"We gather knowledge faster than we gather wisdom." - William Bell

Skateboarding & Creativity

Posted: January 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration, On Ideation | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

I’ve always wanted to learn how to skateboard, but never had the gusto and dedication to go through with it. When you’re older, it’s pretty embarrassing to try and learn a new sport. Especially if that sport prides itself on being cool. It’s like someone trying to learn how to be cool at the age of 30. It’s just uncomfortable.

And then in a conversation with my friend Gabe (who is over 30 – don’t tell him I said that) and I found out that he was learning to skate. I thought that it was really cool. He didn’t have the same predilections as me. He didn’t give a fuck if people saw him trying to learn. He didn’t care if he looked like an ageing hipster. He didn’t care if he fell. All he cares about is learning and getting better. He’s a teenage boy living in a 30 year old’s body.

Skateboarding is the perfect paradigm for creativity. It’s self taught. It’s monkey see, monkey do. You learn from seeing someone do something and then trying it yourself. Throwing your own swagger and style at it. You learn from your mistakes. You practice. You improve your skill. And the better you get, the more and more everything you see starts looking like a skate park.

The same thing happens with creativity and art. The more that you use your creative muscles, the more that you start seeing creative opportunities all around you. And you want to capture them. Paint them. Write about them. Bring them to the world. And just like skateboarding, you can start developing your creativity at any age.

But the thing that I like best about skate culture is the do-it-yourself mentality that comes from teaching yourself the sport. They don’t wait for a director to find the best skaters and make a video about them. They film it themselves. And edit it. And design the cover art. And post it online. There’s a blue collar mentality of doing what’s necessary to get it done. So, part of you is a skater. But part of you is also a producer. A designer. A director. A salesperson. Maybe even a seamstress.

What drives this do-it-yourself frame of mind? Easy. Skateboarding is fun. It’s relaxing. It’s scary. It’s thrilling. And when you’re having fun, you don’t mind doing the extra stuff. It’s rewarding. The first time that you’re able to see yourself pulling a trick on film, you feel like a bad ass. All of that extra work learning how to use a camera, figuring out iMovie, learning about lighting  is worth it. It’s all about creating a product that you’re proud of and showing it tot he world.

And sometimes we forget that about being creative – especially if it’s part of our job. But you’ve got to take the time to find the fun again. To be a bad ass. To get inspired. To be excited about your work.

- Christian

Making Awesome Lemonade

Posted: January 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration, Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

You have friends of friends. You have friends. You have best friends. And then you have life long friends. This story is about one of my oldest friends – Chris. We’ve been buddies for almost 20 years, which is amazing.

Over the course of two decades, I’ve learned a lot from him. But after a week of drinking scotch together in Hong Kong, it was apparent that we are still teaching each other things. And not just about expensive scotches.

Four years ago, Chris was working as an investment banker in New York. He was busting his ass, working crazy 80 hour weeks for some rich assholes. And then the markets crashed. The whole industry was thrown in a tailspin. He was in a situation where he wasn’t sure that his company was going to be able to pay him. So, he bounced.

He moved from New York to Beijing to learn Chinese. After a couple in Beijing, he connected with a guy that he knew in college. Together, they started their own private equity firm. After a couple of years and a stint in Shanghai, he’s now in Hong Kong running their company.

Let’s take stock. Four years ago, his world went to shit. But instead of sitting around trying desperately to hold onto his old lifestyle, he let go. He got the fuck out of there and made his own opportunities. He now speaks fluent Mandarin and pretty good Cantonese. He’s the boss instead of the employee. And (best of all) he makes his own hours.

What I love about Chris’s story is that he took lemons and making fucking awesome lemonade. At some point in our lives, we will all find ourselves in a situation that sucks. It can be school, a job, a relationship, an apartment or even a city. You think, fuck it. I’m out of here. I can do better somewhere else. But it takes balls to leave. It doesn’t take any courage to hang around and complain, trying to get your old life back. It takes courage to let go. To move on and actively search out your next opportunity.

The courage to embrace change - that is what’s cool. And that is what Chris taught me.

