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“Is my life coming together, or coming apart?” Great question. …Activity vs. Achievement.

March 28th, 2012 No comments

Dare to Dream: a T_Haus self-portrait.

Hi, Creative Beasts. This question is one that a friend of mine posted on facebook, recently–a Creative Beast, living in New York. I ask myself this question often, it seems, now, and it feels a bit like what I imagine log-rolling to be. We are living in tenuous times, my friends, that is one thing for sure. Even so, we must have faith, that indeed, it is coming together. We can make it happen, but we must believe that this is so–and make it so.

So then… the big question is:

How do we make it so?

Yes… so… how do we turn our wantem-so-bad-we-tastem-dreams into realities? I’ve been thinking long and hard on this one, and maybe–just maybe–herein lies the rub. What I mean by that is that maybe at times, we over-think things–which can then, put us into a tailspin, or worse yet–paralyze us. We get so overwhelmed by the possibilities before us, that instead of making a choice and acting–we do… NOTHING. Ugh. That said, I’m guessing most of us have something that we’re trying to realize… something that is challenging us in terms of gaining traction and momentum. So what are the steps, particularly if you’re feeling like you’re mission is something akin to spinning straw into gold? (And the truth is that once we really set our minds to it, the mission will ideally become more real, more manageable, and achieveable).

…Do you ever think that you give other people some pretty darned-good advice, now and then? Do you ever wish you could just give yourself the same quality of advice–and then follow it? Could it be, that we need to be better consultants to ourselves?

Over-thinking = activity. NOT achievement. Stop agonizing over things that are out of your control.

Here’s the deal:

I don’t think I’m the only Creative Beast who has gotten herself stuck in the hamster wheel of life. That said, how do we get out? We need to jump, right? You have to make a move, other than the uphill climb on the exercise bike to Nowhere. Because here’s the deal, again: you’re working like hell and getting worn to nothing–FOR nothing.

Figure out your options. 86 the ones that won’t help you. Employ the ones that will. But then, again, how do we choose??

Okay… so this may be the tough part.

Making the right choice.

Let’s think about this for a moment. What kinds of choices are there? There are practical/realistic choices, there are gambles, and then there are some choices that include elements of each. The old saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Now, while this has been proven over and over, we have also seen examples of fools who put all their eggs into one basket, only to see the basket wind up on the ground–eggs destroyed. Even still, to not make a decision, is probably–the worst decision.

Can we balance it out?

I think we must. Find something that works for you that will keep you going… keep you afloat… a lifeboat, if you will. Dream careers don’t always start out that way. Look at the creative people around you. Some of the successful ones make it look easy. Usually, this is due to long hours–in most cases, years–of hard work–and plenty of mistakes along the way–that most of us never see. But if you ask them, they will tell you their stories. Most truly great people have battle scars. It’s part of what has made them great. So, that said, we must choose wisely, but not too cautiously. Remember, if we risk nothing, we gain nothing.

So what’s in a lifeboat?

And how long can it sustain us? A lifeboat will have what you need to survive, but not indefinitely. It’s a short term solution. You need it to get you to a larger vessel–or to land. A “lifeboat” could be an interim or temporary job, or a series of gigs… it’s a step to help you along. Just don’t get too comfortable, because that’s when you will suddenly find yourself up Shit Creek with–you guessed it–no paddle.

Distractions

Mostly try to avoid them. I say “mostly,” because sometimes they can’t be avoided. Stay on track. Stay focused. Keep your eye on the prize. Occasionally (and this is probably more appropriate when you’re feeling a bit more… caught up or ahead, shall we say), they are a good thing, but be sage about this.

The Bigger Picture

This would be your dream–and the vessel to the other side. I think the key is, here, that you want to have some idea as to where you’re going. Again, choices will present themselves, and like my old friend Bob Seger said in his song, Beautiful Loser, you need to “Realize that you just can’t have it all.” Figure out which dream you want most, and stick to it like there’s no tomorrow because, guess what? There might not be a tomorrow. But as long as you’re on the road, you can change your path, any time you choose. Right?

Break it down. Then build it up.

Every story is the sum of its parts. What are the parts? What parts are doable right now? As you begin to check things from your list, you will begin to see things take shape.

The Thing With Dreams…

They keep changing. So be flexible. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t continue to go after what you want, but if you’re too rigid, it can hold you back. Few things in life are black and white. Be open to the changes and possibilities, eh?

So what’s my dream? Mostly to have the chance to live a creative life. More specifically, though, I have a huge desire to tell the stories of other creative people around the world, and that’s really where I want www.CreativeBeasts.com to go. So what’s been holding me back? I could say time, money and lack of resources, but I wonder if that’s really true. All the issues I’ve mentioned are ones that I’m trying to solve. I’ve been told that every problem contains its own solution. I like this concept.

