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Live Your Life Your Way

Life is an exciting roller coaster for creative people trying to make a living with their creativity. The truth is, it is not an easy road. No matter how long you manage to make it work, you will run into a few hiccups here and there. With the internet today, there is a lot of advice for artists, some good, some bad, and some that are just complete bullcrap. Klee and I have a YouTube channel, a podcast, resources, we put art shows together, and published books meant to help those creative souls. Still, none of that is going to make the journey easy. In fact, our road isn’t all unicorn farts and rainbows.

The fact of the matter is that life is an ever-evolving and complicated thing. We recently moved, had to do repairs, and are currently in a rat race to get caught up both emotionally and financially. It is easy to feel like everything is not going how you want it to go, especially when you are waiting for a check to come in the mail and it never shows up. However, life is also wonderful, but even the most seasoned artists can make things complicated. We all know how to move forward without allowing stress to take over. The problem is that knowing is not doing.

Even though we all know what is truly best for us, we don’t always follow that path. It will eventually come back and bite you in the butt. My recent experience with burnout is a great example. Instead of enjoying the ride and making the most of it, I was allowing my days to get consumed by worry. This caused a downward spiral that I don’t wish on anyone. 

Let’s be honest, worry doesn’t accomplish anything. It hinders your ability to move forward. In my case, it zapped my creativity, caused me to make poor choices, and didn’t allow me to see blaring red flags. This road is difficult enough, and being worried makes it almost impossible to navigate. 

So, what do you do? 

Stop thinking, and start doing. Clear your mind of all the bull and put one foot in front of the other until you get your joy back. Focus on what you appreciate and not what is going wrong. I know, it sounds like some crap that some self-help guru might be trying to pawn off on you, but it is true. You are either paralyzed by worry or striding forward and not giving a rip. 

Here are mantras I take action on when I find myself in a creative slump or a downward spiral.

My priorities are mine, and I’m not in charge of anybody else’s priorities.

Just get up and do it, whatever “IT” is.

Take 10 minutes daily to clear your mind and focus on what is going right.

Slow down. Enjoy your food and focus on every single bite.

Surround yourself with people who inspire you.

Everything is possible. Spend at least ten minutes focused on that.

Don’t spend your time “repairing” relationships blindly. Evaluate and move on if you have to.

Get boots on the ground, and stop thinking and planning.

Put yourself out there and enjoy the process.

Create art, practice, experiment, and make a mess.

Don’t wallow on what went wrong. Look for the lesson and move on.

Agree to disagree and move on. Stop trying to win the argument.

Enjoy the moment, every moment. Life is happening right now.

Share moments with people you love.

Take five minutes to stop and breathe deeply throughout the day.

Define your own success and screw what anyone else thinks.

Live for the moments, not what you own.

Love the badass that looks back at you in the mirror.

Take ownership of your life, it’s not up to anyone else what you do.

Don’t get desperate, and do not make choices while feeling desperate.

Practice listening to your gut. 

Look at your life like it is your most significant art in progress.

Sure, the journey might be arduous, but you can make it whatever you want it to be. What’s holding you back from making it fun? Are you waiting for other people to take you seriously? Are you waiting for someone to do it for you? Only you are responsible for your life. Only you can make the choice to keep talking or start doing it. Live your life the way you want to live. 

If you do nothing, nothing happens.

It will not happen overnight, and if you have a habit of stressing out all the time, you will try and sabotage yourself to return to that status quo. However, only you can take yourself out of that pattern and embrace the awesomeness that is you.

Don’t wait around. Don’t hope that someone saves you. Just pick yourself up and do it. Getting yourself past self-sabotage is the hard part. This is the struggle. It is not what you might have blamed in the past. It’s not the things that went wrong, or the people who made things harder. It is you who needs to take responsibility for your life and how you want to live. 

Success isn’t about fame, fortune, subscribers, likes, or anything outside of you. It’s about being who YOU want to be. Living the life YOU want to live, and feeling how YOU want to feel.

So go out and live it.

