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Tag Archives: Art
“There was a hermit monk living in a cave in the mountains of Japan.
He was a talented artist, and over time he painted a picture of a tiger on the wall of the cave. He was extremely meticulous in his work, and it took him several years to finish. When it was finally done, the tiger was so realistic that when he looked at it he became frightened.”
Excerpt From: Goldstein, Joseph. “Mindfulness.”
How much of our day is spent on “Painted Tigers?” In this Zen story, the monk becomes frightened of his own creation. But, not just his creation, what the creation represents. If it is indeed an image that becomes real in his mind, it could certainly eat him now or if he stays in his cave, it could eat him in the future.
Can an image kill you? Of course not, or can it?
What you hold in you mind, an image from the past that hurt you, an image that makes you apprehensive of the future will define your reality. I’ll take myself for example. Cold calling artists I would like to work with fills me with dread. Why? Any time I reach out to someone I do not know already, who doesn’t know my work, there is always the possibility of rejection, and that is a painted tiger.
I remember all the times I called people in the past and they rejected me – painted tiger. Never mind that I’m relatively successful and I have also reached out with great success. But, in the moment I don’t remember the successes, only the failures. Rationally I know why, because they cause psychic pain!
Our minds are optimized for two things: to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. Of the two, avoiding pain (like being attacked by a Tiger!) is the stronger of the two instincts, and on a primal level your mind doesn’t differentiate between a tiger and a phone call. So, it becomes easy that in our attempts to avoid pain we paralyze ourselves.
The kicker is that paralysis also causes pain. The pain of failure and regret for having not acted in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle. But, even as the cycle may have started many years ago with real pain, it is now and into your future only being perpetuated by a painted tiger.
You have a choice: You can continue to stare at your painted tigers and scare yourself into inaction. Or, you can choose to see it for what it is: an image from your past that is ruining your present and future.
By doing so, you paint over it and reclaim your power. What are your “painted tigers?” Declaring them publicly is a way to cast them aside. Feel free to use the comments to share.
Have you checked the wind direction lately?
Where are you going?
Are you still on course?
Did you decide along the way to head in another much more desirable direction than where you first intended to go, but suddenly find you are still headed towards your first destination?
Has a storm risen up, forcing you to set down for a while to wait for better conditions?
Have you followed a tributary inland and now find yourself fighting your way upstream?
Has the sea totally dried up and you find your boat aground?
After you choose a destination, it’s easy to not notice what’s happening around you if the first part of the journey goes smoothly. You think you’re focused, but focused on what? It’s easy to wait until it’s too late to change course. We have so many distractions, so many things trying to get our attention that it’s no wonder that obvious changes to the environment can take us by surprise.
Any port in a storm is often a mistake. It’s preferable to sail through the tempest. You may know you don’t have the skill set to enter the storm, but if you can survive you will have the skills forever after. No storm can then frighten you and you may even welcome them as they put you at your best.
Just be careful not to create storms where they don’t exist. They come from changing your destination from week to week because you can’t see past the horizon. That boat just sails in circles.
Check the wind direction, set the sails, push off and stay the course. But, remember that the only constant is change. Conditions may change to the degree that you abandon your ultimate destination for another. It’s life, we all need to do that from time to time, just make sure you are not compromising your truth or the desire of your soul.
So, have courage, be adaptable, watch the sea carefully and listen to the breeze as it whispers. The wind will tell you everything you need to know.
In the “Untethered Soul,” Michael Singer brings up the following concept: Picture a blind person with a red tipped white cane walking down the street. They move the cane back and forth tapping. They are not trying to find where to walk, they know where to walk. They are determining where not to walk. By staying on the middle path of their trajectory, they are staying safely between any obstacles.
We have a terrible tendency as humans to swing between extremes as we make our way. We hit obstacles at the edges and swing back the other way until we find an obstacle at the other extreme. These obstacles tend to be the sharp rocks of our own fears, biases, neuroses and perceptions. You find gossip, disrespect, paranoia, rejection and bullying there. Do you want to know why people get hysterical at work? They are out on one of the edges.
