There’s a specific group of men who are ‘very online’—each is active on X/Twitter, hosts a podcast, and has a wildly successful email newsletter—whom I think of as ‘productivity bros.’ This is not meant to be pejorative; I like and admire these men and I subscribe to their newsletters. Mostly they talk and tweet about how to be more productive and successful. They do not all have engineering or coding backgrounds, but they seem to have the brain wiring and personality traits of engineers I know.
They are experts on how to develop better habits. They care about identifying best practices, implementing systems for greater efficiency, and using mental models for improved decision-making.
All have bestselling books (business non-fiction) and are self-made multi-millionaires. (They did not inherit their wealth.)
If you too are ‘very online’ you might know who I’m talking about. If not, good for you. Maybe you aren’t as obsessed with productivity as I am. Maybe you’re already productive, because you’re not spending all your time reading about how to be more productive. Which is the point of this story.
Recently I’ve been wondering why, after all this time, I keep opening these guys’ email newsletters.
The answer: Because of their irresistible headlines, great insights, and brilliant tweetable quotes. These guys are constantly dropping diamonds and I don’t want to miss out.
But what’s interesting is, you can’t possibly remember all of their brilliant quotes and wise words. You can’t hold all of the great insights in your head every day to act on them, to benefit from them.
All of the brilliant insights and wise words don’t make me smarter and better. They make me anxious.
They make me feel like I’ve got to have an edge. Get ahead of the pack. FOCUS, OPTIMIZE, MAXIMIZE, LEVERAGE, STAND OUT, RISE.
Rather than helping me be more productive or successful, they’ve been a grand distraction.
Surely the reason so many other people subscribe to these email newsletters is because, like me, they are concerned if they don’t read them, they’ll miss out on the genius that could cause them to be wildly successful.
But actually, the most ‘genius’ thing a person can do is shut out distractions and do the work that matters most to them.
Which the productivity guys would be the first to tell you.
Reading several email newsletters a week/day to hear this advice framed in a thousand different ways is of course a form of resistance to doing the work.
I’m embarrassed it has taken me so long to tap out.
Hey. How was your winter break? I hope you had a chance to rest, relax, and recharge, or just have fun.
I’ve been thinking about why I haven’t been able to make myself draw up a list of resolutions for the new year. And I think it has partly to do with my feeling that it’s hard to get anything done these days, with social media frying our brains. If I just spent less time online, I’d get more stuff done!
To that end, I deleted the Instagram app from my phone. I’ve found it’s not nearly as tempting to stay on IG if you have to look at it on a laptop computer. Actually, it’s kind of bizarre how much less appealing and addictive it is. My plan is to now only access IG from my computer and only on weekends.
If I am unable to be moderate even with these parameters, then I’ll quit it completely again. (Facebook and TikTok are not a problem for me–I log on very infrequently.) What are your ‘trouble apps’?
But the main reason I’m not setting resolutions is because there’s really only ever one resolution I care about. And I’ve already got that one burned into my brain, due to a “year in review” exercise I did in 2018.
At the start of that year, I looked at all the notes and appointments from my 2017 calendar and made a list of everything I’d done that year. I had done all kinds of things–things to be proud of. Things I was glad I had done. But I had not made a movie.
To be clear, I don’t make a movie most years. But what I discovered is that if I have not written a new script, shot some scenes, started pre-production, or otherwise moved closer to making a movie, then the year feels like a loss to me. I feel like I did “nothing.”
So, if you’re not sure what you really, really care about most, make a list of everything you accomplished last year and then pay attention to how your inner voice responds. If you find yourself thinking, “But I didn’t go visit (insert name of one of your favorite people on this planet)” or “I still haven’t seen (insert dream travel destination),” or whatever, then it seems like that should be your resolution this year.
I assume most people, throughout any given year, are always working on a few goals, right, whether they start as official New Year’s resolutions or not?
For example, sometime last fall, I decided I want to get in “amazing” shape. To me, amazing means “better than usual.” So I started working out regularly again and I ordered two sets of heavier weights and started using them in my arm workouts. I also started trying to log 10,000-15,000 steps 2-3x a week. I’m not accomplishing this on a regular basis yet, but I’m working on it.
