“Fake It Until You Make It” – Random Thoughts on Determination

A few random thoughts on determination and what it means to be creative in a digital world.

It’s so easy to get distracted, to lose focus and stop doing the work that needs to get done. Excuses are rampant with blame being cast upon internal and external reasons, beings, deities, and weather. The Imposter Syndrome, the Fraud Police, awards and praise, all present in the face of success. All make it that much harder to feel determined to want and to work for more.

Depression, inspiration, comparison, procrastination, and busywork rear their ugly heads in the trenches of creation. Loneliness breeds a need for connection. We’ll settle for anyone, but we often choose to buy the candied words of the sycophant: “You’re great. Everything you do is perfect. I want you.”

No one wants to be lied to. Everything can be improved upon.

Your mask reveals your lust for perfection. Your mask hides your insecurity and lack of motivation to push forward. Your mask is your loss of faith in your creative ingenuity. Your mask is the acceptance of ignorance and heresy that in order to succeed you must look and behave like everyone else. Moo.

What do you do when your determination has waned and your faith–in art, business, creativity, God, gods, the world, humanity–is left for dead in an untouched corner of your soul?

Do you fake it until you make it?

Yes!

No!

You just make it.

Because if you fake it long enough, you’ll make it a habit and eventually people will know. You’ll know.

We know when we are sold lies, concealed in the polish of marketing, advertising, and politics. We know that when race and gender are strategically placed next to the corporate logos of finance, insurance, fast food, and healthcare a statement is made about value: The greatness of the logo is legitimatized by the inclusion of all people. Even if it’s a lie. Or a stereotype.

But we don’t care anymore.

The polish of modern society numbs the despair felt when we realize we sold our soul, our art, and our voice for the weekend. Sold for our security in a system meant to keep people in line, dropping existential quarters in the slot machine of life. Waiting to hit the jackpot; dying at each pull of the lever.

Jackpot.

Going longhand this morning. "Fake It Til You Make It and Other Thoughts on Determination"

A photo posted by Chris Martin (@cmstudios) on

Random Thoughts: Idea Gardens, Historical Viewpoints, Bikini Girl Marketing and Gaming Your Tithe

Today is definitely full of random thoughts running through my mind. Instead of choosing to write an in-depth blog post, I thought I would collect a few of the things occupying my brain.

  1. Do you have an idea garden? This question was asked by a friend when I responded that I had a million things going through my head. I have notepads, note apps, sticky notes, index cards, napkins, and a whole cadre of pens, Sharpies, and highlighters.
  2. In response to yesterday’s post about revitalizing downtown Vancouver, a local historian and a designer got into a discussion about diversity and the reshaping of Vancouver. One thing that the historian said has really stuck in my mind, “just because one does not know about it does not mean that it doesn’t exist.” It leads me to “there is nothing new under the sun.” I’ll save my discussions of existentialism and philosophy for another day, but for now I’ll leave you with this: “Just because something exists doesn’t mean that everyone knows about it.”
  3. Nothing markets independent coffee shops like bikini girls. As long as you stop staring at them. What’s next, bikini girl smart bars at the Dell store in order to compete with Apple?
  4. Do you tithe with your credit card in order to get airline miles?

Pursuing Hilarity

Somewhere out there, I read: “If you don’t have a sense of humor, buy one.” I love to laugh. I love jokes of the practical, dirty, or British-type. I love comedies. Especially Monty Python, Kevin Smith films, and Mel Brooks films. In addition, Stephen Colbert cracks me up. Did you see the episode where he chases Jon Stewart in order to take back control of the Colbert Super Pac? Fear not, it’s right here.

Pretty funny, huh? How about Monty Python’s The Lumberjack Song? It’s right here.

Go and find something that makes you laugh.

But Will It Last?

It’s amazing what happens in sixteen years: I graduated from high school, went to college, dropped out from college, went back to college, visited multiple countries, worked a couple of jobs, started my own business, got married, got fat then skinny then proportionate, started working on graduate studies, and about a million other milestones and mundane life markers.

Throughout each of these life events, I had a trusty confidant by my side (more accurately, in my mouth, cemented behind my lower teeth).

Keeping my teeth in line, I never really thought about my confidant, it was always there.

Until recently…

My confidant became loose.

My teeth slowly started to shift.

I think about how strong the cement was, holding a small piece of wire in place for sixteen years.

I think about how much food and drink I have consumed over the years.

Not much in this life is made to withstand the brutality food and drink had upon the poor little wire.

I could probably say the wire is a metaphor for life and the need for time-tested confidants to keep us in line, but the wire is not the metaphor, the cement is.

Without the cement, I would have choked on the wire long ago.

