“Do something you’re afraid of every day.”

Image result for tribe of mentors

I finished Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors yesterday.

Overall, I’m glad I read it. It was a fun read and I’ll likely flip back through it again in a year to see if there would be things I’d glean from other people who I didn’t get anything from in the first read.

I took away the following things from the book:

  • Want to be successful? Work your goddamn ass off.
  • Don’t be a dick.
  • Success isn’t the goal. Executing with focus over and over and over and over and over is. And then over and over and over and over again.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t get bogged down in nitty grit. Fácil. Take it easy, you azizi!
  • Meditate or go for a walk when unfocused.
  • Make/share/focus/do more.

The above were my take aways. There’s confirmation bias in there, as there are things on my radar that I’m looking to validate. It’s like a so-called news junky spending all his time surfing news sites, reading “both sides” and then validating, say, that the reason his house sold for more than expected is because the current president made the economy boom without intelligently weighing in more factors to the scenario.

Lately I’ve been doing things I’m afraid of. Testing myself. Pushing myself.

I was afraid to quit working at a TV station last year that I’ve had the privilege of accessing celebrities and bands for about 5 years. I hated leaving, but I was spending so much time NOT doing my work that it became a distraction. When something I love tips into the direction of 51% negative and 49% positive, it’s time to make a change.

Or to put it another way, this quote is just as inspiring …

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

I’m headed over to that side. Come with me or not. But I’m going!



Keep it Simple, Stupid!

Around our house, Keep It Simple Stupid has become a repeated phrase.

I tend to complicate things. Or my mind does, anyway. I try to document our experiences on camera, and often I try to say too too much. Or if I tell a story, I dip into no man’s land when it’s completely superfluous.

When simplicity is best, I’ll hear Tina call out from an adjoining room, “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”

This morning I thought I would come up with and start using its acronym, “KISS!”

Come to find out, lots of people follow a variation of this rule.

I just read in Tribe of Mentors that one of my favorite directors Robert Rodriguez has a saying “Fácil!” when things get too muddied with dumb, self-imposed (or otherwise) complication.

Another writer named Elen Ghulam likes to quote her father for saying, “Take it easy, ya azizi!” Azizi is arabic for “dear.” And it rhymes with Easy!

In other words, take the complications out. Lose the stress. If something is super tough, look at it as easy and go after it like a cowboy on the back of a horse wrangling a calf. If you’re like me, you’ve been doing your art for years and years. So you’ve completed the act of execution a zillion times. Don’t forget that because your facing some new project.

And even if you’re a young, budding artist, remember to KISS all things complicated.

For example, Tina and I had an art date the other night. She found a drawing tutorial on a horse head. The first time she drew it, she looked at it and thought, this sucks. I said, “Draw it again. You’ll do much better.”

She did, and she was much happier with the second attempt. Had she tried a third, it would have been better still.

The first time you do something, it’s tough and has to turn out shitty.” The second time and every subsequent time, that’s art. Art is repetition of the same (or very fucking similar) act of creating.

I’ve grilled hundred and hundreds of steaks. I get close to really good, but it’s only because I keep trying to perfect the process.

I’ve taken zillions of pictures and portraits, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still rethinking execution. So many ingredients stay the same (lights, camera, light modifiers), but things change (people, place, placement of camera/lights, etc).

Do your art or arts over and over and over and over and over. And then do them over again. It’s time + experience + repetition = Keeping It Simple, Stupid!


Another thing about the book that reminded me to KISS was that so so so many of the respondents, when asked what they did to clear the mind or when they become unfocused, the two answers that stuck out to me were: 1) take a walk and 2) meditate.

These are two, relatively simple actions that I feel were flying way way way under my radar. I do both. Not for clearing the mind or regaining focus (not on purpose). But I see how being cognizant of the two as enriching activities is a very positive influencer and time spender.

So Keep It Simple, Stupids! Or scream “Fácil!” or “Take it easy, you azizi!”

Hugs. Not Dee-rugs!


Are you scared to death? Good!

From The War of Art by Steven Pressfield:

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

And another:

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Every time I create something or I complete something, the fear of sharing it is so terrifying, it’s crazy.

Primarily if it weren’t for Tina’s encouragement and cheerleading, I probably wouldn’t share any of my work. I wouldn’t try to create vLogs or even blogs.