Also last fall I decided I wanted to start finishing books again. During the pandemic, I’d developed a bad habit of starting books and abandoning them, one after another. I am now finishing books again and it feels great. I recently finished a biography of Jim Henson, the Muppets creator, and I found it very informative and helpful (in more of a philosophical way than a practical way).
I think one more reason I’m not officially drawing up a list of resolutions is this: New Year’s resolutions feed into my belief that one day I’ll arrive at some nirvana state in which I’ve achieved perfection in every category of my life. And I don’t like fostering that hope.
I honestly think, at this point in life, the best goal I can have is to enjoy TODAY. To do that, I pause and listen to birds tweeting in our backyard. I talk to or text with friends and family. I eat good food.
Because my repeat epiphany (the epiphany I have over and over again, that always strikes me anew, as if I’ve never arrived at it before) is that no matter what I or anyone else accomplishes, no one ever really arrives.
Just like Stutz and Michels say in their book, The Tools, “There is no Easy Street.”
Almost everyone wants to do more and have more. If a person does arrive at some pinnacle, what you usually hear is the elation doesn’t last long. That’s because of the seesaw nature of happiness, as explained in the fantastic book, Dopamine Nation. Because of the body’s tendency toward homeostasis, if you experience pleasure for a while, you almost always feel the thud of the other end of the seesaw hitting ground, as the body attempts to right itself, into a balanced state.
And then… you return to the state of wanting. At least, I do.
Even people who seem to have everything, whom you admire and envy–you find out they have wounds they’re nursing. I remember Nora Ephron saying she was still upset about one of her ‘failed’ movies. I recall a high school classmate, now long married, who is still angry about losing her high school boyfriend to another classmate. Famous people who seem to have dream careers–there are the roles they didn’t get, the failed play or book, etc.
Maybe it’s best to avoid the extreme highs or the inevitable, soon-to-follow pits. Staying balanced on the see-saw seems more desirable.
I’d like to be content with contentment that stems from nothing other than gratitude at being alive.
Every time I hear “Hello” by Adele, I’m amused by the line, “It’s no secret that the both of us are running out of time.” (Here, at the 3:40 mark.)
How could she and her ex be running out of time? The album was called “25” because that’s how old she was when she wrote those songs. Obviously, at 25, you’ve got lots of time!
But it’s an incredible song, and that line adds urgency and gravitas to it.
The other day I was sitting here on my couch thinking about how digital courses enable you to share knowledge with lots of people, efficiently. Then I thought about what a pain in the ass it would be to make a digital course. And that’s when it hit me:
Probably you never get extraordinary results without an extraordinary amount of effort.
Put another way, an ordinary amount of effort will likely only get you ordinary results.
(But if you know someone who has attained extraordinary results with an ordinary amount of effort, hit “Reply”! Lol.)
Of course, “extraordinary effort” doesn’t necessarily mean a hellish sprint. An extraordinary effort can be a long, slow process of working day in and day out. THAT’S what’s extraordinary: Staying with it. Persevering. Making tiny progress on a project bit by bit. And then, usually, having binge work sessions toward the end, as you’re finishing it.
But getting back to the topic of age: For me, the overwhelming experience of middle age is endlessly debating whether it’s worth it to make an extraordinary effort.
Should I knock myself out? Why? What is my motivation exactly? Will I get the results I want? If the odds of success are 50/50, or worse, should I knock myself out anyway?
I know, you’re not supposed to care about the results. “It’s not what you get that makes you happy, it’s who you become.”
Who do you want to become?
Decide what identity you want, says Atomic Habits author James Clear. Focusing on the identity you want inspires you to commit to the habits that’ll get you there.
It’s not good to start asking yourself whether this or that is worth making the effort for. You end up walking in circles.
Better to take action, toward something. Anything, honestly.
Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.
Don’t think about whether you’re in the mood.
Just do it.
Because—and yes, I’m going to say it—
It’s no secret that the both of us are running out of time.
I think the secret to enjoying the second half of life is learning new things.
Seth Godin says before you commit to learning something new, you have to decide whether you’re willing to get through “the Dip.” The Dip is the most difficult part of the journey, in which you’ll be tempted to give up.
