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The Accidental Creative

Updated 2 months ago

Rank #65 in Careers category

Arts
Business
Education
Careers
Self-Improvement
Read more

The Accidental Creative podcast shares how to build practical, everyday practices that help you stay prolific, brilliant and healthy in life and work. Host Todd Henry (author of the books The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, and Louder Than Words) interviews artists, authors and business leaders, and offers tips for how to thrive in life and work. Listen in and join the conversation at AccidentalCreative.com.

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The Accidental Creative podcast shares how to build practical, everyday practices that help you stay prolific, brilliant and healthy in life and work. Host Todd Henry (author of the books The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, and Louder Than Words) interviews artists, authors and business leaders, and offers tips for how to thrive in life and work. Listen in and join the conversation at AccidentalCreative.com.

iTunes Ratings

409 Ratings
Average Ratings
298
71
13
10
17

Inspiring

By tefererythrfssasrrggfdschujnh - Apr 30 2020
Read more
Just the bit of motivation I needed!

My new favorite podcast!

By Wordnurse - Feb 20 2020
Read more
I really like the format of this podcast.

iTunes Ratings

409 Ratings
Average Ratings
298
71
13
10
17

Inspiring

By tefererythrfssasrrggfdschujnh - Apr 30 2020
Read more
Just the bit of motivation I needed!

My new favorite podcast!

By Wordnurse - Feb 20 2020
Read more
I really like the format of this podcast.
Cover image of The Accidental Creative

The Accidental Creative

Latest release on Aug 06, 2020

Read more

The Accidental Creative podcast shares how to build practical, everyday practices that help you stay prolific, brilliant and healthy in life and work. Host Todd Henry (author of the books The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, and Louder Than Words) interviews artists, authors and business leaders, and offers tips for how to thrive in life and work. Listen in and join the conversation at AccidentalCreative.com.

Rank #1: Three Life-Changing Daily Practices

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Your ability to thrive as a creative pro is largely determined by the little things you do every day. Talent will get you so far, but without daily practices to develop your intuition, feed your mind, and sharpen your skills, you will eventually stall out. On this episode, we share three daily practices that will set you up for long-term success.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Freshbooks. To claim your free month trial – with no credit card needed – visit Freshbooks.com/accidental and enter Accidental Creative in the how did you hear about us section.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Dec 30 2019

31mins

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Rank #2: Think Like A Rocket Scientist (with Ozan Varol)

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Albert Einstein once wrote “The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them.” In order to go to new places in life and work, we need to expand our thinking beyond the confines of our assumptions.

But how do we do that?

This week’s podcast episode features Ozan Varol, who has just released a book called Think Like A Rocket Scientist. In it, he articulates several strategies for breaking through assumptive ruts and taking your work to a new level. Here are a few of my takeaways from the conversation:

You Must Question Your Assumptions

In the past, I’ve frustrated many managers and peers for my annoying tendency to ask lots of “why?” questions. I’ve never been able to simply accept the way things are, and that can be very inconvenient when you’re trying to make quick progress on a project. However, this tendency has also served me well, because it’s frequently allowed me to circumvent norms that are preventing others from seeing possibilities.

As you think about your current situation, your work, your life goals, what you are pursuing, are there assumptions that need to be challenged? They are often guidelines that have been in place for a number of years, or industry norms that others assume are hard and fast rules. Spend a bit of time this week challenging an assumption or two, and see where your thoughts lead you. Ask “What if…?”

Return To First Principles

Over time, it’s easy to get distracted with tactics and to forget what you’re actually trying to do. In the interview, Ozan shared the story of Steve Martin, who challenged the very conventions of what it means to be a comedian. In traditional comedy, the comedian will create tension and then relieve it by delivering a punchline, hopefully generating a laugh. Martin, however, wasn’t distracted by the tactics, and instead realized that the first principle was simply to make people laugh. He would create tension, but not relieve it with a punchline. At first, critics were apalled by his strategy, but audiences warmed up to it, and he became one of the most popular acts in the world, selling out arenas wherever he performed.

What are the first principles of your work? What are you really trying to do, and how can you return to them and develop new tactics for accomplishing your goals?

Have A Moonshot

Right now, many people are simply focused on survival. I understand this necessity. However, I also think this is the perfect time to begin working on your personal “moonshot”, or the idea so big that no one else would dare try to compete with you. Physicist Max Planck once said, “At the initial stages of idea formation, the pure rationalist has no place.” Many of the world’s greatest accomplishments were met with skepticism and scorn at their inception, only to be accepted later.

What is your personal moonshot? What could you aim for that seems scarily big to you, but that would completely change the trajectory of your life and work?

To make progress on the other side of the pandemic, we will need to think in new ways. I hope this interview and Ozan’s book will expand your perspective and grant you a renewed enthusiasm for what’s possible.

This episode is sponsored by Lightstream. Apply today to get a special interest rate at LightStream.com/accidental.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Apr 30 2020

25mins

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Rank #3: Chopped, Creativity, and (Not) Thinking Big (with Dave Noll)

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Dave Noll and his business partner are the creators of the hit TV series Chopped, as well as a number of other popular television programs. Every day they bounce ideas off of one another, combining themes and smashing old concepts together to form new possible programs.

In our conversation, Dave and I engaged in a little “idea bouncing” as well. Here are a few of the practical tips that emerged in our chat:

Keep A Queue Of Old Ideas

When you engage in a project, you probably end up with a lot of discarded ideas that didn’t quite work out. What happens to those ideas? Many people simply discard them on the trash heap and start fresh with the next project. However, it’s wise to keep a queue of these old, but not quite right ideas. Keep them in a notebook, or on index cards, or someplace where you can browse them later. Often, an idea that’s not right now is the perfect idea for a later project, but you would never have remembered it unless you had a system to help you do so.

At the completion of each project, transfer the ideas or hunches that didn’t work out to a queue, and review it regularly so that you keep those ideas top of mind.

Don’t Think Big. Think Bigger.

In the interview, Dave told the story of pitching a “dream scenario” show to Barry Diller, the iconic TV executive, only to have him toss it back in his face as being too small. Dave said he learned that no matter how big you think, there is always someone who will think bigger. You’d might as well aim as high as you can with your career and decisions, because if you don’t, one of your competitors certainly will.

Will Smith didn’t want to be a movie star, he wanted to be the biggest movie star in the world. As you think about your life and your career, where are you playing too small? Where are you settling for what you can get instead of dreaming about possibility?

Consider New Media, New Formats

Given the economic shakeup caused by the pandemic, it’s time for many of us to reconsider how we are delivering our ideas to market. Dave and his business partner, having only made TV shows in the past, have just launched their first ever podcast called Factorious. While they certainly could simply focus on making TV shows, they decided to explore a new medium that would offer a different kind of challenge as well as the ability to reach a new audience with their work.

As you think about the work you do, how could you re-package or re-position it to reach a new audience? Is there a way to add a new form of media to the mix? A different distribution channel?

I found this conversation with Dave to be both inspiring and a lot of fun. It sparked some great ideas for how to take my business to a new place. As we deal with the current health and economic crisis, this is a great time to begin dreaming again about what might be possible for you on the other side.

This episode is sponsored by Literati. For a limited time, go to Literati.com/creative and get 25% off your first two orders.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Apr 21 2020

38mins

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Rank #4: Finding Your Sweet Spot

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Your “sweet spot” of effectiveness is discovered through active contemplation, not passive reflection. The broader your base of experience, the more patterns you will be able to discern. On this episode, we share three key principles for discovering what you’re wired for, and navigating to a place of effectiveness in life and work

This episode is sponsored by Quip. Brush better with Quip. Go to getquip.com/accidentalcreative to get your first refill FREE. 

Nov 14 2019

17mins

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Rank #5: How To Choose The Best Idea

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Creative work is largely qualitative in nature. That can make it difficult to choose the best idea without creating conflict on the team. On this episode, we share a simple framework for choosing the best idea: EPIC.

This episode is sponsored by Skillshare. Get two months of access to thousands of classes absolutely free! To sign up, go to Skillshare.com/AC.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Jan 02 2020

15mins

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Rank #6: Leadership Is Language (with L. David Marquet)

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As a leader, the words you choose can determine success or failure, alignment or mutiny, a thriving culture vs. a destructive one. On this episode, L. David Marquet shares insights into how to use the power of language to unleash your team’s best work. David’s new book is called Leadership Is Language.

This episode is sponsored by Skillshare. Get two months of access to thousands of classes absolutely free! To sign up, go to Skillshare.com/AC.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Feb 12 2020

27mins

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Rank #7: Take Notes Like a (Creative) Pro

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Most notes are simply facts, to-do’s, and records that will never be reviewed later. However, there is a better way to leverage your notes to help you generate brilliant ideas and spot patterns in your environment. On this episode, we share some best practices for taking and processing notes more effectively.

