Fear is two-faced

Fear tells you stories. Fear of action (procrastination), fear of failure (anxiety), fear of success (self-sabotage), they all speak countless lies into your ear, but they have problems keeping their stories straight.

Fear will often tell you two lies at once – one vary convincing lie, and another lie, also very convincing, but the exact opposite of what it told you just a minute before. Examples:

“I don’t know enough to succeed.” / “I don’t need to study, I need more natural talent.”

“You’ll never have enough time to write a book.” / “You’ve got so much time, you can afford to put it off.”

“They would be a huge help, but you’re not good enough to meet with them.” / “You don’t need them.”

“People with natural talent succeed, not me.” / “I can succeed on talent alone, no need to practice.”

“If it was really your passion, it wouldn’t feel like hard work.” / “You only succeed if you suffer a lot.”

“They succeeded because they knew someone.” / “I know someone, but I can’t ask them for help, because _____________.”

Yeah, fear will play ping-pong with your mind until you call it out – take note of the false, contradicting messages that you’re feeding yourself all the time, and work hard not to give in to the lies.



Embrace distraction, beat anxiety

“Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and do the work” – Chuck Close

…yeah, but buckling down and focusing on something for hours is tough, isn’t it? Often when I’m working on something that I really care about, I feel a deep anxiety that scares me away from the work. My solution has been to take the road of distraction – if my brain is slightly distracted by a movie or a radio show, I can usually work in peace, without the fear rising up and crushing out my attempt to create. I’ve been reading “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey, which details the daily rituals of artists: all of the rituals are different, and a majority of them border on the insane. I felt better about my distraction routine when I read this quote, again by Chuck Close, speaking about his habit of watching television while he painted: “I like a certain amount of distraction. It keeps me from being anxious. It keeps things at a little bit more of an arm’s length.” Is distraction an optimal solution for every occupation/every artist? Of course not. Distraction doesn’t work for me when I’m writing. But if a routine or technique works for you, do it. Do whatever it takes to do your work.

Moving all of my piles of junk

Yup, I’m moving.

When you move, you realize how much junk you have – it’s incredible how much is accumulates.  I just talked to a guy a while ago who moved halfway across the country using the biggest u-haul available, and he still had to rent storage area in California to store a bunch of his crap.

This was seven years ago. He still hasn’t gone back for the rest of his stuff.

Having stuff is expensive, time-consuming, and at some level, your stuff starts to run your life.

So, think about it – how much of your life is spent organizing, dusting, moving, and maintaining your crap?

Are you OK with that?

You don’t need more time…

…you need to choose what to do and act.

You don’t need more money, you need more creativity and flexibility.

You don’t need advertisement, you need hustling.

You don’t need a better tool, you need to be a better artist.

You don’t need better circumstances, you need to have a better attitude about the circumstances.

Whatever’s holding you back probably isn’t.

The thing that you think is keeping you from your goal isn’t – but you think that it is. It’s the placebo effect: your belief that you’re helpless makes you helpless.

When was the last time you were excited?

really excited?

Like can’t-contain-it-heart-beating-stomach-fluttering excited?

If you can’t remember when it was that you were excited about something, it’s time to try something new. It’s time to push yourself a little and see what you can do. Try something that seems risky.

Here’s an assignment: e-mail someone you really admire, just to tell them how awesome they are. Even better: ask them a small favor, see how/if they respond.

Ask for something for free that isn’t for free.

Start something exciting, and share it with someone.

Step out, take the risk, and make art that connects with people.

It’s the best way I know to get excited about life again.

intermittent reinforcement and You

“Pigeons experimented on in a scientific study were more responsive to intermittent reinforcements, than positive reinforcements. In other words, pigeons were more prone to act when they only sometimes could get what they wanted.”  (Wikipedia)

…but you’re much more sophisticated, you’ve got a much more advanced brain, capable of reasoning – you don’t just reflexively press the bar for the occasional pellet.

Really? How many times have you checked your e-mail/Facebook/Twitter/texts today?


Just Choose

Go ahead, do as you please.

Watch hours of TV every night, until your eyes hurt.

Stay in the town where you went to high school, and keep partying with the same group of people you did in high school.