What’s your dream?

Sharing your story takes courage and faith. Here’s one from my friend @MarkFairbanks about his creative journey that I think you’ll enjoy:

http://www.translatordigitalcafe.com/2011/11/getting-comfortable-with-being-uncomfortable/

Also, be sure to check out Hugh MacLeod’s (@gapingvoid) book, Evil Plans.

Tools and Techniques

Mind mapping

Listmaking

Meditation

Sleep

Exercise

Bravery

So. What do you think? Share your ideas. Let’s help each other out. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Peace and love, Creative Beasts. And of course–SEIZE THE PREY.

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Love, Inspiration and Why We Create. Happy Valentine’s Day.

February 14th, 2011 2 comments

Yes, Creative Beasts, today is Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air. Are you feeling it? I hope so.

What is love? It’s a feeling so powerful, that it’s almost impossible to wrap your head around it. While we may not truly understand it, we instinctively know that it is good. It can change things, and it can move mountains.

The word inspiration, literally means, “taking in the spirit.” When love’s arrow strikes our hearts, we are gifted with a new energy, and perhaps an altruistic vision that frees us to be brave and expand our horizons–and maybe even improve the world, if only just a little bit. Make no mistake that as confusing and even confounding as it may seem, at times–it is always a gift.

As humans–and as Creative Beasts–we are vulnerable creatures, and yet as Creative Beasts–we are already familiar with the concept of baring our souls. That’s just what we do. It comes with the territory, it’s part of the job description, etc., etc. When it comes to matters of the heart, however, we tend to get better at armoring ourselves as time goes on. How does this affect us and what we do? I think that generally, it’s fair to say that our work becomes more refined and better crafted because of practice, wisdom and dedication, and yet think of how much gets lost when edges become worn, in terms of our ability to feel. Whatever shape or form your creativity takes, part of its magic comes from a raw power–and part of that raw power is love. If you have it in your life, it is a very good thing. Be grateful. Recognize it. Use it. Respect it. Its energy will move you forward.

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.

– William Blake

Happy Valentine’s Day. SEIZE THE PREY.

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Creativity, Work and Community: Feeding the Need.

February 4th, 2011 3 comments


A Russian friend of mine once told me, “There is saying in Russian: ‘It’s better to have a hundred friends than a hundred dollars.'” Words to live by, perhaps? While it never hurts to have a hundred dollars in one’s pocket, having a strong community of friends is something that is difficult to put a price tag on. It’s amazing how it often seems to go, that when you give a little, you get a lot.

Thursday, I had the serendipitous fortune of running into some dear friends at the local cafe. We shared great conversations that gave me fresh ideas on approach, and left me feeling inspired and energized. That’s what I would call a good day. It’s what I would also call “invaluable.”

First, was coffee with Stanley–an old friend who was once a photographer, now a painter–always an artist. We talked about the struggles and challenges that creative types face, and how communities come into play. Artists and creative thinkers of all kinds are typically afflicted in some way, with both a need to create, and the standard animal will to survive. The need to create, or to transcend our existence as we know it, can lead us to all sorts of places. Some are dark and deep, some are thoughtful and fresh, some maddening, and others, though more rare, are brilliantly spectacular and enlightening. In many instances, creative journeys are solo ones, and thereby lonely. You work at your craft, whether it’s painting, writing, making music or developing theories. Sometimes you hate it. Sometimes you don’t know why you do it. Other times it thrills you. And feedback can equally be a bitch. Something–anything, at times–is rewarding. Someone can say, “Man, you suck. Give it up!” And maybe you’ve been waiting so long for any kind of commentary, that even that can evoke a feeling of gratitude.

“Wow. That guy hates me,” you think. …Cool!”

Stan and I talked about the varying value of different communities. What is a community? “Sharing, participation and fellowship” is one definition. For some, that can exist at the local tavern, but then that begs the question, “What is it that ties folks together?” Hopefully, it isn’t alcohol, though in some instances, that is clearly the case. With creative minds, I believe it is the underlying knowledge that we all struggle with a similar form of craziness, and part of that is the need to create. From time to time, this may actually end up surfacing as a clinical diagnosis such as bipolar disorder, A.D.D. or obsessive compulsive disorder. Interestingly enough, these so-called disorders are generally regarded as problems that need to be corrected. And yet, isn’t it interesting that many of the world’s most gifted–and frequently celebrated people–are in some senses, and for all intents and purposes–a little bit crazy? So what’s their secret? Stanley and I agreed that mostly, it’s work. Blood sweat and tears. Hours and hours of working one’s craft (which, by the way, is one way in which O.C.D. can come in handy). Work is the difference between the ones who break through to reach a certain level of alchemy, and everybody else. Van Gogh, Picasso, Einstein and Edison all approached their work with a manic level of intensity. Stan said that the value in having the chance to do the work you want to–or maybe that you were meant to, in life–is golden, compared to having a bunch of stuff, such as four car garages, lawns to mow and more TVs than you know what to do with. So it’s mostly work, and maybe after all the time you’ve spent preparing for some moment to arrive–a little bit of luck–and then there’s friends… community.

