transactionsblog:

Today, I had a second interview for a job that draws on my theater experience. This is a subject that is impossible to adequately discuss without mentioning that I coordinated a successful variety show on Bourbon Street for two years, and, with any in-depth discussion, that this involved me doing…

FYI: Why This Blog is on Hiatus

Hi everyone! 

I’m pleased to report that I’ve gotten settled in Paris after my move here Nov. 9.  Things are going well and the adventure, of course, continues!

I wanted to check in and let you know that Art Reminds the Soul is on an indefinite hiatus because I am focusing on my primary blog/business, Executive Dysfunctions.  In it, I cover many of the same subjects I’ve explored here, such as streamlining and simplification, with a specific focus toward applying those tools to the dilemmas of organization for people with AD/HD and other quirky brain functions.  I strongly encourage you to check it out and follow it if you’re already subscribed here (or if you stumble upon this and like what you see). 

I may update this space from time to time as it pertains to my personal journeys, but for now, check the new home for my work!  You can also find me on Google+.

Namaste, 

Steven

Next Steps: The Foundation of Making Things Happen

***Please note: This post is cross-posted to my new WordPress site, Executive Dysfunctions, which will be the home of my ADD-management work. This site will continue to be updated with posts related to my minimalist-inspired journey, but will likely be phased out over the next few months. Please follow me at the new place!***

In the realm of time management and productivity, I draw inspiration from several outside sources.  In terms of developing a consistent system, I have adapted some of my recommendations from David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, an organization book geared toward business professionals that can be (mostly) translated to any and all areas of life.  Although it is definitely written from the perspective of a highly privileged, upper-class, able-bodied, educated, heterosexual, white American male, this book is an anomaly among mainstream organizing approaches in that many of its tools can be used by people with ADD and other executive function disorders.  

 
A keystone of David’s system - and my own, which incorporates tactics from other sources as well as my own special brain - is what he calls a Next Actions list and what I have dubbed a Next Steps list.  This is not the same as a to-do list, which for most people includes everything from two-minute actions like “Call for a hair appointment” to gargantuan undertakings like “Achieve world peace.”  A Next Steps list provides an easy reference for specific, actionable tasks - those which you can do, which will move you forward.  David’s explanation of this concept provided me a lightbulb moment as far as what wasn’t working in my attempts at time management - especially why it seemed that I could rarely accomplish much of what was on my to-do list.  In this aspect, people with and without AD/HD have a common problem: differentiating between “projects” and “actions.”  
 
For example, one cannot, in one fell swoop, “Find a better job.”  If that’s on your to-do list, chances are it’s been there for a while and frustrates you every time you see it.  You cannot “do” that item because it is a multistep process.  It is therefore pointless to put it on your list of actionable items.  In this example, “Find a better job” is a project, not an action.  In order to execute a project, you first have to break it down to its Fundamental First Step.  The process of doing so is often, itself, the Fundamental First Step — breaking things down is an action.  Its key question is "What has to happen first?"  and it looks something like this:
 

Big Picture: Find a Better Job

What has to happen first?

/   \ \

Interview for Jobs Update my resume  Search for Available Jobs

What has to happen before any of these can be done?

-> Determine what kind of new job I want

 -> A. Stay in current field 

-> B. Do something else

From here, my next action will vary, depending on whether I choose A or B:

-> (A) Update my resume

OR

-> (B) Brainstorm what “something else” entails (which breaks down into several other steps, but we will stop here for the purposes of this illustration)



And so forth.  For me, drawing this out mind-mapping style is more effective than typing it out; I encourage you to experiment and find your own method.  Please note: The point of this exercise is not to outline, in minute detail, every step in the process of reaching your goal (though it does provide a convenient overview of the stages you’ll go through).  The point is to find the Next Step you need to take to move toward your goal.  

So, key terms:

  1. Project or Goal:  Any task that has more than one step (i.e., “Find a better job”)
  2. Action or Step:  Any single-step, “do-able” task; always begins with a verb (i.e., “Call Bob for a reference,” “Review my resume”)
  3. Fundamental First Step:  The action you must take toward a goal/project before any further actions can be taken.  (i.e., in order to “Find a better job,” you must first determine what kind of job you want; once you’ve determined that, you can do things like update your resume, browse Craigslist for available positions, etc.).
  4. Next Step or Next Action:  Literally, the immediate, next step toward your goal; what must be done before anything else can occur. 


