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advice for creatives

Pain Doesn't Change Anything

15 is when I first lost someone close to me, stabbed 7 times in his own apartment building. I got a phone call from my cousin at 5:00 in the morning, and when he broke the news it was like I couldn’t breath. I remember thinking that the pain from having our friend taken from us would change everything. That everyone close to him would change their ways, that they would realize that nothing positive comes from their lifestyle, only death. But after a few blunts and even more rounds of dark rum, everything went back to how it was before; everyone went back to how they were before. Nothing changed.

That lesson always stuck with me, though I’m not sure how well I’ve practiced what I learned so many years back. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I’m laying in a hospital bed, two bags of morphine being pumped through my veins. Another bout with migraines, a condition I’ve suffered with since I was 16. It happens only once a year, but lasts for about a month each time, and every time I go see my doctor he tells me that something needs to change.

This go round was the worst, like the absolute worst, and when I could finally open my eyes, the doctor looked at me and said, “Kern, you need to rest your brain, you need to feed your brain, you need to hydrate your brain. Something needs to change.”

16 years of going through this year after year, and it took being hospitalized for a day for me to finally accept that sleeping four hours a night and working and partying the rest of the time isn’t going to work. I needed to change.

What I’m getting at is that pain doesn’t actually change anything. Only extreme pain does. 15 years of yearly migraine pain didn’t force me to change my lifestyle, one time laying on that bed not able to move is what’s finally getting me to sleep 6 hours a night (getting closer to Thriving, Arianna). Having a friend murdered not change anyone around him, is the same mindset that keeps people in marriages for years and years even though their partner treats them like shit. Being treated like shit just isn’t enough pain to make the change from marriage to starting a new life on their own.

It’s like being an addict. Change only happens when you reach bottom, when you’re at your absolute lowest and literally can’t deal with the pain anymore. Similarly, I think success is achieved in the same way. You don’t truly begin the sustained road to success till you feel that burning pain, that hospital bed, hate my life, hate my wife/husband, need something to be different or I’m going to die kind of pain. Once you experience that level of pain in your current life, then and only then does the urgency to change become real.

I’m happy to say that I’ve reached that pain point. That hunger for ultimate success was always there, but I had to figure out how to balance it out so it doesn’t kill me before I’m able to fully realize and enjoy it. It took a few years and some drugs through the bloodstream, but hopefully you all can learn from me when I say it shouldn’t take nearly that much.    

#PassionAndPaper

Purchase your copy of Thoughts of a Fractured Soul here.

Find Success in the Process

It was my biggest flaw, and probably still is to some degree. Always hungry, never satisfied, always wanting more, pushing towards that next milestone with my eyes fixed like I was driving down a two way without any headlights. It's tough being ambitious, and no I'm not saying that playfully, I'm being really serious here. It's not easy living day to day with the weight of the expectations I put on myself. It's not easy having all these visions of success and literally seeing exactly where I want to be, who I want to be, how I want to live; being able to see that everyday but have it be just out of my grasp. And I feel myself getting closer, feel the energy of the people I'm touching, can actually see real results; measurable, real life progress.

But it still isn't enough.

At least it still wasn't enough.

Over the better part of the last 12 months, I've made a conscious effort to stop chasing. I've realized that everything I want I already have, and I mean that. Maybe not in the abundance that I want, but it's all right here, right now. So the last year I've let go, taken chances I normally wouldn't take, opened myself up to other people more than I ever have, forged some amazing new friendships, lost some amazing friends, saw some amazing friends lose themselves, made more money than ever before in my life, then faultered and struggled a little bit with managing that money. And I haven't even touched on my book which has brought me the most joy in my career thus far.

But I was there for it all. Conscious. Aware.

I found success in my journey.

And I don't mean this in a philosophical kind of way, I mean I truly appreciated and recognized all of my successes with friendships and my writing career during this time period. I realized that I don't have to keep waiting for this grand moment when all of a sudden I'm going to feel like I finally "made it." I don't know where "it" is and everything I'm trying to make I already have.

