How NOT to be a Struggling Business Artist (Or a Flat Spirited-Millionaire)

The banker, the MBA and the profit-driven entrepreneur all want to see the market research that identifies the need. They want to see round pegs and round holes. How many are there? Are they the right size? Yes? Good. Let’s go to production.

The artist, the musician, the creative entrepreneur all want to see their thing loved, valued and paid for. They want it to emerge from the depths of their soul into the world and they want money to then flow in exchange towards them.

Both groups are missing something though.

What the profit-driven entrepreneur creates is fully and only for others, but she is the empty millionaire. She makes money, but her soul is flat.

What the creative entrepreneur creates is fully, and only, from his heart; but he is the struggling artist. He creates from spirit, but he is broke.

The groups try to help each other.

The banker tells the artist to meet the needs of potential buyers, but the artist resists because he doesn’t want to ignore his spirit. He doesn’t want to ‘sell out’.

The musician tells the MBA to use her imagination to create, but the MBA resists because it would be too risky not to focus on the demands of the market.

What both sides are missing though is this:

Compromise is NOT the only option. By embracing the paradox, you can transcend the alternatives.

What the profit-driven entrepreneur is missing are the transcendent possibilities that would emerge if she were to let her creativity serve the market instead of her reason. By providing the obvious, she is missing out on a greater service she could provide. So quick to put a round peg in a round hole, she misses how the stems of the flowers that fill her house could fill holes of all shapes and sizes, despite the fact that nobody was looking for that. She doesn’t see what could be wanted because she is so busy looking for what is wanted from within the world of what already is.

What the creative entrepreneur is missing are the transcendent possibilities that would emerge if he, instead of dancing to his own music, was willing to dance to the music that is already there. He thinks the music is the thing and so he dances to his own. But it is not. The dance is the thing. If only he were willing to dance to the buyer’s song. He is missing that even more awesome thing he could create if he were to let the market’s needs be the paints on his palette and he were to paint with those colours.

The way for the profit-driven entrepreneur to do this is to begin using her imagination, to play with possibility and to risk creating in a way that’s not currently sought or asked for. She must risk in order to explore the possibility that by reaching into the world with a fist full of flowers round holes would reveal themselves. In this way, she provides something which not only serves a market’s need, but which is also a pro-creation between what the market needs and what she has to give.

The way for the creative entrepreneur to do this is to learn and get to know the needs of buyers, to listen to them and their language, to feel them, to bring these into his heart, to be with them, play with them, paint with them, sing with them and dance with them. And then to create something which is not only from the depths of his soul, but which is also a pro-creation between what he has to give and what the market needs.

On with creating…


Come Back From The Future

Imagine you had a Delorean with a Flux Capacitor in it. Imagine you get inside it, find a nice stretch of flat road and put the pedal to the floor. When you hit 88 mph, sparks and lightning surround your car until there is a flash and suddenly you are decades in the future.

Imagine you found your way to your future home and enter (without knocking, as it is your home of course). In your bedroom, you find your older self laying on the bed. There are tubes and wires connected to you, you are breathing shallowly and the colour has drained from your skin. It’s clear, this is your end.

You kneel down beside your older self and in your ear you whisper…

“Hi…um…me…I’ve come from the past…18th March 2014 actually…and I was wondering…what should I do about_____________________?”

You ask yourself what you should do about that thing that’s been on your mind lately – that thing you have been considering, but not acting on.

What, from your last days in the future, do you answer to yourself?

Take that answer with you.

Come back from the future and live the life you’ll otherwise wish you had.


How to Know Where to Begin

One of my clients, previously a doctor and now starting a new business, was explaining to me how overwhelmed she felt with all of the things she had to do.”I just don’t know what to do first! How do I know where to start?!” she gasped.I waited before responding, allowing her pulse to slow in the silence.”What about when you paint?””Huh?”

“When you paint…how do you know what to start with?” I asked her.

“I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it,” she responded, sounding unsure of this seeming departure from a practical question.

“How do you know what colour to put on your pallete? Or what brush to use?”

“It depends.”

“On what?”

“On what part of the picture I’m painting.”

