Associating With Creatives To Expand Your Creative Process

Photo by Michael Competielle

Learning is the beginning of wealth.

Learning is the beginning of health.

Learning is the beginning of spirtuality.

Searching and learning is where the miracle process all begins.

Jim Rohn

You are what you eat and you are who you associate with.

In our lives, we have all forged many relationships based on the circumstances in which we are currently involved. Often these relationships carry on into other aspects of our lives, however, often once the connection is lost, so is the relationship.

I’ve moved on from many a relationship as the connections have diminished. Conversations will be mindless talks about the weather or the past. I can count on one hand the friendships that I still have from high school. Most of those connections weren’t really real and I’ve moved on.

With each new phase of my life and as I explore and expand, the importance of material possessions or accomplishments matter less and less. Emotions and self-expression are more important to me than ever.

Historians bore me if they are living in the past and can’t correlate to the present day. Statisticians are equally humdrum if the stats are the regurgitation of other people’s lives. These aren’t risk-takers, they are averse to taking a risk and therefore boring.

Art Is Life

Most of my greatest friends are creatives. They have painted paintings, written books, molded iron and performed on stage. They have ducked out of social events and forgotten to eat. Lost in their creative conscious creating their art and sharing it with the world.

For us to be creative we need to be inspired as well as in touch with our own thoughts. We work to express ourselves by stepping out into the unknown and taking a chance. Creatives are not judged by their peers, they are judged by those that lack creativity.

“Definition of rock journalism: People who can’t write, doing interviews with people who can’t think, in order to prepare articles for people who can’t read.”

― Frank Zappa, The Real Frank Zappa Book

Years ago I remember meeting a fellow musician on a horse farm who would become my boss, neighbor, and mentor. I started working on the farm and within a few weeks, I moved into my first apartment below the barn manager. He saw me lugging in used furniture, clothing and tons of musical equipment and ran over to help.

“I didn’t realize you were a musician,” he said. “I’m not really, more of a knob turner. Sort of an engineer type.” He replied, “Just like Zappa.”

“Huh, isn’t Zappa a musician?”, I replied. “Yes and so much more,” he said in response.

And down that slippery slope I slide into this new world of engineering, sound design, and creativity.

Every evening after work we would listen to each other’s favorite music and make connections. My beloved Steve Vai had first worked with Zappa having transcribed a ridiculously difficult piece called The Black Page.

He would teach me guitar licks and I would record his. As I learned more about studio trickery I would introduce new and enlightening techniques to the recordings.

Seeing it all come to life

We would head to The Stony Pony to catch Frank Marino and the Mahogany Rush or The Ritz for some Dweezil Zappa.

St. Mark’s Place was a favorite as we would dig through old vinyl hoping to expand our collections and experience new finds. Every modern contemporary my mentor would show me had been inspired by previous works. It was those older works he would encourage me to buy.

You can’t understand Punk if you don’t understand Rock. Rock won’t matter until you learn the Blues. Jazz….you need to understand it all. Mingus, Coltrane, Zappa. They all did Jazz.

Own Your Own Studio

Zappa, Prince, Reznor, and Vai. They all had their own studios. Eno studio is inside his home. A lair for mad scientists as they cross-pollinate new ideas with stolen ones. Stepping further out away from the securities of the status quo. This is where true creativity happens.

My personal studio space is exactly that. Mine and personal. It consists of a culmination of equipment and motivation that allows me to work on my art.

As of late, that has been writing. I really would call it creative writing since I’m not a writer yet I have used it as a creative way to outlet self-expression. With the large volume of articles, I’ve produced the reality hits me on the head frequently (or others remind me) that in fact, I am a writer.

Sources of Inspiration

I’m inspired everywhere I look. Nature inspires me, books inspire me, art inspires me but most of all creative people inspire me. I have hundreds of creative friends that are constantly pushing the envelope expressing themselves. Placing themselves out there, often vulnerable and afraid. It’s with the understanding of how they are feeling that we can respond and provide the security and acceptance of their fears. The fear of being misunderstood.