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Where Inspiration Comes From

People often ask me, “What inspires you and your art?” At that moment, people expect me to say something like “Picasso, Warhol, or Dali.”

Although the great masters of the past inspire me, their art doesn’t inspire me at all.

Oh, sure, I may grab some ideas from here or there because I find something fascinating in the art. However, when it comes to inspiration, the things that inspire me have more to do with life than the products of life.

Let me explain.

What we create always comes from inside of us. It comes from that place where we absorb the world around us. It’s the stuff of life. Although just about every creative endeavor you witness expresses the artist’s journey, it is their interpretation. In fact, when you resonate with a work of art, it is because you have written your own narrative for it. It’s a beautiful thing. At that moment, the art becomes a collaboration between you and the artist. Ultimately, the artist sees one thing, and you may see something totally different. You see an image that may symbolize a moment in time in your life, but you can never really put yourself in the artist’s shoes. The art then becomes something even more powerful and transcends into synergy.

Recently Klee and I took a long road trip to Illinois for my daughter’s wedding. It had been two years or even longer, since we had seen anyone in the family (due to the year that shall not be named, and pandemic).

We were excited. That being said, there was also a good amount of mental preparation. Obviously, anyone with a family knows that sometimes you will have to deal with some quirkiness that is unique to your family dynamic.

Those things, those conversations, those smiles, those interactions, those quiet conversations, those heated moments, that laughter, the sadness, and all of it, are part of the stuff of life. All of it is part of what inspires us. These are the things that can knock us down or pick us up. These are the things that show us the lessons of who we are or what we want to be. These things allow us to overcome or fall flat on our faces.

These are the things that inspire my art.

It’s not Picasso’s art. It’s Picasso’s life that I’m fascinated by. Art is simply an expression of how he looked at the world. How ANY artist sees the world. It is merely an expression of how they saw the things that we can all take for granted.

In this world of hustle and being busy, it’s easy to let life pass us by. It’s easy to forget the little moments. It’s easy to look at the destination and forget the journey altogether.

Inspiration surrounds us. It comes from those moments of overcoming. It comes from those moments of absolute joy, and it comes from those moments of heartache. This is what inspires innovation and creativity. Many of us believe that we have to think our way through things. That we have to figure this or that out. But in reality, thinking doesn’t really get us anywhere. Usually, we exhaust ourselves by overthinking and take a break from it, that’s when feelings finally get their say and the solution comes to us. This is inspiration.

Feelings are powerful. Most people try to suppress or hide their feelings, yet feelings express our ultimate truth. So, if you’ve ever been taught to hide your feelings, it means that you’ve been taught to hide who you are, your authentic self, and the way you process and see the world. We have been led to believe that our feelings make us vulnerable, yet only in that vulnerability can we find our strength. It takes vulnerability to truly fall in love with life, yourself, and other humans.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, the things that inspire me are the things that I get to experience. Only because I allowed myself to be there fully in my feelings and not question the moment with brain chatter.

Things like watching my beautiful daughter walk down the aisle. That is a lovely moment in time. That is something that will inspire my art. In fact, I’m planning on creating work specifically for them based on my interpretation of that beautiful day.

There are so many things in life that we can focus on. I feel like sometimes we’re trained to focus on the things that really, ultimately, at the end of the day, don’t matter. What really matters is the fact that right now, you are breathing.

You are experiencing life and feeling your way through it right now.

So if your focus is on something that ultimately doesn’t matter, that may mean you’re stuck in your head.

I suggest just being out of your mind. That is where I like to spend most of my time. There’s no better place to be for true inspiration.

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We Are All Powerful

It can be very easy to feel small sometimes. The world is so big. The universe is massive. Time keeps moving. In the grand scheme of things our life is but a speck on the camera lens. Yet, we are so much more than we may realize.

We were all born with this amazing power within us. Many people don’t seem to acknowledge the gifts that they have and instead choose to conform to the status quo. It saddens me to see these magical people never go for the things they want out of life. They choose to live what is considered a normal life by the people around them. Never willing to take that first step. Why is that?