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.
– Thomas Alva Edison

So what happens to the others that take a less obsessive approach? All kinds of things–and sometimes–nothing. Some join into the corporate dynamic and make that world work. Fantastic. Some flop around like fish without water, going this way and that. Some cling to the bar community because it helps them to feel more… normal. Some find a way to neatly blend different worlds, which is remarkable. Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that the balancing act is usually rather precarious, and hey, finding one’s groove can take time.

When Stan and I parted ways, I was on my way out the door, when someone called my name. I turned to the table I had nearly passed. It was my dear, long-time friend, Fred; a graphic designer, artist and wordsmith. He beckoned me to sit and chat, and it was then that I decided that this day was meant for creative friends and conversations, so I did. He started by asking me what was up, and where had I been… usual ice breakers. I said that I had been laying low, and then added–“Well… I’ve been sorta poor, lately.”

“What? You’ve been boring?” he asked, wide-eyed.

“Ha. No, I said, ‘poor.'”

“Oh, I thought you said, ‘boring!’ I’d rather have you be poor than boring,” he quipped with a grin.

That simple statement made my day. And it led me to decide that I will never again in my life, state that I am or have been poor. I may not have a hundred dollars in my pocket to flit, but my friends–my loved ones–my community–make me insanely wealthy. My humble and deepest gratitude to you all.

What else? Oh, yeah: SEIZE THE PREY.

p.s. Febuary 7, 2011: I subscribe to http://GapingVoid.com/ to receive Hugh MacLeod’s daily cartoons via email, and this one, entitled, “The Hunger,” came in today:

http://bit.ly/gMkFOr

…I can’t help loving that it’s right in sync with my post, here, down to the very titles. Hugh has inspired me with his cartoons and words on countless occasions, and I am seriously excited to get my hands on his new book, Evil Plans, to be released February 17th, 2011. Congrats, Hugh!

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Sticking It To You: Exit Through the Gift Shop.

January 14th, 2011 1 comment

If you haven’t seen the film, Exit Through the Gift Shop is a must-see for every Creative Beast. Seriously–it’s your homework. What a mind-blowing story, and how well told it is. It’s got me spinning on several notions: 1) Anything is possible (especially with a bit of work and muscle behind it) and 2) to complain about the things that stand in one’s way as a creative person is an absolute and utter waste of time; especially when there’s so much work to be done and 3) might of most kinds–is mightier than money.

Mr. Brainwash

What makes great art great? Is it partly great marketing? Is great marketing simply great art? This is a film about a shopkeeper cum filmmaker cum artist. From this portrayal of the life of Thierry Guetta, a.k.a. “Mr. Brainwash,” I would surmise that it’s all of the above. Based on his works as a painter/street artist, the idea that he has come up with something earthshaking is questionable. On the other hand, it can be argued that the act of successful reinvention is alchemy at its finest, and indeed, a fine work of art. When MBW is viewed from this perspective, he tends to turn the art world on its ear. The film tells a few different stories; one being the life of Thierry Guetta, two being the emergence of the street art movement, and three being the life that art has all on its own, and how human beings respond to it. Perhaps what is most fascinating is the movement–or rather the motion of the artist, himself. What is it about art–and particularly, what is referred to as “High Art”–that makes it valuable and so deeply coveted? Is it the idea that it generally deals with things that are intangible or unattainable? Is it that it holds something that is thought to be magical and otherworldly? If so, then of course, it makes complete sense that by virtue of owning a piece of such magic, one is thereby and in effect, made magical as well.

Banksy

Creative Beasts are, without question, splendid and magical creatures. Or are they? Through Guetta’s lens, the film takes us on the journeys of several great street artists from different parts of the globe. We are shown that part of what makes their work revered by so many, is the sheer fact that they are a bunch of wild outlaws using public and private property for their canvases and materials, which automatically makes for instant intrigue, along with imagery that often challenges the status quo at its core. Guetta, for the greater part of the film, is shown as an observer–recording the images and scenes of his world, and those of the street artists he follows, especially that of the great Banksy of London (director of Exit Through the Gift Shop). In the end, the story almost plays like a sting, orchestrated by MBW, himself. We are then left with the question, “Was it intentional on his part? Or is he truly a fool among fools who somehow manages to get the last laugh as he innocently steals the bag of tricks from the artists/magicians he is surrounded by, and then uses them to take the art world and greedy collectors by storm, thereby making a farce of the entire scene. In the end, he ingeniously confounds one and all. That, my dear Creative Beasts, is beauty to behold. Smile and get on with it. The rest is simple: SEIZE THE PREY.