So how do you get through the Dip? It’s like Jeff Bridges’ response to people who want to know how to stay married for as long as he and his wife have: “Don’t get divorced.” The way to make it through the Dip is to not give up.
Sounds easy. But it’s not. Just like staying married sounds easy, but sometimes it’s not.
During the past year, while taking painting classes with a group of people online, I privately announced to myself, at least 1000 times, that I was going to quit.
I was on an emotional rollercoaster and I wanted off.
When you’re learning a new skill and you’re in the Dip, you tell yourself, “Maybe I don’t really care about this after all. I thought I did. I mean, sometimes I do. But no—I don’t.”
This is b.s., of course. You do care. It’s just hard and you want to bail.
So, I was revising my stance on painting every other day.
“Making movies is my top priority. Art is a distant second.”
“Yeah, I’ve always painted, but so what? I don’t have to attain mastery. I’ll just keep winging it.”
“The problem is, I don’t really CARE about knowing how to paint. I don’t even know why I’m here or how I got here. It’s possible I bought a thousand dollars’ worth of art supplies just to avoid writing.”
In fact, filmmaking is my top priority. But I still want to know how to paint. Even if I didn’t want to admit that on the bad days.
The bad days usually occur during the ugly “middles.”
The start of a painting is exciting. When you tone the canvas and map the composition, you’re full of hope and optimism. But as you move forward, you are bound to enter an ugly middle stage in which your painting is not looking so hot and you don’t know what you’re doing and you have no idea how you’re going to get out alive.
It’s tempting to give up when you’re in the ugly middle stage of a painting.
But if you have grit, you keep going. And if you keep going, you develop even more grit. Sometimes you turn a corner quickly, and the painting starts to look good. But often not. For me, it’s usually touch and go until the very end. There’ve been times where I’ve wanted to throw in the towel even when I’m just a session away from finishing a painting!
To help you get through the Dip, you should take a class. Here’s why:
1) Knowing that you have class on Tuesday, say, builds accountability into your practice and gives you a pressing reason to try “one more time” to finish that hideous painting you’re stuck on. You have to present SOMETHING, and it may as well be that painting, otherwise you gotta start a new painting. And you can’t do that, because you’ve already started 25 paintings that you’ve abandoned. Stacks of shitty paintings you didn’t get very far into are all over your house. Even you have to admit it’s time to finish something.
2) Learning with a group fosters camaraderie. You’re in the trenches (the Dip) together! It’s fun to commiserate and share triumphs together, and it’s great to have people who’ll talk you off the ledge when you want to jump. When you’re down, someone else is up, and they will josh you out of your foul mood. You’ll do the same for them when they are losing faith. Plus, it takes time to become good. It’s a long haul. A slog. So, you’re going to want some company on the journey. And it’s nearly impossible to stay focused and determined over months and months without some kind of support, structure and accountability.
3) For the same reason Alcoholics Anonymous is effective, seeing others who’ve done this difficult thing makes you think that maybe you can do this difficult thing, too. When you see your classmates steadily improve, it tells you, or your subconscious, that you will improve over time, too.
4) Having an instructor give you assignments, lessons, and constructive criticism is key. Even if you tend to be alone wolf and are self-directed and self-motivated, you might not be challenging yourself to do deliberate practice. Working alone, I had plateaued. For years! I didn’t realize what I needed was a TEACHER. Duh! And obviously, the better the teacher, the better your progress. (I started with “Oil Painting – Flow and Fluency,” from Kimberly Brooks, who is one of the best communicators I’ve ever encountered. Can’t recommend her enough.)
Here’s a description of a typical struggle in the Dip:
During one painting session, in which I was trying to paint a macaron, I kept saying, “I can’t do it! I quit!” And I’d jump up to go look for something to eat in the fridge. I was miserable. But I was so antsy, I couldn’t even eat. So, I would rush back to my chair, before I could change my mind, saying, “I’m going to try one more time!” I did this a few times, til finally, I stepped back from my work and was surprised to see my macaron (pictured at the top of this post) looked almost real. It felt like a miracle.
A bigger miracle: Recently, I made it through the Dip. I know the exact moment it occurred.
