Curiosity And The Creative Spirit

[I originally started writing this on Easter Sunday but then opted to post a different, shorter version. <https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/its-easter-sunday-lets-unplug-donn-durante>
Weeks later, I’m circling back to this draft and filling in the gaps under a different context.]

It’s Easter Sunday.

This day means different things to different people. Resurrection, life after death, hope, and miracles are first to come to mind. On the secular side, it’s an observed holiday that allows us time off work to spend with our family and friends. For me it means a little of all those things. It also got me thinking about something we don’t often connect with Easter…creativity.

When I think about it, creativity is a very subtle part of the holiday. It’s below the surface but it’s there. For example, there’s a creative aspect in the Lenten practice of giving something up in order to make room for something new. On a more common level, kids tend to be very creative when it comes to coloring Easter eggs. Then, of course, there’s the dramatic story of new life and hope that gave birth to a whole new religion.

I like to think of days like today as a day of quiet reflection. A day to be grateful for your blessings and to appreciate the everyday miracles around us. A day to take stock of who we’ve become and the kind of person we want to be…then make conscious decisions on how we’d like to bridge the gap. A great example has been set. If a humble carpenter can change the world, how can we follow in those footsteps? I don’t see a need to be as dramatic, or to expect transformation after only the third day. It’s a process and you can feel good about taking a single small step in the right direction.

Let’s take a break from the hustle and bustle of the everyday routine. Maybe make an effort to unplug. No checking email, Facebook or Twitter…self-contradictory as this post may be. Be with your family and friends. Be present and enjoy the moment. New life is embodied in this simple act. Happy Easter everyone!

I’m at a good chapter in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Currently on “Week 8: Recovering a Sense of Strength”. There are several sections talking about the creative process. Some statements that stuck with me are as follows:

“At the heart of the anorexia of artistic avoidance is the denial of process. We like to focus on having learned a skill or on having made an artwork. This attention to final form ignores the fact that creativity lies not in the done but in the doing.”

“Focused on process, our creative life retains a sense of adventure. Focused on product, the same creative life can feel foolish or barren.”

“…creative life is grounded on many, many small steps and very, very few large leaps.”

“One of our favorite things to do―instead of our art―is to contemplate the odds…In a creative career, thinking about the odds is a drink of emotional poison. It robs us of the dignity of art-as-process and puts us at the mercy of imagined powers out there. Taking this drink quickly leads to a severe and toxic emotional bender. It leads us to ask, “What’s the use?” instead of “What’s next?”

From The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

MYSTERY

Creativity―like human life itself―begins in darkness. We need to acknowledge this. All too often, we think only in terms of light: “And then the lightbulb went on and I got it!” It is true that insights may come to us as flashes. It is true that some of these flashes may be blinding. It is, however, also true that such bright ideas are preceded by a gestation period that is interior, murky, and completely necessary.
We speak often about ideas a brainchildren. What we do not realize is that brainchildren, like all babies, should not be dragged from the creative womb prematurely. Ideas, like stalactites and stalagmites, form in the dark inner cave of consciousness. They form in drips and drops, not by squared-off building blocks. We must learn to wait for an idea to hatch. Or, to use a gardening image, we must learn to not pull our ideas up by the roots to see if they are growing.
Mulling on the page is an artless art form. It is fooling around. It is doodling. It is the way that ideas slowly take shape and form until they are ready to help us see the light. All too often, we try to push, pull, outline, and control our ideas instead of letting them grow organically. The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.
Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise. All too often, when we say we want to be creative, we mean that we want to be able to be productive. Now, to be creative is to be productive–but by cooperating with the creative process, not forcing it.
As creative channels, we need to trust the darkness. We need to learn to gently mull instead of churning away like a little engine on a straight-ahead path. This mulling on the page can be very threatening. “I’ll never get any real ideas this way!” we fret.
Hatching an idea is a lot like baking bread. An idea needs to rise. If you poke at it too much in the beginning, if you keep checking on it, it will never rise. A loaf of bread or a cake, baking, must stay for a good long time in the darkness and safety of the oven. Open that oven too soon and the bread collapses–or the cake gets a hole in its middle because all the steam has rushed out of it. Creativity requires a respectful reticence.
The truth is that this is how to raise the best ideas. Let them grow in dark and mystery. Let them form on the roof of our consciousness. Let them hit the page in droplets. Trusting this slow and seemingly random drip, we will be startled one day by the flash of “Oh! That’s it!”

