creativity

“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”

John Cleese gave this speech back in the 1990’s about creativity. Apparently he was a bit of a student of the topic. 🤷🏻‍♂️

His main point was that creativity is not something that you have or don’t have. And it is not related to traditional intelligence.

Creativity is a mood – an open, curious, and playful way of operating. He calls this playful, creative state “open mode”, whereas we normally go through life in “closed mode”, basically trying to get stuff done.

To be fully effective, a creative person needs to juggle both modes well. After all, you’ve got to find the creative flow and keep your projects on track to actually get sh*t done.

(Thoughtfully subtitled in German 🤷🏻‍♂️). Full version of the speech here.

This creative “open mode” is subconscious and requires de-focusing in a way. In other words, you can’t force creative breakthroughs. It is in this relaxed open mode where the creative magic happens. You just need to allow yourself the time and other factors to let yourself be creative.

This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.

One reason I liked improv class was that it forces you into this open, playful mode (even when you are terrified).

Hopefully, when creativity is applied consistently over time, then great things can happen. 🤓

Books · The World

On Tyranny – Little Things You Can Do To Save The World

In America, we have the assumption that tyranny naturally comes from the government. After all, our whole origin story is based on some scrappy settlers rebelling against a meddling, powerful empire.

But the January 6 siege of the US Capital showed us that tyranny can also come from common American citizens, determined to disrupt the own constitutional process, spurred on by distributing, nonsensical, violent theories. It’s a reminder that tyranny can happen here, and it may come from the most unexpected sources. 🤔

“We see ourselves as a city on the hill, a stronghold of democracy, looking out for threats that come from abroad. But… human nature is such that American democracy must be defended from Americans who would exploit its freedoms to bring about its end.”

With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to visit practical tips from book On Tyranny. This book is full of simple lessons from 20th century Europe that we can apply to our own lives to help maintain our freedom in this really weird modern American scenario.

On Tyranny book cover
Look for the fun graphic edition coming this summer. 🙃

Contribute to good causes. (Some ideas: help make good information accessible, empower people, fight hate, or go local.)

Pick a charity or two and set up autopay. Then you will have made a free choice that supports civil society and helps others to do good.

Support a newspaper or a magazine. Real journalism is tough work and needs your support.

“Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on the internet is there to harm you. Take responsibility for what you communicate with others.”

Support the multi-party system. It is critical to have viable liberal and conservative parties vying for power.

Support the multi-party system and defend the rules of democratic elections. Vote in local and state elections while you can. Consider running for office.

Be inclusive. Take responsibility for the face of the world.

“You might one day be offered the opportunity to display symbols of loyalty. Make sure that such symbols include your fellow citizens rather than exclude them.”

I try my best. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Practice professional ethics. State election officials got tested this time around but stood strong, even dealing with violet threats. It’s a reminder that democracy doesn’t just happen automatically.

Maintain your rational, independent thought and individualism. Don’t let yourself get duped into something just because you like being part of a group (looking at you, yoga moms).

To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.

The renunciation of reality can feel natural and pleasant, but the result is your demise as an individual—and thus the collapse of any political system that depends upon individualism.

Be a patriot. Love your country and the best of what it stands for.

A patriot… wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves.

A patriot has universal values, standards by which he judges his nation, always wishing it well—and wishing that it would do better.

So there are some simple things anyone can do to help. It’s easy but also hard.

You

“Meaning is what’s left when everything else is stripped away.”

Cool quote from this TED talk about almost dying and then living.

Meaning is not found in the material realm; it’s not in dinner, jazz, cocktails or conversation. Meaning is what’s left when everything else is stripped away.

There are lots of way to interpret that quote, of course.

One way I look at it is this: life is about who you are. If everything in your life suddenly disappeared and you were dropped into an empty field in an unknown country, what person would be standing there?

I’m not talking about some crazy Naked and Afraid survival scenario. Suppose you have some money and some clothes. But not much else. Who is that person standing in the field? What does he know? What does he want? How does he move forward? How will he impact the world around him? That’s who you are.

I’m not actually sure if that’s what that quote meant ☝️, but there’s my take. 😆

This goes with Aristotle’s idea that the meaning of life is what you do — how you impact the real world. As humans, we are uniquely gifted with smart brains and “rational faculty”. We are happiest when we use these minds for some purpose in the world.

A poet should write, a teacher teach, and a doctor heal. Not only should each person do their thing, but they should do it well.

I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty inspirational. 😊

Me

All the “Things” 2020

I’ve been using the Things app to track all my personal to-do’s and projects for a couple of years now. I love this Mac-assed Mac app and use it all the time.

I recently discovered how to get access to the Things database and took the chance to reflect on how I’m spending my time.

So here are some highlights of all my “Things” in 2020.

Lastly year, I completed 108 personal projects. Each project consists of a number of specific to-do items (tasks). A project can be something small like 🛳 Renew passport (6 tasks) or big like 🎸Convert guest room to a music studio (31 tasks).

