reality is weirder than you think

Tag: do the work (page 1 of 2)

One of those days

It’s always hard to go back to real life after “one of those days.”

Or if we want to get really twisty about it, I always seem to have “one of those days” after having “one of those days.”

Or if we want to get concrete but cryptic, I really should add “being outside” to my list of my ideal work environment. Not doing outdoor work, per se, but just being outside. A porch is fine, no need to get fancy about it.

What really happened is this: over the weekend my car broke down while I was on a trip for the weekend. As such, I couldn’t get back to work on Monday, but instead spent a bunch of time cleaning said car and arranging for repairs and talking with my brother about various things. The weather just so happened to be freeking gorgeous, as well, so I spent some quality time in the sunshine.

After days like these, days when I can taste freedom, coming back to reality oops there goes gravity* is absolutely excruciating.

Workplace politics. Beige boxes. Pointless meetings. Staring at a computer screen all day, and a computer screen that has to be somewhat professional which means that photos of k-pop groups or stupid memes are OUT as desktop backgrounds and even an Edward Gorey illustration is probably verging on too edgy.

I want to do work with the option of going outside, with the option of wearing shorts, with the option of blasting music as loud as I want to.

This is motivation. This is what I want to run toward, and leave the office life behind. This is where I want to steer my life, toward sunlight and freedom and the terrible arbitrary choices that we must make in the world when we aren’t beholden to a cultural superstructure.

Those days remind me how much I don’t get out of these days. I am capable of more and I will do more.

We’ve all heard that story a million times, but the good thing about stories is that they never run out and everybody’s got one.


*I really shouldn’t quote Eminem in the current year but sometimes I can’t help myself.

Needlepoint is meditation AND instant gratification

I’ve gotten back into needlepoint lately. Counted cross-stitch, to be precise.

It’s great on multiple levels.


Even using a pre-planned design, working on a needlepoint project involves creating something that has never existed in the universe before. There is something primally satisfying about the act of creation.

This time around, I’m developing the design myself. I have an idea, and I’m planning out sections as I go. I picked the colors that I wanted (shades of coral and moss green, my favorites, with a tiny glimmer of yellow). Some of the specific patterns and fonts I’m stealing from other sources, but the overall plan is mine. I’m greatly enjoying the anticipation of seeing the execution of a design I’ve conceived.


Needlepoint projects are a mini-lesson in logistics. Do I start from the right or from the left? Do I do one stitch at a time, or go through the row one way and then back the other way? Letters first, or decorations? So many questions to answer.

I’m not a needlepoint expert, so I can’t give you answers to those questions.

But I can tell you that working on a project like this is a tiny way to stretch your brain in the arena of planning and execution. You know where you want the project to end up, and then you have to make all of the medium- and ground-level decisions to get to that end point.

Most needlepoint projects can’t be done in one sitting, so it’s also an object-lesson on working on a project bit by bit until it’s finished.

You can take this knowledge and extrapolate it to other areas of life.

Instant Gratification

While it sounds like the complete opposite of the long-term benefits, the thing that I like the most about needlepoint is the instant gratification. Every stitch that you finish is there, stitched into the fabric, for you to admire. That stitch, and all the stitches surrounding it, have changed the texture of the fabric forever. You can feel the difference if you run your finger across the stitches.

And that happens every single time you work on the project.

With other types of long-term projects, you don’t always get the satisfaction of a job well done until the very end. Cooking can be like that, and definitely event planning is like that. But with needlepoint, there are pretty things to look at (even if it’s just the colors!) at every step on the way.


I like the idea of meditation, but I’m not huge on the traditional practice of it. Experience has shown me that it’s valuable to stop thinking (in words) for a period of time, but I feel that it’s more important to shift the mode of thinking than it is to stop thinking altogether.

When I take a ballet class, I can’t focus on anything else. When I play music or focus on a drawing, my thinking shifts into those ways of thinking and all my verbal worries evaporate.

Same thing with needlepoint.

When you’re focused on creation, you’re not focused on yourself or what’s wrong with the world. Better for all involved.

In Conclusion

Consider trying out needlepoint. It’s fun, satisfying, and therapeutic.

