Staying True To Your Art When There Isn’t A Market For It

Mar 18, 2013


Van Gogh sold one painting in his entire life (Red Vineyard at Arles).

He started painting in his late twenties. Over the decade until his death at 37 (suspected suicide), he produced more than 2,100 artworks.

What do you think is the right balance between self-expression / solving problems that you think are important vs. being focused on what the market is willing to pay for now?

Some of the world’s best companies were started by founders who wanted to create a product that they personally wanted for themselves. Some of the world’s greatest artists focused on expressing themselves rather than satisfying their customers.

The hard questions that many have to tackle are…

What do you do when the market for who you are or what you value doesn’t exist or is smaller than you’d like? How long do you keep staying true to yourself?

One of my most favorite Steve Jobs interviews was when he talked about his biggest fear in the late nineties. Apple was focused on creating amazing personal computers. It was shipping products that Steve Jobs was proud of. However, Mac computers were barely making a dent in Windows’ monopoly. He shared his concern that maybe the market didn’t really value Apple’s art. Things changed with the launch of the iPod, starting one of the best runs in corporate history.

There’s a thin line between stubborn craziness and breaking through. Vindication may not come in one’s lifetime or ever.

Nobody likes not getting external recognition. Fortunately, expressing the art instinct is its own reward.

Constant vigilance and faith are required for staying true to yourself and for finding your peeps.




Resistance Creates the Search

Mar 18, 2013


When what we resist is accepted, then the search for what we don’t have disappears.

With the search gone, we find that we are home.

We are home where we’ve always been, but it is the first time that we realize we are there.

The feeling that’s left is gratefulness.

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of change in my life. But, really there has been a lot of change in my thinking. Letting go is painful at first and freeing at second.

As what I resist occurs, and I accept that it is occurring and that it is for the best and always has been, the space for peace is created.

As relationships, thoughts, and situations enter that space of peace, they become part of it and the space grows larger and deeper.




Meaning Is Not A Goal That Can Be Achieved

Mar 18, 2013


At one point in my life, I thought that each of the following things was the answer to the meaning I was looking for; children, marriage, money, health, a mission-based, scalable business, spirituality, and an amazing network of friends.

When these occurred in full or in part after years of yearning, the part of me that wanted meaning, still wanted more.

I came to a point where I could not come up with yet another goal that I believed would convincingly give me the meaning I was looking for. This led to disillusionment and confusion. I was quietly and invisibly in this space for the past few years.

What I get now, not just intellectually, but in my bones is that meaning does not come from ‘achieving’ goals.

Meaning is not something to be achieved. It is something to be transcended. Transcendance comes from appreciating every part of life as it occurs.




Resistance is the Search

Mar 16, 2013


When what we resist is accepted, then the search for what we don’t have disappears.

With the search gone, we find that we are home.

We are home where we’ve always been, but it is the first time that we realize we are there.

The feeling that’s left is gratefulness.

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of change in my life. But, really there has been a lot of change in my thinking. Letting go is painful at first and freeing at second.

As what I resist occurs, and I accept that it is occurring and that it is for the best and always has been, the space for peace is created.

As relationships, thoughts, and situations enter that space of peace, they become part of it and the space grows larger and deeper.

I know this is true.




How Surpassing $1 Million In Revenue Did Not Change My Life

Mar 15, 2013


There is a strong pull to spend one’s career maximizing a company’s revenues or one’s personal fortune.

A dollar is a dollar and everyone can agree on that. With this objectivity, comparing people becomes possible. Therefore increased money leads to increased respect.

Respect is deserved and money is important. Creating wealth is not easy and takes years, if not decades of hard work. However, intangible assets are without a doubt more important.

It may sound presumptuous, but I feel that 99.9% of people dramatically undervalue life’s most important, intangible assets such as social impact, relationships, and personal growth. The problem is the value of these assets are extremely variable and subjective. There is not a common measure, and I’m not sure there ever can be.