Get a unchallenging job, and stick with it for decades.

Get a house. Don’t get a house. Rent. Live in a cardboard box. It’s your choice – whatever you choose, you’ve got the right to choose that.

Bother to choose, though.

Most people don’t bother. It’s easier to just follow, to just keep doing what they’re doing because it’s comfortable, because the neighbors do it, because they’ve always done it that way.

I don’t care what you choose – as long as you bother to choose.

Stress, tension, and headaches

Hey, try this:

every time you have to wait for a page to load

or wait in line

or wait at a stoplight

or any of the many other tiny delays that waste our time, instead of huffing and fuming, try this tiny exercise:

in your mind, examine the paces where you might be carrying tension:

your jaw, your forehead, your shoulders and neck, your stomach

and release the tension.

Next time you are waiting, do the same thing.

Make it a simple little habit

it makes a difference in your stress level, and the amount of tension headaches you get.

Watch this video to learn more:







…ok, maybe that was mean. Did you do it?

Habit Change and Consequences (Commitment Devices)

Commitment devices (How the Twilight series kept my dishes washed)

Have you ever tried starting a healthy new habit? It’s tough. Ever tried quitting something? That’s even tougher. I would guess that most people have habit that they want to acquire, or shed.
One of the best ways to change habits is through the use of a commitment device.
A commitment device is a way of forcing yourself to behave in the future, the way that you want yourself to behave now. For example, my brother and one of his friends set up a commitment device to help them learn more about art and composition. They had a certain course that they were going through, and they would meet once a week for breakfast and discuss their progress. If one of them hadn’t watched the videos that week, he paid for breakfast.
Now commitment devices come in all shapes and sizes. some are more painful than other, but it seems to be a rule that the more painful and costly the consequence, the more effective the commitment device.
In one YouTube series entitled “the cold turkey diaries”, a guy named Adam set himself a goal of eliminating 42 different bad habits in one month, and his commitment device was a check for $750, made out to Oprah, in the hand of a friend who would act as referee, sending the money to Oprah if Adam fudged on his commitments. Adam hated Oprah, and $750 was enough money to be painful, so it was an effective commitment device – although it might not have been as effective if Adam didn’t have his wife help him keep his commitments, because cheating and getting around commitment devices is pretty common.
Now I’d like to tell you how the Twilight series kept my dishes clean.
About a year ago, my wife and I had finally come to the conclusion that we had a problem. Neither of us liked doing dishes, and we postponed the onerous task for as long as possible. We would put if off until we got to the point of digging through piles of dirty dishes to find a fork to wash off for supper.
We had resolved in the past to get better at washing dishes, but (predictably) those resolutions only lasted a few days.
We needed a commitment device, and we knew it.
So we started brainstorming: what would be painful and costly enough to make us do the hard work of keeping the dishes clean? We tossed around a few ideas, but none of them seemed quite bad enough to make us squirm.
Suddenly we happened upon the answer: Twilight.
We had never seen Twilight, but we hated it with a burning passion, and we ridiculed it constantly. We pointed out that it was a creepy story about a older man (Edward) preying on a Teenager, and we mocked the people who found sparkly vampires engrossing. It was our favorite book/movie to hate.
(Aside: If you truly love Twilight, we’ll have to agree to disagree)
We decided that the consequence was perfect: if we didn’t have all of the dishes clean every night for a month, we would have to buy (not just rent – buying would make it more painful) and watch Twilight.
It was brilliant. We reminded each other, we worked together, we had never performed any task with more commitment as fervor than we washed dishes that month. If we had been invited to go on a free year-long tour of the finest places in Europe, we would have testily replied that no, we couldn’t go – for who would do the dishes while we were gone?
+ + +
Setting up consequences:
1. Make it painful
2. Make it expensive
3. Make it time-consuming
4. Have a referee who will hold you to your word
5. Do it for 30 days
Habit change is so much easier if you do it right.

Anything You can Spare

Below is a piece that was written by a musician friend of mine who spent Christmas day and night on the streets of Lincoln, living as if he was homeless. When he sent me this writing, it was so powerful I immediately asked him if I could publish it.


I parked 2 blocks from the Lincoln bridge on 2nd and L. I had everything I felt I needed to last through the cold Christmas night.

