Today’s doodle: “When the train is in the station”

Art, Miscellaneous thoughts

Today was one of those days it took me about 40 minutes to warm up and nothing seemed to work. That’s ok. I kept at it, despite wanting to give up, and made something relatively ok in the end… It never gets any easier!

Happy Friday all. Here’s to the weekend.

Say yes

Miscellaneous thoughts, Motivation, Philosophy

Say yes to that flash of inspiration.

I started this blog in a frenzy, not knowing what it would be.

Say yes to that thing you’re frightened of doing.

I was scared to share it with my friends and family, embarrassed of what people might think.

Say yes to trying out something new.

I didn’t know if I could write. 

Say yes to getting up early to crush that workout.

It never feels easy, but it is always worth it.

Say yes to that opportunity, whatever it is – even (especially) if you don’t know you can do it.

Someone asked if I could do an illustration for the cover of their book after finding me on Instagram. I said yes.

Say yes to the best possible version of you. 

“Shy bairns get nowt.”

Creativity, Miscellaneous thoughts, Motivation, Uncategorized

I love this saying from the North East of England. I’d never heard it before today. It essentially means: “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”

That’s rock-solid advice. On reading it, I thought about my own life. Has there ever been a time when I’ve been nervous about making an ask, and my fears came true?

I couldn’t think of one occasion that happened. Just consider that. In 23 years, there hasn’t been one time in my life making the ask has had the negative consequences I’d imagined. It was all fear. Worse, I’d been pouring the fuel on that fire myself.

“What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing.”

To get anywhere in this world you have to be willing to put yourself out there, to make those asks, to say yes even if you’re scared. You have to push past the uncomfortable feeling that you’re inadequate, that you’re somehow unworthy of this opportunity. Don’t be happy sitting there meekly, dreaming about the type of life you’d like to be leading. 

Don’t be a shy bairn. Go out there and live it.


Other thoughts:

I had a bad day yesterday. I felt lazy, depressed, tired, unmotivated: in a word, I was down. But I didn’t let the feeling propagate. You can’t let moods like that settle in for the long haul. Don’t give them it a moment’s respite, or it’ll start to lay foundations. You have to uproot it while the cement is still wet. Maybe you can get a sense of my mindset from this gloomy drawing I did:

Sunday sketches. This is a cheery one.

A post shared by Joe Hart (@joehart.one) on

So, this morning I set the alarm, got up early, and ran to the seafront. Nothing like some interval training to shake up the negative vibes. Today’s been excellent. And it’s a reminder – mood follows action, not the other way around. Laying around on your phone is not the way to get motivated.

Screenshot 2018-01-31 at 15.38.27

In other news, I’m fast approaching 1000 views on the ink. What’s more, over half of them came this month. I can almost physically feel this thing picking up speed as the momentum builds. It’s incredibly exciting to feel every piece of writing, every drawing, contributing to this larger body of work. I’ve loved the process of creating. My writing and drawing is tightening up every day. I’m just so appreciative to everyone who’s taking the time to read along. I hope you’re getting as much from taking these posts in, as I am from creating them.

Here are my top 5 most read posts so far if you’ve missed any. By the way, isn’t it interesting that sometimes the posts you didn’t think would strike a chord seem to really take off?

  1. How (and why) tidying your room will improve your life.
  2. Nobody’s listening. Here’s three reasons why that’s a good thing.
  3. Getting back on the horse.
  4. A mass of habits.
  5. Always be closing.

 

 

What Casey Neistat can teach you about persistence

Art, Creativity, Miscellaneous thoughts, Motivation, productivity, writing

If you haven’t heard of Casey Neistat, he’s a pretty big deal on YouTube. He has around 9 million subscribers and is widely renowned for having revolutionised something that’s now become ubiquitous: ‘vlogging’.

He’s a pioneer. This fantastic video essay by the Nerdwriter (one of the best channels out there) explains exactly why Casey’s had such an incredible response:

In a nutshell, it’s the combination of a lifetime of practice and skill with a willingness to be agile, adapting to new platforms and ways of sharing. He’s bringing the eye of an award winning filmmaker to what had been mainly an amateur game – and shifted the expectation of quality of content on YouTube to new heights.