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A New Year. A New Wave.

January 2nd, 2011 2 comments

Katsushika Hokusai - The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

I’ve never been very big on New Year’s Eve celebrations–that’s not to say that there haven’t been ones that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. My 2010 New Year’s Eve was quiet, reflective, and very low key. I spent the evening with a friend that I’ve known casually for a while–someone who until recently, I would have considered merely a friendly acquaintance. Recently, however, we’ve become close, and I have come to value our friendship. I call this friend, “Smiley.”

To provide a bit of backstory, 2010 has been a mixed bag for this Creative Beast, with some decent highs, and others that were… perhaps neither good nor bad. There were times that felt pretty bad, in all honesty, and they did set me back. Yet in hindsight, the simple knowledge that I was able to make it through these trials–some of which I wasn’t sure how I would get through–has led me to a better place. I surprised myself in more than one instance with my resourcefulness, my tenacity and my will–and when I managed to accomplish certain things on both a personal and a professional level simultaneously–I felt pretty good… albeit tired. My point in mentioning this, is not so much to toot my own horn, but to simply say that waves do come. Sometimes they can take us up, and other times, they can crush us. The best we can do is to prepare if possible, and then paddle like hell. Those who are able to maintain higher ground may consider themselves “fortunate,” or “blessed,” or whatever they want to call it. As for fishermen and Creative Beasts… ’tis a seafaring life–which sometimes resembles a monster, and other times, something extraordinarily glorious… which brings us back to the reasons that we do the things we do.

Smiley and I reconnected a couple of months ago by pure chance, at a hotel, of all places. I was coming out of a networking meeting, and he was working on a story in the lounge. I didn’t expect it, but we ended up chatting for a while. He was keen to bounce thoughts off of another writer, and I was pleasantly refreshed after an hour of interesting-but-standard shop talk. The script aside, he seemed to have a lot of fires going, which intrigued me. Everybody likes hot burners, and particularly during cold weather. Looking back, I think what was most compelling about Smiley, was the fire in his eyes. As we talked, we agreed that perhaps there would be an opportunity to collaborate on some ideas.

Time went on, and the more ground we covered, the more we realized our stories were rather aligned. We had each had our share of waves, both friendly and fierce. We agreed that it was good to have dreams and vision. All of these things brought us closer together, and at the same time, kept us somewhat reticent in ways. Still, I was inspired by our conversations.

New Year’s Eve, though quiet, reflective and low key, was also pensive, heavy and occasionally dark. And I was feeling funky to begin with. Somehow, roads were taken that led us off the gleeful, celebratory path–not that we were really on it in the first place. From setbacks to friends who had committed suicide, and from dislikes to disorders, we covered just about every cheery subject we could think of. By midnight, we were totally out of steam and in no mood for noisemakers or confetti; let alone, champagne. If ever there was a non-roll, we were on it. Smiley went on to say how much he couldn’t wait to move back east. I had very little left to say, except that if that was what he wanted, then he ought to make it so. Mostly, I was just tired, and thinking about having to go in to work the next day. We finished our nightcaps in what was ironically, yet another downtown hotel lounge. We parted ways with half smiles and a short good-bye, each of us somewhat apologetic about our moods.

So at this point, you might be wondering the reason for this post. Ha. The post is about waves, and how they keep coming. This can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. A wave is going to take you somewhere, and that place can, indeed, be good… even great.

When I got home I was emotionally spent. One of the things I’ve never liked about the occasion–the anticlimax–had hit me in the face. “To hell with New Year’s Eve,” I thought.

In the morning, when I got up to take a shower, I looked up at the reflection of my Hokusai poster in the bathroom mirror. Yes, the image has become ubiquitous. So what? It’s powerful. Suddenly, it hit me, and suddenly, I was inspired again. “Fight harder. Ride the wave. Come back better.” That’s what it’s about. Pretty simple.

Smiley, my friend… this post is for you, and I’m glad we’re friends. Keep at it, and keep smiling. One way or another, we’ll get there.

Happy New Year, Creative Beasts, and by all means, SEIZE THE PREY.

p.s. It feels appropriate to add the lyrics, here. Feel free to sing along… Slainte.

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/w/waterboys/fishermans+blues_20145298.html

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Terry Jones, Book Burning, Sticks and Stones, and a Few Thoughts on Faith and Creativity

September 8th, 2010 No comments

A brief note to Creative Beasts throughout the land: Apologies if you may be startled by the rather political nature of this post. It is unusual, but I felt this was a poignant example of how strange the world of creativity can be at times, and how faith in whatever shape or form–always plays a part.