This episode is sponsored by Skillshare. Get two months of access to thousands of classes absolutely free! To sign up, go to Skillshare.com/AC.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Dec 02 2019

16mins

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Rank #8: Three Creative Thresholds

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There are three types of bravery that you might need to engage in as a creative professional. On this episode, we discuss each of them and how to be brave in the face of uncertainty.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Freshbooks. To claim your free month trial – with no credit card needed – visit Freshbooks.com/accidentaland enter Accidental Creative in the how did you hear about us section.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Nov 05 2019

22mins

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Rank #9: What Drives You?

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It’s tempting to think that motivation is largely driven by the tasks that you do every day, but it’s more accurate to say that you bring your motivation to those tasks. On this episode, we discuss three core motivational archetypes and how they affect everyday engagement. Are you a builder, a fixer, or an optimizer?

This episode is sponsored by Skillshare. Get two months of access to thousands of classes absolutely free! To sign up, go to Skillshare.com/AC.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Dec 12 2019

18mins

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Rank #10: Taking Time To Invest In Yourself

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Due to recent events, many of us have suddenly found that we have more time on our hands. On this episode, we share a few principles for using time to invest in yourself and to plant seeds that will produce a harvest later.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Freshbooks. To claim your free month trial – with no credit card needed – visit Freshbooks.com/accidental and enter The Accidental Creative in the how did you hear about us section.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Mar 30 2020

16mins

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Rank #11: The Upside of Being Down (with Jen Gotch)

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On this week’s episode, Jen Gotch shares insights from her new book The Upside of Being Down.

To state the obvious, we are all learning to adjust to a new way of living.

Humans are not wired to live in long, sustained periods of isolation or social distancing, and we are having to adapt to new ways of working together, being creative, and living our lives. With all of these new dynamics, it’s importat to be open about mental health and the struggles that accompany long periods of uncertainty. Jen Gotch is the perfect person to help us think through how to navigate these difficult times. Her new book, a memoir, is called The Upside Of Being Down, and shares her personal journey in life and business while dealing with the impact of anxiety and depression.

There are three big insights that I took from the conversation that are shaping how I’m thinking about the coming weeks and months.

Progress Over Perfection

It is very important to break big ambitions into smaller, measurable wins, especially when we don’t have access to all of the resources we normally lean on. In her book The Progress Principle, Teresa Amibile wrote “Our research inside companies revealed that the best way to motivate people, day in and day out, is by facilitating progress—even small wins.” Psychologically, small wins are a huge boost to overall motivation and a sense of purpose and direction in life and work.

As Jen said in our interview, realness is so much more interesting than perfection.

How will you measure progress this week? What small wins will you choose to mark success?

Unnecessary Creating Is Deep Therapy

In The Accidental Creative, I shared a practice that I call unnecessary creating. It means to engage routinely in making things that no one is paying you for, and that are not a part of your job. It can range from launching a podcast (which is how my business began!) to learning a new skill to painting to writing music. It’s a way to allow yourself the freedom to take risks, to develop skills, and to find creative expression in a very low-risk environment because the work is just for you, not for others. Right now I’m working on an unnecessary creating project in my spare time, and it’s very life-giving to have something I’m doing that’s not directly tied to my on-demand work.

What unnecessary creating will you do this week? Choose a project such as writing a short story, making a piece of art, or exprimenting with a new skill.

Release The Pressure Valve

One ray of light over the past weeks has been getting to see normally polished, produced people learning to do what they do in a more accessible and authentic way. Whether it’s Jimmy Fallon doing The Tonight Show from his home (with his kids crawling all over him!) or news anchors doing their segments from their living room, we are discovering the beauty and power of authenticity. We all need to release the pressure valve a bit, and realize that there is a new kind of more genuine expression possible because of what we’re all experiencing together.

Also, we do need to reconsider the expectations that we have of ourselves. This is no time to be in constant sprint mode, holding yourself to the same kind of accountability that you did before all of this began. Be wise in how you set your weekly expectations, and focus more on desired outcomes than quantity-based measures of productivity.

Our biggest source of stress is often found in missed expectations, especially those we have for ourselves. Is there any way in which you need to adjust your personal expectations? Release the pressure valve.

Take care of yourselves this week, friends. Be especially mindful of your mental health. Be prolific, brilliant, and healthy.

This episode is sponsored by Skillshare. Explore your creativity and two free months of Premium Membership at Skillshare.com/AC.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Apr 13 2020

26mins

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Rank #12: Life’s Great Question (with Tom Rath)

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How do you uniquely contribute to the world? On this episode, Tom Rath helps us begin to answer the question of why you are here on this planet, and to identify the unique contribution that you have to make. Tom’s new book is called Life’s Great Question.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Freshbooks. To claim your free month trial – with no credit card needed – visit Freshbooks.com/accidental and enter The Accidental Creative in the how did you hear about us section.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Feb 05 2020

25mins

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Rank #13: Create The Future (with Jeremy Gutsche)

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If you want to disrupt the status quo, you need to think differently. On this episode, Trendhunter CEO Jeremy Gutsche shares some practical advice for innovating in uncertain times.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Freshbooks. To claim your free month trial – with no credit card needed – visit Freshbooks.com/accidental and enter The Accidental Creative in the how did you hear about us section.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Mar 10 2020

23mins

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Rank #14: Four Questions For 2020

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It’s the time of year when many people are thinking about what the next twelve months have in store. On this episode, I share four questions to help you think about 2020 and set goals for life and work.

Download the worksheet here.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Freshbooks. To claim your free month trial – with no credit card needed – visit Freshbooks.com/accidental and enter Accidental Creative in the how did you hear about us section.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Dec 23 2019

13mins

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Rank #15: The Value Of Unnecessary Creating

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As a creative professional, it’s easy to get pulled into work that needs to be done at the expense of work that you’d like to do. You don’t have the luxury of working only on things that excite you. This is why it’s important to have some area of your life where you are taking risks, trying new things, and developing your creative intuition in a way that your on-demand work doesn’t allow. On this episode, we share how to get started with Unnecessary Creating.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Freshbooks. To claim your free month trial – with no credit card needed – visit Freshbooks.com/accidentaland enter Accidental Creative in the how did you hear about us section.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Nov 11 2019

16mins

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Rank #16: Your Quarterly Checkpoint

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One practice that is prescribed in The Accidental Creative is a checkpoint every three months to get ahead of commitments and ambitions for the upcoming quarter. On this episode, we walk through a Quarterly Checkpoint and offer some questions and prompts to help you plan for brilliance in the coming months.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Freshbooks. To claim your free month trial – with no credit card needed – visit Freshbooks.com/accidental and enter Accidental Creative in the how did you hear about us section.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Dec 27 2019

18mins

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Rank #17: The Successful Speaker (with Grant Baldwin)

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Ideas are of no value until they are shared with others. However, many creative pros are less than confident about their presentation abilities, or uncertain about how to establish their credibility when sharing their concepts. On this episode, Grant Baldwin shares how to become a more confident presenter with tips from his new book The Successful Speaker.

This episode is sponsored by Skillshare. Get two months of access to thousands of classes absolutely free! To sign up, go to Skillshare.com/AC.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Mar 05 2020

27mins

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How To Plan For Uncertainty

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We live in uncertain times. My friend Andy posted a photo of a sign from 2015 today that asked “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Well, I seriously doubt that any of us would have answered “living through a global pandemic with an uncertain ending.”

No matter what your role, it’s important that you learn to plan for uncertainty. You can’t predict what will happen, but you can prepare yourself to deal with unexpected events in a more productive way. On this episode, we share three core principles for planning for uncertainty:

  1. Ask better questions. Many people don’t ask questions because they don’t want to know the answer. However, it’s only when things go awry that you fully realize the quality of the questions you’ve been asking. In this episode, I share how to ask the “what’s the pin in the grenade?” question to help you prepare for unexpected negative events.
  2. Build your runway. You need to know that you have the resources needed to bridge from here to there. Many businesses will go under during this pandemic because they weren’t able to survive the downturn, but those who make it through will be far better positioned on the other side to take advantage of the rebound.
  3. Protect the main thing. Mission is king. You need to adjust and adapt in whatever way is necessary to protect your mission and abide by your values.

Uncertainty is inevitable, but how we deal with it makes all the difference between a successful outcome and a disastrous one.

