One of the first words I learned as a child was the word No. I know my parents and elders felt my use of the word was the last great act of defiance however I was clearly setting my boundaries.
Having a firm understanding of where our boundaries are helps us to set the rules of which we personally live by. Rules are made to be broken and therefore if you have a open mind and are willing to understand other’s perspective you may decide to modify your rules.
I’ve overcome some of my own obstacles I’ve encountered simply by saying “no”.
On two separate occasions I quit smoking cigarettes. The first attempt at quitting I tried the nicotine patch, gum and finally settled on sweets and then salts. I’d devour entire bags of chips, cookies just about anything in an attempt to not smoke. It worked for slightly more than two years and then one stressful afternoon I said “ fuck it give me a cigarette” to my friend Billi and there I was back to smoking two packs a day.
The second time I quit I used a different tactic, I simply said “no”. No I don’t smoke anymore. Going on over ten years now since I last smoked I occasionally still miss it however it’s just something I no longer do, Simply by just saying “No”.
Better than a year ago I decided to become a Vegan. Dividing my reasoning into thirds my decision is one third environmental, one third diet and one third empathy to animals. How did I do it? How did I give up cheese, burgers and bacon.
I said “no”.
Watching documentaries on Netflix I’ve become aware of the environmental impacts of large scale factory farming and the lack of sustainability. These same documentaries showcase the quality of life the animals are accustomed to or in reality horrifying conditions. I’ve learned about the health issues associated with eating an animal based diet and finally decided…. You guessed it. To just say No.
By setting my own boundaries and having a firm understanding of what things I refuse to do, decisions have become simple. No I don’t want a cigarette, no I don’t want to take drugs, no I don’t want a beef burrito. And why? I have boundaries…. Invisible rules that I’ve created and follow.
I don’t pour concrete on Mondays
I don’t rewire Alarm Systems on Fridays
I don’t plan my weekends ahead of time
I don’t grocery shop for a week
I don’t cheat on my diet because I’m on vacation
The list goes on and on. By clearly setting my own rules by saying no, it’s become easier to do concentrate fully on the situations where I don’t say no. Yes I like to teach people to think, create and find themselves. I like to help people design things, their businesses, spaces, mind and their future.
My abilities to say no is not me being argumentative, I’m being demonstrative as I set my own rules and boundaries.
Tomorrow I make break or modify my own rules based on new understandings or information. I’m always open to re-evaluate and examine life and it’s challenges and attempt to overcome the struggles.
With complete confidence and certainty I’m capable of making large amounts of decisions with a limited amount of thought or contemplating as I’ve already preplanned the basic rules and guidelines of which I follow.
The opposite of “No” is “Yes” and the secret of getting to “yes” is the ability to say no quickly and easily saying no to the things you know will not work.
I can maintain my boundaries in just about any situation simply by saying “no” as I examine my options. My favorite thing to do is say yes. Getting there isn’t always easy however when I do it’s guaranteed to be the right decision and my best decision.
My High School education was at a mediocre school in a middle class town. The curriculum was your standard 1990’s mixture of mathematics, English classes, foreign languages and hands on electives.
Most of the teachers were boring, tenured puppets, pushing the importantance of GPA’s and focusing on passing shitty Scantron tests such as the High School Profiency Test or the California Standardized Test. Tests designed to be administered where each questions answer fits into a box with choices generally A,B,C,or D. Trickery was used to generally have two of the four listed answers to appear very close to being correct however with only one correct answer generally.
This form of testing paved the way for Software Testing Metrics and State Accountability Metrics. Shitty ways to analyze shitty educations with crappy fill in the box exams.
Ironically 3 out of 4 workers sitting in cubicles are expected to think outside the box. Kenneth Cole
Critical thinking and conceptualizing aren’t taught as it’s challenging to grade concepts and philosophies.
I didn’t struggle in school I honestly just didn’t give a shit.
Refusing to study, take notes, do homework and other forced educational tasks I hardly passed any classes with better than “C”.
I’ve never crammed for a test as I felt storing pointless facts in short term memory is like exceeding a sponges saturation point.