From page 219 of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron:
“The morning pages and artist dates must be experienced in order to be explained, just as reading a book about jogging is not the same as putting on your Nikes and heading out to the running track. Map is not your territory, and without reference points from within your own experience, you cannot extrapolate what the morning pages and artist dates can do for you.”

Observing My Creative Process

Since I stopped spending so much in the office and working outside of normal hours, I’ve had a chance to reconnect with my creative side. I got back into mixing music and acting out my other side – DJ ReCreator. I took the leap and started publishing my writing. This blog is one example but I’ve also built up my confidence to share some of my posts on LinkedIn Pulse. Experiments in the kitchen have also been fun though it’s been more scripted by other people’s recipes and not my own creations.

All these areas have been creative outlets for me and have brought more balance to my spirit. I’m happier now. Less and less, I’m not displaying what I learned is the “angry artist” that arises from being stifled and held back. I don’t like being grumpy. Caro and the kids don’t like being around me when I am. Who can blame them. I’m just glad they’ve been patient with me as it took me a long time to find my way “back home.”

Anyway, while I’ve been spending time on my creative projects, I take mental notes of my process and try to get a better understanding of what brings out my best. I also note habits that seem to undermine the process.

It really is more about the process than the product. When I focus too much on the product and the recognition I hope to get from it, I lose my way. Enjoying the journey and not worrying too much about the destination is where I’ve been most myself. So here are some observations regarding the process from my own experience (They seem to reflect the truth in Julia Cameron’s words):

  • I’ll occasionally have bursts of inspiration where the ideas or words just gush out and I almost can’t keep up. This usually happens during free association or when I’m writing my morning pages. More often, though, I get an idea that feels like a good seed, so I plant it and let it grow at it’s own pace until it’s ready to blossom.
  • When I’m focused too much on the product versus the process, I get tempted to share something prematurely. I’m learning that my best outcomes are a result of nurturing over time. Maintaining environments and conditions conducive to growth (i.e. balanced and inclusive of all the right elements).
  • By letting things simmer and rest, I’m able to go back with fresh perspective. This allows me to refine and fill in where needed.
  • If I’m ever afraid to express something, I remind myself that it doesn’t matter if some people don’t like what I’m doing. If the process serves it purpose and I’m the only one who benefits directly, that’s enough. Worrying about what other people will think is self-sabotaging. Actually, it’s when I don’t worry about putting my true self out there, that I seem to connect with others in a more magical way…at least based on the feedback I’ve received in those instances.
  • My gut has been a good indicator of whether or not something is ready. Going against it has rarely been a good idea.

 

Quotes on Creativity

‘Trust that still, small voice that says. “This might work and I’ll try it.”‘

― Diane Mariechild


“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

― Albert Einstein


“Man can learn nothing except by going from the known to the unknown.”

― Claude Bernard


“I cannot expect even my own art to provide all of the answers–only to hope it keeps asking the right questions.”

― Grace Hartigan


“Art? You just do it.”

― Martin Ritt


“Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.”

― Linus Pauling


“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.”

― Jean-Jacques Rousseau


“Remember first that everything you think, say, and do is a reflection of what you’ve decided about yourself; a statement of Who You Are; an act of creation in your deciding who you want to be.”

― Neale Donald Walsch

 



“Intelligence looks for what is known to solve problems. Creativity looks for what is unknown to discover possibilities.”

― Simon Sinek


“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

― Scott Adams





 

Serendipity, Synchronicity or Just Plain Good Luck

jung-synchronicitysyn·chro·nic·i·ty
ˌsiNGkrəˈnisədē/
noun
noun: synchronicity
  1. the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.
    “such synchronicity is quite staggering

 


ser·en·dip·i·ty
ˌserənˈdipədē/
noun
  1. the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
    “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”

“We often dream about people from whom we receive a letter by the next post. I have ascertained on several occasions that at the moment when the dream occurred the letter was already lying in the post-office of the addressee.”
C.G. Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle


“Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.”
― Ovid


“Did you ever observe to whom the accidents happen? Chance favors only the prepared mind.”
― Louis Pasteur


