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Live and Let Live | #53
The lightness that comes from finding your 'thing'
Hey everyone 👋. I'm John. Welcome to Creators' Corner: a place where I share advice on creative experiments & expanding your skillset. Here's the previous edition of the newsletter if you missed it.
“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” – Eckhart Tolle
I’ve experienced a pleasant change in my attitude over the last year.
I am more relaxed about what other people do with their lives.
I’m less advice-y, less prescriptive, and more focused on my own mountain.
Oh, you want to quit your job. Cool, go for it.
Considering studying further? Nice.
Dye your hair pink? Love it.
I used to hold onto things firmly. I thought I always had to have an opinion and give advice.
My idea of what success looked like was narrow. For me, the ‘right’ life entailed getting good grades, doing well at university, landing a prestigious job, climbing the corporate ladder, retiring and then who knows what. Anyone straying from that path was foolish, I thought.
As I’ve matured, I’ve realized how limited and naive this worldview is.
As I’ve loosened up, I’ve realized there are many different paths in life, all equally valid. There are many different definitions of success and different modes of being. People switching careers, people on sabbatical, people starting companies, people taking a break to raise kids.
It’s wonderful. Life is rich and fascinating. It would suck to pigeonhole them all into my tiny slither of a worldview. How boring would life be if everyone was exactly like me? Worse yet - if they followed all my advice to the tee?
It's been way nicer to observe, listen and go through life with less judgment.
So why the change?
I think it comes down to several things.
I. I’m getting older (and finally growing up perhaps)
With age, comes perspective. Or so they say.
By moving countries, changing careers, and reading & writing more than ever before, I’ve seen many different ways of living. I’ve been proven wrong (many times). My views have been challenged (the perks of dating someone from a different background).
This is great. It’s made me more realistic about who and what I can impact.
I’ve become more Stoic. Instead of giving advice on (and judging) how others should lead their lives, I commit to climbing my own mountain instead.
This is a much better use of my energy.
As my friendsays about dealing with his failed attempt to reunite a couple during couple’s therapy:
“The painful reality of life is that we cannot control anything outside of ourselves.”
Being on the other side of this transformation, it’s curious to observe a sense of “holding on” in other people. Like they haven’t realized the limits of their influence yet.
One example of this is parents living through their children. Dictating to the children how they should live because they never fulfilled their own dreams and never found their passions in life. This is a shame. Instead of helping, they end up pushing their kids further away.
Rather control what you can, keep your side of the fence clean, and give advice when someone actively seeks it out.
II. Exposure to coaching
Another reason for my shift in perspective could come down to more interactions with coaches through my circle of writing friends.
In the past, I overlooked the importance of mentoring and coaching. Now I realise the value of having a guide by your side. Athletes have had coaches and trainers for ages, why shouldn’t we also accept coaching in our careers and lives?
I admire the benefits of having an objective, supportive, non-judgmental external party who acts as a mirror.
Through speaking to coaches and working with a coach myself last year, I’ve tried to copy and apply some coaching habits in my relationships as well.
Their mantra is to give less advice and listen more.
Act like a thinking partner. The person you’re helping already knows the solution to their problems, you don’t need to add external critiques and advice to the mix.
“After all, when you seek advice from someone it's certainly not because you want them to give it. You just want them to be there while you talk to yourself.” - Terry Pratchett
This shift has fostered an attitude of genuine curiosity in me. Instead of relying on preconceived ideas (“You should definitely leave that girl, she’s bad news”), I ask questions now (“Do you think this relationship is serving you?”). Without realizing it, I’ve become more like my dad, who embodies this perfectly. Someone who is supportive instead of judgmental.
Note: I can highly recommendby Rik van der Berge if you’re interested in learning how to be a better listener. Rik is a down-to-earth, no-BS coach, with excellent guidance on being a better partner, friend and supporter for the people in your life.
III. Finding my thing
While growing up and embodying a coaching mindset have been important shifts, finding my ‘thing’ has by far been the biggest attitude remedy for me.
Because I enjoy what I do, I don't need to project my problems onto others.
Since I started writing, I am more consumed by and fulfilled with my own 'thing', so there is no need to fix things for others.
In corporate, I recall being more judgmental. I resorted to finding fault in others because I wasn’t content with what I was doing. I was one of those people who would tell others they should exercise more or look at their diet. Clearly, I was projecting my dissatisfaction onto them, but I thought I was doing them a favour by giving advice. It’s embarrassing to look back on this and it ruined relationships.
Through writing, I’ve unlocked something that keeps me stimulated intellectually, gives me a challenge, and helps me figure out my thinking.
It has become part of my identity. I feel like I’ve finally found something I can hold onto. By sharing my ideas online, creating a website with a number of essays and drawings, and saying this is me, this is how I think, I have found an antidote to my restlessness.
As funny or vain as it sounds, having something I can point to as ‘my own’ is exactly what I needed to get out of the way of others.
The world isn’t black or white, it’s everything in between.
My wish is that we all find our thing. Our calling. Our antidote to restlessness.
Maybe that’s running super far for super long. Or getting ridiculously good at chess. Or composing the most beautiful piano solos. There are many roads to Rome and many ways of being.
I never knew that finding your passion could make you more empathetic.
If you live (find your thing), then you can let live.
PS: please don’t make this a fridge magnet haha.
💬 Quote. In line with today’s topic. A normal feeling in the quest for self-improvement.
“Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.” — Alain de Botton.
📚 Book. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (1985) describes the journey of a band of scalp hunters during the Indian Wars of the 1840s in West Texas and Mexico. Although McCarthy is best known for No Country for Old Men, this is arguably his greatest work. It’s gripping from the get-go. A tale of a kid (“the kid”) who falls between prison, hustling and fighting to stay alive in the American West. Lots of gore with incredible philosophical segments about free will and the value of one’s life thrown in between. I couldn’t put it down. Quote:
“A man seeks his own destiny and no other, said the judge. Wil or nill. Any man who could discover his own fate and elect therefore some opposite course could only come at last to that selfsame reckoning at the same appointed time, for each man's destiny is as large as the world he inhabits and contains within it all opposites as well. The desert upon which so many have been broken is vast and calls for largeness of heart but it is also ultimately empty. It is hard, it is barren. Its very nature is stone.”
✍️ Essay I. How the Sea of Galilee Saved My Marriage by. A beautiful, personal reflection about the importance of giving and maintaining an open system. I keep it as a reminder of how I want to move through the world.
“I recognized that I was personifying the Dead Sea. By retreating, cutting myself off from the outside world, and telling myself that I needed to figure things out before putting myself back out there, I was diminishing the flow of giving and receiving.”
✍️ Essay II. Jan Smuts and Rusty by Bob Rosslee. Thoroughly enjoyed the 1st edition of the Cape Town Journal. ‘A man and his dog story’ like no other. Full of humour with a lovely history lesson weaved in between. Well done toand (possibly the two funniest brothers on Substack) for launching this. Excited to see more stories about my home town, Cape Town, and its people.
🏃🏻♂️Crazy thing I’m doing. Some friends and I are running (or will attempt to run!) 80km on Saturday. The special thing about this run is not only the distance but that it also stops at the 8 true Munich breweries. The challenge is to complete the 80km and drink a beer (alc or alc free) at each of the breweries. Let’s see how this goes!
📸 Photo of the week: taking the train into Schliersee last weekend.
Until next time - happy creating!
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