I had just finished a portrait of Debbie Harry. It’s not perfect. But it’s not about that. And it’s not about my being proficient now. I’m not. It has nothing to do with whether I think I’m “good” or whether you think I’m good. What changed is that I no longer think it’s impossible to become good. I finally banked enough experiences of struggling terribly then making it to the other side such that I now trust that if I just keep at it, I WILL make it to the other side.
It feels so good to be out of the Dip. It seriously almost did me in. I could’ve quit at any moment.
How do we find it in ourselves to keep on going, to make it through the Dip? Maybe it only happens when we really, really want what is on the other side.
Since the pandemic, a lot of people have been feeling anxious, depressed, or are just not thriving. I recently came out of a rough time myself. When I tried to identify the biggest reason I feel so much happier and more optimistic now, the main thing I can point to is this practice called journalspeaking. It’s an efficient way to process emotional pain.
The term was coined by therapist Nicole Sachs, pictured above. Nicole hosts a popular podcast, The Cure for Chronic Pain. Every episode of the podcast is gold, no matter you have the specific symptoms discussed in it or not.
The cause of chronic pain is the same for everyone: the sympathetic nervous system has been triggered into fight-or-flight-or-freeze mode often enough, by stress or fear, that the brain gets confused and begins sending pain signals to the body even when there’s no danger present.
Both the podcast and Nicole’s short book, The Meaning of Truth, give example stories of people who’ve healed a wide variety of terrible-sounding and sometimes life-threatening physical symptoms using her practice of journalspeaking.
Journalspeaking is when you write about your darkest feelings–like, the worst, most unspeakable things that come up from your subconscious, most importantly, anger.
Weirdly, I had no idea I had repressed anger. One reason we repress dark feelings and are unaware we have them is because we deem them socially unacceptable. Especially if we think of ourselves as a “good person.”
This part is key: After you get out your anger, grief, insecurity, jealousy, etc., you should delete the document or tear it up and put it in the trash. Knowing you’re going to hit “delete” frees you up to say what you really feel.
For me, typing is better than writing longhand. There’s something automatic that occurs, in which my subconscious mind seems to take over, when I’m typing on a keyboard.
Nicole says that whether or not you believe you have an inner child, she is certain we all do. And she says, “Until you give your inner child a voice, they’re running the show.”
Journalspeaking allows your inner child (or bitchy teen!) to rant and get out the worst. I don’t want to scare you off of it, but I’m just going to be honest here. If you’re really dredging up your anger, grief, loss, etc., you will likely cry. Be glad. Crying just gets the toxic stuff out of you faster. Give yourself extra credit points for every time you cry!
After each journalspeaking session, you’ll be stunned at how much more lighterhearted you feel. I can bawl my eyes out while typing breathtakingly painful fears, thoughts and memories, then 10 minutes later, I feel like a new person. It’s surreal, and incredible.
Another surprising thing is that you’ll have a lot more love, compassion and patience for the very people you rail against in your journalspeaking after you vent about them.
Nicole points out that once you speak your ‘truth,’ your truth will change. For example, when journalspeaking, it’s okay to say you “hate” your kids/mother/father/sibling/best friend. Those feelings will likely morph once you’ve let them come up.
Also, what I have found is that eventually, you will work your way down to anger at yourself. (Which is kind of a surprise. I thought it was just all these a-holes I’ve had to deal with that were making me so unhappy! Turns out, it’s my own codependence and other self-rejecting actions that have, in part, made me so miserable.) (I know–this is probably starting to sound like a lot of self-help jargon! But I hope those of you who are in pain will get it.)
So, Nicole recommends doing a 10-minute self-love and self-compassion meditation after each journalspeaking session. (Yeah, yeah. I ignore this advice, too. But maybe that’s the very thing we both need! More self-compassion and forgiveness!)
If you journalspeak for 20 minutes 2x a day for 30 days, I promise you will see a major reduction in your physical symptoms and YOU WILL FEEL A TON HAPPIER. It changed my life and I can’t recommend it enough.
Nicole’s website (she often hosts in-person retreats, which sound cool)
I started reading Just Kids yesterday afternoon, when Jimmy went to get his hair cut.