Slaying the Demon of Procrastination

I’m fighting the demon of procrastination. I turn to my words as fuel to help me slay the demon, whose grip has kept me beneath the surface of completion, kicking and screaming for dear life.

There are lessons to be learned in this battle. The demon of procrastination feeds off past insecurities, present fears, and concerns for a prosperous future. He has the ability to force me to make quick decisions that are not in my long-term best interests. He lies to me, tells me that I am something that I am not. He strips me of my motivation and desire, beats me to the verge of death with inaction, and drowns me in a to-do list of things that ultimately are not in line with my life’s work.

How do I slay this very powerful demon that I have fought for the majority of my life? In order to understand how much power the procrastination demon has upon my life, I need to go back to the first experiences of my life. Dredging my memories, I come across one from Teddy Bear Preschool, almost 30 years ago. Primarily recollected from my dad’s words, I recall the ability to take on too many projects and the inability to finish tasks one at a time. I remember my dad telling me about the preschool administrator saying to him that I needed to be taught to finish projects before starting new ones.

It is interesting how patterns for our adult lives can be traced back to childhood memories and uncorrected behaviors. Because of the inability to correct that behavior as a child, I am now forced to correct the behavior after 30 years of it wrapping its tentacles around the essence and core of my being. The demon of procrastination has become part of me, in many ways, it has become me. But the fighter, the warrior in me, though dormant, is gathering strength, ready to fight.

I grab hold of the sword of action, fighting to break free of laziness, sloth, and an overactive imagination.

I grip the shield of focus, protecting myself from the arrows of information.

I put on my armor of reason, protecting myself from the inevitable barrage of emotions that seek to get me to think with my heart instead of my head.

Finally, I put on my helmet of truth, seeking the wisdom and knowledge for a better future.

In order to slay the demon of procrastination, I need to finish projects, one at a time before taking on more. I must realize that I am a warrior that is fighting for a sustainable and worthwhile future for myself and my family. Ultimately, I need to fight for what I want. If that means that I fight for the completion of projects, so be it. But I fight nonetheless.

In retrospect, it could be said that this post was a form of procrastination, however, it has served its purpose: to build up the fighter within, fueling me towards starting the final leg of the project that needs completion.

Good Intentions Laid to Waste

It’s been one of those weeks where I had every good intention to write, yet business and life crept up with a 2×4 and beat the living crap out of me. Metaphorically speaking. Although, wouldn’t it be a funny sight to see? Some hideous mythological intention-creature wielding a 2×4, hitting me? Hilarious! But I digress.

The highlight of my week happened this morning while I was sitting in Thatcher’s Coffee waiting for an appointment. I was an hour and a half early, taking some time to read Neil Postman’s Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future, as well as writing down some thoughts on the abundance of managers and the deficiencies of leaders specifically related to vision and mission.

A lady sat down next to me and after a few minutes said, “Excuse me, if you don’t mind me asking, are you a writer?” I have never been asked that before. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, so I said the first thing that I could think of, “Well, I would say that I am an aspiring writer.” “Fascinating,” she replied, “I’ve haven’t seen someone your age writing with a pen and notebook for a long time. It’s a welcome sight to see.” We proceeded to talk briefly about progress and technology, then her friend showed up and I went back to my world, writing feverishly, looking up words in the dictionary, ironically, on my phone.

The little things in life are what makes everything worthwhile. Yes, I still write with a pen and notebook. I use all sorts of various types of notebooks ranging from Moleskins to sketch pads and legal pads. I am picky about the brand of pen I write with. It has to be a Pilot Precise V5 pen. No exceptions. Writing isn’t the same without a V5. I buy them in a 12-pack, using each pen one at a time until they run out of ink.

Aside from the encounter in the coffee shop, another rare moment of joy entered my notebook this morning courtesy of Bill Moyers’ book, Moyers on Democracy. In his speech entitled, “The Broad Margin,” Moyers talks about the impact that John F. Kennedy had upon his life and how that impact helped him to realize that the best leaders empower the individual person for the benefit of society. He writes:

We all edit history to give some form to the puzzle of our lives, and I cherish the late president’s [John F. Kennedy] memory for awakening me to a different story for myself. The best leaders sign us up for civic duty, knowing, as John Stuart Mill wrote, that “the worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.” Rather than encouraging us to exalt in our self-interest they challenge us to act beyond our apparent capacities, offering us the chance to sharpen our skills as citizens.

Later on in the speech, Moyers quotes from the Talmud:

In every age there comes a time when leadership comes forth to meet the needs of the hour. And so, there is no man who does not find his time, and there is no hour that does not have its leader.