Then there are inadvertent encouragers. There are people on Facebook and other social media who put their work out, publish it, share it all the time. They have way more likes than I do. Way more followers than I do. And all these factors create a bubble of fear, indecision, paralysis, and depression.

I’m 42 years old. Until I was about 38, I vowed never to call myself an artist. Calling self an artist is either validated by some form of success or it’s hackneyed nomenclature.

And then something clicked. Calling myself an artist became a necessity. It became a battle over fear and rejection, self-doubt and self fulfillment. If I don’t call myself it, I will never be it. If I don’t accept it, despite doing art since I can remember … waiting until I’m dead won’t help.

And then there’s social media.

I’ve had a long love hate relationship with social media, this blog, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc. This blog used to be somewhat popular. Now it’s not. I don’t care. Now is my time to revitalize. To do, not say. To take back what was mine. To look forward. Not back.

I have to mind the cues I get that sharing work on social media is somehow going to make me a Rembrandt or Degas or Van Gogh or any other so-called successful artist. That’s not what it is. The dopamine thrill of “one more like.” Nope. The perception of success is bullshit. Success is start to finish. Success is developing an idea, executing it, and then, sharing it. Over and over and over and over and over and over.

“I finished X,” declares the artist. “Time to celebrate?” asks the artist?

“No time to celebrate,” responds the mentor. “It’s time to start Y,” says the mentor.

The likes and approvals of others aren’t the reason for sharing, it’s the process. Everything that came before sharing is what makes happiness and fulfillment. Whether people like it or not, that shouldn’t always be the goal. Although the voices in our heads often try to convince us of that.

I’ll leave you with this other quote from Pressfield:

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”

Wait, genius means what?

A couple nights ago, I read Steven Pressfield’s the War of Art. I flew through it. It’s as inspiring as any concert, any museum, any art gallery I’ve ever been to.

The crux of the book is to discuss the obstacles that prevent creativity or the pursuit of a goal and inspire, encourage, warn, man-splain … how that person should jump off the woe is me train and onto the Airbus/space shuttle/galaxy destroyer of creativity …

I haven’t been this inspired in a long time.

Gosh, I remember as a kid going to church and feeling like I should be inspired by church sermons. And sometimes I took nuggets here or there. But never did I feel wow’d by sermon speak. If anything, you’d think that after an hour of so-called “uplifting music” and “biblical encouragements,” I’d leave church and feel heavenly and refreshed. Those were feelings I was supposed to feel. And I was good at faking them. But bored, guilty and shame, maybe, those were emotions I walked away with. I was rarely inspired.

But this book, holy shit!

Maybe it’s the Whole30 diet and the clarity it’s giving me. Maybe it’s reading it on the coattails of Tribe of Mentors. But holy damn. I love this book and want everyone to read it and love it.

Pressfield describes the antithesis of art as “resistance.” Anything that prevents you from doing you: resistance.

This makes total sense to me.

He discusses the origin of the word genius, which is not necessarily a person who is superior in his accomplishments because they make everyone else look un-genius. According to wiki:

In ancient Rome, the genius (plural in Latin genii) was the guiding spirit or tutelary deity of a person, family (gens), or place (genius loci).[3] The noun is related to the Latin verbgenui, genitus, “to bring into being, create, produce”, as well as to the Greek word for birth.[4]

“To bring into being, create, produce.” That is powerful stuff. In no other time in history have we had so many ways to, not only create and produce, but share it. And in my world, I’ve got a fire under my ass to not only create and produce but share. This takes focus, organization and deliberate attention to ambition and accomplishment.

It takes recognizing that Resistance is the asshole who wants to stand in my way, and doing everything but being polite to get Resistance out of the way.

Pressfield writes:

“A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center.”

On this blog in the past, I’ve written several times about thoughts I’ve had that artistry and certain religious beliefs are impossible and incompatible bedfellows. At some point in my career as a student and then as an evolving artist, I kept running into blocks that were religious in nature, and I was forced to let go of religion and replace it with unfettered passion for production of art.

Never have I read someone else who comes close to validating that perspective (emphasis mine).

