Crisis (or lack thereof)

At 25 I had a complete meltdown. One of those “what the fuck am I doing with my life” type of crisis. I had it again when I turned 29. Man, did I hate celebrating my birthday in my twenties, for one simple reason: every birthday was a reminder of time passing by, while I was stuck in the same place.

I felt frustrated and lost, waiting for a big revelation of what to do with my life, which never came. It took me a while, but I finally figured out it doesn’t work like that.

This summer was the first time I found a hair that was not just blonde, but a clear grey shade. As a women. the expected reaction is to panic and run to the hairdresser to cover it up. I, talking to myself as usual, said “cool, grey hair”. No crisis in sight.

At the moment it seems like I’m pretty happy with getting older. Which I think is connected to being more comfortable with who I am, and being clear on my priorities, as I’ve written about before. But maybe more important than that, is that I’m actively making decisions to create a life that aligns with my priorities. It’s not perfect. It’s not about being happy and carefree. It’s about progress and taking responsibility over what I can change. Which is a lot more than I understood five years ago.

Life is interesting, you guys. With all its twists and turns. Can’t wait to turn 33 and celebrate a few more grey hairs.

Vintage from Paris

As I mentioned in this post earlier, one of my friends runs the web shop Vintage from Paris. This made me realize I actually have yet to share the photos from last spring!

We spent a couple of hours going through Lorraine’s collection of vintage dresses at Sophie’s  Canele, a French cafe in the middle of Stockholm. Gorgeous location, amazing dresses, and what would a photo shoot be without a French bulldog? 

Bangs in Berlin

What it takes for me to do a minor change in my hairstyle? Getting yelled at by a German hairstylist. Apparently.

1537386028688.jpg
 Passport photo 2011. I mean, the cut was good. Just not on my face.

Passport photo 2011. I mean, the cut was good. Just not on my face.

Once upon a time, I would tell my hairdresser to do whatever she wanted. It usually worked fine, although I sometimes ended up looking like the picture to the right. 2011 was not a good look for me, let’s all agree on that.

When I started traveling, I decided to just let it grow, stop coloring it, and mostly stick with bangs. This has been my signature style for years now. Nothing spectacular, but it works, and besides cutting my bangs once a month, it’s low maintenance.

Last week I went my to my usual studio here in Berlin for trimming my bangs. So far I’ve been with different stylists every time, all of them great, but this time was the first with a man named Tomas. Tomas starts by asking when my last cut was, which I cannot remember. I mention, in a semi-joking way that it has been a while, and I considered growing them out, but as always, I started to miss them.

“You shouldn’t have told me that”, he said, dead serious. “What you just told me is that you’re lazy and I can’t work with that. That’s not what I do.”

Interesting turn of events. I came in expecting the usual routine of me telling them how short I wanted it, they don’t cut it enough, I ask them to cut it a little more, but still covering my eyebrows, done and pay, out in five minutes.

Instead, I was now being lectured by someone I didn’t know who was calling me lazy and refused to cut my hair. “What? I’m not lazy. Just miss my bangs”, I said, slightly offended, and oh so aware of how childish I sound. But honestly, how do you defend your choice of hairstyle without sounding like you just celebrated your seventh birthday?

He goes on a long monologue on how he can’t work with someone who changes her mind as soon as it gets uncomfortable, he works long-term, I’m too pretty to hide my face, I’m too young to know what hairstyle I want for the rest of my life, it was looking way too cutesy now, which was clearly not my personality, and on it went for quite a while.

I think there might have been a compliment in there somewhere. And possibly another insult. When I finally got a word in, I asked him, “alright, what would you do?”.

“A-line cut, like Brigitte Bardot”, he said and showed me a picture of her classic side swept bangs. “It will frame your face, without being too cute, and it will work if you want to grow it out.”

“Sure, let’s go with that.”

It took him two minutes to cut it (obviously not counting our ten minutes of arguing), and he refused to accept the five euros it cost, because “now he actually wants me to come back”.

Still not clear on where he stands on the genius/crazy scale, but if there’s one thing I appreciate, it is when people have integrity and speak their mind. We should all question each other more. That’s how we grow. Including hair.

And, I will definitely be back.

