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Friday, February 28, 2014

Develop An Exquisite Understanding Of Your Own Timing

Timing isn't everything, it's the only thing.

And the great creative discipline is simply knowing what season it is.

And that means much more than the changing of the leaves or the melting of the snow or setting your clocks back an hour. The word “season” actually comes from the French saison, which means, “the right moment, the appropriate time.”

And our job as communicators, people whose work involves creating something and then turning it loose in the world, is to develop an exquisite understanding of our own timing.

Let’s use breathing as an example.

From a respiratory perspective, there are three possible actions.

Inhaling, exhaling and pausing.

When we breathe in, our lungs inflate, sucking air in and pushing the ribs up and out, forcing the diaphragm down, inhaling fresh air. This action represents the season of inspiration. And when the air comes gusting in, it’s our duty to shit up and listen to what wants to be written.

When we breathe out, our lungs deflate, blowing air out and pushing the ribs down and in, pulling the diaphragm up, exhaling stale air. This action represents the season of creation. And when the air goes swirling out, it’s our duty to honor the flow and work until the vein is out.

When we pause, our lungs don’t really deflate or inflate, they just sort of relax and run idle and take a brief look around until the body decides what to do next. This action represents the season of intermission. And when the respiration goes on hold, it’s our duty to stay present enjoy the sacred space between.

Now, physiologically, each of these actions only lasts a few seconds.

Unless you’re a sea turtle who can hold his breath for seven hours.

But psychologically and emotionally and existentially, each of these actions can last anywhere from an hour to a week to a month to a year.

It all depends on what season it is in our creative life.

And since there’s not much we can do to control that, the best we can hope for is to hone that discipline and to creatively leverage the right moment and the appropriate time.


Are you inhaling, exhaling or pausing?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Your Repertoire Of Faithful Forces

The flow of creativity is the constant.

The feelings of the creator are the variable.                                                   

And if you seek to consistently generate compelling messages and work on a prolific scale as a communicator, you need better constants.

Muscles to count on, places to return to, rituals to abide by, people to confide in, rocks to anchor to, practices to rely on, structures to lean against, these routines become the repertoire of faithful forces to keep your creative life stable and fruitful when circumstances get a little too overwhelming.

I prefer vomiting.

That’s the term I use for a gasket where you purge everything that happens to you. A daily ritual of emotional release where you metabolize your experiences, make serious mental headway into your ideas and get the creative faucet flowing. A space without circumference, a private container of safety where judgment can’t enter and a free venue where ideas can run free without the scrutiny of readers, critics, editors and yourself.

Julia Cameron, author of the bestselling series The Artist’s Way, pioneered this journaling exercise twenty years ago. She called it morning pages. Here’s how it works:

First thing in the morning, even before checking email, open a blank document, either on paper or on your computer. Spew out every single thought and feeling and idea that’s running through your mind. Dreams, worries, fears, annoyances, ideas, what you did the day before, everything. Keep writing until you’ve filled up three pages. And when you’re done, feel free to save or trash the document, and then get on with your day.

Try it for a week, and you’ll quickly find that that vomiting is one of the constants you won’t be able to live without. And the best part is, there’s no one right way to do it. What matters is that you understand the science behind it as a constant. What matters is that you trust the process as a gateway to prolificacy.

In fact, it’s quite scientific.

Cameron’s field research on morning pages is extensive and clinically proven. In each of the books in her series on creativity, she shares case studies, insights and breakthroughs from readers around the world who committed to this daily ritual and saw real results.

And since I’ve devoured every book she’s ever written, I’ve taken the liberty of creating a summary of the science behind morning pages.

First, here’s what they are.


They are time outs. They are portable solitude. They are rituals of reflection. They are a form of meditation. They help you listen to yourself. They are the first check in of the day. They are the basic tools of creative unblocking. They are psychological holding environments. They are gateways to inner and higher selves. They are gripe sessions where you work out your grudges. They are moments of free association and celebration.
They are catcher’s mitts for many small ideas that lead to larger breakthroughs.

Second, here’s what they do:

Lend you stability. Prioritize your day. Keep you grounded. Give you a place to ventilate.
Give you the privacy you crave. Help you take accurate stock of your life. Provide a place to examine the many aspects of an experience. Reframe our failures into lessons learned. Galvanize your days and make you acutely attuned to your personal feelings.
Give us immediate access to creative energy, point us in the direction of our growth and make us intimate with ourselves, which allows us to be more authentically intimate with others.

