31 Jan Focus On Your Practice & Forget About the Rest
WE LIVE IN an unprecedented time in history that is both unnerving, and incredibly exciting. Technology is prevalent in nearly every aspect of our lives, and while it continues to improve the world in miraculous ways, I’m not champing at the bit to step into the metaverse.
Nor am I settled into my favorite rocking chair, telling kids to GET OFF MY LAWN as I recount the invention of the toaster (although I look forward to it someday).
Clinging to the past is to lose touch with reality, and really, with others. But can’t there be a middle path? A welcoming of the new while honoring the old, the human, and the journey over the destination? I believe so.
If we become good stewards of this rapidly changing world, and use the internet and social media to come together instead of divide, we’ll usher in a modern renaissance, a cultural revolution, where generosity, connection, and love stand as the pillars on which we construct a new story.
As tech becomes increasingly pervasive, as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the greater the need becomes for art, for genuine human experience, for you.
It seems paradoxical, but this is our chance to tread closer to our own humanity instead of further from it. In the words of the prolific writer and marketing legend Seth Godin in The Practice:
The path forward is about curiosity, generosity, and connection. Human connection is exponential: it scales as we create it, weaving together culture and possibility where none used to exist. You have everything you need to make magic. You always have. Go make a ruckus.
The rules are changing, and as creators in the digital age, it’s daunting to navigate this unfamiliar terrain.
We can easily become inundated by the noise that, if we let it, will pour in from every angle like water taking down a sinking ship: you should be doing this, you can’t do that, you should fear this, who are you to make that, follow your dream, start a business?
With so much pressure from the outside world telling us what the rules are, we must remain vigilant — we have two choices. The first is to listen to the noise and let it keep us from sharing our voice, from putting ourselves out there, from living.
Here’s the second choice: We can commit to our process, our work, our journey, and fucking set sail. Write. Create your art, share your voice, make a difference however small. Learn as you go, adapt, and forget about the rest.
I’m in favor of the second choice for two reasons. First, focusing on our practice over anything will bring us peace and purpose amongst the inevitable chaos.
Second, we focus on the only thing we can control — our contribution — instead of what everybody else is doing.
I’m not saying put up your blinders, sit on a snowy mountain perch and forget about the world. Perhaps there’s a time and place for that! But right now, we need you.
So start where you are. Focus on your practice, and don’t stop.
The practice isn’t sexy. There is no one-size-fits-all. It’s what the successful among us know and trust and build upon.
It’s shipping the work, pressing submit, hanging the art, calling the client, giving the speech when we feel unqualified to doing so.
It’s hitting publish when it’s good enough, not necessarily perfect. It’s posting when you’d rather not, because you are on a streak and you’ll be damned if this is the day it breaks.
No matter how the sand beneath our feet is shifting or what new virus is drifting through the ether, we have our practice to save us, the only thing we can control. Godin writes:
In any given moment, the world isn’t perfect. Conditions aren’t right. The economy hits a bump. There’s a health emergency. Our confidence is shaken. A particularly nasty comment gets through our filter. We’re rejected. The list is long indeed. And in those moments, our intentions might not be pure. We might want to hide, or seek the muse. We might want to sell out or settle or simply give up. But the practice saves us. Because the practice can be trusted. And because in this moment it’s simply the next best step.
When in doubt, get back to the one thing you can trust, your readiness to try. Your openness to failure. Your willingness to seek the light amidst the darkness. Get back to your practice, because doing so weaves a web of connection through the universe that none of us can see, yet, we all desperately crave.
There Is No Tipping Point
My practice, as you may have figured, is writing. Writing is how I relate to the immediate world around me and my place in the cosmos. It’s how I capture the moments that move me to store away in memory; it’s how I appreciate how unbelievably good life can be.
I want to learn about what it means to be a human being on planet Earth; writing is the most meaningful way I’ve found to understand who I am and what my role might be in this great cosmic play.
But I can’t say I only write to unburden my soul. Yes, I started for this reason. But I also want to make a living as a creator. I love this, and I dream of bringing people along on a journey of discovery that I hope is encouraging.
But I am human, and it hurts my ego to feel like I’m not progressing. That’s another issue, a part of the spiritual journey on which I’m a wide-eyed neophyte. But hey, I hope I can be honest.
Whether we admit it or not, we badly want to be seen, heard, loved, and this masquerade wears the guise of success. Our culture leads us to believe that overnight success isn’t only possible, but attainable with just the right combination of luck and skill and views; but it’s just noise.
A tipping point only appears in hindsight… Being an entrepreneur is about pushing, not tipping.
This sentiment comes from The Third Door by the entrepreneur Alex Banayan.
Alex Banayan is on a quest to interview the world’s most influential people, such as Warren Buffett and Jessica Alba, so he may share their wisdom with his generation, my generation.
He asks his mentor Elliot when things will get easier, when he’ll reach the tipping point. Elliot laughs and gives the above response, which makes me realize that the floodgate moment likely will never come, and that is liberating.
We have a job to do, and that’s to share our voice, push uphill, and let the results come as a by-product of our commitment.
So what does it mean to push? It means if you’re a writer, you write regardless of how you feel or the fact that you’re getting no views. It means you continue, not because you hope one day your story will fall in front of the right eyes, but because you’re on a quest of discovery that leads you on a different path every day.
And when the negativity does filter through the cracks, we must remind ourselves why we started in the first place.
What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning?
I bet you didn’t start taking photos to make a killing. You didn’t start sewing clothes to one day buy a hot Lamborghini.
You didn’t take on your first client as a personal trainer to create the next Globo Gym (or maybe you did, as long as it comes with Ben Stiller’s mustache). Our goals change as we do, and it’s natural to seek expansion as we traverse further into life. But we must ask ourselves: why?
Is it to make a name for ourselves? To make money or gain influence? I’d be lying if I said that’s not part of the reason I’m here. But if that was the only reason, I would have given up a long time ago.
If you’re like me, you started because you felt a calling; I remember one day after college, I was sitting on the edge of a cliff looking out at the ocean. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but something told me to write a poem. It was about a recent trip and the joy that travel brings me, an indescribable feeling of exploration and discovery that beckons from the unknown.
That’s the day I began. That feeling is what keeps me coming back.
Maybe you’ve had this idea since you were a kid. Maybe you’ve been thinking about what you’re going to do with this passion, this fire in you that’s looking for release. It won’t make you money (yet), and that’s discouraging. But I implore you to begin.
Create, share, give this thing your all, because if you don’t, part of you will always feel absent, unrealized. It’s a crazy world out there — but our thing, our craft, our passion will get us through. The rest will follow as it’s supposed to.
As Ray Bradbury puts it in one of my favorite books, Zen In the Art of Writing:
While our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.
The seeking is the point — the journey is the reward, the practice is thy salvation. Trust it, trust yourself, and go. Somebody needs what you have to share. We have no idea what tomorrow will look like; but we have today to try.