Art and Artists

A couple of months ago my wife and I were on vacation, hiking in Southern Utah.  While we were passing through the small community of Bluff UT, we stopped in at Comb Ridge Coffee for lunch.  While we were there, I bought a tumbler created by one of the local artists.  I was captivated by its shape, colors and feel and have enjoyed drinking ice water from it every day since arriving home.  Not only is it a functional beverage container, it is a beautiful piece of art.

Tumbler

At first, it seems strange to refer to a beverage container as art.  Usually when I think of art, an image of a painting usually comes to mind, or a song, photograph, or statue.  However, art can be broadly defined to include anything done to an exceptional level or an extraordinary degree.

With this new art paradigm, my boundaries of what art is just exploded!  Now, I see so much art around me.  Things I never would have considered art before.  Things like:

  • Quality relationships
  • Exceptional marriages
  • Extraordinary parenting
  • Superior leadership

In addition to my expanded definition of art, I also now see myself as an artist.  Not as one who always creates exceptional or extraordinary results, but as one who is simply striving to do so.

It’s easy to tell ourselves, “I’m not an artist because I can’t draw, paint, sing …”, but that’s no longer true.  This new paradigm, where anything done to an exceptional level or extraordinary degree is art, grants all of us great opportunity to become artists of our own lives.  No longer is our form of artistic expression limited to paint, canvas, or clay.  Now we can be artistic with the words we use to communicate, the care we take in building and cultivating important relationships, or the method we use to learn and explore the environment around us.

Today, begin seeing yourself as an artist and your life as the medium for creating a beautiful work of art.  The world needs the beauty of the art you are capable of creating.

Set Your Own Standard

Have you ever found yourself in an environment where mediocrity appears to be the standard?  Where people have set low standards for themselves and others, and show no sign of wanting to improve.  I have.  I have also noticed that if I’m not careful, this type of environment can begin to have a negative effect on my own standards as well.

In an environment where low standards have been set, it’s easy to get frustrated and feel like throwing our hands in the air and give up trying to make a difference.  At the very worst, we may even wonder if it’s worth it to try to uphold our own high standards when no one else is doing so.  Whenever this feeling arises, it’s imperative to remember that we are responsible for setting our own standards.  Letting others set standards for us takes control to direct our lives out of our hands and places it in someone else’s.  We should be the ones setting our standards of responsibility, accountability, and work ethic.  We should set them high and never allow others with lower standard to adjust them for us.

The next time you’re frustrated by an environment of mediocrity and feel like giving in to, or accepting the lower standard, do the following:

  • Commit to setting and maintaining the high standard of excellence you’ve set for yourself, regardless of the lower standards others have set themselves.
  • Where possible, limit your exposure to individuals and groups with a mindset of mediocrity.
  • Make a change. Whether it’s your workplace or a civic or social community with a standard of mediocrity, consider making a change.  We have tremendous freedom to decide where and with whom we spend our time.  Let’s take advantage of that freedom.

Setteling for mediocrity in one area of life is a dangerous slope that makes it easier to compromise standards in other areas.  Be mindful of mediocrity and decide in advance to be the one who sets your own standard.  It’s a great privilege and responsibility that shouldn’t be handed over to others.

Worrying About What Might Happen

Can you imagine spending $525,600 on a device that lets you know if a meteor is going to crash into your head?  That would be ridiculous, right?  Why would someone spend that kind of money on an event that will most likely never occur?

We do the very same thing whenever we worry about something that is out of our control.  Check out these numbers that illustrate the high cost of worrying:

  • 1 day spent worrying costs 1,440 minutes of your life
  • 1 month of worrying costs 43,200 minutes of your life
  • 1 year of worrying costs 525,600 minutes of your life

That’s staggering!  Those numbers represent the price we pay to worry about something we can’t control instead of using that time for positive thinking, planning, relationship building, or personal growth and development.   The price of unproductive worry is indeed high!

