How Changing Your Story Can Change Your Life

“Stories help you make sense of your life — but when these narratives are incomplete or misleading, they can keep you stuck instead of providing clarity. In an actionable talk, psychotherapist and advice columnist Lori Gottlieb shows how to break free from the stories you’ve been telling yourself by becoming your own editor and rewriting your narrative from a different point of view.” – Lori Gottlieb

In Lori’s TED Talk “How Chaing Your Story Can Change Your Life,” she encourages us to write our personal masterpiece through the dialogue about ourselves that we have with others.

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The Golden Buddha

During this recent “rainy” season, I’ve been working in the kitchen canning and freezing the summer harvest from our front yard garden.  In the spirit of “Nurturing Your Nature” I’ve been watching YouTube videos on the teachings of the late Joseph Campbell, and specifically on the “The Hear With a Thousand Faces.”

On of this videos was “The Golden Buddha,” and the summary that follows was written by Carolyn Tate.

In 1957 an entire Monastery in Thailand was being relocated by a group of monks. One day they were moving a giant clay Buddha when one of the monks noticed a large crack in the clay.  On closer investigation, he saw there was a golden light emanating from the crack. The monk used a hammer and a chisel to chip away at the clay exterior until he revealed that the statue was in fact made of solid gold.

Historians believe the Buddha had been covered with clay by Thai monks several hundred years earlier to protect it from an attack by the Burmese army. In the attack, all the monks had been killed and it wasn’t until 1957 that this great treasure was actually discovered.

And so how does this story help us to nurture our nature? What happens over the course of our life is that we pile layer upon layer of clay over our own Golden Buddha. The heaviest layer of clay is of our own doing – it’s our own limited thinking and our unconscious conditioning. The other layers of clay get added on from external influences (parents, schools and teachers, bosses and co-workers, society, the media, the church, government, and corporations). Eventually, we are so laden with clay that we forget that the Golden Buddha is there all the time.

The secret to finding our Golden Buddha lies not in the future, but in our past. We need to do is start chipping away at the clay and rediscovering those things we were passionate about as we grew up.

I do hope that you find the story of the “Golden Buddha” as told by Alan Cohen helpful.



Creativity Within Constraints

I don’t know a creative person or organization that doesn’t have constraints or limitations.  Those barriers might be internal, such as time and money, or external such as those imposed upon us by the world in which we live.

About a week ago, I was reading an article in the art and design section of the paper on artists who have found new ways to see after losing their vision to macular degeneration.   Afterward, I reflected on other artists and how they, with their own physical limitations, still created new work.

When it is my turn, I hope that I can embrace the koan or riddle of the “Goose in the Bottle,” and like these creatives, continue to express my visual vocabulary and share it with the world.

Nurturing Your Nature – A Subtractive Approach

Is it your nature or your environment that enables you to be creative? The answer might be “Yes,” meaning both. As we gain experiences and improve our creative potential there comes a point when we need to design an environment that will enable us to continue growing and developing. A useful analogy might be farmers tending their crops, who fertilize and water them as well as remove unwanted plants from the soil in order to be successful. We can also imagine the processes of a sculptor who either adds or removes material to reveal a work of art. From these perspectives, we can gain an understanding of the approaches we might take to create an environment that nurtures our creative self-expression.

Two books that I recently read relate to this concept. The first is Essentialism—The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and the second is “Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism” by Fumio Sasaki.

Mckeown’s book helps us to understand the importance of our actions and how they consume our most precious resource, our time.

The Way of the Essentialist involves doing less, but better, so you can make the highest possible contribution.

The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us.

By applying a more selective criteria for what is essential, the pursuit of less allows us to regain control of our own choices so we can channel our time, energy and effort into making the highest possible contribution toward the goals and activities that matter.

You can read the source article by clicking here.

From a different perspective, Sasaki also helps us understand how to eliminate the unnecessary so we can focus on what matters most.

It’s not about less for the sake of less, it’s about less for the sake of more: more time, more energy, and more freedom. It is about living with intention, choosing with care, and living as simply as possible to free up your resources for lasting purposes.

You can read the source article by clicking here.

For Sasaki, minimalism isn’t about how little you have, but how it makes you feel. Sasaki credits his minimalist lifestyle with helping him lose weight, become extroverted and proactive, and above all, feel happy and grateful for what he has. “Minimalism is just one of the many entries to a happier life, Sasaki says, “So if people have a lot of things in their home, but they’re still able to maintain relationships and feel happy, I think that’s awesome.”

You can read the source article by clicking here.