So here’s the lesson: Casey forced himself to produce a vlog every single day, no matter how busy he was, even if he had nothing exciting planned. Applying such rigid constraints to his creative process, rather than being stifling, actually allowed him to flourish. That’s where the majority of his growth has come from, and I think put him into the zone where he was able to create such inspiring, interesting work and connect with such a huge audience.

I’m learning from him and applying that persistence, the commitment to daily output to my own work. So far I’m loving it. The fact I’ve promised myself (and you guys now) that I’ll be sharing something every single day removes the need for it to be perfect. It just needs to be done.

“The best is the enemy of the good.”

-Voltaire

A trap we can fall into too far too easily is holding back on getting stuff done. We tinker, and play around, waiting for the thing to be ‘perfect’ before we put it out there. Let me tell you what you already know: that time will never come.

So, instead of perfect, strive for good enough. Instead of waiting, put it out there. Then, move onto the next thing. It’s precisely that attitude that’s allowed Henry Rollins to be so incredibly productive over so many years.

Without further ado, here’s today’s drawing:

I’m having a lot of fun doing work inspired by film noir, sometimes known as ‘the golden age of cinema’. I’m producing highly stylised drawings, with lots of stark black and white, crosshatching and brightly coloured contrasting backgrounds. I have my mum gifting me a set of brush pens to thank for the injection of colour (thanks mum!). The result is what I’d describe as Dick Tracy crossed with Frank Miller (never thought I’d see those two together in a sentence).

What are you working on at the moment? Stop reading this, and get back to work!


Links

Casey’s channel

Some of my favourite videos of his:

The first one I ever saw… (still watch it if I need a bit of a boost):

And here’s the Nerdwriter.

 

Today’s drawing, and a very short thought:

Art, Creativity, Miscellaneous thoughts, productivity

So far, I’ve been successful in doing a drawing every day of 2018 (all seven days of it… pretty impressive, right?).

Here’s today’s:

Certainly wasn’t easy to motivate myself to draw after a day spent in the university library doing econometrics… But I got it done.

I’ve been thinking about why this recent bout of writing and drawing has been going well (and feeling good) so far. I think this quote is extremely important:

“You can’t win a game you haven’t defined.”

-David Allen

Vague goals are impossible to achieve. Most new year’s resolutions are like this: “get in better shape”, or “be more creative.”

If you set clearly defined parameters, you’ll know if you’re on track or not. You can adjust as and when you need. So “be more creative” has become:

  1. One new drawing a day.
  2. Write 1000 words a day.

And that’s it! It’s binary. If I notice a pattern of routinely meeting these or not, it’ll tell me something about whether they’re the right goals, whether I need to change a habit or routine.

That’s infinitely better than flailing around in a cloud of uncertainty.

Define your game.

How (and why) tidying your room will improve your life

Creativity, Miscellaneous thoughts, Motivation

The world is chaotic. It’s loud, dynamic and confusing. There is only one place you have total control – your room. This small area that’s entirely yours is an external representation of who and what you are, as much a part of you as your arm or leg. By taking the simple action to tidy up, you are asserting control over your environment, creating your identity, developing confidence, and bringing order to chaos; both internally, and externally.

Three key benefits of taking this simple, powerful action:

  1. Bring order to chaos (mental state follows action)
  2. Develop personal pride (surround yourself with the things you love)
  3. Allow yourself to focus (optimise your personal studio)

Watch this video by psychology professor (and Youtube sensation) Dr. Jordan Peterson – he can explain the concept far more eloquently than myself:

If you’d like to hear more, his Youtube channel is an incredible resource. I’ll include some of my favourite lectures, seminars and podcasts in the ‘Notes’ section at the end of this post.

It took Dr. Peterson’s vocalisations to make me realise this was something I already knew. When my world has felt the most chaotic, random and cruel, the last thing I needed was to come home to a disorganised mess. So, on these occasions, I’d do some sorting. Nothing crazy – just organise books, fold clothes or throw away rubbish. Within that process, you can almost feel your mental gears shifting to a different zone entirely, getting ‘unstuck’. Peterson describes feeling ‘disintegrated’. In tidying, I almost feel like I’m assembling my atoms together again.

