Pulitzer Prize winning author, Junot Díaz, once spoke of “becoming the person you need to become to write” the book you want to write. A step further:
Become the book you want to write.
Writing keeps us honest in a way that speaking or other forms of expression can’t replicate. We examine our lives with ink-sized scrutiny. We reveal what we know and don’t know about a subject. We show how well we can draw truth from a thing.
… but only if we let it.
Writing can be the tool we use to make personal, societal, global change. We all have something to give to the world, but are we honest enough, committed enough, loving enough to draw it out of ourselves?
Today, I wanted to write about Disc Golf and The Phantom of the Opera. What I didn’t realize (until thirty minutes in) was how different these two things were.
You heard me- “different“. Shocker, right?
Yes, I, and potentially thousands of other poor souls like myself, suffer from something I call “acute extrapolatory ideation”.
On occasion, I feel obligated, sometimes even empowered, to create the most tenuous links between things that I see in order to drive home a real truth.
Disc Golf and opera, killer whales and meditation, Space Jam and the top-hat, monocole-wearing peanut man (actually, that one works). The problem is, at times, the inexplicable connections created cloud that truth.
This is the antithesis of writer’s block.
The solution (for those of you curious for your own sake):
Draw out your stipulations to the farthest possible point. 1 in 32 times, you strike tungsten (valued at one, one-thousandth of gold- I can’t promise gold here! Who do you think I am? Seth Godin?). If your link between Lu Lu Lemon’s marketing strategy and a biblical truth really is flimsier than a crowbar at 2800° F, then that’s one less “rabbit trail” to hop down.
Or maybe, like me you’ll find a story beneath your story that contains more truth for yourself than for your reader.
In No Fail Meetings, Michael Hyatt writes that, “a good meeting should impact your calendar at least three times”:
Before: preparation (for the meeting)
During: the meeting itself
After: the followup meeting
Substitute meeting for reading.
To approach a book without knowing the author and work you are to spend copious amounts of time with is not only foolish, but inefficient. In meetings, we know our client’s work history, preferences, and intentions to a degree.
Substitute client for author.
During a meeting, we take notes, ask questions we prepared, and ponder future implications of the discussion.
After a meeting, we review highlights and action items, see if we need to return to what was discussed, and determine what, if any, change is needed.
***Note: After reading some incredible, medieval sci-fi in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising saga, I would recommend to no one that they prepare themselves in any way but emotionally for this kind of reading. This does not apply to most fiction.***
I would proffer that the due diligence we put into meetings is also applicable to the time we invest into books. Authors spend years preparing their work to have something to say to us- why shouldn’t we listen closely?
They’re not great for much. In fact, they leave nearly everything to be desired and pale in comparison to a certain beaver-ee rest-stop from the south.
If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, why then do we read it?
… A book must be like an ice-axe to break the frozen sea within us.
This is how I feel about The War of Art. Few books are so consistently called “a kick in the pants”(see Cover and ‘Praise For’) with such good reasoning.
Which leads us nicely back to Subway restrooms.
If you are one to frequent food-places to churn through your reading list, and you carry a book so engrossing, so important that you can’t put it down for three minutes to relieve yourself, hold onto this book…
And go read The War of Art.
And wash your hands.
Franz Kafka (1883-1924) Czech-Austrian, Jewish writer: Letter to Oskar Pollak (27 Jan 1904)*
Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. *Kafka quote pulled from Pressfield’s findings.
Michaelangelo Buonarroti’s first lesson in art was to create a body of work. Creator of The David, painter of the Sistine Vault, architect of the Dome of St Peter’s; suffice it to say, he succeeded.
The Marble Master of Florence (and eventually Europe and the world) did not let a day go by that he did not realize his discipline, creating works that were never shown and never gained the fame of other pieces (See also the 80/20 Principle).
This daily practice led him to expand into every field of art imaginable from drawing, painting, sculpting and woodwork to roadbuilding, architecture, invention and physics.
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes about a day of writing, asking “How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it.” The artist realizes the greater importance of work happening in a day over its quality or impressiveness.
Pressfield and Michaelangelo both endowed a body of work to the world, not for the social or financial capital they receive or the legacy they hope to secure, but for the love of their work they experienced everyday.
I used to think life was purely a system of checks and balances. Cause and effect. A man grasps his smallness in the world and either succumbs to this truth or acts out at the world. An artist is criticized harshly and either quits his work or makes better art.
I’ve seen this pattern in my own life. I have recognized that my path in business is one filled with the temptation and meaninglessness of climbing the proverbial ladder of success. Checks. And, I became intentional and minimalistic, so I would walk a different path to work in a world that drones, “more.” Balances.
