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finding niemann

i wanted to set this down while it still meant something to me. i have a lot of difficulty holding on to rational triggers that inspire me to work or to feel something in particular. i've written about this before in a post called rational triggers for the emoto-self and it seems like it is a universal problem. I still look back at the comments to get a lift now and then.

i just returned from a two week speaking trip to europe last night. this sort of separation from my day-to-day life is difficult. I find it hard to work in hotel rooms and i spend a lot of time wandering around, detached, thinking about my life. most of the time it isn't pleasant.

in berlin, i stayed for a few days with a friend of mine - the illustrator christoph niemann. It was a warm relief and i much preferred it to the cocoon of a hotel room, even after I found out that one of his children had been diagnosed with scarlet fever, and a second child, the one who had drooled on my computer while we played with internet toys, seemed like he was sure to have it as well.

i am stuck in many ways right now. in particular i have a fraught relationship with my creative work. my mind seems to want to connect every part of my life together. it makes it hard to work on anything in particular when i think that everything i do influences everything else. it is confusing to think about even now, but it feels heavy and frightening.

watching christoph work i found something i had been looking for. at least i hope it i did. he has a blog for the NYTimes, a "visual blog" called abstract city. The pay for these sorts of things, much like the video series that I produce for Time.com, won't make you rich, and although you are given a broad audience, that audience comes with new pressures and self-doubts. For me this sort of work is terrifying, and i respond with procrastination involving constant out-of-the-way walks that end up in coffee shops, far from my computer. i think it is stressful for Christoph as well, but he seemed to respond to the stress by diving deeper into the work rather than trying to escape it. he spends an amazing amount of time on the entries - disproportionate to the immediate compensation - and seems to get lost in the details. it was wonderful to watch. and it pays dividends - his blog has generated new work and has reminded old clients of his brilliance.

this isn't a complicated thought. but it has reminded me of the power of pouring love into the things that you do, sometimes even if it feels like it is a waste of effort in the larger picture. i hope i remember that.


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Comments (7)


I used to think that I work when I'm happy. Recently I understood that I'm happy when I work.

Similar to the stumbling on happiness theorem (http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html) that says that we find ourselves happy when we're stuck with a decision we had to make hastily and unhappy when we leave these decisions to a latter day.

So what I try to tell myself when I begin to procrastinate is "Just do it already and if you still feel stressed you can then go lie down." instead of "I'll just lie here for a while and if I stop feeling stressed I'll do it."

So, umm... yeah.

Also when I work I usually get distracted from all the other problems in my life and they kind of seem to solve themselves. Or I find the energy and self-esteem to solve them.

Also if I know that my work is helping someone else I somehow find more motivation to do it.


Relax and have an Earth sandwich...



Thanks for the reminder of your 'rational triggers' post, Ze! You inspired your online community to generate an impressive collection of encouraging and motivational ideas, which I'm sure many of your fans still turn to from time to time. At the time I had just quit a good job to dedicate myself to figuring out what larger theme I wanted to pursue in life, and I found inspiration in many of those comments.

After many months I chose my theme, and it required a move across country and a significant financial investment. Now that the bar has been raised in my life and the stakes are higher, I'm feeling much as you described and dealing with it similarly (i.e. generous doses of procrastination).

So I'm going to follow your lead on this one. I chose this current path I'm on, and rather than treat my work like something imposed on me I'm going to pour love into it.

Everything is interconnected, and it seems Christoph's strategy is to focus on the advantages of that rather than the frightening aspects.


Amazing, that Christoph is a friend of yours (but then again, not so surprising). I love the stuff he does for the NYT; only wish it would be more regularly/often. But it is apparent, that it is always very well thought (and carried) out.

I also love your videos for Time.com and hope, the response to it is positive and somewhat helpful. (I could imagine, that sometimes the selection of the topic of "the next one" is a pain in the ass (regarding angle, expectations and perceived "common sense" stance on everything.)

Nice headline, btw. :)

"take the world by storm"

although I am sure you already do that.

I made a new years resolution

"this year I will win"

and another before that

"be nice"

I don't do what you do for a living, am in technology and don't work with so many creative factors as you. Or perhaps I do, perhaps we all do work the same way, just in different flavours.

Either way, what you say makes sense, mostly about running from your work, especially new - sometimes debilitating - opportunities. I often question why I don't dive in when a big opportunity presents itself.

I think it takes a huge amount of discipline to dive in, embrace the self doubts and make your work love you, the way you want to be loved.
'cause damn, what if you go "all in" and the end result turns out mediocre.

Curious where all this will lead for you, thanks for sharing!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 7, 2009 2:29 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Trying Again :: Setting Expectations for Contribution Based Projects (Part 1 ).

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