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Create or Die

A Manifesto For Fearless
Creators Everywhere

This book reveals just why creativity is the backbone of happiness and success, regardless of your occupation. It discusses the many adversaries to creativity that we are surrounded by and shows how to overcome them to create a powerful life by your own design.

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Speed Kills… And I’m not talking about the highways

speed kills

I was out cross country skiing with my 8 yr old daughter the other day. It was her first time on “skate” Skiis, a form of XC skiing that requires a lot of timing and coordination to pull off. She was doing quite well given that it was her first time doing it. I was skiing slowly and staying with her to offer encouragement and support. After several miles and lots of wipeouts, she was still in good spirits, and was getting into the rhythm of it.

We’d been unintentionally tag-teaming with three college students from Montana State. Or at least that’s what their team-logo jackets advertised as they would speed past, then pause to chat and snack while we would catch up and pass them. They clearly thought of themselves as the “cool crowd” out on the trails that day, since they were a “team” and everyone else were just nobodies out skiing to “just” enjoy themselves.

Maybe they didn’t like being passed by a 40-something woman and her 8 year old. After the second time this happened, as they came flying past, the guy in the rear turned to us and said: “Nice Snowshoes“ while looking at our skiis, then he sped on.

I had no idea what he was talking about. I like to be be oblivious at times. When I’m feeling good, enjoying time with my daughter, out on the trails, why worry about what some kid who’s barely out of puberty thinks?

Besides, I didn’t get the “Snowshoes” remark. We were on skiis. So we finished out our skiing and I thought nothing more of it. My daughter was excited to try it again. When any of my kids do that, it is always a good sign that they enjoyed it.

Dreams as clues

Consciously I’d not thought about the remark again, but apparently my subconscious mind wasn’t finished. That night, I found myself as a teenager again, a bit awkward and definitely an ‘outsider.’ We were at a party of some kind, at a house with large, fancy glass doors. There was a group of teenagers who were ridiculing me for being slow. After suffering their taunting, I ended up outside and the glass doors were banged shut. I could see them laughing about me, but could no longer hear their words. I was shut out. I felt isolated, scared, and sad.

That was enough to wake me up. I don’t often have bad dreams nowadays, so this caught my attention. As I tossed and turned, I realized something: It wasn’t just the guy from Montana State or the dream, several other things had happened recently along these same lines.

Just two days before the “Montana State Incident” I’d been in the chairlift line with my older daughter. There are three different “feeder” lines that all merge into one line to get on the lift. Normally at our local resort people are quite friendly (no, this is not the East Coast, yay). The standard routine is to alternate who merges into the main line. In five years of skiing here, I can recall only one or two times where people were rude about it and tried to “butt” in line.

Well, this time there were – surprise – three ~16 year old girls in line who didn’t feel that they needed to be polite. They were in a God-given rush to get to the top, and felt entitled to cut in front of people to get there. They were attempting to cut in front of us, following directly on the heels of the other skiers from their “feeder” line without waiting.

Now, I can be cantankerous with teenage bullies. Maybe it’s because I suffered enough bullying at their hands as a teenager until I started “fighting back” that I still have some of that fight left in me. I made sure to wedge my skiis in front of theirs, making space for my daughter and I in our rightful place in the merged line.

Their response was some kind of rude comment about our ski pants. Neither my daughter or I could hear what the remark was or which one of us it was directed at, but it was clearly meant for us, and was derogatory. After we got on the lift, my 11 year old said the word ”teenagers” while shaking her head and sighing. That’s funny coming from a pre-teen! Maybe there’s hope for her yet!

Anyway, those wonderful teenagers then proceeded to have a party on the chairlift, with loud music blaring and snide comments being lobbed at other skiers down below on the hill. After my daughter and I got off, they sped past haughtily, clearly showing us they were too cool.

Three times is one too many

It would have been easy to ignore one of those incidents alone, but the combination – including the dream – were clues to something deeper. When multiple “coincidences” happen along the same lines in a short span of time, it pays to take heed and understand what the deeper cause is.

coincidence

By “deeper cause” I am referring to what’s going on inside your own conscious and subconscious mind that brought these events to the forefront of your life. Coincidences of this sort always have lessons to teach, but unfortunately, most of us dismiss them as “just random” and we ignore them. In ignoring them, we invite more such events into our lives. These events are our inner being’s way of nudging us to learn something new and important. That inner being often communicates via events rather than words, because most of us have very noisy heads where any words just get lost in a sea of constant dialog.

So, I’d rather “get” the lesson instead of repeating the same pattern over an over again with different faces and places, always feeling victimized like “the world is out to get me.”

Those teenagers were the messenger

My 3AM reflections while I tossed and turned in bed, pulling the sheets and blankets into a mess, came down to one word: speed. These teenagers – both the real ones and the dream ones – were all taunting me for being slow. The “snowshoes” comment by the Montana guy was implying that we might as well have been walking on snowshoes at the (slow) speed we were going.

