“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell
When you carry profound shifts of personal growth and evolution into the real world through your actions, decisions and commitments, you invite the whole world to shift along with you.
Who shifts? The people around you. Peers and contemporaries. Neighbors and friends. Families and communities. Customers, clients, and readers.
What shifts? Your business. Your brand. Your purpose. The questions that hound your inquisitive mind. The passion that stokes your ever-burning heart. Your goals. Your dreams.
And what happiness means.
When inner growth, understanding and self-realization are metabolized into the world around you through external actions and commitments, the universe responds.
When Your Spirit Moves, Move Your Body Along With It
That’s what I decided by January of this past year. My spirit — some shred of my inner self, call yours whatever you wish — had changed. It had been changing for some time.
In the few months prior, I had marathon-written and self-published my first book and from that creative experience — the first real mark of an artist cutting his teeth upon his creative path — I quite literally threw my soul down a mountain face and somehow lived when it hit bottom.
That’s what the creative life is like — early on, at least.
Part of you is born and dies with every project you love and into which you invest your blood and tears — every book, dream, wish or desire that you think will either make you or break you.
That’s how it’s supposed to be, early on. Because early on, young artists, amateurs and novices unconsciously pursue their goals and dreams like the rest of us: stuck in strict, singular, goal-driven and outcome-oriented thinking.
You and me, we grow up subscribing to strict, stringent concepts of what we need to do, what we have to achieve or must attain, own and acquire.
We become seduced by strict and narrow thinking that’s more convenient than it is a reflection of what, in reality, will give us what we truly want most in life: inner peace, happiness, freedom.
Entrapped, your soul becomes an impatient hostage to the goals that you think will expedite your journey to that promise land.
That’s what I started to understand when January rolled around.
One big goal — my first book — had come and gone and the outcome was not what I had imaged. My inner self was thus shifting, my soul was shaking, my perspectives and beliefs and ideas on everything had rolled down the rocky hill and hit the bottom with a thud. It stood in a haze of confusion and embarrassment and said,, “What the hell just happened here?”
And in that space of that inner turmoil and movement, my body needed to move along with my spirit.
So I moved to New York City.
The Intuitive Shift
New York City began to breathe new life into my lungs from the first day, the first hangover, the first paint-stained sleeve and first broken-English conversation my building super, Johnny — and, just as much, presented new struggles, deep questions and inner battles.
Maybe the two are one and the same.
After a few months of living in the Big Apple, by the summer I was certain that I needed a significant change in my business. Business was stale. Big Apple expenses were anything but. And in truth, that pressure was part of what I sought in “Big City Living.” It was make or break time.
As a self-employment writer, reluctant coach and author-entrepreneur, all my scraped-together business had to show was a floundering blog, a meager book, sporadic client-work and on-again-off-again projects since 2009 — producing only enough income to get by.
And just as much as my business was stagnating, so was my enthusiasm for the mission I was leading.
“I’m just tired of the leadership thing,” I told countless dozens of trusted friends and confidants over the summer. “I feel like I’m wasting my time trying to convince people of something rather than teaching it by example. And I’m over that. I’m done with it.”
“I don’t want to feel like I’m trying convince people of anything — and failing at it. I just want to go, do, live and let that do the work for me.”
What was becoming abundantly clear was that I needed to shift my path. But knowing its time to shift is one thing; knowing in which direction you are shifting is another.
And I could no longer explore my way through a better direction — I was, after all, in an expensive metropolis like New York City with thousands of dollars of commitments and a dwindling bank account and more than three years of hard work being met by the outside world with tepid enthusiasm.
The time was now to shift into a direction I was sure of. Understood and valued. That made sense from philosophical and practical perspectives. I needed to shift intuitively. In a way that would feel natural, normal and automatic.
A return to self. A return to my values. A return to gratitude.
A return to writing.
Blow It Up. Burn the Boat.
What I needed was to explicitly create an environment in which I would thrive. Me.
And, an environment that would not only sustain me and my growth and my experience, but shape that same experience for a guy or girl just like me: a writer. An independent, experience-driven, art-valuing writer of standards and unshakable values with high ideals who desires more freedom, more love and more self-reliance — and can, through writing, help to provide that to others, too.
So, pretty quickly, I dropped the leadership gig and let it go. Personal leadership — and, specifically, leading without followers — was not, right now, reflecting positive or sustainable business growth for me as a solopreneur.
