I’ve realized something profound a while ago, something I’ve been procrastinating to admit to myself. This particular “something” is preached by self-development experts, artists, writers, and all people who strive on getting a lot done in any given day. I guess I’ve been procrastinating on writing about it, or admitting how important it actually is, because I figured it was set in stone – something we should all be doing, like not eating too much sugar. What’s the point of delving on it when it’s so obvious, right?
That piece of advice is this: If you want to have a good day, start in a good way.
Essentially the opposite is true as well. If you want to be distracted, unfocused and all-around shitty for the duration of the day, wake up with social media, porn, and bad news.
We artists live off of our daily practice, and the act of sitting down to work is the practice. Doing the work is the whole thing. It’s not your ideas or your insight, it’s what you do everyday. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
“Sow a thought and you reap and action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
The daily act gets to the heart of what masters of productivity preach: Do the work, become the person. Fake it till you make it. Keep it Simple Stupid.
We have a tendency to overcomplicate things. But when we’re in the trenches of our work and bombs are blowing up all around us, of course it’s complicated. At the ground level, life is chaos. Zooming out and looking at the big picture is useful, because the big picture is where you’ll start to see patterns.
Looking at Emerson’s quote again, if you do something every morning—like scrolling through the endless magic that is Imgur—this will turn into a habit. You’ll be distracted for the whole day, and Imgur and Reddit will call out to you for the rest of the day.
I’ve grown to dislike the word “successful”—I’m not even sure what it means anymore. The word itself has been so much it has lost all meaning. For example, the word “Awesome” used to describe 50 foot tall snarling winged horses that breathed fire and pissed lightning—things of that nature. “Awesome”, after many years of dilution, is now used to describe the moment you get the last everything bagel at Dunkin Donuts. The word “successful”, to me at least, now refers to Youtube videos of a young smiling dude-bro standing (or sitting) in front of a camera plagiarizing the words from self-development coaches like Jim Rohn or Tony Robbins.
One of the most important tips I’ve ever gotten as an artist or musician, is to not study your favorite composers or artists, but study who they studied. Bach simply had it going on, and all of the great composers from the classical and romantics eras of music all studied his work. Dig deep into the sources of inspiration from successful folks, because the great thinkers of hundreds or thousands of years ago may have had a better understanding of the human condition that we do.
I’m more writing to myself here than to you, dear reader, for as Flannery O’Conner once wrote:
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
Words and ideas are yours for the taking. Our lives are a collage of our experiences, and we are what we eat, do, think, and say. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all.