As a co-founder of the Empact Showcase (http://www.empactshowcase.com/), I have seen this first-hand. Last year, we recognized 500 young entrepreneurs with an average age of 28. These young entrepreneurs employed 9,000+ people, had revenues of $1.2B+, and have raised $300M+ in capital. We feature these statistics because they are the easiest to measure. We ask other questions to measure impact, but these are harder to tabulate, because they’re variable and subjective.

So, a challenge of focusing one’s life on intangible assets is the lack of external recognition. While this external recognition isn’t theoretically important, the reality is that we’re extremely impacted by our peers and culture. Once high school ends, the popularity contest doesn’t disappear. It just changes. It takes an incredible amount of maturity and confidence to break out of this mold.

I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to build a massive company, because that is what is admired, growth for growth’s sake. In 2011, Empact surpassed the $1M mark, a goal I had had since being a teenager. Reaching that goal was instructive for me in two ways:

  • It had no impact on my life. The satisfaction that came from it was very transitory.

  • I realized that playing to the idea of growing for growth’s sake was not playing to my strengths or passions and where I can ultimately make the most impact, grow the most as an individual, or build the deepest relationships.

I am now going through the process of building confidence in who I am and expressing that to the world. This process doesn’t happen overnight simply because I want it to. It comes through letting go of other people’s opinions, faith in the journey, and constant awareness of my insecurities/fears as they arise.

Frankly, part of me wants to demonize money/size because I’m not making it my personal focus to maximize and there are many people who are better at it than I am. However, doing that would be based on insecurity and the desire to make myself feel better.

I will still always have personal and business financial goals. I just know that my life will mean a lot more than the sum of those goals. Being true to one’s self is its own reward.




Staying True to Our Art

Mar 14, 2013


Van Gogh sold one painting in his entire life (Red Vineyard at Arles).

He started painting in his late twenties. Over the decade until his death at 37 (suspected suicide), he produced more than 2,100 artworks.

What do you think is the right balance between self-expression / solving problems that you think are important vs. being focused on what the market is willing to pay for now?

Some of the world’s best companies were started by founders who wanted to create a product that they personally wanted for themselves. Some of the world’s greatest artists focused on expressing themselves rather than satisfying their customers.

The hard questions that many have to tackle are…

What do you do when the market for who you are or what you value doesn’t exist or is smaller than you’d like? How long do you keep staying true to yourself?

One of my most favorite Steve Jobs interviews was when he talked about his biggest fear in the late nineties. Apple was focused on creating amazing personal computers. It was shipping products that Steve Jobs was proud of. However, Mac computers were barely making a dent in Windows’ monopoly. He shared his concern that maybe the market didn’t really value Apple’s art. Things changed with the launch of the iPod, starting one of the best runs in corporate history.

There’s a thin line between stubborn craziness and breaking through. Vindication may not come in one’s lifetime or ever.

Nobody likes not getting external recognition. Fortunately, expressing the art instinct is its own reward.

Constant vigilance and faith are required for staying true to yourself and for finding your peeps.




How Having a Positive Mental Attitude Can Be a Weakness

Mar 3, 2013


I am consciously resolving a lot of pain in my life right now.

i am doing this based on the belief that what we resist, persists.

I’ve been aware of this concept for a long time, but now is the first time I’ve ever actively embraced it.

This process has changed my life on many levels.

It also feels wrong and awkward, because embracing pain is the exact opposite of what I thought was ‘right’.

I’ve been aware of the power of our minds to literally reshape our world through a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE for over 10 years. To me this meant trying to always have positive thoughts and surround myself with people who thought the same way.

On many levels, this way of thinking has worked. However, it reached its plateau.

I previously saw the expression of pain as a sign of negativity in both myself and others. When other people expressed pain, it made me uncomfortable, and it made me want to solve it immediately or distance myself from that person.

I now see that I was afraid of my pain and other people’s pain. This fear separated me from other people, from myself, and fully appreciating anything painful.

