What Is A Creative Act?

If I’ve set a goal of creating something every day, how will I know when I succeed? We create things all the time. Is a Facebook post saying I’m back in Texas enough? A photo of the new Cisco Supercharger?

No, I don’t think so.

Those things are creative, but they aren’t sufficient to accomplish why I set the goal. Instead I need to define a “creative act” as I’m now calling it. This is the thing I’m trying to do every day. The thing I think will make an impact on bettering my life.

The main difference between the little creations that we do all the time and the Creative Acts that change us is magnitude. It isn’t the medium. My portraits from yesterday are just as much photographs as the picture of the Cisco supercharger. But the new pictures of my friends took skill, thought, preparation and execution.

That is the kind of creative act I’m trying to do every day.

This morning was the first time I ever woke up and my first thought was, “I have to create something today.” That’s a good thing. I need to have a driving desire to create something from the moment I wake up if I’m going to accomplish my goal.

It isn’t easy. Today I spent some time helping fellow Toastmasters. Most of the day was spent trying to get back on Texas time for sleep and driving. Driving from Dallas to Stephenville, them home to Abilene. Getting stuff to the bank and dry cleaners.

Now I’m creating something, even if it just a blog post about creating something.

Tomorrow has a bunch of travel in it, but I will create something significant. Then do it again the next day.

Photos of New Friends

I spent the week on the M/Y Pegasus at the San Diego Comic-con and one of my jobs was to take pictures. Specifically to take pictures of the crew/guests. Here are some portraits I did of my new friends Jesica, Devin and Amanda.

Jesica SDCC 2016
Jesica SDCC 2016
Devin, SDCC 2016
Devin, SDCC 2016
Amanda, SDCC 2016
Amanda, SDCC 2016

More Creating Less Consuming

My life is pretty good. Actually really good if I look at it objectively. Not just the “I’m not a starving child in Africa” objectively either. Heck I’m writing this on a freaking yacht for God’s sake. This leads me to feel a little guilty when I start thinking it needs to be better, but that the way it is.

What needs to change? What am I missing that needs to be improved. After much soul-searching, or something similar, I’ve come to the conclusion I’m not creating enough. Heck, I’m rarely creating at all.

I just spent four days at the biggest popular culture celebration of creating event in the world, Comic-con San Diego. As I walked the floor I was filled with a yearning. The rock stars from the next Wonder Woman to the guy selling cosplay photos in a booth where all creators. Even the metaphor of “rock star” means you are famous for creating something so cool that people by the thousands become ecstatic in your presence.

Given this I realized I’m not on my way to stardom. I’m looking for the next thing to get by. A job, or even a new business. My standards are low and my heart just isn’t in it.

So what is the solution?

More creating and less consuming.

For the last few months the only thing I’ve created, the only creative outlet I’ve had, is Toastmasters. Which explains why, despite how much work it is, I just keep doing more. I’m passionate about making it better and better. I really believe that Toastmasters changes people’s lives by helping them overcome their fears and learn to communicate and lead. But the joy I get out of it is in the creation.

I used to create all the time.

I had a thriving photography hobby. I blogged all the time. I did some cosplay.

Now I do almost none of these. But I do spend a lot of time-consuming media about these things. I’m consuming art, not creating it.

Over the next few days and weeks, I’m going to create more. Everyday I’m going to create something. I’m not sure what yet, but I’ll post about it every day. This post is the first thing I’m creating.

Discomfort Credit Cards and BBQ

Blogger’s Note: I haven’t blogged in forever. Used to do it all the time, but am way out of the habit. In an attempt to keep this blog from becoming a ghost town, I’m going to post my longer thoughts that have been mostly going to Facebook. Here’s the first one.

Was listening to Tim Ferris’ podcast with Ramit Sethi and he was giving negotiation techniques and suggested to call your credit card company and ask for a new APR. I always pay off my CC so don’t really care much about the APR, but my uber-cool blue Sapphire Card is all scratched up and I wanted to new pretty one.

So I called them and first asked if they could tell me how much I’ve put through that card since I got it in April 2014. The number was 6 figures because I use the card for everything, including almost all our expenses in the UK, most of the repairs on the house and every travel expense we do.

Then I asked for a new card. Not surprisingly they merely asked if 3-5 days was OK for delivery.

Missed the annual fee renewal, but they’ll be getting a call next March.

And it was SO FUN, which I wasn’t expecting.

This was a follow-up to a discomfort exercise from the day before where you have to ask for a discount at any store. For some reason I decided to do it after lunch at Betty Roses BBQ.

I asked my waitress if I could have a discount because it was my first time there. I expected a no, or for her to ask how old I was to give me the senior discount :(. Instead she asked if I was in the military. I get that alot, I think for my hair cut rather than my command bearing.