Artists understand artists and creatives are artists. Shaping the words we read and the images that we see as we embrace the art we love we are embracing the artist for exposing themselves to us so we can attempt to understand.

When I experience new works of art it sparks my creative juices as I become inspired to create. Be it through sound compositions, written text, photographer or just conversation, I love to experience new works and learn from the creators.

Learning About Process

When speaking to creatives I’ll always migrate the conversation towards the process. I’m not actually talking specifically about technique but the creative process. How does an actor fill a roll or how is a sculpture metastasize into a three-dimensional art form? The mind of a creative is the birthplace of all creations. Before pen hits paper or fingers hit keys, the creative mind needs to get into the moment.

Some artists read poetry or listen to music while creating. Others need to experience death or drudgery before they can express dark emotions. So when you place yourself into this sphere of creativity and self-expression, the concepts and knowledge will become a lifeform that will allow you to expand your own craft.

Listening to music I hear ballet, war or disparity. Paintings expose nakedness, sadness, and conjecture. Books expose insecurities and honesty. Photography freezes reality into dreamlike states.

When I’m with creatives I’m on fire, as my speech speeds up and my heart will race. Art is the purest form of self-expression and development. Find your art and find the creatives and your life will take on a new form.

How Practicing Empathy Is Saving Our Planet

Photo by Michael Competielle

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” — Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird

Of all the lessons I’ve learned in life, nothing has been more rewarding and life-changing then practicing empathy. Seeing the world through another person’s eyes and understanding their perspective. Recognizing their feelings and emotions while we share in the experience. The development of likemindedness and mindful closeness.

Empathy can be practiced on anything or anyone. From people to animals and from objects to our planet. If we place ourselves into the minds and emotions of others and learn from their perspective. 

Photo by Michael Competielle

Looking at our planet and the impact we have on her future has been the largest and most impactful way I’ve been able to practice empathy. That is not to say I don’t listen to other’s feelings and experience their emotions. What it means is though I can make an impact in that specific situation or relationship the larger contributions are from my daily decisions made on foods I eat, items I purchase, trash I produce and environment I hurt. 

As consumers, we have the power to become informed about the products we purchase and consume. Concepts such as Meatless Mondays or skipping the bag at the checkout have helped pave the way to us making environmentally conscience decisions. Imagine the impact of using one less bag or one less cheeseburger or one less gallon of gas.

Photo by Michael Competielle

My practicing of empathy starts with my morning latte made with plant-based oat milk. It’s been many years since I’ve had animal milk in my diet. Partially for my health, partially for the environment and most importantly for the empathy of the milk-producing animals that live treacherous lives in often horrifying conditions forced to lactate for human consumption. 

Living Life As A Pig

No longer do I eat breakfast meats like sausages or bacon after looking into the eyes of a pig and seeing his soul. Content with his life, happily living. His intelligence and personality were his pride. 

As I visited farms where the animals I consumed almost daily were being raised I began to have a connection to them. Looking at them as a living, breathing being that had feelings and emotions just like I did. Their hearts were beating pushing blood through their veins and each breath made their chests heave. No longer were the animal’s burgers on a plate or slabs of flesh in shrink wrap, they were life. A body, mind, and soul. Who was I to take that life or eat its meat?

Photo by Michael Competielle

Practicing Empathy

As I’ve extended my practice of empathy on animals and our planet there doesn’t seem to be anywhere that we can’t be mindful of others. From the waste in packaging, purchasing of single-use plastic products and misunderstandings of the environmental impacts of our actions, empathy can be used in every scenario. 

Yesterday as I helped destroy the environment all in the name of curb appeal, I thought of the fuel I was wasting in my leaf blower, collecting the leaves to be removed by our town for compositing, only to bring the compost back them in spring in the form of mulch. What a moron I am for caving into this infinite loop of destruction. The leaves are a part of a natural cycle providing warmth to plants and trees in the winter and nourishment in the spring and summer.

Making Decisions

As I would love to tell you that I know the secrets to save the planet I do not. Avoidance of single-use plastics and paper goods is currently almost impossible. I’m still driving a car, mowing a lawn and drinking water from gallon jugs. I’ve recognized my shortcomings and work daily to have empathy for our environment and how to minimize the damage.