This episode is sponsored by Givewell. Get your first donation matched – up to $100 – when you select [Podcast] and [The Accidental Creative] at Givewell.org.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Aug 06 2020

19mins

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3 Questions To Ask Right Now

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You need other people in your life to help you see yourself fully. You only see a certain perspective, but people around you can help you see opportunities for growth and advancement that are invisible to you.

But right now, community isn’t naturally coming to you. You have to go to community.

On this episode, we share three questions that you should be asking someone in your life you trust. If you are a manager, these three questions can help you unlock areas of growth for yourself and your team, and can illuminate places where you’re slipping into ruts or over-controlling the team. The three questions are:

  1. What am I doing right now that I should stop doing?
  2. What is something obvious that you don’t think I see?
  3. How can I be of help right now?

This need for community is also why I’ve started Creative Leader Roundtable, a three-week workshop for leaders and teams. Now, more than at any point in recent history, we need others to help us navigate. Learn more about the workshop, or see how you can bring your entire team.

Aug 03 2020

19mins

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How To Be An Ally (with Chuck Mingo)

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On this episode, founder of Undivided Chuck Mingo shares how to be an ally in the workplace.

Over the past several months, conversations about race and justice have been thrust to the forefront of culture. However, these conversations can be fraught with challenges, especially in the workplace. How do we have meaningful conversations that build stronger relationships and stronger organizations?

On this episode, founder of Undivided Chuck Mingo shares how leaders can be an ally in the workplace, how we can lead with greater empathy and understanding for those whose experiences are different from our own, and how we can elevate difficult conversations while cultivating trust and strong relationships.

This episode is sponsored by Literati, the subscription book club that makes it easy to find unique and interesting books for your kids. For a limited time, go to Literati.com/creative for 25% off your first two orders.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Jul 30 2020

26mins

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The New Corner Office (with Laura Vanderkam)

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On this episode, Laura Vanderkam shares insights from her new book The New Corner Office.

We are all learning a new way of working. In truth, this transition has been coming for a while, but was dramatically accelerated by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of us are now working from home, or at least working in remote locations away from our co-workers, which means that we need to develop a new set of habits and rituals to help us thrive.

Laura Vanderkam has just published a book called The New Corner Office in which she shares best practices gleaned from years of research into productivity habits. In our interview, she shared a few key insights that can help you be more focused, more productive, and more energetic throughout your day. Here are a few of my key takeaways from our conversation:

Manage by task, not by time. When you are in the habit of going to an office every day, there are some external prompts for what constitutes a full day of work. (Is it 5:30PM yet?) However, when you work from home, your schedule might be different every day depending on what’s happening in your household. Laura suggests that, instead of focusing on time as the key metric for a full day of work, we focus on the accomplishment of tasks. Once we’ve checked those tasks off, we’ve completed our work for the day.

Make sure your virtual meetings have a focus and a “why”. When everyone was first working from home, virtual meetings sprouted on the calendar like weeds. We were trying desperately to make sure we were all connected and “in the loop”. However, now that we are settling into a new rhythm, it’s time to start pruning some of those non-essential meetings from the calendar and curating the set of meetings that are truly helpful and meaningful. Do all of your meetings have an apparent “why?”, and is there a clear agenda?

Work on transitions. When your desk is ten feet from your breakfast table, it can be a challenge to feel like there are any true “transitions” in your day. Laura says it’s critically important to develop some transitional rituals to signal to yourself that you are moving into a new mode of work. For example, maybe it’s having a coffee ritual that signals it’s time to start the workday, or maybe you need to change into different clothes to signal that the “professional” part of your day is beginning. Whatever your method, having transitions in place can be a strong signal to your brain that you are now in “focus mode”.

These are just a few of the key insights I took from our conversation. Whatever your job, make sure that your systems and rituals are set up to ensure that you’re spending your most productive hours doing your most important work, and that you are marking your days so that you have a sense of rhythm about your work.

This episode is sponsored by Freshly. Join almost one and a half million satisfied customers and skip the shopping, prepping, cooking, and clean up. Get forty dollars off your first two orders at Freshly.com/creative.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Jul 27 2020

24mins

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Do You Know Your “Red Zone” Activities?

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In American football, the red zone is the area on each end of the field inside the twenty yard line. What happens in this area is a key determining factor in a team’s success or failure. Teams that easily advance the ball down the field but can’t score in the red zone will lose games. Teams that play great open-field defense but can’t prevent scores in the red zone will lose. Performance in this very small sliver of the field often determines the overall success or failure of the team.

As you examine your life, and especially your creative work, it’s important to be able to identify the red-zone activities that will really make a difference and generate forward momentum during the particular season you’re in. Some qualities that mark red-zone activities are the following:

Activities that you can uniquely do or add value to because of your position or expertise. While there are a lot of ways you could be spending your time, there are a certain number of activities that you are probably the best person for. Which of these activities should you engage in every day?

Activities that increase your personal capacity to generate ideas, such as study, purposeful ideation, or intelligence gathering. These are typically the first to go during a busy or stressful season. Are you taking the time to sharpen your mind and your creative intuition?

Activities that provide cohesion or creative traction for your team and increase future capacity. For leaders, these include activities such as clarifying objectives and encouraging your team members. Are you taking time every single day to do the small things that make a big difference?

Activities that feed your energy, such as adequate sleep, exercise, or spiritual practice. These are most often neglected during busy or stressful times. You must take care of yourself. Which activities do you need to focus on during this season to ensure that you are prepared for the uncertainty and challenges you will face?

Your “red zone” activities are likely to be made up of some combination of these qualities. Take some time this week to consider what activities you are uniquely positioned to engage in, and that – if done daily – will generate significant momentum in your life and work.

The most accomplished people aren’t always the smartest or the most talented. Rather, they are the ones who do small, important things every single day for long periods of time. They succeed in the red zone.

This episode is sponsored by Skillshare. Explore your creativity and two free months of Premium Membership at Skillshare.com/AC.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Jul 21 2020

17mins

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How To Channel Your Attention

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Focus is the most valuable tool you have as a creative professional. How you define problems, and then allocate attention to them, will often determine your success or failure. However, many organizations allow significant “attentional drains” to infiltrate their culture and rob team members of much needed mental bandwidth. On this episode, we share three valuable strategies from the book Herding Tigers for building attentional buffers to protect the bandwidth of your team, and a few ways to talk to your manager about protecting your own attentional bandwidth.

This episode is sponsored by Literati, the subscription book club that makes it easy to find unique and interesting books for your kids. For a limited time, go to Literati.com/creative for 25% off your first two orders.

Jul 16 2020

17mins

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Why Rituals Matter In Life and Work

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This week’s episode is about the impotance of rituals. You make your rituals, then your rituals make you.

What is the first thing you do in the morning? The last thing you do at night? Your first action when taking on a new project? Your impulse when receiving good (or bad) news?

If you asked those questions to many highly productive people, they’ll have immediate answers. Not because they are micro-obsessive about their schedules, but because over time they’ve developed predictable rituals around key areas of their life and work. Over time, they’ve learned that the messiness of creative work requires a supportive structure, lest everything devolve into chaos. 

According to Orson Welles, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” Rituals provide necessary limitation on your focus, time, and energy so that you can delve deeply into the disorder of creative problem solving.

Rituals are important for several reasons. First, they provide solid ground when facing the uncertainty of your daily work. A ritual is like a bucket you can fill over and over again rather than trying to decide which bucket you should use. A good, solid set of rituals provide context for your work so that you can spend the majority of your energy focusing on the problems you’re trying to solve.

Second, rituals help you forge healthy habits. When you return to the same ritual over and over, you are reinforcing the kinds of behavior you want to see manifested in your life and work, which creates a kind of infrastructure or supporting scaffolding for your creative process. Be mindless about the non-essentials so you can be mindful about the essentials.

Finally, ritual helps you achieve flow in your work. Just like your body adapts to a regular bedtime and a predictable sleep ritual, your mind will also learn to settle into regular rhythms and rituals related to your work. If you always focus on specific activities at certain times of the day, or if you dedicate blocks of time and energy for your ritual, you are far more likely to settle into a state of immersion in your work.

You make your rituals, then your rituals make you.

Here are a few rituals that have served me well over time:

– The first thing I do when I wake in the morning is prep my coffee and breakfast – the same thing every day, by the way – and spend an hour reading, thinking, and writing. It’s become such a ritual that it’s now a habit. Most of my best ideas for my work come out of this time. I couldn’t function without it.

So, how do you begin your day? Maybe your ritual includes immediately putting on your running shoes and getting in a workout. Maybe it’s sitting in your favorite chair and meditating with a cup of coffee. Maybe it’s hitting the floor and doing ten pushups before you leave your bedroom. Having some structure to the start of your day immediately sends a signal to your mind that it’s time to get moving. It helps demarcate your time, especially when so many of us are living and working in the same space.

