Archive for the ‘Personal Growth’ Category

357- Pros and Cons of Labels

Labels are useful.

They help us rapidly identify as part of a group to gather, organize and mobilize.

Labels like “athlete,” “environmentalist,” and “activist” help introduce rules into our lives, helping us to build good habits, communities, and routines.

Unfortunately, those same labels are limiting, reductionist and incomplete.

They take a long time to evolve and eventually become constricting and inadequate.

Releasing labels when they no longer serve us is just as important as finding new ones that help motivate us.

356- On asking for help

Being able to ask for help is something I’ve never struggled to do.

The collaborative nature of my art has taught me that the best projects happen only with the help and support of other individuals.

But how we ask for help matters.

“I’d love your help to fix this situation” is very different than saying, “Help me fix this situation by doing this.”

When we’re too prescriptive about how we think a situation should be solved, we can stifle better solutions.

Try to be open-ended with your requests for help. You might just be surprised with the solutions that emerge.

348- Goals and Systems

Setting goals can lead to inconsistent results.

On the one hand, they’re necessary. Ambitious goals point us in an aspirational direction that others can rally around. On the other hand, they’re frustrating because every day we spend working towards our goal is another day we haven’t hit it yet.

Systems, on the other hand, are more straightforward.

Every day we follow through with a system is a success. Any day we fail to implement it is a failure.

Trying to gain a 6-pack before the end of the year is a goal. Working on your abs every day is a system.

Both goals and systems are necessary to guarantee results.

Ht: How to fail at almost everything and still succeed

346- Pixel vs. Picture

As a professional storyteller, I often find myself looking both backward and forwards at the different pixels that make up my life to paint a story of how I got to where I am and to explain where I’m headed next.

As I remix and reconfigure these pixels to explain why I do what I do, I find myself constantly recalibrating the pixel that makes up “Today” so that it fits the narrative of what I think “Tomorrow” should be.

Unfortunately, Tomorrow is uncertain, and what it “should” be is constantly changing. Living exclusively for Tomorrow makes for a permanently unsatisfied Today.

What might be a better strategy is to design the optimal environment for a beautiful Today to happen: doing things you enjoy, learning something new, and being kind to others.

If every Today pixel is beautiful, stringing together a beautiful story of Yesterday or the Future will become undeniably easier.

ht: Tim Urban – Life is a Pixel

342- On Belonging

Yesterday, l learned a new frame around Diversity and Inclusion that I had never heard before:

“ Diversity is being invited to the party.
Inclusion is being called in to dance on the dance floor.
Belonging is being asked to help make the invite list. “

Helping others to feel a sense of belonging isn’t just about participation. It’s also about actively calling them into the decision-making process.

Ht: Conversations with Jeff Orlowski

341- Analogies

Recently, I’ve been struggling to transition into the next chapter of my journey.

I know that I’m moving to New York to build an Activism Studio, but I couldn’t figure out the first step or how to explain it simply to others.

Talking to a good friend today, he told me that it’s simple.

I was an artist looking to form a band, and the first step was finding my fellow bandmates.
And when explaining to others, I could see myself as a chef, opening a restaurant after perfecting several dishes.

Finding analogies that resonate is a magical feeling. They help to shift the unfamiliar into the familiar and help us bring others along with us.

333- Upgrading Dots

One of the greatest perks of being an artist is the opportunity to surf between worlds.

We can sit at the table of kings and peasants, which enables us to collect diverse perspectives, ideas, and data points.

From there, we need to connect the dots – finding how these worlds relate to one another, to ourselves, and to the impact we want our work to have.

When we think of becoming a better artist, we often focus on improving craftsmanship.

But upgrading the quality of the dots we expose ourselves to and improving the connections between those dots is what enables us to design projects that are infinitely more valuable to the world.

I’m moving to New York City to accelerate my growth. If you’re around and want to connect, hit me up:

331- Curiosity and Growth

While I was an engineering student at McGill University, we were required to complete a few elective credits — courses that were not a part of my program of study.

Most of my classmates opted to take “Musical Appreciation,” – A course with a reputation for being easy to ace with minimal effort.

Rather than optimize for grades, I pursued my curiosity and dived headlong into a course on “Human Cognition and the Brain,” despite not having the pre-requisite anatomy courses necessary.

While I loved the course, I bombed the tests – lowering my GPA while others lifted theirs.

School teaches us to optimize for grades rather than curiosity. It invites us to choose the tests we will excel at rather than those which challenge us to rise to the occasion.

But curiosity will always lead to growth. We just lack the proper tools to measure it.


316- The Notepad

Picture yourself in a deep conversation with two people.

While you’re speaking, one of them pulls out a phone and starts typing. The other pulls out a notebook and begins writing.