“OK, well what part do you paint first? Where do you start? In the corner? In the middle?”

She watched me for a moment. You could see a glimmer in her eyes. She was somewhere else, seeing something.

“No, it’s not like that.”

“OK, what is it like then?”

“I start…” she paused. “…where it’s most beautiful.”

I smiled.

She smiled too.

“And that works for you when you paint?”

“Yes, it works perfectly.”

“What if, with your business, you started where it’s most beautiful too?” I offered.

“Can it be that simple?”

“Is there any reason why it can’t be that simple?”

Her eyes glimmered again. She was somewhere else, painting her life.

“No,” she smiled. “I guess not.”

Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed and I don’t know what to do, I think of my client in front of her blank canvas holding her brush and smiling.

 I then picture the things I want to create and I ask myself:

 Where is it most beautiful?

 And this is where I begin.


Build Your Army – Habits That Serve Your Heart

I woke at 6.30 today. Wobbled my way to the toilet. Did my business. Flushed. Then wobbled back to bed.

Too Tired. Body still too sore from Saturday. So I pulled the covers over my head.

Just as I was about to dip back into a dream, something tugged me out. A fleeting thought left a faint scent of necessity in its wake.

Ignoring it, I turned my head away from the light and drove it deeper into my pillow.

Just then, like a mosquito buzzing by my ear, came another one… “You can’t train on Friday, so you’d better go today.”

“Yeah but I’m sore. And I’m already pretty fit. Skipping today won’t matter.”

“That’s bullshit. You need to move. You are just stiff. You are fit because you don’t skip.”

Begrudgingly I dragged my body out of bed again and wobbled into the living room.

I stood there motionless for a moment before slapping the light switch on with a grunt.

“You’re an ass.”

“I know. But you created me,” said the voice of my habit.

I argued with him during my light jog through a cold central London at sunrise.

Now, two hours later, after a run and a CrossFit workout, as I sit having breakfast at one of my favourite spots in Borough Market, we are friends again- my habit and me.

I remember why I made him:

Sometimes my heart is just not strong enough to get me into action; not strong enough to do those things I would most love for myself and the world.

My heart won’t always get me out of bed in the morning.
My heart won’t have me find one person to serve every day.
My heart won’t have me write or create something new every day.

But my habits will.

Habits aren’t very smart, but they are strong. They are dependable. They will always beat you in an argument.

Habits are like an army. They can go to battle for you or against you.

Have habits that serve your heart.

Build your army.

How to Be Real – Stop NOT Being Who You Are

People say, be who you are! But WTF does that mean?

How do I know how to be who I am if I don’t know who I am?

To be who you are is not to to be who you were yesterday or any other day, but to be who you are today. To be who you truly are today means that you embrace your ever evolving self – that you accept the ever changing you.

To be who you are is to be who you are becoming.

Think of the word authenticity. It’s root is the word author. To author is to create. Authenticity is a continual form of creation.

If you are being who you have been – being who I call your yesterself which is who you were yesterday – then that is NOT authentic…that is you being consistent.

John, You are 30 years old, why are you dressed like a teenager? Because its who I AM. No it isn’t you dumb ass. It’s who you were..15 years ago.

You don’t want to be consistent. Rocks are consistent…at least for a human lifetime. You are not a rock. That is you not changing. Not evolving. When you are who you were yesterday, exactly the same, you are actually resisting your authenticity.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. – ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ – Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Self Reliance’

Don’t be your yesterself. Don’t be a rock. That’s not authentic. That’s not real. Stop doing that.

Instead be who you are becoming. This is how you be who you are – by being who you are becoming.

But what does that mean? It means to act in that new way below the surface of your fears. That thing you fear to say, fear to do, that is the change you resist.

And when you succumb to that fear, when you aren’t vulnerable, when you aren’t strong and you limit the expression of your heart’s desire, when you stifle your intuitive impulse – you are being consistent instead of real.

And you can feel that afterwards. You always can.

“I should have said this.”
“I should have done that.”
“Oops.  Instead I was a consistent rock. A consistent, dead, never-changing, never-evolving, inauthentic piece of volcano shite.”

W. T. F.

Why does everyone want to be so goddamn consistent?!

