naked man statue

On Power

Doesn’t it seem like every month there’s a new release of The World’s Most Powerful from a source no one was even asking? And, isn’t it always a little weird that they use the external things—wealth, status, celebrity—to define and rank power. It is for me. Specifically, it’s weird how one person can go from the top position of power one year and not even make it on the list the next. Did that person have power, or not? Was the power real and it just disappeared? It’s easy to get confused.

This all hit me this morning over tea and I thought a lot about power, and what it means to me; I’ve always defined power as strength, perpetuated. Therefore, it’s not the wealth and status and celebrity that bear the honor but spirituality and resilience. A power that comes from there, our core being, reflects everything that we’re meant to be. And, in turn, shines that light (if it’s light you’re radiating) then brightens those closest to it.

When we see a force like this shining through someone, it’s pretty irresistible and inspiring. It elevates us, motivating and inspiring a better way of living, learning, loving, and growing. I think the times I feel it most, power, in myself, are the times I am delivering something—advice, knowledge, a product, service, or just time in general—to another person who will benefit from it, feel the impact and “get it.”

If we’re lucky when they “get it” they’ll give it too. To someone else, also in need of whatever it is.

Alignment is totally the secret to power. That’s my belief anyway. When you’re conscious of the course you’re on and doing what you’re supposed to be doing to fulfill your own self and leverage that fulfillment to lift up those around you—aware and truly lead by the best of intentions—it’s hard to achieve anything but power. When you’re doing things, on purpose and with purpose, you’re at your most powerful state.

Power doesn’t mean you won’t stumble. It means you won’t fall.

a person drowns underwater

On Fear

Please hear me when I say: I am very lucky to wake up every single day of my and pursue my inherent human interests and be able to call it a career. I take pride in my work and I’ve had so many awesome clients and opportunities presented to me that I’d be stupid not to. Even in its worst moments, my work affords me the ability to “sleep at night” when so many others cannot. (Quotations because, if you know me, you know I don’t sleep.) But, it’s not that way for everyone.

Creative Entrepreneurship has a history of being that rickety, old wooden rollercoaster that only 30% of people have the courage to get on; only for 50% of those who dare to ride to come off unscathed. There’s a lot that can happen on that rollercoaster. You’re looking at a really good chance of stalling on the climb (you never know how much weight you’re really carrying in those early days). You’re bound to wish for death on that first freefall. You’ll feel the car shake as the wheels casually tap the tracks like mores code, as you round bends. You’ll whisper a little prayer before every bunny hill. “Please let the car stay on the tracks.” Most of the time it does. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I understand why a career in independent work can be daunting to most people. It’s a whole lot of uncertainty coming at’cha, every day. You might know who the current client is but you rarely know what’s next—three, four, of five months away. And, if you do, you don’t really know the can of worms you’re dealing with until you open the lid. You’re bombarded with opportunities but always chasing the check.

Not to mention, being a creative scary.

If you already have the gumption to move forward with presenting your craft to the world and begging (and I do mean begging) them to pay you for it, good for you. And, if I know my reader base (and I do!), chances are you’re already doing it. Now, if you don’t have the drive but know you’ve got the craft, let’s let you squared up. Because living at the will of the ebb and flow of your creativity takes courage. And, we all know that when courage dies creativity moves on along with it. We have no room (or time) for fear and the isolation it brings with it.

If your curious what a creative could possibly be afraid of, let me tell you:

You’re scared that your ideas are shit.

You’re scared that you’re not good enough.

You’re scared that you’re really not as talented as you think you are.

You’re scared of rejection. And ridicule. And criticism.

You’re scared that you’ll be ignored.

And, my favorite paradox that I often find myself in: You’re scared that your idea is “too good” and that you don’t have the ability to take it to where it needs to go; that someone will steal it. So, we keep it tucked away—never to be celebrated, just in case.

The only reason I know this is because, if I’m a thought-leader on anything, I’m a thought leader on fear. I know fear better than I know myself. My family always reminds me of the looks I’d give as an infant, sitting on the sofa, just so full of worry. I was born afraid—and not just of the usual fears: The dark, the boogyman, the unknown. I was afraid of everything and I internalized it all. My fear made me feel more different than my homosexuality, tenfold.

The worst part of it is that no one really ever pushed me or helped me to explain the reality of what was going on. I was enrolled in every sport at least once but I was always terrified of the balls or the bats or the bigger kids; I was the kid in the outfield, staring at the sky… wondering what was up there. I never understood the value or “real role” that sports played in a kid’s life—community and team-building, trust and resilience. I thought it was all just to “toughen me up” and, frankly, just making it through a day convinced me that I was tough enough, thank you very much.