CHANGE IS SCARY.
Some of us resist change at all costs. We may do this because we fear that a change will alter the stability we feel. We can be habitual creatures who tend to feel a sense of safety and security when we know what to expect. The problem is that everything changes and evolves. Everything grows and nothing will stay the same, resisting change may lead to a comfortable stagnation in your life. Embracing and becoming comfortable with change allows you to expect the unexpected and not be controlled by fear. It allows you to challenge yourself to believe that no matter what circumstances or situations arise, you will be able to navigate them.


NOT WORTH TAKING THE RISK.
Let’s be honest, not changing can be a risk. However, change is often more associated with risk. Taking a chance on yourself and following your dreams is a risk. Going against the grain is a risk. Creating an art career is a risk. Driving your car to the store is a risk. Everything in life is risky. We tend to forget that we take calculated risks hundreds of times a day in the smallest of decisions. We make determinations and predict outcomes all the time, but at the end of the day, big or small, they’re all just guesses. Following your dreams feels risky because you may have spent many years talking yourself out of it. The question isn’t “is it risky?” because everything is. The question is, are you willing to face the risks? Do you believe that YOU have what it takes to persist through the suck?

If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.

― Charles Bukowski, Factotum

We all have our own gifts to bring to the world. It could be music, art, poetry, books, leadership, innovation, architecture, love, a smile, conversation, or anything. If these gifts are not making it into the world because you are afraid of the change it will bring or it is too much of a risk, remember your power. The only way these gifts can manifest is by the investment in yourself, believing in yourself, and being willing to go all the way. Persist through the suck. You have the power within you to leave the world a little different than when you came into it.

You are special, you are worth it, and you can do anything you set your mind on. Everything we see around us was created by a human who persisted through the suck, and held onto a desire to live life beyond what they know.

Go all the way, you have the power to do that.

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The Creative Process Is All About You

We’ve ALL had those moments where we are sitting in front of a blank canvas and wondering if our sense of creativity left town. We’ve also all had the moments where you are sitting in front of a work of art and suddenly you are overtaken by the idea that everything you touch turns into a steaming pile of crap.

Today Klee and I recorded a podcast where we were talking about the creative process and remembering your greatness as an artist and human.

I think a lot of artists are under the assumption that professional artists know exactly what they’re doing from beginning to end. I can tell you right now, that that is bullshit. None of us know what we are doing when it comes to the creative process.

One thing I could tell you as a bumbling artist, trying to make this creative life a thing, is that the creative process behind the artwork is not as mysterious as a lot of people would love to make it seem.

When you are blocked or you feel like the art you’ve worked on for the last few days should be set on fire, it’s easy to want to give up. In my opinion, the most important part is where I remind myself that no matter what, I am going to be able to figure something out. I remember that something is going to come to me, I am going to move forward, I’m not going to allow myself to quit.

Honestly, the only reason that I get any of the artwork done is because of that mentality, no matter how much the art feels like it sucks, that I suck, or that I’m a horrible artist, I just keep going.

When I feel like I’m never going to make this thing work… I just keep going, knowing that it’s little tweaks here and little tweaks there. Sometimes it’s changing direction.

I allow myself to keep going because I believe that in some way shape or form, I am going to eventually get to the end where I make it work.

It is ultimately a collaborative experience between you and the art. The process is allowing yourself to make changes on the fly to allow the art to take form as it does.

The creative process in of itself is kind of like life, you get thrown some ups and downs, twists and turns, and you have to improvise. You have to keep moving forward in order to get to where it is that you want to get to. Even when there are obstacles and especially when things are not going your way.

The secret to creating anything as an artist is understanding that whatever it is that you’re working on, is not going to work out, it’s going to look like crap, it’s going to look like a big piece of garbage… and that’s ok.

Before it starts to look like the masterpiece, it is going to resemble a crap-turd.

In the podcast, Klee outlines three creative processes:

  • You know what you’re going to create, or you have an idea of what you’re going to create, but you don’t have the steps to get there.
  • You know what you’re going to create, and you have all the steps to get there.
  • You have no idea what you’re going to create, and you have no steps to get there.