Ghandi has a saying that goes something like this:

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are all the same.

I can't say I'm all the way there yet, but I'm damn close!

#PassionAndPaper

Why Is Simple So Appealing?

Sometimes I get these feelings telling me that all I truly want is a simple life. I was walking down the Lakeshore today in Toronto, barely anyone else was out there except for who I assumed was a grandmother and grandfather on either side side of their young granddaughter, holding her hands strolling to a bench near the water. The breeze coming from the lake forced my hands inside my pockets and my hood over my head, but really it was the peacefulness of the scene that made me shiver. What is it about simplicity that's so appealing? I sat on raised stones close enough to feel speckles of water hit my face and thought about how much I had simplified my own life just over the past few months. I was one of those take on ten projects at a time just because I can type of people, always trying to prove something to someone, or some group, or some girl, never thinking how much I put my own purpose to the side.

But then I stopped.

I stopped caring about other people's projects, stopped caring about other people's problems, and took the completely selfish but gratifying step of putting my own priorities first. I didn't focus on anything outside of my own personal goals, which I realized were really quite simple and based on what I was great at or what I felt some emotional connection to.

20150520_141131This wasn't exactly easy because it meant letting go of things in which I had invested a lot of time, stepping away from people I cared about, and changing paths a little bit which is always at least a little bit scary. But ask me now if it's worth it and I have to say YES without hesitation. The success I've had just over the last few months proves it. The calm I've felt during that same time period is more proof. And I'm still working harder than ever, but the Millennial in me keeps giving subtle reminders that this is my life, I only live it once, and I should live it the way I choose.

So I am, and I'm loving every moment of it, thankful for all of my accomplishments and the ones yet to come, and not apologizing for having left behind a world of complication for a life of simplicity.

Till next time...

Visualize, Execute, and Learn to Let Go - Lessons for Life

When I took a seasonal position at Chapters-Indigo a couple years ago, I did so with a purpose. Yeah it was nice to have some extra cash in my pocket, but my goal was to get one step closer to realizing my vision of one day having "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul" on the shelves of Canada's biggest bookstore. My book wasn't even published yet, but I knew I had to take steps to assure its success and make good on what I had been visualizing for years before that, and if that meant taking the opportunity to literally immerse myself in the very venue I hoped my book would one day occupy, then it's an opportunity I couldn't pass up, despite my aversion to 9-5 work.  Over a year now after releasing my first novella, I was not surprised when just last week Chapters sent me an email saying they will purchase 10 copies of my book for one of its stores. In other words, I will be on the shelves, a fulfillment of my visualization.

I say I wasn't surprised not to be arrogant, I only mean that I had a goal I believed in whole heartily, took all the steps I felt necessary to achieve that goal, then let it go. I think the final step is worth some detail. Being able to visualize is crucial, if you can't see where you want to be you'll never get there. Executing is just as important because without action there can be no results. But what has helped me not only to be more productive, but to also see through some of my goals is actually moving on from them; letting them go.

Before getting into this practice, I would obsess over things, check back in over and over again, make revisions that were ultimately unnecessary, think of new strategies even after I had executed the original strategy top to bottom. It lead to me being overly stressed out, affected my progress on other projects I should have been working on, and when I reflect back on these instances, I don't ever remember it working out to my benefit, not moreso than if I had just let everything work itself out on its own.

Now don't mistake what I'm saying, it's perfectly OK and actually necessary that you be thorough. What I'm saying is you have to reach a point where you know within yourself that you've done everything you can to make that particular goal work, and once that point is recognized you need to move on to other matters.

Learning to let go has been the final step to my success, the one small change in my psychology that has had a significant impact on my well being and on the my results. Give it a try and see what happens.

Don't Fight For Perfection

Coming from me, someone who took six years to finish my first book, this piece of advice may seem hypocritical. But it's actually something that I've learned over the years and has helped me to advance through some tough projects. Opaint-315803_640f course you want your work to be the absolute best it can be, as near to  perfect as possible, but you can't get trapped by fighting for perfect. You  can't  let perfectionism prevent you from moving forward, from submitting  a manuscript, from taking part in an event or starting a project. I'm not  even sure  if perfect even exists.