It’s easy to see why I have leadership on my mind. It’s emitting from the very books that I am feeding my mind and soul with. Speaking of books, it’s amazing the nuggets of truth found in each book. Take Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001) by Don Felder and Wendy Holden, a look at the inner turmoil, stress, and broken lives caused by rampant drug and alcohol use, along with perfectionism, fame and fortune. It made me appreciate the autonomy of my life as well as the fact that I am not addicted to drugs or alcohol. Like I said, it’s the little things in life.

Future nuggets of truth were picked up today from the library and Barnes and Noble: The Promise by Chaim Potok, Liberty and Tyranny by Mark R. Levin, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Contagion: The Financial Epidemic That Is Sweeping The Global Economy…And How To Protect Yourself From It by John R. Talbott, Truth Be Told by Larry King, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, Common Sense by Thomas Paine, and Vanished by Joseph Finder.

As I close this somewhat random post, I circle back to Neil Postman. In Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future, Postman writes some interesting thoughts on story, specifically understanding the narratives that bring purpose and meaning to our lives:

We do not need to invent a story for our times out of nothing. Humans never do. Since consciousness began, we have been weaving our experience of ourselves and of our material world into accounts of it; and every generation has passed its ways of accounting on. And as new generations have encountered more and more of the world and its complexities, each generation has had to reread the stories of the past–not rejecting them, but revising and expanding their meaning to accommodate the new. The great revolutions and revelations of the human past, and I include the Christian revelation, have all been great retellings, new ways of narrating ancient truths to encompass a larger world.

Watch out for the intention-creature wielding the 2×4. Instead, pick-up an arsenal of books. Arm yourself with ideas, words and stories. Be prepared to fight. It’s worth it, at least according to my life’s narrative. But I digress.

 

 

Distracted And Blocked, But That’s Okay

For some reason, I haven’t been able to get my head in the game today. I feel distracted, creatively blocked, and a little down. I have been able to get a few things accomplished, but I’m not as productive today as I would I like to be.

My first tendency is to criticize myself: “What’s the matter with you Chris? You need to produce! Get your head in the game, let go of your emotions, just do the work. Work, work…WORK! GO!” That doesn’t really help though. It doesn’t address the root issue. In fact, it’s level of silliness and lunacy makes me laugh. Oh, the things that I tell myself.

I then flirt with a whole slew of thoughts, mostly related to procrastination, escapism, gluttony, and caffeine addiction. I watch random things on YouTube, I think about taking a walk, I stare in the fridge only to remind myself that I’m actually not hungry, and then I refill the coffee cup. I stare at the blank screen, I blink hypnotically in rhythm with the cursor, I take a sideways glance at the to-do list. Then the clock.

I peck away at the keyboard. Write. Type. Erase. Write. Type. Chuckle to myself at how funny I am. Write. Type. Erase. Look in the coffee cup. Get up for a refill.

Okay, I’m back.

I read what I’ve written. Not bad, not great, just okay. I realize that’s how I feel today: just okay.

Not every day is meant to be euphoric or catastrophic. I suppose I should count my blessings that I am just okay. Life could be worse. On the other hand, it could be better. But I’m okay with okay. Okay?

The Secret To Fluffy Pancakes

Every Friday for the past six years, barring illness and travel, I spend an hour with my grandma and make her a fluffy chocolate chip pancake. She slathers on the margarine and digs in, commenting as she goes: “Mmmm, good, how do you get them so fluffy?”

Well, here is the secret to fluffy, chocolatey, perfectly tan pancakes.

  1. Heat up a skillet slowly around 3. Very low heat is the secret to not burning your pancakes. You can use non-stick spray, oil or whatever your poison to grease the skillet. I generally use a non-stick skillet and forgo the grease.
  2. Prepare your batter based on the number of people you are serving. I generally make a half-recipe: 1 cup Bisquick, 1 egg, 1/2 cup 2% milk. Mix and let sit while the pan continues to heat. Herein lies two secrets of the fluff: A thicker batter (use slightly less milk than 1/2 cup for fluffier results) and allowing it to settle for a few minutes.
  3. Spoon roughly 1/2 cup of batter into the preheated skillet.  Add the chocolate chips depending on taste and sweet tooth. For my grandma, I cover the entire pancake until there is no more room.
  4. Let the pancake cook until the batter starts to change texture and color around the upper edges. The pancake batter also begins to rise around the chocolate which will help avoid too much scorching when cooking the reverse side.
  5. Flip. Let cook for a minute or two. Herein lies the final fluffy secret: Never pat the pancake with the spatula.
  6. Put on a plate and watch the smiles and comments erupt as your eaters dig into fluffy, chocolatey goodness.

It will take some time to find the right temperatures and mixtures based on your stovetop, choice of skillet and type of milk/mix you use. However, I can personally vouch from experience that nothing satisfies me more than perfecting the art of cooking a consistently perfect, fluffy, chocolatey pancake, each Friday morning.