Having empathy for living beings has changed my philosophy on my priorities and modified my lifestyle. I research companies in which I buy from as I try to support companies that prioritize their employees as well as the environment. Companies that care for the people who work for them and take an aggressive stance on the impact their products have on our planet are exercising empathy.

Each time I touch a new product I think of the people that created it. Not only the packaging but the message that they are trying to convey. If they are thinking through the supply chain with a mindful consideration of what message they are putting out to the world. It makes sense to listen.

Words are only words until we take action. Action is only valid if we truly can understand the impact those actions have. I’ve vowed to no longer eat animal-based products or their byproducts. My diet is solely plant-based and shall remain as such.

Plants Have Feelings Too

A friend of mine recently reminded me that plants have feelings too. This has absolutely been proven and something I believe. So how do I eat plant-based products while still practicing mindfulness?

The answer is simple. Plants give themselves away without dying in the process. Remove the fruits from any tree. Does it die? Nope. Removed the leaves from any plant. Will it die? Nope. Will these plants drop their leaves and fruits to give to other living things as they continue in the balance of the circle of life. Absolutely. Does the plant feel sadness or anxieties in the exchange? Doubtful.

I’m asking everyone to stop eating meat? No, I asked everyone to practice mindfulness and empathy. You will make your own decisions from there. The planet will only be saved by people understanding the impacts of our decisions and being mindful of our actions.

Write Your Own Eulogy And Live That Life

Photo by Michael Competielle

We only have one chance at life. Our time is often wasted with unfulfilling mundane tasks and toxic people. Freeing yourself to live your life to the fullest should be your single most concern.

Over the years I have written a few eulogies. One was incredibly detailed and vibrant as I was able to emphasize the amazing life my friend had lived, however, another eulogy that I wrote was sad and incomplete as I struggled to find where this person’s life goals had been fulfilled.

“He was a great father, son and a harder worker.”

Utter horseshit and if anyway says anything like that at my funeral you have my permission to stab them in the eyeball with your car keys (assuming they still have car keys when I croak, or even cars, or even people for that matter).

My Eulogy

Every day I awaken with the thought “If today is my last, will I have regrets?” The answer is “hell yes” as I’m certain most people would agree. However, it isn’t because I regret the past. The past already happened so I give it the great “bon voyage and fuck off.” We can’t change that shit. What we do control are our present and our future.

I’ve been a son, grandson, father, brother, teacher, student and blah blah fucking blah. Just to be clear nobody cares not even me. What we do care about is the quality of those situations and how we interacted with each person.

An amazing friend once told me of an old proverb “the best day to plant a tree is 20 years ago, or today.” And therefore I daily plant the trees which will grow and nurture my future for as many years as I have left.

My eulogy will list my accomplishments as I work daily to reach them. Writer, philosopher, artist, filmmaker, craftsman, yogi, guru, photographer, pornstar. (I always squeeze that one in as a guy can dream). None of which I’m not working on in some capacity to enrich my life and enlighten everyone I come into contact with.

So my mental eulogy mentions all of these qualities and my backlog of works will be the proof. I will have written books, made more films, written more poetry and become a yogi. How did I get there? I started 20 years ago…or today.

You are reading article number 78 of 100. You are looking at one of over 50k pictures I have guesstimated I’ve taken. Is it my best article or best photo? If I die today it most certainly will be. Is there room for improvement? 100 percent and that’s what I work on daily.

You Are Writing Your Eulogy Everyday

I make it an important part of my day to randomly stop and ask colleagues, friends, coworkers, and family the most important question of them all. The only thing that actually matters. “How do you feel?” It floors most people and the first time or two you often get lame answers. “Fine”. How about fine isn’t fucking good enough. Ask me how I’m doing. Anyone that knows me knows that “I’m living the dream”. Am I? You bet your ass I am. Why you ask.