I kept reading through the Astros’ World Series game against the Atlanta Braves and what I thought would be a constant interruption—Halloween trick-or-treaters. But the doorbell only rang once the entire night, enabling me to stay immersed in the story of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe’s romance. My eyes were hurting and my vision was fuzzy when I finished it this morning.
I get why it won the National Book Award. I was and am still unfamiliar with most of Patti Smith’s body of work. Now I know she is, first and foremost, a poet. There is so much great writing in the book, my usual habit of highlighting good lines would’ve rendered whole pages yellow.
I knew almost nothing about Robert Mapplethorpe either, except that I had once looked at his work and found some of his photographs too disturbing to face. In the book, Patti mentions feeling the same way about some of his work. “I admired him for it, but I could not comprehend the brutality. It was hard for me to match it with the boy I had met.”
The boy she had met, in Tompkins Square Park in New York City when they were both around 20 years old, was kind and caring. He had been raised in a cold, non-communicative Catholic family. His dad wanted him to either enter the military or become a graphic designer. Robert knew he was an artist and rejected those paths.
Patti has a reverential attitude toward artists. During childhood, her family made exactly one visit to an art museum together (there were 4 kids and her parents didn’t have a lot of money). Afterward, she felt changed. She wanted to be an artist, but she had a private concern. She mentioned a movie, The Song of Bernadette. She was “struck that the young saint did not ask to be called. It was the mother superior who desired sanctity, even as Bernadette, a humble peasant girl, became the chosen one. This worried me. I wondered if I had really been called as an artist. I didn’t mind the misery of a vocation but I dreaded not being called.”
In their sweet, youthful relationship, Patti and Robert took care of each other. Even after they realized they were heading in different directions, they vowed to continue supporting each other until they both could stand on their own. They would draw, side by side, in their apartment, for hours at a time and into the night. Together, they shopped for dimestore trinkets and found “trash” that was elevated to treasure in Robert’s early collages.
An especially enjoyable aspect of the book is the building suspense regarding how and when he would finally begin taking photographs and she would begin writing songs and performing with a band.
Interestingly, while he was making extremely provocative and polarizing work, Robert was urging Patti not to make work that was too confrontational or controversial. He wanted her to make hits–“music he could dance to”–and be successful.
After they both had achieved some success, they had a joint gallery show of their work. For the show, they made a short film, in which Patti shared an idea that she and Robert had often discussed:
“The artist seeks contact with his intuitive sense of the gods, but in order to create his work, he cannot stay in this seductive and incorporeal realm. He must return to the material world in order to do his work. It’s the artist’s responsibility to balance mystical communication and the labor of creation.”
I was glad she mentioned this, because I’ve always wondered if it’s “natural” that one has to actually make the art. Shouldn’t it just appear, effortlessly? But that would require magic, right? So, I’ve always arrived at the same conclusion: apparently you do have to actually do the messy, real-world work of making the art. But reading the above quote was reassuring.
When I finished the book and closed it, I resented having to re-enter normal life. I wanted to stay in the world she created.
There are more passages I want to share, but I’ll choose just one. I hope it’s okay that I’m sharing it. It’s her description of having seen a swan when she was very young:
“The narrows of the river emptied into a wide lagoon and I saw upon its surface a singular miracle. A long curving neck rose from a dress of white plumage.
Swan, my mother said, sensing my excitement. It pattered the bright water, flapping its great wings, and lifted into the sky.
The word alone hardly attested to its magnificence nor conveyed the emotion it produced. The sight of it generated an urge I had no words for, a desire to speak of the swan, to say something of its whiteness, the explosive nature of its movement, and the slow beating of its wings.
The swan became one with the sky. I struggled to find the words to describe my own sense of it. Swan, I repeated, not entirely satisfied, and I felt a twinge, a curious yearning, imperceptible to passersby, my mother, the trees, or the clouds.”
Just Kids is, for me, like that swan was for her. It’s magnificent, and it evokes a curious yearning—the desire to be able to express myself the way she learned to do.
We liked Val Kilmer’s film about his life, Val. Have you seen it?
After watching it, I wondered, Why was that film so compelling?
To start, people who’ve experienced tremendous success are almost always of interest, right? Anyone who has scaled the mountain of their profession, not to mention managing to stay on top for a long time, is different than most people. We can’t help but be curious about how they did something that most people haven’t figured out how to do.