After reading both books, I took the time to reflect.  From my personal experience, I can relate to Sasaki’s perspective of minimalism and the benefits it can provide.  When we travel, and more so when my wife and I camp, we experience a sense of release that we attribute to having only those possessions needed to support our adventure.  It is akin to repurposing your life’s energy and not being encumbered by cleaning, organizing, and maintaining your “stuff.” From Mckeown’s focus on time or activities, I have found both Stephen R. Covey’s Time Management Matrix and Jim’s Collins’ concept of a “Stop Doing List” to be extremely useful for improving my time management abilities.

I leave you with a few examples of personal friends who have embraced the core concepts of essentialism / minimalism, along with a few additional resource links that you might find of interest.

As a young pharmacy student I met a pharmacist who was working part-time (today we would call him a “free-lancer”), and when he wasn’t working, he was either traveling or enjoying life. It was my first awareness of having a career structure that was different from working 40 hours a week for 40 years and then retiring before doing what you wanted to do.

Around the time of my college graduation, a friend was also finishing his education with a degree in journalism.  He also worked part-time and then traveled to Europe to gain life experiences so that he could pursue his vision of becoming a writer.  He is still pursuing that vision, but he works as a communications consultant, speaking three languages, and helping others across the globe share their thoughts and ideas.  I have always been impressed with his ability to cut his spending and focus his efforts to free up money so that he could travel.

Finally, there is a college classmate of my wife’s and her husband who were able to achieve Financial Independence and Early Retirement (FIRE – an acronym attributed to Vicki Robins and the late Joe Dominguez, the authors of “Your Money or Your Life”).  Our friends were able to live an active life, own a home, raise a family, and then unplug from the need to have a day job earlier than most.  When you chat with them, you gain an appreciation for one of their key approaches; they have a healthy ability to discriminate between their wants and their needs in order to sustain their lifestyle.

Additional Resource Links

Essentialism—A Better Way To Describe Minimalism?

21 Tips To Help You Say Goodbye To Your Things

Escaping Afflueneza


An Artist’s Four Inner Guides

I just wanted to share some recommended readings from a recent article in Professional Artist on the subject of inner guides and the nature of creativity by John Roman, “An Artist’s Four Inner Circles” Mapping How they Influence The Creative Process.” A few of the author’s favorites are:

  • The Courage to Create, Rollo May, Bantam Books, 1975
  • A Kick in the Seat of the Pant: Using Your Explorer, Artist, Judge, & Warrior to be More Creative, Roger von Oech, Harper & Row, 1986
  • Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World, Carol S. Pearson, Harper Collins, 1991
  • Leaping Poetry: An Idea with Poems and Translations, Robert Bly, Beacon Press, 1972
  • Art and Artist: Creative Urge and Personality Development, Otto Rank, Norton Books, 1989
  • The Creative Process: Reflections on the Invention in the Arts and Sciences, Ed.Brewster, Ghiselin, Mentor Books, 1952
  • The King Within;  Accessing the King in the Male Psyche, Robert Moore and Douglas
    Gillette, Robert Morrow Co., 1992

When Your Muse is MIA

It never fails.  An exhibition opportunity arises, a client requests your services or the creation of a new work, and your muse decides to take a vacation. So what do we do to nurture our creative potential? Consider following this blog to learn and to share practices and habits that can help.  We will explore the thread of creativity that exists in cinema, drama, music, visual arts, literature, dance and design for a better understanding of what those rituals or practices are that we can incorporate into our daily lives.

On Monday the 26th of March I conducted a workshop on this subject in the “Big Room” of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.


What follows are the references that I used:

  • “How Creativity Works in the Brain” – National Endowment for the Arts
  • The Creative Hero / Heroine
    • “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell
    • “The Path of the Everyday Hero” by Lorna Catford and Michael Ray
    • “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan
  • Nurturing Your Creative Potential
    • “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey
    • “Care of the Soul” by Thomas Moore
    • “The Creative License” by Danny Gregory
    • “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey
  • Tom Kelly’s Stanford eCorner Lectures
  • Incubation and Strategizing
    • “101 Creative Problem Solving Techniques” by James M. Higgins
    • “Conceptual Blockbusting” by James L. Adams
    • “The Mind Map Book” by Tony Buzan with Barry Buzan
    • “Thinkertoys” by Michael Michalko


The idea for creating this blog originated from two different events and from being under the influence.  One event arose out of frustration of not having time to focus on my art. My day job was keeping me very busy, so I decided to photograph when I had some time, and that meant during my commute to and from work while I was sitting in traffic. At first, it was a creative distraction. Then I started to realize that I was transforming the mundane, those things we see while driving that we take for granted, into something of interest.

As a cohesive catalog of images arose, the work itself became an exercise in seeing things differently. And by re-framing this constraint of time, I was experiencing creative freedom

The other was a recent talk that I gave “When Your Muse is MIA” at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.  Finally, from being under the influence of another photographer, John Craig – who has also blogged and from the perspective of sharing to help others, I wanted to do the same.