Because I work daily on my own personal development and goals. I’m going to get to where I need to be because I’ve designed my destiny. Do I have specific plans? Nope. I don’t generally do the same things twice. If I do I modify the sequence and mix it up. I don’t make concrete plans, I don’t follow rules and I read directions backward. Why? Because I like to see what direction the path takes me.

My eye is on the prize as I’m working diligently to learn, develop, create and just breathe. Life is what we make it. Shit is going to happen however if you are on a specific course, you can modify and adjust as your goals have already been set.

If it all ends today, so be it. It’s out of my control, however, when you hear my eulogy there won’t be a question that I was everything I had hoped to be. Possibly just a little sapling in the shadows of the future me that never will have the chance to materialize, but I’ll be damned if I don’t daily fertilizer myself with the beliefs I’ll get there. Some how..some day.

If it all ends today I’ll see the rest of you rebels in hell. Man will I have some stories to tell you. And if we live on realize we are still headed to the same place but my backlog of stories will continue to be mounting.

Today is the best day of my life and today I’m Living the Dream.

Michael Competielle

Stop Asking The Wrong Questions Trying To Get The Right Answers

Photo by Michael Competielle

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them 

Albert Einstein

The quest for knowledge and finding solutions to problems is a lifelong endeavor. We start off young and ignorant to the outside world as we begin to experience life and its many obstacles. As a child, we often would ask the question “why?” With anticipation the answers to the question are simple. 

As we become older it is assumed that we become wiser. We believe it is through education and experiences however some people we recognize truly excel. They have all of the answers and have risen to the top, riding that wave of life. 

Why is it these certain people always have the answers and seem to be fulfilled while you feel hollow and empty? What makes a brilliant mind? I’d say a great thinker.

On determining the proper question If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes. 

Albert Einstein

Questioning The Question

We all have those people in our lives, you know the people with a hundred questions that never listen to your answer. They just barrel on with more questions not only ignoring your response but answering their own questions with premeditated answers. You’ll see a smile on their face as they walk away feeling contentment. 

As they feel complete and resolved you feel confounded in how little time people spend thinking and more importantly articulating well thought out questions. 

“You can increase your problem-solving skills by honing your question-asking ability.” — Michael J. Gelb

Confucius, Plato, Einstein, Aristotle, Lao Tzu, and Pythagoras were all known to be great thinkers. And all great thinkers ask brilliant questions. 

So why do so many people struggle with asking the right questions? Because they want to hear the answer they already believe

Great Minds Think Like 

Insecure people spend most of their lives attempting to find security. They will surround themselves around the safety net of like-minded people while having conversations that corroborate their insecurities. They’ll feel better asking baited questions which are reciprocated with shallow reassuring answers. 

The questions aren’t really questions as they are just statements of misdirection. As we stand in front of our peers and repeat to questions while awaiting comforting encouragement, we never really receive valid answers. 

Asking questions we already know the answer to does not help in our self-development. Asking for answers to questions we can’t answer ourselves is the first step to enlightenment. 

Answering Our Own Questions

If you have to ask superfluous questions you’ve already lost. Honest assessment and communication within yourself are a perfect opportunity for obtaining truthful answers. Asking someone else “Am I fat?” When you damn well know you are while awaiting the kind emotionally intelligent answer “You? No way, you look amazing” has manipulated the answer you want to hear even though you actually know the answer is false. 

Why bother asking the question? Does the artificial dopamine rush from a manipulative lie actually make you feel better? Nope. You know you are overweight and out of shape. So how to get to the right answers? Ask the right questions. Simple right?

What Are The Right Questions

Okay, you recognize you’re out of shape. Diets and exercise cause you anxiety. As you make a mental list of options you know won’t work you triangulate onto a possible solution you believe could work. Now reask your question. 

“I’m overweight and out of shape. I was thinking of taking a yoga class and try a new juicing diet. What do you think?”

Honest questions yield honest answers and you are well on your way there. Every day I ask myself questions and attempt to give myself honest answers. When I hit a question I can’t answer or I need to expand on a theory I’ll formulate a well-articulated question that can easily be answered with little objectivity. 