“According to Vedanta, there are only two symptoms of enlightenment, just two indications that a transformation is taking place within you toward a higher consciousness. The first symptom is that you stop worrying. Things don’t bother you anymore. You become light-hearted and full of joy. The second symptom is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous. (quoted by Carol Lynn Pearson in Consider the Butterfly)”
Deepak Chopra, Synchrodestiny: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence to Create Miracles


“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
Charles de Lint


“We do not create our destiny; we participate in its unfolding. Synchronicity works as a catalyst toward the working out of that destiny.”
David Richo, The Power of Coincidence: How Life Shows Us What We Need to Know


“When you stop existing and you start truly living, each moment of the day comes alive with the wonder and synchronicity.”
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free


“At various points in our lives, or on a quest, and for reasons that often remain obscure, we are driven to make decisions which prove with hindsight to be loaded with meaning. (225)”
Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras


“As soon as we notice that certain types of event “like” to cluster together at certain times, we begin to understand the attitude of the Chinese, whose theories of medicine, philosophy, and even building are based on a “science” of meaningful coincidences. The classical Chinese texts did not ask what causes what, but rather what “likes” to occur with what.”
M.L. von Franz

Be Yourself and Live On Purpose

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

― William Shakespeare


6bdedd21d7ed86f4fe72ffc7cfa79c9d“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

― F. Scott Fitzgerald


“Do not chase people. Work hard and be you. The right people who belong in your life will come find you and stay. Do your thing.”


“Sometimes I pretend to be normal. But it gets boring. So I go back to being me.”


From the Very Wise Dr. Seuss…

“Today you are YOU. That is TRUER than true. There is NO ONE alive who is YOUER than YOU!”

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose!”

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”


“When it comes time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.”

― Henry David Thoreau


“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”


“Each man had only one genuine vocation – to find the way to himself….His task was to discover his own destiny – not an arbitrary one – and to live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one’s own inwardness.”

Hermann Hesse


“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson


“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.”

― Mark Twain


tumblr_mpe6m4rejQ1qjm9bpo1_500


“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

― Steve Jobs


“It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.”

― Hans F Hansen


“Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.”


“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche


Words from George Bernard Shaw

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”


The Road Not Taken

BY ROBERT FROST

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

One day, Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.
“Which road do I take?” she asked.
“Where do you want to go?” was his response.
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”

― from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


“To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.”

― Robert Louis Stevenson


“Every time you don’t follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness.”

― Shakti Gawain


“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose.”

― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross


“Since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable.”

― Brenda Ueland


“There is a vitality. a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

― Martha Graham


“To thine own self be true.”

― Shakespeare


“…there are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine….you’ve got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people….Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it…it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.”

― Angela Duckworth, GRIT


“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do,  in order to have what you want.”

― Margaret Young


“Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before.”

― Joseph Campbell


“There is a path for each of us. When we are on our right path, we have a surefootedness. We know the next right action―Although not necessarily what is just around the bend.”

― Julia Cameron


“The purpose of life is to know, and to recreate, Who You Are.”

― Neale Donald Walsch


“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.”

― Cathy Better


“Whatever you are, be a good one”

― Abraham Lincoln


“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

― The number one regret of the dying, reported by a palliative nurse in The Guardian


“Remind yourself. Nobody built like you. You design yourself.”

― Jay Z


“When someone says: “So what’s next?” As in, “how are you going to top that?” You don’t have to have an answer. The answer can be: “This.” Your life doesn’t have to be about impressing other people or a successive series of achievements.”

Ryan Holiday


“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

— C.G. Jung


“There is nothing more satisfying than being loved for who you are and nothing more painful than being loved for who you’re not but pretending to be.”

— Neil Pasricha, The Happiness Equation


“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

— Gandhi


If―” by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream―and not make dreams your master;
If you can think―and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph or Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings―nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And―which is more―you’ll be a Man, my son!


“According to Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild, if you’re feeling an intense emotion like anxiety or anger, there are two ways to manage it: surface acting or deep acting. Surface acting involves putting on a mask–modifying your speech, gestures, and expressions to present yourself as unfazed…In deep acting, known as method acting in the theater world, you actually become the character you wish to portray. Deep acting involves changing your inner feelings, not just your outer expressions of them…Deep acting turns out to be a more sustainable strategy for managing emotions than surface acting. Research shows that surface acting burns us out: Faking emotions that we don’t really feel is both stressful and exhausting. If we want to express a set of emotions, we need to actually experience them.”