Overfill a sponge with fluid and it’ll drip out the excess. If you don’t commit the information into long term memory, your just a test taker and a drippy sponge. Plop,plop… Good luck with life, passing tests and failing at retention and comprehension.
I always loved the first day of school walking into class while being handed a syllabus by an overzealous educator. Grabbing a seat and listening to a teachers introductory formalities about weighting of homework, quizzes, tests and class participation would be discussed and I’d glance around the room looking for the Neo Maxi Zoom Dweebi that would ask about crap like extra credit reading assignments and book reports.
Mathematics I struggled with “showing my work” as the answers always just appeared in my vision mind.
It’s doubtful I ever finished a book report completely as I always refused to create index cards, outlines and rough drafts. My final grades always included demerits for lacking the supporting documents and other time wasters.
If I can get to the correect answer who gives a fuck how I got there?
Teachers that encouraged cramming would review answers to questions that could foreseeably be on a test never anticipated the future…Google. Why crap your brain with useless facts such as the 5th President. Does anyone really give a crap? Doubtful.
So why cramming? To take tests obviously.
Sophomore year English changed it all for me with the greatest teacher I ever had. With a reading list of The Glass Menagerie, Johnny Got His Gun, 1984, Twelve Angry Men…. I was certain it would be another crappy class and another crappy year.
Guess what… I was wrong, way wrong.
His grading style was unorthodox as tests and quizzes hardly weighed anything and class participation was the main grading parameter.
Were the dweebs pissed? You bet your ass they were… and me? I was in heaven, all I had to do was read a book and participate in open class discussion. I was in, all in.
Feverishly I read every book on the list plus others. Huxley, Salinger, Orwell, Kerouac. Every evening all I did was read, ensuring full comprehension so the following day I’d engage in the classroom discussion. Hell I’d even lead it.We would argue, fight and force ourselves to reread and reevaluate.
When it was time for grading, Mr. Hughes would walk around with his grade book listing his students names however absent of any grades.
He would stop by each of our desks and ask us what we felt our grades would be.
He was an early adopter of self assessment.
Always a “C” student I was content with a “C” and Mr. Hughes would always say “Mike you deserve an “A”.
To my parents and my shock I aced Sophomore English.
I remember one day in class Mr. Hughes sent me to his car to grab a bag of tennis balls. When I returned Mr.Hughes ask me my favorite song. At the time I was heavy into Metallica and so I chose the song “One” based on the book Johnny Got His Gun. I was instructed to write a few lines of lyrics on the black board.
I can’t remember anything
Can’t tell if this is true or dream
Deep down inside I feel to scream
This terrible silence stops me
Now that the war is through with me
I’m waking up, I cannot see
That there is not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now
Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, wake me
Back in the womb it’s much too real
In pumps life that I must feel
But can’t look forward to reveal
Look to the time when I’ll live
Fed through the tube that sticks in me
Just like a wartime novelty
Tied to machines that make me be
Cut this life off from me
Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, wake me
Now the world is gone, I’m just one
Oh God help me
Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, help me
Darkness imprisoning me
All that I see
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell
Landmine has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell.
“One” Lyrics by Metallica
Mr. Hughes handed me three tennis balls and said ”juggle while you recite your poem”. Puzzled I remember saying it was a song, not a poem. And Mr.Hughes proved me wrong. With three tennis balls in hand he recited my “poem” while juggling.
He created a rhythm by accenting certain syllables while he was reciting. I as well as the rest of the class were in amazement. Thinking back almost 30 years later, the experience is still fresh and life changing.
Having found the way to a real interactive education based on comprehensive, free thinking, discussion, debate and re-evaluation I’ve found a path to how I interact with new life experiences. Free, opened minded and impressionable.
And how did my remaining years work out, I failed Junior English and subsequently called my teacher a talentless hack. There was only one Mr.Hughes.
So how am I an “A” player?
Daily I do self assessments to check in with myself and give myself a grade.
I don’t set an alarm clock. My bodies internal clock awakens me early and the first thing I do… read. Every day I read.