So what can we do if we find ourselves tempted to start worrying about something that is out of our control?  The following steps offer timeless guidance on this topic:

First, determine the worst case scenario and prepare to accept it.  This is great advice Dale Carnegie wrote about on the topic of worry.  It is helpful to consider the worst case scenario because once you know what it is; you have a framework from which to begin problem solving.

Next, create a plan to improve on the worst case scenario.  Are there any corrective or preventative steps you can take to improve the worst case scenario?  If so, take those steps immediately.

Finally, stop worrying about it, fill your mind with positive encouraging content, and go live your life and.  If you’ve accepted the possibility of the worst case scenario and have done all you can do to influence it, then there’s nothing more you can do.  This is the point to stop worrying, because it no longer serves a purpose.  Instead of worrying, spend that time filling your mind with positive encouraging words to help improve your outlook.  It may be talking to encouraging people or listening to positive music or reading something positive.  I specifically like reading the Psalms to help alleviate worry, as there is always one that is relevant to my specific concern.

Here’s another thought to consider when you begin to worry.  According to Earl Nightingale, only 8% of what we worry about are legitimate worries!  The other 92% are what he calls, “[…]pure fog with no substance at all.”

Do we really want to spend 525,600 minutes a year worrying, especially when most worries are beyond our control or unlikely to occur?  When confronted with worry, take a moment and realize how costly worry can be in wasted minutes.  Minutes that could be spent on more personally profitable endeavors and can never be reclaimed once spent.

Being Proactive

We are fortunate to be able to make choices for ourselves and then take action on those choices.  I was recently re-inspired this week by Stephen Covey’s 1st habit of highly effective people:  Be Proactive.

The call to be proactive reminds me of the positive effect that comes when I make choices and take action toward something I want to bring about in my life.  I’m always amazed at how much control and influence I have over the direction of my life when I decide to be proactive.

I’ve been thinking this week about where my choices have brought me and what choices I currently need to make to take my life where I want it to go in the future.  We need to be mindful every day of the power our choices have to shape our future.  In addition, we should immediately follow our choices up with decisive action.  Our choices coupled with action are requirements to create the life we desire to live.   It’s being intentional about where we’re going in life.  Remember, nobody out just wandering around ever found themselves on top of Mt. Everest.

Be mindful of the decisions and choices you’re making in the weeks and months ahead.  Make good choices that move your life in the direction you want to take it.  Then, follow-up on those choices with decisive action to begin traveling down the road toward the life you’re actively creating.

Where are Your Decisions Leading You

Think about the all the small decisions you make on a daily basis and project those decisions out 1, 5, or 10 years into the future, and ask yourself:

  • What kind of physical shape will I be in?
  • Will I have improved my thinking, learning and personal development?
  • How will my relationships with the ones closest to me look?
  • What kind of spiritual condition will I be in?
  • How will my financial health look?

All of these areas of our lives matter and they are influenced by our daily decisions.  Our choices, whether good or bad, may not have an immediate impact for days, months, or even longer, but eventually the compounding effect of these decisions will become noticeable.  For example, if every day we’re making unhealthy decisions, a health related crisis is coming that will demand our attention.  If however, we’re taking care of our bodies and making wise choices regarding our health, we can look forward to a healthy body that will serve us well in the years ahead.

Small daily decisions yield significant results over time.  Where are your daily decisions leading you?

Take in the Experience

I love to hike, and since I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, I’m fortunate to get a large dose of natural scenic beauty on a regular basis.  My favorite hiking destinations are the ones that reward hikers for their effort with a commanding view and breathtaking scenery.  Starting early in the morning on a challenging hike to a much anticipated viewpoint is one of my favorite ways to spend a day.  The anticipation of the view and then finally seeing it with my own eyes is exhilarating.  For me, it’s one of those events that make me thankful to be alive.

Three Sisters Wilderness

Three Sisters Wilderness

One thing I’ve noticed about myself in recent years is that when I reach one of these viewpoints, I immediately begin taking pictures of the scene.  Depending on the view, I can easily take over 100 pictures in my attempt to capture the beautiful scene before me.  I don’t want to miss a single detail!

Inevitably, after several minutes at my feverish picture-taking pace, I begin to hear a voice inside of me saying, “Hey, enough pictures.  Just stop, and take in the experience.”