Which of the two do you feel more connected to?

Even though both may be taking the same notes, the person who pulls out a notepad more clearly signals that you have their undivided attention.

What we do and what we signal are not the same thing.

Regularly inviting others to reflect on how they’ve experienced us allows us the opportunity to recalibrate how we’re perceived.

312- Signal vs. Noise

Group conversations are always frustrating when one person fails to read the room and ends up monopolizing or highjacking the conversation.

In those moments, Signal turns into Noise, and people tune out or leave the conversation altogether.

If we look at the Internet as one loud global group conversation, we can see the same patterns play out. Interesting Signals of information get drowned out by the Noise of gossip, hype, and polarized news cycles.

Which do we choose to contribute to? How do we filter out the Noise? Are we taking the time to find the clearest signals, or are we just waiting for the Noise to stop?

300- Identity and Purpose

Over the last few days, I’ve met many people with a strong sense of purpose and identity.

It’s a powerful combination that projects confidence and intention, especially when it shows up with alignment and integrity.

Purpose and identity, however, are two separate things. The former – is the why that drives what we do – while the latter is the how.

Anyone who’s ever experienced a career shift or a large setback has experienced that doubt about “how” to contribute to their purpose.

In those moments, our identity – our place within the ecosystem – slips, and we’re left feeling confused, frustrated, and disoriented.

Finding that identity again takes time – but as long as we can hold onto our purpose, the rest will take care of itself.

Ht: Conversations with Cindy Chin

289- Love Languages

Constructive criticism is one of my love languages.

Unfortunately for me, it’s less popular than its more commonplace cousin: Words of Affirmation.

Unsolicited – words of affirmation are almost always more welcome than constructive criticism. Even when inaccurate, it’s nicer to receive compliments over critiques.

However, in both cases, we’ll always be most moved by the words that make us feel seen and heard.

Getting better at listening, reflecting, and kindly refracting thoughts back onto those we care about is the key to connecting, regardless of the love language we speak.

288- Geo-Flexible Chapters

One of the reasons I love being geo-flexible is that it forces me to structure my life into small chapters.

Since I’m only ever in one place for a finite amount of time, it forces me to think carefully about what short-term and long-term goals I want to work towards within that small slice of time.

The defined start and end dates also allow me to better appreciate the good times and endure the bad ones.

The constantly changing environment also enables me to sample different lifestyles allowing me to discover different facets of who I am, how I’ve changed, and who I want to become.

Each of these chapters suddenly becomes a prototype of what life could be – should we choose to pursue it.

One of the keys to growth is constant reflection and recalibration – and creating these travel chapters is my hack to having a blast doing it.

286- Chafing Relationships

The best antidote for chafing skin is a quick rinse and some time to heal.

Ignoring the initial signs of discomfort worsens the situation and lengthens the healing process.

Human relationships are similar.

Trying too hard to resolve a situation when everyone is irritated can often do more harm than good.

Of course, the reason for the chafing has to eventually be addressed, but a little bit of time helps shift us from the hot-headed mindset of reactivity to the more level-headed one of prevention.

281- Worthy or Unworthy?

A recent #rejection startled me with a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time.

It was a cocktail of emotions that I struggled to parse through. A mixture of disappointment, disempowerment, and doubt – which was particularly surprising because the magnitude of the feelings were disproportional to the object of desire.

What followed was even more interesting to observe – a general state of lethargy with an attitude of surrender and a significantly diminished sense of hope and possibility.

It made me realize how lucky and privileged I’ve been not to encounter this feeling very often in my adult life: A sense of unworthiness.

Without the feeling of self-worth, it’s impossible to ask others for help, speak up, take risks, reach for your dreams, and to be yourself.

It’s a fundamental ingredient to living in a world of what could be, rather than being trapped by what should be.

Thankfully, it’s something we can all work through once we recognize it within ourselves.

270- Operations and Creativity

When thinking about art, #efficiency is rarely the word that comes to mind.

But if you study the career of artists, regardless if they find themselves in the fine art, editorial or commercial world – you’ll notice elements of repetition.

The most financially successful artists are the ones that have figured out how to operationalize aspects of their careers.

Repetition leads to greater efficiency in delivering an experience which creates more profit that finally leads to financial stability.

As an artist addicted to bespoke, custom, and novel projects – the key to sustaining my experiments has been the repeatable components: speaking engagements, licensing opportunities, and consulting gigs.

Adding efficiency ironically helps enable more #creativity, as long as we don’t allow it to take over our careers.

265- Weak Ties

In 1973, American sociologist Mark Granovetter published an article on the strength of weak ties.

Its core idea revolves around acquaintances being more valuable than close friendships when collecting new ideas, perspectives, and potential work opportunities.