Thirdly, here’s why they work:

You awaken your intuition. You must train your censor to stand aside. You get current, catch up on yourself and pinpoint precisely what you are feeling and thinking. You tap into a creative energy that flows like a subterranean river through your life. You can find out what you like and don’t like. You can report precisely and just let yourself write. You get down on the page whatever it is you are. You keep your spirit from being parched and dry. You can miniaturize irrational worries and underscore your legitimate concerns in a sorting process. You draw to your attention those areas of your life that need your focus. You discover that a little trickle of writing keeps the flow from closing down completely.

Lastly, here’s why they matter:

Morning pages are a perfect way to create off the record. There’s just something beautiful and healthy about those never before never again moments when we give ourselves permission to create off the record. To make things without the burden of evidence. It’s a helpful way to keep our creative practice balanced. And since the impulse to make things on the record is a primary characteristic of human beings, it’s liberating as hell to fight it every once in a while. Morning pages give us the freedom to follow our most impractical curiosities.

Vomiting never felt so good.

Will you add this constant to your repertoire of faithful forces?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Let Your Why Drive

What you’re creating isn’t as important as why you’re creating it.

That’s what drives prolificacy.

And the secret is, once you identify the running imperative that drives your creative behavior, the nobility behind your work and the posture with which you approach your art, the what will make a habit of present itself.

When I started preproduction on my first documentary, my videographer asked about the vision for the film. Having never worked in that medium before, I decided to let my why drive the process. And so, I wrote my creative vision for the movie, not only as a personal exercise, but also as a directorial rubric for the team’s behaviors at all phases of the creative process.

Here’s the email:

Here’s what am I trying to do with this movie.

I have a bunch of songs and stories and sermons and scenes. They’re all meaningful to me and I want to share them with the world through the medium of a movie. I don’t know what it is, I don’t care what it is. All I know is why I want it to exist, and that’s because I’m a person who expresses and communicates and shares his feelings and ideas in a prolific way with the world, and since I’ve never tried doing so through this particular medium, I’m taking initiative and finding a new way to do what I do.

I have a passion to mass communicate, to beguile people with words and images and ideas and stories and music that transfix and compel, and I want to use every possible form of media to circulate my views, extend my sentiments and make my thoughts and feelings and expressions accessible to as many people as possible. Even if that means inventing new methods of communicating.

I don’t care about making money or making a name for myself, I don’t care about being right or good or accurate, I just want to have this visual archive of these things that are important to me.

That was my why.

And over the course of the project, in those moments when I was feeling overwhelmed or tired or sick or not in the mood to do any kind of creating, I read that email to remind myself why I do what I do. Sometimes I even read it aloud.

Because the reality is, nobody has time for anything anymore. That’s the first trick to time management, assuming there’s never a good time to do anything. Meaning, it’s not about finding time, it’s not even about making time; it’s about stealing it. Grabbing tiny moments from the crowded day and making a meal out of them.

The trick is, if there’s an activity we need to discipline ourselves to do, whether it’s writing or painting or coding or whatever other creative obligations our life demands of us, it’s not really a question of making the time to do it. The secret is creating a rich context of meaning around the activity so it becomes existentially painful not to do it.

You have to trick your own brain.

Take exercise, for example. Dragging your butt out of bed to go to the gym is no easy task. But it becomes significantly easier when you change your understanding of what the gym means to you.

If you reframed the gym as more than just a smelly room to sweat and pump iron, but a center of belonging and a neighborhood community where you connect with people who have overlapping value system, you might be more likely go. If you reframed the gym as a place where you work out your emotions, purge your stress and return to center, the necessary training to handle the demands of life, you might be more likely to go.

This reframing won’t create any more time in your day to do something, but considering the depth of meaning you now associate with the gym, why would you ever want to miss another day?

What you’re creating isn’t as important as why you’re creating it.

And so, being prolific isn’t the goal. It’s the personalized system of practices and routines and disciplines and commitments that enable you to achieve your goal.

That’s the why.

It’s not just about spawning, it’s about stretching. Stepping outside of what’s comfortable, constantly creating something new, living larger than your labels, that’s how you grow as a person. But if you never make anything, you never find out who you are.

It’s not just about executing, it’s about elevating. Running up the score on your resume doesn’t matter if you’re not getting better, smarter, stronger and sharper with every new thing you create. But if the work never improves, you’re just running in place.

It’s not just about purging, it’s about providing. When you die, plan to leave behind a body of work, not just a body. Until then, each artistic milestone you pass is another piece of your legacy. But if you do it right, it will live forever.

It’s not just about content, it’s about commitment. The guts to stay in the game, show up every day and ship no matter what, will earn respect for the work and, more importantly, for the backbone behind it. But if you lack continuity, the content won’t matter.