I remember watching an Interview with the Foo Fighters a couple years  ago while they were on the red carpet of the Grammy awards. They spoke  about  making what was then nominated for album of the year from Dave Grohl's garage (or maybe his house) and how music is not supposed to be perfect. I  always remembered that interview, and recently began applying it to my own life and career.

And I have to say it's been working, to perfection none the less! Releasing that burden of having to get everything right, having to do everything right, pretending as if I don't make mistakes has been liberating and has actually helped me produce better work and be a lot easier going in my personal life.

The key is to find a balance between being obsessed and being satisfied. Having someone you trust be a second set of eyes could be helpful, but I know that can be tough for many creatives out there. My suggestion is to step away from your work for at least a day, maybe longer if possible (this means no procrastinating) and then going back at it to see if it accomplished what it's supposed to accomplish.

Be hard on yourself, but not too hard. If you're confident in what you do then let that confidence be a gauge for your work. And most of all, enjoy it. Most things aren't as crucial as we make it out to be.

Till next time...

Sleepless in Seattle – How Environments Influence Creativity

I felt something. Standing on my brother’s balcony looking out at the lake that is his backyard, I felt it. A group of ducks sailed quietly on the water, some dove underwater for what seemed like minutes before popping back up beak first to rejoin their colleagues. I know this sounds like a scene out of a book, but that’s exactly how I felt. Fresh off my trip to Seattle for my brother’s wedding and I’m feeling good. The actual wedding was perfect, and meeting and welcoming new family made it that more special. But Seattle gave me so much more than that, and I left feeling even more inspired then I already am.

I learned something standing on my brother’s balcony that day – environment influences creativity. This is not a novel idea and to some extent I already knew this was the case. But I mean like I really had some sparks of genius overlooking the lake, observing the ducks interact with each other while eagles flew overhead with mountains in the backdrop. I literally sat down and wrote out a bunch of new content ideas along with other more personal thoughts.

Now I know being back in Toronto I won’t be able to create the scenic beauty of Seattle. But I can and I will create an environment that allows my creativity to flow uninhibited. I can take walks down Queen street (once it gets a bit warmer) and feel the energy of this city, I can sit in a closed room with some candles and just lay down. Whatever I decide to do, the goal is to give myself moments out of each day where I’m allowed to just think, feel, observe, and be still.

Now I can’t be the only one doing this so I’m interested to know how other artists go about creating those environments and those moments for themselves.

Why I Won’t Succumb to Average

I already see it happening all around me. I’m at that age where people I know are settling down in their lives becoming comfortable with their careers. It’s that age where all those ambitions they had – those grandiose plans of starting their own company or creating a new product, or pushing for that new promotion, or boldly changing careers to something more meaningful or more fulfilling – gets pushed aside for the sake of comfort, or convenience, or having to exert too much effort, or for the need of money. I see it happening but I won’t succumb; I can’t. And you can call me a dreamer, illogical, delusional, all phrases the greats have had to endure before breaking through. Truth is, if I hadn’t seen enough progress in my own writing, haven’t continued to receive emails from readers with intimate accounts of how my writing has moved them, haven’t seen the faces of the audiences I read to nodding their heads in approval, haven’t seen those audiences grow with each reading. If I hadn’t seen this progress, I may have succumb too. I may have been right there with everyone else waving the white flag of consolation.

But it’s too late for me; I belong in the field. It’s too late for me to turn back now and say “I gave it my best shot.” I see how the power of my words have inspired some and impressed others, I see how much further I have to go and I’m more than up to the challenge. Giving in is not an option, breaking is not an option, being satisfied is not even a consideration. I’m just getting started, touching new people, gathering new readers, making more money which is opening more opportunities. My duty to this world has not been fulfilled just yet.

So I tip my hat to those of you who have gracefully bowed out of this journey toward greatness. I congratulate you for making it this far. My path is the road less traveled and my footprints will be seen.

Till next time….

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