Each one of those has its value, but each and every single one of those still requires you to be flexible, and be really good to yourself in the creative process.

The fact of the matter is that when you are creating anything, whether you’re creating art, or you’re creating your life, you’re going to run into roadblocks.

You’re going to run into situations that are going to cause you to think that maybe you suck because the situation or the artwork that you’re creating sucks.

In those cases, the most important thing you can do is to remember your greatness.

Your greatness as an artist, your greatness as a human, your general compassion, your unique way of seeing the world, and your ability to pick yourself up after you fall.

Be good to yourself in those moments, because that is the only way that you’ll be able to take the next step and keep going.

I adore you!

You can listen to the full podcast here if you are interested.

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It Is Ok To Not Be Ok

Recently I read an article from the Washington Post that was talking about toxic positivity. My first reaction was “Great, what bullshit is the media going to try and feed us now?”

As much as I hate admitting it, Klee and I are public personalities. That doesn’t mean we are famous, it just means there are some people out there who are interested in what we say and do. We post a lot of videos talking about changing your perspective and paying attention to your mindset when you are approaching something as strange and alien as becoming an artist.

We tend to look at the bright side of things, which is probably why I became so defensive upon hearing about the article. There are plenty of people (the media included) spreading so much toxic information, conspiracy theories, and us versus them bullshit, that I thought this article was just a bunch of the same jargon.

Luckily, in my opinion they were not trying to feed me any poop, albeit more dramatic and alarmist than it needed to be on the subject, but that’s just “news” now. The article actually covered something that I have been thinking a lot about lately.

The “good vibes only” trend or as I called it in a video “forced positivity”.

Practicing a positive mind-set is a powerful way to approach the world, but I’ve seen people put a positive spin on something simply because they are avoiding the need to deal with the negative emotions they feel.

Natalie Dattilo, a clinical health psychologist with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston say “It results from our tendency to undervalue negative emotional experiences and overvalue positive ones.”

I don’t know if I agree with her, I think we may overvalue positive experiences simply because we are using it as a coping mechanism to avoid the bad ones. In my experience, if you avoid something that might be eating at you instead of facing it head-on, it doesn’t go away. It doesn’t mean you need to dwell there and succumb to the negative emotions, but unless you face the things that are bothering you, eventually they will surface again and again. Of course, I am not a clinical health psychologist with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Expressions By Rafi Perez

Forced positivity is like covering up a pile of vomit in your hallway with sheet of paper that has a happy face drawn on it. The vomit is still there and you can try to ignore it, but it still stinks. Eventually, it just soaks through the paper and comes to the surface. The only way to really deal with the vomit is to get down and dirty with it and clean it up. Yes, it is not easy and it can be quite repulsive, but ignoring it won’t make it actually go away.

People who are genuinely upbeat, usually deal with things as they come and don’t bury anything down under a layer of “everything is fine.” When they are not doing so great, they let you know. They may not linger there for a lifetime and will usually take some kind of ownership for how they feel. I think there is a huge yet subtle difference between having a sense of empowerment and being positive.

I know amazing people that are very positive but the moment you broach on a subject that may touch on a nerve that is uncomfortable for them, they deflect and might even get angry. It’s definitely easy to just throw a happy face sticker on and pretend like you don’t have any negative feelings about anything. The only problem with it, is that it’s not sustainable, in the long-run it is exhausting and will wear you down.

Oren art By Rafi Perez

It is way harder to go deep and admit to yourself that you are not in a good place, and that you have some things that might be really ugly inside that need to be looked at. You may need to admit that you need help, or that you are simply not ok.

It is a big problem when people feel forced to seem or be positive in situations that suck, or things legitimately need to be addressed. In the “good vibes only” culture, some people feel ashamed of their negative feelings, so they hide them. There are people out there that are worried about addressing negative stuff that might be going on inside of them for fear that it will solidify it in their existence. The problem with this is that it can’t be addressed if people don’t deal with the fact that there is distress or need in the first place.