**The most important thing to understand about Next Steps - and everything we will talk about from here on out - is that they are self-perpetuating; in taking one, the step that comes after it will be revealed.**  

For example, when you call Bob for a reference, he may tell you that he heard of an opening at this great new web organization, or say something that brings to mind a key point for your resume. Even if nothing more than the intended reference comes out of the phone call, you have already broken down your goal enough to easily extract a Next Action from your brainstorming; this becomes more intuitive as time goes on (and, as we translate this concept into a system, you’ll have a master list to refer to when you feel “stuck”).

This means that almost as soon as you reframe your approach to the traditional “to-do” list, all the hours you used to spend painstakingly outlining your step-by-step plan of action will be completely unnecessary - a thought both scary and liberating.   Scary because you have to give up the (erroneous) idea that you can know and control exactly what will happen on the way to your goal; liberating because you will quickly find that you have a lot more time to devote to doing your goals rather than planning them.  

Disclaimer: This does not mean that you will not be thinking ahead or that you will be acting with reckless abandon - quite the opposite, in fact.  Planning and reviewing are key parts of the process of time management and goal-accomplishment - but ones that will take up very little of your time once your system is in place.

What is the Next Step you can take toward your current goal?

(Next post: An overview of the system.)

Watch This for Inspiration in Freeing Yourself from Stuff.

I got this brain food from a stimulating blogger I’ve been following for over a year, Ev Bogue, in this recent post. This video, along with other recent posts from him and a new e-friend, Tessa Zeng, was just what I needed to reinvigorate my quest for a minimalist, meaning-saturated existence (which has been on the back burner as I’ve barreled through the end of my degree program). What does this mean? That more posts, with greater focus, are coming soon! Namaste, Steven

The Longer I Run, The Less That I Find

Tonight as I was biking home from my meeting - the topic of which was “Courage to Change” - I asked my Higher Power for guidance in the dilemma with which I’ve been grappling for the past week (and on some level, for the past several months): whether to move to Paris in October, regardless of the “if” of my job (the future of which currently rides on one grant that we may or may not get this month - I’ve been saying that if we don’t get it, I’m moving in October rather than waiting til the spring).

The next four songs on Pandora (which was playing on my phone) were relevant:

1. Sleeping to Dream - Jason Mraz (this one expressed my yearning that underlies the whole debate)

2. Longer I Run - Patrick Bradley Adams (this one raised every hair on my body, so much that I had to look up the lyrics when I got home to make sure I heard them right. It made more sense in black & white. Check it out. Will explain further.)

3. Boston - Augustana (expresses the standpoint from which I DON’T want to make this decision, which is the basis for my fear about doing it without the excuse of my workplace going under - running from problems, etc.)

4. Here w/o You - 3 Doors Down (brought it back around to the yearning and the loneliness I feel, even among friends, without you here.)

To me, these songs helped to confirm that my heart and gut are in line and right on this one: It’s time to jump, to find the courage to change. A note I made from my meeting kept ringing throughout this contemplation: “Does the problem itself cause the anxiety, or does the fear of the solution cause the anxiety?” The thought process spurred by these songs reinforced, repeatedly, that in this case, it is the fear of the solution.

This change is huge; it involves every aspect of my life; it terrifies me, overwhelms me…

…and for all of these reasons, and so many others, I need to make it.

The logistics are to be announced. The date is not set in stone. But I have made the decision. I’m moving as soon as I can.

——


A breakdown of the lyrics to “Longer I Run” and why they rang so clear with me:

When my blood runs warm with an old red wine,
I missed the life that I left behind.
For me, this alludes to memories of my days of active drinking, and how I used it as self-medication and as a tool for my overall life pattern of numbing and avoiding the biggest, scariest challenges. This is not to say I never made any such changes - but I evaded dozens of others, which represent “the life I left behind.”

And when I hear the sound of the blackbird’s cry
I know I left in the nick of time.
Self-explanatory following the memories of active drinking.