At that point I put the camera away and just take in the experience with all of my senses.  I literally feast my eyes on the scene before me, noticing shapes, colors, contrasts and myriad other details that I had missed while seeing it through the screen of a digital camera.  I listen to the whooshing sound of the wind as it blows through the tops of pine trees or across the face of a rock-exposed mountain.  I hear the unique sound that a river makes as water curls over a rock and collapses back on itself.  There are also the tactile feelings and fresh smells of the surrounding environment that make for a complete experience.  All of these things I would have missed, had I continued taking pictures.

Those hiking experiences always cause me to wonder what else I may be missing out on in my non-hiking life when I don’t stop and take in the experience.  Where am I busily rushing around, forgetting to stop and enjoy the surrounding environment, event, or people I’m with?  Hiking is good for me in that respect.  It provides me with a mental reset, a reminder to be mindful about taking in the experience, no matter what I’m doing.

What about you?  Are there areas of your life where your too busy “taking pictures” that you’re forgetting to stop and take in the experience?  Start becoming mindful about what you’re doing and who you’re with.  Decide now that although you’ll take some pictures along the way, you’ll also be sure to put the camera down and take in the experience as well.

Just Pick One

Have you ever been overwhelmed by a large number of choices available to a decision you had to make?  I have.

I can remember, several years ago, when my wife Mickey and I trying to decide what color to paint some rooms in our house.  There were so many choices at the paint counter.  Who knew there were 10,000 shades of brown to choose from! We couldn’t decide which color would be “just perfect”, so we ultimately put off the decision until the following year, where we would again repeat the process for a few more years.

The same thing has happened in selecting travel destinations.  There are so many great places to go that Mickey and I, in the past, had a hard time picking a destination.  As a result, we’d put off a decision and wind up not going anywhere for the entire year.  We missed out on a lot of opportunities to travel and see new things as a result of the indecision caused by being overwhelmed with choices.

Here’s something I’ve learned through these experiences:  It doesn’t matter that you pick the “perfect” color or travel destination.  What matters is that you make a choice and move ahead.

It helps to realize that for a large majority of the choices we have to make:

  • There isn’t just one, single, perfect choice.
  • If we make a bad choice, we can always re-evaluate and make another choice later.
  • The most important thing is to make a decision and take action.

Is there a decision you need to make where you’re overwhelmed with a large number of potential choices?  If so, realize that there are likely several great choices you can make, versus only a single, perfect choice.  So make a choice and take action today.  You can always make a different choice later.  However, you’ll probably find that the choice you initially made was indeed a good one, if not great or even perfect.

A Compelling Why

We give up way too easy.  It’s simple to begin a new pursuit or activity, but often, after the fun and excitement wears off, we abandon our efforts and give up.

Perhaps we do this because there are so many things competing for our attention.  As soon as we discover something new, we’re captivated by something else that has caught our attention.  More likely, when we’re faced with actually doing the work, we quickly find out how committed to we really are… or aren’t.

I’ve struggled with starting new ventures and not following through, usually due to 1 or both of the reasons described above.  Now, before I begin a new pursuit, I determine:

  • If I has a compelling reason why I want to do it
  • If I have the commitment, as well as the time, to daily do the work required to achieve success

I’ve decided that I must have a compelling reason; a compelling “Why”.  A reason why I want this?  Without a good answer to that question, it’s too easy to quit before starting or when things start to get tough.  So, without a compelling “Why”, I move on to something else.

Once I’ve decided to start, I gauge my commitment by thinking of the acrostic FOCUS:

Follow

One

Course

Until

Successful

 

This reminds me that it is not about starting new things, but about following through on those things I’ve started until successful.  I find that if I don’t adopt this mindset, I’ll often start a bunch of new ventures but achieve success in few, if any.

 

So what about you?  Do you tend to start ventures and fail to complete them?  It could be you started without a compelling “Why” or even the commitment required to be successful.  If that’s the case, start being aware of why you’re doing something and whether you’re committed to seeing it through to success.  If you are, GREAT!  It’s time to get started.  If not, that’s great too.  Just keep looking for something where you have both a compelling “Why” and the commitment.  Then when you find it, dive in and give it your best.

