Too many times creatives, especially busy entrepreneurs, say that they don't have time to read. I used to say the same thing, but now I think that it's just an excuse.

When I was a kid, I loved being left at the library. That was my Wonderland, and the librarians were my surrogate parents.

Losing That Light for Reading

Over the years, school slowly ground out that love of reading ‘til I was only plowing through emails and work-related material.

But slowly I've re-discovered my passion for books. Occasionally, I'd even pick up a paperback that an ex-girlfriend introduced to me, but it was still slow-going. There was always something else taking priority, and that favorite excuse “I just didn’t have time for reading.”

Always Darkest Before There's Light

Lately, all that changed. I started walking again and taking libraries’ worth with me on my iPad. One day I’d listen to the inspiring story of Amanda Palmer; the next day I’d be spellbound by Stephen King.

Generally speaking, now I juggle a couple of novels on audiobook with non-fiction stuff on creative entrepreneurship or inspiring stories.

Since I started doing this, I’ve actually finished more books in the past 12 months than probably the past 12 years before!

Short Rundown of Recent Books I’ve “Read” Over the Last Year

Wild by Cheryl Strayed - http://amzn.to/2eVaTn8
Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull - http://amzn.to/2foECUI
10x Rule by Grant Cardone - http://amzn.to/2gzmDNb
Unselling by Scott Stratten / Alison Kramer - http://amzn.to/2elT8vv
Freakonomics by Steven Levin / Stephen Dubner - http://amzn.to/2cS20Yn
Think Like a Freak by Steven Levin / Stephen Dubner - http://amzn.to/2cS2aPB
Grit by Angela Duckworth - http://amzn.to/2d0hdHW
Essentialism by Greg McKeown - http://amzn.to/1Tp4tWg
The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson - http://amzn.to/2a56hqt
Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling - http://amzn.to/2eVdJIP
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling - http://amzn.to/2fi8vFw
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg - http://amzn.to/1NCmhQM
Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg - http://amzn.to/2fi5bKE
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh - http://amzn.to/2gbEgPP
Cell by Stephen King - http://amzn.to/2f8AmsD
Fluke by Christopher Moore - http://amzn.to/2cvzXA3
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - http://amzn.to/2apkwHK
Let’s Pretend That Never Happened by Jenny Lawson - http://amzn.to/2feoBgd
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson - http://amzn.to/2g868md
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran - http://amzn.to/2gcgAu6
Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson - http://amzn.to/2eVc8mi
I, Zombie by Hugh Howey - http://amzn.to/2gttF5d
The Walking Dead Road to Woodbury by Robert Kirkman - http://amzn.to/2fhZBIe
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Greene - http://amzn.to/2fi9jKz
The Martian by Andrew Weir - http://amzn.to/2eVaIrZ
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - http://amzn.to/2fi92HJ

Insane, right? Believe me, it's not as though I'm a reading maniac. But you'd be surprised at how much time you have walking around, waiting in line or driving in your car.

So, check out Audible. (I'm an affiliate not only because they're a great service but, well, you can see the results!) They have apps for your smartphone, iPad or tablet as well as your PC. So, get more reading done!

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Runner at Sunset from skeeze via pixabay

“The race doesn't go to the swift..” as Solomon reminds us from biblical times. This is true in creativity, just as much as in preparing to run a marathon.

When I find myself wishing I was further along on my creative journey, or envying my neighbor’s progress, I have to remind myself that it’s not a race - it's a marathon.

For most of my life I didn’t consider myself a runner. In high school I struggled just to keep up with my team mates in soccer practice.

Finding Your Why in Creativity

So, what compelled me to run a marathon, you may ask. And you would be right in asking this.

Maybe it was the end of ten years in career of bittersweet memories.. maybe it was a desire to finish with the bang of the starter’s gun.. maybe it was wanting to launch into my new life as a civilian with gusto.