Asking Why

When we are in touch with our thoughts and processed the information to a point where we feel we fully understand things the most valuable question is that of the child. Why?

Why do I have to go to work? Why am I maintaining this toxic relationship? Why am I wasting my time making others happy? Why do I not get satisfaction from (insert statement here.)

As I’m designing my future my time is spent accessing current situations and asking “Why?” When the answer is clear and concise I continue to follow the existing path. However, when the answer is met with murky waters and frustration, I move far away from those scenarios. My life has aligned with a clearer path to fulfillment as my questions are easily answered with two words.

Why?…. For Me….

Finding Creativity By Associating With Creatives In Creative Places

Photo by Michael Competielle

Chelsea is a neighborhood in New York City which is home to a vibrant community of creatives. With a huge stock of art galleries, brownstones, and old industrial buildings Chelsea has been a destination for artists, writers, and musicians for over 100 years.

One of the most prominent buildings in Chelsea’s creative enclave is the Chelsea Hotel. Built-in 1885 on New York’s 23rd Street is the red brick 250 unit hotel building which stands 12 stories tall and was one of the first buildings constructed to become private Co-op apartments in New York City. A utopia for creatives and work class alike the co-op would share in utilities and amenities to conserve costs.

Photo by Michael Competielle

In 1905 the co-op went bankrupt and the building was converted into a luxury hotel that attracted many famous guests. In the post-war ’40s into the ’50s the hotel was showing its age and room rates dropped. The hotel continued to attract the likes of Jackson Pollack and Dylan Thomas who spent his final days living in room #205 of the Chelsea while sickly and on a drinking binge. He died while in a coma in the local St. Vincent’s hospital.

The Chelsea Hotel describes itself as “a rest stop for rare individuals,” a euphemism that still manages to pass the truth-in-advertising test if you take “rare individuals” to mean artists and addicts, and rest stop to mean possible death. Legends of The Chelsea Hotel

Photo by Michael Competielle

Apartments Available

Pulitzer Prize-winning Arthur Miller moved into apartment #614 after his divorce with Marilyn Monroe.

Leonard Cohen wrote “Chelsea Hotel #2” after his romantic encounters with Janis Joplin in room #415. He lived in room #424.

Bob Dylan stayed in room #211 while he wrote the song “Sara” for his first wife.

Sex Pistols Sid Vicious stabbed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen in room #100.

Club Kid Christina lived and died in room #323. Her body was discovered 5 days after her death.

Andy Warhol film The Chelsea Girls in room #442

Photo by Michael Competielle
Andy Warhol’s Auricon 16mm sound-on-film camera with 1200′ film magazine

Jon Bon Jovi wrote the song and filmed the music video for “Midnight at the Chelsea” in room #515

Madonna took the photographs for her book “Sex” in room #822

Writer Thomas Wolfe spent the last few years of his life in room #829

Patti Smith lived in room #1017 with Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe

Brilliant Works

Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey

William Burroughs wrote The Third Mind and Naked Lunch

Arthur Miller wrote After the Fall 

Dylan Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood 

Yves Klein wrote his Chelsea Hotel Manifesto

Joseph O’Neill wrote Netherland

Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can’t Go Home Again

If Walls Could Talk

The walls of the Chelsea Hotel were adorned with original photographs and paintings by many famous artists. In the later years, the hotel functioned as an artist flophouse as the rent was often paid with artworks. Stanley Bard was the hotel’s manager known to be lax on rents allowed artists to live and create often for years.

Drunk or high Chelsea’s occupants would stumble through her hallways, hiding from their own realities. The walls having witnessed brilliant talents and agonizing pain.

Photo by Michael Competielle

A Renewed Life

The Chelsea Hotel was purchased in 2011 for $80 million by the real-estate developer  Joseph Chetrit and stopped taking room reservations on August 1, 2011. Long term residents were allowed to stay during the renovations as many were protected by rent control laws, however, the construction made the building a health hazard and many residents were forced to move out.

