Real Art

When I was starting off writing (and probably long before that) I thought that art was only true and worthy if it was produced during a wave of inspiration. That moment all artists were praising and longing for. When the muse comes to visit and they produce a masterpiece.

Some wind up waiting for years. For decades. They never start or they start and then stop. But the important thing is at the end, they have created a true work of art.

It was only recently that I came to realize how flawed this understanding was. I would shy away from planning, I would love most the pieces I’ve created while in the flow.
I would wait for more.

But at one point it became evident that I would get nowhere if I was only relying on muse. It visited me rarely and once it was gone, I was lost.

And the muse did serve me well for shorter pieces. Poetry and blogs like this one. It was when I attempted long-form writing that I found myself unable to finish anything.

So I thought, there must be another way. At that time I was organizing my whole life so things kind of came together naturally.

I didn’t have to dig too deep to find out that there were quite a few authors who have thoroughly planned out their books before writing them. And they were still a success.

For some, this might be no surprise at all. In the end, every person winds up creating art in their own way. I was just putting far more value on art created by the governance of unpredictable and unstable inspiration.

And now I see that there is no real and fake, no right or wrong way to write and to create art, to live. There is what works and what doesn’t.

And I am so glad I’ve found what works for me. This post was written by the seat of the pants, but I’m gonna go plan my book now.

Art does not become “real” by the means it was created. It becomes true art when it touches you, when it makes you think.

And if it is a masterpiece, it might even change you.

For the better.

For real.

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

I saw this quote by Peter Drucker in a presentation at work. And it rang so true to me not only because it applied to my job. It applies to my life as well.

I’ve been meaning to write about habits and rituals for so long, but somehow as many times as I started, I couldn’t strike the right chord. I’ve always thought I was that free spirit who followed no agenda. So it came like a huge surprise for me to find out that I functioned better on a schedule.

And, as the things usually go for me, I shoot from one extreme to the other. No agenda to an agenda I felt I had to follow blindly. Because it worked unless in those times it didn’t and I was reluctant to change it.

But let’s stay on track. What do culture and strategy stand for in our personal life? These are big in the business world and the pillars of any successful company.

One of these I already touched on. Culture is who we already are, our habits and everyday being. And strategy is our goals and plans for the future.

I used to heavily rely on strategy, it has always gotten more attention, in business as well. You always have to know where you are going, what comes up next.

And this makes perfect sense. Wandering with no direction whatsoever is not the most satisfying experience. But having your gaze fixated on the future, you miss out the real thing. The now. The life now.

And this is why I’ve failed 90% of my grand plans. Because they focused on the result and not the process and it was completely overwhelming. Enthusiasm got me started but always ran out too quickly.

Whereas working on becoming the person who gets this grand plans done has yielded far better results. Focusing on small things, on myself, on what I do every day and how has gotten me a long way. Building habits has been more successful than any goal setting strategy I’ve ever tried out.

So this is it. Culture is who you are in every minute of the day and strategy is where you want to get.

And these do go hand in hand. Drucker and other people who made this quote popular have stressed this a lot. Focusing on culture does not mean throwing strategy out the window. Just reminds not to put all the attention on planning and forgetting that the ways of working are what truly moves the needle.

Culture lays the foundation now so that there is a path to the strategy of the future.

You Are Already Defined

If there is one thing I want to remember and constantly be reminded of, it is that.

I am already defined.

I carry it within. Who I am and how much I’m worth doesn’t come from the outside world.

It’s not up to my job, social status, partner, possessions or fame to tell my story.

It’s not what I have that defines me.
It’s the way I define myself.

In the words of Fall Out Boy in Save RockNRoll: “You are what you love, not who loves you.”

I am already defined as a human being worthy of love. Whether I belive that is entirely up to me, but it is useful to remember it.

So much depends on that definition. On the way I see myself. In fact, my whole life does.

I’m not saying believing you are a superhero is the cure to everything. That’s not how things work. But having faith that you are worthy, even if you are not observing evidence of it right now, does take away some of the load.

Makes it easier to relax with yourself, makes it easier to be yourself.

And one gigantic disclaimer here. You are already defined doesn’t mean you can’t redefine yourself. No, not at all.

It is just a gentle reminder that even if you never get the stuff people are “supposed” to have or if you have them and lose them, you don’t lose your worth. It is already there, it is always there.

So if your definition feels off, go ahead and challenge it until it feels good. Don’t let it get you stuck. Don’t think “hey, I’ve already been defined as this unlucky person/loser etc., so this is what awaits me for the rest of my life”

It is your definition for a reason. Because it is the definition of you by you. If you are an advocate of it, the people around you and life itself will follow suit shortly.

Define and redefine yourself as much as you need and do it often if that helps. It’s not easy to strike the right cord from the get go. It needs tuning in, it needs time.

