I’m Brian E. Young. I’m a graphic designer, classical pianist and artist in Baltimore, MD. I host the Uncanny Creativity Podcast helping to demystify the creative process and creator of Funlooksfun.com, an online shop for apparel and games. Twitter: @sketchee
“According to this legend, after you die, you’ll wake up in a dark place. Out of the darkness, a terrifying monster will suddenly appear. The monster will represent all the worst fears you’ve ever had. For each person, the monster will be different, since we all have different fears and vulnerabilities.
“When the monster appears, you’ll have two choices: You can try to get away, or you can surrender. If you try to get away, you will escape– but just barely–and soon you’ll be lost in the dark again.
“Out of the darkness, a second monster will emerge. This one will be almost as terrifying as the first, but not quite, and you’ll be faced with the same choice: surrender or flee. If you try to escape, you’ll succeed, but you’ll soon get yourself in the dark again. Every time you escape, another terrifying monster will appear,. Each monster will be slightly less terrifying than the one before, and if you run you’ll always barely manage to get away.
“According to the legend, the number of monsters you’ll have to confront depends on the number of days int he month when you die. … If you run away from all the monsters, you’ll be reincarnated as something very lowly, like a worm. If you surrender to one of the monsters, you’ll be reincarnated to a higher level. The scarier the monster you surrender to, the greater your status in your next life will be.
“In the event that you surrendered to the first and most terrifying monster, two things would happen. First, you’d discover that the monster was not real. You’d realize that it was just an illusion that you never had anything to fear in the first place. You’d see that the monster had no teeth. This would be an incredible triumph. The discovery might also seem incredibly funny, and you’d probably start laughing because you’d realize that your fears had been the result of a gigantic cosmic joke that had persisted throughout all of your previous reincarnations.”
David D. Burns, When Panic AttacksAlso on:
“If you look at a thing, the very fact of your looking changes it…if you think about yourself, that very fact changes you.” Robert Penn Warren (Flood: A Novel)
I hope to witness and workaround the downsides of curiosity: Doubtful skepticism. Overstepping. Self-destructiveness. Distraction. Blame.
I choose to act on the upsides of curiosity. Instead of presenting opposition, I’ll try to show I’m on your side, I’m on my side, and explore ideas with you.
I’m often surprised when I present an idea and it’s received conflicting. I tend to feel that most ideas are additive and compatible. The question to explore is how, when, and where an idea belongs in practical senses.
With purpose and repetition, I can gain skill in presenting a shared world of thoughts.
I love the one word theme years. In a word, I conjure up a version of myself.
A dog is trained to heel. In the same way, practice over a year – or even the idea of practice itself – that once felt hard becomes easily summoned with a single command.
Reviewing last year: Age 35 – Process:
Once you look at a series of actions and steps in our goals on such a small level, it can seem silly to not move forward.
I’ve discovered that I can identify easy steps to change. Overwhelmed by chores? Stand up. Look around.
Let myself view on a small level.
We can see the easy parts. Why change the hardest part when often it’ll change anyway by tackling something so easy?
There’s a downside to processes too. We convince ourselves that our actions remain so small that it must be neutral or good.
Once put into one context or another, that little moment can become something no longer valuable.
Let myself view at a higher altitude.
One word themes
- 2018 Complete. (Level Up by Ciara)
- 2017 Go. (Ready to Go by Panic at the Disco)
- 2016 Listen (Listen by Beyonce).
- Age 36 Curious (Witness by Katy Perry)
- Age 35: Process (Life is Wonderful by Jason Mraz)
- Age 34: Balance (The Middle by Jimmy Eat World)
Download a free cheat sheet I made for myself about navigating the world. I like reminders. Maybe you’ll like it too. Full-text below. Download a PDF: One Rule To Live By Cheat Sheet
One rule to live by: There’s no one rule.
I love saving many tools and models for navigating the world. The devil is in the details of course. There are no absolutes, only thoughts to try. This takes practice and it’s not magic.
