How to make it work?

I don’t have the answer. That’s why there’s a question mark in the title.

But I know how it won’t work.

It won’t work if the idea remains a thought, a dream, or even turning into a nightmare. (Because… you know, unfulfilled things might hunt you.)

It won’t work if you take one step forward and stops when it gets a little bit harder.

It won’t work if you get a bit sweetness out of a short period of hard work and then call it a day — and you are doing it not because you are satisfied, but because you are afraid of failing.

It won’t work if you think it’s too much to ask for life to give you what you really want. “I have this so it’s not fair to ask for that.” Who are you taking it from?

It won’t work if you don’t have a structure — any structure — when you have more than one thought in your head, more than one thing you need to do a day.

It won’t work if you put (imagined) others in the spotlight of your life.

It won’t work if you are a closed person.

It won’t work if you are too careless.

It won’t work if you can too much.

It won’t work if you take yourself and life too seriously.

It won’t work if you don’t have a brake.

It won’t work if you pulling the brake the whole time.

So how can you make it work?

I’m really asking.

I don’t have time for you. I have work to do.

You come to visit again. My old foe.

You make me feel that I’m not good enough to do what I’m doing. I’m not capable. I’m not worthy.

You make me feel everything doesn’t make sense, that everything I do is to fool myself.

“I’m kidding myself.”

“I’m heading nowhere.”

“I’m wasting my time because it’s just the wrong thing for me to do.”

You are the creator of my creative funk.


You always come back when I’m standing alone. You feed on loneliness.

You return to me when I’m impatient to achieve my goals, when I’m obsessed with utilitarianism. You are hungry for the urge and greed for gratification.

You visit when I lack practice, when my streaks are broken for too long. When the skills are unfamiliar and the hands are stiff.

You grow strong and vigorous in time gaps.


But I don’t have time for you.

I know that I will eventually get over you and know you are merely a shadow of my own mind.

So why not now?

Why do I always go through the cycle of letting you mess with my thoughts, waste my time to live and to create, and then get myself out of your mind game only after you’ve had your fun troubling me?

So pack your bag and leave. I’ve got work to do.

How burnout feels like

Burnout. Terrifying?

The danger of burnout is that you are likely not aware that you have it.

That’s when burnout gets you.

I felt down. Physically and emotionally. Every second of every day. Losing sleep, losing interest in other things, feeling like a walking corpse.

There was only one thing on my mind: you’ve gotta keep going. There’s no other way.

Burnout feels like a layer on your skin. It’s almost inside of your cells but your body knows it’s strange.

Or is it a curse? Something possible to get rid of, but you can’t if you are enchanted by it and don’t know that you have it, until it’s too late.

I needed someone else to tell me that what I was feeling — feeling exhausted from what I was doing and thinking about all day and never felt well again — was the result of having burnout for a long time.

I can’t believe I didn’t know. Because for such a long time, food and drinks didn’t have taste, my body didn’t feel like moving, and I was emotionally on the edge of losing it every day.

Should have known earlier. Life is short.

What does it mean to be a professional?

You are a professional at doing it, because the stakes are high.

It’s not your hobby. Because you certainly can make money from your hobby, if you like. Your livelihood doesn’t depend on it; your quality of life — financial and/or mental — won’t change much if you don’t carry on with it.

It’s not private. Hobby is private.

Being professional means having a standard. It means you voluntarily put your work in front of others and say “this is my work. I have a standard.

I am on a professional level.

I have a principle.

I do what I like. This is what I like to do. But I also do it for others. And get recognised for it. And most of times, I get paid for it.

I don’t do it just for fun.

It’s not necessarily my profession.

But I’m a professional at it. I do my work when I don’t want to. Because I’m doing it also for others.

Because others need my work.

The stakes are high.”

Ass and heart

“Put your ass where your heart is.”

What do you see from this sentence? While some see the bravery to take a leap, others see actually doing the work to get you where you want to go.

I see the alignment of will and action.

All thinking, no doing. The curse of a generation.

We have been waiting for too long, waiting for the right time, the right space, the right tools and gadgets.

We have been fantasising for too long, about how we have already achieved our goals. The endorphin already rushed to our brains. What holds our motivation high to actually take the steps?

So the only thin we can do is to move our asses and put them to work.

Not just any work.

The work where our hearts are.

Create a journey that brings change

Don’t think it’s the end result what your audience/customers want. What comes before that is the journey itself.

The experience from beginning to end. The whole package.

Think about it like designing an exhibition. The visitors come in, either interested or uninterested in the topic, but they don’t know much about it. Then they go through the exit to the gift shop, wanting to buy souvenirs. The journey from the start to end is all decisive.

What’s the change do you want them to make? What realisation do you want them to have? What is so pretty and so inspiring that they will want to have a book about and buy a poster of?

The experience on the journey decides the end result, and whether or not they will tell others about it.

When they start to tell others about it, you’ve done your work right.

The most effective way to generate new ideas for anything

“Cooking dumplings in a tea kettle” is what the Chinese say when they want to describe someone who has much to say but unable to express it.

You must have had that feeling. It’s like you have much to say and to express, but somehow you just can’t let it out.

