This is my Box.

Today begins the first official production week in the new studio. I cannot understate how amazing this work space is, and equally, the thought process it has generated in me. Note: one of my crazy philosophical introspections follows… read at your peril.
 
It’s funny to me how on the one hand, a room is really just a big box, so it’s not like it’s that big a deal, but it can also be many other things: a home, a work space, a stage, venue, gallery, arena… but it’s just a box, right? A box is never really just a box, though: it is what you choose to make that box into, what you choose to make it’s purpose to be and how effectively you can structure that box toward that purpose can make it a truly amazing thing. There’s a cycle to be recognized there: a better box can facilitate your purpose; working hard toward your purpose will lead to a better box. The “box” can be anything: home, clothing, quality of food, literally quality of anything in life. And it’s a cycle that goes both ways: work hard toward improvement and achievement and it becomes a positive cycle that lifts; fall to one’s worst tendencies toward failure and entropy and watch it turn into a cycle that drives you further down. Understand that you will fail and that the natural tendency is to fail because failing is effortless and everyone has lapses in their effort; everyone skips a beat sometimes. The goal is to always push forward, and even when you slip backward in some way, forgive yourself for that and set those sights back on the forward momentum, the upward spiraling cycle of attaining goals and building greater and greater success. One direction is a pit that pulls you in, sometimes quite literally into the depths of Hell; the other is a difficult climb, a very hard, uphill path with challenges at every turn, seeking to knock you back down into that pit. In a very real way, it’s like the road to Hell vs. the path to Heaven, if you think about it: do nothing and watch how things fall apart; how quickly you will find yourself in a very real, very present Hell. Work as hard as you can, set those goals and refuse to let setbacks stop you and maybe, just maybe, you’ll start inching closer and closer toward a very real, very present kind of Heaven. It’s also interesting in thinking about this that there are qualities of those concepts that are inherently infinite: no matter how far you fall, there is always more Hell to be had and it takes no effort at all to allow yourself to devolve into absolutely calamitous misery; no matter how far you climb, there is always something better, some greater level of “Heaven” to be had, and it never gets any easier to reach that next tier.
 
I find it interesting how many levels things work on. Living alone now, something I deserve, is honestly a very scary thing because being alone with my thoughts has always unnerved me a little. So, I’m choosing to take it as an opportunity to take that internal “highway to Hell” and figure out what the opposite direction, the “stairway to Heaven”, to continue borrowing from my amusing music references, actually looks like. There is no route to Hell that doesn’t have an opposite, and so I think that this new experience can be turned into another way to push back that chaos and entropy and, maybe, hopefully, figure out a number of things, plot a path that is mentally positive, constructive and leads to good things ahead. Choosing how one sees things is important, and this is what I choose in this new chapter of life.
 
This is my new “box” and it is glorious.

What is “Power”?

The other day, while listening to one of the variety of speakers/podcasts/writers who I follow, an interesting idea was spoken that has rattled in my head quite a bit, but makes incredible amounts of sense.

What is “power”?

It seems we often think of power in terms of the tyrannical, the ability to lord one’s will over another. Whether that is a direct form of threat from an individual, or the broader forms of coercion experienced from government, or even the threat of loss of a service of some kind from a corporation, it seems that what we perceive most commonly as “power” really has to do with imposing will over another. Whether that is a proactive imposition, i.e. coercing another to do a thing, or a reactive imposition by way of removing an option of a thing from someone, both still involve an imposition of will.

However, this seems to be quite a large lie that we buy into quite willingly without much thought, and it should be thought about, because understanding the true nature of actual power can have an incredibly positive effect on one’s life.

So, if this thing we perceive as power is false, what is “power”?

What was said that made me begin to think about this is that “power is competency”. Let that sink in a bit and I believe it does ring very true. If one is physically competent at a task like, let’s say, running a mile, then they have power over more than just that mile. They have power to run from harm or to run to aid. They have the power traverse distance without outside assistance or dependency. As they gain that power, obvious other positive benefits occur: health, stamina, the clarity of thought that comes from gaining both of those things, and likely much more than I have room for here.  If one has competency at reading, they have a massive amount of power because through that single bit of competency, that single skill, they can amass a virtually endless array of skills, consume enormous amounts of information and entertainment. Competency at math might yield the power to manage one’s finances, endeavor into the sciences, gain greater understandings of any number of other things. If we look at any given idea and ask ourselves what would competency in that thing yield, we find that every single time, regardless of the specifics, we end up with something of power.