Leaving, because I can come home

When I said I was moving to Berlin, some people got the idea that I would settle down in the traditional sense. Like, get a nice flat in Prenzlaurberg, a job with a steady paycheck, marry a nice German guy, and adopt a couple of dogs.

I really appreciate your faith in my skills in how to grownup. Though as I’m writing this, I just had peanut butter and jam sandwiches for dinner. So, clearly not at risk of becoming a proper adult any time soon.

Since I made the move in May, I have barely left the city. This might be the longest time I’ve gone without traveling since 2015. Waking up in your own bed, consistently, is such an incredible luxury to me. Buying spices. Having all your shoes in one place. It’s the little things. It’s always is.

As much as I love my everyday life in Berlin, I’m finally ready to pack my bags again. Ready for feeling my mind opening up in that unique way it does when I’m traveling somewhere new. Observing how it seem to work almost as you’d expect, familiar, yet slightly different. Every place has its own flavor.

It’s like shooting up creativity, all these new impressions.

Next week it starts again. Same, but different. This time I’m not running away, chasing experiences to manage my anxiety. I simply leave, because I can, and I know I’ll be back. Because home is where your heart is.

And by heart, I mean my bed and linen sheets.

(Seriously, I could write a book on how amazing linen sheets are.)

Dealing with your own inadequacy

I was never as confident in my English speaking abilities as I was prior to living in Glasgow. Language came easily to me. In school, I was the obnoxious one, ahead without even trying.

Moving to a country where English* is the native language means you’ll improve your speaking skills quickly. The flip side is that you simultaneously face reality, where you’re actually not as good as you thought you were. As a matter of fact, you kinda do sound like the Swedish chef.

Now, with the self-imposed pressure of publishing a post per day, no excuses, I’m at the same point with my writing. I have to face how far I have to go before I’m even close to where I want to be. I cringe when I read what I published the day before.

I cringe, maybe facepalm a little, then I suck it up and move on.

What fascinates me about this challenge is how I thought it would be about improving my writing and edit faster, but after almost a month, that’s not been the toughest part. Sure, I can get a post written and published in a couple of hours, significantly faster than before. Is it what I want it to be, though? Nope. Nein. Nej. Not even close.

The most important lesson has been to accept yesterday wasn’t what I wanted it to be, to let go, and focus on today. It’s a blog. It’s practice. And it’s okay for it to be cringe-worthy because I know it can be better. That’s progress even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Also, for anyone else in the same position, I always recommend these words of encouragement from Ira Glass.


*Yes, Scottish is English, it just has some character, ok.

Point of ranting

If ranting is an art, I used to be a master at it. Give me an absurd headline and I could go on an hour-long monologue, fuming over stupid editors and the people who bought into it, with vidid descriptions, much to my friends’ amusement. Some people still like to remind me of their favorite rants of mine every time we see each other, ten years later. Eventually, I got tired of it. Tired of being angry over things I could not control. I still get frustrated, but mostly, I see what I can do about it and move on.

I have a friend who is equally skilled in ranting, but with a different view. “I feel energized by it, it’s not negative for me”, she said. While I have been limiting my rants, she embraces them.

This got me thinking. Sometimes I do miss it, being in that zone. Completely self-absorbed, loaded with emotion, letting words just flow out. Not a single thought of mincing your words. It’s a rant, everyone knows it, all bets are off. It is liberating.

But other times you’re just feeding emotions and stories in a loop, not resulting in anything. It’s just getting you worked up to the verge of a heart attack. And I think that’s the key for me, if something is worth ranting about. Can I use it?

If I can take that frustration and turn it into something, pour it into my writing, then yes. Ranting does give me something. It triggers my brain into making connections I might not be bold enough to do in a calmer mode. But ranting over lost internet connection, not so much. While it’s fun to impress others with my skills in creating offensive insults, it makes more sense to solve the problem or let it go.

A postcard from Paris

This spring, I packed my bags and finally got my ass to Paris. And could you have a better tour guide than one of your best friends, who also happens to be 3/4 French and run a shop called Vintage from Paris? The answer is no. We also managed to time our visit right after photographer Jamie Beck published her Paris Eats post, which I cannot recommend highly enough. I still dream about cute bistros, amazing cakes, and, of course, margaritas from heaven (specifically, hidden Mexican bars).