A messy room is the epitome of chaos. You can’t find the things you need, you see nothing around you you enjoy, you feel cluttered and unsatisfied. There’s an itch, a nagging feeling that will prevent you from doing what you know you need to. So maybe you’ll scroll through Instagram or Snapchat instead. In procrastination lies the death of dreams.

Ayn Rand wrote about a NY Times writer’s routine in ‘The Art of Nonfiction’:

When she sits down she knows she does not want to write. Here is what her subconscious does to “save” her from that difficulty. She thinks of everything she has to do. She needs to call a friend on business, and does so. She thinks of an aunt she has not called for months, and calls her. She thinks of what she has to order from the store, and places the order. She remembers she has not finished yesterday’s paper, so she does. She continues in this way until she runs out of excuses and has to start writing. But suddenly she remembers that last summer (it is now winter) she never cleaned her white tennis shoes. So she cleans them.

Circumvent ‘the white shoes’ problem by ensuring your environment is conducive to whatever you want to do. Set your priorities, and organise your space to support that. Someone who’s done an incredible job of that is Casey Neistat. His studio is incredible. Is there a better representation of who he is than the space he’s created to sustain his incredible work ethic? Importantly, this space is constantly evolving, growing and changing. It’s not stagnant, nor should it be… Exactly like us.

Caught up in the ‘new year, new me’ hype, I recently reorganised my desk. I’m in a student house, so the space itself isn’t everything I’d want – but I’m making the most of it. Now, I’m happy and proud every time I sit down to draw, read or write. I’ve surrounded myself with the equipment I need to be productive, things I love and that inspire me. The massive benefit to this kind of process oriented organisation is that once you’ve had that initial tidy, it doesn’t take long to keep that way, just a few minutes each day to put things back where they belong.

These kind of themes are also discussed by Admiral William H. McRaven (who is also a NY Times Bestselling author of a book titled ‘Make Your Bed’).

He advocates simply making your bed as soon as you get up in the morning, a habit I’ve maintained for over a decade. It’s the best way to kick the day off with a success, completing an objective. That gets the ball rolling and sets you up to keep ticking things off your list, progressing towards achieving your goals.

Tidying your room is like the ultimate version of making your bed. Create order out of chaos. Feel pride in who you are and the space you create.

Today, your room; tomorrow, the world. 


Notes, links and sources:

First post of 2018! Big plans for this site in the new year… Stay tuned. Been loving the process of creating, through writing and drawing. Here’s some recent work (with progress pics):

Books, podcasts and other links you may find useful:

Planning this article:

Dead time

Creativity, Miscellaneous thoughts, Philosophy

I took the coach back home for the Christmas holidays yesterday. Portsmouth to Southport – 300 or so miles, with plenty of stop offs on the way. It takes longer, but it’s way cheaper than the train. My student budget accommodates it a lot more readily.

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I love people watching. In the dark of the M6, 8 hours in, bored faces all around me were illuminated by their phones. It seems whenever we have long journeys ahead of us, people absolutely love to moan about it, to feel frustrated, like they can’t wait to get to their destination (“12 hours on the coach? Wow, how awful.”). This is ‘dead time’ (I think Ryan Holiday coined that term, but I’m not sure… I definitely didn’t come up with it). Of course I was excited to see my family, but there’s no point wishing for the journey to be shorter. It’s a waste.

I refused to let it be dead time. I’ve written before about Victor Frankl, and Stoicism – the gap between stimulus and response, your freedom to choose how outside events circumstances impact you. So, I could choose to frame this 12 hour slog into something completely different. How did I want to spend your time? Obviously, I had some constraints in a confined space. But, applying constraints of some kind is an incredibly effective way to get creative. It’s actually the only way to stop planning, and start doing (letting go of perfection).

I took 5 minutes the night before I left to plan how I’d spend my time roughly:

IMG_20171221_132853007.jpg

If you can’t see the photo for whatever reason, it’s a loose list. Here’s what I actually did:

  • Finish reading The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)
  • Start The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • Listen to Sam Harris/Joe Rogan podcast
  • Listen to Rich Roll/Ryan Holiday podcast
  • Draw (observation)
  • Write (review fitness goals for the new year)
  • Write – ideas for blog
  • Meditate (headspace)
  • Curate Spotify playlists – listen to music

That’s all stuff I’d like to do on an ideal day! The only thing missing is being active, busting out some pullups or sprinting up hills. Even then, being stuck in a seat unable to move makes me appreciate even simple things like getting up and walking way more.