Pressfield writes:

“The fundamentalist (or, more accurately, the beleaguered individual who comes to embrace fundamentalism) cannot stand freedom. He cannot find his way into the future, so he retreats to the past. He returns in imagination to the glory days of his race and seeks to reconstitute both them and himself in their purer, more virtuous light. He gets back to basics. To fundamentals. Fundamentalism and art are mutually exclusive. There is no such thing as fundamentalist art. This does not mean that the fundamentalist is not creative. Rather, his creativity is inverted. He creates destruction. Even the structures he builds, his schools and networks of organization, are dedicated to annihilation, of his enemies and of himself. But the fundamentalist reserves his greatest creativity for the fashioning of Satan, the image of his foe, in opposition to which he defines and gives meaning to his own life. Like the artist, the fundamentalist experiences Resistance. He experiences it as temptation to sin. Resistance to the fundamentalist is the call of the Evil One, seeking to seduce him from his virtue. The fundamentalist is consumed with Satan, whom he loves as he loves death. Is it coincidence that the suicide bombers of the World Trade Center frequented strip clubs during their training, or that they conceived of their reward as a squadron of virgin brides and the license to ravish them in the fleshpots of heaven? The fundamentalist hates and fears women because he sees them as vessels of Satan, temptresses like Delilah who seduced Samson from his power. To combat the call of sin, i.e., Resistance, the fundamentalist plunges either into action or into the study of sacred texts. He loses himself in these, much as the artist does in the process of creation. The difference is that while the one looks forward, hoping to create a better world, the other looks backward, seeking to return to a purer world from which he and all have fallen.

As a teenager, I followed in the footsteps of the legacy that preceded me. I found solace and love in evangelical things. But I was miserable doing it. When I noticed that all I was doing was finding out what was wrong with everyone else and finding the need to tell everyone else how sinful they lived, it made me into a person with his gaze always fixed on a backwards perspective. Backwards in its different meanings.

As a collegiate, I started seeing more as a progressive and a forward thinker. Every time I looked backward, I became consumed and overcome with excuses for why I wasn’t growing as an artist. When I finally started looking forward, I learned how to pursue dreams. Resistance, though, is awful and wanted me to hold on with clinched fists to the past. So I turned to shitty habits of alcohol or even reading web sites or hanging with people who weren’t helping me look forward.

Right now, I’m a zealot for positivity and for focus. I’m impassioned by creation and for self exploration.

It’s a better vessel for me to ride on. I love it.

I leave you with this last quote, as it says so much about what it means to be an artist.

“The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation. The artist must be like that Marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any soldier or swabbie or jet jockey. Because this is war, baby. And war is hell.”

What do you think? Is it possible to be an artist and a “believer”? What things do you do to remain on task and move around or past obstacles to pursue your goals, art or whatever?

I’ve got the thought munchies for mini advice from strangers.

If you’re reading this blog lately, I’ve been sharing highlighted quotes from Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors, a collection of responses from many different minds on the same eleven or so questions. It’s an inspiring read.

For this post, I wanted to include a few quotes. These first two deal with finding your art or, perhaps, your purpose.

First, from American Writer on Business Practices Tom Peters in response to advice to students:

They say: “Think big! Have a compelling vision!” I say: Think small. Do something super cool by the end of the day! I write about “excellence.” Most see excellence as some grand aspiration. Wrong. Dead wrong. My two cents: Excellence is the next five minutes or nothing at all. It’s the quality of your next five-minute conversation. It’s the quality of, yes, your next email. Forget the long term. Make the next five minutes rock!

And the second, from writer Keven Kelly:

Don’t try to find your passion. Instead master some skill, interest, or knowledge that others find valuable. It almost doesn’t matter what it is at the start. You don’t have to love it, you just have to be the best at it. Once you master it, you’ll be rewarded with new opportunities that will allow you to move away from tasks you dislike and toward those that you enjoy. If you continue to optimize your mastery, you’ll eventually arrive at your passion.

I loved these two quotes for multiple reasons.

One. Selfishly for moi.

Two. Selfishly for Tina.

Three. For you.

I love to aim at perfection. And sometimes, I fail. Sometimes I fail on purpose, because if everything is “perfect” then one perfection might impede on another part of my schedule, so I need to be choosey about what gets “perfected” and what does not.

But in regards to the first quote, I love how he recommends being passionate about the next five minutes. Sometimes I’m on the phone using my computer. I’m talking to my mom or brother or best friend and I have to slap my own hand from surfing the web or working on a job while talking. And then when I remember that they’re the most important thing, right now, right for the next five or ten minutes, the conversation is better. I’m less distracted and more engaged. I listen with action. I don’t butt in. But my responses are more strategic and productive.

