Growing up in a traditional Asian American home, I was expected to step into one of the accepted flight paths - doctor (like my dad and brother,) lawyer or engineer. While I tried to sidestep a little by joining the military, it was only after getting out that I really colored outside the lines!
After a brief stint at AT&T I stepped into the wide world of entrepreneurship. It started with getting my real estate license, but that never felt like my thing. Having earned an MBA I felt that my education could be better used to help others.
So, I started helping owners to buy and sell businesses. During this time I started taking Learning Annex classes. It was one of these when I first encountered Julia Cameron and the Artist’s Way.
Even though by now I had started going to tango events like a junkie, I still didn’t think anything of it. Cameron talked about how we’re all recovering creatives, but I just consider myself “creative.” That was something that liberal arts types did.. I was an engineering by training with a business background.
Meanwhile, I would occasionally help Roberto with classes or pitch in to set up for events. I did it mostly because I watched this handyman by day / tango teacher by night work so hard. Eventually, something gave.
Over the last year I’ve written about a variety of topics. I know, content marketers tell us to simply stick to our “niche.” Basically, find that vein, mainline it, then work it, baby, work it!
For a while I tried to write pulpy articles for Blasting News that the BuzzFeed’s of the world reward. That got some traction with a bit of artificial enhancement, but ended up in utter failure. So, I went back to work, writing and creating content that might truly matter to my audience.
But who exactly is my audience? To be honest that’s something else I still don’t know.
Again, the guru’s in their infinite wisdom talk about “defining your avatar” like some D&D generated character: Intelligence: 16, Wisdom: 15, Constitution:17.. - That way, I could simply plug this into Facebook ads and serve up just what they wanted.
Most of all, I was supposed to have it all figured out - mastery of social media tools, running a kick ass team of elf helpers and marching forth to world domination.. Do you hear the people sing?
Recently, I started simply engaging and connecting. Sure, my creative output has slowed to a trickle but at least on Medium here’s the results - more views and reach.
On YouTube I’m looking at ways I can partner with other creators..
On Facebook I look for how I can involve others by tagging.
In his upcoming book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, Jeff Goins talks about the importance of community. “The Starving Artist works alone. The Thriving Artist collaborates with others.”
I love the example he gives where J.R.R. Tolkien is stuck after the success of The Hobbit. All Tolkien can see is writing a few chapters with the sequel, The New Hobbit. It’s only when he sits down to lunch with a member of their literary group, C.S. Lewis, that inspiration hits the Lord of the Ring creator.
Another idea mentioned in Real Artists was that Wednesdays were no doubt Tolkien’s busiest nights. Besides raising a family while teaching a full schedule as a tenured professor of Oxford, the last thing he wanted to do was to show up empty-handed at the weekly meetings on Thursday!
It’s kinda like the lobby for the breakout sessions or in our case masterminds, which I’ve done on Skype or Zoom with clients.
Down the road I can see holding these meetings in person like some friends have done. This requires considerably more planning and logistics, of course. But it’s nice to know that for now there’s a very affordable and convenient option.
By the way, if you order Real Artists right now, you can get some awesome bonuses.
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Want some creative ways to be romantic? With Valentine's Day just a few days away I thought I'd share of my "game." Okay, I'm not a relationship expert or a dating coach, so these are just some of my amateur attempts at romance.
Over the years I’ve done all kinds of things in the name of love and romance. Here’s some of the more creative ways to romance your valentine I can share without total embarrassment..
1 - pick flowers and spread them around their bed (okay, I think I stole this from a teen movie - like Picasso said, “good artists borrow.. Great artists steal!”)
2 - create your own tropical paradise; this one takes some planning - get posters from a travel agency; pick up a straw hat, some pineapple fried rice and a pineapple, of course; make pina coladas (hmm.. I think this was inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life..)
3 - blindfold taste test; pick out an assortment of flavors and textures for your loved one to guess the food item.. But be nice! Remember, you’re trying to romance your valentine, NOT piss them off! (ok, guilty.. Stole this one from 9 ½ Weeks. I promise not all of these are movie ripoffs!)
4 - go on a hike and picnic; just make sure that you get back to the parking lot before they lock the gate, or you’ll end up sleeping in your car overnight (luckily, we had some chilled bubbly on hand..)
5 - make a romantic rooftop Italian dinner; nothing says romance like the food / culture of Venice and Rome; although not truly authentic Italian, my personal favorite is still chicken parmesan (I need to make a video of my recipe sometime.. Keep bugging me - I’ll have to do it then!)
6 - camp & watch a rom-com in your tent; okay, again this one takes a bit of planning and preparation - you don’t want to just run out into the woods without having some basics like a full-charged laptop or tablet!.. Check out my two-part series on camping essentials..)
7 - create your own home spa; get some bath salts, scented candles, and make a playlist of relaxing music for the perfect mood and atmosphere
8 - take your date flying - admittedly, it helps to have a private pilot’s license, but you can also charter a plane or offer to pay the gas for a pilot friend
9 - DJ your own night of dancing - while it helps if you’re both into dancing, nothing gets both the heart pumping and the oxytocin flowing like grooving together (plus, tango boosts your creativity..)
10 - go day-tripping - most of these are evening events, but there’s a lot to be said for making a day of it; if you can swing spending the day together, there’s almost no city that doesn’t have some cool spots to explore (and you know how much I’m a fan of “getting lost”!)
Overall, I’ve found that putting a little effort, creative forethought, and planning scores some major points with your romantic crush. It's said that the quickest way to a man’s heart is his stomach, but I’ve found that women also appreciate good food - especially the gesture.
With all that said.. the day before your date is NOT the time to take a crash course on cooking, but you can learn some basic skills pretty quickly. If you’re interested in more tips and videos on this, sign up here.
What's your favorite creative way to romance your valentine?
Going into this new year of 2017 here's what I want more of - more clients who really appreciate what I can do for them, more teams of talented individuals, and more travel to explore foodie spots and dance tango.
Recently, I talked about what to do instead of new year's resolutions.
Sure, money is important, but it's a means to an end.
This is the same with the "stuff" we buy with money.
Danielle Laporte talks about identifying the feelings you want to achieve. Family, success, wealth - stuff. What do you really want at the end of the day?
A friend recently pointed out how I seem to really like helping others. It's true, and ironically I don't see it as some big sense of altruism. I simply like how I feel when I am helpful.
Of course, even though I enjoy feeling this way, that doesn't mean I'm willing to work for free. Sure, I've done my share of pro bono work and even been involved with student films.
After a certain point we all need to value our work, not just for ourselves but even for those we're helping. I also realized that people often only value what they pay for. More often than not, giving your work and advice away may not help others.
So, here's to more of what we want as indie creatives in the new year!
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
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!
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.
#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
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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!
#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
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.
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?