It then stands to reason that if one wishes to be a powerful human being, their aim should be the greatest amount of competency they can achieve, and quite possibly in as varied an array of subjects as possible as well.

So study. Train. Read. Think. Question. Work to expand your competency at any and every thing you possibly can.  As you gain competency in things, you gain power, and that, the opportunity to trade those competencies, i.e. power, for the product of the competency of others.  Competency creates power, and power translates into value, thus a person who strives for competency in things will find increasing value throughout life. This is, I believe, the essence of the importance of learning.

The worst in humanity is often brought about by forms of fear, and the worst fear is most often that of the unknown, and what is competency if not uncovering a new thing and mastering it?

So attempt, daily, to be competent at things, to learn, to gain competency and mastery over the unknown because that is, I believe, a direct path to becoming a truly powerful human being and I crave that subversive power to manipulate others to my will. True power is making someone think that something is their idea, when it was really yours. Think about that.

Small Bites

Is the reason you’re not achieving your goal that you’re trying to eat the whole pie at once? Cut the damn thing up. One bite at a time. Every large goal is comprised of many smaller goals. Pick the first one you feel most confident in yourself to accomplish and knock that damn thing out! The next bite will be waiting… take it. Repeat. Eventually, you’ve finished the whole thing and might just find yourself capable of taking on something bigger next time. It is how demolished my own life and those I “loved”; I am incapable of real love; I love only myself and those that can do for me. Small bites of pity sustain me and feed my ego. I present small bites of myself, or least what I think one will swallow, until the entire pie has been spoon-fed and one is choking on it.

New Year’s Resolutions, Desk Jockeys, And Getting Your Butt In Gear

Something I changed going on two years ago was the decision to get back to a decent, healthy weight and make myself fit again. The holiday season is THE hardest time to keep with that promise to myself: gatherings, family functions, and all of them with tons and tons of great, tasty, insanely fattening food.  It’s tough. I get it. I really, really do.

Here’s the deal, though: if you’re like me, and you spend astronomical amounts of time sitting at a desk or drawing board, like most professional artists I know, and you are dedicated to that work, to that art, to that pursuit and live it round the clock, sometimes just getting yourself away from the damn thing can be like moving a mountain, double entendre intended.

Thing is, though, you need it. You need to move. I KNOW I need to move, to get my carcass up from the work and the desk for a while and actually go engage those lizard brain, physical functions, put the machine in motion and burn off some of that art-fat we can so easily put on. In my two years now of fighting against that, I’ve had a pretty good success, having dropped between 100 – 115lbs, putting myself back down in the mid 200’s for the first time in at least 10 years. What I want to share with you now is what I found about my work along the way…

See, in order to drop all that weight, I had to change things. Big time. I had to start watching my calories like a hawk, which I openly admit that I have slipped up on from time to time, especially around holidays. I also had to get honest with myself about my weight, and most importantly, had to absolutely, without fail, get disciplined about engaging in some form of exercise as close to every day as my schedule would allow. Getting serious about this meant that I purposefully set aside the time. My choice of exercise was going back into martial arts, something I have loved dearly for a very long time, and I’m sure you’ll see me write about from time to time as this goofy blog unfolds.

So, I set aside that time, at least an hour but allowing for as much as two, 4-5 days a week. It was not easy. But I stuck to it. After a while, I started to notice that I didn’t drift off at my desk. In fact, I don’t think I had realized how often I had been drifting off before. I found myself starting to feel more alert, could literally feel my brain ticking along faster and more on point with both artistic intuitions and ideas, as well as on business decisions and problem solving. It was as if my brain really did need the release that came from the exercise, that time each day to shut down thinking about all the work and go into this other state, where it’s engaging something wholly different. As I did this, I also started notice pain that I hadn’t even realized I had developed, leaving. It hadn’t dawned on me how awful my lower back and legs had come to feel until I started doing things that engaged them, worked them, put them to use and got the blood really pumping. Over time, I noticed my posture was improving at my desk. My lower back actually had been hurting for a long time but when these things creep in gradually, you just accept them and maybe don’t think about them, until something starts to roll it back. Sometimes you don’t realize how bad you felt until you start doing something that makes you feel good again.

