Today, I learned that the antidote of fear is action. Startup Riot went really well today and I feel really confident about what lies ahead. :)
From Radical Honesty:
[Radical Honesty] was founded by a sixty-six-year-old Virginia-based psychotherapist named Brad Blanton. He says everybody would be happier if we just stopped lying. Tell the truth, all the time. This would be radical enough — a world without fibs — but Blanton goes further. He says we should toss out the filters between our brains and our mouths. If you think it, say it. Confess to your boss your secret plans to start your own company. If you’re having fantasies about your wife’s sister, Blanton says to tell your wife and tell her sister. It’s the only path to authentic relationships. It’s the only way to smash through modernity’s soul-deadening alienation. Oversharing? No such thing.
Yes. I know. One of the most idiotic ideas ever, right up there with Vanilla Coke and giving Phil Spector a gun permit. Deceit makes our world go round. Without lies, marriages would crumble, workers would be fired, egos would be shattered, governments would collapse.
And yet…maybe there’s something to it. Especially for me. I have a lying problem. Mine aren’t big lies. They aren’t lies like “I cannot recall that crucial meeting from two months ago, Senator.” Mine are little lies. White lies. Half-truths. The kind we all tell. But I tell dozens of them every day. “Yes, let’s definitely get together soon.” “I’d love to, but I have a touch of the stomach flu.” “No, we can’t buy a toy today — the toy store is closed.” It’s bad. Maybe a couple of weeks of truth-immersion therapy would do me good.
I e-mail Blanton to ask if I can come down to Virginia and get some pointers before embarking on my Radical Honesty experiment. He writes back: “I appreciate you for apparently having a real interest and hope you’re not just doing a cutesy little superficial dipshit job like most journalists.”
I’m already nervous. I better start off with a clean slate. I confess I lied to him in my first e-mail — that I haven’t ordered all his books on Amazon yet. I was just trying to impress upon him that I was serious about his work. He writes back: “Thanks for your honesty in attempting to guess what your manipulative and self-protective motive must have been.”Read more: http://www.esquire.com/features/honesty0707#ixzz1mRnRSYnb
Wow. Hang this one up there with the 21-Day No-Complaint Challenge under “Things I Want to Try But Am Too Chickenshit To Do.”
But yes, this article is definitely worth a read! Very interesting, though I’d imagine it’d be EXTREMELY hard to implement at first and it’d be exhausting to deal with all the mini-confrontations you’d face in a day.
But damn, some of the benefits in the article are attractive: liberation from untruths and resentment, the thrill of social candor, the OPEN and genuine communication, and the “creation of possibility.”
And Blanton is hardcore about this. He even chastises the author for confronting him with the truth via email:
Blanton responds quickly. First, he doesn’t like that I expressed my resentment by e-mail. I should have come to see him. “What you don’t seem to get yet, A.J., is that the reason for expressing resentment directly and in person is so that you can experience in your body the sensations that occur when you express the resentment, while at the same time being in the presence of the person you resent, and so you can stay with them until the sensations arise and recede and then get back to neutral — which is what forgiveness is.”
Shef and I went through a period in our relationship where we were diligently, ruthlessly honest with each other. Some confessions were cringe-worthy. Discoveries were, at times, painful.
And we had never felt closer and more intimate with each other than we did then.
My hesitation in either of these challenges reveals to me something about myself (and perhaps most people?), however: I avoid confrontation through demonizing my adversities (i.e. complaining) and cushioning people’s feelings. I cling to the “safety” of complaint and the safety of white lies. Doing one of these exercises (though implementing them as part of your actual lifestyle seems like more of a good idea) would definitely be a good way to chip away at that fear of confrontation.
Now to grow the balls to take on either of these challenges ..
My new creative direction.
I didn’t make 2012 resolutions because there was one thing that bothered me about 2011. 2011 started off with a fantastic bang!— I was going to double or even triple my earnings as a graphic designer and launch my illustration services, full throttle. I was going to infiltrate bigger cities with my artwork and run a ruthless campaign to get my work in an exhibition at last, to get my artwork in front as many eyes as possible, and to, quite frankly, make a lot of money through it all.
And with all my glorious trajectories of grandeur, I found myself putting Havana Designs on a hiatus in the smack-dab middle of the year to retain my sanity. I no longer yearned to create and my motivation for Havana Designs, as sizzling as it was, was now coughing up its last sparks.
I was depressed about it all. I was depressed that I couldn’t seem to bring myself out of this “funk” but what disturbed me most of all was that I honestly didn’t even know how the flame fizzled out. Burnout? I’ve been burnt out by running my own gig plenty of times in the past 3 years yet I always climbed out of it. Bad clients? Most of my clients were wonderful and I was getting better at dodging bad prospects and re-negotiating with difficult people. Creative block? They come in seasons for me and they never last long if I have anything to do about it.
Nah, this was a different beast. I threw all the weapons I had in my creative block/burnout arsenal at this and nothing worked. The bigger it grew, the more guilty and pitiful I felt.