It’s not just about money, it’s about mandate. Most artists do what they do because they’re ugly when they don’t. It’s central to who they are. It’s their spiritual imperative to make art. But if they don’t create, they don’t feel alive.

It’s not just about entertainment, it’s about expression. The purpose of art isn’t just to please people, it’s to project ideas and feelings. To share a sense of life and an index of human values. But with only a few pieces of work, you can’t express the whole picture.

As a creator, as you continue to ship more and more great work, never forget that giving birth to your creative brainchildren is only the beginning.

It’s not about being prolific, it’s about what prolificacy enables you to do.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Scott's Sunday Sentences, Issue 015

Sentences are my spiritual currency. 

Throughout my week, I'm constantly scouring and learning and reading and inhaling and annotating from any number of newspapers, blogs, online publications, books, articles, songs, art pieces, podcasts, eavesdroppings, random conversations and other sources of inspiration.

Turns out, most of these sentences can be organized into about eleven different categories, aka, compartments of life that are meaningful to me. And since I enjoy being a signal tower of things that are interesting, I figured, why not share them on a regular basis?

In the spirit of "learning in public," I've decided to publish a weekly digest of my top findings, along with their respective links or reference points. Sentence junkies of the world unite!

Creativity, Innovation & Art 
"Develop muscles and routines and practices to consistently generate compelling messages that first move you deep in your bones so that you then have something worth telling others about," from Craft Lab.

Culture, Humanity & Society 
"Those who seek peace above all else will always deceive to keep the water calm," from Divergent.

Identity, Self & Soul 
"A man with a habit ain’t hard to find," from Kick Ass 2.

Lyrics, Poetry & Passages 
"Let me heal your eyes," from Jim Henderson.

Meaning, Mystery & Being 
"You have bitten into something, your own chewing drowns out the world’s chatter," from Brainstorm.

Media, Technology & Design 
"It’s not technology, it’s what companies are doing to people through technology," from Generation Like.

Nature, Health Science 
"Healthy means not driven by anything unwholesome," from Jerry Seinfeld.

People, Relationships & Love 
"God went on vacation and put you in charge," from an overheard conversation.

Psychology, Thinking & Feeling
"Be the one who redefines toughness as restraint," from Jen Lemen.

Success, Life & Career
"You can still make a full commitment without taking yourself too seriously," from Michael Port.

Work, Business Organizations
"You can hire people to do everything but hire people," from David Rosenblatt.

See you next week!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Watch Scott Ginsberg's TEDx Talk: What's In A Nametag?

My TEDx Talk is now live!

Recorded at the famous Sheldon Theater in St. Louis, Scott Ginsberg tells the story of how he built an iconic brand, a profitable business and a fourteen year career out of wearing a nametag everyday.




To watch the movie on TEDx, click 
here.
To see pictures from the event, click here
To download Scott's original slide deck, click here.
To book Scott to speak at your next event, click here.



Monday, February 17, 2014

I Didn't Come Here to Hit the Bullseye

“What are you looking to do here?”

I think that’s a trick question.

And I’m not so presumptive to try and answer it with the limited information that I have about you and your organization.

So instead of telling you what I want to do, let me show you who I am.

Let me to take you on a guided tour of my history, my engine, my values, my anthology and my assets, and then let me ask you if that’s the kind of person who can plug into your organizational machine.

Let me tell you about the life situations have brought me to my knees, exposing my journey to become what I aspire to be, and then let me ask you if that’s the kind of rare and valuable resource who might make a real difference here.

Because I didn’t come here to hit the bullseye.

I came here to fashion new arrows, raise the target, change entire field upon which the target rests and redefine what it means to hit it.

Cool?


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Scott's Sunday Sentences, Issue 014

Sentences are my spiritual currency. 

Throughout my week, I'm constantly scouring and learning and reading and inhaling and annotating from any number of newspapers, blogs, online publications, books, articles, songs, art pieces, podcasts, eavesdroppings, random conversations and other sources of inspiration.

Turns out, most of these sentences can be organized into about eleven different categories, aka, compartments of life that are meaningful to me. And since I enjoy being a signal tower of things that are interesting, I figured, why not share them on a regular basis?

In the spirit of "learning in public," I've decided to publish a weekly digest of my top findings, along with their respective links or reference points. Sentence junkies of the world unite!

Creativity, Innovation & Art 
"Solitude is a precondition for creativity," from Sherry Turkle.

Culture, Humanity & Society 
"Religious institutions could always rely in the past on the relative ignorance of their flock," from Planet Ivy.