Are You Squandering Opportunities to Make Memories

Last Tuesday evening at 9:30, my mom called up with an interesting problem.

My 93 year old grandma (aka Granny) had spent the last couple weeks visiting Oregon from Colorado and was scheduled to fly back home the next morning.  In order to ensure Granny had a smooth trip and made her connections, my mother was going to fly back with Granny from Portland to Salt Lake City, then from Salt Lake City to Grand Junction, where Granny’s other daughter would be waiting to take possession.  After the successful “Granny transaction”, my mother would then hop on a plane to retrace her route back to Portland.

The problem was that my mother was currently suffering from a bad bout of vertigo and wasn’t in any condition to drive a car or hop on an airplane in the next 24 hours.  Granny’s flight was scheduled to leave in less than 9 hours.  She asked if I would be willing to fly with Granny back to Grand Junction the next morning.

This was certainly not what I thought I would be doing the next day before the phone rang.  My initial reaction to the request was to think of all the things I had to do the next day, and how fulfilling this request really wasn’t possible.  As a few seconds passed and I thought further, there really wasn’t anything that was so critical that it couldn’t be delegated or even wait a day until I got back.  My initial thoughts quickly dissipated and I began to see this request as an unexpected opportunity for an adventure.  I would always have routine work related things to do, but how often would I have the opportunity for a trip like this with my lively and spirited Granny?  I said, “Yes”.  I’m so glad I did!  Not only did we make a lot of memories, we had a great time.

Granny

Sometimes our initial reaction to a new request or opportunity is to quickly determine why it won’t work or why we “can’t” do it.  I think this type of reaction serves only as a factory to crank out lame excuses to keep us from venturing outside of our comfort zone.  How can we ever expect to have new and memorable experiences if we think no further than our initial reaction telling us why something can’t be done?

Start recognizing this initial reaction in you when you’re presented with a new adventure or opportunity, and begin to think in terms of “why not?” and say, “Yes!” to these opportunities as often as you can.  Not only will you have fun making memories and experiencing new adventures, you’ll have a more exciting and interesting life as well.

It’s Time to Give Up…  or Get Creative

If you’re facing obstacles in the pursuit of a worthy goal, congratulations!  That’s normal.  What’s not normal is pushing through the obstacles with creative solutions.  Many people simply give up when obstacles occur and cease their pursuit, settling for what the way things have always been.

When we face obstacles, it feels like a fork in the road where we can make one of two choices:

  • Get creative and adjust our approach.
  • Return to the status quo.

If you’re pursuing a goal, it’s probably because you’re tired of the status quo.  Therefore this choice should be pretty easy.  It’s time to get creative.

So what are some things we can do to spark creativity, so that we can push through obstacles and challenges?  Here are 3 suggestions:

 

  1. Come up with 10 ideas to a problem every day. This comes from James Altucher on the Ask Altucher podcast, where he says coming up with 10 ideas a day will help you “flex your Idea Muscle” and cause you to become better at generating ideas becoming more creative.

 

  1. Ask for ideas from others. Don’t critique their ideas or say why they won’t work.  Rather use them as building blocks for new ideas that can lead to creative solutions.

 

  1. Read or listen to books, blogs, or podcast that talk about creativity or how people solved problems.

 

One more suggestion to become more creative in the face of obstacles is to remember why you’re in pursuit of your goal in the first place.  Think about what motivated you to get started, and specifically what you’ll give up if you do indeed give up on this pursuit!  Then ask yourself, “Am I fine with going back to the way things have always been?”  For me, the answer is always “No.  I wouldn’t be fine with that.”  This answer provides me with the direction and motivation I need to press on and move ahead.

 

No matter what you’re pursuing, the probability that you’ll face obstacles is high.  Be aware of the certainty of obstacles, when you begin your next goal.  Doing so will enable you to think creatively from the outset about how to will overcome these obstacles when they arrive.