When I try to “think big,” it often paralyses me. For instance, if I try to come up with the best new idea in the world, I retreat into a world of fear. That fear prevents me from doing anything at all. It’s that sisyphean complex of aiming at impossibilities rather than possibilities. Drawing one small picture. Making one small photo. Writing one small page. One meal. One thing at a time. Add them all together and it’s a body of work! Instead of thinking big all the time, think smaller actions that get many good responses rather than one big coup!

Regarding the second quote: In my search for my art, I have had to give up on a lot of passions. I’ve had to find things I love and concentrate on them. I LOVE to draw and make paintings, but I’ve had to let that passion slide over the years and concentrate on others.

I LOVE to cook. And developing cooking has become one of those little things to feel creative on. When you take the time to discover a new recipe, shop to find ingredients (pre-production), assemble ingredients (learning to cut, chop, mix, etc.) complete the meal, serve it and see the face on your audience (of one or many). That to me is art expressed in less than two hours. You can do it daily. And it can fulfill so many inner needs … on so many levels.

We need to eat to live. Many of us need to make art to live.

I’m doing my best to live by the philosophies of Make/Share, Do More and focus. All of these things fit into a small accomplishment zone.

And finally, I’m going to leave on a quote from too-good-to-be-true, French entrepreneur, creator and humanitarian Jérôme Jarre. As I reread it, I realize how my 18-year-old-self would red flag this quote with honking/blinking red lights of woo and blasphemy. My 22-year-old self stumbled on the idea of “mini-gods” as I was doing my senior thesis and became okay with it. My 42-year-old self is completely good with it and inspired by it.

I’m not sure the exact question on this, but let’s say he’s answering advice to students.

A belief: the belief that we are all mini gods. I mean this in the sense of creators, in a way that should not feed our ego but our consciousness. This means the entire universe is not just outside but also within us. We have unlimited power—the power to solve any problems facing us or facing others. We get to create our realities. It’s a simple and small belief, but it can change the course of humanity. Being mini gods means we never lack. We know we already have everything. We don’t need a million dollars. We don’t need a trillion followers. We are complete. We are full. So full that we can give without counting. The day we will all start acting like mini gods is the day there will be peace in the world.

This quote also corresponds with some other woo I have printed next to my computer since last July, which is the abundance thinking bullet list:

  • Believe there is always more where that came from.
  • Share their knowledge, contacts, and compassion with others.
  • Default to trust and build rapport easily.
  • Welcome competition, believing it makes the pie bigger and them better.
  • Ask themselves, How can I give more than is expected?
  • Are optimistic about the future, believing the best is yet to come.
  • Think big, embracing risk.
  • Are thankful and confident.

Whole30, day 12, from a guy who never planned to join the cult …

It’s day 12 of our foray into Whole30. I never planned on doing this diet. And I’m still quite skeptical of the whole thing.

If I met me, today, and heard the bullshit that I’m cutting out for 30+ days, I’d be yawning and looking at my phone while I talked to me.

You know?

No dairy, beans, soy, peanuts, sugar, alcohol for how many days? And why?

“Everything in moderation, my dear boy.”

“Cut one thing out. Not a zillion, my dear boy.”

“Give yourself a break once in a while, my dear boy.”

I’m suspicious of anyone trying to sell anything magical, and here I am conducting the damn magic train and dictating what happens back in the caboose. And everything in between.

What have I learned so far on the Whole30 diet?

  • Cutting out all those ingredients/foods is not as hard as I thought.  Even alcohol promised to be the bombshell blonde temptress calling me back with dirty midnight text message booty calls and I’ve managed to turn her down every time.
  • As they told us in the Bible book: “Quitting heroin is hard. Fighting cancer is hard.” Eschewing a list of foods for 30+ days, not as difficult.
  • Fasting from a series of different foods and replacing them with creative new dishes with amazing flavor profiles is a fun exercise.
  • Facing the diet head-on with a partner is much more satisfying and breathes life into a successful strategy and turnout.
  • It’s day 12, and I haven’t experienced better sleep yet. It’s getting worse, really. I don’t even think I’m that stressed out. Or if I am stressed out, I don’t realize what I’m stressed over.
  • I started the diet to support Tina and her cousin, but now I’m doing the diet for me.
  • My ambition is discover how different foods that are considered inflammatory have affected me both physically and mentally.
  • Overall, I feel calmer, more productive, more concentrated on life, clearer, open-er (sic), lovelier, etc.