– Adam Grant, “Originals”






 

Reflections on a Career Break


For a while I believed I was exempt. I had already survived several mergers and acquisitions over the years but then it happened. Where and why doesn’t matter here. This is about the process that followed. Some career breaks are planned. This one was not.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
– Epictetus

First, there’s the shock. For some it’s expected, but as I mentioned, I thought I was immune.  Like falling off a ladder, it hurt. My ego was bruised.

“The fall from low to lower hardly hurts; the fall from middle to low is devastating.”
– Adam Grant, Originals (p.83)

Insecurity set in. Questions about the future felt overwhelming. Looking back, how I decided to respond made the difference. I put my psychology studies into use and self-administered some therapy…

Get Over It

Easier said than done, I know. My first reaction was to immediately get back in the game and lock in the next gig quickly. I decided to be methodical in my approach. To measure my efforts, I kept a log of everything related to the job search and the results of every interaction. Every call with recruiters, every interview, every resume submission…all of it. Months of calculated effort were only leading to wrong turns and dead ends.

Depression eventually caught up with me. Anxiety prevented any restful sleep, no matter how exhausted I felt. I was spiraling downward and couldn’t break the funk. Then I made a concerted effort to slow down and pause.

What you choose to pay attention to can dramatically alter your experience (the whole “perception is reality” thing), so I chose to focus on right now instead of dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Some days were easier than others, but I kept exercising a skill that had atrophied in recent years – my ability to choose rather than fly on autopilot. It wasn’t long before I crawled out of my hole.

Time heals all wounds. I just didn’t want it to take too long. Sitting around feeling sorry for myself wasn’t doing anybody any good. It was time to move on, ready or not.

Look in the Mirror and Then Out the Window

Looking in the rearview mirror, I took a good chunk of time to reassess how far I’ve come and the road that got me here. Then looking at myself, I was no longer sure that I was happy with what I saw in the mirror. Who had I become? What would I have done differently? How could I correct course? Where am I headed now? Is it time to go in a different direction?

At least, I felt I was asking the right questions.

I had become a workaholic. Developing the discipline to work long and hard hours was a badge of honor for me. Getting up every morning at 4:30am, working 12-14 hour days, and not sleeping until after midnight eventually led to burnout. Promotions and financial rewards fueled that fire for many years but towards the end, I burned up any remaining mojo and was only running on fumes. All the while, I failed to realize―or maybe I was denying that―I was trading off important things for all those work hours…time with my family and time for myself.

Now was my chance to slow down before I ran myself off a cliff. To find balance instead of working all the time. To remember what was really important to me. As I looked ahead, the fog began to clear and I hit a fork in the road.

To the right, was the continuation of the road I had already been traveling. I could get back into life as a corporate executive and continue my climb up the proverbial ladder. It was a toll road, and at what cost, I could only imagine. To the left, looked like it might take me back home but I could see the route might be a bit bumpy.

I reviewed my career to date (see blog post on “Excuse or Motivation: I Don’t Have a Degree“). And Robert Frost spoke to me once again…

…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

If you’ve already read the post about my colorful career path, you know I chose the road less traveled. Once I made that conscious decision, I simply started by making a few promises to myself:

  1. Remain true to who you are
  2. Live in the present and use good judgment
  3. Leave it better than you found it

 

To thine own self be true.

Over the past few years, I got a little lost and lost myself in the process. I became increasingly insecure about who I was and found myself trying too hard to be what others wanted me to be. For example, although I’m an introvert, I pretended to be an extrovert. I thought that was the only way you could be successful as an executive. I do believe it’s possible to “fake it until you become it.” That said, I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t me. I wanted to be myself. Being myself also meant doing things at my own pace. As an executive, I often felt rushed and pressured to deliver results quickly. In most cases I was able to adjust as needed, but lately I saw more and more that quality was being sacrificed for the sake of speed.

After reading Quiet by Susan Cain, I began looking at introversion in a new light. I became comfortable in my own skin again. Another book, In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honoré, helped me slow down and appreciate ‘tempo giusto’ – what musicians use to refer to the “right speed.” (Used in reference to living life with balance…fast when needed and slow when called for.) Moreover, this respect for time translated to better appreciation for the present. The gift of now.

“If you presence doesn’t make an impact, your absence won’t make a difference.”