Movie stars are usually of interest, too, of course. You can’t help but wonder what it’s like to be them. And almost everyone wants at least one of the things they have: money, status, power or influence, or a great social life and unique experiences. But we also want to see if we don’t want what they have. Maybe we’re hoping it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, so that we don’t have to experience the discomfort of envying them.
In fact, there are aspects of Kilmer’s current situation that are not enviable. If he were now a gently worn but easily recognizable version of the handsome, successful person he was when he was young and if he had had a relatively easy last couple of decades, a film about his life would possibly just be a victory lap. But because he has experienced significant setbacks, some of which have possibly been caused in part by his own actions and choices, he is a touching figure.
To me, the most impactful thing about the film is that he’s in a more difficult situation than most but he’s happier than many.
He has said, “I feel wonderful, despite how I sound.” (You’ll find out what he’s referring to when you see the film.) Throughout it, his joie de vivre, gratitude for his family, and appreciation of the unique experiences he’s had are evident.
Another thing that makes the film compelling is that, because he has so much footage, from early childhood to later adulthood, you see his life play out before your eyes. It’s so rare to see the full sweep of someone’s existence on this planet, it’s awe-inspiring. It’s hard not to use the word “epic”—to describe anyone’s life, no matter the person has had a big life or not. The passage of time alone is epic.
And the fact that we’re heading toward the same destiny unites us all. Whether you’ve played Batman or dated Cher or not, you’re going to die. Eventually, we all will be old, we all will have endured unimaginable losses, we all will exhibit physical wear and tear, and we all will face our mortality. As you look at footage of Val when he was young, all the way up to how and where he is today, you can’t help but think of your own youth, your own middle age, and your own imminent old age. You can’t help but think about your own life choices and what has gone well and what hasn’t. You can’t help but think of your own attitude and outlook when you witness his.
Some things that elevate the film:
The drama of really good luck and really bad luck. The way he has turned his photos, experiences and memories into art, in the form of scrapbooks and more. The imaginative editing of the section about his mom, after her passing. His colorful and creative self-expression, through art, his choice of work projects, and what he wears. The contribution of his son, who is a talented narrator and whose voice adds warmth. His revelation about attending autograph signing events. His ability to forgive and accept others. His exuberant love of his children. His experience of grace. The ‘closing statements’ he makes in the final moments of the film.
After seeing Val, I felt like I had been transported on a journey of an alternative life I might’ve had. I felt like I understood more about the human condition for having walked in his shoes.
And I felt the full force of the miracle of life, that we each experience: great tragedy, incredible luck, overwhelming experiences of love, and the surreal drama of being on this plane of existence for a finite period of time.
The film offers everything I could want in a work of art.
If you’ve seen it, I’m curious to hear what part in particular stood out to you. Please let me know in the Comments.
I think this holiday season really snuck up on people, because so far we’ve only received one card. From Dr. Bernard Markowitz. (A cosmetic surgeon who told me, in a consult, that my face is asymmetrical. Happy Hanukkah to you, too, Dr. Markowitz!)
Recently, I was sitting on my couch, fixated on the sensation of acid creeping up into my throat, because apparently I have GERD, and I thought about how stress was likely the cause. And it occurred to me, for the millionth time, that there’s really no good reason to feel stress. Because if times are good, you should be happy, and if times aren’t good, you’re undoubtedly growing. Suffering always leads to greater wisdom and compassion. “Pain is the gift no one wants”! In fact, some of the most memorably beautiful moments of my life have occurred when I was going through some kind of hell.
Anyway, while having these thoughts, I stumbled upon a new life philosophy. A new motto! And this motto is so good, it makes me wish I were a player in the jam-packed Online Motivational Coaching Space. Because any life coach worth their salt has a sticky tagline. But enough preamble, I’m gonna lay it on you:
Look forward to EVERYTHING. Even the “bad.”
Right?! I mean, how much better would life be if we didn’t worry about the future, didn’t dread anything, and instead eagerly anticipated EVERYTHING, even the bad, knowing that the bad, especially, will lead to awesome insights, connection to others, and our personal development?!