This is a story about a Creative Beast that comes from the other side, and in fact, it is the first time I have used the term, “Creative Beast,” to carry such a dark and vile meaning. I believe I must create a new term. From this point, this sort shall be known as the Anti-Creative Beast.

Terry Jones is a little pastor who is making a big name for himself, it seems. He preaches from his parish, ironically named “The Dove World Outreach Center,” located in Gainesville, Florida. His big plan is to burn a pile of qurans on September 11, 2010, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST, and he is calling the event, “Burn A Koran Day.” As if we don’t already have enough happy memories from September 11, 2001 to last us well over a lifetime.

First, some thoughts on creativity: I must commend you, Mr. Jones. What a truly creative way to express your faith. Could there possibly be a better display of your undying love and commitment to your Lord, than with the burning of holy books of the Islamic faith? Do you think Jesus will be impressed? Maybe you’ll get a special set of gold-tipped wings or something… And just never you mind the part about forgiveness, or “Love thy neighbor,” or “Love thine enemy,” or “Turn the other cheek,” or “Do unto others…” or “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.” Yeah, never mind that stuff, because you are doing your part to rid the world of “evil.” And it is perfectly evident that you are completely capable of making this judgment. So glad that you are in charge of deciding what is or is not “evil,” because God is probably really tired of having to make that call. Yes, it’s a fine job you’re doing, Terry Jones. March on, Christian soldier!

Now, for the sticks and stones: We all know the saying. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” But the truth is that words can and do hurt, and evidently, the treatment of certain objects can hurt, too. On the other hand, what, pray tell, can be said of a person’s faith if indeed, it can be boiled down to a symbol, such as a book, shall we say? Things, by themselves, are just things. A book has no power unless we decide to give it power. And faith isn’t faith if it is so easily shaken.

Terry Jones does not strike me as a man of faith, but rather, as an opportunist. He is greedily using September 11th as a platform. He uses people to stroke his ego and to lift him up, and he uses his God to get at them. His tactics are every bit as wrong and twisted as any terrorist of any faith. Regardless, he seems to be set on his plans, no matter how great the cost may be to American soldiers and Americans in general. And right or wrong, Muslims seem to be working up to a retaliation.

QUESTIONS:

I believe in the value of the first amendment and that of our constitution. Terry Jones has every right to express himself. However, I am conflicted when it comes to one’s actions. If actions indirectly bring harm to others under the wing of the first amendment, then does it not become self-defeating? One could argue that we are not responsible for how others react to what we do… and I would argue that that is an obtuse and disingenuous perspective that lacks vision and forethought. Mr. Jones has been called out by U.S. Commander General David Petraeus, who stated that Jones’ plan could “endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort [in Afghanistan].” If his actions put our troops at risk, they put our citizens at risk. In other words, he could threaten our nation’s security. Is “could” the operative word, here? According to the law, his plan falls under the description of “peaceful” demonstration.

Perhaps his demonstration will serve a greater purpose, which may be to show how our decisions affect things exponentially. Could it help societies to learn that just as it does not serve Mr. Jones well to function insularly, the same is true for all nations? In theory, the best laws are designed to benefit everyone, not the few. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

My hope is always that faith and creativity will find better and more peaceful ways to be expressed by true Creative Beasts, and that one day, people will grow tired of living and dying by the sword. And, of course, that the next Creative Beasts post will be a bit cheerier. Until then, and as always–SEIZE THE PREY.

For an additional and insightful look at this topic, check out Tunku Varadarajan’s The Problem With Burning Korans from The Daily Beast. http://thebea.st/9a22lP

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Why Be Extraordinary?

May 28th, 2010 11 comments

Who knows what lurks at the dark edges of The Great Unknown?

Indeed, “Why be at all?” One might ask, as so many have. What is the point? What is the purpose? What makes an artist an artist, or an explorer an explorer, and why should anyone care? There are plenty who try to make the leap, but fail. They will never see an inkling of what they would perceive to be a valid level of success. An aside: the term, “artist,” for the purposes of this post, means “One who creates or envisions at a quintessential level.”

Does culture reflect art or does art reflect culture? This question was posed last week in my group at the Creativity Works event in Milwaukee. I think it’s both. How is culture developed? Try this on for size: There are people who unwittingly (and sometimes wittingly) stomp on the spirits of those trying to make something great out of nothing. Or, they laugh or jeer. Anything to eschew whatever comes across as different, strange–and extraordinary. It could be dangerous, after all… or risky. Yet, invariably, they are the same folks who will celebrate the accomplishments of those that they had formerly dismissed or ridiculed–as if it had been their idea, all along.

Here are the definitions from http://thefreedictionary.com/

cul·ture (klchr)

n.

1.

a. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.
c. These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture.
d. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.
2. Intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced by it.

