Debbie Millman on sensitivity and rejection

“I have noticed a pattern in my life of being very easily hurt by an initial rejection, so much so that it thwarts any other attempt at making something like that happen for a very long time. I am extremely sensitive and any rejection takes me off of that path for a very long time. It takes me a long time to recover.”

“I am somebody that has a very hard time taking ‘No’ for an answer. It takes me a long time to recalibrate and get my courage back to continue to keep trying.”

Damn. Is she talking about me or herself? I never considered myself the sensitive type – but this pattern Debbie is talking about, that’s me. And maybe, just maybe, it might be about you too. If so, this other part where she talks about what to do about this pattern might help us:

“Don’t ever accept that first rejection ever. Give yourself options. The timeliness of those options or the timeliness of those retries – do at your own pace. You are not in competition with anybody but yourself.”

From Tim Ferriss’s podcast interview with Debbie Millman – #214 – How to Design a Life – Debbie Millman

The Creative Bubble

“When I look back on my best work, it was inevitably created in what I call “The Bubble”. I eliminated every distraction, sacrificed almost everything that gave me pleasure, placed myself in a single-minded isolation chamber, and structured my life so that everything was not only feeding the work but subordinated to it. It is not a particularly sociable way to operate. It’s actively anti-social. On the other hand, it is pro-creative.”

Twyla Tharp in The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

What is your version of “The Bubble”? What is your deep work philosophy?

Opinion and suffering

“Everything depends on opinion; ambition, luxury, greed, hark back to opinion. It is according to opinion that we suffer. A man is as wretched as he has convinced himself that he is.”
Seneca in Letter 78, Letters from a Stoic (On the Healing Power of the Mind)

How easy!

Once we decide to be unperturbed, we take most things in our stride.

Once we decide you are “busy”, every little task added to our workload becomes an insurmountable addition.

Once we decide we like rainy days – the week of pouring rain, which was dismal, irritating, annoying last week, becomes a chance to enjoy hot chocolate, hot pho and petrichor – the heady sensuous fresh smell of rain in the air and the wet earth.

The acquaintance, once we decide is “my kind of person”, becomes a good buddy.

How easy and how profoundly difficult – to actually change our opinion.

Myths and Legends

I have always been fascinated by fairy tales and folktales. As a kid, these tales transported me away to different fantastical lands – so like our own but really not now.

Growing up in India, the Hindu mythology was the dominant source of stories. The stories of the pantheon of Hindu Gods, their supporting characters and enemies were fascinating. One of my uncles, a secular Indian-flavored communist, had a collection of Russian and Ukrainian folk tales, which I loved to read. Add to this, the stories from Greek, Roman and Norse mythology I got to read as a part of my lessons in school, made a heady mix. Between Krishna and Hanuman and Tenali Rama and Birbal and all the Ivans and Baba Yaga and Hercules and Perseus and Medusa and Athena – what you get is a fan of the fantastical, of adventure, of travel, of the bizarre and of the strengths hidden in common folk, of the hero’s journey.

170x170bb Some childhood loves don’t go away. Spice, salt, climbing stuff, making stuff and reading fairy tales – are apparently my loves which are here to stay. And so imagine my delight when I came across The Myths and Legends Podcast by Jason Weiser. He described his podcast as:

“Did you know that fairy tales weren’t originally for children and are way more bizarre, ridiculous, and interesting than you ever thought possible?

Maybe you’ve heard of characters like Thor, Odin, and Hercules from modern movies- stories stretching back centuries. Well, the originals that inspired the adaptations are even better.”

He retells this stories in a funny, modern way, cutting to the heart of the matter. Did I mention how funny he is? For example, here is his introduction of Enkidu of the story of Gilgamesh:

“If you think your job is rough, hopefully you don’t have a hairy naked man leaping majestically through your office with his gazelle friends.”

At the end of each podcast, he highlights the creature of the week: like the Splinter Cat, the Saalah, the Habetrot…

This is a show I enjoy so much that it is one of those I subscribe (as in pay real-world money to support Jason’s great stuff). If this at all looks interesting, you should listen to the free version.

Creativity and Parenting

Today, everyone wants to be creative. Not just use, we want our children to be creative too. But how? This is one way.

Many subjects indicated that as children they had enjoyed a marked degree of autonomy from their parents. They were entrusted with independent judgment and allowed to develop curiosity at their own pace without overt supervision or interference. MacKinnon noted of these parents, “They did not hesitate to grant him rather unusual freedom in exploring his universe and in making decisions for himself — and this early as well as late. The expectation of the parent that the child would act independently but reasonably and responsibly appears to have contributed immensely to the latter’s sense of personal autonomy which was to develop to such a marked degree.”

– Pierluigi Serraino in The Creative Architect: Inside the Great Midcentury Personality Study quoted in Brainpickings in The Creative Architect: Inside Psychology’s Most Ambitious and Influential Study of What Makes a Creative Person

But are we ok to deal with what this increased creativity means? As parents, can our ego, our emotions handle this:

The offspring often reported a sense of remoteness, a distance from their elders, which ultimately helped them avoid, the scientists argued, the overdependence — or momentous rejection — that often characterizes parent-child relationships, both of which were believed to interfere with the unencumbered unfolding of the self through the creative process.

– Pierluigi Serraino in The Creative Architect: Inside the Great Midcentury Personality Study quoted in Brainpickings in The Creative Architect: Inside Psychology’s Most Ambitious and Influential Study of What Makes a Creative Person

Impermanence of the creative life

The nub of living a creative life, as I see it, is to recognise that the only thing that is constant in our lives is impermanence. The way we see the world now, and the way the world is, is always changing and just because we said or felt or believed something one day, does not imply that it is still true another day. We are entitled to change and in fact we are always changing.

By accepting that things come and they go, gives me great comfort to understand that what I do, is just a transient expression of who I was at a moment in time.

– Bruce Percy in A Crisis of Abundance

I used to be a landscape photographer. Then I couldn’t get out to the landscapes and wildernesses. But I still considered myself a landscape photographer. I tried becoming a people photographer, a street photographer. But how could I? How could a landscape photographer be good at street photography?

It’s been about 5 years since I shot landscapes. Nowadays, I see lights, shadows, lines, splotches of color and I itch to make photos of these bizarre, fantastical, nonsensical things. So I am no longer a landscape photographer right? What am I then?

I mourned the loss of my identity – and then I realized: I made up that identity of “landscape photographer”. I can make up a new identity for this new me of today. So I shall become an itchy photographer – one whose photos scratch her itch-of-the-day.

Startup idea viability

When confronted with any startup idea, ask yourself one simple question: How many miracles have to happen for this to succeed?

If the answer is zero, you’re not looking at a startup, you’re just dealing with a regular business like a laundry or a trucking business. All you need is capital and minimal execution, and assuming a two-way market, you’ll make some profit.

Most successful startups depend on one miracle only. For Airbnb, it was getting people to let strangers into their spare bedrooms and weekend cottages. This was a user-behavior miracle. For Google, it was creating an exponentially better search service than anything that had existed to date. This was a technical miracle. For Uber or Instacart, it was getting people to book and pay for real-world services via websites or phones. This was a consumer-workflow miracle. For Slack, it was getting people to work like they formerly chatted with their girlfriends. This is a business-workflow miracle.

Antonio Garcia Martinez in Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley

How do I know if the idea I have is a business idea, or a startup idea? Is it a viable startup idea? Who would have thought that “miracles” are a good metric for this? Bizarre but totally apt in this realm of Unicorns, Centaurs, Pegasus and Dinosaurs, fortune hunters and Silicon Valley pirates.