The fact of the matter is that shit kinda sucks right now. Denying, minimizing, or invalidating those feelings because of external pressure or your own thoughts can be counterproductive and harmful. If we throw on a sticker and feel like crap under it all, we then judge ourselves for feeling pain, sadness, fear, which then produces feelings of shame, not-enoughness, and guilt

People who tend to not judge themselves based on their feelings, and not think of their emotions as good or bad have an easier time handling their negative emotions. They do not try to avoid or put distance between themselves and their emotions. They face their emotions and understand that there is nothing to be ashamed of if you are just feeling low.

Graffiti Bridge Rafi Perez Child Abuse Awareness

Desperately wanting to feel happy in a crappy situation and not facing the situation can leave people experiencing an emotion about an emotion. Which is usually disappointment because you aren’t as happy as you want to be.

One thing I try to remind myself of every day, especially when I am putting myself out there in the public arena, is that I like looking at the bright side of things, but I also enjoy facing the darkness. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make the best of a crappy situation, I do it all the time. Being positive doesn’t mean you smile as your eye twitches uncontrollably because you are putting your negative feelings on mute. To me, it means making the best of the suckage that is going on. Making the best of it is accepting the situation as it is and doing the best you can with it, and not avoidance of the fact that we’re in a really bad situation.

Just my thoughts on the subject.

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YOU BRING THE LIGHT

I wrote this to my amazing rogue artist family on Patreon today and wanted to share it with all of you.

We are still waiting on test results for COVID and I am convinced we do not have it, but there is no way to be sure until we get the results.

It is interesting to me, finding myself at this moment where I feel so run down, and not well, with this lingering thought in the air of “Do I have it?”

We don’t feel well, yet we’re not exhibiting many of the severe symptoms, which is great. The symptoms we do have are not constant such as chills and headaches… Although fatigue and body aches seem to go from extreme to not so extreme.

I made the mistake of reading some news about the situation out there in outside land and a sense of sadness took over.

Humans are such beautiful creatures who can accomplish extraordinary things when they stand together in that beauty… Yet everyone seems so divided right now…

I am holding back the tears in my eyes as I write this…

Maybe I’m feeling the effects of the fatigue and right now is NOT the time to be reading any world news. Especially because I have not been creating an outlet for myself of my art.

I always feel that by creating beauty, empowering people, and expressing how beautiful and amazing we all are – it’s my way of adding light into a world that seems to have a shadow looming… If everyone understood how absolutely amazing they were, they wouldn’t power struggle to be better than someone else… No one is better, we are all beautiful and uniquely perfect at being who we are, which is an ever-changing, ever-evolving thing that grows and blooms as we experience this crazy thing called life.

I don’t know… Part of my brain says “You are so full of crap Rafi, nothing you do is meaningful, nothing you do has an effect on anything.” Luckily, I don’t buy into that voice.

Sure, everyone may not find it meaningful, but I feel that everything we do impacts the world. Just existing and breathing has an impact on the world around you.

It’s like walking into a room where someone has been stewing in anger and you can FEEL the tension in the room… We can FEEL others joy, sadness, hopefulness, anger, fear… and it is contagious.

Right now I feel sadness, but less so than I felt before I started writing this. I may not be creating art right now, but I am creating this… expressing my empowerment and ability to understand that even the smallest flicker of light can shine bright in the darkness.

We all can shine bright in the darkness with the smallest flicker of hope and love. We can cultivate that flicker into a flame and eventually a burst of light as powerful as the sun… and it all resides within us… Imagine knowing that everyone can somehow feel that, and that light is contagious.

Love… Hope… Feeling empowered… Feeling beautiful… And knowing that we are all a force of nature.

Yeah… I definitely need to get back to painting and creating soon 🙂

I Adore You All-Rafi

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Sometimes Life Happens And It Sucks

I have been told on occasion that I’m so lucky to be able to live the life I live. Someone sees a snapshot of my life as an artist on social media and thinks that is the whole picture. As if everything is easy and just sunshine and rainbows float around my life. The truth isn’t as glamorous.