I now see the acknowledgement of pain as a necessary part of its resolution.

Instead of optimizing my life to move away from pain, the possibility of accepting every moment of life and seeing the humanity in everyone emerges, and that’s an amazing possibility.

What’s required to enter the new paradigm is often the resolution of a paradox.

Embracing pain (the negative) in the paradigm of a positive mental attitude is a paradox at first. In this case, the paradox is solved by realizing that pain is not negative and that making something negative and then fearing it is not effective.

I’ve experienced the process as the following:

1. Realizing the limits and pains of the current paradigm
2. Experiencing glimpses of the next paradigm
3. Understanding what’s needed to reach the next paradigm may be false in the current one (the paradox)
4. Experiencing fear and hesitation of breaking old rules (stalling)
5. Gradually making the transition as the benefits of the new paradigm become more certain

For example, fighting can be an effective tool for resolving conflict in one paradigm and needless aggression in the next. Sharing one’s feelings can be a sign of weakness in one paradigm and a sign of strength in another.




It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

Mar 2, 2013


When we decide to make changes in our life, it often gets worse before it gets better.

The bigger the change, the worse it gets at first.

Newness leads to vulnerability and loss of comfort.

Our closest friends may become our biggest road blocks. Feelings may be hurt.

When we stop working after months of going beyond your body’s limits, that’s when we get sick.

When we try to apologize for something wrong we did, that’s when the person we hurt feels the space to share their pain until the forgiveness is complete.

When we stop an addiction, that’s when we experience withdrawal.

What feels like things getting worse, can sometimes be the exact turning point where things start to get better.

In the Power of Habit (http://amzn.to/13w5eqy), an important concept is the INFLECTION POINT. This is the point in a new habit where it is most likely to get derailed. It turns out that identifying inflection points and having a strategy in advance, dramatically increases your adherence to the new habit.

Knowing the contours of the path in advance helps us walk it.




This Is It

Mar 1, 2013


The moment we’ve been waiting for. The stage of life we’ve been waiting for. It doesn’t get any better than this. It is our dreams come true.

One stage or moment of life is not better than another.

Most of us would not go back or go forward. What we have now is special and finite.

We’ll never have these moments again…

  • birth
  • endless possibilities
  • carefreeness
  • nothing to lose
  • independence fir the first time
  • falling in love for the first time
  • marriage
  • children
  • success in one’s career
  • letting go of what others thinks
  • grandchildren
  • nothing to prove to the world
  • retirement
  • letting go

Sometimes we yearn for a future where we do not have the pains of the present. In doing so, we forget the treasures we have now that we won’t in the future.

Life will never be more perfect and imperfect than it is now. In our success, the seeds of failure are planted. In our failure and pain, the seeds of new beginnings are watered.

The cycles of life are mysterious, yet something we know intimately. Everything is recycled. Cycles repeat themselves and evolve at the same time.

We are part of something amazing that is bigger than us, and we get to enjoy the ride.




Why I Appreciate Arguments

Feb 28, 2013


Only a few people in my life have ever seen me angry.

I don’t enjoy the experience of arguments, and I don’t look for them. I am sometimes embarrassed by how I act.

However, when they happen, I appreciate them, because their resolution comes with immense learning and growth.

I appreciate the relationships I have where ending them as a result of an argument is not a real option on the table.

These relationships have catalyzed my growth more than almost anything else in my life.

Sometimes arguments expose us to a blind spot that we must take ownership over. Other times, they help us understand another person more deeply than ever before. They can be the kick in the butt to change something that should have been changed before. Or they can remind us how to forgive and how to be humble. Finally, sometimes they’re a simple reminder that we need to reduce the amount of stress in our life and increase the amount of sleep.

I am grateful for my 13-year relationship with the love of my life, Sheena Lindahl. We met during Freshman orientation at NYU. We have had our arguments over the years, but we’ve always grown closer as a result of them. We’ve always been able to find that common ground, forgive each other, and start over.