Would I recommend Whole30 to a friend? Yes. Would I tell them it’ll change their life? Probably. Do I speak from any kind of authority? Not really. I’m only 12 days in. I’m a hack. I’m a tourist. I’m what people refer to as the shithead in the room.

My outlook, though, is positive. I’m like Scrooge McDuck swimming in a pool of his own money and gold … only I’m swimming in a pool of excessive more time and possibilities of being more productive.

Although, at the moment, I’m so fucking tired it’s hard to concentrate. I’m worried that my fatigue will dictate evil temptations.

Yesterday, Tina went through a swamp of negative feelings and attitude. I’m not sure what was harder: when I went through them personally or being patient with her going through them.

Think about it, for the length of your life, you’ve eaten a lot of different foods. All of the sudden, you put the brakes on about 60%-70% of what you thought was fine, dandy, healthy, supportive.

Because of high blood pressure and cholesterol (and a sincere artistic thrill and so I could have a glass of wine while doing it), I started cooking almost every night of the week about 11 years ago. Nine years ago, Tina and I joined a proper gym and have maintained an exercise regimen that isn’t dictated by New Year’s Resolutions. We’ve managed to start different New Year’s style resolutions, but keep them.

Over the years, I’ve cut back (and failed to cut back) on things like salt, larger meat portions, sugar, calories, etc. There were years where I kept to the “no more than two alcoholic drinks per day (for men) maximum and not every day.” But there were many more when I have not! I blame laziness and fear for the failure of cutting out booze. Fear. Fear because when you think you love something, you think you’d be empty without it. Those thoughts are the little guy in a red suit on your left shoulder whispering in your ear.

I’ve always been intrigued by ideas of why pregnant women can’t have lots of different foods, supposedly for the health of the child. But what the fuck are we eating them for if they are bad for babies?

But the fads are so mind boggling. There’s TOO many of them. I just read in Tools of Titans that there is one guy who decided to cut out all plant-based foods from his diet and he’s never felt more healthy. We are dog-sitting for a friend’s pup who only eats raw chicken. He’s in better muscular shape than any dog I’ve ever seen. And I’ve never seen him do a crunch in my life.

Honestly, I hate the concept of “diets” and especially of the people who proselytize them as superior.

“I’m a vegetarian! I’m saving the planet because meat-based products are ruining the environment!”

“I’m vegan because I want to one-up the vegetarians! I have a superiority complex!”

“I’m a carnivore, because my body needs what evolution gave it to make it walk upright, talk, reason, and invent marketing, capitalism, Hallmark holidays and religion!”

“I’m a Whole30-er, because I’m a sucker for fad diets and creating the most awkward of scenarios in mixed company!”

Joking aside, I’m glad I’m doing it. I think I’m learning something about myself. About the world. About my place in it. I’m rejuvenated with a sense of self-worth, of self-betterment success, of elitism vs humility and of superiority and inferiority.

Self challenges are the mental gyms evacuated after the new year’s resolutions deflate like party balloons. Tina and I tend to find different fads and stick to them. We’ve drank self-made smoothies for three years, cutting out cereal from our diets. Do you realize how shitty cereals are, even the good ones, for eating breakfast?

Eating real food. I think that’s the fad diet everyone should get on. Finding out what does and doesn’t work for you, that’s even more important. Being reasoned in choices, food and otherwise, that there is advice gold.

Here I am hating on diets, and I’m advocating one at the same time. I’m a hypocrite. Just like you. Hold my hand a while, and let’s listen to this podcast on Superiority together.

You’re welcome.



Venture investor Steve Jurvetson sings the hits

From Timothy Ferriss’s Tribe of Mentorsventure investor Steve Jurvetson writes:

“Celebrate the childlike mind.” From what I can see, the best scientists and engineers nurture a childlike mind. They are playful, open-minded, and unrestrained by the inner voice of reason, collective cynicism, or fear of failure. What is so great about the “childlike” mind? Once again, I highly recommend Alison Gopnik’s Scientist in the Crib to any geek about to have a child. Here is one of her key conclusions: “Babies are just plain smarter than we are, at least if being smart means being able to learn something new. . . . They think, draw conclusions, make predictions, look for explanations and even do experiments. . . . In fact, scientists are successful precisely because they emulate what children do naturally.”

Love this quote!

You know what else babies aren’t bogged down by? Dogma. Government. Politics. Religion. Race. Obstacles and barriers.

Those things are distractions and learned superfluous ideas.