We’ve all known co-workers who are addicted to drama. Well, that drama is found at the edges. As they are getting scraped up by immovable objects, they are also doing all they can to drag others there as well. Before long, they will soon careen to the other extreme and beckon you there also. Left to these swings, a effective, energetic workplace can soon turn toxic.
There are many workplaces that will mistake this for progress. It’s not progress, it’s reactive, needless activity that in and of itself is wasted energy. It pushes people out or burns them out.
I’m not talking about the strenuous and rewarding action of forward momentum. I’m talking about impediments to forward momentum. A person on the edge is moving side to side, not forward or backward.
It’s most easily seen in our political climate. The polarization is this endless careening from side to side. One side holding their position on the edge against the other at the other edge. When administrations change sides, so do the parties. It creates intractability and stasis and it’s the people who lose. Where there is no middle, no progressives, there is no progress.
I think everyone, in every workplace, on every crew, has the best intentions of acting in the best interest of helping the endeavor be the best it can be. But, we’re human. Our natural tendency is to serve our self interest first. Once we do that, we’re headed towards the edge.
So, the trick to moving forward is to walk past the drama on either side of you and remain focused on progress. Check your own drama and correct course when necessary. In this sense, the middle way becomes the only way. If you stay in the calm middle, you can keep moving forward, even if in your peripheral vision you can see someone thrashing about on the edge. It doesn’t mean you have to join them there.
If you want work effectively and you want to get things done, take the middle path. Beckon others there also. Take the middle path.
Let go. Yes, that’s it, let go. There comes a certain time where you have to let yourself fall into whatever it is you need to fall into. It could be organization, it could be disorganization. It could be progress, it could be regress. Only you know the answer to the question.
Anger is pointless, fear is pointless, so is joy if you are not walking to the edge and then falling through the barrier that you have set up for yourself there. This is business, this is life.
Sometimes, letting go is walking through the fire and sometimes it’s just walking away. Most of the time, the barrier looks like a dense forest that appears beautiful in its complexity, but too difficult to ever make your way through. It’s funny how we see accomplishment as pushing, pushing, pushing, when it is really relaxing into your fears and letting go of the barriers to success that exist only in your mind. The barriers that you’ve developed through years of positive and negative experiences that have taught you where the boundaries are. The boundaries appear to protect you from too much pain. But, they also protect you from too much joy, too much accomplishment and too much peace.
Walk up to those boundaries, relax and walk through. Let go.
There is a saying: be nice to assistants, receptionists and car valets. One day, they’ll be green lighting your projects.
There are many ways of doing business in Hollywood. The stereotype is the Agent as Shark. Plowing a way through the ocean, eating everything in sight and generally causing havoc. When you have the leverage, it’s easy to do that. But, with experience you learn that you should rarely do things because you can. Doing things because you can has no view of the long term. Instead, you do things that will be fair to everyone involved now.
You’re not kind to those under you because someday you may be under them, you’re kind because it’s right. Because, whether you realize it or not, when people are working under you, the way you conduct yourself teaches them how to treat those that will be working under them someday. It’s like the cycle of abuse. You can perpetuate it or you can break it.
You have a choice. You can continue Hollywood’s bad behavior or choose to take a moment, think about it, and make the choice between coldness or empathy, bullying or mentoring. Almost always, people are doing the very best they can. Berating them won’t make them better. It will freeze them where they are. In the end, if people disappoint you, you probably haven’t done a good enough job of teaching them what they need to know. Such is the mystery of power.
Kindness and understanding is not situational. It’s an operating system.
Once again, it’s a new year. OK, a little past New Years. I’ve been kind of busy lately (I’ll get to that in a blog post next week). Anyway, Is it going to be a fresh beginning? Is it going to be more of the same? Well, that’s always the question isn’t it? Maybe not for some people, but I think that if you can’t point to lessons you’ve learned and acknowledge that wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you’re learning. If you are paying attention, you can avoid making the mistakes of the past. If it seems like you’re not learning, you’re just not paying attention.
Over the holidays, I take time to reflect. Not just on the last year, but I think about what I’ve done over a course of many years to get where I am (wherever that is). It’s a process and there have been victories and mistakes. Every once in a while you have to take stock and hone things down to a few concepts you know have worked for you. In that spirit, here’s what I’ve been thinking about that has worked for me.