Photo by Michael Competielle

While protected by Landmarks of New York one would hope the fabric and spirit of the Chelsea will remain. Sadly the juxtaposition of the arts and environment has sadly died with the closure of the building and the redevelopment is certain to keep out the artists and writers that made her famous.

How I Regain Control From My Anxiety In 5 Minutes

Photo by Michael Competielle

Monday mornings, the bane of my existence. Where I awaken from the comfort and calmness of my weekend to the racing thoughts of my responsibilities. My breathing is short like a staccato violin and life’s complexities race towards me as I stand still at the intersection of my mind. 

Scheduling conflicts, upcoming holidays, year-end deadlines and changing weather conditions awaken me as I feel the rush of cortisol pollute my body. The pressures of being in charge and responsible I need to maintain control even though I feel a cloud of thick dense fog over my concentration. 

Regaining Control

As I recognize these are my last few minutes of rest before a long hard day I know I must regain control of my mind. As I’m quietly still lying in bed it’s the perfect scenario for mindful meditation. 

The room is dark and nearly silent. The sounds of my dogs breathing in the forefront, soothing and rhythmic while in the distance, I hear the sounds of the highway traffic beginning to build up.

As I lay flat on my back and stretched out like a mummy with my hands to my side I begin to regain control of my breath. With every ounce of concentration and focus, I take in my first calculated intake of breath. As I feel the air come in I imagine it flowing down into my lungs and begin to fill them like the expansion of a hot air balloon.

I hold the air in my lungs for a few seconds as I begin to feel the effects in my extremities. I begin to exhale with complete control like opening a bottle of champagne without explosive popping.

My next breath is again focused and purposeful as I’m feeling the flow expand my chest. Slowly my mind begins to again take charge of my thoughts as each anxious thought fades away like the ripples in calming waters.

Photo by Michael Competielle

The focus on my breathing becomes consistent and autonomous as each trouble vaporizes and my body is calmly rested. Deeper in I breathe with the same timing but increased intensity as my anxieties seem ever so small and distant.

My body begins to feel rested and energized as I keep breathing and open my eyes slowly. I’m still physically in the same place however my mind and my spirit are in control as I begin to float through my day. Calmed, mindful and in control.

How I Increased Productivity By Multitasking With Mindless Activities While I’m Mindfully Focusing

Photo by Michael Competielle

Every morning I do essentially the same mindless routine while I’m reading and catching up on my life. The routine is pretty simple and regimented so I can maximize my personal time. If I plan ahead properly I have an entire 1/2 hour of focused mindful reading and thinking.

Many people feel that we can all multitask however studies show our productivity and concentration struggle as we attempt to do too many things at the same time. With the notable reduction in productivity and focus, what we believe is multitasking, in reality, are rapid shiftings of our tasks while we lose concentration and focus.

By creating a daily mindless routine regiment, my muscle memory has taken over many of my morning tasks. My mind can focus fully on reading or focused thinking while I’m making breakfast or washing dishes because I’ve fallen into a groove.

Mindless Focus

Having crafted a pattern of simple tasks, my processes seem to function absent of thought. I’ve visualized myself as a kitchen virtuoso since my routine is similar to a master musician that can perform perfectly while engaged in a detailed conversation.

As I distance myself mentally from my morning routine, my mind shifts to my planned mindful focus. I can read a short article or listen to a podcast with full and complete immersion. Each word I read or hear is processed into long term memory as I lose myself in the exercise.

How I Know It’s Working

The proof is in the pudding they say. Well in my case the proof is in the cleaned kitchen, breakfast made, vitamins taken, lattes frothed as I’ll evaluate all I have done within that short period of time.

If I made any mistakes in my process such as forgetting to turn on the toaster or making the espresso incorrectly, I’d agree that my multitasking technique doesn’t work and therefore I could possibly be focusing on my mindful activities. However, what actually is happening is completely the opposite. My productivity has increased while my focus and retention have become more present and purposeful.

Having my mornings to easily accomplish my chores and desires early has begun to set the tone for the day. I’ve become more focused, fulfilled and present. My completed task list grows while life’s mundane daily routine has become a mindless passive routine.