That doesn’t change how I feel about the philosophy or the message.
But sometimes, you need to pack all your belongings onto your ship, sail to a new shore, and burn the boat. Especially when you’re an a creative, an artist or an entrepreneur. And especially when your path is not panning out the way you imagined.
You see, the creative life is the zen teacher to the young artist.
The teacher arrives as an immovable boulder right in your path. And when the impatient, struggling writer encounters the boulder, he curses it, kicks it, tries to shove it and — oftentimes, for many writers and artists — that’s where the journey ends.
The path is blocked. This is “just the way it is” when you’re a creative, people say. The boulder wins.
But when an artist stops at that boulder for long enough, she begins to recognize something.
The boulder is only blocking one path.
She might have imagined that path as her only path in life. She’s probably focused on that single path, what it had looked like to her and what she imaged it would be like for years. Maybe decades.
But if the journey you imagine every day and night for decades on end is stopped by reality, how much longer can you keep forcing the straight-and-narrow path before — simply — maneuvering around it?
Goals and dreams are a guiding light. And their blind pursuit to spite the terrain and opportunity that surrounds them? That’s what derails so many young artists and creatives.
The boulder exists to teach the artist to maneuver.
To endeavor more — off the path, through the muck and grime — and to plan less. Suddenly, her frustration gives way to ingenuity. Her confusion wanes and a tad of playful defiance settles in. “Fuck the boulder,” she says. Her creative mind begins to think… more creatively.
The boulder teaches the creative to be more creative. In her life, in her career, in her business and in all of her artistic goals — just as much as with her artistic craft.
And with my intuitive shift away from the personal leadership game, what business evolution came about but a far more tangible, “real,” practical and learnable embodiment of personal leadership that can be practiced every day to change your life, to help others, and even become a force of service to the world around you?
Writing is as practical a tool as any other. A powerful form of communication, a pragmatic resource for crafting copy on a website, freelance articles online, self-publishing books and developing new hundred-dollar products and thousand-dollar services that serve people.
But writing is also a powerful force for change; a force for personal growth through earnest introspection and self-exploration. Through writing, you can craft, recount and understand your story and the very context of where you are in the world.
Writing is self-activation. It’s choice. Writing is leadership.
My intuitive shift was as simple as letting go of one idea that had become stale, and instead, going back to my roots as a writer. Recommitting myself to writing more. Far more. And, more than that, deciding that I wanted to help writers of all kinds embody personal leadership in their lives through writing, business and artistry.
By the end of August, with the encouragement of my friend Jenny, I decided to experiment with a new project and founded a premium-membership writers’ group called the Literati. In just a few days time had suddenly achieved my first $1,000-week as an entrepreneur.
But more on that next week.
How a Creative Pivots
By abandoning the straight and narrow path. From erasing the images and ideas of what you think your ideal life looks like and instead, finding your flow from its ideal feel, from gratitude and your deepest values.
When you feel your spirit, your soul moving — try moving your body along with it.
Dive headfirst into uncertain waters. Pursue challenge.
Melt slowly into the unknown and the fear.
So palpable do they become that perpetual questioning becomes a reliable little piece of you; so acquainted to the taste of “I have no idea what the hell I’m doing” and “How the hell will I pull this off?” that the questions become so assumed, automatic, perpetual that you don’t even need to ask them.
Or worry about them.
Or let them weigh you down them.
Instead, as a true creative does, you eventually become so accustomed to the uncertain waters that you seek them out routinely. You swim to find some place new, unknown, unsure.
Why? Because your soul calls for it. Your spirit craves it. That’s the beauty of the creative life: it spurs you to change. To evolve and innovate. To maneuver with ingenuity. To leap. To shift. To pivot.
To just keep going.
P.S. – I still have a handful of gift memberships to my Literati writers’ group available for sale this holiday season here. Give the gift of writing to a loved one and help him/her find new purpose and passion in their craft.
P.P.S. – I also have a handful of author-signed copies of my latest paperback , God Whispers on the Wind, a beautiful 140-page paperback full of 81 inspiring poems on happiness, spirituality and the purpose-driven life. Buy here and a portion of proceeds supports Housing Works.
P.P.P.S. – If you’re interested in joining the Literati when we reopen to new members in January, sign up at LiteratiWriters.com :)
Flickr photo credit: CHINNY!