There I was facing my mile 18, wondering what I was doing - yet, like so many other times in my life, you get to a point where it’s easier to keep going rather than stop.

How Much to Push Ourselves in Growing Creatively

Just a few weeks before I thought I’d blown weeks - months of preparation when I pushed myself just a little too hard. I thought that someone else knew better how far I could stretch myself. Of course, that was wrong.

Luckily, a little extra rest and care did wonders. I had learned that the process of preparing yourself to run 26.2 miles - something your body wasn’t naturally designed to do - required breaking down and rebuilding yourself.. becoming the “you” who can run a marathon.

Your Hero's Journey in Creativity

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on how the hero’s journey holds the key to just about anything we want to achieve in life and creativity - running a marathon, writing a book, making a film..

Let’s break down Joseph Campbell’s monomyth in these terms. You start off in your ordinary world. Something inspires you to face a challenge. The natural reaction (especially from our protective ego) is to resist - this may take many shapes.. procrastination, excuses, listening to naysayers..

But at some point if your “why” is powerful enough, you persist. You answer the call to adventure - friends and possibly mentors appear almost as if by magic.

A book that has just what you needed to read appears. A flyer for just the workshop to teach you that skill shows up.  A friend tells you that you have to talk with her pal who happens to help DIY’ers.

Here’s where most of us give up. At some point things get hard. More often than not it’s not a fire-breathing dragon that stands in the way of your creativity journey. Heck, it may not even be a sprained ankle just before race day.

No, most of the time fear is sneaky and disguises itself as boredom.. or uneasiness..

If you’re like me, this is often harder to face than a 50’ diving board.. just “being” - just accepting that may be nothing to do but persisting.. to “hang in there.”

Learning to be comfortable with this discomfort in creativity is essential to the process. Often it’s this tension where the “magic” happens. It’s this stretching where real growth happens.

And that’s the key. Running the marathon wasn’t really just about 26.2 miles.. or the many miles along the way.. it was becoming the person that could overcome the limits he set for himself.

Ultimately, your creative journey is about becoming the person you’re meant to be - one step after the other.

#IndieCreative entrepreneur Alan Schoonmaker recently published Stay Young Play Poker. Besides the thrill of winning real money, Alan shares how poker can be the key to your mental and physical health. We also talk about how he got grew as a writer and why constant learning is the true fountain of youth.
via John Chang's Sound Cloud

via Creative Entrepreneur Blog
Creative Entrepreneur

Warming up to a nice bowl of borscht and sipping a green smoothie made with my new bullet mixer, (thanks Santa!) I’m skipping the eggnog and getting right down to some of the top creative lessons of this past year.

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Creative Butterfly Formula Photo by ArtsyBee via Pixabay

In true Dave Letterman top ten fashion here’s my list of lessons learned in a creative year.

10. Morning rituals can be just what you’ve needed..

Emerson is often misquoted as saying “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds..” when in fact the actual saying is a “a foolish consistency is..” BIG difference, right?

For me I’ve avoided rituals and meditation for a long time. So, it’s been the biggest shift for me to finally tackle these, and I found both in Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning.

While I have to admit that I’m still not an early morning riser, developing a morning ritual was a game changer. You can read more here..

9. Curiosity vs Passion

I’ve struggled with the typical “follow your passion” advice. For the longest time I thought there was something wrong with me. Even after connecting with Emily Wapnick and the Puttytribe, I still wondered this.

Slowly, I realized that it’s not only okay; it’s something essential I needed to develop - or what I now consider the most important skill in business.

8. One Thing Done Well Can Pay Dividends

This is something that developed over the past few months. I started recognizing how much can come out of a few interviews. For example, after interviewing one guest like Kyle MacDonald.. I’ve created a YouTube video.. plus, highlight clips.. plus, a podcast.. plus, blog posts.. all from one interview!!