And I had the opportunity to go down rabbit holes I never usually get the chance to in the hurly burly of life…

I went on a bit of a Joe Rogan binge, listening to an early episode with Joey Diaz and Doug Stanhope from about 8 years ago. Joe spoke about the massive impact of Opie and Athony’s radio show on him and his podcasting style. The conversational, freeform format was the absolute the antithesis of phonie, talking head shows in the US at the time. Doing shows like that became less of a chore for people, and something more akin to a meaningful conversation with a friend. It’s so interesting seeing him before his current, insane popularity, before podcasting blew up. The format is decidedly unchanged, but I also liked seeing how much more open minded and mature Joe’s become in the intervening years.

That was a whole chain of thought I wouldn’t have had if I’d just been listening to the podcast in the background like I usually do.

I think my recent consistency in a meditative practice has helped me see the opportunity for tranquillity and satisfaction in the seemingly mundane. Rather than getting frustrated at a delayed connecting coach in Victoria, annoyed at people barging in the queue and encroaching in my personal space, I was absolutely sanguine, content in observing the world around me. When the coach pulled into Southport, 12 hours after I got on it at the Hard interchange in Portsmouth, I jumped in a cab at the station. The cabbie was an old, dyed in the wool Labour type, with an incredibly rich Liverpool accent. He was fascinating, and I had this engaging, intense conversation with him. When I finally walked through the door and saw my family I was ecstatic. Spending the day moaning, unsatisfied, longing for it to be over would in no way have made the reunion more satisfying. Being present, engaged and doing the things I love seemed a much better use of my day.

Have a think about all the time in your life you’re allowing to slip through your fingers. Stuck in traffic? Doing your grocery shopping? If you added up the hours, I think you’d be horrified. I know I was.

So get out there and reclaim your dead time. It’s your call.


Notes/drawings:

[in]Credibility

Miscellaneous thoughts, Philosophy

It’s all about whether we believe you.

In my macroeconomics lecture this morning we spoke about austerity. It’s broadly accepted by top economists (Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz etc) that in a time of recession it’s not smart to pull the plug on government spending. So why is it so prevalent? What’s the upside?

Turns out if people believe that it’s going to help in the medium run (to reduce the deficit, rebalance the economy etc.) then it can have a positive impact. The effect of people and businesses taking into account the expectation of how things could be outweighs the immediate negative implications… But it only works if there is faith in the institutions talking about enacting this kind of strategy.

It got me thinking that it’s the same for people. If you’re proven to be untrustworthy nobody will believe your bullshit. How many people do you know that wax lyrical about their new workout and exercise routine, how they’re going to ‘get huge this time, man’ or ‘train 7 times a week’? How many who say ‘Now I need to get serious and study every day’, then don’t? The next time they tell you they’ll do something, do you believe them – even if you’d like to?

You can build the faith of others around you by doing the right things every single day. You don’t need to do anything earth shattering right this second – it’s about incremental proof of your competence, your commitment to do as you say you will. This is important. Your actions have impact, and the effects of these will ripple out into the network of your friends, family, communities and countries. So let’s create a culture of competence, of strictly no bullshit, of doing what we say we will and delivering on our promises.


Notes:

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Strawberry Letter 23

Miscellaneous thoughts

My 23rd birthday has been and gone. Another year. Some successes, some failures. I spent the majority of it working for a large tech company in London. What a city – if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I want to be there, right in amongst it all.

I treat birthdays as useful ‘reset’ buttons. They’re great opportunities to evaluate what it is you want to do, how you’re going to do it and (perhaps most importantly) why.

So here’s to another year. The ‘what’ I’m committing to is:

  • Getting physically stronger
  • Running further and faster
  • Practising mindfulness every day
  • Getting better sleep
  • Becoming more disciplined
  • Continuing to read at every opportunity
  • Excelling in my studies
  • Creating, not just consuming

I’ll write about how I get on with all of these. I’m certain you’ll all be able to learn from the cockups I inevitably make.