Because it is fucking SCARY to change! If I change, I might not get what I want or even worse, I might lose what I have!


I might not get the job. I might not make the sale. She might not like me. He might leave me.

What if when you die, if you were authentic in life you go to heaven and if you were not you get turned into a rock. Picture all those rocks along the sea shore with salt water lapping up against them for thousands of years are all the souls of the those people who were too scared to be who the were becoming. Ice cold fishy salty water just lapping up there against your face…the hot sun beating down on your bald grey head. You deserve it you consistent son of a bitch.

And how do I know this, you ask? Where did I discover the depth of truth here? How did I uncover this worlds wisdom?

Because, I, my friend have an arguably unhealthy addiction to change AND it scares the shit out of me to lose what I have, mostly in the form of love of others. So I’m constantly banging up against this thing. Getting a hard-on for change and then 1 billion butterflies fly straight down my throat and into my gut whenever I face the thing.

But I’ve learned to see the butterflies coming. Here they come, you over-appreciated insects, I see you. As soon as a few of them start down my throat and I start to feel them down there, it’s like BAM BAM…signal straight to my brain that there is some change here I am afraid of. There is me wanting to say or do something that I’m not saying or doing.

Those butterflies are like an inauthenticity alarm system.

The only way to get them out of there and to stop the rest from coming is to just say the thing, to do the thing. So I do it quick, like pulling the bandaid off. And I have hairy arms.

And then SNAP, DING! Truth spoken. Truth acted on. Butterflies gone. Free. Authentic. Real. Inconsistent. Not a rock. Not going to spend eternity with cold salty fishy water lapping up against my face.

Stop NOT being who you are.

Be authentic.

Be who you are becoming. 

Say NO to Everything

We were sat on the roof terrace of a small hotel in a village in Northern Africa. The sun was setting into the flat, dusty landscape.

My client had just flown in that morning.

He was stirring uncomfortably in his seat, looking away from me and then back again.

I’d just asked him a confronting question.

“How do you expect to know what it is you want when you spend all your time doing things other people want you to do?”

When the silence got too heavy, he spoke.

“I don’t know.” 

“‘I don’t know’ is not an answer,” I responded.

“I guess I can’t.”

“That’s right,” I said. “As long as you are filling your head and your life with things born from the desires of others, all that noise will keep you from knowing your own desires.”

More silence.

“When is the last time you said ‘NO’ to somebody?” I asked.

He looked up at me, confused. I then explained the power of saying ‘NO’.

I showed him how all the things he was doing in his life, both personal and professional, were things asked of him by others. That his life had essentially become a response to the world’s desire of him.

I explained that his own desires were not only unexpressed, but they were also so oppressed that he had completely lost his connection to them.

“What is one thing you have recently said ‘YES’ to, but which deep-down, you really wanted to say ‘NO’ to?”

He stirred a bit, letting the silence creep back in, and then looked straight at me. I could see in his eyes that he’d found something. But would he be willing to say it, I wondered?

“Well…there is one thing…”

I held the space.

“I took on this client that I didn’t want to work for.”

“Why did you say YES to them?” 

“They really needed the help.”

“OK, but why did you say ‘YES’?”

“I didn’t want them to think I didn’t want to help them.”

“Didn’t you just say you didn’t want to help them?”

“Well, yeah…but…”

“But nothing! Do you see your lack of integrity? Does that really serve people…to say ‘YES’ to them when really you want to say ‘NO’?”

“No, I guess not…”

We talked for awhile longer, dancing around a number of things he was currently doing in his life which, deep down, he wanted to say ‘NO’ to, but wasn’t willing to.

Finally, at one point, I just laid into him.

“Look, you’ve reached out to me, you’ve invested a lot of money, you’ve flown halfway around the fucking world to be here all because YOU want more out of life. And from every single conversation we have had over the past two months and throughout today, it has become perfectly clear. You know as well as I do that the ONLY thing that needs to change is for you to STOP NOT SAYING NO. You are here because you want to be a man of integrity. You are here because you want to live with truth. And so I am not going to sit here and watch you continue to diminish yourself and suffocate your truth without holding you to the one single point that you are not willing to face! I won’t do it. I can NOT fucking do it.”