3.

a. Development of the intellect through training or education.
b. Enlightenment resulting from such training or education.
4. A high degree of taste and refinement formed by aesthetic and intellectual training.
5. Special training and development: voice culture for singers and actors.
6. The cultivation of soil; tillage.
7. The breeding of animals or growing of plants, especially to produce improved stock.

8. Biology

a. The growing of microorganisms, tissue cells, or other living matter in a specially prepared nutrient medium.
b. Such a growth or colony, as of bacteria.

tr.v. cul·tured, cul·tur·ing, cul·tures

1. To cultivate.

“Culture” is something nearly everyone wants to participate in, yet it is also something that only a few wish to work at or develop. Some cultures are random and shapeless, while others are hewn, forged and carefully defined.

Artists and entrepreneurs are often one in the same. Inventors and scientists–I believe, are, in many respects–artists on whole different level. They are pioneers and visionaries… and many times, they are outcasts and “crazy fools…” until they hit on something, and when that happens, so does culture, in a manner of speaking. It’s not an easy calling. To be an artist and to have a dream or a vision takes a commitment. Many sign up for film, music or art school–or medical school–only to find that it wasn’t the life that they had had in mind. There are no guarantees. The investment is costly, and the outlook on the ROI can appear very bleak. Because many times, it is. This is not something they tell you upon entering school. Afterward, many will teach or work in some related area while continuing to work on creative goals. Sometimes this works out well, and other times, not. We all need to find ways to survive, but finding the balance between work and creativity can be trying, frustrating, humbling and even crushing. Very few manage to obtain the opportunity to work solely as an artist–or to conduct research and experiments to their hearts’ content. Many will give up entirely and find something else that is easier. Fitting into a groove that someone else has already created is typically far easier than creating your own. Someone else has already taken the risks, the falls, etc. It’s not scary, and often, it’s pretty safe. Comfortable. For some, however, this prefabbed groove is not comfortable for some reason. It just never seems to fit quite right. We may even struggle and keep trying to fit into it, to finally come to the realization that it isn’t going to happen. It’s never going to fit. That is O.K. And that is the time at which we realize that to stand out–to rise to a higher plain–takes another kind of desire, attitude and level of commitment. The ones who push themselves to figure out how to cut an extra two or three hours out of each day–the ones who are willing to search and hunt and dig to find it–and who then take the extra effort it takes to put that extra pressure on that ugly little rock–are simply put–the ones who get the diamonds.

So why be extraordinary? Maybe the real question is, “Why not?” We get one shot at our time, here. Yes, it’s risky. Yes, it’s dangerous. And no, you don’t know how it will work out. Maybe the world is flat, and you’ll go sailing off the edge. And maybe you won’t. Who knows? The thing is… if not taking that chance to find out what could be–is killing you… then you already are extraordinary. The desire or even the need to put yourself out there, and to take risks–for everyone to see… your thoughts, your work, emotions and opinions–is not normal. Who gets up on a stage with no clothes on and says, “Hey, everybody! Look at me! What do you think??” Artists–entrepreneurs–Creative Beasts do. Regularly. It’s crazy. It’s brave. And it’s extraordinary.

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Feelin’ Nerdy.

March 26th, 2010 3 comments


Spring is in the air, here, in good ol’ Cream City, or as one of my nerdy pals likes to call it, “Old Milwaukee.” I think just for Ss & Gs, we should crank it up one more notch and call it, “Ye Olde Milwaukee.” Things always sound so much older when you put a “Ye” in the front, and an “E” after the “D.” Hells, yeah. Incidentally, there used to be a place down the road from me called, “Ye Olde Dinner Bell.” That place was so olde, I’m surprised I can even remember it. Ah, well. Seeing as how today is Friday, I thought I would have a little fun with Ye Olde Creative Beasts. Hunted for some viddies of some of the worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) local TV ads ever made. I couldn’t find the Milwaukee ones I was hoping for (anybody got Doc’s Fine Jewelers?), but here are a few fun ones nevertheless, along with my 1-5 star rating:


3 Stars.


Pretty frickin’ awesome. 4 Stars.

And this guy… Rudy. How could you not buy a car from him? Or get a pap smear? He’s adorable!

Ciento por ciento, excellente. 5 stars.

Okay, well, that’s about all the time we have today, Creative Beasts. Go on and get your nerd on. Happy Spring, Via con Dios and/or SEIZE THE PREY.

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So You Wanna Be Fascinating?

March 20th, 2010 4 comments

A guide to help us discover how and why we fascinate, and how we may increase our own levels of fascination.

Fascinate by Sally Hogshead.