Mindful Excercise

You can multitask simply if you focusing your mind away from what can become mindless. Dishes, folding wash, raking leaves are all activities that you can remove focus from while you redirect your mind into meditative mindful exercises.

As I’ve retrained my mind to stay focused on mindful activities my productivity has increased and my presence is in the now.

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Finding Peace And Connections Within The Sounds of Our World’s Typography

Photo by Michael Competielle

Letters and symbols of nine various languages meticulously connected together to form 19 floating cloud-like stainless steel orbs. The creation of the world’s most well-known sculptors Jaume Plensa in an installation he calls Talking Continents.

Each unique individual letter is fused together to form words without any true meaning and function as an example of the breakdown of communication.

However, as we look at each unique form as they represent humans sitting on top of these floating orbs we begin to understand Plensa’s title of Talking Continents.

The Sounds of Continents

As I’m preparing for my next large scale project of 100 days of unique sound recordings I find inspiration and connection to Plensa’s works. What would be the unique sounds of these nine different and unique letters or words as they were formulated into a connection of sentences or statements? Are we all saying the same things albeit in a different tongue?

In our study of text and more elegantly typography, we see how the combinations of only a few letters can create words of beauty. The beauty of our every language articulates our feelings and emotions that resonate from island to island, continent to continent.

Photo by Michael Competielle

The Beauty In Plensa’s Silence

As I quietly walked amongst each orb I recognized letters that highlighted the diversity in distance Plensa was recognizing. It was here in the silence circling each island that I began to question our differences as we were all connected and unified, fused together as one.

Is each unique letter chosen by Plensa to make connections to our similarities while appearing to be different? What was the connection that made each sculpture unified? Are we as humans actually unified and we are saying the same thing maybe just a bit differently?

Photo by Micahel Competielle

Upon closer inspection, I noticed all of the orbs seemed to be facing the same direction. Was this intentional? Are we collectively moving along together while seemingly drifting apart?

On this day I don’t have any insightful answers however I’m certain my explorations of typography, sound, and languages will have a new and enrichening perspective.

Building A New Brand Must Consider It’s Environmental Impact

Photo by Michael Competielle

Walking into a Starbucks one afternoon I ordered a Dragon drink. Paying with the cashless and paperless app I awaited the calling of my name. When my order was up I walked up to the counter and grabbed my drink and thanked the barista. 

Heading out the door I stopped to grab a straw and noticed the only offering was a plastic straw. Immediately I was disappointed and a bit pissed off. How could a large coffee shop like Starbucks get it so wrong?

I did a quick Google search and realized they indeed did have a global initiative to replace plastic straws with recyclable lids by 2020. Why a year to stop ordering plastic straws and start using recyclable lids is beyond me but it’s a start.

I began to think about my local favored coffee shop who replaced paper straws with the plastic lids. I just happened one day and they moved on. They only two locations versus 30,000 and it made me think of a McDonald’s documentary I once watched in which it takes years for them to roll out a new product line.  Their mass got in the way.

New Brands Must Start Right

Working with a new startup as Brand Designer I’ve placed myself into a strategic position for the future of the Brand and therefore the companies lifespan. 

I’ve spent far less time researching or designing the perfect logo or tagline in favor of determining the brand’s identity. With the average life expectancy of a company diminished to only a dozen or so years, priorities must be set properly during the formative years of a brand. 

Trends come and go and successful company brands ride the wave of trends while learning how to maintain market share and positive growth. As a new startup, we have the luxury to fill a void in our market and make a large impact by trendsetting and not following the existing market. 

Forecasting out with a 5-year projection on product and brand decisions we can recognize the decisions made today are representative of where the company will stand in 5 years. Short term goals while ignoring there impact on the companies future are carving a path to failure. 

As I research brands and products I love and use, I’ve recognized these are lifestyle brands. Products that make up the fabric of my personal identity and align with my vision of the perfect life. 

Environment and sustainability top my list as does a brands status of how the treat their employees. With corporate giants swallowing up large mark shares of companies whose original mission was quality and convert them into profit centers at the expense of the environment and staff we have created a downward spiral, racing to the bottom.