Frameworks and models I’m a student of:
- Look at your own thoughts and beliefs first: State many good outcomes. Stay specific and answer “how…?” Positives matter. Stay present. Ask don’t guess. Avoid comparison. Encourage not demand or submit. Identify not label. Focus toward want, hope, and choice, rather than obligation, duty, and correctness. (Feeling Good)
- Negative events have specific temporary causes; good things have permanent reasons. Problems can be contained, while solutions can be applied throughout our lives. Our contributions to good things matter, while we’re still not solely the cause of our misfortunes. (Learned Optimism)
- Develop, learn, persist, be inspired. Can not can’t. Better, not best. Learn, not failure. Next step not ignoring. Hard is better than easy. Strategy not giving up (Mindset)
- Process Versus Outcomes. Consider as many facts and influences on outcomes. Define terms. Be specific and in the present moment. (When Panic Attacks)
- Convert problems into strengths. Use workarounds and reminders. Accept and acknowledge negative emotions, you can handle them. Take action, don’t wait. (Superbetter)
- Choose in place of resentment. Challenge in place of blame. Coach without fixing. (Karpman Drama Triangle)
- Share information, note consequences, and give options. Customize. Limits give us freedom. (The Four Tendencies)
- Listen and express what truth you have in common, acknowledge the feelings of others. Share your feelings. Say positive and respectful things about others even when you’re upset with them. Encourage sharing of ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Fix your own patterns, don’t fix others. (Feeling Good Together)
- Consider and respect all involved while also being honest. (Awesome Etiquette)
- Care personally AND Challenge directly. Try to avoid unkind criticism, sugarcoated help, and unclear harshness. (Radical Kindness)
- Soft heart, strong limits. Act on our own values. Opt out of negativity. Ask without judgment. Choose generous interpretations (BRAVING)
- Every one of every person’s qualities has a positive and respectable value to them. (Transactional Analysis)
- Observe yourself and others. Need, value, ask, and feel without demanding. (Nonviolent Communication)
- Say good and appreciative things. Show interest, encourage others to talk, and sincerely show that they’re important. Value opinions. Admit mistakes. Ask especially when you know they’ll say yes. Let them choose from their POV. Challenge them, Share stories about ideas. (How to Win Friends and Influence People)
- Vent your concerns when in the middle of a crisis. It helps more to vent to someone who is in a less difficult position that yourself. (Ring Theory)
- Observe the ways others express love, what they request, and what they express dissatisfaction with. Encourage and affirm often. Use body language. Small items matter, receive with gratitude, and mark special occasions. Spend time one-on-one without distraction. Say you’ll help and do it. (The Five Love Languages)
- Express Regret. Accept Responsibility. Take action to make things right. Try not to do it again. Ask for forgiveness without expectation. (The Five Languages of Apology)
- Interrupt bigotry, simply say “Stop”. Question bias. Educate when you choose to. Echo and highlight positively when others speak up: “I agree and thank you for speaking up”. Ask authority and peers for change. (Tolerance.org)
- Learn to walk away with no hard feelings. Your courage and confidence lets everyone win. Courage without consideration forces others to lose. Empathy without courage chooses others over yourself. (7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
- Find more options. Test. Get space before making a decision. Prepare to be wrong. (Decisive)
- Write your ideas down – writing exists to help us store and organize information. Look for the smallest step. Organize. Schedule, delegate, save for later, decide what not to do. Focus on important and time-sensitive tasks. (Getting Things Done)
- Is your thought true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true? How do you react and what happens when you believe that thought? What would you do without that thought? (The Work)
- Our schedule is our life. There is no right time. Create habits rather than relying on decisions, effort, and self control. We can only change ourselves. Others may or may not choose to change if we change. Create convenience for good habits and inconvenience for bad ones. Create momentum. Self-compassion creates a habit. Self-guilt creates struggle. (Better Than Before)
“Upholders value self-command and performance. Questioners value justification and purpose. Obligers value teamwork and duty. Rebels value freedom and self-identity.” Gretchen Rubin, The Four Tendencies
“The happiest, healthiest, most productive people aren’t those from a particular Tendency, but rather they’re the people who have figured out how to harness the strengths of their Tendency, counteract the weaknesses, and build the lives that work for them.” Gretchen Rubin, The Four Tendencies
Revelations on myself I got from the book The Four Tendencies on the second listen through:
- Questions are often heard as belligerent, hostile, or annoying. Even when they’re not intended to be a source of conflict.
- Paradoxically, those of us who love seeking information find being questioned ourselves unpleasant.
- Curiosity manifests as a resistance to decisions of authority and to unexplained assumptions of others.
- Others think a Questioner care a lot about a subject they question. Questioners gravitate toward anything unexplained – even if it’s very unimportant.
- Easy ways I help myself: Deadlines. Time limits. Delegate to a trusted advisor or friend. Self-imposed rules. Schedule. Monitor time. Write down my ultimate goals and values. Share my thinking and to what end information might help me.