Someone once told me that everyone loves Paris for the same reasons, but people coming back from Berlin always have a unique story for it. There’s some truth in that observation. But after a magical weekend here, I’m perfectly happy with loving Paris just like everyone else does. It’s gorgeous.

With great powers comes great responsibility

Smartphones. These magical little devices. Bring it back a few hundred years and you’d be burned for witchcraft. More powerful than we imagined when cellphones came into our lives, and even those were a shift.

It’s a foundational part of my daily life. It’s not just about wasting time on social media. I write lists, I take photos, I navigate, I look up things, I communicate, I edit, I take notes. I’m beginning the draft of this post on my phone while waiting for breakfast. It is a great little device and it improves my life in many aspects.

At the same time, it is an addiction. Maybe not for you, but for me. Even when I leave it in another room, I’m always aware of it. The thought pops up frequently. Maybe someone has called me. Maybe I have gotten an interesting message. Or just the urge to scroll and get updated on the world.

I don’t like that dependency. And I’ve shared before of how I’m trying to reclaim my mind and not be as prone to distractions, where my phone plays a big part. Doing what James Altucher do, not taking it with you outside your house, is intriguing and would be a fun experiment. Especially with my sense of direction, without access to Google Maps, erhm.

But long-term, that’s too radical for me. It should be possible to use your smartphone without feeling used by it. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to share.

Tiny Beautiful Things

Some days are for conquering the world. And others are for rereading quotes from your favorite books to be reminded that there are wise humans out there, even when media shows you the opposite.

Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of columns from Dear Sugar, written by Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl has a way of sharing her point of view, making you question your beliefs without feeling judged. Always with empathy, often with humor. It runs through all of her books, but maybe this one, in particular, is good for when you have one of those days. You know, when you’re just wondering what on earth you’re doing with your life, really. Sugar has your back. (Also, while the podcast is no longer being recorded, the archive is gold.)


Trust yourself. It’s Sugar’s golden rule. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.

Which meant I had to write my book. My very possibly mediocre book. My very possibly never-going-to-be- published book. My absolutely nowhere-in-league-with-the-writers-I’d-admired-so-much-that-I-practically- memorized-their-sentences book. It was only then, when I humbly surrendered, that I was able to do the work I needed to do.

And it’s there that I recommend you begin. Every time you think I hate that fucking bitch, I want you to neutralize that thought with a breath. Calm your mind. Breathe in deeply with intention, then breathe out. Do not think I hate that fucking bitch while you do it. Give yourself that. Blow that bitch right out of your chest. Then move on to something else.

I’ve written often about how we have to reach hard in the direction of the lives we want, even if it’s difficult to do so. I’ve advised people to set healthy boundaries and communicate mindfully and take risks and work hard on what actually matters and confront contradictory truths and trust the inner voice that speaks with love and shut out the inner voice that speaks with hate.

Real change happens on the level of the gesture. It’s one person doing one thing differently than he or she did before.

How can it be that so many people’s ex-girlfriends are crazy? What happens to these women? Do they eventually go on to birth babies and care for their elderly parents and scramble up gigantic pans of eggs on Sunday mornings for oodles of lounge-abouts who later have the nerve to inquire about what’s for dinner, or is there some corporate Rest Home for Crazy Bitches chain in cities across the land that I am unaware of that houses all these women who used to love men who later claim they were actually crazy bitches?

Of himself Grant said, “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be and I finally became that person. Or he became me. Or we met at some point.”

Jag ska bara

Remember when you were a kid, trying to trick your parents into letting you stay up late? “Jag ska bara …”, I would say, meaning “I’m just gonna …”, followed by some poorly constructed excuse of how I needed to pee again, or I was thirsty, or I forgot something downstairs. Anything to avoid the inevitable, no matter how tired I was.

The habit of this phrase still runs deep. I have noticed that as soon as I utter those words to myself, I’m doomed to waste hours on nonsense. If I go to a cafe to write, thinking “I’m just gonna check my email first”, checking my email turns into checking the news, has something happened on Twitter, what about Instagram, or that article I started reading three days ago, and the list really goes on for-fucking-ever. Getting out of that rabbit hole is too difficult, my only reliable solution is to catch myself standing on the edge.

