Your Art

When one loves one’s Art no service seems too hard.” – O. Henry

When you live from the outside-in, what you are doing takes on greater importance than how you are doing it. When, conversely, you live from the inside-out, what you are doing pales in comparison to what you bring to the activity.

The art of self-expression is an art worth mastering. It is, in short, the ability to bring your full creative capabilities to bear in relation to a momentary activity without excuse, apology or hesitation.

Far too many people restrain from giving their finest and highest, regardless of what is going on round about. They are their own jailers; they imprison their noblest expression by blaming the world around them. “This is not my cup of tea,” the say, or “I would be fulfilled were it not for this or that in my circumstances.”

To live life fully, you must fully relinquish the falsely comforting and addictive habits of judgment and blame. Moreover, you must fill the empty space left by these corrosive habits with unremitting love and an unflappable sense of responsibility.

The Road to Truth

He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

The oscillation between theory and practice is fundamental to effective living. There are underlying principles behind all that is and each thing has a discoverable and comprehensible essence. And the door to comprehension is opened by intellectual acuity, emotional resiliency and tactical agility.

There are three categories of people: those who tend to love practice without theory, those who tend to love theory without practice and those who sit comfortably in between. My experience tells me that practice without theory is frenzy, theory without practice is lethargy, while theory blended with practice is the crucible of creative living. Moreover, to truly understand something, your heart and mind must equate with its essence.

If you only learn techniques for overcoming obstacles in your art, in horse riding for instance, and you fail to come to grasp the essence of your mount, you will never move from proficiency to mastery. And why undertake anything with a goal less than mastery?

Discovering the underlying principles at work in that which comes to you as a problem or a challenge is at times easy and at others quite arduous, but we are endowed with the sacred capacity for reason for this reason. As Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” If you wish to extend control in new areas of living now unfamiliar, you must take time to consider the question: “What is the underlying design and how can I harmonize with it?”

As with sculpture, you can correlate with the original roughly, that is, in approximate terms, or you can master even its subtlest essences. In our recent era, we have gone a long way on practice without theory. We’ve strayed from the classical insistence on true knowing and settled for an inexact facsimile. To what end I cannot be sure, but in my mind the two biggest mistakes one can make on the road to truth are: 1) not starting and 2) not going all the way.



The Crowning Reward

Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” – Frederic Chopin

Whether life imitates art or art imitates life I cannot be sure, but one thing I do know is that simplicity is the pinnacle of all artistic expression. In my professional life as well as in my writing time one of my central aspirations is to find the simplest, cleanest, most elegant way to get the job done.

Life is simple. We tend to make it complicated through a variety of bad habits, two of which stand out to me this morning. The first is the tendency to focus on the voids in our worlds, that is, to emphasize through either longing for or complaining about that which is missing in our lives. Life is so much simpler, and easier when you emphasize and appreciate that which you have at present.

The second is the tendency to use negatives in speech and writing. Life is cleaner, more straightforward when you speak and write in the affirmative. For example, say what you believe in, rather than what you don’t believe in or what you like, rather than what you don’t like. Emphasize the presences, not the absences. This change alone can have a tremendous impact on your outlook and your experience of life.

Listen to yourself today. If you find yourself focusing on what is lacking or on what is wrong, do a little spring cleaning, turn the tables and see what happens! My guess is that life will reveal just how simple it is when you’re not busy cluttering it up with unnecessary physical, emotional and spiritual clutter.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci

The Winds and the Waves

We must make the best of those ills which cannot be avoided. ~ Alexander Hamilton

As a small business owner and manager, I am faced with daily challenges that test my mettle, patience and resolve. Not a day goes by where I am free of the necessity of making decisions that affect the lives of my employees, friends and clients. Strangely, though, it is an unceasing responsibility which I am grateful to discharge.

Every morning refocus my resolve to, as Hamilton put so succinctly, “make the best of those ills which cannot be avoided.” No matter how well my team and I plan, prepare and work seamlessly together, we realize that there will always be unforeseen difficulties. Rather than complain, we work together to overcome, together.

He is the best sailor who can steer within fewest points of the wind, and exact a motive power out of the greatest obstacles. ~  Henry David Thoreau

I recognize everyone in my organization as either a potential or proven leader. Leadership roles are shaped and eventually defined by the actions of each one, particularly in times of obscurity or when covering uncharted territory. I’ve noted that the most successful of my team as well as of our diverse group of clients share an uncommon ability: they are unafraid to “exact a motive power out of the greatest obstacles.”

The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators. ~ Edward Gibbon

Anyone who takes the approach I am describing will find that the winds and the waves provide nothing more than a greater abundance of energy with which to work in the accomplishment of his aims. Adversity will no doubt rear its ugly head, but wise and brave is he who keeps his head to the wind, facing the waves, searching both trough and crest for opportunity.

