“Who am I? Why am I here?” Two hundred plus dancers from around the country - and beyond - sat captive. It was the last night of an event that exceeded our expectations. Somehow our tribe had grown from a handful of hacks to so many others that shared our values and ideas of community.

After months of planning and hard work three massive days of sharing and bonding had finally ended, and it was time to celebrate one last time together before scattering to the four winds.

Part of me asked those questions as much for myself as for the audience. It reminded me of that Talking Heads song that goes “you may ask yourself.. well.. how did I get here?”

 

Who doesn’t want to be on Oprah or win an award like the Oscars?

But, with the deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams still fresh in our minds I’m reminded of how often artists and creative entrepreneurs chase after fame and fortune - only to come up short in both heart and spirit, sometimes with tragic results.

Today the image of hard-drinking writers has been replaced by musicians and celebrities pumped up on drugs. But the idea is still the same - many still believe that being an artist means that you have to struggle with some kind of addiction.

A friend recently shared his blog post on Facebook and talked about recognizing his own unhealthy obsession with fame. Realizing this in himself is a big deal.

 

I remember driving to yet another tango event and gripping the wheel of my car as I finally broke down. What was I doing?

Night after night I had been going from one dance to another. Sure, most guys start dancing to up their social life - to find some willing partners for dating and romance. But what was I looking for?

A friend of mine used to have this questionnaire - much like the kind you find in any issue of Cosmo magazine. You’d score yourself for things like “you divide your friends between those who dance tango and those who don’t.” I pretty much aced that like some high school geometry pop quiz.

It’s funny how the most profound changes always happen so gradually you barely notice them. Sure, things started innocently enough. One dance class a week turned into two.. which became dancing 3-4 times before the weekend.

Next thing you know it’s a seven days a week, listening to scratch old songs to fill the other 24 hours when you’re not on the dance floor. Still, my friends and I would joke - at least it’s a “healthy addiction.”

Julia Cameron based The Artist's Way on the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous after her own bouts with addiction led her to realized this connection between addiction and creativity. She contends that we can't learn creativity. Because our education system trained it out of us, we must recover it.

 

When they run a medical test doctors inject a radioactive iodine tracer. If your body has enough natural iodine, the substances just passes through. However, if you lack iodine in your system, your body absorbs this toxic mimic.

No real food around? We grab fast, junk food. Yet, instead of satisfying our hunger, our body craves more and more because it’s not getting what it needs - real nutritional substance. Here's an article on how artificial sweeteners may actually hurt dieters in their effort to lose weight.

A friend shared an article that points out how, contrary to popular belief, drug addicts really crave real, meaningful connections.

Creativity is about connecting the dots in a meaningful way. We may crave recognition or reward but I’d argue what really nourishes our soul is creating work that matters to those we serve.

Whether it’s a blog post, a song, a painting or video, we need to know that somehow someone’s life is better for it.

 

So, that’s the paradox - on one hand we need to know that our work matters; on the other chasing after recognition is a road to nowhere.

I didn’t plan to be a co-founder of a non-profit for tango dancers. But the need was there for someone to help organize.

I didn’t plan on running weekly events that still continue to this day. But each week about 40 to 70 dancers congregate.

I didn’t plan on putting together a national reunion of dancers. But this group needed to connect with others who share their values.

Least of all I didn’t do it for fame or fortune.

creative-addiction

Photo - Unsplash

“Fame is the excrement of creativity, it's the shit that comes out the back end, it's a by-product of it. People think it's the excrement that you should be eating. It's not. It's the creativity and the audience and being there in the moment.” - Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden

Yet there’s still a choice. That’s what separates the hero’s journey from being just a narrative. You must choose to accept your role to go on this journey

That friend is choosing to travel and get away from LA. Sometimes a change of scenery is just what we need to get new perspective. In Switch this is actually pointed out as one of the ways that folks can tame our irrational Elephant side. I hope he finds some clarity - sometimes distance does offer perspective.

What does your creative soul crave?

fear-creativity
photo credit - wikipedia

"You have the controls."

With that the instructor pilot sitting in tandem behind me took over. He started yanking and banking.

Suddenly, I was no longer flying in a T-34C turboprop trainer. Instead I was back on the Great America roller coaster ride near our school - yelling at the top of my lungs with each thrilling, stomach churning roll -

Up, down, left, right!

We did this for a good number of minutes before the instructor asked, "Okay over there?"

"Yes, sir!" I replied, barely able to contain the ear-to-ear grin.

"You don't get sick for anything, do you?"

What was wrong with me? I'm sure the instructor was really doing his best to see how I handled the most extreme aerobatics he could throw at me.

This was my aerobatic solo check ride - meaning after I passed (if I passed) I was cleared to take a bird all by myself! So, the instructor wanted to make sure that if I got myself nauseous, disoriented or worse yet possibly passing out, I could still fly home safely.

But so far, his plan wasn't working. The instructor tried again. "I have the controls."

Again, we did loops and rolls, pulling G's - nothing.

At this point I guess the instructor was satisfied that I could do almost any aerobatic maneuver and make it back to base.

For most of my life I've taken on things that other people consider "scary" - without much thought. Even when I was a kid, I had no fear of getting up on a stage of a night club and creating my own act.

Once I applied for and got a job as a delivery driver - without knowing how to drive stick. Fear - Trial by Fire or Fuel for Motivation

In college I took a swim test for joining the navy - without knowing how to swim! (that's also in the blog post above)

So, when it comes to creativity, I don't really let fear stop me. I know that what separates the good artists from the great is their willingness to face fear. Inspiring Ted Talks on Fear and Creativity

You can't be creative by playing it safe. Our schools teach us to draw within the lines, but what we really need today is to learn which rules still matter and what rules it's time to break.

Creativity-Literacy

Traditionally, entrepreneurs and their small businesses have been the backbone of this nation's economy. Now more than ever the world needs their creativity  because the days of earn your degree, get a job and retire are long gone.

Creative entrepreneurs not only create opportunities by seeking problems to solve.  Their courage inspires us all to share our unique gifts - whether it's a book to be written, a film to be made, a piece of art to create.

And our lives are better for this!

How do you let fear drive you or does it hold you back?

(Post note: sometimes facing our fear is actually the safest choice.. )