– I listen to the same music over and over when I’m writing. In fact, I’ve written all of my books while listening to Ambient Music Therapy’s Deep Meditation Experience. When that album kicks on, my brain knows it’s time to start writing. I also light a candle when I write and only when I write. Again, it’s a small ritual that signals that this is deep, important work and that this moment is important.

What small things can you ritualize to infuse meaning into the mundane tasks you engage in every day? It could be sitting in a certain chair when you do a specific kind of work, or using a certain pen only when you are brainstorming. It’s up to you. The value of a ritual is the meaning that it creates in your life and workflow, and it doesn’t matter if anyone else thinks you’re crazy for it.

– When I’ve signed all of my book deals (including the most recent one, which releases in October) I eat a packet of Ramen noodles for lunch. Why? Because I remember a time in my early adult life – now more than 25 years ago – when having $100 in my bank account at the end of the month meant I felt flush with cash. I always want to remind myself to stay lean, focused, and hungry, and this ritual roots me in a place thankfulness and gratitude. (Then… I go celebrate the book deal with my family!) It’s a small act that re-roots me in my mission, in where I came from, and in what really matters. I’m grateful to do the work that I love, and I want to stay humble and grounded in both good times and bad. 

What small ritual of meaning can you build into your life right now to remind you of what matters most? So many things are being stripped from us as we endure this pandemic, and simply grounding yourself in small acts of ritual and rootedness can remind you of what you’re really trying to do. 

These are just a few of the sorts of rituals I’ve found helpful in my life and work. They ground me in what’s important, ensure that I have time and energy for what I care about, and help me create space in the margins of my (very) busy life.

Ritual roots us in what really matters. Spend some time this week thinking about a few rituals and practices that you can engrain in your days to help provide structure, meaning, and purpose. 

This episode is sponsored by Indeed. Try Indeed out with a free seventy-five dollar credit to boost your job post at Indeed.com/creative.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Jul 13 2020

17mins

Play

Bravery In The Workplace

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This is part four of a series on everyday bravery.

If there is one place where bravery is most needed (and often most lacking) it’s in the workplace. Brave people create brave workplaces, and brave workplaces ultimately change the world around them. However, in order for a culture to operate by principles of bravery, individuals must be willing to engage in brave actions every day.

Here are a few principles for engaging bravely in your workplace:

Own your words and actions. ​Be an individual with a backbone. If you say or do something, accept the consequences, whether good or bad, for your choices. Never throw a teammate under the bus.

Taking accountability for your actions does a few things. First, it signals to others that they can trust you to shoulder responsibility, and to do the right thing. This is no small matter. If others sense that you’re playing games and that your primary interest is in protecting yourself and your reputation above actually performing, they will tolerate you but will never trust you. Second, it removes the stigma of falling short. If we are doing difficult things, we are going to fail occasionally. A workplace culture in which nothing difficult is attempted requires no bravery. Only teams on a mission to do difficult things need to be brave. Taking accountability for poor results, and attempting to fix them, is a signal of authenticity and courage, and it pushes others to do the same. This is the essence of good leadership. We can never tolerate blame shifting.  

Is there something you need to take accountability for today?

Encourage​.This literally means to “put courage into” others. Brave people embolden the people around them, speak words of affirmation to them, and cheer them on to be their best. They are not threatened by the successes of others. 

Cowards hold back encouragement because they believe that life is a zero-sum game, and that if someone else gets attention for something it will only tarnish their own standing with the group. However, brave people willingly and truthfully put courage into others, recognizing that we need one another in order to succeed. Brave people are outward focused. Cowards are obsessed with themselves and their own needs and feelings. 

Who can you encourage today? Be proactive about putting courage into others. 

Embrace personal growth, even when you look foolish.​Some people fear trying new things, learning new skills, or tackling new kinds of projects because they fear that if they fail they will be “found out”. Brave people know that occasional failure is simply a part of doing hard things.

To grow, you have to stretch yourself to the point of failure. Now, you have to balance this with wisdom, meaning that you shouldn’t attempt things that are obviously well beyond your present ability. (Just because I’ve climbed rocks in an indoor, controlled facility doesn’t mean I’m ready to free climb half-dome.) Intentionally stretch yourself, have uncomfortable but necessary conversations, and push yourself to learn new skills even when you will appear foolish to those around you for a while.

What do you need to do in order to grow yourself?

Share your ideas, even when they aren’t received.​You cannot control whether someone else likes your ideas, but you can control whether or not you share them. The regret over inaction is too high a price to pay. If you are in a meeting and you have an intuition that something might work, share it. Share your insights with a peer who is struggling with a difficult problem. So many brilliant breakthroughs are lost because someone was too afraid to share what they were seeing with the rest of the group. Yes, you might be rejected. Yes, it might actually be a bad idea. But, your small insight might be the key to unlocking a bigger insight within the group.

What idea have you been holding onto that you need to bravely share with your team?

Refuse to compromise your values, even when it costs you something.​ Had there been more brave people, fiascos like Theranos, Enron, and the Great Recession could have been averted or greatly mitigated. Brave people do what’s right, even when it might cost them everything they’ve worked for.

Do you know what you stand for? I dedicated the last chapter of Herding Tigers to helping leaders develop a set of guiding principles for their life and work. You must have some framework that guides your decisions, beyond what feels good in the moment. Cowards go with their gut, but brave people are guided by framing principles.

What principles will you stand for, even if it means temporarily losing your livelihood?

Compete for purposes of cause, not for comfort. C​owards climb the ladder because of what it brings them in terms of comfort and accolades. Brave people are driven by principles and cause. Competition is healthy, but it’s easy to get lost in competition at the expense of the greater cause that you’re pursuing. Spend your finite energy on something that will last. Promotions, awards, and accolades are going to quickly fade, but the impact you have on the world around you – including your teammates – will echo for years to come. Don’t build monuments to yourself. Make echoes in the lives of others.

In what ways are you competing right now, and are they about advancing a cause or gaining personal comfort and accolades?

Brave people build brave workplaces, and brave workplaces change the world. Be brave today, friends. Know what you stand for, spend yourself on what matters, take accountability for your actions, and pour yourself courageously into your work. 

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

This episode is sponsored by Skillshare. Explore your creativity and two free months of Premium Membership at Skillshare.com/AC.

Jun 30 2020

16mins

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Qualities of Brave Leadership

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This week’s episode of The Accidental Creative Podcast is about the qualities that brave leaders exhibit.

As I mentioned a few episodes ago, if I had to choose one gift to impart upon every person I meet – one master key that unlocks their potential – it would be bravery. We need radical bravery in our workplaces, our schools, our neighborhoods, and – God help us – in our politics. If more people committed to making brave choices daily, we would see stronger, more effective teams, less corruption, less unhealthy conflict, and more progress on the societal issues that truly matter.

Organizations need leaders committed to cultivating a culture of bravery, and who themselves are making brave choices in the face of uncertainty. The marketplace needs more business owners who are willing to step up and do the right thing for their employees and their communities, even at the risk of personal cost. And, society needs more people to cultivate brave, empathetic relationships with people who think differently from them.

More than almost any other place, our workplaces need brave leaders. We need people who are committed to standing in the gap, protecting their people, and fighting for the mission of the organization even at personal expense. 

Here are a few principles that brave leaders abide by:

Brave leaders assume accountability for their actions. Many leaders revel in the glory that comes with success, but brave leaders are also willing to put themselves on the line and be accountable when their actions fail. Many are familiar with Dwight Eisenhower’s letter to the Allied troops on the eve of the D-Day invasion in June 1944. It begins, “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.” Inspiring leadership, for sure. However, fewer people are aware that Eisenhower wrote a second letter, only to be delivered in the event of an unsuccessful landing.

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

Brave leaders are willing to accept responsibility for their actions, including their failures. Are you avoiding accountability for your actions, or pointing fingers at others when you fall short?

Brave leaders have the uncomfortable conversation.​ It’s far easier to avoid difficult chats with direct reports, but brave leaders recognize that it’s more important to be effective than to be liked. It’s never comfortable to discuss performance issues, to deliver uncomfortable news, or to challenge someone’s attitude, but these are the kinds of conversations that brave leaders (cautiously and wisely) step into because they know that their position demands it. Is there an uncomfortable conversation you need to have, but have been avoiding? 