Excited, I wrote this new motto on an index card, and I look at it occasionally. Has it stopped me from experiencing stress? Fuck no. But maybe it’s because I don’t look at it often enough. I need to move it to my nightstand.
If you find this motto–“Look forward to EVERYTHING. (Even the “bad.”)–comforting, I’d be thrilled. Because that’s what I really care about: “Adding value,” as people in the Online Motivational Coaching Space say!
If you think a friend would find this comforting or helpful, please consider sharing it. Thanks!
Most kids are basic. Trend followers who buy what everyone else is buying, watch what everyone else is watching, and look at what all the popular people are posting. Same with a lot of adults, obviously. It’s natural to have tastes that are similar to your peers and to want to fit in. But should we support kids’ urge to simply be consumers of culture rather than creators of culture?
Instead of challenging them to make or do cool things, we often just agree to take them to cool locations so that they can take endless pics of themselves. Which will lead to what, exactly?
Creating worthwhile things and leading others forces kids to think. And encouraging them to do this forces us to think. Because in order to lure them out of their culture-consuming zombie state, we gotta be really clever. We gotta inspire and motivate them.
Or maybe we don’t?!
Maybe we just have to ban screen time for an hour or two and let them get bored. Give them drawing supplies. A musical instrument. A cookbook. Or even a little creative assignment.
“Invent a new recipe.”
“Create a vision board.”
“Write a 2-page screenplay and shoot it with your phone.”
“Compose some music on GarageBand.”
“Draw your dream bedroom.”
“Come up with 2 minutes of standup comedy material.”
“Think of a problem lots of people deal with and come up with a solution.”
“Think of a business you’d like to start.”
“Think of a change you’d like to see happen and how to get people on board.”
I have often mindlessly indulged kids. Either because I’m a people-pleaser and don’t want to deal with pushback, or because I relate to their desire for status (thus, IG posts that telegraph “My life is dope and I do dope shit”). But starting now, I am going to challenge myself to challenge kids more. They are worth the effort.
kids creativity good parenting parting tips parenting advicecreativity
I like career tests almost as much as I like personality quizzes*. And yesterday I stumbled on a really good one! The Sparketype Test.
The guy who created it, Jonathan Fields, has a podcast called the Good Life Project. He has interviewed all the usual suspects (another Brene Brown/Seth Godin/Elizabeth Gilbert interview, anyone? Sure. Why not? I always learn something new). I like his gentle, seemingly ego-free personality and the questions he asks guests. He always ends with, “When you hear the phrase ‘good life’–‘live a good life’–what does that mean to you?” GOOD QUESTION!
He’s worked with tons of people on finding meaning and purpose, particularly as it pertains to work, and after seeing patterns emerge again and again, he came up with a test for helping people identify the type of work that “lights them up” (thus, “Sparketype”).
I already know what kind of work I love. The reason I know, for sure, is because each time I finish shooting something, I make a list of other things I like to do that would be easier and likely more profitable, but I never can commit to doing any of them, so I suck it up and start writing the next script. But I can’t resist a self-test, so I took it. And I found the questions really interesting, and sort of surprising.
He has categorized types of work in a unique way, that I’d never thought about til I saw the phrasing of the questions on the self-test.
Before you take it, he tells you to answer honestly–don’t pick responses that reflect how you’d like to be, or how you think you should be. I was glad he said this, because I might’ve been tempted to side with some of the more altruistic statements in the test. Even though I of course like helping others, it turns out this is not my driver regarding work. In his follow-up “Sparketype Mastery Guide”–which I bought, because I’m a schmuck–he explains why this is not something to feel bad about.
If you take the free quiz, let me know what Sparketype you are. Mine is “The Maker” (making ideas manifest) and my secondary/shadow Sparketype is “The Maven” (driven to learn). Your secondary Sparketype is not necessarily a type of work you should pursue but instead an activity you probably perform “in service to” your primary Sparketype (i.e., I learn about a particular topic so that I can make better things).
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Gretchen Rubin’s “The Four Tendencies” (apparently, most people are either a Questioner or an Obliger. The rarer types are Upholders and Rebels. Rubin has figured out how to work around the challenges you face, depending on your type, so that you can attain any goal, finishing whatever you start): https://quiz.gretchenrubin.com/four-tendencies-quiz/