7. Out of Our Darkest Moments can Come Some of Our Greatest Opportunities

On a recent interview Dana Parker shared how she suffered from fibromyalgia. Things got so bad that at one point she could barely move - much less get out of bed. Through different techniques she learned to regain movement and even now dances tango.

After losing my car, I was really struggling myself. But to be honest I’d probably still be doing my previous work driving up and down the coast. So, sometimes what seems like a curse may be a blessing.

6. Creativity - Muscle , i.e. idea machine

This past year I spent a good part of my morning ritual doing the Ideal Machine lists by Claudia Altucher, and while I wouldn’t say that I’m the perfect writer and that words flow 100% effortlessly, the change has been pretty awesome. My word count has gone up to nearly 1500 per hour and generally hovers around 900.

5. 80/20 Rule is More like 90/10 for Your Efforts

By now you realize that busy work doesn’t necessarily translate into results. Here’s what I’ve also discovered. Most of us have heard of the Pareto Principle where 20 percent of our efforts yield 80 percent of our results. (Who doesn’t want to just figure what that 20 percent is, right?)

In reality it’s closer to 10 percent of your struggles and often this can be like trying to find that pony in the manure.

4. Relationships are Built on Trust over Time

There’s really no substitute or “hack” for this.
Here’s Brene Brown’s “BRAVING” model ..

B – Boundaries
Respecting boundaries are essential. When we’re not clear about what’s okay and what’s not, we need to ask, and it’s okay to say no.

R – Reliability
Boy, this is a big one. So simple yet sometimes so hard sometimes. Do what you say you’ll do. Talk is cheap; it’s time to saddle up pardner! “Money talks, bullshit walks.”

A – Accountability
Sure, things happen. But you better own up as soon as you can, apologize, and do what you can to make it right. How you recover says a lot about what you really think - of me, our relationship, and what it all means to you.

V – Vault
Circle of trust, man, circle of trust - you are in, or you’re out as Robert DeNiro says in Meet the Parents. Can I trust you to keep what we share in private confidential?

I – Integrity
What do you choose when no one’s looking? Do you choose courage over comfort? Do you choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy? What choices do you make over time?

N – Non-judgment
Can we each ask for what we need without fear of being judged?

G – Generosity
Do you assume the worst? Giving the best meaning possible to the intentions behind the words and actions of others is a way of giving trust to get trust.

3. The IndieCreative Entrepreneur’s Journey is the Hero’s Journey

It's a journey of transformation. I’ve often shared this Matthew Winkler TED video because it’s the most amazing capture in 4 minutes.

It’s not just what you learn or do along the way. It’s not only who you connect with to help you on your path. It’s about who you become.

What I like to say now is “Who you were got you to this point, who you’re becoming will get you where you want to go!” (click below to tweet)

Tweet: Who you are got you to this point, who you’re becoming will get you where you want to go! @jycmba

2. Your Surroundings Reflect Who You Are.. literally!

We’ve heard of this idea by Jim Rohn that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.' Well, I’ve been reading up on the power of mirror neurons. So it turns out that there’s actually scientific basis in this principle. Go figure!

1. Keep Going

I’ve been blessed to have interviewed creative entrepreneurs this past year and they echoed what some of the best business mind I’ve worked with have said. Sometimes you just need to stay the course.

Unmistakable Creative podcast hot Srinivas Rao talked candidly about how he nearly quit and something told him to keep going.

That’s the thing that I’ve heard again and again - from successful writers, musicians, film makers and other artists. Keep writing, keep singing, keep shooting.. keep doing what you can’t stop doing even if you fail.

As Jim Carrey said, “I learned many, many lessons from my father, but not least of which is that you can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love.”

I wish you and your loved ones all the best for a fantastic holiday! Here’s to even more inspired creative awesomeness in the new year!

creative-year
Happy Creative New Year!