Well this road I’m on is gonna turn to sand.
And leave me lost in a far off land
So let me ride the wind ‘til I don’t look back
Forget the life that I almost had.
The road I’m on in New Orleans is highly uncertain & unstable - like all things in life, but more so - and most especially, unsustainable. The “opportunities” I saw for myself in the coming year are turning to sand, as it were - my job is in what seem to be its death throes, the bistro for which I was to paint murals closed last week, a potential job opportunity for which my boss recommended me about hasn’t been mentioned in months… This is “the life I almost had.” Moreover, that line may encompass a general undercurrent of my time in New Orleans: I have always, on some level, been striving to redeem myself for ‘abandoning’ the city with Katrina, and for moving here for the wrong reasons the first time around. All of that is “what if” - lives I almost had. They’re done and gone. I need to let them rest and focus on the present and the road ahead.

If I wander until I die
May I know whose hand I’m in
Well, I did just ask my Higher Power for guidance… And when I shared in the meeting today, I said that what had helped me most with anxiety was Step Three: “Made the decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” There is a method to the madness/chaos of the Universe. All I can do is trust it, because I am part of that rhythm that is much bigger than me or even this world.

If my home I’ll never find
Then let me live again.
I don’t need to know if I will settle here, in Paris, in Tulsa, or in Timbuktu. It’s irrelevant, abstract, meaningless future. I must grant myself permission to live my life, regardless of where it takes me or how much “sense” it seems to make at the moment.

The longer I run the less that I find, selling my soul for a nickel & dime.
This is what I’ve been doing my entire adult life. If I rope myself into another menial job, I will just keep doing it - and I’ll be wasting my time. The longer I run from my truth, from what I REALLY want - to move to Paris and be with my fiancee, to experience life as a foreigner, to try something completely new - the faster this road turns to sand.

Breaking my heart to keep singing these rhymes
I’m losing again
The more I TALK about moving to Paris without DOING anything about it, the further I get from my goal - and it hurts my heart.

Tell my brother please not to look for me
I ain’t the man that I used to be
I have changed immensely in the past year, and mindfully so. I am not the man I used to be; I am something better. So if someone tells me this move is out of character for me, they’re right - and they won’t find the person for whom it is in character, because I’ve outgrown him.

But if my savior comes could you let him know
I’ve gone away for to save my soul.
This is, in fact, about saving my soul. Every day I give in to fear, a little piece of me dies. It goes back to letting myself live - in this case, the way to claim that right is to go away from what I’ve been doing.

By the way, this is how long I’ve been cultivating my patience. Pictures taken 7/05/2011. Last haircut 07/31/2010.

Quick Update and Teaser!

Hi! I’m still alive!

I didn’t realize just how long it had been since I updated here. After the first few weeks of not posting, I admitted to myself that I have indeed taken on too much this spring, and the blogging simply has to take a back seat temporarily. This will change in the very near future - roughly the time when my classes end in May.

The hiatus has not been unproductive; I have used it to gain a sharper focus for the content of this blog, and if I may say so myself, it’s going to be awesome! There will be purging, yes, but so much more! Thus, the teaser:

As a work in progress, my greatest challenges have not been those usually addressed by minimalist blogs - reservations about parting from stuff, limiting beliefs about my potential, fears of dreaming big. While those have been minor obstacles, I’ve surmounted them with ease thanks to the existing literature (see links below). My major issues revolve around certain special needs, and I’ve come to realize that the same ways in which those affect my life academically and financially also impact my progress in this minimalist journey toward a better life.

As you may already know from the erratic format of this blog (and certainly do if you know me personally), I have ADD - not the “ha ha, I’m so scattered it’s funny” kind, but the genuine medical kind that derives from structural and chemical anomalies in the brain. Thanks to modern science, which released a plethora of information about the exact nature of this disorder in the first few years of this century, I have an asset now that I didn’t as a kid: understanding.

I’ve spent the past two years actively creating the structures and supports in my life that my brain does not naturally possess or produce. As a result, I have progressively increasing sustainable life-management practices and decreasing stress levels. I’ve made order of my disorder.

Over the next several months, I will apply these tools to these big plans I’ve been on about for so long, document that process, and turn it into instructional material - news you can use.

