than you can imagine.

Forget the anxiety, the negative stories, the imperfection, the stress, the haters and the hate. Forget all that hinders you from reaching your potential.

And remember this.

You are enough.

This book will blow your mind

If you haven’t read Range, by David Epstein (affiliate), you need to. It will change the way you think about thinking.

Most of the world holds the notion that experts are what we need, people who are hyper specialized. Ten thousand hours are what it takes to succeed, is the belief (it’s what I believed). They are the authorities; they are the ones who will change the world, cure cancer, untangle the perplexing complexities of the universe, push us into the future. But that often isn’t true. 

Range delves into that. It is an amazing exploration and explanation of how you can become great at something, and it’s surprising. 

The anecdotes he uses are compelling. Some of the most accomplished people in the world became great in unexpected ways. They started their craft, sport, education, much later than you think was possible to rise to the level they did. They will inspire you.

For those of you who are in midlife like me, life isn’t over. Some have recreated themselves, learned a musical instrument well enough to play professionally, started high growth businesses, lived a whole new life later in life. It’s possible. It’s in the book. 

When I read it, I felt like I had new life breathed into me, allowing me to see my potential, abilities, and future anew. It gave me hope. 

You see, I’ve had a windy and strange career. I hopped and bopped around: ministry, data-entry, banking, business, entrepreneur, creative strategist are the positions I’ve held. Now I blog, too. Yes, strange, I know. 

And I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that I was insufficient because I was the farthest thing from a specialist. If I had ten thousand hours in anything, it was changing course, which I believed couldn’t be valuable. 

But Epstein helped me see that I was wrong. He made me realize that my disparate experiences are a virtue, not a vice. 

They are what help me add value because I can borrow from one experience and provide a fresh view in a completely different area. That’s what has helped me survive, even thrive. It’s what helps me ideate for my clients, start a business, think. 

However, Range isn’t just for generalists. If you are a specialist who wants to find new, fresh ways of thinking, read this book. 

Or if you are a person who wants to make a change or has changed a lot and wonder what good you can create in the world, Range will open your eyes. 

Parents, if you’re wondering how to help your children succeed, this is incredibly insightful. It’s helping me reframe how I deal with my kids. 

If nothing else, this book (affiliate) will stretch the way you think. 

It will give you range.

The one thing you need to make more of to grow: mistakes

Perfectionism doesn’t help us progress; mistakes do. 

With the right mindset, they push us forward. We need to know that succeeding isn’t neat and tidy; it’s sloppy and messy. It’s mistake-ridden. 

When you make a mistake, it lays the groundwork for improvement. Every failure is an attempt to do something. And in those attempts, you experience this and that. You test a hypothesis; you discover. You see what works and what doesn’t work, and you can understand something new about yourself. 

Sure, making a mistake is painful, and it’s tempting to want to ignore the failure, avoid it. But that would be a waste. That would be a bigger mistake than the mistake you’re trying to forget. 

Mistakes are a goldmine for growth and learning. But you can’t learn and grow from them if you ignore them. 

If Steve Jobs didn’t get fired from Apple, he wouldn’t have learned what he needed to learn to come back and become its successful CEO. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, said that he’s made billions of dollars of failures. And without those costly mistakes, his company wouldn’t have grown, making him the wealthiest person in the world. 

One of my biggest mistakes was taking on some wrong business partners. I was the one who pushed for partnering and got it. In the end, it got me. And it almost broke me. 

But as I healed and recovered, I changed. I got stronger, smarter. And I am much more careful when it comes to partnerships. I learned. 

And this blog post is a product of my mistake. If I would have never failed at those partnerships, I don’t think I would have ever tried blogging. I grew. 

You see, we are mistaken about mistakes.

They hurt like hell at the moment, but they are blessings. If you understand them aright and try to learn from them, things won’t just get back to normal; they often get better. 

So make more mistakes. Take risks. Try new things. Put yourself out there. Learn.

And you will find that a mistake can become a marvel.

Sometimes rest is the best thing for your work

We want to succeed, improve our work, write better. So we grind away, working more, harder, believing that’s what we should do. 

But that’s wrong. 

Yes, we need to work hard. And yes, that often equates to long hours, dogged days, grinding away. 

Yet, there are times when no matter how many hours you put in, hard work just doesn’t work. In fact, working harder works against you. 

When the ideas stop flowing, solutions don’t arise, or words stop prancing from your fingers, that’s a good indicator that you need to do something different, drastically different. 

That’s when the best thing you can do is this. Stop. Walk away. Rest. Roll your chair back and take a walk around the block, maybe even go for a hike. 

Sometimes even that’s not enough. You need to unplug. Get out of your phone, out of the state, out of the country, for days, weeks. You need to get lost. 

You need rest. 

Resting can be the best thing for your work. It’s where you can recharge your energy cells, your brain, your heart, your soul. 

When you’re lost, read a book, a novel, something entertaining, something that makes you laugh. Paint a landscape painting, journal in your Moleskin, drink good wine. Do anything else but work. 

And you will feel yourself being restored; the space to recuperate will leave you refreshed. You will be renewed. You’ll feel the energy to work return.

When you get back to your desk, you will find that the ideas will flow afresh, solutions will come anew, and words will dance from your fingers again. 

As a result, your work will be better. 

Great work comes with good rest. 

How change can make the best of you now

Change is scary. But we can learn to face it and turn it to our advantage. 

The reason we fear change is because we can’t control it. It often happens to us. 

And we see it as adversarial: Change is the enemy and is messing with my life. Change is changing what I don’t want to be changed. 

We can fight it. But that tactic usually ends badly. 

But we can alter the way we view it. 

Change is a chance. It’s a time to grow. We can try something we’ve never done before and expand our mind, practice, life. 

We can’t change change, but we can choose to change ourselves, our actions, our language, our thinking.

Change is painful, but, if we think rightly, it can mean progress. 

By changing the way we see change, viewing it less as a burden and a thing to fear and more like something that helps us, grows us, pushes us to be better; we change. 

Now, instead of change happening to us, it’s happening for us. 

It needn’t be torture. 

It’s a teacher. 

What do you think about fear?

Fear is no way to live. It keeps you from doing what you want, what you should do. 

It causes you to freeze when the moment calls for moving forward. You hide when revealing yourself is better.

Safety is not always sound. 

Sure, it protects us from risk, from possibly dying, losing. 

But living in fear doesn’t help us win. Staying alive doesn’t mean you’re living. 

Open your heart, put yourself out there, get in the game, do. 

There is more to fear than just failure, pain, and death. 

It’s not living.

Improve your life with this one simple word

“No.” 

It’s hard to say it. It’s true. 

We want to help everyone; we want them to like us; we don’t want them to think badly of us. So we say yes. 

But the truth is that we can’t help anyone very well when we are overwhelmed. And always saying yes is overwhelming. 

And that’s no way to live. We don’t want that. Yes obligates. Yes binds. Yes is busy. 

But no isn’t like that. No frees. No empowers. No opens. 

Saying no gives us the space to say yes to what we are called to do, do what we believe we ought to do, become who we were meant to be. 

Doing this is a decision. You can choose to have a manageable schedule, space to think, time to rest, freedom to be. 

Yes or no.

It’s your choice.