And that time might be months, might be years and it is okay. As long as you feel you are getting closer, you are on track.

Oh, and one last wavier. As much as definitions are important and make us get a better grasp of everything around us, we should not get lost into that.

The map is not the teritory.

The best map will be produced if you go explore the teritory in real life.

Same goes for the definition. The best one will come out of you just going and living life.

And yes, you are not and cannot be defined by a single definition.

But if it has to be one and you have to start somewhere, make it this.

You are already defined as worthy.

Still Believe in Magic?

That time of the year.

(That time of THAT year but this is a topic for another day.)

The moment for taking stock.

The moment when we look back and decide whether this was our year or not (Seriously, let’s leave aside it was 2020 for the purpose of this article.)

If it was our year – easy. Of course, we would be happy and believe even better things are awaiting in the next one.

But what if it wasn’t? What if it was a bad year or even the worst year we’ve had?

Then of course we are hopeful the new one will change that. We hope it will be different. Better.

Yet, do we believe it can?

Because this is what it all boils down to. Our beliefs shape our perception. And our perception of the world, is, what the world is to us, right?

It is the way we see life. And we feel and act accordingly.

And I know all too well, it is not as simple as believing in utopia. This is not what creates it. You need some proof that it is possible, you need to feel your vision is believable.

Because then, what is stopping you from acting on it and making it reality?

And if you were to ask me
After all that we’ve been through
“Still believe in magic?”
Oh, yes, I do
Oh, yes, I do
Oh, yes, I do
Oh, yes, I do
Of course, I do

– Coldplay

Fearing The Known

For somebody who has browsed some of my older posts, it is clear that fear is a recurring theme over here. If you haven’t seen the topic around before, now you know.

To be honest, that’s how everything started out. With me writing, trying to motivate people (read me) to be brave and go after their dreams. To get out of the comfort zone, to step into the unknown and just do it.

And I have to admit, this recipe worked quite well for me. I ended up doing some pretty adventurous things I never thought I would have the courage to do. It felt good. It made me feel powerful.

But here’s the thing with that type of “charge” – it is not that long-lasting. You go out and do it, you feel the thrill and then it is just a memory. It still feels nice remembering how brave you were, but it doesn’t feel the way it does while you live it.

So what’s the remedy?

You go on to the next adventure. And the next one. And the next one.

It feels good to be the one living the fast life, right? The black sheep, the one who decided to follow the path less travelled. The one who has all the good stories to tell.

If that’s your sweet spot, the thing that not only makes you but also keeps you happy and gives you the feeling you belong, then you can stop reading here. You took a leap of faith and you won.

Yet if there is still something missing, something not quite right, maybe I have the answer to that. And maybe not, but I will share it anyway.

Most of the time it is hiding in our subconscious. We don’t realise we are so brave yet so afraid.

That’s something I’ve noticed, and maybe it’s just me, but I feel more comfortable going for the big risk than for the small one. It sounds counterintuitive, but it is true. Trying to fit in a group of friends feels more daunting than going to a foreign country for a month on my own.

Why is that so?

Because in high risk, there’s actually less risk of real failure. That thing is dangerous, not ordinary, not everybody is doing it. So even if you fail, you are still a hero, you’ve tried. Whereas if you fail in a low risk situation, like making friends, you are what? A loser?

Then there’s also the commitment part. You don’t make a relationship, a friendship work by diving straight in and it’s done. It requires effort, it requires you to show up daily and grow. 20% vulnerable today, 21% tomorrow.

These small daily wins are different from the big momentary wins. You want to live in a different city every 2 months? You get up, you go, it’s done. But actually settling there might be a bit more difficult, right?

The stakes seem to be lower with high risk – what is it to lose when there’s nothing stable?

And I can’t stress this enough – I don’t want to say don’t be adventurous. I’ve been advocating so long for that. All I want to do is make sure we recognise both sides of the coin. Neither stale life nor extremely unstable one is the way. Unless one of these is the way for you and it makes you truly happy.

If not, simply alternating between the two doesn’t help either. We need that balance, we need to incorporate the known into the unknown and vice versa.

Because big wins are not always hidden in the big risks. Or should I rather say, big risks are not always hidden into the unknown.

For some of us the known is scary, and it’s good to know.

On Impulse

This is how we function, isn’t it?
This might as well be all we are, right?

Impulses in a brain.

Our thoughts, our actions, our emotions, our fears… All on impulse.

Many things we do without really thinking about them. Some are habits, other crazy ideas we jumped into. Sometimes all turns out well, sometimes not so.

A great deal of these impulses might indeed control us beyond our will and understanding, but we are not slaves to all of them.
We can learn when to follow and when to wait and let go.

The truth is, everybody gets impulsive thoughts but not everybody acts on them.