I don’t know when—probably somewhere in adolescence—or how but eventually I just stopped avoiding things. I guess I just said to myself, “Defending your fear but regretting the lack of experience? That’s not living. Something has to give.” And, eventually, it did: I unpacked and pushed back against my own fear—although much later in life than most kids. I subconsciously taught myself the importance of “leaning in” more so to the things that bring us discomfort than comfort.

One of the things that most helped me in my quest to abolish fear was the thought of how “unoriginal” it really was. “I hate the ocean,” I’d say (I know, times have changed), and everyone else would agree, “Me too.” That’s just one example, but everyone’s fears were the same. Fear is woven into us as children; sometimes we adopt our parent’s fears but most of the time we develop our own. Yes, fear is transferrable to anything: If you shake a can of coins at a dog it’ll likely immediately exhibit a visceral reaction, flinching in your presence. Now, we know, dogs cannot write, they cannot sing, they cannot knit, or paint, or even speak. But, they definitely know how to fear the unknown.

We all do.

Fine, there’s nothing all to earth-shattering about that statement but you do get to see what I mean. There’s no “extra credit” for having, embracing, or perpetuating fear. You’re not reinventing the wheel here. If you want to innovate and evoke change try to overcome it. Try to remember that your fears are not the things that set you apart from others but the things that make us the same. It’s our creativity that does that. It’s our craft that does that. It’s our personality that does that. It’s our dreams and aspirations and inhibitions that do that.

sunset over the horizon

On Evolution

One of my favorite things ever is sitting along the coast of Long Beach Island bay—a second home for me—watching the sunset. Transforming the sky. Nature has a far easier time with transformation than we humans do.

Evolution, as a human being, is a multi-generational excavation process, digging deep to uncover and inspect the underlying issues. It can feel a lot like trying to shovel through Mount Everest at times, always hitting rock.

Here’s what I’ve learned though, the hard way: It’s those rocks, avoided and unattended over years and years of effort, turn into mounds and those mounds turn into mountains. It’s our responsibility to not stop when we hit the rock; to continue to chip away at it, not dig around it. These are our “daily clean-ups,” visible throughout our work, family, and relationships; these clean-ups affect our health and overall well-being most.

It can feel like ignoring these mounds would be far easier than trudging through, but it’s not. If we take tiny steps to address the daily issues that plague us, those tiny steps quickly become giant leaps on the quest to self-fulfillment. Reaching our potential as human beings is far more than “a goal,” it’s the ULTIMATE GOAL!

In a state of fulfillment, it’s wonderous what we’re capable of—and it has nothing to do with the measurement of mankind overall, the lists of most and least powerful, who’s “hot” and not. Instead, it becomes about whose life did you touch, what mark are you leaving on the world? Who did you love? And, of course, who loved you back?

My ultimate goal? A steadfast transformation of consciousness, always and in all ways, to bring me to the grounding truth: That I am no better or worse than anyone else on this planet. I am simply me.

photo of light towards inside of cave

On 'Getting It'

There are moments, as someone who works for themself, where the “getting going” can be tough. I sometimes struggle to find the energy or even just remind myself to continue fostering my creativity. It’s strange, to me, because I am actually one of those people that loves what he does – when I actually get to do it; I have built a strong practice built on even stronger relationships.

These vulnerable moments where the future almost always seems uncertain or totally absent from view are a normal part of life and business.

Even with this at the forefront of my mind, like everyone else, there are still days I hate waking up in the morning if I know there are less than pleasurable tasks ahead of me or that the day to come will have no room for exercise or mindfulness. The feeling was worse and far more frequent when I was in-house for a short time a way back, but it’s most definitely gotten better.

The trick is to take better care of yourself; prioritizing your mental and physical health above all else. Below are some talking points that’ll help you gain (or regain) momentum in life and business. Ready?

Come to terms with the reality that ‘normal’ does not exist. The concept of normalcy is not only unfair, it’s is unrealistic, too. Our ideas of normal are basically reflections of the lives we see around us but it’s important to remember that everyone’s life, struggles, and journey are different; based entirely on their individual circumstance, level of privilege, and determination.

The best thing you can do is surround yourself with the right people. Personally and professionally, it’s important to audit the pool of people that make up your life. You want to make sure your personal relationships are benefiting the personal side of things and that your professional ones are equally as fulfilling. You’re looking for quality over quantity; fulfillment over distraction.

Start paying attention to the advice you receive. More important than listening to advice is analyzing it. Make mental note of its value and credibility and track your source’s success rate over time. Is the person preaching familiar with the topic, you, or even remotely close to the level of success you want? Afterall, you wouldn’t take directions from a tourist. Would you?

#LifeHack: Find or fix up a 1” x 1” piece of paper and write the names of those closest to you on it. Your friends, family, and most trusted colleagues. These are the people that matter most. These are the people we need to think about before we speak and those that should have the most influence on our lives.

