Unsolicited Advice: Part Glue, er, Two

Look back through the archives for a spell and you’ll be reminded that I pointed everyone to Kevin Kelly’s 68 Pieces of Unsolicited Advice.

I feel like most of the world is either in desperate need of or trying frantically to give some form of unsolicited guidance/opinions/pseudo-scientific hoopla. So I decided to return to it this week for a little inspiration.

Today’s Tidbit: Don’t Trust All Purpose Glue

The obvious sentiment being that different projects require different tools. The more generic the tools, the less specific the application. Wood working requires wood glue, a substance that has a seriously viscous texture to make adherence to a porous surface possible. You want to bind a couple pieces of plastic? Well the bottle better say, specifically, that it can bind plastics. Otherwise, you may as well melt the things and smoosh them together to cool, while you huff toxic fumes. It’d be more effective.

But I suspect there’s a broader applicability.

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If there is a panacea it’s being out in nature, and getting to snap photos like this.

I am, the older I get, more and more skeptical of anything claiming to be a panacea. Whether you’re looking to fix all the ills of the world, or just completely and perfectly transform your life, there is no shortage of notions, philosophies, and products that claim to do just that.

Transform your body with this one weird trick!

Just purchase my online course to start maximizing your business!

This ideology will bring about a utopia!

The last is the most dangerous, because it’s the most attractive. It’s so easy to believe if we could all just be a certain way, think a certain way we would all be happy and prosperous. The only problem with this is that in all of recorded human history, it has yet to ever happen.

But the truth is nothing fits all people. No size of clothing will cover all bodies. No daily schedule will work for everyone. And as every parent knows, no form of discipline works for all children.

Unless a tool, a product, or even an idea can show you how it will mold to the individual, meet a diversity of needs and applications, then its claims to be the end-all-be-all are bogus. And in the age of disruptive technologies, this is even more the case.

Side bar: If you haven’t read The Future is Faster Than You Think, get on that.

Just as we get used to a dominant tech, it gets over-turned by the next, and leaves us all scratching our heads about the promises it made to liberate mankind.

Here’s the thing, humanity can’t be liberated from itself. The wood can’t stop being wood. The plastic will still be plastic if you melt it. Each needs a specific glue to bind it. Nothing short will do the trick.

The history of humanity indicates that we tend toward the lazy, entitled, and greedy- ACROSS THE BOARD. No governing system, no ideology, no weird weight loss trick will change our basic natures.

But humans have some pretty cool built in features, too. We build family and community,  we are attentive to our children when our brains aren’t being hijacked by addiction, and we dream about and adapt toward a better future.

That means human-specific glues will be unity focused, community enhancing (not destroying), and imagination supporting. They will be full of nuance and context. They will understand that people make mistakes, and cannot be held to perfectionist standards without breaking.

I hope we know these fixatives when we find them. We have a lot of projects that need some adhesion.

Oh, and if you happen to know what that one weird trick that will give me abs without exercise is, let me know.

~Anika

Good Questions Get Good Answers feat. Cal Newport

I’ve been an advocate for devoting personal, solitary time to the completion of worthy endeavors since I was in high school. It didn’t make me popular then. I don’t really expect it to now, but I take so much hope from seeing an increasing number of people applying the kinds of principles espoused by the author of “Deep Work,” Cal Newport.

eyeglasses on book beside macbook

Photo by Fallon Michael on Pexels.com

He has recently started a podcast called Deep Questions with Cal Newport where he fields questions from his email list subscribers about living a deep, intentional life that is aimed at skill acquisition and work/life balance. He expands on the concepts in books (which if you haven’t read them, why not?!) on a slightly more personal level.

Well, in a moment that surprised the heck out me, I popped onto iTunes to listen to the latest episode, titled “Battling Email, Online Learning, and a Game Plan to Escape the Shallow Life,” and guess what?

He took my question! By accident naturally. It was part of a segment he calls question roulette, where he pulls a random question from the many he gets and answers it on the fly.

And he pronounced my name correctly!! Please take note for anyone pronouncing my name in the future.

If you just want to hear my question and his response you can click the link above and skip to 21:45. But the information is golden across the board. And really you should just subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.

I do think we are experiencing a transition within certain sectors of American society. The frenetic, distracted, stress-glorifying pace we have been told is optimal in the technology age is just not satisfying us. And it’s not producing high quality content that is meaningful and resonant. That can only be accomplished by the slow, practiced, dedicated attention to building skills and conscientiously applying them.

If that intrigues you at all, Cal and his books are a great place to start.

Enjoy!

 

Update: Winners!!

Congratulations to Peggy, Jamie Hixon, and Jacqui S. on winning the paperback copies of The Accidental Apprentice!

I’ll be contacting you about your prizes soon.

The rest of you can still get your hands on the new paperback edition of The Accidental Apprentice on Amazon. It’s available in ebook and audiobook too! For kiddos who like to read along with the audio you can read the ebook for free with Kindle Unlimited and snag the audiobook with a credit on Audible.

I think everyone could use a good escapist read right now. What’s yours?

