Feng Shui

Welcoming the unpredictable forces of life, provides ease and creates space for energizing adaptation. Peace awaits those who appreciate all that is, without worrying so much about all that is not. That said, we know this doesn’t mean everything just falls into place. It takes initiative, consistency, awareness, and sacrifice to find your own version of equanimity.

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It’s not a rainy day. It’s free water.

As I felt the warm wind of this sunset cruise on a glass lake, Kid Cudi mentioned feng shui and got me thinking about this week’s writing. Similar to how one may setup the space of a home to harmonize with nature, we can connect elements of our own career portfolio to feel the universal benefits of feng shui.

The places you visit, the people you’re with, and the art you generously create all connect through you. Over a lifetime, you become an environment for others, and this becomes your legacy. If there’s passion, diversity, intellectual humility, and overall harmony within your environment, your impact on the universe can be serendipitous and my hope is that the way you spend your time, will add up in the end.

Ask For Help

I was raised to “go figure it out”.

This DIY mindset was reinforced through years of education and employment in traditional, corporate environments. If there was a problem that I didn’t have the answer to, I would naturally slide into problem solving mode to independently determine different ways to ensure progress. By and large, this mindset has served me well. It has taught me to be resilient in the face of challenges, even when it’s not the popular path forward. It’s left me with an open, achievement-oriented approach with less limitations, because I am a DIY business woman.

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This caffeinated contribution was written by Laurie Brown. I had the pleasure of collaborating with this operational savant through her work inside the Kauffman Foundation and with 1 Million Cups. Laurie is now helping fellow founders optimize their own business operations, so let me know if you’d like a warm introduction.

Lately, I’ve been re-thinking this approach. Perhaps my DIY mindset should include more asking for help?

Within a recent career transition, I’ve been exploring this new attitude through an experiment. On numerous occasions, I’ve encountered unknowns. In these moments of uncertainty, I’ve resisted my life-long instinct to figure out every answer on my own. Instead, I have started asking myself, who in my network might be able to help me learn?  As this experiment has unfolded, I have three key takeaways.

  1. Asking for help drives results. I can learn from others who have pioneered effective solutions, which saves me time (and pain) along the way.
  2. The collaboration from these exchanges go beyond the problem at hand. Many times it strengthens relationships, the fun of helping each other forms friendships, and mutual professional growth is a welcomed side effect.
  3. By leading the way to ask for help, I serve as a role model to my peers and open the door from them to ask me for help in return.

My DIY ways will continue to serve me well, but I’ve learned that an added dose of curiosity and willingness to listen can add fresh layers of potential. I’ll continue to carry forward my resilient, solution-driven approach, but plan to incorporate more inclusive problem solving and an “AFH attitude” within my engaged network. This will keep problems from staying problems, while also creating a new catalyst for prosperity.

Shifting Gears

Can you hear a distant motorcycle bolting into the night?

Hearing the sound of speed puts that wind in my face, but twas the night before we kicked off the 2022 class for Techstars Iowa Accelerator. This had me reflecting on the gear shifting that occurs in any growth process.

That first gear of any manual transmission is dedicated to initiating motion. It won’t get you very far, but as the red line arrives, a shift bring you into the next gear that builds on the momentum. As that next gear tops out, yet another shifts moves you further, with higher gears that eventually brings you to full speed.

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I owned a fast motorcycle in college. I treated the danger with redeeming respect, but after pushing this Yamaha FZR600 to 150mph, it was time to sell it…on eBay. In addition to speeding up, shifting gears also helps us slow down. Now I’m more of a convertible guy, cruising toward that wonderful wind in my face.

Any journey is a dance, but your destination would not have been reached without an ability to temporarily lose power in exchange for more lasting capacity.  Whether it’s personal or business growth, intellectual humility and recognizing when you’ve reached a limit, provides awareness required to drop the clutch.

Anxiety

Our mind is divine. It gives everyone super powers and the dots we electrochemically connect makes us human. Such biological capacity allows us to achieve extraordinary things. At the same time, this mysterious grey matter can also hold us back, even cause havoc.

Anxiety is assuming failure in advance. As a mental cousin to fear, anticipation, worrying, and perhaps even desire, anxiety is like an unspoken agreement you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want. While some may argue that this exhausting emotion is all in your head, the way anxiety effects your body can be absolutely real.