100 Percent Sustainable 

The core of our new brand is to be 100 percent sustainable. In our design meetings, we will hit many roadblocks as we see voids in our market which lacks environmentally conscious products. As we have been developing our corporate initiatives and drawn lines in the sand we are now seeing an open field ripe for growth. The products that currently doesn’t exist allows us an opportunity to make them. 

The narrative of our story of how we began and how far we have come is inspiring. We have great distances to strive for however seeing our ecosystem of a brand in our 5-year projection has become clear. 

Why We Will Prosper

Sales and trends aren’t guaranteed. They come and go based on the latest Instagram tag. We won’t be a copy that will survive but a company that thrives based on one simple belief. We believe in our people

Sitting on an hourlong train ride into NYC I was deeply immersed in a conversation with a colleague. He felt everyone on the train looked like cattle headed for slaughter. I gave him the answer that is the qualification for success. 

These people didn’t wake up and say I’m going to do a horrible job today. They didn’t get dressed up and say I’m going to be angry and depressed all day. Those things happened due to environment. Corporate culture that has extinguished their spark. Believe in your people and empower them to build with you the lifestyle you want to live…. And they will. 

Our Conversations, We Are Speaking But No One Is Listening

Photo by Michael Competielle

The power of human beings is our ability to communicate our thoughts and emotions with clarity and detail. The issue is, however, most people haven’t anything to really say or understand what we are actually saying. Assemblages of words that make up sentences that lead to paragraphs that speak volumes of nothingness. We vocalize our emotions based on superfluous fragments, the sum of which is zero.

Focused Listening

The key to being a great communicator is to become a great listener. If we mindfully listen to the words that are shared with us we can extract the details of how a person feels and that is where great communication is born.

Think of yourselves as the editor and the therapist as our “patient” shares with us their deepest emotions. We process each individual word and determine which words we can cutout. As we mentally abridge the story it allows us to exercise our abilities to perform Mindful Listening and deepen our connection to the story.

As the words become statements that hopefully become full-fledged thoughts we can begin to paint a mental picture of the storyteller’s feelings.

If you silently listen without retort or introjection you will begin to fill in the blanks of what story you are actually being told. When the storyteller finishes it allows us time to breathe and help the storyteller feel comfort in your understanding of the narrative. It’s at this moment when you are able to express your analysis.

Positive Response

With complete sincerity, you should begin to respond with “what I hear you saying is” as you explain back to them what it is you heard them say. A positive response notating what content you have been shared can allow for a deeper and more meaningful dialog.

We often don’t hear what we are saying or even understand the meaning behind what it is we are saying. As we hear back what another person feels they heard you say, we can begin to rebuild the content into a baseline.

Once we are reconnected to the repeated narrative we can begin to access the basis of how are statements come across to an outsider. Many times hearing back the regurgitation of our words leaves us unsettled and exposed. It’s at that moment when the listener can make the largest impact.

What it all means

Most often our conversations stem from the expression of feelings that have developed inside our reptilian brain. This portion of our brains is responsible for carnal knowledge of basic functions essential for life. Our reptilian brain handles our primal instincts inclusive of our fight or flight emotion.

Our primal mind is incapable of reasoning or thought processing and so, therefore, we often aren’t making processed statements when our narrative comes from our lizard mind.

With a kind response we should ask the storyteller “but how did it make you feel?” This one usually floors a storyteller as it’s an uncommon question that will develop the deepest impact.

It’s during that exacting moment we hope to have moved the conversation into the frontal lobe of our brains where emotional expression, judgment, and problem-solving takes place. With our focus inside this controlled environment of our minds, we have moved away from fight or flight into deciphering the content.

When you give this segment of your brain the ability to process and decipher what we have heard repeated back to us, we can then look deeper within ourselves to find the clues on why we may have been triggered.

When we care to listen and allow a story to unwind, it’s the responses we receive back that opens our mind to the ability to figure it all out. Learn to listen and listening to the process is the most powerful of our human minds. Nurture the process and sharing how you feel makes the largest advancements in self-development.