Posts tagged work
In praise of white space & blank slates
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The designer refers to it as white space.

The architect: open space.

The artist: a clean slate.

The writer: a blank page.

Others may call it wasted or dead space.

And when the critics are looking over your shoulder as you contemplate your space, they might be the ones calling it out as under-designed, writers block, inefficient, or unfinished.

 

Space: an invitation with deep-seated fear

Many of us feel compelled to fill our space. We’ve bought into the idea that this it is what’s required of us. We’ve been led to believe that to behold the blank, dead, empty, open or white space somehow signals that we’re lazy or unproductive. Too often the result is that we act out of fear.

Instead we should be embracing what is not yet on the invisible sketch canvas of what’s to come. That is the invitation to discovering new-found joy.

Recently we embraced this invitation and went on a brief hiatus from Joy Venture (it’s our second such break since starting JV). In this downtime when we weren’t concerned with pushing out the next podcast, we had space to think about and do – other things. Things that were necessary, things that stretched us, and things that demanded out attention. But just as important, no thing at all. The idea of setting up margin in your life – not feeling compelled to fill your space, your calendar, your social feed, etc. – and leaving room to breathe, think about and pursue different ideas is important. These are themes worth touching on as we move forward.

 

Risks and rewards of exploring the space

Specifically we used our blank and empty space since November to scrutinize Joy Venture. There was real risk in confronting the fact that this thing we’ve poured ourselves into might have run its course – and we needed to wrestle with that reality.

  • Should we continue?

  • If so, where do we go next?

  • How might we do new and different things?

  • How do we stay true to Joy Venture’s purpose while also pursuing new voices and ideas?

 We also had to push back against conventional wisdom, which suggested we were foolish to “go dark” without new content for months. What about our followers? What about momentum? What about the timely posts you need to stay relevant? What about securing a sponsor to help us grow, grow, grow? 

To us, and specifically for the podcast, relevance has more to do with real interactions than it does regular rhythms to catch a surfing audience. We cannot do this for the likes and shares. We’re unable to run on the infinite treadmill of production and find joy in that kind of effort. We know that for most things in life less is more. We tend to cherish what’s finite versus what is in abundance all around us. We believe the work must resonate at a deeper level for people, ourselves included.

While we do look at our analytics, we hold dear the responses we get from people who take time to send us a thoughtful note. Those individual pieces of feedback obliterate how we think about the algorithms of visibility, should we ever feel tempted to allow data to dictate our joy.

 

Questions to contemplate

But this isn’t about us. This invitation also is for you, friend and follower. So we ask you, the individual who is at least moderately intrigued with this idea of discovering joy –

  • Have you embraced the white, blank, empty, open and dead space in your life? Why not?

  • Have you been feverishly filling your spaces out of obligation? Why?

  • Will you accept the invitation that space affords and create margin in the months ahead to see what you can begin to draft on the invisible sketch canvas?

  • What do you want to create that you’ve been afraid to pursue? What’s holding you back from taking the initial steps?

 

The space and time away from Joy Venture these past months confirmed its value for us, especially as others continue to discover what we’re up to and choose to listen and lean in. It has renewed us and refreshed some of our thinking about where we go from here.

All this to say, our hiatus has been rewarding and we’re ready to return to the podcast this spring with new episodes of insight and extraordinary individuals. We hope it will be the inspiration and encouragement you need to step off the treadmill of production to pursue things that matter.

Thank you for your ongoing encouragement of us as we pursue this endeavor in hopes of helping others discover, develop and spread their joy.

The one thing preventing you from the life you're meant to live

Now comes the hard part: the day-by-day moments where you have to live out those promises and resolutions you made just a few weeks ago, lest you face another year of reckoning and wrecking your best laid plans. There’s a reasonable chance that all of your well-intended visioncasting and early action is starting to wane (after all, it’s almost February). If it hasn’t yet, hold on. It will.

And know that you’re not alone.

While we all need this important if not wholly artificial January reset, we need something even greater to stop us from hitting the proverbial snooze button on pursuing our joy; that thing and sense of purpose we know, deep down, we were meant to pursue and do.

In effort to keep myself on track, I continually return to Steven Pressfield as he knows a thing or two about this conundrum, and his truth-searing words are like a bucket of ice water thrown in one’s face. If you’re an artist, writer, maker, entrepreneur or creative of any type, you need his wise words bouncing around your head on days of setbacks as well as the ones filled with promise. In his book The War of Art, he talks about that thing, that force, that undeniable enemy that lines up on the opposite side of the field preparing to slay you again and again. As a prelude to his deep dive on falling short and understanding why that is, he sends us a wake-up call with this passage below.

If you need motivation that you cannot conjure up on your own, read it.

If you can visualize your end reward knowing you just need to persevere, read it.

Or if you’re scared to death of not realizing what you were meant to become, then definitely read it.  

Neither Times Square nor your town square catalogs your hope-filled confetti. Your party hat and noisemaker have long been recycled. The clock continues to tick whether you’re counting it down or not. And you still have choices to make about pushing through or getting up off the mat.  

 

THE UNLIVED LIFE

Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two lies Resistance.

Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark on a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace, or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you envisioned the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who doesn’t start a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. If you believe in God (and I do) you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. Genius is a Latin word. The Romans used it to denote an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, which watches over us, guiding us to our calling. A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center. It’s our soul’s seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star’s beacon and Polaris.

Every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is Resistance. As powerful as is our soul’s call to realization, so potent are the forces of Resistance arrayed against it. Resistance is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, harder to kick than crack cocaine. We’re not alone if we’ve been mowed down by Resistance. Millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here’s the biggest bitch: we don’t even know what hit us. I never did. From age twenty-four to thirty-two, Resistance kicked my ass from East Coast to West and back again thirteen times and I never even knew it existed. I looked everywhere for the enemy and failed to see it right in front of my face.

Have you heard this story: Woman learns she has cancer, six months to live. Within days she quits her job, resumes the dream of writing Tex-Mex songs she gave up to raise a family (or starts studying classical Greek, or moves to the inner city and devotes herself to tending babies with AIDS). Woman’s friends think she’s crazy; she herself has never been happier. There’s a postscript. Woman’s cancer goes into remission.

Is that what it takes? Do we have to stare Death in the face to make us stand up and confront Resistance? Does Resistance have to cripple and disfigure our lives before we wake up to its existence?  How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to? Resistance defeats us. If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, infotainment business, not to mention the pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage, and dandruff.

Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real. Resistance will bury you.

You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it an overstatement but I will say it anyway: It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.

Steven Pressfield, excerpt from The War of Art