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“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Uncle Ben, Spider-Man

The connected era has made the world smarter, stronger, and more efficient, but the pressure of never-ending progress leaves us vulnerable to fear and anxiety. For those who pursue greatness (which I might suggest is anyone reading this), the more we try to achieve, the tighter we wind the strings of life. When harnessed, this creates strength, artistry, grit, and persistence. As the tension tightens however, there’s bound to be a break. Being mindful of your personal bandwidth will help reduce the frequency and severity of such breakdowns, but it seems impossible to completely avoid anxiety.

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Accepting that anxiety is inevitable, may be a secret to finding equanimity.

The most common way we attempt to manage such angst, is to stop the pain by seeking reassurance. The nourishment of overthinking every scenario in an unknown future may satisfy  the moment, but scratching this itch usually makes things worse. Even if we answer every possible question, the willingness to indulge the worry sets a precedent that keeps you coming back to what can become an endless loop.

It’s much harder, but an alternate approach is to acknowledge the suffering. Don’t run from it. Appreciate the relentless internal narrative you’re dealing with. Breathe. Be thankful for having something you care this much about. Find peace knowing you’ve done your best to tip odds in your favor, but invite doubt and welcome an opportunity to be wrong. The anxiety is here and it’s dramatic, but it’s also normal. Let thoughts float by, focus your attention on what’s good, and allow time to heal the pain. Yes, this is like letting a forest fire burn without soothing it with water. It will get wild at first, but eventually burn itself out. The scorched land is then ripe for renewal and less likely to burn again. When we acknowledge anxiety this way, the resulting clarity provides an awareness that helps us understand this energy. Our courage also helps to break the cycle and over time, often reduces the frequency of such misery.

The ability to appreciate anxiety, an eagerness to lean on those who support you, and confidence in knowing the temporary pain will pass, allows the mind to need less dramatic swings to stay centered.

Ship It

We are all artists. No matter what you create, there’s a distinction between creating art and shipping it.

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Here’s a useful definition of art. How does (re)defining art this way change the way you think about your own contributions? What is your art?

My favorite author, Seth Godin, often writes about going beyond the status quo by creating remarkable art. As we explore and expand our creative practice, Godin also suggests that if we don’t ship our art (i.e. send it out into the world), that it is all for naught. He leans on how art is all is about connection, and if nothing is shipped, there cannot be connection.

Entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, side hustlers, students, and community builders willing to ship, fuel positive change with their art. Unfortunately, the ego often fears external evaluation. This fear is compounded when a lack of success may occur, which is always possible. As apprehension calcifies over time, it becomes tough to resit the temptation of hiding our thoughts, emotions, and activities within the safety of solitude.

Creating art to enjoy by yourself can build skills and provides internal layers of sentimental value, but to go beyond the status quo, push past the fear of feedback.

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Failure is an illusion. We either succeed or learn.

The world is loud, so avoid wasting time shouting just to make noise, but know that we need you to ship your art. This encouragement is not an excuse to rush into bad ideas, ship something that hasn’t received proper attention, or not deliver on a promise. It is however, a friendly reminder that pursuing perfection can devolve into an enemy of progress.

We’ve all heard inspiration like that before, but listen to those you admire. Perfection is rarely required when all you need is enough success to continue creating art. Let such liberation fuel confidence. Translate expanding confidence into fresh curiosity. Augment this curiosity with creative action. Rinse and repeat.

As belief in oneself grows, one interesting hesitation is disguised by good intention. We tell ourselves it’s not wise to be too self-serving. This is virtuous, but sometimes endless humility makes silence feel safe. As we protect ourselves by staying quiet, a self-limiting restraint develops. For example, many people find writing into journal to be therapeutic, but are quick to dismiss the idea of sharing these beautifully raw writings with others. Of course it’s good to internalize some things, but as you learn more about yourself through writing, know your art can make an expanded impact when it ships.

Ready to ship your art? Think about your own super powers and the people you care about. How might connecting these two things provide value? Experiment with small actions and as this develops into a practice, expand the connected nature of your creativity. As your art connects with those who care, find a cadence that allows you to be consistent. Seth Godin suggests that we all ship something daily, but one size does not fit all and the right tempo depends on the art you’re planning to ship. To find your own signal, consider your personal bandwidth and the audience you seek to serve. Talk with others and experiment, then tweak your timing to find the right rhythm.

If you’re shipping art, I’d love to hear what makes it remarkable and how you stay consistent. If you’re looking for new ways to make a ruckus, the Roasted Reflections library and my curated Resources page will help spark fresh movement.

No matter your current state of now, thank you for continuing to create art. More important, thank you for being courageous enough to ship it.