It was about 8pm when I started my trek across Lincoln – I kneeled and said a quick prayer at my car asking God to guide me back to it safely once I was finished with my journey. I got to the bridge and found a piece of cardboard from a box perfectly shaped for my sign. I went back to the car to find a sharpie. On the way back, fully realizing what I was doing: walking back to my safe haven already.

I wrote on the cardboard piece ANYTHING YOU CAN SPARE. The other side I put GOD BLESS just in case if I didn’t have the humility to just say “thank you” once they had given.

I made my way toward the bridge once again and began to walk across. I was thinking about how I should walk: should it be with a limp? Should I walk slowly, giving the feeling that I had no destination? I also thought a dazed and helpless look in my eyes could possibly pull off what I was going for. I decided to do all three, except for the limp. I got to  3rd street and I turned left – I was already feeling awkward and humiliated on such a busy street.

I walked a few blocks until I found the Grand Theatre. I knew that was a good spot to sit on a bench, play my ukulele, and leave a case open for anything to be given. I started to play and noticed how people ignored me. I wouldn’t really make eye contact with them because of my own feeling of humiliation.

Young kids would talk louder to each other while walking by only to drown out the awkwardness of me sitting there.

That was the vibe I was catching – old folks whom I thought would have a bit more grace and compassion walked by me as if I wasn’t even there… I was an outcast. A complete leper in their eyes.

In less than an hour, I began to feel worthless and humiliated. In frustration I packed my things and began to walk. I thought to myself that I wouldn’t get the “full experience” unless I walked until  I was exhausted. I nearly reached complete exhaustion on 25th street, and I found an underpass on antelope creek.  I went down there and noticed the quietness of the creek so I began to walk on the sidewalk that led me to 27th street. I had no idea where I was going… just kept walking. I took a right on 27th where I walked past F street and found a bench I could sit on and rest.

I looked back at the Capitol building several times as my beacon to get back to downtown. It brought me comfort to look at it from time to time.

I got up and began to walk that direction. I found myself back at antelope creek just further south – I came across a man slipping on the ice near a tiny bridge over the creek. He looked at me and mumbled, ” Merry Christmas…”

I said the same thing back and continued walking toward a street next to the creek.

I sat down to rest once again.

Just praying and listening to the cars pass by.

I began to walk and saw a gas station telling me the time. It was only 10:15pm and I felt I had been walking for much longer then that. I then went off east looking for O street once again while trying to find my underpass. I found it once again and also where I was going to call home for the night.

I laid down huddled by the wall. I rested my head on my ukulele case while I tried to shut my eyes. My mind began to wander and was lost more in daydreaming than actual sleep. I heard a tapping and dragging noise nearby  – I was very startled and turned my head to see what it was. It was just trash scrapping across the concrete from the wind.

 I curled back up facing the wall with my beanie over my eyes. I then prayed to God that he would keep me safe and let me last through the night with no harm.

My mind began to wander again through time and space and then…

…I woke up to the sound of a large truck passing over my head. I woke up alarmed and shivering from the cold. I got up quickly, gathered my things and looked up at the Capitol. I knew I needed to just get back to my car.

I started to do so and made it back to downtown Lincoln. I saw another building with the temperature and time rotating above the entrance and it said 2:00am 22F. I then realized that I actually fell asleep… until that moment I had no idea that I did. It felt as if I was in the underpass for no longer than half an hour – It turned out to be closer to 4 hours and I was quite surprised.

I kept walking down O street where I passed a large office building.

I looked to my left and noticed a pile of blankets and coats on a bench. There was also a chair with a trash bag tied on the leg next to it.

I looked for a moment longer and knew what I had run into: it was a homeless person in a tomb of blankets who managed to mummify himself in what had to of been twenty old coats.

This was the person I was looking for all night.

I couldn’t even pick out a figure but I knew that someone was lying underneath all of that to stay warm. I  quietly placed the money I had in my pocket on their camping chair.

I prayed for the person silently and left to find my car. Walking away from them I thought about my sign that I made at the beginning of the night.


It’s exactly what I did for him, although no one did it for me.

I walked away saying GOD BLESS.

Drew Geiger, Christmas 2013