When we sense an improper impulse, we should just evaluate it as such and let it go. We should not let ourselves get lost in it, be consumed by it.

Because it doesn’t define us. Because we need to know we are not our thoughts. We are not the emotions we want to deny. We are not the impulses we want to surpress.

Labeling ourselves with everything we think and feel is a game we don’t want to be playing. Not only is it wrong, it is also exhausting.

We do know from experience that acting on impulse doesn’t always have the best outcome. (And by acting on impulse I mean to act when we are triggered, uneasy, rather than these magical times when we are centered and take inspired action as if out of nowhere).

And when we face that not-so-good outcome, we tend to regret our actions. And this creates more troubling thoughts. And more tourturing emotion. So we end up triggered and uneasy again, and led by impulses again. We are stuck in this vicious cirlce, trying to distract ourselves, trying to run from what we need to face.

But there’s also another way. We can break the cycle.

We are used to always being on the go, to nothing and nobody waiting for no one, to life rushing past us, to always having to do. Yet this is not the only way for us to live.

We can stop for a second, acknowledge our destructive impulses, stay with them, wait a while and do nothing. (Yes, nothing nothing)

And guess what? They die out. They disappear as unexpectedly as they showed up.

We don’t deny the impulse, but we don’t act on it either.

We just observe it, as we’d watch wild horses running through the prarie.

And we might even appreciate this impulse. Its beauty and what it is trying to do for us.

We might even be grateful.
On impulse.

The Grand Affair

I guess I wouldn’t be wrong if I said most people’s definition of happiness would be something along the lines of “life always goes the way I want it to”. All of us want things from life, and most of us definitely want to get them. But not many do, do they?

Well, here’s the thing. We are human and it seems we are wired for wanting. It’s not like we get what we wanted and we stop wanting. Maybe we do, but just for a little while. And then we hop off to the next thing we want. And the next. And the next.

We tend to want the things we don’t have but others do. Even if they are not better objectively. We have curly hair, we want straight. We have brown eyes, we want blue. We have a nice house but the neighbours have nicer. The grass is always greener on the other side.

So then, if we applied this logic to what we tend to want from life, would we still want it if we had it?

To put this even simpler, would we be happy if we were always getting everything we wanted?

My wild guess is no.

Then we would probably want for once things not to go our way cause they always do and it’s boring. We would want some variety. Some adventure.

And these are things we want now too. We appreciate the extraordinary. We love surprises. We aim for out of the box.

So why then would we want to live a life so predictable? Where would be the thrill of living, if we knew whatever we imagined would eventually land in our lap?

I see this like a relationship and the way we choose partners. I think most of us wouldn’t be truly happy with a significant other who always does what we say and never challenges us and surprises us. We like them to be their own person with their own opinions and life.

Because, in the end, this is what makes relationships worthwhile. They give us the opportunity to grow by showing us new sides to ourselves and, oftentimes, new sides to life too. If the other person always did what we do, had the same hobbies and never proposed something new, we would not only get bored but also never discover new exciting opportunities.

It is true relationships can be a bit too challenging at times. We have to compromise. And we have to compromise a lot.

But we do it for the person we love.

Then why not love life and compromise for it every now and then too?

Definitely not all the time. Some things we want too much to give up on. But there are others we can compromise on.

Life actually does that all the time. Maybe it had another grand plan in mind, but it notices our efforts and compromises and gives us a chance.

So isn’t that a life worth living?

Isn’t that a life worth loving?

In a Superposition

It is not all black and white. Some of us find it harder to see than others.

After all, isn’t that what the grey is? Black and white coming together. And existing together as something new.

Let’s agree, most of us want to have our cake and eat it. We want it both ways, we want mutually exclusive things.

We want a great career, an amazing social life, entertaining hobbies and enough sleep. We want commitments but we want our freedom too.

The FOMO is real. We want it ALL.

Well, some good news here. Physics says that’s possible. If you’ve ever heard of the Schrödinger’s Cat, you get the idea (If you haven’t, check out this sweet and short article by National Geographic). The cat is both dead and alive until you open the box and observe just either.

And here’s where the magic ends. Once you observe things, they become just one of the (multiple) options they could have been. And observing things changes them. Your perception usually shapes them into what’s familiar or needed.

So it seems we can have it all, until… we have just some. Could be mutually exclusive, too. Everyone made fun of UK’s PM Boris Johnson when he said go out but stay home, we need a heard immunity but we need a lockdown, you only go outside if essential but have your meal in a restaurant.

We are faced with such decisions most of the time. It’s a balancing act. It is about understanding that something can be both sides of the coin at the same time.

And it is, more than anything, about accepting it. About respecting the duality of our world. Of your own world. You can be both good and bad, capable and incapable, enough and not enough. And that’s okay. We’ve been shown everything changes. Sometimes way too quickly.