General inflammation vs. localized inflammation

Generalized inflammation is useless. Usually, pain provides enough useful information to be worth the trouble, but non-localized stress is exactly the opposite. It masks problems. Because it’s not specific, it doesn’t tell you anything useful about what is wrong or what might be causing the stress. It bogs down normal inflammation, and because it makes systems less efficient, causes much more work for the rest of the body.

Localized, acute inflammation — on the other hand — is a fantastic tool. It can lead you to what is wrong, and indicates that your body is working hard on that problem. Localized inflammation is your friend.

Life is kind of like that, too. Lots of low-level, incomprehensible stress is muy no bueno. You can never get a foothold in solving problems of that magnitude.

Specific issues, however, are much easier to identify, parse, and solve one step at a time. This approach is much more painful, and rarely fun, but it’s way more effective in the long run.

It all has to come to a head.

If you have to make a pro/con list you’re trying too hard

After months of looking and weeks of trying, I found an apartment today. One that I have the option to sign for 6 months, even though I’d be willing to go for a full year.

I sign the lease tomorrow.

How long did it take me to make that decision? About 10 minutes.

All the other places that I looked at are listed on a whiteboard in my Airbnb, pro-and-con’d within an inch of their lives.

This one has a great interior but the rent is really expensive. That one has the space that I’m looking for but the front window looks into the recycling center. This other one has a gas stove and beautiful light fixtures, but let’s be honest, it’s way more space than I need or could use.

If I narrowed the decision, and made it “that apartment versus keep looking for apartments,” the latter won every time.

None were the apartment that I wanted.

The decision to pick any of the was difficult.

Then I found “the one” (even though I don’t believe in “the one”).

Sure, this new one has an event center next door with unknown levels of partying, and a view that’s pretty terrible, and a busy street outside, but it had every other major thing I was looking for, plus a certain charm of its own. The kind of alchemy that reflects the “soul” of a space.

This decision? Easy.

Maybe it was the byproduct of having looked at so many options that I knew what was out there, what was worth jumping on, and what is realistically in my price range.

Maybe it was choice fatigue (but I doubt it).

Maybe this landlord was especially persuasive (he wasn’t).

This place was clearly the best.

The moral of this story is that pro/con lists are only useful when you have to make decisions between a bunch of sub-optimal choices.

When there’s one clear winner, you know it.

Don’t lie to yourself.

Go for it.


When you just dive in

There’s a benefit that comes from simply diving into the work.

(With a direction in mind, of course.)

When you don’t take time to assess, to pro and con and analyze the situation to death a million times over, when you just focus and start doing, one task at a time at a time at a time until it’s all finished, there’s a beautiful clarity of purpose and synergy.

This time tomorrow, I’ll be living in a new state. A new life.

I’ll also probably break down into exhausted tears,
but that’s to be expected.

For now, I’m just doing the work.

We move, and the world moves with us.

Craftsmanship Squared


A beautifully produced video of a beautifully produced garment.

A reminder that this is what we can get to if we put in the work.

That beauty is transcendent, and we have the power to make it.

The capacity for beauty lies within us.

Sweep away the chaff and allow it to shine.


*Complete sentences are for days that are not Saturday.


I’m in the midst of a massive transition. Wrapping up an old job, getting started with a new one. Defragging my possessions and moving to a new town — with no place to live yet. (Not for lack of trying.) Living in the midst of chaos, as my two roommates are also packing up and moving out.

God has very clearly laid out the path, but it is surrounded with chaos and uncertainty and newness.

Today, I am feeling it. All of the tasks I feel I have to complete before I’m “allowed” (by whom?) to finish. All the things that I “should” (according to what?) do before I leave town. What is the “proper” way to sort, to clean, to pack?

There are two options: recalibrate, or distract. Focus, lean in, do the work. Writing this blog post is helping some, but I bet doing the work of packing will help even more. Forget should (one of my top 5 most-hated words) and just do. It doesn’t have to be right, just done.

Focus, and make it through.

A metric: the Creative Achievement Questionnaire

I’ve been listening to Jordan B Peterson lectures on YouTube again. (Always super motivating and super depressing at the same time. Reality has a way of doing that to you.)

One of the hardest things to learn about creativity (and anything, really), is that potential means nothing. What matters is what you produce; your body of work.

For those of us just starting out on our creative journeys, it’s important to define what success means and cobble together some metrics to judge whether or not we’re heading in the right direction.