I try to be as honest and authentic as I can be with any content that I share with the world, but even then you are only getting part of the picture. In a world saturated with smiley faces and picture-perfect snapshots of everyone else’s life, it is easy to think that you are alone in feeling unhappy.

We all have our moments. When you see a picture of me creating a work of art, you don’t see all the insecurity, doubt, and worries I may have at the moment. When you see a picture of me smiling, there is no way to know if I have lingering doubts in the background of my mind.

Back to back questions can fill my head like “Am I going to have enough money to pay the bills this month? Do my children hate me? Can I pull off this next art project even though I feel like an impostor? Am I doing enough to promote myself? Why do I feel so invisible? Why am I so fat? YouTube is probably slowing down because I’m old and ugly? Aaaaaarg!”

Sometimes Life Happens And It Sucks

You know… I woke up this morning feeling unmotivated and defeated. The book is eating up a huge portion of my life right now, and my days are spent sitting on the couch typing. I can easily get overwhelmed trying to balance writing a book and running my entire art and media business. Throw a small wrench into the mix like a water pipe bursting over your bed and all of a sudden it seems like the end of the world.

No matter how wonderful someone’s life may seem, we all have insecurities creep up, we all feel overwhelmed sometimes, and we all have things we are afraid of.

This morning, I feel like I’m a failure at my art business, YouTube, Patreon, and life. I hardly make any income from all the work I put into a lot of online platforms and I have to wonder if I’m wasting my time. Am I wasting my time writing this blog? I feel like I’m letting everyone who believes in me down and everything I create is crap.

From art to podcast, to videos, to life choices, to writing, to everything I do, it all feels like crap. I feel like everything I try to do is harder than it should be, and I feel isolated and alone.

Listen, I’m not sharing this with you because I think my life sucks or anything. I also don’t want you to think I’m complaining, because I’m not. I just want you to know that you are not alone, we ALL have days where our thoughts are less than satisfied with our lives. We all have those moments where we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see. No matter how wonderful you think someone’s life is, I guarantee that daily, they may have something they are struggling with.

I think the reason I keep going with everything is a stubborn determination to smile. I don’t quit. I know that at some point during the day, I’m going to discourage myself. I know that there is a huge possibility that I’m going to call myself names. I am probably going to worry about the future and make myself feel bad about the choices I’ve made.

I know that a part of me will do whatever it takes to keep me comfortable, small, and hopeless. That is a safe place to be because you don’t take risks from that place. You don’t put yourself and your ideas out there if you feel that you don’t matter. My brain will do whatever it can to protect me from rejection or failure… even go as far as saying some really hurtful stuff in my own head and heart.

Insecurities are complex and hard to describe. We all have them, and they are all different and multifaceted.

I just don’t buy into mine as often as I used to, and when I do… I remind myself that when you are about to make a breakthrough, that’s when the negative voices in your head get louder and more desperate. I also don’t give myself any labels that are damaging. You may be feeling depressed, but you are not depressed, it is a momentary feeling.

We all go through this, and we all deal with it in our own way. I channel my emotions into all my creations and find a way to feel empowered by the experience.

Some commiserate with each other, some find a way to smile despite all the setbacks and some rise above the crap. Some choose to believe in themselves and focus on their life, and others compare their lives to what they assume others are experiencing.

It is after the experience, where I have faced the worst of it that you may see a picture of me smiling on social media. Shit happens, life can feel like it sucks, and times can be tough, but you get to determine how you respond to all of it. If your day sucks, then so be it, but don’t isolate yourself by thinking you’re the only one.

I share this with you because I think you’ve got this. I’ve got this… we can be heroes of our own story. We can all be champions of our own life… Just gotta choose to be awesome and roll with the punches.

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Being A Busy Artist

I have been very busy lately juggling a full-time art career, YouTube media studio, weekly podcasts, commissions, writing a book, art shows, giving presentations, gearing up for the holiday season and maintaining a happy & healthy relationship with my wife Klee. She is running her side of the business as well, and it is easy for both of us to get lost in the overwhelm of to-do lists, meetings, and deadlines.

