Friday, September 20, 2013

The Art of Creating

Does art matter? What about creativity? When you think about the most practical things in life, do either fall on that list or do they just not really matter anymore? Did they ever?

Maybe it's not so much that our views of art and creativity have been morphed, but our view of practicality. The word practical is defined as realistic or something that lends to a beneficial function. But, it seems that the word has become almost a secondary definition for mundane, colorless, and bland.

Who is to say that art can't be practical and practicality can't be an art?

When most people think about artists, they think about the pretentious college dropout throwing paint against the walls of their hipster studio apartment. When I think about artists, I think about the people who create works with the hope that it will evoke wonder and inspiration in others, the ones who create witty inventions that help and benefit the lives of others, and who serve others with the intention of creating a more beautiful, loving world.

I don't simply view art as the stuff you hang on your wall or admire in a museum. I view art more as a way of doing. It is taking whatever you choose to do seriously and executing it with an utmost, genuine passion. Art exists in anything that passion can be applied to. There's art in business, exercising, forming relationships, speaking, almost everything. 

So you can't ask "Does art matter?" Of course it does. A world without art is a world without passion. While art is important, it cannot truly exist without one thing. Creativity.

I come from a very business minded family and when I was growing up my parents trained me to have the mind of a problem solver. They would give me these brainteaser exercises and puzzles that would help me become the chosen warrior that would save mankind when the machines attack. But, for every problem they presented me with, they would encourage and almost require me to be creative when coming up with a solution.

Creativity is not just applied to art. It is tied to everything. For every problem that presents itself in our lives, a solution must be created. On a regular basis, we meet new people and create relationships. Everyday, we create life by moving, living, and being.

To be creative is to possess the power to create. It's an incredible power that leads to infinite possibilities, and one I personally believe every human is blessed with. In my crazy mind, there are two types of people. There are the creative ones, and there are the ones that just don't know they're creative. We are all designed to be creative and to create.

This does however bring me to a question I am constantly dwelling on and asking myself;

Why not create?

There's a huge sense of vulnerability when it comes to presenting the contents of your heart and mind for others to see. I know I get anxious every time I hit the publish button on a new post. But then again, what kind of world would we be in if Michelangelo were too afraid to even attempt to sculpt David, if Jules Verne were too self-conscious to share his futuristic stories and visions, if Walt Disney were too timid to bring a charismatic, little mouse to life. 

I'm not assuming that this blog is up on the same shelf as David, Journey to the Center of the Earth, or Steamboat Willie. But, it is what I have on display for others.

To create is to be upright and bold. While most people say, "Dare to dream." if you're anything like me you'll say, "Dare to share your dreams." Whether we like it or not, the world needs whatever is hidden within the labyrinth of your mind and your heart. 

Creating is the art of bringing something into existence. We are all artists at work constantly bringing the products of our imagination into reality and making the unseen seen. We should never let self-doubt, lack of resources, or even the blank canvas itself stop us from doing what we were designed to do.

A few weekends ago, I went to an artisan retreat that my church put on in the San Bernardino Mountains. It was one of those experiences where you arrive, and immediately they hand you a paintbrush and tell you to go paint. Sometimes we really do just need to have the brush forced upon us to have the motivation and creativity pulled out of us.

What are you really waiting for? Pick up a paintbrush and go paint. Grab a pen and write a story. Sit at a piano and compose a song. Seek out people and form relationships. Find a problem and create a solution. Create the beauty you wish existed. The world is full of canvases. Find one and create.

Art, relationships, solutions, beauty, life. Never stop creating. Ever


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Ballad of Life and Hope

"Where there is life, there is hope."
I received this quote out of the blue in a text message recently. It came with almost perfect timing in a moment where I felt crippled with hopelessness. Since I received these words, I've been constantly dwelling on them, dissecting them, and further figuring out how they apply to my own circumstances. (Because nothing is ever that simple with me.)

It's such a simple equation. Life equals hope, and vice versa. But, what if you look at it from an alternate perspective? Where there is not life, what is there? I know it's said that hope is present in every single situation and circumstance. And almost all of the time, I would agree.

Let's do a little dissecting for a moment, starting with hope. Hope is described as an expectation, a desire, or a yearning for something to happen. It's a grounds for believing in something good. It's a feeling of trust.