Brave leader speak truth to power. ​As a leader, you must be willing to defend important principles when you perceive they are being “ground up” in the organizational gears. Cowards “go with the flow”, especially when  speaking up might mean losing their organizational standing, but brave leaders are willing to abide by their principles even at personal cost. As my friend riCardo Crespo often says, “you can’t lie to the person in the mirror.” Brave leaders can look themselves in the face every day knowing that they are living out their principles and standing up for what they believe to be proper and just. What principles are you willing to defend, even if it affects your reputation or position?

Brave leaders put their resources where their mouth is.Cowards say bold things, but are always hedging their bets. Brave leaders are willing to put themselves on the line by resourcing the initiatives they believe to be best for the organization and the people it serves. If you aren’t putting resources behind what you say you care about, your words are hollow. Fund the project. Make the hire. Dedicate the hours. Whatever it takes, make sure that you are putting your position and influence behind the initiatives you tell your team are important. What initiative do you need to put resources behind in order to facilitate progress?

Brave leaders give their job away. ​Insecure leaders fear that someone will take their place. Brave leaders recognize that their job is to reproduce themselves in others and train others up to shoulder organizational responsibility. Encourage, teach, and empower others. Listen more than you speak. Learn from the people on your team. Allow them to take the reins rather than controlling them. Set principles and guidelines, but allow your team the freedom to bring their own perspective to the work. Is your insecurity leading to a need to control the work?

Uncertain times call for brave leaders. Today, be the brave leader that your team, your community, and your family needs. 

This episode is sponsored by Skillshare. Explore your creativity and two free months of Premium Membership at Skillshare.com/AC.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Jun 09 2020

16mins

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Bravery vs. Cowardice (part 2)

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This is the second episode of a series on the importance of bravery. Just to re-cap, in the last episode I gave this definition of bravery:

Bravery exists whenever someone a person engages in right action at the potential expense of their own comfort.​ Cowardice, on the other hand, exists when someone chooses self-protection at the expense of right action. It is possible to appear brave to others while actually behaving in a cowardly way, or to appear a coward to others while doing the brave thing. 

In order for something to be considered an act of bravery, it must be sourced in the desire to do what’s right even at the risk of personal cost. Which begs the question: how do you decide what’s ​right?​

On this episode, I want to share a few distinctions between everyday bravery and cowardice, then on upcoming episodes I’m going to share the specifics of what this means, especially in a work context.

Understand that every single person at times exhibits remarkable bravery, and also cowardice. This isn’t something we all get right a hundred percent of the time. However, we all have the ability to choose our response to our circumstances, and simply stopping to consider what “right action in the face of discomfort” means can help parse brave action from cowardice.

So, here are a few qualities of brave people versus cowards, and how they play out in work and life:

Brave people are protective, cowards exploit.​ If your actions are to protect someone or something vulnerable, whether a person or ideal, then there’s a good chance it’s right action. However, if your intent is to take advantage of someone or to deprive them of something they might otherwise enjoy, it’s certainly not. Now, please understand that I’m not talking about marketplace competition. When we compete in the marketplace, we agree to certain rules, one of which is that someone will likely lose the competition. I’m talking about leveraging advantages to exploit those who don’t even know they are being exploited. That’s the definition of cowardice, because it’s hidden action that if revealed would look really bad. Are you exploiting others?

Brave people reveal truth at the right time, cowards conceal it.​ Brave people know that the truth is never really a threat, but even if it costs them their livelihood or relationship, the cost of inaction is simply too vast to take the easy way out. This gets to the issue of character. A willingness to face the truth is critical if we want to exhibit everyday bravery. Is there any place where you are hiding from or concealing the truth? 

Brave people consider context and scale, cowards think right now. ​The brave choice is the one that takes into account nuance and context, is empathetic, and scales in a positive way. Cowardly action is only concerned with immediate consequences. My actions today have resonant consequences tomorrow, and next month, and next year. Brave people think about those consequences, not just getting what they can while they can. Are you thinking about the downstream consequences of your actions? 

Brave people are principle-driven, cowards go with their gut.​ Brave people have a framework for making decisions that is so ingrained that their actions in the face of adversity are almost automatic. Cowards just “wing it” and do whatever feels best in the moment. Do you have a framework for making decisions, or a set of principles that guides your behavior? In Herding Tigers, I offered a framework for developing one as a leader, which is essential so that your team knows where you stand and can follow you with confidence. What are your guiding principles?

Brave people face consequences, cowards blame others.​ Brave people are willing to be known by their choices, and are willing to face the consequences of their actions, whether good or bad. On the eve of the D-Day invasion, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower wrote two letters. The first praised the brave men who stormed the beaches of Normandy and credited them for a heroic victory that signaled the turning of World War Two. The other, only to be issued in the event of a failed invasion, praised the bravery of the men who stormed the beaches but also took full responsibility for the failure. He stated that all blame rested on his shoulders alone. That is the definition of good leadership. Are you shifting blame, or assuming responsibility? 

Brave people initiate, cowards just allow life to happen to them.​ Those who choose bravery know that it often means being the first-mover, when others are scared to do so. It means initiating reconciliation in a relationship. Being the first to start a venture. Being the first into the water. Where do you need to initiate rather than just letting life happen to you? 

Brave people listen, cowards want to be heard.​ Brave people are not threatened by differing opinions. Brave leaders know that brilliance if forged in the cauldron of creative conflict. We must listen to others, especially if they disagree with us, so that we can empathize and better understand how to move forward together. Cowards posture and talk over others rather than listening to their point of view. Are you open to opinions that differ from yours?

Brave people follow-through, cowards hedge. ​Those who choose the brave path know that it means seeing things through to the end, even when it gets uncomfortable. Cowards might be eager to jump in, but abandon their effort when it costs them something. Starting something is easy, but seeing it through requires bravery. Where are you tempted to quit because things are getting difficult, and what will it take for you to follow-through?

I hope that these principles help you parse your responses this week and take steps toward bravery over cowardice. Choose right action, even in the face of discomfort. Be brave, friends. 

This episode is brought to you by Hoefler&Co, online at typography.com. Right now, as an Accidental Creative listener, you can save 15% on your next font order by using the code “accidental” at checkout, when you visit typography.com/accidental.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Jun 01 2020

18mins

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Fear Of Missing Out (with Patrick McGinnis)

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Is the grass truly greener on the other side of the fence? Many creative pros spend their career wondering if there is a better path for them, or whether they’re missing out on something that everyone else knows about. This can result in hopping from job to job, or never really fully embracing the opportunities in front of you because you’re always “hedging your bets” and looking for a better option. Patrick McGinnis coined the phrase Fear Of Missing Out in a college paper several years ago, and he’s just released a book by the same title to help us work through our anxiety about forgoing opportunities.

Here are a few key ideas to help us avoid FOMO:

Move Toward, Not Away From

I’ve had many conversations with people who never seem to be satisfied with their job. They hop from company to company thinking that there has to be some place that will better mesh with what they’re looking for. The problem is that these people are often chasing vapor. They are perpetually moving away from something they dislike, not something they aspire toward. People who thrive learn to move toward their ambitions and goals, not just away from discomfort.

Is there any area of your life or career where you are simply moving away from discomfort rather than toward your goals?

Be Decisive

Another hallmark of thriving professionals is that they are willing to be decisive in the face of uncertainty. That doesn’t mean that they make foolish or rash decisions, however they don’t wait for absolute certainty before moving forward. Instead, they make decisions with the best information they have knowing that if they make a mistake they can typically navigate back on course.

Is there an area where you are paralyzed because you are being indecisive? What decision do you need to make?

Don’t Compare, Except To Improve

There are two kinds of comparison, and one is harmful and one is beneficial. The beneficial kind of comparison is when we look at someone else’s performance in order to gain insights into how we can improve our own skills. By studying those who are great at their craft, we can see where we are deficient and establish a course of action to help us improve. The harmful kind of comparison is when we become envious about what someone else has, or fear that we are being “robbed” of opportunity because another person possesses something that we want. This can lead to bitterness, self-destruction, and eventual hopelessness.

Compare yourself to others in order to improve, not to stew about what you’re missing out on.

Don’t worry about what’s “out there”. Be present this week and tackle the opportunities in front of you.

This episode is brought to you by Hoefler&Co, online at typography.com. Right now, as an Accidental Creative listener, you can save 15% on your next font order by using the code “accidental” at checkout, when you visit typography.com/accidental.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

May 28 2020

23mins

Play

The Hero Myth

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If I had to choose one gift to impart upon every person I meet – one master key that unlocks their potential – it would be bravery. We need radical bravery in our workplaces, our schools, our neighborhoods, and – God help us – in our politics. If more people committed to making brave choices daily, we would see stronger, more effective teams, less corruption, less unhealthy conflict, and more progress on the societal issues that truly matter.