“No”

“Do you have a CHL?”

“I do.”

“I can give you one for that.”

10% off.

Oh Abilene.

Waste Reduction

“People are always amazed when I tell them we only put out a bag of trash every couple of weeks,” said my friend Lora Frost.

What? How’s that even possible? You’re full of crap. Hippie. You’re pulling my leg aren’t you? Sometimes my inner voice is an ass.

This is where your trash goes. Isn't it pretty.
This is where your trash goes. Isn’t it pretty.
These we some of the thoughts in my head when I heard this. But the truth is I respect Lora and believe her. This got me thinking.

She’d told me her and her husband just recycled a bunch and they reduced the stuff that actually has to go to the landfill.

Well I believe if someone else can do something, then so can I. Her statement made me think it was possible, so I began on a journey to reduce my waste.

Step 1: Mindfulness

There is a concept, mainly in the Buddhist tradition, of mindfulness. Put in simple terms it is paying attention to what you are doing. Mindfulness is relevant to eating, because we rarely pay attention to every bite we eat. I found mindfulness to be the first huge step to reducing your waste.

Pay attention to what you are tossing in the trash can.

Think in terms of volume. How much space do different things in your garbage take up?

The thing that became very obvious to me was most of what goes into my trash is packaging. In many cases this can be recycled.

Step 2: Recycle All You Can

Before we started this waste reduction journey we recycled plastic bottles, glass bottles, and aluminum cans. We kind of did cardboard, but it was a pain so we really mostly did it only for boxes that things game in the mail.

Once we noticed that packaging was a huge part of the volume of our trash, we made a place for recycling cardboard and paper. It was a big reduction in volume.

As with most changes you try to make you need to make recycling as easy as possible. This means you have to have a place to put each kind of recycling, and those places have to be easy to find and use. We moved our current recycle bins from the laundry room into the kitchen and added a paper recycling trash can in the kitchen as well.

Step 3: Stop Using Disposable Stuff

The next thing you notice is we use a bunch of stuff that is made to become instant trash. For me the big one was paper towels. Why do we have these things? Yeah they are easy to use and handy, but really most of the time we could just use a regular towel and wash it instead.

Paper napkins are another example. Why not just use cloth napkins?

You might say both of these example are paper, but once you fill them with debris and food etc, you really can’t recycle them.

Another high volume disposable thing we had were plastic sandwich/quart bags, to-go cups, and to-go containers. We used little plastic bags all the time to hold leftovers from a meal, and packaged foods like cheese we’d opened and need to store in the fridge. Then when you are finished with whatever is in the bag to you send it off to the landfill. The solution to this one is reusable containers. In our case it is those plastic tupperware things with lids.Styrofoam Containers

We eat out a lot and as a result get quite a few to-go boxes, usually styrofoam which is the worst because you can’t recycle it, at least not in Abilene. Same for cups. This is one we haven’t fully implemented a fix for, but I now take my own cup to my favorite wings place and they just fill it for me. I plan on putting a large plastic container in my car to use for to-go stuff in the future.

Our main solution to this restaurant left over problem has been…

Step 4: Stop Taking Crap You Are Just Going to Throw Away

Once you’ve taken the extra effort to start reducing your waste it gets really annoying that everyone give you so much crap that you aren’t just going to have to throw away.

You have to learn to say no a lot.

But let’s talk about the simple way we’ve dealt with restaurant left overs. About half the time the food we want to take home is for the dog. In that case we just wrap it in a paper napkin if they are on our table. It’s a good reuse of something we could do without.

One time we were at a place with cloth napkins – Yea! – but we wanted to take some meat to the dog, so The Mrs asked the waitress for some aluminum foil to wrap it in. That was brilliant because it is definitely recyclable. Sadly the waitress brought us not just foil, but a styrofoam container as well. The container stayed unused on the table.

Paper handouts. Everyone wants to give you a big piece of paper with information on it. Just say no, or take a picture of it with your phone if you need the info and hand the paper back. I’ve been doing this with business cards for a couple of years now anyway. I used the incredible Evernote, which reads the business cards and makes the info searchable.

Bags. Everyone wants to give you a bag to hold stuff in. The culture has started to realize we can bring our own better, stronger, reusable bags to the grocery store. Guess what? We can do that to any store. Also, if you carried all your items to the register you can carry them to your car as well, so just say no to the bag.

I could go on and I probably will in future blog posts.

I don’t really make New Years Resolutions, but I was touring a gym the other day and they wanted to give me a couple pages of information that was on their website. I just blurted out, “No thanks I can get that off your website. My new years resolution is to reduce the amount of waste I produce and I’ll just end up throwing that away.”

The head of the gym smiled and said, “That’s a lot better new years resolution than a lot of people make.”