Considering that the people we spend a lot of time with swim in the same body of information that we do, it makes sense that weak ties would expand our reach and help us to discover possibilities we didn’t know we didn’t know.

But to truly leverage those weak ties, we need to make sure they know what we’re interested in, curious about, and looking for.

Having weak ties is only half the battle. Making sure we can help them help us is the other.

259- Creative Graveyard

Most creative professionals sit on top of a graveyard of ideas.

Ideas that died before they were ever born, projects that never got funded, and campaigns that couldn’t attract the collaborators they needed to get off the ground.

Looking into the damp, dark graveyard can be frustrating, especially when it reminds us of all wasted time, effort, and energy.

But what if it wasn’t a waste?

What if those half-baked ideas need time to degrade and blend with other partially developed campaigns in the darkness. What if this graveyard was preparing itself to become a fertile new environment for new ideas?

Maybe all we need to do is visit the graveyard with new seeds and spores from time to time.


257- Systems and Springs

Coiled springs are an amazing piece of technology.

They take a relatively stiff but elastic object (like steel) and give it the ability to store and absorb energy.

It’s a one-time effort to bend and coil the wire – but its intentional shape allows the energy to be stored for a lifetime.

Learning something new also takes a lot of energy and effort.

But if we can design a system capable of storing knowledge to spring back at us when we need it most, we can have more energy to tackle the world’s biggest problems.

245- Self-awareness is a prerequisite

Many of us who enjoy the process of self-growth often like to isolate inconvenient character flaws to work on them.

But depending on the person or the situation, the same character trait can represent a feature or a bug.

Stubbornness can equal tenacity and grit – but it can also make you the victim of a Pyrrhic victory.

More important than the character traits alone are the patterns in which they show up.

Self-awareness is a prerequisite for a #growth mindset.

242- Environment vs. Scale

When offered the choice, I’ve always preferred to be a small fish in a big pond rather than a big fish in a small pond.

Being surrounded by others who are more knowledgeable, more connected, and more successful has always felt like a surefire pathway to growth.

But what if the water in the pond was saltwater rather than freshwater? Frigid rather than warm? Stagnant rather than flowing?

Size is only one factor and probably the least important – especially as the world gets smaller and more interconnected.

Prioritizing a thriving #environment, #community, and ecosystem is the first step. Scale is secondary.

ht: Conversation with Brenton Zola

241- Creative Chemistry

In dating, we often talk about the importance of chemistry between two people.

Invisible, intangible, often inexplicable – the lack of chemistry can remove any possibility of a relationship even when all the necessary pieces to build a relationship are there.

I find the same is true when it comes to creative tools and pursuits. There are many different ways to express ourselves, none of which is objectively better than the other.

Some mediums are just more inspiring to us than others.

Rather than focus on the output, we should pay attention to the process we enjoy the most.

After all, most of our time is spent troubleshooting, and if we can make that part of the process enjoyable – the likelihood we’ll create great things will be significantly higher.

236- Discomfort

When submerged in water, our bodies lose heat 20 times faster than when exposed to air of the same temperature.

Something similar can happen when we find ourselves in an uncomfortable environment surrounded by unfamiliar people. We can feel energetically drained and physically exhausted in just a few short hours.

One solution is to take small breaks to limit constant exposure or bring a familiar face to act as a human buffer – a wetsuit against the draining discomfort of the unfamiliar.

Another is to change our mindset and become infinitely curious, where we no longer feel discomfort.

235- Skills and Situations

Recently, a new friend told me that I had a “wooden” constitution.

At its best, wood is strong, versatile, yet predictable. At its worst, it’s inflexible, unforgiving, and does not compromise.

Expanding the metaphor has been a fascinating self-reflection exercise since objects are neither intrinsically good nor bad. They have properties that are helpful in some situations and aren’t in others.

The lesson is that we need to understand ourselves and how we exist in relationship to the situations we encounter. The better we know ourselves, the better we can make use of our skills and reduce our losses.

Ht: Conversations with Kayleigh Stack

234- Longing and Creation

In a world of infinite convenience and customer satisfaction, we’ve become almost allergic to the feeling of longing.

Living in a western society that caters toward instant gratification hints to us that if we feel unsatisfied, it’s something that we need to fix.

But the etymology of the word “longing” – is to reach for. It is a state that recognizes where we are and what it’s missing -but also holds space for the hope and possibility of what could be.

If we acknowledge it, it can become a place of aspiration and a source of inspiration. All we need to do is lean into the power of creation to transform that longing into something: a piece of art, a series of experiments, a new set of routines.

Don’t feel trapped by longing. Be empowered.

Ht: Podcast between Tim Ferris and Susan Cain