I found that intriguing, because I’m finally at a point in life where I’ve found some balance in not always rushing from one thing to the next. Yet part of me is still afraid: afraid that by slowing down in my life, I’ll be left behind. Here the universe was echoing that back at me, showing me how bogus it actually was.

Ten years ago, back when I was younger and had a severe case of “testosterone poisoning,” skiing slow with my daughter and being passed by some young skiers would have been excruciating. I probably would have raced ahead to “prove” to them that I was just as fast (or faster), and only after proving that, returned to my daughter to see how she was doing.

This time I had no such urge – at least not consciously.

But there’s the rub. At a subconscious level, I was still feeling “left behind.” I haven’t reconciled my conscious beliefs – which are all about slowing down, focusing on quality and experience – with my subconscious beliefs, which come from that teenage version of me that was frequently “left behind.”

My brother’s visit

Why did this happen now? It just so happened that my older brother and his family were visiting us. If there’s one thing that’s true for most older brothers (or sisters), they don’t like being “slowed down” by their younger siblings. When growing up, I was left behind by my brother all the time — and sometimes taunted for being slow by he and his friends. I grew up having a “thing” about being left behind. It often seemed to happen, even though I hated it.

I don’t hold a grudge about my brother’s actions now, 30+ years later — at least not consciously. But his presence, along with other things going on in my life and business, triggered this issue for me to recognize and go to work on. The teenagers, the dream, and my brother’s presence were all just hints that I had an opportunity to recognize and work on something that was holding me back in several areas of my life.

And, here’s why this may be relevant to you. It’s not just something that has caused problems for me, it’s an all-pervasive MEME in our culture that causes problems for most of us.

That meme is that going fast is superior to going slow. It comes with a whole related set of beliefs, such as:

  • You have to keep up with the Joneses, or you will be cast out to the wolves (or at least subject to great ridicule)
  • You have to work hard and fast to get anywhere worthwhile in life
  • If you’re a mom, you have to work hard all day, then be a great mom in the evening, and on top of it be a great partner, lover, and so on. Don’t ever slow down and take a break for yourself, or you’ll be thrown to the wolves!
  • That if you’re in research or business, you have to move really fast or be left behind by the competition in a “career wasteland.”

It’s like we’re all plugged into our own little Lamborghinis with the foot to the metal 24/7. At least, until the engine blows up from overheating (i.e. heart attack), the gas runs out (chronic fatigue), etc. Ironically, most of us are just going in circles at 180 mph, and never really getting “anywhere” nor enjoy the journey on our way to that big blowout.

Strange, isn’t it? We humans are an odd lot…

My problem: wanting to go slow and feeling left behind

I’ve long believed that this pace of “going nowhere fast” was unhealthy. I’ve cultivated a life where I can spend time with my daughters as they grow, where I can write a leisurely blog post like this, where I can sip my coffee in the morning without feeling the need to jump into work immediately just to “keep up.” And, ironically, it’s made me far more productive on the things that count (like getting books written and course lessons made).

Yet there’s that part of me that’s still freaked out over the issue of feeling like I’m being left behind. I’ve often felt conflicted. Consciously, I know that taking days off with my family makes me more productive at work when I return to it. Subconsciously, there’s always been this dread, this fear, of being left behind, of not keeping up, of things falling apart…

Unfortunately, the subconscious part, combined with all the constant cultural messages about “going fast,” has too frequently won out, causing me to “work hard” just due to fear of being left behind. I know I’m not the only one for whom that’s true. I don’t actually think that most people, if you asked them, would say that they want to constantly speed through life with little time to savor the important things. Yet if you look around, how many people actually translate that into action? Very few.

Most people I encounter are feeling very rushed, always.

When there’s a conscious/subconscious clash, healing is the key

Most of us are walking around with more than one of these conscious/subconscious clashes. In order to identify yours, just look at any area of your life where you keep wanting things to improve, but they never really seem to in a lasting way. It could be weight loss, it could be grant funding, it could be cash flow, or it could be your relationship with your partner.

Any time there’s been a persistent, chronic problem in your life, it’s a sign of the clash. When you have such a clash going on between subconscious beliefs and your conscious desires, the subconscious always wins. That is, until you do some reprogramming work to get rid of the conflicting subconscious garbage. Then you can finally straighten out the Lamborghini and get somewhpersistent problemere, while enjoying the journey.

 

Pay attention to the signs

Whatever is the “big issue” for you right now in your life, signs and clues are there, waiting for you to find. They can come in the form of people, circumstances, dreams, or fears, among others. Rather than ignoring them, take heed. Keep a journal, note when you seem to keep facing the same situation again and again.

And ask yourself: what belief do I hold at the subconscious level that’s actually causing this cycle over and over again?

If you do this, you’ll often be amazed by the power of what you find. If you take this exercise seriously, it has the power to completely transform your life.

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