The Gordian Knot

It was 4th century BCE and Alexander the Great had just arrived in the Persian Empire.

In one of the towns there lay an age old ox-cart, which was tied to a post with the tightest and most complicated knot that anyone could ever imagine.

Whoever was able to untie the knot and claim the ox-cart would become the ruler of the whole empire.

Things were easier in those days…

So. Alexander the Great and his most trusted aides arrived and were confronted by the knot.

They deliberated over it for hours.

The greatest minds of their time, yet none of them could work out how to untangle it.

And then…

…Alexander the Great whipped out his sword and chopped it in half.

Problem solved.

Things aren’t always as complicated as they seem – whether they be creative or otherwise.

Sometimes you need to just chop that knot in half and move on!



Minidisc players and the idea in you

 

A few months ago my cousin was clearing a few of his old things out from his parents’ house.

He came away with a small box of items that had meant a lot to him as a youngster.

Among these trinkets was his old minidisc player.

For a short while in the early noughties, minidiscs were supposed to be the next big thing.
Their popularity soon stifled though, as digital recording and playback became the norm – lost to a generation of people who didn’t want to have physical copies of their music. (Ironically though, with the resurrection of vinyl, this is tilting the other way).

For a short while the minidisc had been his very favourite thing. With an air of nostalgia he turned it on and listened to the disc that was inside – a tune that hadn’t been played for over a decade.

He remarked simply, yet philosophically, on how it was weird that one day he’d just turned it off and never used it again – only for it to turn up some fifteen years later.

How often do you have that with a thought or an idea? All that thinking about something, only to switch off and forget about it.

Ideas aren’t physical things, such as minidisc players. If you lose them it’s much harder to get them back.

As a creative I always used to, annoyingly, have my best ideas when I wasn’t able to write.

The novels, the stories and the concepts that I’d come up with…usually when I was driving or in the gym…right at the time when my laptop was out of reach!

I used to think to myself – ‘I’ll come back to that idea when I get a sec’.

I never did though. Because the enthusiasm for the idea would disappear before I could touch methaphorical pen to metaphorical paper.

So now I carry a notepad with me at all times. So I’m never caught out. I can jot down my ideas whenever and wherever.

I think this is a better option that writing it on my phone. My phone is a bustling hub of distractions…and a big reason of ‘why I didn’t write today’.

I also invested in an expensive notepad. Not because I’m materialistic. But, because I figure that…the more I pay for something, the more naturally valuable it seems and the more likely I’ll be to use it.

Unlike that minidisc player, it’s unlikely that your ideas will come back to you. So have something with you at all times to note them down.

Before you know it, your notebook will become a goldmine of creativity.

I know it seems simple, obvious even, but yet so many people let their ideas slip away.

The writer Robert Louis Stevenson reckoned that ‘Treasure Island’ was born from a couple of dreams that he had.

He also remarked that, had he not have had a pen (or quill back then) by his bed, he’d have forgotten the idea before he could have converted it into a story.

Don’t let your ideas walk the plank…take note of them!

(image credit: wikipedia)

If ever you feel as if life is moving too fast…

…take a moment and remember that 600,000 gallons of water go over Niagara Falls per second.

The fast pace of your life is nothing compared to that.

You’ve got more time than you think.

Take time to relax and recharge when you need it.

But also – think about that water. No matter how many rocks or obstacles it meets during the way, it still gets to where it needs to be.

I don’t wanna sound too zen, but a mindset that’s fluid like water can be a valuable tool when it comes to working through problems and enhancing creativity.

by Ashley Brown

(image credit: Wesley Banks)

What could you learn from Wayne Rooney?

As a football fan it’s taken me a long time to like Wayne Rooney.

And, truth be told, I’m still not quite there.

He played many a game Manchester United and, as an Arsenal fan, they’re not a team that I like.

However, at 31 years of age, he’s now gone back to his boyhood club, Everton. I feel I can like him more, at least until he next plays Arsenal – he always seems to score against us.

But this post isn’t really about football.

It’s about a decision Rooney made today (23/08/17).

He decided to step down from international football – which was a difficult decision for him, he’s England record goal scorer with 53 strikes to his name!

But, what I admire about this decision, is that he decided to quit while he was on top and focus his attention on his main job – playing for his club.

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(photo: the telegraph)

Sure he could have played for a few more years. But, he’s getting old and there’s only a certain amount of time within which you can stretch yourself over different platforms before you start getting injured or tired.

Now he can do what he loves for the club he loves with no other distractions and no other pressures.

His career will likely last longer as a result.

It’s something we can all bear in mind – an example we can learn from, sometimes it’s worth taking away some of our side jobs to work towards your most important goal.

A case of essentialising.

Now of course representing your country at a sport is a great honour, and one that not many of us have.

But what a lot of us do have are other distractions and side jobs that take up our time and, most importantly, our focus.

How often have you stopped to think to yourself something like – ‘I’ve got enough on today and yet I still need to do….’ or how often have you found yourself agreeing to something, and then realising (somewhat too late) just how much of your valuable work or leisure time it’ll suck up?