Why don’t you join me in an easy change for 2016? I challenge you to be mindful of what you are throwing away. Just doing that will probably inspire you to create less waste in the all year long.

5 Bullet Fridays

Tim Ferris is my virtual mentor right now. I’ve read all of his books and am an avid listener to his podcast.

I’ve also made a resolution to try and write something everyday. Nominally this would be on my book, but today I’m traveling and probably won’t get that kind of opportunity.

5 Bullets. Get it?
5 Bullets. Get it?

So I’m taking a page from Tim and doing a 5 Bullet Friday. These are just 5 random things that are influencing me or are interesting to me.

#1. Toastmasters District 25 Conference. Remember I said I was traveling today? We’re driving to the DFW area for our TM district conference. It’s our first time there and should be interesting. One thing that has impressed me is how much effort they have put into welcoming First Timers.

#2. Never Eat Alone by Kevin Ferrazzi. Of all the things going on in my life right now, this book is having the most impact. It is about building your personal network and has incredible insight into how valuable professional relationships are and how fun. I’m thinking about gifting it for Christmas this year.

#3. Beltway Park Church North. I’ve been going to this church for at least a month. Its a little on the DL because the Mrs can’t be a member there. But I realized today I’m going to miss church on Sunday because of the conference. And I’m actually going to miss it. I can’t remember the last time that was true.

#4. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I haven’t finished this book but his discussion about Resistance and doing the work is extremely powerful. It’s kind of like if a Marine drill sergeant wrote the Artist’s Way.

#5. Evernote. This application has been my brain for years, but it seems not everyone knows about it. Really you should check it out. I plan to write a speech about how I use it and I’ll post it to this blog when I do.

Need Your Help To Start Writing a Book

Since the fall of Reactuate Games I’ve been trying to decided what I’m going to do with my life. I won’t go into the process that I’ve been going through because that would be a distraction, but I’ve decided to decide.

I’m going to write a book.

Working title is Distinctions For Life. It will be a self-improvement/self-help/lifehacks book. That’s as far as I’ve gotten on its over all concept. But each chapter will be a pretty self contained topic.

For the last few months I’ve been compiling a list of topics in the form of Chapter Titles. This is where I need my friends’ help. I need to start. Looking at the whole of the idea is daunting and a great way to never start. I’ve decided I’m starting this week. But to know if anyone else thinks this is a good idea I want you to tell me what to write first.

Here’s my current list of chapter titles.
DFL_Logo
– The Macro and Micro parts of life.
– Take Responsibility
– Things wear out – replace your socks
– Social Interaction can be learned
– Build a network
– Yeah Goals
– Live life with Purpose
– Make mistakes
– How to avoid mistakes
– Routines
– Morning Pages
– Your brain is for thinking Your Phone for Remembering
– Knowledge brings depth to things
– Your body is a soup of chemicals
– Emotional bank accounts
– Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly
– Simple is not easy
– Systems
– Change you focus change you mood
– Beliefs
– Identity
– Go the extra mile
– Peoples communication channel of choice
– The myth of work/life balance
– Enjoy the process
– Process oriented goals
– People orient goals
– Work around mental blocks
– Stop shoulding on yourself
– Expertise isn’t about what you know it is about what others don’t.

Please leave a comment and tell me which chapter you’d find the most intriguing. From that list I’ll pick what to write first.

My Eulogy for Cleo and Jennifer Haston

Today we buried my wife’s parents in Flagstaff Arizona. These are the words I would like to have said at the service, but I can’t even think them without crying. There is no way I could have said them.

My favorite memories of Cleo and Jennifer show their humor. Cleo constantly joked with wait staff at the many restaurant meals we shared. They’d ask “Is there any thing else I can get you?”

He’d always – to the point of annoyance sometimes – answer “Money?”

My favorite story of Jennifer I didn’t experience directly but heard later, probably from Cleo. On one of the many trips the two of them took together they were on a beach. She noticed him check out a bikini clad woman walking along the shore and said, “Cleo, the only way you could get that girl was if you chased her down waving your W2.”

I was reminded of him at church last week when I noticed a woman in the aisle barefoot. Cleo once commented to someone who asked what Suanna and I’s church was like after he visited.

“No one at their church wears shoes.”

Which for Hope Chapel in Austin was funny but only half true.

The most important thing Cleo and Jennifer did for me though was to raise a daughter who knows how to be a better wife than I deserve. Their relationship taught her that life together isn’t always easy. You don’t always get along. You aren’t perfect toward each other.

But you approach life together. You try to make each other and everyone else laugh. You make the best of the bad times and in the end you are always there for each other.

And when you pass on, they take your bodies, turn them to ashes. Mingle those ashes together. Encase them in stone. And bury them in the ground side by side.

Then for as long as this planet circles its star the two of you will always be together.