The choice is yours!

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to no one.

I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do. We may waive just so much care of ourselves as we honestly bestow elsewhere. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Who do you trust? I mean, who do you really trust, with your life? My guess is that you have a short list and that your list is populated by a few people with whom and for whom you have deep feeling. No doubt these precious few have proven trustworthy over time and in most cases the trust is mutual.

Yesterday we considered the fact that mot people live their lives consumed by care for themselves. This self-obsession is an unfortunate side-effect of the Renaissance ideals of individualism and self-determination having been left unchecked and imbalanced by the failure to honestly bestow care upon others.

Shakespeare wrote that we should “Love all, trust a few, [and] do wrong to no one.” Even in a perfect world devoid of deceit I imagine that trust would be earned and not presumed. True love is not blind and even in a world where love reigned supreme there would be room for errors and omissions due to inexperience or a lack of sufficient perspective.

Even in a world more perfect than our own, this natural margin for error¬†would necessitate that we trust, but verify. In my observation, if you have has been wronged a time or two you become naturally more suspicious of those around you. Fail to do so and you are labeled “gullible” and made a target by those who would seek to take unfair advantage of your blindness to the facts.

Taking it another step, you may have decided to stop trusting people altogether on the theory that abstinence is the best for of prevention. The motto “Trust no one and you’ll never be duped, taken advantage of or double-crossed” replaces “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to no one” and the world becomes a cold, litigious, and inexplicably lonely place. Sound familiar?

One of my favorite sayings was born of the brilliant mind of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He penned: “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” I invest copious amounts of trust in those around me. My hope and my expectation is that they will, over time, show themselves great. Is that too much to ask?

I’ve found that investing trust just beyond the point where the recipient trusts him or herself creates a refiner’s fire. The individual either steps up to the plate and delivers a strong return on investment or he or she cuts and runs. When someone trusts you there is a natural pressure that builds up, the pressure to perform. Trust, in this sense, has an incredible ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Trust liberally, but verify and you will find that the world around you begins to take on a new shape. Friends who favor only fair-weather will blow away with the high pressure system that dominates your personal atmosphere while those who will stand with you no matter how things look, feel or appear, will be friends that you can trust; that you can really trust.

Dress for Success

“Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire.” – Charles Dickens

One thing should be clear: clothes do not make a man a gentleman or a woman a lady; and, by the same token, a real gentleman or a true lady is always a gentleman or a lady, no matter what he or she wears. The clothes you wear either magnify or cloak your personality and what you wear is in many ways less important than how you wear it.

I relaxed my company’s dress code today in hopes that there might be room for greater creative freedom, not just in apparel choices but in thought and deed. We’ve been heavily engaged in breaking down assumptions we’ve held that have prevented us in any way from making it easy for our clients to do business with us and this fashion statement was freshly pressed to that end.

The fashion choices we make are deeply personal. Like our food choices, they are based part on preference, part on need, part on availability and part on custom. Your clothing is a calling card to your personality, to your mood and to your outlook and your ability to dress appropriately can have a significant impact on how successful you are in any department of life.

It is possible to overdress. It is possible to underdress. At times it makes sense to overdress while it is less commonly advisable to underdress. The key is to dress in such a way that you do not hinder your effectiveness in life. Neutral or helpful is good. Hindrance is bad.

I’ve found that first impressions are important to people but at the same time I’ve always enjoyed the times when I’ve been surprised to learn that my initial impressions were incorrectly formed. Appearances can be deceiving and its worth remembering that fact lest you be caught in a web of prejudice.

In relaxing the dress code at my company I hope that everyone will rise to the occasion and take care to determine what is appropriate. We don’t live in a time like the Elizabethan era where what was worn when was formalized and rigid. That said, the art of appropriateness lives on.

There are those (often men) who say that they don’t really care about what they wear, but then when you look at them from one situation to the next they somehow end up not just fitting in but often matching what others around them wear. I was recently in a small town where every guy had a baseball cap on with sunglasses perched atop the cap. I was convinced of a fashion conspiracy, but were I to ask about it I’m sure that every one of them would have said that they put no thought to the ensemble.

There is no harm done in caring about what you wear, neither is there any problem in my book with not caring much about what you wear, unless your lack of concern gets in the way of you delivering the greatness that is yours to give. Clothing fitly chosen, like words fitly spoken are an aspect of your aesthetic and there is no reason to decrease the odds of someone receiving you due to a poorly composed aesthetic.

At the end of the day, it’s not so much what you wear but the goods you deliver that tell the tale. If you don’t have the resources to wear what you would like to wear, don’t be ashamed. Do the best you can with what you have and you can’t go wrong. As Albert Einstein said “If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies…It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.”