JBP and Shelly Carson created the Creative Achievement Questionnaire to test creative production (not merely creative potential!), and it turns out that it could make a perfect objective measure for achievement in creative pursuits.

My score is 11, which places me at the top end of the Novice Creative category. Mostly of those achievements happened in during my teenage years; I neglected to cultivate my creative talents in university and afterward. There are a couple of scores I could fudge to push myself into the Maker category, but that’s edging into “lying to myself” territory.

Now, as far as using this as a metric: looking over the scoring system shows that each creative domain is scored in a logarithmic scale of difficulty. It will take an immense amount of work to bump up my total score even 1 point, let alone a whole category. However, 1 more point will push me over into Maker–which I could make happen by next year.

If I really double down, I could push myself into the Creative category. I’ll have to formulate some concrete systems and goals to make that happen.

But! We now have a measure for creative output. Let us watch The Gap again and put it to good use.

Read on for the full questionnaire with my scores.

Continue reading

Ways I can prove to myself that I can be my own boss

I feel like there’s a new genre of writing that has taken off in the past few years. It’s nonfiction, and yet the reward it provides is almost the same as a fairy tale.

I’m talking about all the self-employed, entrepreneur-ish books. I read a lot of them. You probably do too. Tim Ferriss. James Altucher. Tony Robbins. Even smaller names like Mike Cernovich.

It’s not even books–this type of content pops up on social media and youtube as well. All the vloggers and youtubers who support themselves off of their youtube income streams, or who showcase how they run their own lives through freelance work, direct sales, and youtube or patreon revenue. I’m thinking about the Casey Neistats and Frannerds of the world here–not just people who support themselves on youtube, but people who vlog about supporting themselves on youtube.

The subtext of all of these things is: you can too!

And maybe you can. Probably you can. You and I have just as much potential as most of these people. They’ve taken risks and figured out how to leverage the internets in a way that works for them (instead of destructive ways like crippling youtube addictions).

At the end of the day, though, these people make money selling the dream to you and me. They show us how they live the lives that they live. On the one hand, hey–it’s an instruction manual or guidebook or map or whatever. Showing us the way.

On the other, it can be all too easy to fall into the trap of voyeurism, of sitting back and watching these people out on the playing field. Maybe we should start a fantasy entrepreneur tournament.

I say “these people” like a pejorative, but I don’t mean it that way. I admire them, and envy them a little bit, and know that I could potentially maybe be one of them, but also equally know that the way I’m living my life right now will never get me there.

AJA Cortes reminded me of that tonight on twitter, with some cut-to-the-bone truth. He put into words a lot of my own feelings of being “stuck” along with exactly what I’ve done that’s gotten me to this place: lack of risk, seeking comfort, choosing a college degree that feels good and hoping that everything will work out.

Hope is NEVER a plan,

Assuming things will “just work out” is NOT a plan

“Something will come along” is NOT a plan

This is loser talk

The reliance on happenstance and fate and destiny somehow swinging in your favor,

Total bullshit.

Fortune favors PLANNING

Your degree is not a fucking plan,

“I’m sure it will work out” isn’t a plan

“I’ve got a good feeling about it” is NOT a plan

Why aren’t these things plans?

Because you are not taking ACTION on ANYTHING

Where’s the momentum? Where is the forward drive to create?

Hell, where’s the hustle and grind and all that cliched shit?

What’s the big picture you are actually working to create every day?

There isn’t one?

You’re relying on half luck and half mediocre skill and wishful thinking?

Stop bullshitting yourself.

I’ve reached the point where I can’t bullshit myself anymore. I am all too aware of the situation that I’ve gotten myself into (complacent job, no marriage prospects, very little creativity in my life, etc etc etc). This is not the life I dreamed for myself when I was a starry-eyed 12 year old.

And reading books about how “You can too!” doesn’t help the fact. Until I take action, it’s just more bullshit.

Right now, I know that I cannot work for myself or be my own boss or choose myself or anything like that. I know this because I know how lazy I am on my own, away from an employer with expectations of me. If I want to move toward any sort of second income stream or self-employment or freelance work or publishing my own novel, I need to learn how to manage myself.

So I’ve decided to draft a list of things I can do (ACTION) to prove to myself that I’m ready to strike out on my own.