Identity, Self & Soul 
"I don’t think anybody who’s ever done everything hasn’t been considered an asshole by the general populace," from Slacker.

Lyrics, Poetry & Passages 
"Instead of waiting to be hit by the light, I decided to become the light instead," from Gaping Void.

Meaning, Mystery & Being 
"The existential threats worthy of your worry engine," from Edge.

Media, Technology & Design 
"We’re paying companies to beta test their technology," from Art Alexakis.

Nature, Health Science 
"We should worry less about our species losing its biosphere than losing its soul," from Douglass Rushkoff.

People, Relationships & Love 
"This idea of a soul mate, of someone who will come to complete us and save us from having to take care of ourselves," from Before Midnight.

Psychology, Thinking & Feeling
"Someone who has inconvenient feelings," from Feelings Schmeelings.

Success, Life & Career
"Instead of telling people what you want to do, show them who you are and let them fill in the blanks," from a job interview.

Work, Business Organizations
"The artifact isn't just a product of an exercise, but a rubric for operable behaviors at all levels of the organization," from a brandtag.

See you next week!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Reconnect to the Unarguable Parts of Your Identity

How do you know if you’re hanging around the wrong people?

Instead of making you feel seen, they make you question your value.

And the worst part is, it’s insidious. You wake up one day and realize the world has been dulling and muting your spirit, slowly beating the genius out of you, pushing you to lose a part of yourself that you may never get back.

It’s not a pretty picture.

But there is a secret to snapping out of this mental malaise. You have to reconnect to the unarguable parts of your identity. You have to physically flesh out the things that nobody can take away from you:

What you’ve learned, what you’ve created, what you’re capable of, how you’ve contributed to the group and most importantly, who you’ve become in the process.

Because even if those things aren’t part of their legacy, they’re still part of yours.

And soon enough, you’ll find a group of people who will have eyes to see you.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Love Will Wear You Down Eventually

Cold weather, I can handle.

With the right combination of warm clothing, clunky waterproof boots and a trusty soundtrack of happy music to keep the blood pressure down and the attitude up, I manage to make it out alive.

Cold people, however, I can’t handle.

And not on an individual basis. Dealing with the occasional ice queen or an unfriendly colleague isn’t the end of the world. Coldness in isolation is manageable, and I’ve accepted it as an inescapable feature of the interpersonal landscape.

But coldness en masse, that’s a different story.

I once found myself surrounded by a tribe of uncaring, unthoughtful, cynical, terminally certain people who wouldn’t know warmth if it burned them on the ass.

And it corroded my spirit like an evil rust.

I was born on Valentine's Day, for god's sake.

So despite my efforts to infect the tribe with warmth and positivity, and no matter how many times I thought to myself, my love will wear you down eventually, not even the finest thermostat, the softest sweatshirt or the warmest cup of coffee could cure the culture of coldness.

And I eventually realized, I can’t dance to your fidgety tune.

So I took my music elsewhere.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Trapping Your Talent in a Box

I have a confusing relationship with talent.

As a romantic, when I encounter someone so haunted by talent that I can barely look away from her, a once in a lifetime artist who makes me think, whoa, the world cannot be deprived of this person’s magic, I just want to run up and hug her until every drop of talent comes oozing out of her nose for all the world to see.

And that warms my heart.

As a realist, I know that millions of talented people will never become as successful and happy as they could be, because they literally won’t have the time to take their talents on the ride they deserve. Somebody could be the most brilliant illustrator on the planet, but if they spend the majority of their waking life waiting tables just to pay the bills, there simply won’t be enough hours in the day for them to develop, market and leverage their talents.

And that breaks my heart.

As researcher, I know there are always exceptions. We’ve all heard the mythology about the single mother on welfare who had a full time job and still managed to write the greatest fantasy novel series of all time. We’ve all heard about the systems for building portable creative environments, folding time and threading our talents together. And we’ve all heard the purists proclaim that talent is finally king because distribution is free.

And that inspires my heart.

But ultimately, I’m still confused when it comes to talent.

Which part of ourselves are we supposed to listen to?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Meet the Raging Tides With Radical Grace

In times of misery, our tendency is to try and outrun the pain.

To do some emotional jujitsu on ourselves, sidestepping whatever inner conflict bubbles up so we can move on before any of the punches land.

On the other hand, it’s also worthwhile to let everything register.

To sit with the mental waves as they come crashing in, trusting that we’re at the threshold of something important, and we should pay attention and keep going and run the extra mile just to find out how the story ends.

Because the benefit of misery is, it gives us window into our values.


And we all need help remembering who we are.