Invest in Yourself. Here’s why: no one else is going to do it. At least not in the long term. People will invest in you so long as their short term needs are being met and so long they maintain their profit margin. So, be an owner, and if that’s not possible yet work towards being an owner. How do you do that? Invent your job and when you’re done inventing your job, reinvent it. You do that by doing way more than your job description. Own your position and commit to your evolution within it. I’m not just talking about business. Invest in your physical well being, your mental well being, your spiritual well being. Own it all. If you are not doing the investments, own it and change it. If you are doing the investments, own the process, own the failures and successes equally.
If you’re already an owner, a freelance entrepreneur, an Artist: Examine your investment. Are you constantly making it more valuable with everything you do? Or are you undermining it with time wasters, vamping, avoiding issues or excuses? Be honest and make sure you are on track.
Study and Be Curious. When the world famous cellist Pablo Casals was 90 years old, someone asked him “why do you still practice 4 hours a day?” he replied: “because I think I’m making progress.”
When I’m not studying I notice. When I’m not studying I have the nagging feeling I am falling behind. Why do I care so much? Because this isn’t a frickin dress rehearsal. I’m on stage right now. My career is happening right now. I’m mentoring those around me right now. I’m building a business right now.
What are you trying to accomplish? Are you seeking out the best information to accomplish it? Are you stretching your mind and your skill set? People who know me well, know that I am a big fan of listening to business books on my commute. I am always looking for new ideas. If I could do it all over again, I would have started and maintained my discipline of studying whatever endeavor I was involved in a lot sooner than I did. If you are not constantly bringing new ideas into your life, if you are not practicing what you choose to master, you run the run the risk of maintaining your own status quo. Essentially, status quo doesn’t exist. It’s against the laws of physics to stand completely still. You’re always moving in one direction or the other. Make sure it’s forward.
Trust Your Gut – When people say “my gut is telling me…” they are usually right. You’re gut is the outward extension of your subconscious. Our subconscious is much more in tune with how we are really feeling, because it’s not susceptible to the constant brain chatter we engage in. The key with gut feelings is to separate them from excitement and fear. After you work through your reasoning on a decision, take a moment to breathe and be silent and let your gut weigh in.
Feel Like an Imposter – I am driven by fear, I admit it. I’ve also found that it’s a good place to be. So long as fear doesn’t paralyze you, it’s good to worry that you might be “found out.” It’s good to feel not as smart or talented as people think you are. It’s the trait I find most prevalent in successful artists. It makes you humble and focused. Fear handled correctly will make you study harder, practice harder and be more driven. Confidence is great, over confidence breeds mistakes.
Take Risks “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky. Usually attributed to Michael Jordan, but indeed he stole it from Gretzky. This one is very tough, especially if you have a lot of responsibility. It’s easy to stay where you’re at, do the things that got you to where you are now and maintain. You have to force yourself to step out of your comfort zone and try things that just might not work. We have two parts of the brain, our modern brain, which reasons and our primitive brain which controls our fight or flight response. Our primitive brain hates taking risks, because back when we were living in caves, if you took a risk that didn’t work out, you usually died. Our primitive brain doesn’t know the difference between a lion and making a cold call. You have to push through the physiology and risk failure. You also have to fail a lot to succeed.
In my youth I knew the theater impresario Hal Prince quite well. He once told me that only one third of the shows he produced over his career made money. It wasn’t lost on me that he he had to produce 9 shows to get 3 successful ones. He had to work on every one for years to find out if it was a success or a failure. That is commitment to process. That is knowing the math and accepting it. So, accept the math, get out there, take some risks, fail a lot and start realizing some successes.
Look to the Horizon – When I was learning to drive, I remember the instructor teaching us the concept of looking as far down the road as you can see and let your peripheral vision handle what is directly in front of you. That way you can see problems as they develop long before they reach you. This also pertains to opportunities. I’ve always been interested and excited in the future. The excitement of what’s coming. I’ve always looked down the road, it’s just now that I’m realizing how well it’s served me.