Read, Read, Read. Werner Herzog
My morning breakfast routine consists of oatmilk lattes, avocado toast and a banana. My ritual is mindless so I can read while making it.
Grab a shower, dress and walk the dogs, again while I read.
Getting through my busy day directing others, designing and building I’m personally motivated to keep moving myself and my project tasks forward.
Driven by my own rhythm and self motivation it’s my job to push others. I’m a self starter, a self motivator…. a self assessor. And thats how i manage.
Not everyday do I give myself an “A”. Some days I fail and occasionally miserably. However I will assess the situation and right my off course ship, set her sails and regain my course.
I’m certainly not the smartest person, nor the best writer nor the greatest communicator. But everyday I awaken with a fire, sparked in a windowless classroom by an educator that said “be who you want to be. Just be honest to yourself”.
Recently I finished a creative writing project. The actual project was to record a new original sound effect per day for 1 month. I purchased a new 4K GoPro on a Gorillapod so my audio creations had a visual element to add to the sounds.
With a growing passion for expanding my Sound Design library and field recording while owning a media production company I felt the project would create a nice new library of fresh and original sounds.
And what happened….nothing. Why?
Lack of inspiration. Being I create original sound effects for film and video content the visuals requiring sounds already existed. Door squeaks, engine roars, environmental ambiences the sound bites I’d create were placed to visuals on a screen.
So how did I get motivated for the new project?
Writing Haiku….huh? Yes you heard me. Writing Haiku… 100 of them.
Well how did I create the inspiration for my Haiku? Cellphone pictures. Over 14,000 of them. Were those images that good? Nope most of the sucked but I only needed 100.
Early in the project the images I used were generally nature inspired. Very simple and safe for what were essentially traditional Haiku but then the situation changed. I quickly bored of standard nature photographs and instead photographed and wrote Haiku that were riskier and more creative. Suddenly my mind was seeing Haiku in just about everything. Architecture, Fireworks and slabs of meat.
The daily task of photographing topics for my creative writing opened the floodgates of my free expressive thinking. Safe and common concepts quickly bored me as I felt I needed to expand my expressiveness.
While photographing I’d have ideas for sound recording, film scripts and art projects. Writing to an image allowed me to look deeper into the photograph and detail what I thought or how I felt. My vocabulary expanded as I’d struggle to find synonyms with the appropriate syllables.
Always multitasking or realistically multi-projecting, my Haiku helped with my creativity in other projects as well. Hearing sounds in my Haiku and my photography my mind heard the sounds and I just moved forward to create more.
Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences,” ambient music pioneer Brian Eno wrote in his diary.
Brian Eno is a musician, record producer, visual artist and philosopher. With deep roots in electronic music with Roxy Music and David Bowie and as the the creator of Ambient Music, Brian often expanded his creative process by visualizing music.
With solo records titled Ambient 1: Music For Airports, Music for Films and Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks Brian writes textural music.
Enter the Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt Oblique Strategies cards.
Peter Schmidt was a pioneering multimedia artist and painter who created a box of 55 sentences printed on original unused artwork called “The Thoughts Behind the Thoughts”
Eno was friends with Schmidt and a few years later created his own handwritten inspirational cards named the “Oblique Strategies.”
Seeing similarities in the cards Eno and Schmidt decided to release a joint box set of cards also sold as the “Oblique Strategies”
The cards are used as a written constraint used with a creative process. Many are believed to be for writing music however the reality is they can be used for any creative endeavors.
Examples are as follows:
A Line Has Two Sides
Into the Impossible
Turn it Upside Down
Retrace Your Steps
Visualize your next project and grab an Oblique Strategies card as inspiration. Use it for photography, a song or new product design.
IDEO is a global design and consulting firm that specializes in the practice of Design Thinking in product design, branding, hospitality, furniture, toy and automotive industries.
Originally founded in the late 1970’s specializing in product design an early client was Steve Jobs of Apple needing assistance in the design of the first computer mouse.