Since habits often connect to physical places, I like moving to another location when I’m shifting focus. But again, when I do, I have to pay attention to my priorities right away. If I let my guard down, allowing myself to think “I’m just gonna …” then I’m done. On the other hand, if I can counteract that initial itch for distraction and get straight into what my intention was, then I might just have a few productive hours ahead of me.

Today I had one of my better writing days. I went to my favorite cafe by the canal, ordered a cup of coffee and a piece of lemon cake, opened my computer, and got to work on my project, without letting myself think about anything else, even for a second.*


*Except for the lemon cake, of course. Which was delicious, in case you were wondering.

Using that momentum

I have this old habit I developed during my last job. Before that, I always had a million things on the side. I would work full-time, and on the side take on photo assignments, build websites, work with conferences, and so on. For this role, I wanted to dedicate all my attention to be the best consultant I could be, and learn everything I could where I was.

For four years I didn’t do much else. I was barely writing or reading. I mostly consumed content relating to my job, which was about communication, building culture, dealing with people, and, of course, project management.

It was a deliberate investment of focus, but I finally had enough and started longing for going back to what suits me better - I like having multiple projects, to dive into new things, follow my curiosity. The habit I developed was to avoid this, which meant I would file away any interesting idea or topic into “later, when I have time”. Ah, that magical future.

Earlier this spring I listened to an interview with Tony Robbins, I think it was on Tim Ferriss. He talked about the value of using that initial excitement you get at the beginning of an idea to get started right away. Take the chance to build momentum.

It’s a simple advice. But this is something I now think about every time I get an idea I’m excited about, and my default reaction is to add it in a never-ending list somewhere where dreams go to die. And I just put it into motion instead. One step, build momentum, see where it goes.

It might be my favorite new habit this year.

Back to basics

Basics aren’t exactly the coolest thing. How often do you hear people brag about eating their vegetables, sleeping for eight hours, and going for a nice walk? At least not as often as you see people post about lifting their maximum weight on Instagram or “crushing it” if I would make a guess. 

On a few occasions, I’ve been close to hitting that famous wall. The one you crash into when you pushed yourself with unrealistic expectations, too hard, for too long. The first time I was at the end of my studies. It had been an intense winter, I had taken on more than I could handle, and I had yet to find a job after graduation. We where hosting an exhibition to show our final exam project, something I had helped put together. The moment I stepped into the building, I found myself bawling my eyes out. I couldn't stop.

For someone who takes pride in self-control, this was a clear sign something was wrong. Whatever I was doing, that could not go on. So, I made some changes, which has since then turned into a little template I use whenever I feel overwhelmed. It's nothing fancy. It's all about the basics.

  1. Cancel everything I can possibly cancel in my schedule.
  2. Go analogue-ish. Disconnect and limit time on phone and computer. Limit information input.
  3. Change my environment for a few days if I can. Habits set roots in our surroundings.
  4. Unconditional movement. If I feel like doing something intense, like weights or dancing, I would do that. Otherwise, I would just walk. 
  5. Sleep. Go to bed obnoxiously early, no alarms. 
  6. Focus on eating proper food, as in actually cooking, making sure I get the nutrients I need.
  7. Connect with good friends. Have long conversations, talk about the real stuff.

In this scenario, it meant I went straight home and took a nap. I turned down a copywriting assignment I was really excited about, turned off my phone, and went to visit a friend in another city for a few days, where our schedule was basically sleeping, walking and talking. Oh, and eating all the food.

Sometimes you need radical solutions. But for me, I noticed that going back to basics will solve almost any problem I have. 

That damn process

If you’re working on a creative project, it sometimes feels like you’re trying to find your way through a dense forest. From your happy safe place, you once saw something on the other side, over the treetops. “That looks interesting, I should explore that.”

But when you started, the sun was still shining. Birds singing, fluffy clouds, and all other cliches you’ll find at the beginning of a Disney movie. The forest didn’t look so scary.

That sunny day turns to night. It’s freezing cold. You forgot to bring a sweater. And food. You don’t have a map*, and even if you did, you’ll not be able to read it, because you have no flashlight. Suddenly your hands and feet are tied as well. There are wild animals everywhere. Most likely wanting to kill you. 