This book is quite a read, and, indeed; a fascinating one. You’ll want to chew and digest these words slowly, Creative Beasts, and perhaps finish with a taste of fine Cognac (which, by the way, would be appealing to the lust trigger–and trust, because we know it will provide comfort). In her book, Sally Hogshead takes us on the fascinating journey of fascination using a style that succinctly and playfully pulls every trigger as we go along. It boils down to this: The seven triggers of fascination are simply the tools we use to communicate and respond to one another, but by learning about how they work–and becoming aware of their nuances–we may adjust our methods and levels of use accordingly in order to better persuade and captivate our audience. You can almost think of it as learning the ways of the force.

Okay, well. Not exactly, perhaps. But perhaps not so disimilar either. “The Force” didn’t suddenly appear out of nowhere when Obi Wan introduced Luke to its ways. It was always there. Likewise; lust, mystique, power, alarm, prestige, trust and vice are all there being used by each of us in the ebb and flow of the tides in which we tweet, grin, wink, flash, flirt, yell, coo and/or whisper–with, to or at one another.

As it turns out, most of us want to be fascinating in some shape or form, according to the research–about sixty to seventy percent, depending on which group you’re looking at. Furthermore, each of us in our own unique way has something about us that is fascinating. Still, most of us would prefer our lives to be more fascinating than at present. Surprise, surprise. Ms. Hogshead describes the reasoning behind this current wave of mentality as one that streams from the A.D.D. world in which we live. We are constantly inundated with messages coming at us from multiple angles… messages that we find boring, either because there are too many, or perhaps simply because the messages, themselves, are lackluster and trite. We crave experiences that are genuine, alluring and comforting, but also thrilling, intoxicating and at times, even frightening. (Bungee jumping, anyone? That would be the alarm trigger.)

Who or what fascinates you and why?

In what ways would you like to be more fascinating?

In general, I, myself, am fascinated by creative people of all kinds–artists, writers, scientists, musicians, politicians, filmmakers, designers, architects, chefs and the list goes on.

One of my key groups of particular intrigue happens to be great journalists. They are often in the spotlight, yet their jobs entail and require aiming the focus at someone else… people like Charlie Rose, Terry Gross, Mike Wallace, Gwen Eiffel, Ira Glass and the late Peter Jennings, to name a few. The core values of journalism are based on trust.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia on:

Journalism Ethics and Standards

While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of — truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability — as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.[3][4][5][6]

(And here’s the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_ethics_and_standards)

Codes aside; to be a righteous player in this field requires high emotional intelligence, a deft approach to interaction on multiple levels, and one must walk some very fine lines. It seems that good journalists may just be some of the most adept at using more of the seven triggers than the rest. They need to be charming, but not overly so. They need to keep their subjects at a proper distance yet seduce them at the same time to gain the necessary level of intimacy, so we have all kinds of things going on here. There’s a certain amount of lust at stake. Notice how in many interviews a very carefully balanced level of flirting takes place. This brings the subject closer and helps in developing a rapport. Here’s 60 Minutes’ well-seasoned Bob Simon interviewing Bollywood’s lovely princess, Aishwarya Rai back in 2004. She at once gains the upper hand when she catches him blushing:

That brings us to another point, which is the power balance. The best in journalism get to interview the most fascinating people because they, themselves are forces to be reckoned with, and people of power are typically fascinated by other people of power (and they often seem to enjoy the opportunity to disseminate their messages to the masses). Here is another game that takes place, which is a challenge of wits, intelligence and at times; superiority. You’ll find interesting battles of wills when you listen to Terry Gross‘ recent interview with Karl Rove on NPR’s Fresh Air, regarding his latest memoir, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124597241

And finally, we have the queen bee of fascinating people, Ms. Barbara Walters. She uses her lust and mystique triggers very well. She displays her sweetness as she walks arm in arm with her subjects, but make no mistake; she is also a major lady of power who is well known for making even some of the toughest nuts to crack–cry. Could it be that some of us actually want to cry with Barbara Walters? Could this be a vice trigger? Hmm. Here she is interviewing Lady Gaga. She did not cry.

At times, the role of the journalist is similar to that of the psychologist. Boundaries and levels of comfort get tested and gently nudged to achieve desired objectives. Remember The Sixth Sense? In one of my favorite scenes, we see Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis) and Cole (Haley Joel Osment) getting acquainted. “Wanna play a game?” Dr. Crowe asks Cole. “It’s a mind-reading game. Here’s how it works. I read your mind. If what I say is right, you take one step towards the chair. If what I say is wrong, you take one step back… towards the doorway. If you reach the chair, you sit down. If you reach the door, you can go. Wanna play?”

Dr. Crowe talks to Cole in the film, The Sixth Sense.

Perhaps if we’re each able to view our lives as more of a game with one of the goals being that we create rules as we go, we may find that our day to day exchanges will become more fascinating. By being aware of cues and making notes as well as recognizing our own signals, we may find that there is a fascinating Jedi as well as a “force” in us all.