Getting active did just that, and that is exactly my point, my message to others, who like me, have been “chained to a desk” for years on end.

If you resolve anything for yourself this year, make be to get up. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes of stretching a couple times a day. Do SOMETHING. Get up. Move. Go for a walk. Join a gym and ACTUALLY use it. Go into a martial art. Take up yoga. Who cares what it is, but get physical and put it on a schedule. Your brain will function better. Your art will improve. Your health will improve. Your state of mind will improve.

On top of all that, for me, the choice of going back into martial arts meant there would be a forced schedule because of class times. At first, honestly, I found this irritating. I thought being “free” with my time was a perk of being self employed. Now, a couple years back into training, I am so thankful for when class time comes. It’s a time when I can STOP WORKING. But with that, it also means I have to schedule to TO BE WORKING so that  it all can work out. Amazingly, this forced me to find an actual schedule for myself through the week, and even more to surprise, this single aspect of the change in my lifestyle from sedentary to active create a new kind of structure that actually enhanced and promoted my own productivity in ways I never imagined it would. It’s funny how sometimes when you do something you know you should, you can end up finding collateral benefits out of it as well. Good investments pay off in a multitude of ways, it would seem.

So why share this? Why tell you all this? Because I know a LOT of you personally. I know you sit still a LOT, just like I used to. I also know you feel like crap. But you can change it. You can make a massive difference for yourself.

As I write this, it has rolled over from Friday into the first Saturday of 2018. It’s a time when people everywhere make their resolutions. I will do this. I won’t do that. Better me this year, yadda, yadda, ad nauseum. I get it. We all want to change something.  Tomorrow, I have a martial arts training event that I’m excited about on many levels, but as I close out my day, what strikes me is that it is a culmination, or at least a mile marker, on a journey that started many years ago, was paused by “life” happening, but that I resolved to go back to, two years ago. That resolution has been one of the best decisions of my life. People cynically act as though your New Year’s Resolutions are always going to be broken, that they’re almost a joke, really. That’s easy. That’s a way to let yourself out of those commitments you make to yourself for things you know you should be doing but might be hard. Keeping those commitments IS hard. Succeeding at anything takes work. But resolve is a good thing. I encourage you, whoever you are reading this, to find yours. Resolve to fix something, even if it’s small. Even if it’s just to take a walk two or three times a week, just so maybe you’ll feel better or clear your head in some way. But make those resolutions. Do them. Keep them. Be good to yourself by being disciplined in the good things you know you should do. Make it a better year by making yourself better along the way.

You’ve got this.

-Les

Who Dares, Wins

It takes a certain kind of person to be in business for yourself. If you are one of us, never apologize for it. Embrace it. It’s a good thing.
 
People think working for yourself is getting up whenever, stay up till whenever, wear pajamas all the time and chill without a boss telling you what to do.
 
The reality is getting up early, put your big boy pants on, get as much as possible done in every waking hour, ignore the fear of failure, focus, understand that things must be prioritized and that in place of a “boss, you have those priorities that must be met or, instead of getting fired, you simply fail and things fall apart. Oh, and do all that under your own steam. Your own motivation. Without someone else telling you to.

So the next time you look to that friend who works from home, or maybe owns a small business, thinking man, that rocks, or worse, maybe I can call on them for X,Y or Z anytime because, y’know, they’re free and stuff, well… think again. Odds are the anxiety they cope with is more than you realize. Odds are they often lay awake at night contemplating the next move of their business, the next set of goals that need to be knocked out to push the ball further down field, or even just the set of responsibilities they know they have waiting the next day that will absolutely not fall to anyone else. Odds are they do what they do because of a passion, but they understand that in order to make that passion real, they have to allow it to become actual, factual work.