- Christian

The Fear Of The Same

Posted: January 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Life | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

My greatest fear is to wake up 20 years from now and hate my life. To be so complacent and risk averse that I keep on suffering through the same boring life for decades. I call this the fear of the same. Last week in Hong Kong, I was able to reconnect with an old friend who had done the “unthinkable” by Chinese standards. She had quit her stable job and went backpacking around Asia.

For people who haven’t caught the travel bug, this may sound insane. Why would you leave your high paying job and air conditioned condo in Canada to go sleep in hostels all over Asia, only to collect bug bites and bruises? It doesn’t make sense. You put your career on pause. You’re leaving all of your friends and family behind. You’re messing up the pattern that we’re supposed to follow (go to school, get a job, buy a house, find a partner, get married, have babies). So, why would you do it?

You do it because it’s an adventure. Because it’s the unknown. Because it’s exciting. You do it because normal life is boring. You do it because you’re curious and you want to know what it would be like. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

Over the course a couple of Hong Kong beers and some sketchy peanuts, my friend said something that stuck with me:

“I look back at the past five months and I talk to people whose lives are exactly the same. That scares me. I don’t want to go back to being like that.” 

Every day, she woke up and did something different. She learned something new. She saw something that she had never seen before. She was inspired. And she came to the stark realization that some of her friends living “normal” lives were boring. What did you do this week? I watched Breaking Bad. Fuck, well I guess that doesn’t compare to being one of the first Western tourists to backpack through Burma.

So, what does this mean? If you want to be inspired and live an interesting life, you’ve got to take risks. You don’t need to quit your job and backpack around the world. Take a dance class. Learn the guitar. Read a book. Stay up drinking wine with friends until you see the sun rise. Just do something to shake up your routine. Don’t do the same thing every day.

- Christian

5 Things To Stop Doing For A Happy And Creative 2012

Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I’ve already posted 5 things that you can do more of to help you stay happy and creative in 2012. A layover in the airport thanks to a certain service challenged airline allowed me to recognize that there are also things that we can STOP doing in order to better equip ourselves for an awesome new year filled with great work and creativity.

1. Stop aiming for perfection. 
There is such a thing as good enough. It’s better to get your work in market than to waste precious resources trying to make it perfect. There’s a standard lifecycle of adoption for new products, services and ideas. The early adopters don’t need a product to be perfect. They just want it to be new, cool and to address a need. Stop using perfection as an excuse to get your work to market. 

2. Stop waiting for opportunities. 
Chase them. If you see something that you want, be bold and go after it. Don’t stands there in a coffee shop waiting for the girl that you like to do something that creates the perfect opportunity for conversation. Just go up and talk to her. Same thing with projects at work. If you hear about a pitch that you want to work on, go talk to someone to get yourself on that project. Does it take balls? Yes. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.

3. Stop driving everywhere.
Walk. Bike. Take transit.  Leave the car at home. Get some fresh air. Interact with people. We spend so much of our lives in cars, cut off from the rest of society. Stop confining yourself to a little metal box on your commute. Stop having to worry about traffic. Stop getting stressed about parrallel parking on a busy street with everyone watching (my own personal fear). Stop driving everywhere and allow the journey to be time for yourself.

4. Stop hoarding ideas.
You see this sometimes in creative industries. Some people are afraid of competition and so they hoard their ideas. They hide them from the rest of the group and show them only to their boss. These people are under the impression that you have a limited number of good ideas, so they guard them for their exclusive use. But the truth is that creativity is like a muscle. The more that you use it, the better it becomes. Give your ideas away for free. Let people build on them. Listen to a different perspective that you wouldn’t have considered. Your brain can only hold so much. You need to make room for all of this year’s new ideas.

5. Stop making excuses. 
Accept reality. Understand the challenges. The limits. What you can and cannot change. And then deal with it. Stop making excuses. Stop putting it off. If you want to do great work, do great work. Don’t complain about the budget, the brief or the client. Work your magic with the cards that you’re dealt. 

To be creative, you need to get your work out there in the real world. That’s what makes you a creative person. That’s what separates the artists from the people who simply own a Mac with Photoshop. As Steve Jobs said, real artists ship. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to get out there. Let’s make 2012 the year that you ship your best work yet.

- Christian