Eventually, I started climbing out of this slump through careful introspection and a slow process of self-forgiveness but it bothered me to no end that I had no idea where my sudden creative, entrepreneurial death came from.
Then I read “The Overjustification Effect” from one of my favorite blogs and read about this experiment:
They then divided the children into three groups. They offered Group A a glittering certificate of awesomeness if the artists drew during the next fun time. They offered Group B nothing, but if the kids in Group B happened to draw they received an unexpected certificate of awesomeness identical to the one received by Group A. The experimenters told Group C nothing ahead of time, and later the scientists didn’t award a prize if those children went for the colored pencils and markers. The scientists then watched to see how the kids performed during a series of playtimes over three days. They awarded the prizes, stopped observations, and waited two weeks. When they returned, the researchers watched as the children faced the same the choice as before the experiment began. Three groups, three experiences, many fun activities – how do you think their feelings changed?
Well, Group B and Group C didn’t change at all. They went to the art supplies and created monsters and mountains and houses with curly-cue smoke streams crawling out of rectangular chimneys with just as much joy as they had before they met the psychologists. Group A, though, did not. They were different people now. The children in Group A “spent significantly less time” drawing than did the others, and they “showed a significant decrease in interest in the activity” as compared to before the experiment. Why?
The children in Group A were swept up, overpowered, their joy perverted by the overjustification effect. The story they told themselves wasn’t the same story the other groups were telling. That’s how the effect works.
Is this what happened to me? Was it eventual? Towards the end, the motivation to create started fading until finally, I couldn’t create anymore even with the promise of such extrinsic rewards. I was so devastated because I used to have an all-consuming love affair with drawing. It gave me purpose, it taught me about life, it let me explore myself, it developed my sense of empathy, and it challenged me to kick down my boundaries.
And now? My creative hand was chasing the next deposit to my bank account.
I felt like the original artist in me had finally gave up, packed up her bags, and left without saying goodbye. She was tired of trying to repair our relationship, tired of the broken promises to revive what once animated our love when we were kids. She grew tired of being used.
I think Havana Designs lasted as long as it did because there was a genuine passion for most of its duration. While the extrinsic rewards of money and recognition were there, the intrinsic value of creating stuff people loved, propelling myself in ambition and success, helping people launch sites and campaigns, and exercising my creative muscles in new ways were all extremely fulfilling. That is not a lie I made up to make myself feel better. There was definitely joy, pride, and love in this entire ordeal. But perhaps it lasted as long as it did because it was mainly graphic design and not Drawing. She waited patiently while I hung out with the new cool kids I’ve found, Business and Design.
During the last few weeks of my graduation, I stressed myself out trying to conjure up a way where all my loves can coexist in my life. I wanted to seek out a job in the realm of marketing or sales since that was one part that I really consistently loved about my business. Where I felt my creative hand strain from its sudden dependency on extrinsic reward, my marketing/business hand reaped the thrill of it. But in my hours searching the job boards and researching positions, I kept wondering in the back of my head, “What about drawing? Where can that fit in my career? Can I launch a side business in illustration?” I was so torn. Could I have multiple passions in life? Could I be a successful artist? I grew to hate the advice, “Follow your passion!” It seemed to further tear me asunder.
Throughout the past three years, my creative mentor, Michael, always been the one to give me the concise and decisive advice I needed. After rehashing the experiment I read about and summarizing my dilemma, I asked him, “I want to pursue illustration but I don’t want my love for drawing to die even more; what do I do? I know for every artist, it must be different and I both respect the artist who CAN make a great, happy living off their art AND the artist who decides to separate the two. I’m not sure where I am, personally. Should I spend my time pursuing income and success through my art or should I keep my art and my income separate?”
“I’ve talked to a lot of other writers and artists about this and I find that I tell them all the same thing: if you can find anything that you can do for a living and be happy, then do it.”
I absorbed it for a second.
He went on to tell me that in his lifetime of exploring alternatives and trapezeing through multiple jobs and ventures, he’d found that he himself can’t be happy any other way. He has to write and he has to make it work for him somehow.
I must create. It’s what I’ve got to do and if I need to keep the extrinsic rewards separate from Drawing to make her happy, then I am resolute in keeping her in my life. Hearing those words from Michael lifted this fog from my path. Since then, jobhunting has not been as scary as it had been in weeks prior. SInce then, I’ve jumped into creation like a child: no real end goal. Just fun and discovery. Lifting the self-inflicted pressure has given me freedom to develop myself as an artist. I am finding myself not asking questions like, “What would be a good portfolio piece?” or “What artwork would be the most marketable?” but rather, “What message or story do I want to tell the world through my art?” and “What’s the coolest/prettiest way I can execute this idea in my head?”
I’m not sure what sort of relationship Drawing and I will have down the road. For now, we’ve decided to just take it slow and have fun. Life ain’t so serious, ya know.