First off, I’m not moaning about how busy I am. Often when someone complains about being too busy, it is actually a thinly veiled boast disguised as a complaint. I have, admittedly, worn the “busy badge” in the past during moments of insecurity. This is where you make it a point to illustrate how your life cannot possibly be silly, trivial, or meaningless because you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

The problem with all that boasting is that it has a tendency to make you feel even busier than you are. Us humans tend to believe the things we tell ourselves, while also inadvertently making others feel overwhelmed too. I finally came to the conclusion that it wasn’t helping to gripe about it, in fact, it was making the overwhelm worse. Besides, if you’re genuinely that busy… are you sure you can spare the time to be bitching about it?

Another unhealthy way I started to give into “being busy” was paying too much attention to the rapid pace that the world seemed to be heading in. I began realizing that the urgency-addicted culture that I lived in was having a huge impact on the way I lived my day to day life, and that was an eye-opener for me. I was convinced that just a bit more speed, time, productivity and I could stay in control. I started to grow unwilling to tolerate the discomfort of slowing down. Taking a break, even a small one, even for good reason, started to seem unproductive.

When you find yourself on this treadmill of urgency, it can feel unacceptable to slow down. As it turns out, the idea that you need to go full throttle all the time is completely unproductive. Your mind and body need breaks from what you are doing or you will end up burning out pretty quickly. I now take a 15 to 30 minute break every 2 hours, even during the busiest workdays. Believe or not, I get so much more done now than I did when I pushed through, and my days are less stressful and much more enjoyable.

A to-do list can be both a blessing and a curse. It is a trackable list of tasks that fuels the ambition of getting completion in a day, but adding one more item to the list feels effortless, so it’s dangerously easy to over-commit. I feel like I used to have lists that were a mile long, and when I didn’t complete them, I felt like a failure that day. I then went into the next day feeling like I was already behind.

I now have a cap on my daily to-do. Instead of an open-ended list, I only allow myself to schedule 5 items for the day. If I complete the items on my list, then I’ll add additional stuff that is small and easy to do. If I do not finish my list, I add the incompleted items to the top of the next day. I also have a Fantastic 4 list that I write about in my book, but that involves special tasks that are designed to break large overwhelming projects into tiny chunks.

Most importantly, remember that life is short and you don’t want to spend these precious days feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. It is something I remind myself of every day as I sit silently for ten minutes, battling the voices that like to say I’m being unproductive.

Give those voices the middle finger, and enjoy your day.

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Just Do That Thing, But Have Fun

There are six things that I look at whenever I find myself floundering in my career or in life. These are six things that I take a close look at when I think to myself “I should do that thing” and another side of me says “but…”

Most people think that I am full steam ahead, have endless amounts of energy and am able to somehow warp time and space. They say things like “Rafi is the hardest working artist I know.” If I’m not careful, this kind of vision of myself can become a badge of honor and I would become the hardest working artist out there, which honestly would be a total drag.

I don’t want to be the hardest working anything. In fact, I don’t want to work hard, I don’t want anything I do to be hard work in the traditional sense, I want it to be fun.

I think one of the reasons things seem like hard work for most people is because, for the most part, we are not being chased by lions anymore. Stress, anxiety, and a plethora of other emotions are tied up in this little thing we do when we go into fight or flight. It is a natural response to danger. The problem is that we go into this danger response when we feel a looming deadline, or there is a bill that is due at the end of the month.

For a lot of people out there, the simple act of speaking in front of a group is paralyzing. It can feel like a life or death situation. People will say things like “If I say the wrong things, I’ll be so embarrassed I’ll die.”

Imagine starting an art career, or any other harebrained idea that has been nagging at you. How much of that is put to a standstill because of this crazy response that is designed to keep you from becoming supper for a lion? Here are six things I tell myself to motivate myself to do that thing, but also remember to have fun.