Ever since childhood, I’ve found it difficult to live in the moment. The exceptions were times when I was absorbed in activities such as blending vinyl music with 2 turntables, choreographing a hip-hop dance routine, or pushing out one more rep in the gym. My usual MO was to dream about the future or worry about the past. I found it hard to enjoy the present because my mind was always elsewhere. If there were only one important change I could make to my approach from here on out, it would be to live in the here and now.

(This usually requires an inside-out approach which begins with yourself. To some, this is misconstrued as selfish behavior. Important to get past that stage. I’ve learned that living in the present is much easier when what you focus on is self-less rather than self-centered.)

Here’s how I see it: The past is past so no sense lingering there. No one knows what the future holds and life is rarely linear. The best way to set yourself up for a good future is to do the best you can with what you’ve got today. You don’t have to be perfect. You just need to use good judgment and make every effort to leave everything better than before you found it. That includes every action and every word spoken (or unspoken). At the end of the day, you’d be surprised how big of a difference you made to the people and world around you. All those thoughtful actions, no matter how small, add up.

Oh, I promised myself one more thing. Never take for granted the blessings you already have.

Be Grateful

There’s really not much more to say about this. I just realized that more is not necessarily better. By appreciating all the good things already in my life, I’m learning to be happy with less. I drive a Prius and I’m cool with that. I live in a modest home, have great neighbors and live comfortably. It’s almost 20 years later and I think my wife still loves me ;). Honey, I’m good. Three beautiful children to kiss goodnight. I am blessed.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. In the moment, it may not make sense, but it often does in retrospect. What felt like an imposition turned out to be a blessing. I was forced to reassess my life to date and what was truly important to me. This was what I needed. I was so obsessed with achievement and accomplishment that I was taking for granted my family and losing myself in the process. The break in my career gave me time to realize that, before it was too late.

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast―you also miss the sense of where you are going and why”
– Eddie Cantor

 

-Donn


Recommended Reading:

  • In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed  by Carl Honoré
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Choose Yourself by James Altucher

* All available at the public library.


The 3 A’s of Awesome:

 

Pick-Me-Up Music Playlist:


Inspiring Quotes Compiled by Theme:

 


Reposted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/reflections-career-break-donn-durante
#QuietLeadership #goodslow  #Essentialism

Featured Photo Credit: © Alphaspirit | Dreamstime.com – Career Break Photo

The Present


“You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.”

― Professor Harold Hill

 


“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 


“In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.”
― Lao Tzu

 


“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

 


a39bd28c529d1e25735e0a3537a1a848A familiar message from “The Alchemist”…

“Because I don’t live in either my past or my future, I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man…Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.”

― camel driver, speaking to the boy in “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

 


“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh

 


“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things–that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.”

― Steve Jobs

 


“Enjoy life now. This is not a rehearsal.”


“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
― Dr. Seuss

 


“If you presence doesn’t make an impact, your absence won’t make a difference.”


“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”
― Albert Einstein

 


“One has to live in the present. Whatever is past is gone beyond recall; whatever is future remains beyond one’s reach, until it becomes present. Remembering the past and giving thought to the future are important, but only to the extent that they help one deal with the present.”

― S.N. Goenka

 


“Enjoy the little things in life…for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”
― Robert Brault

 


“Wherever you are, make sure you’re there.”
― Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach

 


“Don’t look for the next opportunity. The one you have in hand is the opportunity.” 
— Paul Arden

 


“Live Like You Were Dying”
― James 4:13-17

 


Excerpt from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (p.54 in chapter “Week 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity”:

Writing about attention, I see that I have written a good deal about pain. This is no coincidence. It may be different for others, but pain is what it took to teach me to pay attention. In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me. Each moment, taken alone, was always bearable. In the exact now, we are all, always, all right. Yesterday the marriage may have ended. Tomorrow the cat may die. The phone call from the lover, for all my waiting, may not ever come, but just at the moment, just now, that’s all right. I am breathing in and out. Realizing this, I began to notice that each moment was not without its beauty.


 


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In Praise of Slowness

“The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal”

— Jim Lore and Tony Schwartz


“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle thingsthat’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.”

Steve Jobs


“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
(Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)



“Speed can be fun, productive and powerful, and we would be poorer without it. What the world needs, and what the slow movement offers, is a middle path, a recipe for marrying la dolce vita with the dynamism of the information age. The secret is balance: instead of doing everything faster, do everything at the right speed. Sometimes fast. Sometimes slow. Sometimes in between.”