But, you are already on your way, walking. Or hopping. You know, feet tied and all. You can’t go back now. What you left is already gone. The only thing you can do is remember what you saw when you started, stop agonizing over your less than ideal situation, and trust the damn process.

It’s perfectly fine to have shitty moments. Scream a little. Or cry. Or both. Then, keep going. And be grateful for that this is just a metaphor and you don’t actually have to skip through a forest in the dark.**


*Google Maps doesn’t exist in this metaphor ok, just go with it.
**I hope. Otherwise, kudos for managing to read this in the process. Pun intended.

Maybe a little less stupid

You know this popular saying: “stupidity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result”. It’s hard to argue against the logic of it. Yet, we all do it. Even when we should know better, we fall into the same traps, like we’re nothing but puppets of our own habits.

Habits are hard to break. Especially those we are not fully conscious of.

A year ago I started a new practice. When I find myself in a familiar situation, when I have this feeling of history repeating itself, I feel strongly what I want to do, a clear gut reaction. This is my cue to stop and go through other potential ways to act. I'm not trying to figure out the best decision – what feels best to me will likely be what I’ve done before, because, a) habits, and b) I started behaving that way for a reason in the first case. Trying to make the best decision also adds a lot of pressure, which is not always the best ingredient for smart moves.

What I do is just picking something different. Not the best option (but obviously not the dumbest either, a level of equal insanity is probably worth striving for). Just something that is not my default.

I can’t guarantee it will yield any spectacular results, but I can promise it will make life a little more interesting. If nothing else, you’ll learn a thing or two.

About meditation

Some people I know have a daily meditation routine. The others say things like “I know I should, buuut …”, while doing the mental equivalent of slowly walking backward and disappear behind the corner.

I mean, at this point, everyone knows meditation is good for you. Just practicing for as little as ten minutes per day will new beneficial. Still, a lot of us don’t. Then we feel guilty for not doing it. Which makes us even less inclined to actually do it. It's a clusterfuck of not being zen at all.

I'm definitely not sitting on a high horse here. It wasn't until January 2017 I got serious about it. (And true to my nature of taking things to the extreme did the most rigid meditation retreat known to man six months later. But you already know that story.) What made me finally commit was being in a city where I didn't know anyone, had a ton of work and wasn't able to walk around freely by myself. Meditation felt like a hobby as good as any. 

With this post, I'm hoping to maybe inspire you to not wait until such extreme circumstances before you get started. What I've learned since is that it really doesn't have to be that complicated. Take this post with my answers to three questions I just totally made up as a not so subtle hint.

1. Why should I even waste my precious time with meditation?*

“Hey, I managed life for like 20, 30, 40 years without meditation, and I’M DOING FINE. JUST FINE.” Maybe that’s you. Fine is good. Congratz. 

But if you could do me a favor and listen to this interview, with Dan Harris, which I think describes the value of meditating better than I ever could, I'd appreciate it.

2. Is there an app for this? 

The logical follow-up questions for anyone attempting a new habit. Of course there is.

Headspace

I started my practice with Headspace, which is what I recommend if you’re new and need to establish a routine. Its strength lies in simplicity and encouraging consistency. Zero woo-woo, more pragmatic, and after the initial courses, you can pick them based on your current focus.

Insight Timer

Insight Timer is the app I prefer when I'm not practicing Vipassana. It has guided meditations from a wide range of teachers, you’re bound to find one that suits you. But all the options can also feel overwhelming, so, my personal recommendations are Tara Brach and MindSpace (Julien Lacaille), both have nice voices and usually a fair amount of silence (I'm not a fan of too much talking). Joseph Goldstein has a few short ones I like as well.

The other thing I love about this app is the timer function. Set a timer, pick a background sound (rain, birds, rivers, drums, you name it), add interval bells, and enjoy. Sometimes I set the timer for an hour, with an interval bell after 50 minutes, at which point I switch from Vipassana to Metta, to finish my practice.

Vipassana

If you’re practicing Vipassana, you know there’s no need for an app. But if you miss Goenka’s unique singing, Dhamma.org do have an app with recordings you can make available offline. 

3. Like, how do you actually do it?

Exactly in whatever way works for you. Sitting on a chair, standing up, laying down, whatever floats your zen-boat.**

Sometimes people have this idea that meditation should be practiced sitting uncomfortably on a cold, wet floor. But meditation is challenging enough, you don’t need to go out of your way to make it even harder. Unless that as your thing, in which case, be my guest. 