  1. My Voice: I have one, and the only way I will find it is by doing this thing. I might be scared, but it’s not about making a good impression, it’s about speaking my truth. It’s just my opinion, everyone has one.
  2. The Fear: The purpose of FEAR is to stop you. Sometimes that’s a good thing, like when you are in immediate danger. But, if you are holding yourself back from doing something you know you love, the only way to get to the truth is to face that fear as many times as you have to. Make it an exciting game. Btw if the thing you want to do is put your head in a shark’s mouth then I would say actual life-risking fears require more prep and research… don’t just find a shark.
  3. Get Started: Starting is where most people don’t even get to. There are millions of talented and creative geniuses walking around on the planet, but they just don’t start. You don’t have to dive in, but at least take a baby step daily.
  4. Momentum: Once you start, keep going. The more you do it the more momentum you gain and eventually, you become an unstoppable force.
  5. Habits: Understand that everything you do and every reaction is creating a habit, so create habits on purpose.
  6. Give Yourself A Purpose: This could be anything. To make beautiful art that speaks to people, to voice my opinion, to write music that will change a generation, or just to paint pretty pictures… it doesn’t matter what other people think of your purpose, just that it matters to you.

I guess the most important take away for me is that life is a short occurrence, so you might as well do the things you want to do… and have fun.

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Morning Thoughts On Blazing A Trail

This morning I found myself contemplating my life and the different ways I have lived it. Since I am in the process of writing a book, I am looking at notes and different events in my life that lead me to this point. I am a very happy individual, but I also spent the majority of my life feeling trapped and unhappy.

Growing up, I was influenced by television shows, parents, friends, friends families, teachers, the weird neighbor with the giant hairy mole, and pretty much everything and everyone else in society. I was told that my airy-fairy ideas of becoming an artist, musician, or creative were a cute thing to hold onto as long as I was a child, but eventually I would have to grow out of it. The influences were subtle and mostly unspoken. Most tv shows that I loved involved the man having a job he hated to support his family, the wife stayed at home and took care of the kids, and that’s just how it was. Usually, the job sucked really bad, but the man took solace in the fact that his sacrifice was for his family.

I gotta tell you… that whole scenario of putting your dreams aside, working a job you hate and sacrificing your happiness for the greater good is a piece of crap-turd. First off, that sucks for the man. I was that man for 20 years, and I can tell you, it sucked pretty bad. Second, I wasn’t benefiting my children at all, if anything I was teaching them first hand the same bad influence I had growing up. Third, I started to secretly resent my family because I felt that my sacrifice was being taken for granted, and that slowly tore everything apart.

After that experience I realized that no one had a handle on happiness or what you should do with your life, just a plethora of opinions based on other peoples’ opinions, and the majority of those opinions were outdated crap. It wasn’t out-of-the-box-thinking-trailblazers telling me my dreams were impossible, these were people that had conformed to living a life like everyone else, and most of them weren’t feeling fulfilled or happy.

Listen, I’m not saying you have to work for yourself in order to be happy, you can have a job somewhere and be happy and feel fulfilled. Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of people that just settle for what they can get and ignore the yearning that comes from within, and in my opinion, that’s just misery. I think whether you pursue your own career or you work for someone else, it’s really all about how you choose to live; whether or not you are willing to blaze your own trail or simply conform to the status quo.

Blaze a trail:
Find a new path or method; begin a new undertaking. By extension, to be the first to do something, often that which is later emulated or built upon by others. Note: New trails or routes through forests were often marked by `blazing’ which involved making white marks called `blazes’ on tree trunks, usually by chipping off a piece of bark.

If there is anything that I pride myself on now, it is that I stubbornly do things my own way and continue to move forward despite the fact that I may have to pole vault over obstacles every once in a while.

That being said, if there are portions of the well-worn path that suit my needs, I don’t avoid them, but I make sure not to allow myself to get comfortable with the easiness of it.

One thing I can take away from these very unfinished thoughts that I’m sharing with you is this: No matter what, you have a choice. You get to decide how you are going to live your life. Some people may be disappointed by your decisions, and they may even get angry at you… some may never talk to you again. Most people will come around eventually, and they’ll say things like “I always believed in you and knew you could do it” despite what they may have said in the beginning.

I think that no matter what, it is always worth looking at your life and answering one question… if I was on my deathbed right now, would I have any regrets?

Just food for thought.