Among these features will be:

- Executive Functions: What They Are, How They Work, and What to Do if Your Brain Doesn’t Have Them
- Time Management for the Time-Ignorant
- You’ve Got a Friend: How to Form a Mutually Beneficial Symbiotic Relationship for the Organizationally Challenged
- Sorting Out the Mental Mess: Your First Step in Cleaning Out the Closet

…as well as reviews of helpful literature, links to outside resources, interviews with experts in the field, and other fantastic things I haven’t even thought of yet!


First, though, I must finish my semester of insanity. This is step one in time management - learning your limits and refusing to over-commit.


In the meantime, check out these useful sites:

- Man vs. Debt: Meet Baker, his wife Courtney, and their adorable kid, Milligan. They’re currently RV-ing it around the US helping average people look their financial demons in the eye and stare them down. Baker is also introducing a new venture, You vs. Debt, which will offer free and purchasable tools for winning the staring contest.

- Zen Habits: Leo Baubuta is a father of several who has found peaceful, independent living through minimalist pursuits. His e-book, The Simple Guide to A Minimalist Life, is an amazing resource for anyone looking to apply minimalist principles to their life - be that paring down your knick-knacks or preparing to live out of a backpack. Also, if you use this link to buy it, I get a cut! Yay!

- Ev Bogue used to teach people how to be minimalist, but he’s recently upgraded to teaching people how to be superhuman. His Minimalist Business is an invaluable resource for entrepreneurs who want to keep their overhead low to zero. I haven’t read Augmented Humanity yet, but if it looks like an interesting read, go for it. Again, ordering either of them through my link gets me a commission - wins all around!


Alright. I’m off to conquer the semester with 1,000 tentacles. Stay tuned for more ADD-Friendly ways to conquer your physical and mental clutter!

Behold: all of my worldly possessions, minus schoolbooks, bedding, bike and furniture. When I’m done, it’ll all fit in a backpack & suitcase (and possibly a steamer trunk for heirlooms & such, to be stored in someone’s attic). Let the purging resume!

New Year, New Focus: Taking This Blog to the Next Level

My last two posts have alluded to the impending arrival of something big, or at least something constant, in this blog. Today, all shall be revealed.

In his book The Art of Being Minimalist, Everett Bogue says, “Think of something impossible, an objective that you always wanted to achieve but that everyone told you was impractical. Make that your goal for next year.”

I first read that about six months ago, and it’s been marinating in my brain ever since. This blog was born out of that mulling, as was my purchase of the domain http://www.earthphoenixart.com (still under construction). I’ve been paring down my belongings and obligations, trying to reveal the core of myself in order to set the ultimate goal. During my trip to Paris, the facets have finally come together into a coherent, complete diamond, much like the rough-cut one that sits in a ring Lorena gave to me over a year ago, which the artist titled, “The Incredible Journey.”

Lorena gave this to me, set with a diamond in the rough and inscribed on the inner band with the mantra “Namaste,” both to remind me to follow my dreams and to honor the ways in which I have inspired her to follow hers.

Just after I received this beautiful gift, I applied to art school in New York - a dream I’d abandoned in high school because the expense made it impossible. I didn’t get in. But the trying was what I needed out of the experience; it breathed new life into me, and reminded my soul that it thrives on making art. I vowed to make this part of my daily life as soon as I was able.

Now I am preparing to do just that. Three weeks in Paris with my muse and only the belongings I can carry have given me a taste of what that ideal life would look like. I have my goal:

In one year, I am moving to Paris and becoming a full-time artist.

Do I need to do part one of that statement in order to achieve part two? Absolutely not. Do I want to? Absolutely so. It’s Paris, come on!

Many small steps and intermediate goals must transpire to lead me to this ultimate goal. From here on, this blog will document that journey. In my next post, I will unveil the overall structure of those steps, and how they intrinsically relate to the stated purpose of this goal - art, minimalism, and interconnectedness. Stay tuned.

Namaste,

Steven

Hair: A Sub-Plot of My Mindfulness Journey

Bonjour, mis amis! I am writing from Paris, where I am enjoying the fruits of my labors and penny-pinching for the past several months in the form of a three-week visit with my beautiful and talented fiancee, Lorena!


(Don’t worry, it was a love attack.)

This first week has flown by, and the second promises to be eventful and fruitful.