I don't want anyone to think for a second that I'm saying hope is bad. I strongly believe that hope is a good thing, maybe even the best of things. (Not to go quoting The Shawshank Redemption) Sometimes we hope for things to happen that are completely out of our control. But, what about the things we actually have some control over?

Now, let's shift our focus on the life part for a second. Life in general is described as the period of time between birth and death of any living being. But sometimes, I view life in a slightly different sense.

There's another saying that I've come to embrace quite recently. "Movement equals life." For me, life is moving, doing, taking action towards the things you have control over.

Where there is movement, there is life. And once again (Say it with me if you wish), where there is life, there is hope. 
Movement = Life = Hope
Sometimes, hope is useless without trying, without taking action, without moving towards something. I could hope all day long that people would invest their time and read this blog. But, I can't expect that to happen if I remain inactive for weeks at a time and don't put any effort into making it something worth investing in.

When I received this particular text message, I was smack-dab in the middle of a rough weekend. There was some stuff I had control over, and there was some stuff I didn't. I was feeling defeated, and I was ready to completely give up on everything.

But now, I attribute that feeling to being stagnant and even a little bit lazy. Maybe I didn't know how to move forward with the things I had control over, or maybe I just forgot what it meant to be alive, to move, to take action.

Maybe you're reading this post and you just need a text message like this sent your way. Maybe you need a reminder that there is hope, or maybe you just need a call to action. Just remember, hope requires life, and life requires movement.

My ultimate advice to you right now; Realize what is and is not in your control. For the things that are, take action, move, push forward and hope for the best!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Flat Horizons

Do you ever feel like you don't really have anything substantial to offer in certain areas? Maybe you're apart of a group or community and you feel like your energy, talents, and abilities just don't measure up to those around you. If so, you're not alone. If not, then why aren't you the one writing a blog?

Lately I've been dealing with the question of what I have to offer as a person in relationships, in a workplace, and in terms of talent. I assume that's just an inevitability when you move to a big city with an excess of talented, energetic, extroversive individuals. They're everywhere. And they're watching... Always watching. 

I am now living in a place where you have to know who you are and what you have to offer. Otherwise, you'll be trampled over, left in the dust, and no one will ever know you we're even here. It's a scary truth and it's something I hate dwelling on. Nevertheless, it makes for good motivation to keep soul searching. But then comes the question, "What happens if you don't find anything or if you don't like what you do find?"

There are some relationships I'm involved in where I'm mostly just a listener. I've mentioned before that I consider myself a soft-spoken individual, and sometimes it really is because I just don't have anything to say. But sometimes I don't say anything because maybe I feel like what I have to say just isn't that relevant or important. The worst part about bottling up what I have to say this is that it makes me feel like a taker rather than a giver. It makes me feel like the link that just doesn't measure up to the rest. It makes me feel like wasted space.

I fully understand what it's like when you feel as though you have nothing important to share or offer. Most of the time you feel stagnant, without passion, and maybe a little bit hopeless. But in all honesty, when you really dig deep, I think you'll find that it's just voices in your head screaming exactly what you don't want to hear. Voices that lie to you and tell you that there's nothing to give. The choice we all have is whether or not to believe what they say.

I remember my road trip out to California. The second day of my trip, I went from Fort Worth, Texas to Tuscon, Arizona. The first seven and a half hours were spent driving through the flat, dry plains of West Texas. It's desolate, barren, and for lack of a better word, boring. There was absolutely nothing between me and the horizon. As time passed, I felt myself growing more fatigued and drained of energy. I was almost ready to give up.

But then eventually, right before I-20 merges with I-10, I saw a mountain rising out of the horizon miles away. It was something new and interesting to look at. I started to get excited, and that excitement gave me energy. Before too long, the drab landscape transitioned into a mountainous desert with some of the most beautiful, dramatic, rolling valleys I had ever seen. It may not sound that interesting, but for someone who has never seen the desert and had just spent hours driving across the plains, it was a breath of fresh air. It was something that the land had to offer.



I know I'm probably stretching this way too thin, but sometimes I feel a little like West Texas; Flat, desolate, uninteresting. There's plenty of space, but it's all wasted. It's got nothing to offer. It's nothing but flat horizons.

Then again, maybe my issue isn't that I don't have anything to offer. Maybe I feel that what I have to offer just isn't good enough to share. That is, unfortunately, much worse. I'm keeping whatever mountains I have buried beneath the horizons. It's cowardly and it's selfish. And if this is you too, then you could be robbing the earth of its greatest, most beautiful landscape. No matter what you have, if you keep it bottled up inside, your horizons will always remain flat.