Have Some Things in the Pipeline – This is the game of what’s next? In the music industry, you can have a song, an album, a tour, but you’ll never get a record deal if you can’t tell the label what else they can sell after they’re finished selling what you have now. For every deal I’ve got, I have two more that are gestating in the background. For every move I make, I have two more long range ones that I’m working on. Some will work out in the long run, some won’t, but that’s not the point. Things worth the trouble take a long time to develop. You have to put in time on a variety of options and that’s hard when you’d like to have some instant gratification.
The truth never lives in what you say, the truth is always found in what you do – This is the most important one of all. People say a lot of things. I say a lot of things. Sometimes I’m thinking or fantasizing out loud. I do a lot less of that now, because as a leader, people tend to believe me when I say something and they expect it to happen. So, when I say something I have to back it up with action or lose my credibility. I’ve found it’s very powerful to put yourself in that position. The need to act based on my words will eat at me until I throw down and do something about it. Declarations may set a standard to be held to, but what you take action on is how you will be judged. What you take action on will determine your success. What you take action on tells the world your values, your standards and your true intent.
Good luck out there this year. Make some magic!
I’ve spent my entire career looking for a magic bullet. Yes, it’s true, I admit it. It’s naive, it’s purposeless and the laws of physics pretty much don’t work that way. The kicker is that I know better. Sorry, we all look for one, but there is no magic bullet.
I’m not a behavioral PHD, but my personal feeling is that the reasoning mind works so diligently to find solutions to any problem put in front of it, that at any point, the mind feels that it will find a permanent solution and move on to solve something else.
Lets take something completely inane. Say you have a coffee maker that you have to put water in every morning to make coffee. You hate that. I know I do. I just want coffee first thing, I don’t want any extra work to do. Eventually, you’re in Starbucks and notice they never have to put water in their machine. Why is that you ask? simple answer: they have it hooked up to a water line. You think, I can do that at home. So, you call a plummer, run a pipe from the main line (at great expense) to the coffee maker, problem solved permanently. I will never have to put water in the coffee maker again. You are totally satisfied, It’s a magic bullet. Until the coffee maker breaks. Then there’s a new problem. If I could only find a coffee maker that lasts forever and never breaks. Good luck with that one, I’m happy if I find one that makes it to New Years from Christmas Day.
We look for the magic bullet everywhere. The next project, the next relationship, the next business idea, the next job. Nothing solves permanently. At the risk of alienating my religious friends I’ll say that religion offers a magic bullet of permanent peace, permanent salvation, etc., etc. But, as the saying goes: “Jesus Saves,” not “Jesus Solves.” No matter how committed you are, there is still a lot of work and adjustment to do while walking around earth. Eternal life? That sounds like a magic bullet. I don’t know, I guess we’ll eventually find out.
Even the magic bullet in the movie JFK had a lot of work to do. As Kevin Costner kept reminding us. “Back and to the left. Back and to the left. That was one magic bullet.” If the magic bullet itself has to work so hard to be magic, what makes you think there are any shortcuts for you.
Every project is another opportunity to advance your skill set. It’s never a breakthrough in and of itself. Your success is not just out of reach. It’s happening right now. Success is the never ending process of realizing there is no magic bullet. This project leads to the next project. One challenge leads to another, so learn to take joy in the process of moving challenge to challenge. Do the best you can, find your way to the next one, and the next and the next.
Relationships are not any different. You are finding the way to the next moment. But, what moment are you finding your way to? Are you sculpting the moments or are you just watching them arrive and pass?
Since there is no such thing as a magic bullet, overnight success, perfect relationships, what are we to do to move things forward in our careers and life? The idea of creating conscious value. If you ask yourself in any situation, job, task, relationship, am I creating value now? The simple act of asking the question puts you much farther ahead than looking for a magic bullet.
You see, looking for the magic bullet is the act of looking for the world around you to bring something to you that will solve all your problems. But remember, a bullet’s trajectory, no matter how magic, will eventually succumb to gravity and end up in the dirt.
Creating value is the act of bringing something to the world around you which is a far more powerful position. For to create value is to break through the challenges and the transience for one shining moment of clarity and success. String together many moments of creating value and you will create a life well lived.