But this does not always have to be.
I do not believe change is always precipitated by a fall.
With an act of will and foresight, we can become what we need to be to grow. We can preempt the change that would be forced upon us by hurt.
There’s more than one way to fix what is broken, and more than one way to find renewal from looking ahead.
Now, let intentionality enter your life without the prompting of pain.
For me, it’s become a lifestyle I choose to pursue, not often well, but intentionally.
My reason for investing in an uncertain Indiegogo campaign was not for the awesome specs on a new technology, or because I am an early adopter-type. It was for a day that snow fell on campus and I sat and wrote about love and being, watching flakes fall from the heavens and spill upon the ground transforming into a blanket of white. It was for the opportunity to gaze unhindered into another’s eyes and carry a conversation with them about small things that matter.
It was for these and moments similar that I decided to invest $350 to part with my iPhone and choose something different.
* Have you ever tried to listen to one or two conversations in a cafeteria while also engaging who or what is in front of you? You will most assuredly begin to lose track of what response is pertinent to what conversation.
* I feel like as a culture we have done a good job of recognizing multitasking as a myth, but for those who are still confident in their spilt-focus ways, read here about the truth that’s been found.
We do the same thing when we’re in conversation and our phones ‘ping’ with a notification for text, email or social media- we’re pulled into that world and out of the real world. Momentarily, we just glance, but ultimately, we begin a thread of new interactions with whatever is within our screen, diverting attention from the person with which we sought connection.
I was an addict. An addict to my phone’s calendar and email. Planning every half-hour of my day led me to a place of, what I call, “not-presence”. I had “not-presence” in conversations with people I cared about because of how “future-minded” I had become, simply looking ahead at the next thing on my plate that day.
Maybe this reliance on technology is similar to your own, or you have a different preferred daily gadget on your device, but we must be aware of the thin line between tool and crutch that we all walk with technology.
It is important to say now that I am not advocating for societal adoption of “simple technology” or a renaissance of “dumb-phones” by all. My drive, always, is to simply present another way. A different path is out there. I do not believe the LightPhoneII is functional for every career, person or lifestyle as a primary phone.
That being said, I now operate in a world where I thrive with the freedom from connectivity and am able to intentionally connect in a way that is most me-like, free of the frills and dressings that my previous modus operandi provided.
The LightPhoneII has its ups and downs as an entry to a new tech sphere that is growing larger, but the vision of the product is achieved in its ability to be used as little as possible for the life I lead.
*A quick comment on the “pick and choose” nature of minimalism.
My favorite trait of minimalism and an intentional lifestyle is just that-It’s intentional!
Minimalism is not a one-size-fits-all kind of lifestyle or a cookie-cutter fit treatment to living. You take what most deeply benefits you in your walk. (***Remembering theminimalists charge to “love people and use things”***)
A capsule wardrobe was the first reform that I latched on to and found extreme benefit in, until later when I followed a calling forward into digital minimalism and essentialism.
I have a lot of books. Even maintaining a limited size, I have built up a modest library after a year of collecting and reading (***I plan to make 2020 Q1 a quarter of rereading to stem the spending and consumption of new learning material***). Some minimalists choose tablets or eBooks to minimize their physical possessions. This is an area of my life that I have chosen purposefully. The underlying need behind minimalism is a need to question motivations behind consumption.
So, choose your own adventure in exploring different avenues to minimalism and truly make it your own.
This question is at the core of an intentional minimalist lifestyle because when we truly let this question spread throughout every part of our lives, few things are left to stay.
Look to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The above question is satisfied for every person by the bare minimums in this structure. Food, water, shelter, rest and security (minimum financial requirements incorporated) are built into the bottom two tiers.
The third tier includes our innate desire to be a part of community and be valued. This goes hand in hand with the fourth tier, esteem, that encapsulates our need to feel accomplished or good enough.
Minimalism (similar to stoicism) mends our struggles with the fifth tier, self-acceptance, in being okay with your potential achieved.
In theminimalists book, an exploration and subsequent action from the question, “what is most important to oneself”, leaves us with everything that remains. And everything that remains is enough (food, shelter, love, purpose). Minimalism is a lens- a question that seeks to guide you to the self-acceptance of who you are, unburdened and not defined by the stuff you possess. Seth Godin reminds us that you should not live in a deficit and “measure yourself against someone (there’s always someone) who has more (there’s always more) than you do.”
– As a college student, devoting time to study groups, gives back knowledge and time. Invest in the people in your closest rings.
– Look at your closet. Pick three items right now to move to a designated “give away” pile or box. Before doing anything else, locate the nearest shelter or food and clothing bank with open hours to bring your pile to after a week of downsizing this way. Invite your neighbor to join you. You will make connections and give back tangible amounts.