The truth is that, unlike West Texas, we can always change if we so choose. We can find something to offer, or in my case, the courage to share what we already have. For the longest time, I chose not to tell anyone about this blog, but now I choose to share it. Even if it's not as good as I would like to think it is or if it just seems like the aimless ramblings of an over-thinker, it's still something I've taken hold of and have chosen to offer. I know that sometimes you may feel like you have nothing to share, but do you really and truly believe it?

I'm an introvert that wants to be an extrovert. I'm a wallflower that wants to dance in the middle of the floor. I don't want to be afraid to share what I have. So what's stopping me? I can make excuses all day, but the fact of the matter is that nothing is stopping me. I
 just have to keep driving and hope that my own mountains will appear.

So, if there's one thing you should take away from this post; Sometimes it doesn't matter what you have to offer, just so long as you offer something. Don't worry about how well you do, just go do. You will find your strengths, you'll find courage and confidence, and eventually the mountains will rise out of your horizon.

And if there's a second thing you should take away from this post; Don't be flat, don't be barren, don't be boring, don't be West Texas!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Live Alive: Walk It Off

If you were to ask me what my go-to stress reliever would be, I would almost always respond with long morning walks/runs. Or as I also like to call them, The Perfect Alternative to Xanax.

For most people, walking or running is an easy exercise, a decent way to keep your heart healthy, or a cheap way to mingle with and/or impress the opposite sex. For me, it's a sense of liberation (and maybe just a little bit of the latter). It's a chance to clear my mind and be free of my problems just for a little while. It's something that helps me feel alive.

When I run, I feel unrestrained, like nothing can hold me back. That is until I run out of breath and collapse on the nearest park bench. There's something that's just so freeing and invigorating about the feeling of my feet pounding on the pavement, my legs burning from being pushed to their limits, and my heart feeling like it's on the verge of exploding. I promise I'm not a masochist.

I'll just go on record and confess that from time to time I do over think things and I do get a little anxious. Sue me if you wish. Whenever I have moments where my anxiety keeps me from moving forward, I go on a walk. When it's just me, the road, and my favorite music playing in my ears, it is all good. I don't worry, I think clearly, and that's when I have some of my most profound moments.

When I was in the process of deciding whether or not to move to Los Angeles, I went on a lot of long walks. It would always clear my mind of all the negativity and help me think about the best ways I could move forward and really live my life. 

I've maintained the habit of walking since I've started living in the big city, and there are some big differences that have been a little difficult to get used to. In Georgia, I could have gone on a long run without ever seeing another human being; Complete solitude. Here, I can't go on a run without almost getting hit by cars. Just another one of the world's strange and fickle inconsistencies.

(At least for this week) 
• "The Weight" by The Band
• "Two Fingers" by Jake Bugg
• "My Doorbell" by The White Stripes
• "Take a Walk" by Passion Pit


• "Fortunate Son" by Creedance Clearwater Revival
• "Power Hungry Animals" by The Apache Relay
• "Heroes" by David Bowie
• "Ghosts" by The Head and the Heart

• "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones
• "Where the Streets Have No Names" by U2
• "Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac 
• "Iris" by The Goo Goo Dolls

Though for most people it may just be a simple workout, for me it's a moment to let go of my worries and run free. And that's something that makes me feel alive. The toned glutes and calf muscles are just an added bonus. I know it's tough not to worry about certain things, but we need these moments in our lives where we can just forget. Otherwise, we drive ourselves crazy.

If you're ever unsure of how to start those days where you feel like there's too much to do, start with a walk. If you ever have moments when you start to over think or worry about things, take a walk. If anxiety ever starts to creep in, run and don't ever look back!

The sidewalk beckons. Walk it off. Live alive.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Live Alive

It can be very easy to get bogged down by whatever seemingly unsolvable dilemmas life throws at you day to day. We all face challenges, problems, and times when we feel alone and powerless. It's in the midst of the chaos that we forget how to live and we forget what it feels like to be joyously and wondrously alive.

Though we may not be able to escape reality, we can season it. It's important to find things that bring you joy, no matter how simple they may be and even if only for a short time.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking, but I'm only nineteen. I don't have easy access to alcohol.