Organizations need leaders committed to cultivating a culture of bravery, and who themselves are making brave choices in the face of uncertainty. The marketplace needs more business owners who are willing to step up and do the right thing for their employees and their communities, even at the risk of personal cost. And, society needs more people to cultivate brave, empathetic relationships with people who think differently from them.

My ambition with this manifesto is to inspire an epidemic of everyday bravery both in and out of the workplace.

Bravery Is Not What You Think

To begin, we need a good definition of what bravery actually ​is​. Most of our cultural reference points for bravery involve heroic actions like storming a beach, risking everything on an unlikely business deal, or casting caution to the wind on a massive career change.

Yes, those actions ​can​ be brave, but the call to bravery is not just about mustering courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

Bravery exists whenever someone a person engages in right action at the potential expense of their own comfort.​ Cowardice, on the other hand, exists when someone chooses self-protection at the expense of right action. It is possible to appear brave to others while actually behaving in a cowardly way, or to appear a coward to others while doing the brave thing. Others may not always know your internal considerations, and may filter your actions through their own biases.

Bravery exists in an environment of high agency, and high optimism.​ When there is a lack of either agency (belief that individual actions can make a difference) or optimism (there’s a possible better future), the environment is ripe for potential cowardice.

Leaders can help cultivate a culture of brave action by focusing on increasing both the level of perceived individual agency (by giving permission to speak and act), and the sense that a better future is possible for employees and for the organization as a whole (by tying decisions and actions back to core operating principles.)

What bravery is:
Bravery is doing the right thing, as best you know it, even when it’s the uncomfortable thing.​ It’s needed now more than ever in the marketplace, in the political realm, and in our schools and neighborhoods. Most bravery in the world is exhibited in small, everyday actions, not big efforts.

Bravery is a choice, not a trait.​ People who choose to do the right thing in the face of personal cost are choosing to sacrifice their life and comfort for a better future. They are not superhuman. They are perhaps the most ​fully​ human.

Bravery is always empathetic.​ It’s about the other, not about yourself. The other might be a person or a core principle, but the brave person is always looking outward when deciding. The coward looks inward and to his own interests.

Bravery is action in spite of fear.​ People who act bravely feel fear and insecurity as much as everyone else. It’s just that they choose cause over comfort.

Bravery is willingness to fail in the pursuit of what matters. T​ hose who choose bravery recognize the risks, and proceed because they are driven by deeper principles.

What bravery is not:
Bravery is not stupid risk.​ A brave person counts the cost, and decides to act because the cost of inaction is simply too vast to bear.

Bravery is not bravado. M​ any people (especially some politicians) love to put bluster ahead of action. However, brave people do not feel the need to posture. Instead, they allow their actions to speak for themselves. They are fine being misunderstood, and even unliked if that’s the cost of right action.

Bravery is not for a select few. ​There are opportunities to be brave everywhere and every day. The need for bravery is in the workplace, in the home, in relationships, in neighborhoods, and everywhere humans interface.

Bravery is not impulsive. W​hile brave actions often happen in a flash, the source of those actions are deeply-held beliefs about right and wrong, and a vision for a better future. Brave people are realistic optimists.

Be brave today, friends. Choose cause over comfort. Have the conversation. Make the thing. Dare to be a realistic optimist.

This episode is sponsored by Lightstream, who believes that people with good credit deserve a better loan experience. Learn more at Lightstream.com/accidental.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

May 25 2020

16mins

Play

Protecting Your Mindset During This Season

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The biggest challenge that we’re facing right now as creative pros is not necessarily economic or physical, it’s psychological.

I believe that those who come through this season not only having survived, but ready to thrive, will be those who are able to adopt a mindset that is realistic yet focused on possibilities and not limitations. Yes, current circumstances are hitting everyone in different ways and are much more challenging for some than others. And, I want us to focus today on a few beliefs that I find creeping into the mindset of many people I’m chatting with these days, and hopefully identify them and learn to counter them before they rob us of our focus, our goals, and our sense of curiosity and possibility. 

I’m tired of not being tired.

That sounds like a strange thing, no? But really, it’s very normal and natural.

As humans, we are wired for rhythm, which means that we thrive in cycles of tension and release. One of the dynamics that’s been causing grief among many friends and peers that I’ve been chatting with is that all of our days seem to run together. Every day is very similar to the last. There is no rhythm, no tension and release, no ups and downs.

As a result, I want to challenge all of us to consider a few “lies” that I’ve been believing – or allowing to limit my thought process and approach to this season – and see if perhaps they might be affecting you as well. 

Everything is subtraction.

This is a phrase I used with a friend who asked how things were going. What I meant was that, unlike in normal times, in the midst of this pandemic there is little opportunity for adding anything new and good to life. Instead, it’s mostly just subtraction. Good things are being taken away without the opportunity to add new things to the mix.

This is a lie, but not obviously so. In fact, this is very much what it feels like. For example, in the core part of my business, which is traveling and working with clients and speaking to groups, I’ve only experienced the removal of opportunity, but not the possibility of new ones. In normal times, even when things were dry there was always the possibility of something good just around the corner. Now, it’s just subtraction.

However, if I step back and look more holistically at life, it’s easy to see why this is a lie. So many wonderful things have been added to my life in the midst of this time that I didn’t even realize I was missing. We’ve been having very long family dinners each day where we get to re-connect with our kids without the rush of “I need to get to my homework.” My wife and I have been taking long walks in the evening. We’ve been able to connect with friends via virtual happy hours in a way that we just didn’t when everyone had so much going on. 

So, when I say “everything is subtraction”, I really mean that only in a business sense. If I were to look at life as a whole, there have been many opportunities and gifts during this season. Yes, it’s hard, and I hope it ends as quickly as possible, and it’s certainly taking more of a toll on some than others, but it’s important that we be able to step back and consider the entire set of our experiences, and not just the painful ones.

Where have you seen some semblance of good in the midst of this time? Spend a bit of time reflecting on it, even writing a few paragraphs about it, and see if you can find something to be grateful for even in these difficult times.

This is the new normal

We hear this all the time in the media, so much so that I’ve largely stopped paying attention to what they’re saying. There is no such thing as “the new normal”. Throughout history, humans have had to endure seasons of hardship and adaptation. Our great grandparents had to walk through a global depression, both world wars, multiple economic collapses, political revolutions, and much more. Each time, they didn’t say “well, I guess this is the new normal… we’ll be at war forever.” Yes, those events shaped them and changed their worldview, but it wasn’t like they emerged into a completely new way of living. They adapted and moved on. They innovated. 

We will do the same. There are many people who make a living from preying on your fears and planting seeds of mistrust and worry. Don’t let them do it.

Own your mind. Protect it. Don’t allow others to warp and twist and distort your perspective. The only “new normal” is the one that we will make out of this. This is a season, and someday we will look back and say “Remember when we all had to social distance for a while? That was weird.” 

Neither of these lies are helpful to you. They only serve to limit your ability to be present here and now, to leverage and take advantage of opportunities that are right in front of you, and to rob you of your very life. 

James Stockdale was a Navy Admiral and the most high profile prisoner in what later became dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner of war camp in Vietnam. He once stated that the POW captives who survived their experiences weren’t the optimists. Most of the optimists died. And, it wasn’t the pessimists. They died too. Instead, it was the realists. Those who survived were those who were able to be realistic about the difficulty of their present circumstances, but who also maintained hope for a better future. 

It is possible to be both realistic and optimistic at the same time. It’s a difficult time, and it may get even more difficult before it gets better. It’s important during this time to maintain a clear head, to acknowledge the challenges, and also to maintain a sense of hope in the midst of it all. 

Set small goals and hit them. In The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile demonstrated the importance of small, consistent progress for maintaining momentum and engagement. Don’t aim for big goals right now. Hit the goals you set.

Engage in unnecessary creating. Make something just for yourself. I’m working on an album of new music, just for me and my family.

Take time to connect with others. Find ways to help them and support them. Get outside of yourself. 

Most of all, don’t buy into the lies that will keep you trapped in a place of stasis and inflexibility. Stay curious, stay hopeful, stay realistic.

This episode is sponsored by Literati. For a limited time, go to Literati.com/creative and get 25% off your first two orders.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

May 19 2020

18mins

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Avoiding The Advice Trap (with Michael Bungay Stanier)

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This week’s Accidental Creative podcast features Michael Bungay Stanier discussing his book The Advice Trap.

Have you ever been in a situation where someone offered unsolicited advice?