Sometimes it’s better to quit these things while you’re ahead, before they just get in the way and do you more harm than good.

After all, the further you stretch yourself, the thinner you spread yourself.

Check out Essentialism by Greg McKeown – it’ll change your life.

Pele & Enthusiasm

“Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string”.

– Pele.

How’s that for a nice simple quote? And so true, as well. I’ve met very few inspiring or successful people who weren’t enthusiastic – how many have you met?

It reminds me of a phone call I had with my uncle in the USA not too long ago. We were talking about the course I was studying at the time – Journalism – and he said something really simple that left an impact.

Sometimes, when you reflect on things, the quotes that stick with you the longest are the simplest.

We were basically talking about the people on my course and who would do well. And he told me that those who tried the hardest, those who were the most enthusiastic, would do the best. And that it was like that with many things in life.

He was right.

I  mean – it’s obvious isn’t it, really?

If you try hard and if you’re enthusiastic about something you’re good at you’ll do well…

It’s really obvious.

But then my question is, to so many creatives out there, you know you’re good…why aren’t you maximising that to do well at what you love? Life is a game and you have to milk the gifts you get.

I know and have met too many talented people who don’t give themselves the shot they deserve. I know this whole post seems obvious, but sometimes in their day-to-day people forget the obvious and they need reminding!

Oh…and here’s Pele being good at stuff…

You can learn something from Hugh Grant

When I was a kid I was an enthusiastic actor. Nativity plays, Christmas specials, summer shows – I always tried to steal the show, and usually succeeded.

I wish I’d have pursued it more back then but, alas, it wasn’t to be.

I became an awkward teenager and an ensuing lack of confidence robbed me of my drama skills. I did end up auditioning for a play at school when I was about fourteen and succeeded in landing the role of  ‘Bush #2’.

I never knew that there were talking bushes in ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – but I landed the role and got to deliver one whole line of dialogue. 

My acting career did have a revival in my early twenties, however. I won a role in several short films and even got a small part in a feature length production – ticking off a life goal in the process.

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(There I am, making my feature length debut as a cocky drug dealer)

Whenever I spoke about acting I was always asked who my inspiration was.

People always laughed at my initial reply…and then waited for the ‘real answer’.

But it was no joke – the man who got me interested in acting was Hugh Grant.

Sure, he plays the same character in (nearly) every film, and his career peaked in the 1990s.

But…he has an estimated net worth of £60 million.

Pretty good for a one trick pony, isn’t it?

Now, while it’s good to experiment…it’s also good to have a winning formula and stick to it.

As a creative you should feel free to broaden your horizons when the chance arises but remember what you’re best at.

Which is why I spend my spare time writing and not acting.

Although if there’s a role going let me know and I’ll pencil in an audition…

This too shall pass.

 “This too shall pass”.

It’s a simple sentence, but a very powerful one when you think about it. It’s certainly one we should all bear in mind as we trundle (or speed) through our day-to-day.

Many, many moons ago there was a great ruler who lived in a grand castle. He had everything he wanted.

Banquets, riches and the adoration of his community.

Yet…even though he had all he should want he wasn’t always happy… 
(I bet some of you can relate).

So, as great rulers tend to do when they have a problem, he asked his most valued subjects to help him out.

He wanted them to create something that would make him happy. For some reason or another he decided that this should be in the form of a ring.
(Perhaps he just opened the Argos catalogue at a random page, and went from there).

He gave them the following brief: the ring had to make him happy when he was sad. 

As you can imagine there was a lot of head-scratching – as is usually the case with vague briefs.

They consulted engineers, philosophers, carpenters, academics – anyone who might be able to give them some inspiration.
(oh, how difficult the world was before Google or Pinterest!)

Eventually, as you’ll have probably guessed, the phrase they engraved into the ring was:
“this too shall pass”.

They presented it to him with baited breath…and sighed with relief once they saw that he was pleased.

It worked well. Whenever he felt annoyed, angry or sad – he just looked at his ring and it reminded him that everything was temporary. The storm cloud that hung over his head began to wither and disappear.

But then…sometimes when he was happy, he’d accidentally look at his ring and it would dawn on him that happiness and success don’t last forever either.

It was a real double-edged sword. It could take him from sad to happy, and from cheerful to downbeat.

There’s a lesson in here for all of us to take away.

badday

When things go wrong and when, in the words of Daniel Powter, we have a ‘bad day’ – we know that it’ll pass. The storm cloud above our own heads will eventually go, and the sun will creep up over the metaphorical horizon.

But…

…it also means that when we  are happy and when we are successful, those days when the sun seems to shine just that bit brighter and we feel a few inches taller, we need to really value those moments.

Because they too will pass.

‘Tis a shame, but as Frank Sinatra once said, “that’s life!”

Keep your chin up when things aren’t going right, and take every reflective moment you can to drink in the good times when you’re in them.