  • Set up a (big) project, plan it out, and complete it within a deadline
  • Clean my room, Jordan B Peterson style
  • Address my resentment of tracking time, and start using time to my advantage
  • Stick to a consistent sleep time and wake time
  • Continue to publish a blog post every day until we hit a year
  • Work out consistently
  • Get out of bed immediately upon rising, instead of languishing in the half-asleep/half-awake stage that I love so much (this will legit be a sacrifice)
  • Design a daily schedule for myself that incorporates all the projects that I plan to complete, along with the self-care that my chronic illness demands, and stick to it
  • Finish the Self-Authoring suite
  • Complete a plan for my future, with action steps and deadlines
  • Sell a product online that people buy on a consistent basis while still employed full time by someone else
  • Tackle the reading list that I’ve had in my mind for years
  • Define what success means to me

Now, all of these things will not happen overnight. Tackling this list will take time, and self-discipline. A plan. Some of the very same things on this list that I feel I lack already. However, the things on this list create compound interest–once I’ve completed and/or maintain a substantial amount of them, I imagine that I’ll already be on the road to being more antifragile and self-sufficient.

The thing is, I must begin. Take action. DO IT.

I take comfort in the fact that doing it badly is better than doing it not at all. Doing it badly is the first step toward doing it well. Doing it badly is, frankly, still DOING.

One day at a time. One step at a time. One minute at a time.

Forward, into a brighter future.

4 artists, 1 tree

[Trigger warning: Disney]

Back in the days when Disney wasn’t (as) evil, they produced this video about artists working production of Sleeping Beauty. It covers just as much about the nature of art as it does about the nature of teamwork on such a big project.

There are so many things to say about this piece.

Often there’s this perception that as an artist you must always have your own voice and always strike out on your own trail. Obviously this is a propaganda piece from Disney (it’s as much of an job advertisement than anything — yo, young guys who might be interested in art, it’s okay you can keep your identity and we want you to be the best artist you can possibly be but also Disney is a really great place to work join the army), but it’s important to think about artists working on such a huge project as a hand-animated movie. Every artists, from the character designers to the background artists, has to subsume his own personal style and quirks to the greater whole. The animation style has to be reproducible by all of the artists, not just one guy, so nobody gets a monopoly on design.

At the same time, there’s the sense of camaraderie, of people pulling together to work on something that’s bigger than each of them. I’m reminded of artisans working on cathedrals, or the reasons people give when they join the army. Walt Disney’s narration takes a similar view: “This entire operation puts one in mind of a symphony orchestra, where men who are good enough to be soloists in their own right are thinking only of the effect they are producing on the whole.”

While the movie is a visually stunning and cohesive end product, there’s the vast differences between each man’s individual styles. Some of the end products are very 50s looking, but that’s okay. You have the architectural/structure guy, the 3D/form guy, the personality guy, and the detail guy. You can see their strengths in the individual art they produce, and can see how those strengths would be of benefit when they all combined as a group.

Marc Davis

Character Animator (refining the ideal character in motion)
Tree as explosion of force – reorganized into its most decorative aspect


Eyvind Earle

Production Designer
Tree as a microcosm of the richness and variety of nature
“Portrait of a trunk”


Josh Meador

Supervising Effects Animator (magic fairy dust)
Tree as a living thing, full of personality


Walt Peregoy

Background Artist
Tree as engineering, structure

Personally, I find it fitting that they’re working on Sleeping Beauty, which I find to be the most beautiful of all animated Disney movies. The backgrounds (especially the animated backgrounds!) are one of my very favorite things, and the “dueling fairy dust” scene is one that I can distinctly remember watching as a child. Since there are no coincidences, of the four artworks produced in the making of this film, I favored the study of the tree trunk painted by the background scenery artist.

On a technical note, I appreciate how the script was written to both give the reader a sense of conversation, but also to explicate and narrate each artist’s focus and process. The end result does sound hokey (because it’s neither natural conversation nor a polished voiceover) but despite that it kept me engaged. Kind of a peek behind the curtain of how everyone worked together as a team, with complementary thought patterns in addition to art styles.

This is the best kind of “behind the scenes” production. It gives insight into the process of making the movie, highlights some of the people who do the work, and allows Disney to explain some of their philosophy of art. Plus, it’s interesting to watch.

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