Find a mentor. There is no one on this planet who has or will ever accomplish anything without the help of another person; emotionally, physically, and mentally we are all in this together. Your mentor needs to be someone who directly relates to your career path or life trajectory and they shouldn’t be so far ahead of you in that journey that you’re unable to keep up. That’s important.

Get a grip on your time. Time is our single most valuable asset. It depreciates every single second and we never know when the market is going to tank completely. We need to cease every single moment possible and you’d be a fool to waste a day – especially the younger we are. I tell everyone [who asks] to work as hard as they can to get to an 80/20 Production vs Consumption ration; to be mindful of every hour we spend consuming (content, lectures, media) we should spend another four producing.

Finally, listen to yourself and invest in your own flourishing — in whatever way possible. It has always been my belief that our focus needs to be on these four key areas: Education, Wellness, Audience, & Character. They’re the things that make us who we are and the topics we need to revisit weekly – if not daily – to ensure we remain on a thriving path.

I had always felt confident with my ability to analyze and correct the areas of education, audience, and character. Generally speaking I am a very inquisitive and relatively mindful person; it’s easy for me to seek out new learning and audit the people that influence my life, as well as check myself into when and how I need to recalibrate. But, in the summer of 2017, I chose to no longer ignore my struggles with my weight, body image, and confidence and worked tirelessly to embrace a new wellness plan. I hired Jamel (my trainer) and an amazing nutritionist, Raquel, here in Philadelphia; together they filled in a gaping void that had been deteriorating a very long time.

Remember, no matter where you are on your journey – you get to decide what happens next. It’s never too late to regain control and implement positive habits to shape the future.

red leaves

On Pleasure

Sometimes otherwise usual topics find themselves stuck in my head and I can’t release them until I’ve completely worked them out. One time a parent suggested to me that their child needed to ‘tolerate’ them the same way they (the parent) ‘tolerate’ the kid. I wasn’t sure why but the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I immediately went into defense mode for the kid. The rest of the week was spent searching for the better word he may have been looking for. (Turns out, it was “love.”) This happens all the time. The fixation. Words and things just present themselves over-and-over in my day-to-day and I think, “it’s a sign,” and work tirelessly to decipher them.

There was one of those days towards the end of last season and the word was Pleasure. It’s a ridiculous observation and inherent need, however, it was showing up everywhere and I couldn’t avoid it. Emails and conference calls, tweets and social media posts, and by the time the drive-thru attendant at my favorite fast food spot replied to my gratitude with, “My pleasure!” I knew it was time for a personal think tank.

If you ask any one of my closest friends what pleasure means to them you’ll get responses that range from the basic, “happy,” to the most deviant, “when your partner [does the thing they wanted] without asking.” And, no, they’re not talking about washing the dishes—though I am sure Urban Dictionary has an erotically appropriate definition. (TMI.) My definition carried a tone split fifty fifty and before I had google’d it, I was pretty sure the official definition would be equally so. Turns out, it’s not; if you ask good ol’ Merriam-Webster the definition of pleasure, it is “a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment.”

Less than scintillating to say the least.

Dissatisfied with my findings, I spent the better part of a day contemplating the very thought of it in an effort to redefine it for myself. Pleasure. I thought about where it comes from, how it’s conceived, what it does to us, how we nurture it and ensure it evolves into euphoria, its highest form.

The most pleasure, for me, is always received after I have done something good for another person or when there is confirmation and validation in the fact that my efforts — or even just my presence — have in some way helped move something alone. That said, pleasure is depleted whenever I feel I have been (or might be) taken advantage of, forced into doing something I typically wouldn’t do, or even blatantly ignored when serving at the request of another. (And, you’d be surprised how often that happens.)

There are even times we manifest our own pleasures. Uninterrupted time with my friends is high on the totem pole; a five-star moment, for sure. That strong cup of coffee (or two) at the start of a morning: Four stars. Getting away from the desk midday for that long-anticipated walk on a beautiful day or a meeting with the trainer: Five stars. Pushing that one hour midday break to two… or three: Four stars. (I retracted a star because of the regret afterwards.) Being able to help someone else out, wether I know them or not: Five, plus.

The point is, pleasure — by my definition — is the emotional and psychological (and sometimes physical) reciprocation of the energy you have put out, ten fold. On the spiritual and psychological level, which is all I was initially interested in, I believe our baseline of pleasure is constituted by how you view your life, the things you have done, and your personal satisfaction with the intent behind all of it.

I revert back to my philosophy in that when you know better you do better and when you do better you feel better, and it all starts with self awareness. More important than perfect vision is your internal vision; being able to fearlessly listen to the voice within us and trust in it for both guidance and growth.

Now, that’s pleasure.