– Set a calendar reminder weekly to call a family member or old friend with whom you have fallen out of touch.
In the Bible, the book of Luke says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
With the realization and admittance that the first four tiers are met to a satiable amount, you can begin to give back through your availability, disentangled finances and unbound love and creativity for people.
(note: i have intended to tell this narrative in writing for a long time with the intentions of further explaining why i write what i write. This account had to be written in frenzied outbursts and remains in long-form, not ideally, for the sake of the plot’s integrity. There are no experts in this story, and yet, everything remains as fact.)
In 2018, I experienced a life-changing paradigm shift.
I became a minimalist.
I began my search for the right college major as I approached high school graduation. I had always heard of the imperishability of a business degree and the high potential for someone to flourish in this field. Then I zeroed in on Accounting and Finance, the cash-cows of the business world.
*Median lifetime earnings (in millions) highlighting Accounting and Finance.
By the time I had researched the work details (a natural affinity for math helped with appeal) and metaphorically signed my soul away on the dotted line of the check I was preparing to work, blood, sweat and tears, for, I began planning my aspirations and five-year plan.
Then the waves came.
I was with a relative one week and was brought along to visit some of their colleagues. These people were very well off in the business world. Having recently decided to pursue the world these men inhabited, my proud relative was eager to display their kin’s pursuits. The successful enterprisers were eager to impress.
They grossly underestimated how little it would take to impress a fledgling entrepreneur, so by the third tale of multi-million dollar corporate hostile takeovers they had orchestrated, I was feeling overkill. My ambition to start the climb fell as these executives and managers (words here which mean, “he who executes” and “controller of man”… loosely) started to stifle my potential and, against my will, loft my plans to impossible heights of affluence.
Suffice it to say, I was confused after this meeting. Disenfranchised with the future I had been confident in, I wondered: what drives my ambition?
Money had never been an extreme motivator for me. I had always had it and intended to live an average life with it like I had grown up seeing. Business fit in my ring-house being a natural networker and big-picture viewer. The corporate ladder I planned to mount came into view. At its peak was a ceiling that I viewed as destructible given a big enough hammer. I wouldn’t stop climbing for anything. unchecked, I knew, I would push myself to achieve what I viewed as the “good life” and riches.
I realized in a moment, I did not want to be those men describing their corporate and personal lives in lavish detail. I did not want to be trapped by the captivation of promotions and corner offices. I broke down.
My entire life had been about winning with a capital ‘W’, and it would continue to be this way unless something changed.
Enter minimalism. I do not remember my first exposure to the community of minimalists across the country, but I remember the first time I heard the term itself.
Earlier in life, my mom pointed out something about myself that would go on to aid me in my pursuit of simplicity. When spring came one year, the project of “spring cleaning” became paramount in our home, as is tradition even to this day, and all my sisters, my dad and the dog were enlisted to serve. We were each assigned a list of things in our separate dwellings that needed to be considered for removal. Things like, old clothes, excess trophy’s and memorabilia, toys and books that we no longer used and any other spare items or knick-knacks that belonged at a thrift store or lawn sale.
As I departed to my side of the home, I began to comb through the closet, shelves and shadows beneath the bed. After about ten minutes, I had a few things to give away, but I still came away feeling less accomplished than my sisters who toted boxes of items to impart. Feeling dejected and full of disappointment, I returned to my supervisor with head hung low to my meager loot.
Seeing me forlorn, my mom responded in love. “It’s okay. You’re just a little bit of a minimalist” she said. I thought of percentages and proportions, as I was prone to do at times, and realized that I had actually found more to clean out per capita than my sisters because of the already small size of my belongings.
My foundation for this new lifestyle had already been laid as I was partly wired this way.* Part of my biggest struggle at the time was my love of business and the trap I saw in it. I wanted to be in the corporate world quite badly but had come to a crossroads in the life of my personal philosophical groundings. How I pursued my goals would be impacted by the habits and paradigms I incorporated into my life. I needed this change.
*This is not to say some are made for minimalism while others are not, it just shows my tendency to exhibit the minimalist characteristic of dispensing with “stuff” more readily.
Diving into the research, the lifestyle, the downsizing- I found solace for the first time in the ideas circulated. I was able to reconcile the warring lives within me by keeping my focus on the parts of my life that would matter for longer than ten years. As I pursue endeavors of success, I constantly haveto be aware of how and why I got to where I am today.
Reminding myself what I’d be if I wasn’t who I am…
I still am learning everyday what minimalism looks like as a complement to my faith and the views I have about life. A simple existence is not an easy pursuit these days and requires great intentionality, as I have found.