The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Michael Kummer.
In this guest blog, the artist Jeremy Gilbertson offers practical suggestions of how to get to know yourself better. By cutting out noise, Jeremy demonstrates how to find time for oneself and others.
Everybody has an inner voice. The challenge lies in our ability to discern its light tones amidst an orchestra of competing noise that cascades from external sources and within our own minds. We are conductors of our own creativity, but without encouraging the soft melody of the fourth chair viola, while reigning in the thunderous rumble of the low brass section, our ideas, theories and potential may never find their way out. This is a story about space, time and finding your voice.
Guest blog by Jeremy Gilbertson
Jeremy is a multidisciplinary thinker and creator. His company, Tunewelders creates unique music and audio experiences for film, television, advertising, and gaming. He is the producer and host of the podcast, Music Is, where he interviews creators about their process and their definition of music. You can learn more about Jeremy Gilbertson on his web page, Twitter, and Instagram profiles. If you are interested in music, also check out his Music Is podcast on iTunes.
How to find your voice
We can often find ourselves in a desperately scattered mindset, founded in our own perceived level of busy, that elevates in priority over even the most critical biological needs. Busy is a badge that we wear to justify our existence. We traded our insatiable curiosity for the tornado of busy that we modeled in the world around us.
What do you say when a friend calls to say hello?
Man, I’m slammed. Crazy busy.
The time is always right to slow down and reconnect with the simple nature of truly knowing ourselves. Maybe you are busy, but are you busier than Ben Franklin? One of the most prolific inventors, philosophers, writers and statesmen in history lived by the Five Hour Rule. One hour, five days a week was dedicated and vigorously protected for learning, creation and the attainment of knowledge. Similarly, I learned to protect the first 90 minutes of each day for the same purpose.
Know who you are
Finding slack in the system is not the same as being a slacker.
Josh Waitzkin, who was the subject of the movie, Searching for Bobby Fisher, wrote an extraordinary book called The Art of Learning. In this book, he breaks down the process he used to become a chess champion, a Tai Chi champion and launch his road to success in the world of Brazilian Ju-Jitsu.
One of the most important factors for Waitzkin is the idea of creating space.
“I have built a life around having empty space for the development of my ideas for the creative process. And for the cultivation of a physiological state which is receptive enough to tune in very, very deeply to people I work with. In the creative process, it’s so easy to drive for efficiency and take for granted the really subtle internal work that it takes to play on that razor’s edge.”
How to discover yourself
Space is a musical element that can create and release tension. It allows the character of the music that precedes it and follows it to be embraced with more focused attention. Audio engineers create space by carving up the frequency spectrum of the human ear to secure an optimized path for a particular voice or instrument. Think of space as a little slack in the system that coaxes your inner voice off of its anonymous perch comfortably nestled among the cacophony of distracting and often useless signals.
Once you create the space, you need to protect it – gently. Walls are barriers that, through brute force and the full support of physics, enforce hard limits on ingress and egress. With traditional walls, we are not prepared to receive something transformationally unexpected. Protect your space by using walls similar to those in the cells of our body. They serve as a permeable checkpoint that carefully regulates what comes into the ecosystem and what is permitted to leave.
How to create space for yourself
Creating space is not easy, but it is achievable with focus, dedication, and practice. By finding slack in the system, you can create positive feedback loops that cultivate ideas and trigger passions you never even knew you had.
What is 1440?
Time is our most precious resource, and it is one that we can’t store or save.
We have 1,440 minutes in each day.
After eight hours of sleep, we have 960 minutes at our disposal.
Why do we dish out our time as if it were free marketing trinkets at a crowded trade show, only to be thoughtlessly discarded in the hotel trash can on the way back to the airport?
Don’t have any time? Think again.
How quickly do you either ask for or say yes to meetings with vague agendas? How much time do you spend scrolling and swiping for shiny, new content? There is slack in the system if you really look for it.
Once you make time for yourself, you can embrace experiences that you never knew that you needed. It’s far from the battle zone of reactionary measures to a quieter retreat of focused, creative thought. It’s like a new path through a centuries-old, winding cluster of mangroves that only begins to open up after digging through it, scraping branches, tripping over underbrush and battling the intertwined resistance of the untamed and chaotic as they transition to the familiar and free-flowing. By creating this space, it serves the mission to understand yourself as you would seek to understand a new friend. The only difference is this friend has been with you the whole time. Every minute of every day, broadcasting faint signals with the potential to change your life.
Importance of knowing yourself
The basis of humanity is connecting and communicating. Without our ability to communicate and organize, our species may not have outlasted our ancient ancestors. We sustained our existence by working together. Today, our methods of communication fall into the short and not so sweet bursts of email, text and social media. Hashtags, snarky responses to opposing political rants, and 140 character treatises all drive us toward optimized expression.
Writing, on the other hand, requires patience, understanding, compassion (for others and the version of you that happens to be writing that day), clarity of thought, and space.
52Musings is one of the results of finding slack in my system.
- I wanted to learn how to write.
- I didn’t want to talk about wanting to learn to write.