This post is an introduction to a series I'm writing called Live Alive where I share some of the things that inspire me, make me feel alive, and how they do so. Some of these may seem like the simplest of things, like profound morning walks, teaching myself how to cook with varying results, or rocking out to my favorite music when I'm stuck in traffic. 

I also realize that some of these things may reveal just how uninteresting and lame my life ay appear to be. But, hey, there's no such thing as an ordinary life. There's only your life.

Sometimes it really is the little things that help you live life the way it was meant to be lived. I invite you to come and discover some of what makes me feel most alive and I encourage you to hopefully find some little things that add joy and wonder to your lives as well.

Take time. Sniff the roses. Enjoy the ride. 

Live alive.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Not Of This World

Let's talk a little bit on the ever so fickle concept of fitting in. It is very easy for me to feel like a I don't fit in. That's a feeling I experienced living in Georgia, and it's definitely been magnified in California. I'm sure I'm probably a little weird by many people's standards, maybe a little soft spoken (A great quality for a blogger I'm sure), and I don't always make a huge effort to put myself in any form of spotlight.

Going from a small town to a big city is an overwhelming undertaking. It almost forces you to break out of whatever shell you've locked yourself in, because if you don't, no one will ever know you were even here. 

I've been in Los Angeles for four weeks, and I still feel a bit like an outsider. It's probably one of those things that's just in my head, kind of like how every car and driver hates me and wants to murder me. 

It's a strange and different culture that I'm trying to get used to. Not just Southern California, but city culture. It's a bit of an uphill climb trying to find my element and occasionally I feel like I slide back down. But, sooner or later, every mountain has to crest.
I keep telling myself that every person who comes to this city feels the same way at first. At one point or another, we all feel like outcasts. I have found, however, that there is a major difference between fitting in and feeling like you belong.

Right before I left for Los Angeles, I went to see the new Superman film, Man of Steel. The story of Superman has always intrigued me. A boy born not of this world sent to save it, to be a symbol of hope, and to help the people accomplish wonders. It's inspiring on so many levels.

I hate being just another dude saying that I'm just like Superman, but I have to believe that I'm in this city for a reason. Whether it be to bring hope to those who have none, or to just lighten someone's day with a smile.

I'm sure there's a part of all of us, myself included, that can relate to Clark Kent. Of course, Clark Kent's issue wasn't that he had slightly baggier jeans than everyone else. Though he totally got the hipster glasses down. He was an outcast. He was an outsider. But, he had purpose and destiny.

We all have a purpose and a destiny. It's different for every single person, and sometimes we have to stand out in a different crowd in order to fulfill that purpose. You have to choose to be your own person before you can change the world. The best version of yourself is the one that transcends the ways of the crowd.

I've found that it's okay to be overwhelmed and it's okay to be a little intimidated sometimes. As long as you don't let it stop you from fulfilling your purpose. 

As long as you don't let it stop you from changing the world.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Freedom Is Here

Sometimes, timing really is everything. I don't think it's by chance that I made this huge change in my life right around the time that we as nation celebrate our freedom and independence. It's such a profound time for us to dwell on what freedom means to us as individuals. That is, when we're not thinking about the stuff we want to shoot with Roman candles.

It's always a liberating experience when one separates themselves from the nest and chooses to live independently. But for me, it's more than just a new sense of independence in my life.

It's freedom from the old me... The lesser me.

I've mentioned before how this is a quest that I've embarked on. A quest for honor, purpose, and becoming the best possible version of myself. It's a journey to find out how I can become the me I am meant to be. 

In order to become that person, you have to leave the old and useless remnants of your past self behind. The parts that restrict you from fulfilling your purpose and keep you from truly living. 

You have to declare yourself rid of them. Declare yourself free from them.

Today, I declare my freedom. Freedom from anxiety, freedom from insecurity, freedom from fear's poisonous grasp, freedom from selfishness, freedom from the limitations I put on myself.

I declare the freedom to be the person I need to be. I am free to be a little more outgoing, to express myself, to be the bold and confident man I am meant to be.

To be truly free is an extremely peculiar matter. At first it feels a little strange running around without all the weight, maybe even a little bit vulnerable. A huge misconception is that freedom is comfortable, but it's quite the opposite. It's what we are designed for. We're designed to be a little uncomfortable.

Today, I am liberated. Today, I declare my freedom. Today, I celebrate my Independence Day!

Now, who will choose to celebrate with me?