 

 

#IndieCreative entrepreneur Dana Parker was able to recover from a crippling condition where she could barely get out of bed to dance tango again. Now she's on a mission to help others reconnect with their bodies and other dancers.
via John Chang's Sound Cloud

via Creative Entrepreneur Blog
Creative Entrepreneur

The holidays offer an opportunity to reflect on why we’re grateful. Besides reconnecting with our loved ones and celebrating our successes in the past year, there are some key reasons why this is important for creative entrepreneurs.

grateful-holidays
What are you grateful for these holidays? Photo credit - Pixabay

When people succeed they tend to party but when they fail they tend to ponder - Tony Robbins

As I shared in this LinkedIn post on gratitude, I took my friend Chef Chris Hill’s words to heart. He talked about how it’s one thing to be thankful for the “good” things that happened. It’s another to be “grateful” for all that life has to offer.

For creative entrepreneurs this is especially important because of some things I’ve learned about creativity and the process of working on your craft.

Being Grateful is More than a Feeling

Being grateful isn’t just about feeling positive about things in your life, it’s also a way to intentionally create space for more of what you really want.

Too often we tend to focus on what we don’t want. Have you ever driven around the block a few times wondering why there aren’t any spots? Next time make a small shift and look for the open spots. If you wrote that off as the same thing, you missed the point.

When We Focus on Being Grateful

Whatever gets more of our attention and energy grows. Now this may seem pretty esoteric and out there. But consider this.

When someone put an idea into your head about getting sick, what happens when you think about not getting sick? Like it or not, you ended up in bed nursing a cold.

So therein lies the danger. Even if we focus on what we don’t want, we will get more. That’s why it’s so important to be intentional with our focus.

As I’ve written about how to avoid writer’s block, one of the most important parts is to clear the deadwood from your creative muscles. It’s how pruning rose bushes prepares the way for new buds and what allows the spring blossoms to bloom.

This past November I’ve taken on Nanowrimo. Unfortunately, I didn’t complete 50,000 words but I did learn some key lessons in the process that I’ll share on another post. So I’m grateful for the opportunity to have experienced this.

With the year winding down I’m wrapping up projects, but I’m also taking time to reflect on what I am grateful for. Most of all being intentional about what I want to focus on in the months to come.

How about you? Where do you want your creativity to go in the months ahead?

How creative entrepreneur Kyle MacDonald followed his curiosity on journey that started with one red paper clip until he ultimately got his dream house. For more of his story - http://bit.ly/red-paper-clip-notes
via John Chang's Sound Cloud

via Creative Entrepreneur Blog
Creative Entrepreneur

trust-creative-process
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo / Senior Airman Dennis Sloan via Flickr

How did one creative entrepreneur turn a red paperclip into a house?

Well, it started with an idea. Like many Kyle MacDonald wondered how he could do more than deliver appliances and start his own online business.

So, Kyle brainstormed a bunch of ideas before a high school friend reminded him how they would play “Bigger and Better” by trading up items to see what cool stuff they could get.

What if he created an online version of the game, Kyle wondered. And that’s exactly what he did. Before he knew it, Kyle was traveling across the country and meeting with folks with interesting things to trade him.

Never sure what was next, Kyle trusted the process.

Here he is on 20/20 -

Of course, part of the problem is that as we get older we adopt a mindset that we’re not creative. As James Clear shows, having a fixed mindset we approach tasks as if our talents and abilities are fixed and unchanging. That’s like going up to bat with two strikes already against you!

When we were younger, we were not only in a growth mindset, but we were more open to possibilities. Research in neuroplasticity now shows that we can access this growth in new brain pathways but we have to turn the switch on. How? It’s a combination of exercising both physical and mental muscles.

I’ve written about what tango taught me about creativity. Believe me, there were plenty of times that this dance frustrated me! I wanted to get good.. fast!

Eventually, I learned how to focus on process instead of results. I know - it’s counter-intuitive but the less you focus on outcomes, the better the results. This is a lesson I also learned in the martial art aikido, in shooting on the ROTC pistol team, and now in writing.