- I wanted to learn through action.
The barriers to entry were minimal. A domain name, a WordPress subscription and a steady battle with Resistance. Coined by the author, Steven Pressfield, Resistance is a strong, invisible force that keeps you from starting and finishing creative projects. It can appear as the softer, co-dependent character that safely clears the path to more comfortable places. While inspiration is a real thing, it isn’t merely meant for the lucky ones whose fortunate paths are littered with this ethereal enlightenment. Inspiration is rooted in practice and dedication. By realizing that you and your effort alone are enough, you can free your mind to pass through, or even enjoy, these engagements with Resistance. Writing is the hero’s winding journey on the edge of chaos though floundering exertion, fruitless effort, idle stagnation, creative defeat, balanced by the occasional breakthrough and new, insightful perspectives. As creators, we embrace these rules of engagement and find enjoyment in the stations and waypoints along the way. Most of the time, there are no predetermined destinations. Just a starting point. It is pure exploration.
An undefined journey
52Musings is a journey that began without ever being fully defined.
It posed an interesting challenge.
Get under the hood and take a peek at who I really am.
Why do we know more about our cars, the leading rusher in the NFL, the religious beliefs of a past-his-prime Hollywood actor or the features of the latest release of the iPhone than we do about our own minds? From a macro-level, the consilience of biology and psychology have produced neuroscience, which has ambitiously led to a brave, new exploration of the 100 billion neurons in the brain. Somewhere in the middle, there is a place where my brain, my consciousness, my genes and my culture meet.
It is the intersection of science and soul.
Who am I?
I’ve always had a sense of who I was – my values, my interests, my goals. But looking back, it seems more like a ghostly apparition and a less thoughtful, superficial relationship. Have I been in a steady state of small talk with myself for four decades? The kind that talks about the new Braves pitcher to a bar stool neighbor carefully maintaining a comfortable distance, while navigating the path to human connection. Was I just a guest in my own frantic existence careening from one busy state to the next?
What I did know was that I never really fit into the traditional model of specialization or the idea of approaching a single craft or discipline. While I found myself interested in certain things and even enjoyed success in some ventures, I always maintained the mind of an explorer.
52Musings is my writing experiment that explores thematic interconnectedness between the various disciplines of creativity and the closely coupled themes of mindfulness, philosophy, gratitude, technology, science, music and art. Through this process, I am learning that I am thriving in the confluence of multiple disciplines, and discovering the mind-blowing through-lines between them all.
By writing, I am teaching myself about me.
What am I learning?
Here is a look back at some of the waypoints on the 52Musingsjourney:
- From #1 – Business Cards And Key Coolers, I learned about a documented process for creativity. According to James Webb Young, you gather data, digest the data, STOP … pause all direct effort and let your subconscious connect the dots. From there, the idea is born. A fantastic example of using space to build something from nothing.
- In #2 – From Night Owl To Early Bird, I began experimenting and refining my routines and processes. My morning routine is one of the most important aspects of my day, and it incorporates a consistent method to wake up my mind and body through hydration, meditation, gratitude practice and journaling.
- In #4 – One Dot At A Time, I examined the overlooked beauty and pure simplicity in the structure of a single letter. Often, we can get overwhelmed by the idea of making something out of nothing. “All letters start one dot at a time. Dots lead to letters, letters produce words, words fill sentences, sentences build stories. No expectations, just forward progress. Worry about what it is later.”
- In #5 – The Success In Failure, I worked through my personal case study of the failure of my first business, Cornerstone Records. Without this particular experience, Tunewelders would not be a reality today.
- In #6 – Future Allocation Of Resources, I worked up a math problem that resulted in a time management philosophy that I call 1440, which I referenced earlier in this essay. I also presented some predictions from futurist and author, Kevin Kelly.
- #7 – Trippy Honey And The Honey Bee Conjecture ponders the mathematical wonder behind the architectural decisions of honey bees through a hypothetical story of a bee named Mortimer.
- #8 – The Battle: AND Versus OR was my first foray into the idea of consilience, unified knowledge, science, and imagination. Discovery is not binary. It is a multi-faceted experience and combination of many different disciplines.
- #9 – Interest + Access = Meta-Learning launched one of my first true adventures into the subject of learning. Thank you, Josh Waitzkin.
- #27 – A Dance In The Park taught me to follow my heart unapologetically. Triggered by a wonderfully random and courageous artistic performance by my son, Keller, in the middle of a crowded park in downtown Asheville, I was reminded that we are the authors of our own limitations.
The catalyst for 52Musings was my decision to create space, listen to my inner voice, write, and share the results, which fostered a tremendous feedback loop that continues to connect the dots that teach me more about myself.
Cutting out noise: Create slack in your system
I encourage you all to find slack in your system.
- Step #1 – Create space.
- Step #2 – Listen to your inner voice.
- Step #3 – Write something and share it.
- Step #4 – Build a beautiful feedback loop and continue exploring.
I hope you enjoyed a quick peek into my experiment. What is your strategy on how to get to know yourself better and to cut out noise? Let Jeremy and I know by leaving a comment below.