Creativity Vs Commerce

Writing prompt: “The deepest secret in our heart of hearts is that we are writing because we love the world, and why not finally carry that secret out with our bodies into the living room and our porches, backyards and grocery stores? Let the whole thing flower: the poem and the person writing the poem. And let us always be kind in this world.” from Writing Down the Bones

Art installation made of old life preservers in Copenhagen.

I am realizing how deep the conditioning of capitalism is in my life. I carry the automatic monetization of everything I do in my head like a calculator on auto pilot. If I write the travel guide, is it worth it, as in will it make money? The bitter irony is that nothing creates resistance to creativity like this cha-ching habit. I can’t get JK Rowling’s fabulous financial success out of my head.

As a self-employed person, wait, let’s examine that phrase. We are all “self-employed” deciding how we will spend our time and creative resources even if it is to give it to an organization for 8-10 hours a day. As a consultant paid because of a contract, I have been listening to Side Hustle School podcast by Chris Guillebeau. I am realizing that I let it feed the monetization monster. All of my side hustle ideas started with my long time writing projects. I told myself that this would be motivational.

In fact, what I know now is my creative life works best when I give it space to happen and enjoy it for the pleasure of being a human with opposable thumbs that can create art or write with a pen.

My life works best when I have a work/life balance that holds the space for art and respects my need for creativity. This was thrown into relief when I thought of a side hustle that is truly commerce only. And the thought that I could pursue my collage/assemblage and writing projects without pressure to make money was so soul lifting and smile making. Confirmation that it is the right choice for me.

Born for This, and This, and This

Today I had a reward day. After a rough start with some weird office politics, I had the joy of meeting up with two of my former colleagues (separately). They are both women I hired at Housing California who did amazing work and continue to grow as people and in their careers. They both took a moment to thank me for being myself. They cited specific things I did to make work fun and fulfilling. It was a better reward than a paycheck.

Tony Martin with better teammate photoIt made me think about my values and why I believe how we do things is as important as what we do. Many career counselors focus on the what.  We ask children, “WHAT do you want to be when you grow up?” I have had many roles in several fields and for me the common thread is HOW I go through the world. Do I treat people with respect? Am I encouraging people to reach their full potential? Am I limiting time wasting tasks and avoiding petty concerns and instead helping people to focus on the bigger questions the more strategic actions?

Born for ThisChris Guillebeau has a new book, Born For This. I started reading it with enthusiasm. I am thrashing around again to find real meaning and satisfaction in my work. I had great hope that it would help me gain clarity around what I should really be doing.  This book certainly has some good ideas about how to get unstuck if you are in a job you hate. It takes the romantic idea that we are born for a certain career and says that career satisfaction is not limited to people who have always known what they want to do. Guillebeau suggests that if you pay attention each of your jobs will give you important clues about what you were born to do.

While the second part of the book has some great life hacks for how to help the process of self-discovery along, I lost momentum. Today I realized why I lost interest. I was getting distracted by the search for the ideal field or role. Whereas in my life I find that I can work towards any number of goals and find meaning. Instead I am looking for the environment where my skills and talents can best be used in service of something larger. Today I was reminded the who and the how is more important to me than the what.

I have always had to earn a living and so I have done some pretty weird jobs from assistant director of the Cavalcade of Horses, cleaning toilets at a Christian camp, to a nonprofit Executive Director. The places I found the most work satisfaction did not always match up with what others were most impressed by. As I think about deep job satisfaction, I am asking: When was the last time I really shared a laugh with people at work? When did I last make a deep friendship at work?

Yes we are “born for this” at work: we are each endowed with a unique set of gifts and a something to offer our teammates. We do our best work when we are able to be ourselves.

It is time to search for the right work environment with a team who appreciates me.


Finding my Voice at World Domination Summit 2015

Outside the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

Jon Acuff, author of several books including Do Over, anchored #WDS2015. He called us forth to rediscover our voice. He invited us to get back in touch with our 3rd grade self and ask if our 3rd grade self would be happy or full of regrets if we met him/her today. I thought back to my long drive to Arcata on Wednesday when I reconnected with an idea for a fictional story I want to write. My third grade self would say “work less and write more.” He went on to give us some inspiration and some tools (including a worksheet on

We were all abuzz about Kid President. Robby Novak, aka Kid President, and his uncle and producer Brad Montague taught us some dance moves. Then Brad explained how Kid President evolved into the phenomenon it is today. On the one hand Robby and Brad’s messages are simple: 1) Be nice or treat everyone like it’s their birthday; 2) You matter; your voice matters; 3) Sharing is good; 4) Invite everyone to the party; 5) Enjoy it. My favorite quote, and one that relates to the previous post on failure, “There’s always a reason to complain and always a reason to dance. Choose to dance.”

I discovered Chris Guillebeau’s blog and book Happiness of Pursuit last year. Through his website I discovered the World Domination Summit.The WDS asks participants “How will you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” Intrigued, I tried to buy tickets last year and learned how quickly it sells out. So this year I signed up for alerts and set my calendar, then I bought tickets for me, Sarah and Marcos as soon as they were available. That was months ago, and I had to reconnect with my motivation. The speakers have made it easy.

I was especially inspired by Lewis Howes‘ moving presentation calling us to be super humans instead of super heroes. I added his podcast School of Greatness on Stitcher. There is another day of speakers and a few more world records to break.