Our drill sergeant taught us how shooting was a matter of trusting the process - only by relaxing and controlling your breathing do you hit the mark. Ironically, the more we focus on hitting the bullseye and anticipate the shot going off, the more likely we will jerk the pistol, throwing everything off and often completely missing the target.

Ever have to speak in front of a crowd? When you’re focused on your own nervousness, you get - yup, more nervous. That’s why it’s an old trick to picture your audience in their underwear. I have to agree that I don’t think this is a great idea because I know that I’m liable to be distracted and not in a useful way!

Read more about Kyle's story here

Here's our talk on YouTube -

less-is-more-creativity
How Less is More in Creativity

Later today a few of us are going to talk about the power of masterminds for creative entrepreneurs.

Like many indie creatives are busy doing their own thing - making projects happen, getting stuff done. When they run into challenges, these individuals would rather just figure it out themselves.

Why not? They’re self-reliant. It’s gotten them this far.

But here’s the problem. Time and willpower.

Although I’m all for a mindset of abundance and all that the universe has to offer us, the reality is that there are still only 24 hours in a day, and willpower as it turns out is finite.

A friend of mine tells me each time that he’s going to work on his will power.  That he is finally going to hack the things that he hasn’t been able to do. While this is great and noble, I’d argue that this is probably NOT the best use of his time.

Getting Down to Your One Thing Needed for Success and Creativity

In the One Thing Gary Keller talks about the how rather than trying to fight our limits, it’s better to understand them and work with them.

For years I’ve made lists - lists of creativity goals, lists of dreams, lists of things to do.. These have their place. Just like writing these words, they help me to be more clear on my thoughts.

But at some point it’s time to buckle down and get to work. And as Keller points out, multi-tasking is not just an illusion but a dangerous myth.

My friend Bill Belew says that if the devil can’t stop you from doing something good, he’ll give you so much to do that you don’t do anything right.

We don’t need another book on creativity or workshop on time management or productivity.. deep down we know what we need to do.

So what’s holding us back from sharing our creativity?

Fear.

And the thing I’ve learned that it’s not enough to say, “just face your fear” - never mind something dangerous like “be fearless..”

What if each week you met with a tribe that won’t let you fail?

What if they helped you get the clarity that you’ve been looking for?

What if they offered the resources and connections for what you need?

Join us -
Masterminds for Indie Creatives

This is one of those other tough things that no one talks about - when to say ‘no’ in creativity.

know-when-to-quit-creativity
Photo Credit - Ryan McGuire of Gratisography

Years ago I said ‘yes’ to everything. When you get started on creative flow, that’s what you do.

Now I’ve quit more times than I can remember. And the funny thing is - my success rate on projects has gone up.

Unlike a lot of the most successful entrepreneurs - Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs - I actually did well in school. In fact, getting good grades came easy - until it got hard.

Imagine my shock when I got my first ‘F’ as an engineering undergrad after getting straight A’s all through high school.

Shaken I asked my academic advisor what I could do. I thought he’d tell me to study smarter or some other generic advice. Instead he was frank and told me that I was trying to do too much.

“One of the main things you’re going to have to learn is to quit,” my advisor said. “Not everything is going to get done - maybe today it’s your laundry, maybe tomorrow it’s a set of homework problems. Only you can decide what you can afford to not do so that what you need to do gets done.”

It took a while for it to sink in. Stubbornly I tried harder to cram more into that daily planner. But no matter what I did, I always ended up in the same place - needing to cut back.

Eventually, I learned about the teachings of Stephen Covey in The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People. The most profound lesson for me was the idea that unless we choose the Big Rocks of our lives, the Little Rocks will take up all our time buckets.

I love the analogy that Liz Gilbert shares with one of her callers on her new Magic Lessons podcast - that if we treat our creativity as an illicit affair, we’ll find the time.

Knowing which ones are the Big Rocks of our lives isn’t easy. But unless you say ‘no’ to the Little ones, you’ll never have a chance to find out!