Carl Honoré, the author of “In Praise of Slowness”

 

“Like a bee in a flower bed, the human brain naturally flits from one thought to the next. In the high-speed workplace, where data and headlines come thick and fast, we are all under pressure to think quickly. Reaction, rather than reflection, is the order of the day. To make the most of our time, and to avoid boredom, we fill up every spare moment with mental stimulation…Keeping the mind active makes poor use of our most precious resource. True, the brain can work wonders in high gear. But it will do so much more if given the chance to slow down from time to time. Shifting the mind into lower gear can bring better health, inner calm, enhanced concentration and the ability to think more creatively.”

Carl Honoré, Canadian journalist based in London

Carl mentions this on page 120 of his book, “In Praise of Slowness”

 


“Rivers know this: There is no hurry. We shall get there some day”

From “Pooh’s Little Instruction Book”, a gift from my friend Jake Jakobson while we were still living in Japan

 


“Direction is so much more important than speed. Many are going nowhere fast.”

 


“I don’t have time to be in a hurry”

Anonymous


“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast―you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”
Eddie Cantor


Now all you can do is wait. It must be hard for you, but there is a right time for everything. Like the ebb and flow of tides. No one can do anything to change them. When it is time to wait, you must wait.

Read more at: http://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/ebb-and-flow.html


“Life is full of ebbs and flows. Trust that when things are slow or not going the way you’d like, there’s something positive coming your way. Things are in the works, the universe is shifting, and all the seeds you plant will come to bloom in their right time. Take care of yourself, trust in the process and stop trying to force things.”
Stephenie Zamora


In his book, The Happiness Equation, author Neil Pasricha mentions a quote by Tim Kreider in his New York Times article, “The ‘Busy’ Trap”:

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspirationit is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”


“It is in this space of the unknown where all possibilities appear, this space where magic can happen. The space from the end of something to the beginning of something new that brings forth a new lease of life, a new energy.”
— parth_é, Life is Flux


“We are often foolish in that we let our obsession with creation, following the force of sizzling anxiety and adrenaline to put the intangible into a product, take over the bare materials we need to do it well: living. Taking stock and thinking. Reading, watching, crying, eating.

Our brains don’t just stop because we’re not wrist deep in paint or late night loomed in stanzas.

They’re preparing for the next project.

They’re recuperating, tidying tiny pieces into their boxes to make enough room to lay out the new ones.”

— Charly Cox


Leisure” by W. H. Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.


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Be Grateful


“At the end of the day, it’s not happiness that makes us thankful, but thankfulness that makes us happy…”


In her book, “The How of Happiness”, Sonja Lyubomirsky writes,

“Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry, and irritation. It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is present oriented.”

 


“A simple THANK YOU has magic…it warms the heart and creates a moment of connection and peace between two people.”


“Someone is happy with less than what you have.”


“Live simply. Dream big. Be grateful. Give love. Laugh lots.”

― Paulo Coelho

 


“Learn to appreciate what you have, before time makes you appreciate what you had.”


Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”


“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”


“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

― Albert Schweitzer

 


“Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances.”

― 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 


Music

 


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Live Simply


2da0f4b0d74fce438143119e5145c7a6Henry David Thoreau

“I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day;…so simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real.”

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”

 


“Out of all virtues simplicity is my most favorite virtue. So much so that I tend to believe that simplicity can solve most of the problems, personal as well as the world problems. If the life approach is simple one need not lie so frequently, nor quarrel nor steal, nor envy, anger, abuse, kill. Everyone will have enough and plenty so need not hoard, speculate, gamle, hate. When character is beautiful, you are beautiful. That is the beauty of simplicity.”

― Ela Bhatt

 


“If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital.”

― Dalai Lama

 


The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word….
Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

― T.S. Eliot


“On a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty. Today is such a day.”

― Rumi

 


“Perfection is Achieved Not When There Is Nothing More to Add, But When There Is Nothing Left to Take Away”


“Live simply. Dream big. Be grateful. Give love. Laugh lots.”

― Paulo Coelho

 


“Make it simple, but significant.”

― Don Draper

 


“Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.”

― Leonardo da Vinci

 


“Listening to the siren song of more, we are deaf to the still small voice waiting in our soul to whisper, ‘You’re enough.'”

― Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way

 


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