Let me tell you what you need to do…”

How did it feel? If you’re like me, you were probably grateful that they wanted to help, but it put you in the awkward position of either refusing their advice or, if they were your manager, acting on it just to avoid offending them in spite of your better instincts.

It’s tempting to fall into the “advice trap”, which is when we lead with advice-giving instead of pausing to listen to the other person, to consider what they really need, and to ask questions that help them arrive at the answer on their own. Not only is this a better way to ensure that we are truly helping the other person, but it’s also the best way to help them learn to solve problems on their own. Here are a few things I took away from my chat with Michael:

Lead With Curiosity

Ask a lot of questions. You should lead with your curiosity, not your advice. By asking a lot of questions, you will not only better understand what’s truly going on, but you will also help the other person learn to think through their problems in a more guided way. This is how a great manager (or peer) can build into team members in a lasting manner.

Ask questions first, and let the other person sort through the problem in conversation with you.

Release The Control

One of the biggest temptations of a manager is to clamp down and attempt to control the output of the team. Brilliant, driven creative pros need freedom to think for themselves and to try new methods for accomplishing their work. When you control your team, the work shrinks until it’s only as big as your personal sphere of attention can bear. Instead, you should aim to allow your team freedom to operate within clear principles and boundaries that guide their decisions.

Lead with influence, not control.

Give Empathetic Advice

The worst advice is always the “if I were you, this is what I’d do” type. Why? Because you are filtering your advice through your own lens, not the world of the other person. Instead, when you do give advice first put yourself in the other person’s position and try to imagine how it would feel to be in their shoes. How might their feelings and concerns differ from what you’d be experiencing if you were in their situation?

Before giving advice, imagine that you’re in the other person’s situtation.

Once you learn to temper the “advice monster”, you’ll become the manager (or the peer) that everyone wants to work with.

This episode is sponsored by Skillshare. Explore your creativity and two free months of Premium Membership at Skillshare.com/AC.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

May 12 2020

28mins

Play

Think Like A Rocket Scientist (with Ozan Varol)

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Albert Einstein once wrote “The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them.” In order to go to new places in life and work, we need to expand our thinking beyond the confines of our assumptions.

But how do we do that?

This week’s podcast episode features Ozan Varol, who has just released a book called Think Like A Rocket Scientist. In it, he articulates several strategies for breaking through assumptive ruts and taking your work to a new level. Here are a few of my takeaways from the conversation:

You Must Question Your Assumptions

In the past, I’ve frustrated many managers and peers for my annoying tendency to ask lots of “why?” questions. I’ve never been able to simply accept the way things are, and that can be very inconvenient when you’re trying to make quick progress on a project. However, this tendency has also served me well, because it’s frequently allowed me to circumvent norms that are preventing others from seeing possibilities.

As you think about your current situation, your work, your life goals, what you are pursuing, are there assumptions that need to be challenged? They are often guidelines that have been in place for a number of years, or industry norms that others assume are hard and fast rules. Spend a bit of time this week challenging an assumption or two, and see where your thoughts lead you. Ask “What if…?”

Return To First Principles

Over time, it’s easy to get distracted with tactics and to forget what you’re actually trying to do. In the interview, Ozan shared the story of Steve Martin, who challenged the very conventions of what it means to be a comedian. In traditional comedy, the comedian will create tension and then relieve it by delivering a punchline, hopefully generating a laugh. Martin, however, wasn’t distracted by the tactics, and instead realized that the first principle was simply to make people laugh. He would create tension, but not relieve it with a punchline. At first, critics were apalled by his strategy, but audiences warmed up to it, and he became one of the most popular acts in the world, selling out arenas wherever he performed.

What are the first principles of your work? What are you really trying to do, and how can you return to them and develop new tactics for accomplishing your goals?

Have A Moonshot

Right now, many people are simply focused on survival. I understand this necessity. However, I also think this is the perfect time to begin working on your personal “moonshot”, or the idea so big that no one else would dare try to compete with you. Physicist Max Planck once said, “At the initial stages of idea formation, the pure rationalist has no place.” Many of the world’s greatest accomplishments were met with skepticism and scorn at their inception, only to be accepted later.

What is your personal moonshot? What could you aim for that seems scarily big to you, but that would completely change the trajectory of your life and work?

To make progress on the other side of the pandemic, we will need to think in new ways. I hope this interview and Ozan’s book will expand your perspective and grant you a renewed enthusiasm for what’s possible.

This episode is sponsored by Lightstream. Apply today to get a special interest rate at LightStream.com/accidental.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Apr 30 2020

25mins

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A Beautiful Anarchy (with David duChemin)

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This week’s podcast episode features David duChemin talking about his book and podcast A Beautiful Anarchy.

When most of us tell the story of our career journey, it’s often a very linear tale. “And then, I left that job and took this one. Then, I decided to step away for a bit and start something new. Then, I took a role with a marketing firm.” However, the reality is much more complex.

Most of our lives and our career journeys are much more circuitous in nature. My friend Mitch Joel calls it “the squiggly path”, meaning that it veers left and right and doesn’t seem to have a rhyme or reason looking forward, but looking back it all begins to make sense.

My career path was definitely “squiggly”. As I discuss with David duChemin in this week’s episode about his book and podcast A Beautiful Anarchy, twenty years ago I could never have imagined the career I’m in now. However, looking back, the clues were there all along. (There weren’t many early-twenty-something musicians dragging personal development books along to gigs or tracking creative productivity in notebooks…)

Careers Usually Only Make Sense Looking Backward

There are two dynamics present early in your career: (1) there are clues all around you as to what you might be great at and enjoy, and (2) you lack the wisdom, self-knowledge, and foresight to be able to put those clues together. So as you move forward, you do your best to navigate according to what you know. Many people eventually figure out the pieces some time in their early to mid thirties, and are able to begin assembling a life and career that brings more meaning and opportunity to contribute. However, by that point many people are often more encumbered by things like mortgages and family responsibilities, making shifting a career more of a challenge.

If you find yourself in a place where you might be ready for a change, I challenge you to take a hard look at the clues in your past successes and try to identify any patterns that stand out to you. Where were you (a) fully competent, (b) deeply driven, and (c) well-received by others? That’s the very definition of a “sweet spot”.

You Need To Bring Stakeholders Along

In any career or life move, you must ensure that your stakeholders are fully considered. The general rule of thumb for family decisions is that the least risk averse person gets to determine the threshold for action. In other words, if one person is ready to leap, but the other says “we need six months of savings in the bank first”, the more risk-averse person gets to call the shots. That way, everyone feels good about the move.

Are there any stakeholders you need to include in your planning? Are they aware of your present thinking?

Be Responsive, Not Reactive

Many people are reacting to the present circumstances without fully absorbing the implications of their actions. In any stressful moment, I find it best to take a pause, consider everything that’s happening, consider the all of the possible consequences of my actions (first, second, and potential third order consequences), consider my values, and then act in a meaningful way. I find that by taking this approach, I am much less likely to jump into something I’ll regret later. Be responsive, not reactive.

As you consider all of the effects of our present situation on your life and work, where are you tempted to react instead of meaningfully responding? Take some time to pause, to reflect on the consequences, to consider your values, then to craft a strategic plan of action that moves you forward.

Embrace the beautiful anarchy that is a life well-lived and work well-crafted. Use this time we all have to respond to your circumstances, to strategize, and to embrace the possibility of what awaits on the other side.

This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks . See how Freshbooks can save you time and boost your creativity at Freshbooks.com/Accidental.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Apr 27 2020

28mins

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Chopped, Creativity, and (Not) Thinking Big (with Dave Noll)

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Dave Noll and his business partner are the creators of the hit TV series Chopped, as well as a number of other popular television programs. Every day they bounce ideas off of one another, combining themes and smashing old concepts together to form new possible programs.

In our conversation, Dave and I engaged in a little “idea bouncing” as well. Here are a few of the practical tips that emerged in our chat:

Keep A Queue Of Old Ideas

When you engage in a project, you probably end up with a lot of discarded ideas that didn’t quite work out. What happens to those ideas? Many people simply discard them on the trash heap and start fresh with the next project. However, it’s wise to keep a queue of these old, but not quite right ideas. Keep them in a notebook, or on index cards, or someplace where you can browse them later. Often, an idea that’s not right now is the perfect idea for a later project, but you would never have remembered it unless you had a system to help you do so.

At the completion of each project, transfer the ideas or hunches that didn’t work out to a queue, and review it regularly so that you keep those ideas top of mind.

Don’t Think Big. Think Bigger.

In the interview, Dave told the story of pitching a “dream scenario” show to Barry Diller, the iconic TV executive, only to have him toss it back in his face as being too small. Dave said he learned that no matter how big you think, there is always someone who will think bigger. You’d might as well aim as high as you can with your career and decisions, because if you don’t, one of your competitors certainly will.