Over the course of the past 40 years IDEO’s principals have been utilized in almost every industry. Firmly based on the Design Thinking process which IDEO believes should be also used for Human-Centered Design to solve the World’s issues and a concept they teach and give away for free.
Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.
— TIM BROWN, EXECUTIVE CHAIR OF IDEO
Enter IDEO’s Method Cards
IDEO’s Method Cards were developed for practicing and aspiring designers looking to expand on their designs and process.
Broken up into 4 categories:
These cards can help expand on creative thinking by using Design Thinking theory to expand on project or product problems and further development.
With written directions on each card such as “Look-Rapid Ethnography” or “Ask-Cognitive Maps” these cards help teams expand product developments.
In the Werner Herzog Masterclass he teaches filmmakers the importance of reading. He recommended a book The Peregrine which is a story of a falcon. By understanding the perspective of the falcon it changes your perspective on a situation or event and expands your thought process. Understanding and explaining from another perspective can bring new life to a story.
While Werner doesn’t recommend film school or even traditional filmmaking concepts, he does recommend the importance of learning to be an engaging storyteller. With a belief that the world is revealed to those who travel Herzog recommends you travel, meet different people and learn.
“I’d like to add that when I travel by foot, I don’t do it as a backpacker where you take all your household items with you — your tent, your sleeping bag, your cooking utensils,” Herzog wrote. “I travel without any luggage.”
My lessons in expanding my creativity have been helpful and life changing. Try some of these techniques to expand your creativity and creative process. And most of all have some fun.
When I was in grade school I struggled with writing so much that I was sent to a writing specialist and ultimately it was requested I be held back in the second grade. Possibly it was because of my early start into school as a September baby as I had just made the cutoff date. Or maybe I in actuality suffered from a learning disability that would require me to learn differently. Regardless I daily was removed from my otherwise mundane classroom to spend quality time with my tutor.
My recollection of her was an attractive, nurturing and patient teacher. She would greet me with a warm hug and a genuine smile as she’d ask me to read a book like Clifford the Big Red Dog. I would buzz through the words with ease reading to her as if I was the teacher and she was my student, hanging on my every word and only occasionally fixing my pronunciation. Seemed I didn’t struggle with reading comprehension or grammar but actually had difficulties in writing an essay citing what I had just read.
Blankly I’d stare at the page of penmanship paper where often the only thing I’d written was my name and the date along the top followed by “The book Clifford the Big Red Dog is about…”
If the paper was actually an old monochrome computer I’d be starring at a blinking cursor. What do I write next? I didn’t have a fucking clue. Lost in the details of an entire book and forced to write a simple summary of the most elementary book was a stressful struggle. I’d ask if I could sharpen my pencil or go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. Stall tactics until the hour long tutoring session would end while I figured there was always tomorrow right?
My tutor was nurturing and patient as she’d allow me the curtesy of wasting her valuable time. And when I ran out of juvenile stunts of misdirection she’d warmly say “okay Michael now can you please write what you just read?”
Hell no I couldn’t. What do I write first and what was most important? Setting, plot, adjectives and capitalization… screw this I’m out.
My tutor would take a paper and place it into a file folder and put it away. She would than look into my eyes and with the sweetest voice say “okay you win again. Tell me the story about Clifford the Big Red Dog” and holy shit I did. Every last fucking detail from Clifford’s size and hair and reactions. No problems there as I would talk and talk and talk.
And then my tutor would take back out the blank essay paper and say “alright now write exactly what you just said.” I’d love to tell you that I did and it was perfect which I’m doubting is the truth however what I do recall is my first academic rush as I pencil to paper wrote and wrote and wrote.
Thinking back I remember those big fat pencil erasers that I would burn through as I corrected my less than stellar penmanship. It was on that day I found my narrative writing technique which is still the only way I know how to write.
I spent the next year with my tutor reading and writing essays. My memories not sharp enough to remember the content or any additional details except how I learned to write.