Part of my evil plan whilst on this side of the great Atlantic pond was to regroup and refocus my blog - and the anticipated motivation hit me on our way home from Lolo’s cousin’s house on Xmas Eve. I am currently concocting a post to outline this grand plan, to be launched on or around New Year’s Day. Call it an over-arching New Year’s Resolution, a life path, a crazy hare-brained scheme… but all will be revealed in good time.

For now, I would like to share with you a mindfulness journey on which I embarked around the time Lorena left New Orleans on her journey toward Paris, grad school, and achieving her dreams. She flew to Miami, where her family lives, on August 2. I had last cut my hair on or about July 30. As I was mourning her departure and adjusting to our new relationship structure (long-distance, that is), I had a sudden inspiration: “I will not cut my hair for the duration of our time apart.”

Now, I have tried to grow my hair out several times over the last 12 years since I first cut it above my ears, and, in every case, have become impatient and abandoned the endeavor. It is currently the longest it has been in that time, having previously reached this point once as a senior in high school (10 years ago) and once during my time at Tulane (about 7 years ago). Since I began my medical transition, I’ve kept it fairly short - at first to aid in “passing,” then because I liked the clean-cut look and/or the low maintenance. My most recent attempt was last year. I don’t think I made it two months before the shagginess around the ears drove me crazy.

For some reason, though, when the thought came into my head in August, I knew I was serious this time. I also knew it was important on a deeper level, though I couldn’t quite articulate why. True to my nerdy tendencies, I went off into cyberspace and read as much as I could find about the process of growing out one’s hair, tips, dos and don’ts, etc. I even found a scholarly article about men’s hair, which gave me some righteous gender-debunking and spiritual fuel for my fire. (Watch my other blog, TransActions, for a post on this in the near future.) Still, I was honest with myself and my friends that I wasn’t quite sure why I needed to do this - I just knew that I did.

Eventually, in a moment of frustration at the communication hindrances of a transatlantic engagement, it hit me: growing my hair out is a mindful exercise in patience.

I am fairly patient by my Taurean nature, especially when it comes to other people. But when it comes to long-term planning and cultivating results, my ADD impulsivity takes over, and I get distracted, change course, or just fume in the frustration of not having instant gratification. This is a trait of mine that I do not like. I am generally good at turning my shortcomings into strengths, but this one has been my undoing so many times that I must concede it to be a weakness.

While I have at no point doubted my ability to make the most of the difficulty and loneliness that can come with a long-distance relationship, I realize that I am only human and will inevitably become frustrated at times. In those moments, I need a reminder that I am in a process of becoming, not waiting for some end; that growth is continuing on a daily basis, even if it is imperceptible at times. Growing out my hair - with no defined physical goal, but just to see what happens - is that reminder. And it has been working very well as such. Through each stage of growth, I appreciate the time and patience it has taken to get here, and look forward to seeing what happens next.

Are there days when I get frustrated with my hair? Of course. Sometimes I look like a shaggy dog, a cockatiel, or a mushroom when I wake up in the mornings (or well into the rest of the day)! Other times I just look messy. But intriguingly, and unlike any prior attempt, I have yet to think, “Screw it, I’m cutting it off.” Moreover, I’m finding that I like each stage of growth. Right now I’m in what is generally agreed upon as the “Awkward Stage” - the hair’s grown over my ears, but won’t quite stay tucked behind them, and is still a couple of inches shy of a ponytail. But I like it. It takes a while to comb it flatteringly sometimes, but once I get it right, it looks pretty darn sexy. If I’m having an all-out bad hair day, I can just put on a hat and hope it looks better tomorrow! (It almost always does.)

Just as I find a new life lesson every time I walk a labyrinth (see chest tattoo in my blog photo), I find a new relationship lesson every time I get frustrated or flattered by my hair. Chief among them: patience is a virtue; rewards earned are so much sweeter than those given; and tossing aside expectations allows you to see beauty beyond your wildest dreams.

With that, I share with you my journey in hair.

Namaste.


August 10, 2010


September 25, 2010


November 16, 2010 - bad lighting, sorry!


Today - Kudos to Lolo for the expression! =)

archive older ›
Journeys in Art, Minimalism, & Interconnectedness


"Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one." --Stella Adler

Ask
Art Reminds the Soul followers
theme by Conkers