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Wild Irises making the most of a long spring in Northern Arizona

This week I am on vaca in the Rockies, but I am working on the final draft of Ideal Apprentice. I know I’ve become a better story teller since I wrote my first book, and if the responses from beta readers are any indication, you are going to love it!!

Be smart and stay safe.

~Anika

Tomie DePaola: A Legacy in Narrative Craft

This is my copy of Strega Nona.

IMG_2546As you can see it has been well loved.

As I’m sure most of you know yesterday saw the passing of the artist and author Tomie DePaola. The tragedy is not that he passed. As the Stoics remind us, we are all mortal and our end must come. No, for DePaola much of the loss is in the timing. With the modern equivalent of the Black Death running rampant anyone who simply passes on of natural causes, regardless of their impact go mostly unremarked upon and are quickly brushed aside in favor of blame-laying, fear-porn headlines and the growing lists of those taken by the CoVid Reaper.

Tomie DePaola would have been mourned with vigil and sincere outpouring of emotion. Curated galleries of his prints would have appeared in museums, and may still yet. He defined what it meant to craft a narrative in picture and word, and sometimes without word. There might have been a parade, and certainly a retelling of how he told his elementary teacher that he didn’t need math because he was going to write and illustrate books when he grew up.

If you are looking for a list of his books or vignettes about his life or his art, Google is your friend. There are those that did not let his passing go unmarked, but ever since I learned of it, I cannot stop thinking about what his work has meant to me and what he left behind.

So right now, I just want to talk about mortality.

There are two legacies we can leave in our wake: 1. The relational, who we were to other people and who they were to us, how we treated those around us, and were we connected in positive or negative ways to many or few and 2. Our craft.

The deep work required to build a skill to the point of excellence is a shrinking thing in modern society. Too many of us feel and succumb to the pressure to be everything, do it all. But in chasing this many faceted ideal, we make our own purpose unclear and never cultivate talent into craft. We lose touch with the authentic bits of ourselves that really matter, and we never give ourselves the chance to transcend the mediocre.

And let me be clear, “the World” (whoever that is) doesn’t have to know your work for it to reach a level of technical and artistic mastery that makes others sit up and take notice. My grandmother passed away late last year, and based on the numbers at her funeral you might suspect that she had a minimal legacy. Maybe in some quantity based metric she did. But all who knew her spoke of her service. Her constant attention to the needs of others was the hallmark fo who she was. And her quilts!! She made some of the loveliest, softest, most beautifully stitched quilts in the world. They are considered treasures among our family. The masterpiece she made for my wedding, one of the last before arthritis rendered her hands unable, is undergoing quilting triage at the able and expert hands of my mother-in-law who shares her talents, because we loved that blanket a little too well.

In my office sits a framed 3×5 canvas depicting a cabin in winter, a delightful monochrome painting done by my paternal grandmother that reminds me every time I sit down to work that I am an inheritor of a legacy of creativity. She was a woman so gentle and intuitive that hummingbirds would sit in her hands. Her paintings are treasured possessions among our family, not merely for their beauty and proficiency, but for the piece of her they carry into the future.

If either of these women had said, “Well, I don’t have time,” or “I’m just not that creative,” their families, if not the whole of society, would have lost out on an example of what it means to strive to develop oneself and examples of what expression channeled by skill can manifest.

The world, most school age children of my generation, and those of future generations can thank Tomie DePaola for doing the same. For learning craft and technique and applying it again and again in ways that were not always successful, but left indelible imprints on those that experienced them. From the levity and silliness of The Popcorn Book to the wordless quiet of Sing, Pierrot, Sing he invited all audiences to feel and laugh and wonder with him. He embraced his own style when illustrating the words of others and his distinctive voice when creating his own. He illustrated the tales of his Christian faith, unabashedly loving Christmas and illustrating multiple yuletide tales.

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Just a few of my newest acquisitions. Story time!

He was himself. And he was an artist. And because he simply set out to do work that he enjoyed, pursued the skill that resonated with himself, and didn’t stop he leaves us a bounty. Not only will I get to introduce my children to The Knight and The Dragon, but a tiny piece of Tomie will linger in the learning of my children and perhaps theirs. It will inform and inspire my own work, as it did my development as a child. All artists cultivate a creative lineage, master storytellers and artists that leave their mark on us as we grow into the artists we will be.

It is my desire, arrogant though it may be, to leave such a legacy. To construct a body of work, one story at a time, that others (though perhaps not many others) will cherish. The greater challenge, for me anyway, is to be the sort of person that even if unremarked on by the world, would be a touchstone of my family’s ethic. I am the recipient of the love and example of so many good people who simply sought to do good in the world, to beautify it, to make it a little more livable for those around them.

If my work is remembered with fondness because I am remembered with fondness, I think that might be enough. And if the work itself is good enough that others know it and carry it on, well that’s good, too. I think it is the change in our nature, not production numbers, wrought by humble creation– daily pursued– that brings us peace in the end.

I hope he had such peace. I hope he knew how many of us loved him and were grateful for how willing he was to share himself with us. And that his passing, despite its appointed moment, did not go unmourned or unmarked. We will miss you, Tomie.

~Anika