I don't have a fancy meditation cushion, I just bundle up two pillows on my bed, sit with my legs crossed, back straight. Getting your hips a bit higher helps to find a good posture. Then I sit in silence, maybe set a timer, or do a guided sitting. 

Sometimes I practice in the morning, sometimes during the day, mostly in the evenings. Ideally, I'd like to practice longer around sunrise and wrap up the day with a shorter sitting. Maybe that'll be a project this autumn.

What is worth keeping in mind, is to not make it difficult for yourself. Pick an easy starting point. Maybe it's in the morning when you're the only one up. Maybe it's the quiet room at work before lunch. Maybe during the commute to work (yes, it's doable).

Just focus on the habit first, ten minutes a day. After a month you can start playing around with it. Try different teachers, see if 20 minutes works better, practice in complete silence, there's no one size fits all here. 

Happy meditating!

Or whatever kids say these days.


*An even better question would be why you're reading this post if your time is so precious, but this just turned into me having lengthy conversations with myself on my blog, sooo, I'm done here.

**Sorry, "float your zen-boat" sounds too ridiculous to edit out.

Valid reason or plain excuse?

As I shared yesterday, my habit of putting words after each other into somewhat understandable sentences feels established. I can do it for my journaling, and for this blog.

That’s not currently the case for my other writing project. Instead of doing the word by word thing, I’ve been struggling with the structure for a week now. As I had my daily morning meeting with Heather, where we share what we’re working on today, I noticed myself feeling the need to explain why I didn’t want to write anything new.

I’ve heard all the excuses and I’ve made most of them myself as well, one time or another. So saying “I need to work on the structure before I can write” sounds like an excuse. it makes me feel guilty saying it out loud. As if I’m calling in sick to school, but in fact just want to don’t feel like going. 

Of course, I know it’s not an excuse in this case. Just as important as it is to treat your creative project with the respect it deserves and work on it, it’s equally important to sometimes step away and let it breathe. Get some perspective. 

It’s not so much that I’m stuck in the actual writing. I can happily churn out characters. The problem is a feeling of slowly writing myself into a maze I’ll never be able to find my way out of. Every word I add is getting me further in, adding to the frustration. What makes the most sense to me right now is to take a step back and see it from another angle.

I’m feeling pretty confident that this is the best way forward, but honestly, we humans are pretty damn good at lying to ourselves. How do you know if you’re making a strategic choice or just an excuse, really?

I can't say I have an answer for this. I do, however, have a few questions I ask myself to sort out if I’m succumbing to old habits or making a conscious decision. 

  1. Look at the past, is this what I usually say in this situation? If my actions feels familiar, I need to dig a little bit deeper into why.
  2. Look at my current situation, are there other factors contributing to making this decision? Is the problem really what I think it is? 
  3. Do I have an actual plan for how get over the obstacle I’m facing? 

Not exactly bullet proof, but maybe helpful. In this case, I have definitely used this as an excuse before, but there are no other factors causing trouble for me, and I did have a plan to move forward. Which included walking, looking at similar structures and just thinking through it properly, without being attached to what I've already produced.

And, fun fact! Between starting to write this post, and publishing it, I’ve actually settled in on a structure that makes sense to me. So, tomorrow, it’s back to my regular program of, well, writing more.

Writer's block doesn’t exist, writing habits do

First of all, if you follow this blog via RSS, sorry for the sudden cascade of content that has come your way since August 22. I know it's not what you're used to. 

When I didn't get a spot at the Vipassana retreat starting that date, I realized I’ve been subconsciously holding back, waiting for it.  Falling into a classic mental trap, thinking that after Vipassana, my mind will be clear and creating will be easier. Total delusion, of course. I still did my work, but I hardly pushed myself the way I could have.

Waiting has its purpose at times. Not the case here. It was clearly an excuse. Which I thankfully understood the same day it was supposed to start. Not getting to do my ten days in silence was exactly the lesson I needed. 

Since that day I’ve published a post per day. It’s far from as good as I want it to be. Sometimes it pains me to hit that publish button. Not much to do when you're out of time and it has to go out. It’s a muscle you have to work with, build up, make it stronger.