My remaining years as a “student” were a shit show spending most of my time in the principals office and subsequently in detention or suspension for not following the rules. To this day I feel that rules are for other people as I generally just do everything that I want. It’s doubtful that my writing style has improved much since my year with my tutor however I’ve stuck with my style and won’t change for anything.
Recently I’ve been following the marketing guru Seth Godin’s expert advice to write a blog a day. These can be based on random thoughts or philosophical ideas that you want to just get out there. I’m confident that my writing with improve exponentially as I continue to write and let that storytelling voice be heard.
Seldom have I found a situation where I’ve nothing to say and it’s been a very long time since I’ve stared at a blank page. Creative writing has expanded my thoughts and mind and is a dopamine rush. I become anxious to complete my thoughts and hit the publish button. It’s of paramount importance I continue to follow my own unwritten rules to be honest and forthcoming as I expose my thoughts and experiences in an abridged but unadulterated style.
As a creative designer and artist I struggle to stay on topic as my interests vary widely. This certainly is a compelling argument for my certain failure to ever become a successful author as I’d guess I’ll struggle finding a fan base with quite as diverse and quite frankly wild amount of passions and interests. However I’ll trudge on not losing site of my objective. To find my voice and share my thoughts.
One day I’ll pull back out the letters of correspondence my father typed back and forth to the school board requesting and subsequently denying my specialized education to find out why I do is what works. Possibly there is an answer in there that’ll help me stay in my lane but until then…. I’m just going to keep on hitting publish.
An attorney friend of mine years ago expanded my thoughts on perspective. I’d often ask how his day had been knowing hours earlier he had a rough time in trial court. Ironically he would respond with a smile “I’ve never had a bad day”.
I’d ask myself how could that be? Certainly he had a client that equally had a rough day in court, possibly a motion not accepted or expert testimony that failed to provide the definitive evidence required to win the case. However he never let those issues adjust his feeling and perspective for his day.
With the mindset of an artist I learned to change perspective. Moving my visual camera and reframing the mental picture of the entire situation I began to recognize that fine tuning into one specify issue or troublesome event in your day should generally only be a temporary setback. Reevaluating the situation and obtaining an alternative perspective can often change the emotion of the situation allowing your vision and focus to clarify. My corporate job had extinguished my creative spark and fogged my perspective.
It was at that exacting moment I decided I’d try Living the Dream
My decision allowed me to re-evaluate my life, relationships, goals and objectives and then refocus on my dreams. I decided to signup for filmmaking classes at NYU, travel more, examine my spirituality and quit my high paying corporate New York City job.
Leaving piles of money on the table and moving my 401k into a Fidelity account I moved towards my dreams as I took a local job in a similar industry. Ironically cutting my salary almost in half didn’t make me sad so why would doubling it make me happy? Perspective. Not suggesting that money is the route of all evil however I’ve determined that the requirements and sacrifices required to earn a high paying corporate salary isn’t worth the stress, aggravation and the loss of perspective.
Quitting my NYC job opened up my daily schedule to drive my kids to school, make breakfast with lattes and meditate. Moments became mine as I reclaimed my life and creativity. On a daily basis I work on personal development by practicing mindfulness, filmmaking, design and creative writing. Experimenting with a vegetarian diet and eventually a vegan lifestyle, I’ve increased my health and most importantly my mindset.
I still get stressed and even pissed off however generally the emotions are temporary as the feeling quickly rolls off like water off a ducks back. My compassion and empathy has increased for people that fit within the model of my dream and I’ve moved on from the toxic ones.
Situations in which I cannot control the outcome nor push out of my life I accept and and modify my perspective.
With a clear perspective of living in the moment I’ve taken the time to examine the world around me. Listening and recording birds, observing flowers blooming and climbing rock outcropping I’ve learned to love how beautiful nature truly is.
Heading to the beach I love to admire the oceans smells and hard pondering splash sounds of white noise as powerful curling funnel waves hit rocky jetties. Seagulls gliding in the slow oceans breeze economizing the frequency of their wings flutter.
On any given day I’ve been known to respond to pleasant greetings with “I’m Living the Dream”. A daily ritual that keeps my mind and body in perspective.