- Take action toward my values and preferences:
- I like novelty, new beginnings, long days, nights, more is more, silver linings, variety, clarity, convenience, customization, observation, processes, roles, instructions.
- I struggle with rules for rules sake, rigid interpretation, demandingness, submissiveness, vagueness, misunderstandings, obscurity.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Learning means letting go of yesterday’s identity.
Let others try to hold us to who they think we are. Who we genuinely may have been for a moment. It’s up to us to decide who we are in the present.
Resisting change makes life difficult.
Action is change.
We bound ourselves with lists of what’s good about inaction. Focusing on what’s bad about taking action.
These lists aren’t wrong, yet incomplete.
List the downsides of inaction. See the upsides of action frees us. Make for a simpler life.Also on:
“This is your life now. This is not school. There is no assignment that you are supposed to be turning in. You are supposed to set the curriculum yourself.
“That’s a big change a lot of people don’t make.
“In your school, you’re told: this is your assignment. Turn it in by this date. If you do what was asked, you get an A. Life doesn’t give out As. You have to have your own plan that you are executing. And executing well.
“It will often not make sense to other people. By definition, you have to do things that are not by consensus. Or you end up with an average career. Which is a big part of your live.”Also on:
“I didn’t realize there would be so much backlash. Because I didn’t realize it was anyone’s business. … I spoke about it because my life turned out pretty great because of that decision. … I wanted to impress upon those students how important your own decisions are for your self. Not for monetary reasons. Never to do it for someone else’s benefit. Do it for yourself.” Julianna Margulies
“No one likes an angry person but so what! We can be so fixated on being likable all of the time. One of the worst things a person can do is to not acknowledge their feelings. Even if it’s negative. You say: Nobody likes me when–So what! Give yourself the kindness, the generosity to allow yourself what you’re feeling right now. It’s not a good idea to ignore that anger and not figure out it’s roots.” Morgan Jerkins
“A true meritocracy is impossible to achieve. I love Kara Swisher’s term mirror-tocracy. It perfectly encapsulates the idea. That we hire people who look like us. The reality is that we all come to the plate with different kinds of access. The escalator of life moves far faster for some than others. When you believe you’re operating in a meritocracy, you’ll be more anti-meritocratic.”
“There’s a study that shows people who believe they work in a meritocracy are the least meritocratic of all. They don’t acknowledge their biases. What is it, Avenue Q? ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist’ Everybody has these biases. If you’re not cognizant of them, you can’t compensate for them”
“The actual word meritocracy was coined by a British sociologist Michael Young in the 1950s to warn about a future where people use their success to justify their success. The winners use success as a reason to dismiss the forces working against everyone else.”Also on:
Extremism – “splitting”, black and white thinking or all are nothing thinking – as a psychological concept feels to me a relevant concept in the world right now.
A theory by Ronald Fairbairn holds that we develop this belief as infants. Rather than see a parent one complex and complete individual, we develop simplified concepts of a lovingly good force and a bad.
So as adults, we might not notice the details of a complicated situation. We forget we can make informed choices about our own behavior based on that information.
Our mental first draft falsely thinks we either “won” or “lost”. The result is a “failure” or “success”. An event is either a “catastrophe” or an “achievement”
In our revised reality, every person and situation has some advantage and disadvantage.
Every win involves some sacrifice. Every loss has a lesson. Throwing babies out with the bathwater is the thinking of babies.
As infants, we’re not wrong to see the limited in our choices.
Part of the journey of maturity* is accepting our opportunities. What once we knew as shame becomes gratitude. Where once we felt a need for negative attention becomes our own participation.
Observe without judgment the benefits and drawbacks of our own thoughts.
We all have a reason to be who we are. Also true that we often also can observe a reason for a desire to change. If we accept why we’ve been this way for so long.
Apply this as you will to extremism you witness in yourself and others
*(Side note: Originally drafted with the word “adulthood” instead of “maturity”. I think these concepts connect and work more understandably when separated. Adulthood exists as a legal, biological, and social method of repercussions and consequences. The term maturity implies a more inherent active self-acceptance of our behavior and any results. This might mean that I accept my choices can be both displeasing and – at the same time – advantageous. For example, graciously denying an occasional request can both a momentarily unpleasant expression of autonomy and by its very nature creates truthful intimacy, resilience, and trust in a relationship )Also on: