People are generally good, kind, trustworthy, and thoughtful, even total strangers. Don't let a few bad apples spoil the entire crop.
Do what you love and do it often.
Living in pursuit of what feels real will always lead to surprises, but no surprise is without its purpose. Every fork leads somewhere. It's not your choice that is recorded by the universe but what you do with that choice once you've made it.
Take the fork and all will make sense. Trust that life knows best. Have faith that you will be ready. Do what you love, live what you love, and each event in your life will join to form an infinite stream of serendipity.
In the end, when your entire life flows into a single moment of time, it won't be your possessions, your worries, or your missed opportunities that cumulate into that single moment, but rather how you truly you lived, how deeply you loved, and how completely you followed your heart.
We're all filters now, constantly presented with the task of deciding to read something or ignore it, to share a thought with the world on Twitter or let it go unheard. For creators this challenge of filtering can become overwhelming. Satya Colombo writes about a recent experience with this:
So, here's the dilemma: do I share what compels me, what sparks this very intimate recognition within me, pulls a small heart string... Or do I share the thing I think other people might resonate with? The thing I think might actually be more compelling?
In this case, I decided to just shelf it, and do nothing. [...]
The point is — how to decide what to create, and what to share, and what voices to listen to in deciding…?!
Sometimes you just know — that thing you just did is Fricken good. It's ready to fly. But more often than not, there's this gray area…
A lot of people get stuck in that gray area. Especially when trying something new, or finally listening to those voices and actually pursuing a soul calling. Everyone has an opinion, or an idea of how to do it based on what they've seen and done, and unless they're really amazingly brilliant and/or they know you really well, their opinion is absolute crap when it comes to you. Totally useless. Please don't listen to them.
There's a lot of voices you can choose to listen to, but then there's one really awesome one that rules them all, and it's the language of the universe when it comes through your spirit.
Some people hear it speaking through a tree they're sitting next to, or the wind rustling overhead. Sometimes it comes through on the smile of a child, or a flash in the eye of the checkout bagging girl. You recognize it when you're really open to it — when you're connected to yourself, and actively surrendering to the marvelous creative pull of your work. Whatever and whenever that might be.
As creators, we're constantly presented with the task of figuring out if we should create that which our audience will most likely understand and appreciate or if we should create what feels real, authentic, and true to ourselves. I believe a balance between the two can and should be found, but often that requires a very deep and thorough understanding of both sides: an understanding of ourselves and of those who are listening.
When in doubt, my philosophy is to do without. If I'm not sure about something, I hold back and create and share nothing. While this is certainly a safe route, I think it's also a fear-based route. Playing it safe is easier than making a mistake or creating something that is misunderstood, but it's also a sure way to mediocrity. It's far better to risk making mistakes and asking for forgiveness than to play it safe and remain quietly invisible to the world.
A few weeks ago I was approached with a job offer. I turned it down. That's not to say I didn't need the work. Money was very tight and there was no income in sight. I had maybe a hundred dollars in the bank and I needed every job I could get.
In fact, I had been browsing the "gigs" section of CraigsList to see if there were any easy manual labor jobs that I could do. I'd even thought of applying at Starbucks or the grocery store.
Sure, working a "normal job" wouldn't be interesting or challenging, but it would give me a consistent income and allow me to continue working towards my real income goals (to earn a simple living through my writing).
Since quitting my job almost two years ago, I've been using my technology skills to earn income through accepting any freelance work that comes my way. While the work is generally easy and pays very well, it is in no way consistent.
And that's no surprise because I've been relying entirely on word-of-mouth referrals. I refuse to market my services because that's not the direction I want to invest my time. I want to earn a living through my writing, not through my tech skills.
So when a client asked to hire me on a monthly retainer basis, it sounded like a good fit. The work was relatively straight-forward and it would give me a regular income.
But there was a catch: The client worked for a global network of non-profit organizations whose mission was the opposition of civilian militarization.
In a Skype call the client warned me I might be watched and questioned by the FBI. I would be helping manage the organization's servers and if I was pressured by the government, the organization needed to know that I was "on their side".
On their side? I don't pick sides.
But I needed this job.
What if I did some quick introspection and picked a side so I could get this job and return to focusing on my writing? What if I quickly figured out what my beliefs were and dealt with the repercussions later?
These thoughts felt wrong. They felt alien, like little monsters quietly being directed by a greedy overlord. I knew that intelligent decisions were never made by greed, so I put off making a decision to distance myself from the whole situation for at least a day.
During this time, a friend stepped in and reminded me that I don't compromise my values for anything. She knew me as that person. She knew me as someone who doesn't bend their values just because the circumstances call for it. And she was right.
That was the reminder I needed to gain clarity.
I emailed the client and politely turned down his offer. I wouldn't compromise. I'd rather live homeless on the street than bend my values to greed. If I was meant to have money, the universe would find another way.
So I turned my focus back to making a living with my writing. I knew it wasn't realistic to expect overnight success once I put out an offering, but I had to get started. I had to keep moving forward.
I had my first offer in mind, a monthly subscription to my Journal, and I just needed to work out the technical details.
Instead of outsourcing the distribution of my writing to services like Letter.ly or MailChimp, I wanted to publish everything on my site and simply hide it from the public until I decided to release it (as part of my income ethics, I'm releasing all paid-work within one year of its publication).
I also wanted to keep the entire payment process on my site and leave room for growth when I start offering other products.
I looked around the web for a WordPress plugin that I could use and after a bit of searching, I found a plugin called s2Member, provided by a company called WebSharks.
The free version had everything I needed to get started and the Pro version, which cost $69, had all the features that would allow me to grow with my paid offerings.
Community involvement is a big thing that I look for when choosing software. I like to know that lots of people are using the software and that any future bugs will be addressed. The s2Member community forum was very active, so I registered for a free account.
A note on the registration page caught my eye: Help out on the forum and you may be selected to receive a coupon for a free copy of the Pro version.
Since money was tight, this sounded like an excellent opportunity. Many of the questions on the forum were related to WordPress and I was fully capable of answering them. So over the next few days (in between setting up and learning s2Member for my own site) I answered a dozen or so questions on the forum.
A few days later I received an email from the lead support guy at WebSharks, Inc.
He wanted to know if I was interested in being hired to help out on the forums. No commitments and no minimum hours; just do my best to learn s2Member (which I was doing anyway) and spend some time helping out on the forums (which I was also doing).
WebSharks would pay me a weekly salary and I would receive a free copy of the Pro version of s2Member.
I accepted! After signing an NDA and faxing over a W9, I was hired.
For the first time in two years, I have a regular income again. Not only is it regular, it's an income that allows me to work wherever and whenever I want while also learning a piece of software that will help me move forward with my own business goals.
The small team at WebSharks is friendly and lead developer shares many of my values.
I couldn't have asked for a better fit. In fact, I couldn't even imagine a better fit. Had I taken that first job a few weeks ago -- had I compromised my values and bent to monstrous will of greed -- perhaps the universe wouldn't have offered this to me.
Instead of settling for something that would've been good enough, I chose to continue climbing towards something better, towards the path that I knew my heart was set on following.
I had no idea how I would continue on that path with no income, but when I put my trust in the universe, it presented me with exactly what I needed, when I needed it.
"What if I had a clone? What if my clone wasn't complete and he needed some kind of information that would help him better understand who it means to be me?"
It was an odd thought, but I went with it anyway. I was sitting in an office, peering into the darkness that enveloped the city of Boston. The shapes of buildings were outlined with tiny lights and red, green, and white colors flowed on the streets below.
"What would I tell a clone to help him better understand me?" I began jotting down specific points that came to mind and stopped when I reached thirty-three.
"Was this me? Did this list convey the essence of what it's like to live in my head?"
Over the course of the next few days, I went back to that list and spent time pondering each point. I jotted down stories, described examples, and otherwise tried to define what each thing meant to me.
Now I'm sharing that list here with you in the hopes that you will glean something useful from it. Continue reading
"Who's that Buzz guy?"
"Buzz Aldrin? He was one of the first people to walk on the moon."
She was surrounded by space geeks, asking questions about space history that must have seemed trivial and obvious to everyone around her. But she wasn't judged. She wasn't laughed at, criticized, or looked down upon. Instead, her curiosity was enthusiastically embraced and nurtured.
Five people stood around the kitchen and took turns answering question after question. Five people who only a few days earlier were total strangers. This, I realized, is why love and passion are so important to humanity.
Their voices began to blur and their outlines became fuzzy as I began daydreaming of a world where every person was just as compassionate and caring. A world where strangers would regularly come together to share knowledge and exchange ideas. A world where what mattered wasn't power or prestige, but pure, simple, love.
But let me back up a little and explain how this group of strangers, including myself, came to be living together under the same roof. Continue reading
I've learned to trust only myself and to expect only one thing from everything else: failure. The one thing we can all count on is our own demise. We will all die. Nothing you see and no one you know will last forever. I don't place faith in fallible things, including and especially other humans. Doing so would be not only a huge waste of time, but comparable to playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun... and taking the first turn.
I maintain a very pessimistic outlook on the world and its future, while at the same time being very optimistic about myself and my future. I have the capability of controlling myself and my future, but what kind of control do I have over the world and its future? How could anyone say they have control over the choices of billions of people?
The helpful side of me wants to educate and warn others of how they are being herded like cattle by those with the power to control the things we put our trust in: the media, money, our jobs, our health, and the machines that make everything run. But why? What's the point? I can help others and I can even try to help the whole world, but what good is my help to them if I haven't taken care of myself? I'm not talking about being selfish. Selfishness is the act of being concerned with your own interests and the advantage excluding others gives you, not the act of helping yourself so you're more capable of helping others.
Human beings are very imperfect and fallible creatures. That's why nearly every human being strives for perfection in one way or another. Constantly reminding myself that no single person has ever been, nor will ever be perfect is a very eye-opening experience. When I have zero expectation for myself, for others, or for the world, I begin to realize that the only thing that really matters is who I am in this moment and how prepared I am for the next.
Time will continue moving forward. This moment will not. Don't expect it to.