I generally include an emoji in my project names because somehow they help motivate me. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Some favorite completed projects of 2020 were:

  • 🗳Vote (3 tasks)
  • 🤹‍♂️Plan for best self (7 tasks)
  • 🦠Corona (5 tasks), my most fitting “project” for 2020

I canceled 9 projects, such as:

  • 🌶Home gardening
  • 🥋Grav Maga
  • 🦃 Holiday family plans, the most fitting cancellation for 2020

I completed 11 projects to “fix” things, including:

  • 🐍Fix that gap under my door (3 tasks)
  • 🥁Fix drums (luckily only 2 tasks and zero dollars)
  • ✍️Blog fix up (6 tasks)

Top project in progress:

  • 📘Write a book (43 tasks completed, many more to go — and growing)

In 2020, I completed about 7 per day on average. This is useful because it tells me how to pace myself.

I canceled about 1.4 per day. Canceling isn’t a bad thing — it’s just the opposite. It’s a conscious choice not to do something you thought you needed to do.

Going into the new year, I have 62 projects in progress. Hmm, it already looks like a busy year coming up. 🤔


Here is one of the SQLite queries I used for this post. 👨🏻‍💻

SELECT title, date(creationDate, 'unixepoch') as start, date(stopDate, 'unixepoch') as stop from TMTask
WHERE type = 1
AND status = 3
AND date(creationDate, 'unixepoch') BETWEEN '2020-01-01' AND '2020-12-31'
ORDER BY creationDate

You

5 Things You Don’t Need to be Happy, Fulfilled, and Successful

This Medium post has lots of juicy points.

👉 5 Things You Don’t Need to be Happy, Fulfilled, and Successful

It’s so good that I am just going to summarize it and quote it a lot right here per my own goals, but you should read it for yourself.

You Don’t Need A Bunch of Money – But making money encourages personal growth and gives you freedom and peace of mind. And the personal growth keeps you away from bad jobs, bad bosses, and bad commutes.

You Don’t Need to “Find Your Passion” – Just be good at something. Passion comes from being good at something, not the other way around. Being good at decent job can get you autonomy, a sense of meaning, and a positive work environment.

If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset (“what can the world offer me?”) and instead adopt the craftsman mindset (“what can I offer the world?”).

Cal Newport

You Don’t Need Everyone to Like You – “The best way to get other people to like you is to learn how to like yourself.”

You Don’t Need (Or Even Want) to Be Famous – “What can you pursue if fame isn’t the answer? Pursue building a tribe instead.”

I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.

Jim Carrey

You Don’t Need Your Life to be a Movie – “You want a feeling of accomplishment, growth, and the pride that comes from following through with your goals.”

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

Seth Godin
creativity · You

Doing Great Things is Boring 🤷🏻‍♂️

It’s all about consistency, process, and patience… I know, yawn. But also, wow!

Interesting story here about how this guy changed his life in one year.

👉 How I Changed My Life’s Trajectory in Only 1 Year

For him, it came down to a few simple behaviors applied consistently.

  • Being curious
  • Meditating
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Saying no
  • Deemphasizing external approval
  • Doing these things consistently

I’m trying to do the same, but I would add exercising, playing music, and goofing around with the kids to the list as well. 😛


See also

This article about going slow and sticking to the process.

The moment you start enjoying the process, you’ll realize that this is what life is all about.

And this article about consistency.

The world is brimming with ideas, but few act as vessels.

Creating is not simply laying out the concept, but adapting through implementation as many times as needed until it finally works.

Books · Quotes

“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.”

I try to read A Christmas Carol this time every year 🎄 to glean its lessons anew. Ebenezer Scrooge is a nice little annual kick in the butt!

This year, Marley’s ghost and his minions especially spoke out to me. 👻

The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

The story is not just about being a better person and having some heart, but is also about the pain of regret: failing to impact the world for the better while you have the chance.

No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.

I definitely recommend the Patrick Stewart reading of this book. He brings out the urgency and freshness of it, even though the book is nearly 200 years old!

creativity · You

Genius Happens When You’re Not Thinking

I love the idea that your brain makes its most interesting breakthroughs and connections when you’re not actively thinking. It is well stated in this article.

👉 Your Unconscious Mind Is a Supercomputer. Use It to Achieve Breakthroughs.

With really interesting problems, you usually don’t need to think harder. You need to relax and let you mind do its thing while you sleep or do errands. That is when genius strikes. ⚡️

Creativity is all about making interesting connections. Albert Einstein called it “combination play.”

In my experience, this unconscious combo play is important for figuring out what do to and not so much how to do it. Once the what is clear in your mind, it can be followed by all the conscious thinking and hard work to get it done. Unfortunately, that part does not happen in your sleep. 😉

As a side note, there is also a beautiful space when your mind is so immediate and present that is simply doesn’t have time to think. This is what I like about improv. And also baseball.

You can’t think and hit at the same time.

Yogi Berra (maybe)
Music · You

MGMT and Buddha Agree on Solutide

With a little more time to myself right now, it’s good to have reminder that this is not a bad thing. So say two opposing forces: MGMT and Buddah. 🤷🏻‍♂️

I don’t love all the hedonistic fantasy of the MGMT song Time to Pretend, but the song does rock, and this line stands out:

I’ll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone.

And apparently Buddha had given being alone even more thought. 🤔 This video is worth three minutes if you’re feeling lonely.