Will Smith didn’t want to be a movie star, he wanted to be the biggest movie star in the world. As you think about your life and your career, where are you playing too small? Where are you settling for what you can get instead of dreaming about possibility?

Consider New Media, New Formats

Given the economic shakeup caused by the pandemic, it’s time for many of us to reconsider how we are delivering our ideas to market. Dave and his business partner, having only made TV shows in the past, have just launched their first ever podcast called Factorious. While they certainly could simply focus on making TV shows, they decided to explore a new medium that would offer a different kind of challenge as well as the ability to reach a new audience with their work.

As you think about the work you do, how could you re-package or re-position it to reach a new audience? Is there a way to add a new form of media to the mix? A different distribution channel?

I found this conversation with Dave to be both inspiring and a lot of fun. It sparked some great ideas for how to take my business to a new place. As we deal with the current health and economic crisis, this is a great time to begin dreaming again about what might be possible for you on the other side.

This episode is sponsored by Literati. For a limited time, go to Literati.com/creative and get 25% off your first two orders.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Apr 21 2020

38mins

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The Upside of Being Down (with Jen Gotch)

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On this week’s episode, Jen Gotch shares insights from her new book The Upside of Being Down.

To state the obvious, we are all learning to adjust to a new way of living.

Humans are not wired to live in long, sustained periods of isolation or social distancing, and we are having to adapt to new ways of working together, being creative, and living our lives. With all of these new dynamics, it’s importat to be open about mental health and the struggles that accompany long periods of uncertainty. Jen Gotch is the perfect person to help us think through how to navigate these difficult times. Her new book, a memoir, is called The Upside Of Being Down, and shares her personal journey in life and business while dealing with the impact of anxiety and depression.

There are three big insights that I took from the conversation that are shaping how I’m thinking about the coming weeks and months.

Progress Over Perfection

It is very important to break big ambitions into smaller, measurable wins, especially when we don’t have access to all of the resources we normally lean on. In her book The Progress Principle, Teresa Amibile wrote “Our research inside companies revealed that the best way to motivate people, day in and day out, is by facilitating progress—even small wins.” Psychologically, small wins are a huge boost to overall motivation and a sense of purpose and direction in life and work.

As Jen said in our interview, realness is so much more interesting than perfection.

How will you measure progress this week? What small wins will you choose to mark success?

Unnecessary Creating Is Deep Therapy

In The Accidental Creative, I shared a practice that I call unnecessary creating. It means to engage routinely in making things that no one is paying you for, and that are not a part of your job. It can range from launching a podcast (which is how my business began!) to learning a new skill to painting to writing music. It’s a way to allow yourself the freedom to take risks, to develop skills, and to find creative expression in a very low-risk environment because the work is just for you, not for others. Right now I’m working on an unnecessary creating project in my spare time, and it’s very life-giving to have something I’m doing that’s not directly tied to my on-demand work.

What unnecessary creating will you do this week? Choose a project such as writing a short story, making a piece of art, or exprimenting with a new skill.

Release The Pressure Valve

One ray of light over the past weeks has been getting to see normally polished, produced people learning to do what they do in a more accessible and authentic way. Whether it’s Jimmy Fallon doing The Tonight Show from his home (with his kids crawling all over him!) or news anchors doing their segments from their living room, we are discovering the beauty and power of authenticity. We all need to release the pressure valve a bit, and realize that there is a new kind of more genuine expression possible because of what we’re all experiencing together.

Also, we do need to reconsider the expectations that we have of ourselves. This is no time to be in constant sprint mode, holding yourself to the same kind of accountability that you did before all of this began. Be wise in how you set your weekly expectations, and focus more on desired outcomes than quantity-based measures of productivity.

Our biggest source of stress is often found in missed expectations, especially those we have for ourselves. Is there any way in which you need to adjust your personal expectations? Release the pressure valve.

Take care of yourselves this week, friends. Be especially mindful of your mental health. Be prolific, brilliant, and healthy.

This episode is sponsored by Skillshare. Explore your creativity and two free months of Premium Membership at Skillshare.com/AC.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Apr 13 2020

26mins

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The Money Tree (with Chris Guillebeau)

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The global economy looks much different than it did ten years ago.

(OK, if we’re being honest, it looks much different than it did ten weeks ago.)

While there is much more instability and uncertainty, there are also more opportunities to start a business and generate side income. Many people have started “side hustles” as a way to supplement revenue or to pursue side passions. On this most recent episode of The Accidental Creative podcast, Chris Guillebeau shared insights about how to find the right idea and start your own side hustle with tips from his book The Money Tree.

Many people have found their lives and careers disrupted by the global pandemic, and the things that seemed so certain to last forever only a few months ago are now in question. Some of us are really hurting, and others have realized just how fragile our assumptions about the economy and our personal economic stability really are.

Yes, it will take a while for things to recover, but it’s because of these events that I believe there are three big investments that all creative pros should begin strategizing now:

Flexibility of focus and engagement

In his excellent book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport argues that one major criterion for selecting a profession should be that it grants you increasing levels of flexibility as you grow professionally.

He argues: “To construct work you love, you must first build career capital by mastering rare and valuable skills, and then cash in this capital for the type of traits that define compelling careers.”

Rather than obsessing – as many do – on finding a job with an enjoyable set of tasks, try to negotiate for roles that will give an increasing measure of freedom of focus as you gain mastery. This will allow you to navigate your way into work that is personally meaningful and uniquely contributive.

This is a sticking point for many people. There’s a sentiment, especially on the web, that the goal is total freedom of time and place in your work. Flexibility is not the point, it is only the beginning. It exists to allow you to make the other investments.

Diversity of income

Are you completely dependent on one source of income? What would you do if that income disappeared next week? Or, if it was significantly impacted by Coronavirus? This is an especially dangerous trap for freelance creatives, who can become seduced by the comfort of steady income from a solid client only to have that income stream dry up when their internal champion at the company leaves.

Even if it means working a little extra time outside of work hours, or accepting fewer hours from a steady client, it’s wise to be diversifying your portfolio of income streams.

For in-house creative pros or employees, this can mean starting to build something noncompetitive on the side as a hedge against future income disruption. Again, Chris Guillebeau calls these “side hustles”, and many great businesses begin this way. (If there is any chance that your employer would disapprove, it’s always a good idea to keep these projects in the open, but clearly separate from your workplace.)

You should devote a portion of your time each week to pursuing new income streams, or at least considering the present diversity of your income.

A final note: freedom to do meaningful work is connected to financial freedom. Many people increasing their spending along with their incomes, and end up making tradeoffs along the way. As Lynda Barry once said, “The key to eternal happiness is low overhead and no debt.” (HT Austin Kleon) Just like you want to gain greater flexibility of focus over time, diversifying your income and living on less than you make gives you increasing flexibility to accept work that suits you well. Then, if all goes well, opportunity yields opportunity.

Building equity

Are you gaining a stake in your work? Are you building anything that will continue to hold value regardless of whether you continue to work?

One of the mistakes creative pros often make is thinking only about income rather than ownership. They will happily accept payment for their services, then allow others to use their work to generate wealth. As you gain greater flexibility of focus and you diversify your income streams, you can begin thinking about engaging in activity that allows you to build something of your own rather than just supporting the efforts of others.

You should be devoting at least a portion of your time each week to building something you will own, whether on your own or in partnership with others.

Can you be sustainably successful without making these investments? Sure. Some people will be lucky enough to keep a steady job their entire career. However, in an increasingly unstable marketplace, you are far better off making wise investments now for a future payoff.

Now is a good time to strategize how to invest in yourself and your future and to diversify your career portfolio so that you’re prepared for the next wave of disruption or interruption. 

This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks. To claim your free month trial – with no credit card needed – visit Freshbooks.com/accidental and enter The Accidental Creative in the how did you hear about us section.
The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Apr 06 2020

27mins

Play

Taking Time To Invest In Yourself

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Due to recent events, many of us have suddenly found that we have more time on our hands. On this episode, we share a few principles for using time to invest in yourself and to plant seeds that will produce a harvest later.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Freshbooks. To claim your free month trial – with no credit card needed – visit Freshbooks.com/accidental and enter The Accidental Creative in the how did you hear about us section.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Mar 30 2020

16mins

Play

iTunes Ratings

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Inspiring

By tefererythrfssasrrggfdschujnh - Apr 30 2020
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Just the bit of motivation I needed!

My new favorite podcast!

By Wordnurse - Feb 20 2020
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I really like the format of this podcast.