“I’ve got it.” You say. “I’ve got the idea but I’m not really sure…”

See, your problem is right there.

You can’t expect to let the dumplings out from the small opening of the kettle. You have to open the lid instead!

So, how do you open your “lid” to let out all the good stuff in your head?

Answer: have an idea generating session!

But not a 45-minute sit-in while having a staring contest with your blank paper.

A 10-minute quick but intense session of jotting down anything that pops in your head.

This is how you do it:

You can write the main topic on the top of the page. Say, “creativity”.

Then you note numbers from 1 to 15. Like the following:

Creativity

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.

Then you give yourself a 10-minute timer. Write down anything that you think is related.

Be specific if you can. Write down essential words so that you know what you mean.

For example. Some of the things I wrote down are: use of time, coming up new ideas, comparing self with others, sleep or no sleep?…

No matter what, fill in all 15 of them.

There will be some that spark more inside of you than others. When you start to create, start with those.

This is what I call the blitz-brainstorm session. The brainstorm session fast as a blitz. 🙂

The reason why this is an effective way to generate ideas is simple: you shut down your need to “be sure” about something, which is in your “mind”; instead, you let things out without filtering them, from your subconsciousness or simply your “gut”.

Not all of these ideas are worth going deeper and eventually becoming something. But you’ve got at least one good idea. That might be the one idea you’ve been searching for the whole time. It’s been hiding in your brain all along.

Like the dumplings in your kettle, you just need to find a way to let it out.

Never forget your “why”

“We’ve come so far, that we forgot why we started in the first place.”

We have limited attention every day. People get easily distracted these days, but we are still good at getting fixated on something and forgetting everything else at the same time. Especially when we are frustrated if things in front of our eyes are not going our way.

But why we started is far more important than why is the bike not working properly. I mean, if you want to get somewhere, you can ride a bike, walk, drive a car, take a bus, train, plane… just get there. The more time you spend being frustrated about something that doesn’t really matter (because there’s another way to do it), the longer it’s going to take you back to your journey.

That’s why it’s always important to revisit your “why”.

My suggestion: setting a reoccurring event to revisit your why in your calendar. And set the reminder of the event as via email. You can do it how often you need it. I’m setting it every two weeks for now. And it works very well. I’m always reminded of my big why and it motivates me every time when I look at it.

Hobby, job, career, vocation

If your hobby is to cook, you are not a professional chef who works in a restaurant.

If your job is to cook, you are making money off doing it. But you don’t have to love it. If you don’t like it, you can change to another job.

If your career is to cook, your job is automatically cooking. Now you’d better love it. If not, you will suffer.

A career is a job you want to do again and again, better and better. For life.

What’s your vocation?

You don’t have to have a vocation. But if you do, you are so lucky.

Vocation is something you have to do not because you can make money out of it. It’s something you want to do because you love it. It’s the feeling you get when you do it. It’s the person you are being when you are doing it.

Vocation is something you do it just because you are less yourself if you don’t do it.

It’s something you just have to do it because you have no other choice. You do it no matter that.

It’s the love drama you have with the universe: you stick together with this one thing through sick and health, thick and thin.

It’s a commitment, needs no paper to make the bond official, no approval from others.

It’s private, and sacred.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a vocation.

Treasure yours.

Unblock the dried up well?

Elizabeth Gilbert has been very open about her process of writing while not knowing what would become clunkers and what would work. She said in multiple occasions, that she had a long period of time receiving nothing but rejection letters. The only thing she could do was to go back to her work even if they were not picked by the publishers. This is the same as what Seth said about shooting: you can’t hit without having misses. And to be realistic, you will have more misses than hits. And after you hit the target, what you do? Well, you can put down your hands and say “I did it” and call it a day; or most likely you will keep shooting, keep missing, until you hit again.

I gave up believing in the myth of a Writer’s block after listening to the episode of Akimbo podcast (episode 4) where Seth debunked it. To me, the reason that I used to think I had a block in my creative process is kinda universal: perfectionism. Perfectionism comes from an ego that’s bigger than it’s healthy to be: “I have to come up with something good to say, something brilliant to draw, to put in front of others. Because I am good. And everybody should know that from whatever I produce now.” Because we were lured to believe that all artists should be egocentric who create the work of their lives that must inspire generations? Maybe. But again, they are the hits and not the misses.

It’s interesting to me that there’s no term equivalent to “writer’s block” in Chinese. “Block” indicates that one can “unblock” it. In Chinese, the words to describe a writer who cannot write is like: the thoughts/idea of well has been drained (like a dry well in the desert, it’s dead); and an artist who cannot create anymore: “talent being used up, drained up. One becomes empty and career in art comes to the end.” If you can’t create anymore, it’s final. Gosh are the Chinese super harsh with their creative minds…
One of the most intellectuals in modern Chinese history, Liang Shiqiu, wrote about “writer’s block”:  lack of imagination, slow association, unclear analysis, and lack of vocabulary&expression are the four main reasons of getting a block in your creative practice. The way to unblock? Read well and read more. To ensure one’s never blocked again, and doing better work with time: Read, analyse, write, edit. Repeat.

Are you a dried up well? Or can you keep reading, analysing, writing, and editing, to unblock your creative stream?