By the way, have you taken the F-Score test yet? It’s quick, fun and enlightening. I dare you to do it!

Until next time, Creative Beasts… SEIZE THE PREY.

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Just Another Deluded Entrepreneur.

March 4th, 2010 3 comments

You sure know how to say it, Hugh.

It’s kind of like, “I am an entrepreneur. I am an entrepreneur. I am, I am, I am, I AM an entrepreneur!”

Check out this latest post of Hugh MacLeod’s: http://tinyurl.com/ycmzgw8

He offers great insight (so wise). I’m grateful for these thoughts because if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that when you make the decision to take the plunge, you have all of these feelings. Feelings like, “I’m an idiot.” Or, “I’m crazy.” Or, “I’m crazy and I’m an idiot.” You’re leaping out into The Great Unknown. There’s no one there holding your hand. You’re swimming solo. And you’ve never done this before. It feels scary and it feels lonely. And it’s one of the best feelings, ever.

Hugh’s book, by the way, is wonderful and it is one of a few that has had a hand in changing my life. Check it out: http://gapingvoid.com/books/

And if you like that one (and by the way, my guess is that you wouldn’t be on this page if you didn’t share in these hopes and dreams), here’s a few more for you to check out:

Fascinate by Sally Hogshead http://sallyhogshead.com/category/fascinate/

Radical Careering by Sally Hogshead http://www.radicalcareering.com/

Linchpin by Seth Godin http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith http://www.chrisbrogan.com/where-to-buy-trust-agents/

Why Now is the Time to CRUSH IT! Cash In On Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk http://crushitbook.com/

If you’re as geeky as I am, you will find parts of these books that will make you cry as you read. So, even if you never truly become your own boss, at least you will have had a good cry or two.

Here are some of Hugh MacLeod’s thoughts regarding entrepreneurship, followed by my comments (for whatever they’re worth):

1. Everything takes three times longer than it should. Especially the money part.

Thank God I’m not the only one who feels this way. And please, God, would you send me a bit more money, a decent video camera or two, a new Mac, fully loaded with Adobe CS4, Final Cut Pro, etc, etc, an art director, a video crew, an editor, a producer, some advertisers, a SEO expert, an affiliate manager… hmm, what else? Oh, yeah, an accountant… and maybe an extra writer or two. Oh, and about a million or so followers? …Thanks!

12. It’s easier to turn an ally into a customer than vice versa.

This one made me think of something one of my best customers once said to me when I sold software. I’ll never forget it. I made a mistake, and that was that I over-promised and under-delivered. The great rule of sales and service is just the opposite. What he said was, “Trish, I’m going to teach you something: there’s an old saying that goes like this: ‘It takes years to win a customer and seconds to lose one.'” Original thought or no, he was right. I felt awful, and that I had not only lost a customer, but a friend. I sent him a most sincere letter of apology, not expecting to regain his business. But guess what? A couple weeks later he called me again, and it was as though nothing had gone wrong. “Wow!” I thought. “I must be doing something right.” The funny thing was that when I told my boss about losing him, his response was more or less, “Oh, well.” He was the one that had instructed me to make the promise and take the order; i.e., the money. Never again, will I take an order from a client without being able to personally guarantee 100 percent that I can deliver on the product. I like having customers that like me, but more importantly, I need my customers to trust me. Whatever it is that you’re selling, your customer needs to feel satisfied with your product and the experience at the end of the day, if he is to return. And if he walks away delighted, he might just tell someone else. On the flip side, if he walks away angry, you can be sure he’ll tell someone else. It all boils down to earning trust. That is how you sell your product and that is how you win and keep customers. To hell with dog and pony shows. And thanks, Josh.

25. Bill Gates may have a million times more money than me, but he isn’t going to live a million times longer than me, watch a million times more sunsets than me, make love to a million times more women than me, drink a million times more fine wines than me, listen to a million times more Beethoven String Quartets than me, nor sire a million times more children than me. Human beings don’t scale.

Find a way to love what you do. Love your friends and loved ones well, and try to appreciate what you have. Life is short, and it’s easy to miss the little joys and wonderful moments that sometimes fall before us. One of my Russian friends once said to me, “There is a Russian saying: ‘It’s better to have a hundred friends than a hundred dollars.'” I told another friend who said, “That sounds like a Russian saying.” Maybe so, but I like it. Not that I would turn away a hundred dollars.

For the rest of Hugh’s sublime thoughts and witticisms check out his post. Again, here’s the link:
http://tinyurl.com/ycmzgw8

And on that note, Creative Beasts, I bid you adieu. Keep dreaming, keep building on your dreams and as always, Seize The Prey. Here’s Barenaked Ladies with If I had a Million Dollars. Bein’ geeky and keepin’ it real.

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