#036 Everything Matters

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Almost 5 years ago, in the middle of January 2017, I had woken up and decided I didn't want to study accounting at the small private university I had been attending only 25 minutes from the farm community I grew up in. Much of my life's choices up until that point were made under the premise of "We all have to do things we don't want to do."

But what if I just stopped doing things I didn't want to do anymore and just did more of what I wanted to do?

So I did.

I stopped spending money on cheap alcohol and would buy Mega Bus tickets to Chicago on long weekends.

I stopped going to social events I didn't really care to be a part of and spent more time talking to like-minded people on spaces like Twitter and Instagram.

I stopped stressing out about business classes and spent more time figuring out how to sell my creative skillset in a freelance business model—using my iPhone 5s to take images for social channels of local restaurants.

Shortly after I left school and launched myself into the real world, I found myself suffering from the fake it till you make it mindset. I spent so much time hacking my way through Youtube videos to teach myself really basic principles that I probably would have learned in year one of art or advertising school. Some of those experiences and late nights trying to meet deadlines made me bitter about the way I had come up through the system.

"If I wasn't discouraged to go to art school, I wouldn't be dealing with this right now."

Those frustrations have obviously faded 5 years in and I've learned everything I know at light-speed, not out of extraordinary skillset, but more so out of necessity. I want to give a hug to all the people who have taken a chance on me even when I couldn't give anything in return.

I know now that all these unique experiences have shaped who I am. Teaching myself photoshop in two days (still bad at it), growing up in a farm community nearly 100% white people, going to an accounting program in the midwest, etc...

It's never a single moment or decision that defines us, but all that comes before it and all that comes after it.

And more importantly, I've learned this:

As a creative person, everything you do is productive. There's no such thing as useful or waste of time. Every experiment. Every Failure. Every relationship. All the photos you take, words you write, and songs you sing is a result of everything that's in it. It all matters. Everything matters.

— Alex


Ideas from me

I. THE MORE MIRAGE

For anyone who has had to explain how business is going to a distant friend or stranger, you probably know what I mean when people often associate more with better.

People are always thrilled to hear that our team is growing, or that we're staying busy, because in their minds—"Those are good problems to have"

More employees, more hours, more clients...

Being so big that you're hard to miss can a mirage in a desert. As you get closer to it, you realize that there isn't anything there. And as a small business owner or independent freelancer, it's the number one driver of the comparison complex.

"If I was doing what they're doing, I'd be set."

Value isn't measured in more. It's not measured by the the size of a client, the number of working hours, or even the amount of money you take home.

Value is measured by impact.

II. PATHS OF RESISTANCE

Humans naturally shift into their most efficient state which means we are always faced with the choice of doing what's natural versus taking a few extra steps.

We're constantly finding ways to avoid conflict, waste less energy, and looking for products & services that make our lives more convenient.

When I look back on projects that we've been able to drag over the finish line, the ones we write home about were not on auto-pilot. The best work has been made when we intentionally choose paths of resistance—when we choose to have the hard conversation, when we choose to internally disagree with one another, or even when we choose to push back against a paying client.

Flying by the radar produces results that we've come to expect already. Resistance challenges us to uncover territory that has yet to be discovered.

III. STEP OUTSIDE

We hardly ever give ourselves more than one shot to tackle the same problem. A walk around the block, a good night's rest, a conversation with a friend, or some level of physical exertion can change everything.

The answers are in there somewhere, you just have to step outside yourself to see it. Don't give up too early.


Quote from somebody else

“In my experience, growth – personal growth, creative growth, professional growth – tends to happen the way that one of Hemingway’s characters says he went bankrupt: Gradually, then suddenly.”

— Mason Currey


Links worth sharing

I’ve been collecting a lot of links the last few weeks, but they’re all good I promise!

🤝 Raya and the Promise of Social Media by Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker

🥰 People are craving curated experiences more and more, even in dating.

💿 Still adding this playlist, what are your recs for additions based on where it’s at now?

🍝 I’ve tried to go to Via Carota my last 3 visits to New York and finally got a table this trip, read How Via Carota Quietly Became New York’s Most Perfect Restaurant

🐦 Follow Common Discourse on Twitter for images and other ephemera

📐 101 Design Rules by Brian Collins

📚 Saint Heron Community Library


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