Three Words for 2014

Photo credit – Sally M via Flickr

What is a New Year’s resolution, really? Is it something that we hope to change; a desire that we long to fulfill; something that’s been nagging at us in the mirror; definitely something that we cannot live without? Maybe we can. What if we decided not to make a resolution? Would it be so bad? Would we not be considered human? Or would everyone think that we are too complacent?

New Year’s Resolution

It’s been a number of years now since I came across Chris Brogan. He’s a New York Times Bestselling author, among many other things. One of his blog posts has stuck with me over all this time. It’s possibly the best solution, in my opinion, to keeping your New Year’s resolutions – outside of not making any, of course.

The idea is to select three words that you can life by this year. These three words will remind you of other goals that you’ve set or will set for the year. Instead of setting overly ambitious goals for the whole year and disappointing yourself two weeks in when it’s clear your too far behind, give your year a word compass with these three words. You can read Chris Brogan’s description on how to pick your three words on his blog.

The Echo’s of Resolutions

I keep a file on the desktop of my computer titled: Goals. Some of my goals stare back at my mockingly while I thoroughly enjoy seeing others with the underused text decoration: strikethrough.

After reviewing my 2013, it was the first year of many that there are more goals crossed off than not. I really do believe that my three words for 2013 (Create, Ship, Communicate) were a key to making all this progress.

If you are anything like me, the reverberation of an incomplete goal or failed resolution can be quite disheartening. So, scrap the method of making a laundry list of resolutions. Shift your paradigm.

Another Reason

I recently finished Die Empty by Todd Henry. It’s a fantastic read and received rave reviews from many other authors that I respect – Seth Godin, Steven Pressfield and David Allen. One of the core parts to Henry’s method on finishing each day with an empty tank is, what he calls, “establishing a code of ethics.”

“This ‘code of ethics’ is a series of words that concretely defines how you will make decisions, interact with others, and make choices when things get difficult.”

A mirror image of Brogan’s exercise. Die Empty goes in to greater detail about how to become better at setting goals and accomplishing your life’s work. I highly recommend the book, especially for individuals in any of the creative fields.

My Three Words // Code of Ethics for 2014

Meticulous

Direct

Blind

What are your three words for 2014?

Small Business Saturday

Small business gives the world character. Small business makes you walk the extra block or drive the extra mile. Small business supports a community that you believe in. Small business embodies the human spirit.

My grandfather was a small business owner and really instilled the values of hard work, dedication, and heart into all of his kids and grandkids. Nearly all of us have the entrepreneur bug in us – constantly reinventing our work ethic and process. Being a small business to me has always meant that you are innovative and light on your feet. Above all, it requires a life of continuous learning.

In the light of Small Business Saturday I’m offering over a 30% discount on any web projects that are initiated this week – Saturday (Nov 30, 2013) to Saturday (Dec 7, 2013). I hope to help you or your business create or refine your web presence.

Projects Start at:

Personal Website \\ $750 = $500

Business Website \\ $2,000 = $1,400

Contact

artist performance anxiety

Dealing with Anxiety as an Artist

Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance. Tell yourself enough vivid stories about the worst possible outcome of your work and you’ll soon come to believe them. Worry is not preparation, and anxiety doesn’t make you better.

-Seth Godin

Anxiety is the elephant in my room. For the past year I’ve been filled to the brim with it. I can now count on two hands how many times anxiety has kept me from falling asleep, not just for an hour or two, but the whole night.

In college a group of us pulled an all-nighter before our first final. It was for Italian class and I can remember siting in the lobby after the test with heavy eyes and falling asleep right in the middle of conversations. Now you have to understand that I LOVE my sleep. It runs in the family and it must have something to do with my Swedish heritage (that could be a complete lie). After that all-nighter and seeing that it didn’t really help my grade, I vowed never to do it again.

Fast forward almost a decade now and I’m back to pulling all nighters, not by choice mind you. Well, they end up being by choice because you can only count sheep until they get tired of jumping the fence. The difference between the anxiety filled nights and my college red eyed experience is that I don’t get tired as the day continues. You would think that I would have been anxious about the final (sorry, Professoressa Vairo) but I wasn’t. Sure, there was probably such a huge release of pent up tension after the final that I couldn’t stop my lead filled eyelids. The anxiety that I deal with today is something that doesn’t seem to want to go away.

You can’t get rid of it

As an artist I’ve dealt with the fear and anxiety of the performance. I didn’t go through six years of school and forget how to deal with the pressure of the spotlight. That anxiety does not cripple my psyche. It’s actually the rest of the hours of the day that I’m now dealing with. I’ve told myself those vivid stories about not making enough money to support a family. My anxiety has a strangle hold on my dreams.

So, where is the silver-lining right? For me, my biggest demon is perfectionism. There are many projects in my life that I’ve left unfinished because I was so concerned with producing a perfect product that I couldn’t see it through. As I write this, I’m having second thoughts of publishing it. You would think that by now with as many auditions as I’ve had I would be ok with being judged and I would not experience artistic paralysis. Yet, it’s there and feels as palpable as the rhythm of my fingers against this keyboard.

Steven Pressfield calls it the War of Art and crafted a beautiful book about it under the same name. He describes this feeling as the Resistance. It’s the anxiety, fear, worry, and story that you listen to that keeps you from pursuing your dreams. His solution: Do the Work (another great book). At the end of the day, I’ve realized, that an artist is never immune to anxiety. When I’m in performance mode the butterflies in my stomach motivate me and feed into the energy that I need to create something out of nothing.

As a product of a music conservatory I performed weekly, if not daily sometimes. Thankfully I came to grips with my performance anxiety through repetition and not worrying about perfection. Moving forward I’m dealing with my artistic anxiety in the same way: through repetition. It comes in several forms: creating more art, finishing more art, and sharing it. I encourage you to do the same, we can trump our anxiety and use it to inspire and connect. Art comes in all shapes and sizes, go create something.

How do you deal with anxiety?

Photo: Rafael Marchesini

Pursuing Art in a Logical World

As long as I can remember I’ve been a very logical person. It’s almost surprising to me that I’ve chosen a career as an artist. Part of the logistical side of my brain (left brain) comes from a family of “logicians.” Now these aren’t personalities driven by logic that happen to make magic. These lovely people that make up my person (and I love them to death), are composed of the fabric that runs this world: logic. Logic conducts business, fear, and for some people it drives their career and whole person.

I don’t fault the world or my family for following the path of logic. It comforts us, gives us a sense of belonging, and at the end of the day it makes you sleep easier. Logic is a 9-5 job. The equation would be: work a job that pays you ‘x’ so you can support ‘y.’ Logic can be and most likely is monotonous. We create drama or try and break the monotony by strictly following logic – if we don’t accomplish ‘b’ by the process of ‘c’ then we bare down on the stress and the circular path that leads us back to x=y.

I love logic. I’m powered by logic yet I pursue creativity. I relish dressing up like someone else and emoting through song to accomplish… I don’t know what it does logically. Over the past 5 plus years I’ve been driven by logic so much so that I question my creativity. Is it valid? Is it meaningful? Will it pay me ‘x’ so I can support ‘y’?

This is where I pursue my art. This is where I ignore the logic and create something. Yes, something. It may not be profound, beautiful, or one of a kind, but I’m chasing after what I believe to be the right path for me. The creative, lesser road; leaning into what may fail and what may not give me ‘x’. Why? Creating is giving back and that is where I feel most alive.

Photo: Aleksandra P.