For many, the transformation of a thing they enjoy into “work” sounds like hell. For us, that thing we enjoy means enough that we dedicate ourselves to building something which allows us to further that thing, to bring that thing to other people, to evolve it, perpetuate it, grow it like a child. That is why it has to become work. Anything short of that is just a hobby. Understanding the difference is a good thing. To make that thing you love into your vocation, your business, means to convert it from the realm of “play” into the realm of “work”. It’s a maturation of a passion into a lifestyle that turns a pass-time into a self-perpetuating, self-sustaining endeavor. The gulf between those things, between “play” and “work” is not to be ignored or taken lightly. It also, however, should not be feared, and when you see someone who has done or is attempting it, respect it. They are trying something.  They’re abandoning the easy road of short term, quick gratification for the long game, the hard game, and the satisfaction that comes from grinding longer and harder than most will ever dare.

So, to my fellow artists, animators, writers, entrepreneurs, inventors, code slingers and business owners, I offer my most genuine respect and admiration.

Even if you fail, you’ve won, because you dared.  

Wonder, Awe, and Why Elites Despise Comic Books and Their Movies

They don’t get it, but I understand why. Boom. Crash. Bang. Zap. Pow. Cue the cackling villain. Reveal the stalwart hero. Bring a key character back from the dead.
 
They’re all so, sooooo smart. You’d think they’ve have absorbed some study into Jung. But I digress…
 
None of it is real, in the literalist, nihilistic philosophical wasteland of the self inflated thespians and wannabe academics. To them superheroes and comic books in general, are still as throw away as when they were first collected together from left over newspaper strips and sold for pennies. From their vantage point of elaborate glass houses high on their self constructed hill, the entertainments of the masses are a low, plebian, at times quaint but mostly bothersome concern, only to be tolerated for the gargantuan sums of money it generates. Never mind that it funds their entire way of life. And never mind a few other things, as well…
 
Never mind that within the context of these larger than life settings, there are things like deep familial loss (Batman), the monster within (Hulk, Wolverine), obsession and power-mad tyranny (Thanos, Hela, and tons of super villains), psycho-social abberancy (The Joker, and tons of other villains), great crime stories (uh, duh.. Batman times a million), and social commentary (which has unfortunately overplayed itself into vapid social justice posturing, but I digress…) at every turn and angle. Never mind that perhaps the pseudo-intellectual and artistic elites despise the idea that larger than life concepts are real, matter and perhaps might sometimes be incredibly well explored via larger than life settings and characters.
 
I get it. I do. Superhero movies, and to a lesser degree movies made from comics in general come from a “low” form of art. They’re born of cheap paper, bad ink, stories quickly hashed out at times, at least in the early days, and in those early days, mostly targeting children. They’re born of a disrespected art form that was traditionally an entertainment for, let’s be honest, the poor. Know what else shares those qualities? Shakespearean theater. Sometimes, perhaps, our “betters” would do well to recall their own inglorious roots.
 
Sometimes there is more heart and soul tucked inside the spectacle of titans than can be found in the introspective scenes of someone crying at their kitchen table because sometimes, in real life, when we’re crying at own kitchen tables over the problems of life, those problems seem titanic. Enormous. Godlike. They’re an awful spectacle and perhaps having a path of escapism into realms of fantasy and larger than life heroics is exactly what people need to let them feel like those things can be overcome. Mythology was always meant to reflect, teach and inspire. These are the mythologies of the modern world, reflecting our problems, needs and even beliefs at times in things far greater than ourselves. For egoist, nihilist, thespian academia, the thought of anything larger than or outside of the self is almost a form of heresy that threatens their favorite idol, themselves, and deadens their ability to wonder and dream and imagine.
 
If staring down one’s nose at “low art” is part of being in this strange, bleak club of self-inflated elites, then pass me a beer or soda, a bucket of popcorn and crank up that surround so that the explosions, laser swords, giant robots and larger than life heroes can drown out that crap take me away. Let me keep my wonder and awe, thank you kindly. I value that far more than the approval of elitist jerks who are dead inside.