Only if you are willing to behold the extremes, do you find the middle ground.

Therefore, you are not in a position to decide your future, you are in a superposition.

Just prepare, once it comes to actually living it, you would need to prioritize and make trade-offs.

Until then, you have it all. Right here, right now.

Which Way?

Is it just me or do we always spend more time thinking about what could go wrong and not about what could go right?

Yeah, I know that we need direction and our brain needs an amount of information that won’t overwhelm it. So usually when we imagine things going our way, we have one preferable way. Not that we may not be satisfied otherwise, it’s just easier to focus on one scenario only.

So why, then, do we choose to burn our brain with all the failure options? It would be TMI either way, so how did we decide that was the better one?

I can’t deny being prepared for a disaster can save you. Anticipating challenges and reacting appropriately is vital to survival, and I believe, thriving. Let us then admit that getting ready for trouble is not a complete waste of time.

Right?

Well, the concept looks good on paper (or in typing). However, are we really using all those pictures of doom our mind can come up with to train ourselves how to face whatever comes our way?

I’m not entirely certain. What usually happens is us getting so entrenched with all the stuff that could go wrong, we forget there are stuff remaining that could still go right. We burn out and prefer not to think. Maybe also give up our goal altogether. Without even trying.

Then this is what I want to ask. If we are not to use the negative scenarios as good preparation, then why not use the positive ones for good inspiration?

Have you ever even TRIED to imagine ALL THE THINGS THAT COULD GO RIGHT?

I know, it’s difficult at first. After being trained to go for the negative by default, shifting the perspective might require quite of an effort. But it’s worth it. If nothing else, it’s a good exercise for your brain.

I guess it all comes down to being realistic. Too high of hopes, and you end up shattered on the ground. But always being on the lookout for ways that can fail you… well, you’ll come across a ton.

Oh, and by the way, this is not me telling you to go for the positive, it is all sunshine and rainbows. It’s just a proposal that you may want to try out.

Who knows, maybe you’d anticipate that this event you are going to will be attended by recruiters too so you have your CV ready. Or publishers go to the same dancing class, so you’ve perfected your book pitch. Yes, it will also be helpful for you to know all you try might fail but that the world will keep turning.

So, there it goes. Whether you pick the good or bad scenario simulator is completely up to you.

Experiment and go for the one that works best.

Staying Home

It’s too much. I agree.

Those 4 walls. Or 20 walls or 100. Doesn’t matter, I want out. We all want out.

If somebody asked us “Would you like to stay home for 3 months and chill or just be flexible and work from home?” like half a year ago, most of us would be very excited to accept this irresistible offer. Okay, I agree the offer conveniently doesn’t mention stay home and don’t go anywhere else in rather unsettling conditions, but some people would still hop at the chance.

Most of us would agree for sure if it was for a few days or a week. We all need a break sometimes. From the business, from people.

But give us too long of a break and too much of ourselves and we freak out.

Most of us are completely not used to being by themselves. It almost feels unnatural. I agree we are part of a society and this is the way for us to function normally. For life to keep going on, at least 2 humans are needed. But making others a part of each and every aspect of your life is a recipe for, as we learned the hard way, failure.

Situations like this make us see that, after all, it’s not a bad skill to know how to be all on your own. As would be necessary every now and then.

Times are changing and our heads are buzzing with thoughts, analyses, mental notes and external stimuli. It would be kind of impossible to worry if you’ve turned the iron off in the times iron wasn’t a thing. It would be far from your thoughts to try to estimate whether 64 is a good number of likes in the pre-Facebook era. It wouldn’t be on your mind to spend hours watching inspirational (or stupid) videos on Youtube when this simply wasn’t an option.

And, hold on in there, I’m not saying these things are bad. They are part of our life right now and to a certain extent, a part of who we are.

So it is not about we allow those things or not. It is the extent we allow them up to.

Straying home has challenged us to live in a very stumilii-less environment. And this is not something we are used to. The discomfort arrives instantly. Something is missing, but do we know what? One more video, one more episode, 20 min more of scrolling, maybe more of the news?

Hearing our own thoughts and questions can be painful at times. Is distraction the answer?

I can’t deny it could be. But only a short-term solution. Cause you take yourself everywhere you go and in everything you do. Sooner or later, stuff comes out. And then you can’t play it distracted.

As usual, balance is the key. Too much of nothing, and you’d go crazy. Too much of everything, and you’d go crazy. But learning to be by yourself and to be okay with yourself would also improve the times you are not by yourself.

Staying home and dreaming to be elsewhere all the time is not the best thing you could do. You will go out eventually, don’t worry.

And now, why don’t you go take a look at the rooms you usually avoid to? Who knows what hidden treasures you may find there.