In this episode, Cal Fussman interviews Seth Godin. I’ve heard him talk about how there’s no such thing as writer's block before, and just having that idea in your head is helpful. One of his additional stories here, is that if you type every day, some is going to be good, some is going to be bad, but eventually, the brain will get tired of the bad stuff and give you some good stuff. 

That connected a few dots for me. I started practicing morning journaling a year ago. Some days it’s pure nonsense. A list of things I did the day before, perhaps. Other days, I dive into a problem I’m struggling with, and just by putting it into words on a page, it flips my perspective. It’s for my eyes only. No prestige, no censorship, no shame. Just put it all out all out there. 

The habit of writing has been there, publishing it for others to read, however, that’s a whole different type of work. Sharing it publicly creates a threshold. If you do it frequently enough, that threshold will be easy to step over. If you are like me and share two posts per year, that threshold is equal to climbing K2. It’s a lotta work, man. 

The funny thing though, is how that process only took two weeks to feel easier. Sure, the gap between the quality I aspire to be and where I actually am is far wider than I'd like it to be. It still takes me a fair amount of time to write and edit. But, I can tell I'm gaining from it. This habit makes me pay attention, ask more questions, forcing me to dig deeper into how I think. 

I blog every day. I don’t blog because I have something to say, I have something to say because I have a blog.
— Seth Godin

To wrap this up, I would like to recommend this short post from Derek Sivers, which I’ve reread several times since he published it. It’s a good reminder - you don’t need confidence, just contribution.

It's not about the gear (but sometimes it's worth it)

“That’s it, I’ve decided.”

I was listening to an episode of Chase Jarvis Live Show about photography and creativity. Usually, when photographers gives advice, it’s aimed towards people starting out and includes a version of “it’s never about the camera, it’s about how you use it”. Which certainly holds a lot of truth. In this interview though, someone pointed out that sometimes, upgrading your gear might be exactly what you need if you feel stuck. 

That was the letter of approval I needed to make up my mind. I’ve had my Canon 5D Mark II for almost eight years. We’ve traveled the world together. We have shoot dance portraits, weddings, pregnant friends, babies, even cars. It has never failed me. But eight years is a long time and the updated model was released just months after I got mine. I considered continuing with Canon and go for the latest version of my model. After all, I knew it would deliver. 

Here’s the other factor though, I wasn’t only upgrading for quality, I was upgrading to feel like a beginner again. To have fresh eyes, to be forced to be aware of what I was doing. I could have managed my 5D blindfolded and possible even with my hands tied. 

 Working on posing like I mean it and not in my usual awkward way. Having the PlayMemories app in my iPad makes it a whole lot easier. 

Working on posing like I mean it and not in my usual awkward way. Having the PlayMemories app in my iPad makes it a whole lot easier. 

Long story short (erhm), inspired by Jamie Beck who frequently shares her work with this model, I finally settled for Sony a7R III. And last week I got my new favorite lens to go with it, Sigma Art 35mm, f1.4. Editing these high-resolution files is the absolute dream. Pixels aren’t everything, but having 42mp to play with gives you so much freedom, and I haven’t felt this inspired to shoot in years. 

Hell, I might even begin to update Instagram on a regular basis again. 🤯

PS: If anyone in Berlin want to meet up and do some collaborating and take portraits in fun locations, beep me!

"I have to understand the world, you see."

One of my unexpected favorite reads this year was "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character. A biography from Richard Feynman, an American physicist you might have heard of.

Learn what the rest of the world is like. The variety is worthwhile.

I consider books worth recommending based on one of two things: it gave me something I’ll benefit from, or it was an incredible piece of art. This belongs in the former category. But it also happened to be one of the more amusing books I read this year, simply because Richard Feynman is a fascinating human who knows how to entertain. 

While it's easy to just read it like a collection of anecdotes, it also holds a lot of insights, stories that might just help you see life a little bit different. Here are a few highlights I enjoy going back to. 

So I found hypnosis to be a very interesting experience. All the time you’re saying to yourself, “I could do that, but I won’t”—which is just another way of saying that you can’t.
It was a brilliant idea: You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.
I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

You don't have to be interested in physics to enjoy this. Just being a bit curious will be enough.