Out the corner of my eye, I saw the hotel staff person turn around with our tea and go back down the stairs. My heart was racing.

It is moments like these that simultaneously scare the shit out of me and remind me why I love the power of a coaching relationship.

I was there to serve him, not please him. 

As a coach, I don’t work for the part of my clients that are scared. I work for the part of them that want something more.

“Stand up”, I said. “I’m going to ask you one more time and then I’m going to leave it forever. If your answer is the same, then we can go on and talk about something else. We’ll spend the rest of the weekend chatting about superficial nonsense, I’ll go home with a tan and you’ll go home on the same exact life trajectory you came here on. But before that…I’m going to give you one more chance to change everything.”

He was obviously a bit shocked at my sudden hike in intensity; though not as much as I was.

Finally he nodded, cautiously.

For the past hour he had been pussy-footing around firing a client that he didn’t want to work with – coming up with excuses and different ways of avoiding telling them ‘NO’.

“Feel your feet on the ground….make fists with your hands…raise your chin up a bit. Do you feel that?”

He nodded, silently agreeing again.

“Good…now…what are you going to do?”, I asked.

Without skipping a beat, almost as if he’d been waiting for his chance, he spoke in a deeper tone.

“I’m going to fire them on Monday.”

I sat there.

He stood there.

We watched each other.

A warm, dry breeze, carrying a scent of incense, came over the roof and brushed between us.

Two weeks later, I got this email from him:

“I fired the client on Monday. Not only them though, I fired another one too. I realised after I fired the first one that they weren’t right for me either.

And I’ve been saying no a lot more. Not all of them have been big things. The little things feel good to say no to too.

What really strikes me though is that nothing bad has happened. I was always so worried that by saying no people would be upset. But nobody seems to care! 🙂

And most importantly, I feel so much lighter…and my mind is so much quieter.”

I responded reminding him: A quiet mind is exactly what will serve you in reconnecting to your own true desires.

What are YOU not saying ‘NO’ to?

Is Commitment a Trap?

When I met Lauren, her head was in a knot around things she wanted to do, but felt like were too big of a commitment.

I asked Lauren what the word ‘commitment’ meant to her.

“It’s a trap”, she blurted.

I knew what she meant.

After 3 years of living out of a backpack and only buying one way airfare, the idea of commitment had once freaked me out too.

Lauren then told me how she had a “commitment phobia” and that she knew she had to “deal with it”.

But when I settled in London, it didn’t take any therapy to change things for me.

In fact, today commitment is one of the most powerful tools I have – and I use it often.

Fearlessly too, I might add.

Like me, Lauren was afraid to make a commitment because she thought that it meant she would be stuck living a particular life.

Like a 55 year old accountant who hates his job and has hated it for the past 30 years and is only doing it because he’s been doing it since he decided to…at 18 years of age.

(Dude…at 55, do you really want to trust an 18 year old with decisions about how to live your life? WTF!?)

Lauren thought that once she had decided on one thing, then she would be ‘stuck in a commitment trap’.

So I told her:

The commitment trap is an illusion.

Commitment is not about being trapped in anything, especially in a particular way of living your life.

Commitment is the decision to stop considering alternative options.

It is the willingness to choose a particular direction and move towards it, despite external influences to the contrary.

Commitment is NOT the abandonment of your heart. It is a tool which liberates your deepest truth.

When you commit, you may at some point choose to change your heading, but the winds will not change it for you.

In commitment, there is no trap.

Instead there is freedom that comes from following the heading of your heart’s desire – your true north.

Lauren got it.

Fearlessly, she then made a decision that changed the course of her life forever.

Just a few degrees can change everything…when you are willing to truly commit.

Explore the Unknown – Your Path to a More Passionate Life

In this one hour talk I share an updated perspective on how to find your purpose and follow your passion in life.

It’s a follow up to my 2011 talk How to Live a Passionate Life, which has over 60K views on YouTube.

Recorded live at Interesting Talks London in July 2012.

Listen to or download the full-length version here:


Love Your Life by Leaving a Legacy

If you don’t love your life, then maybe you’re not leaving a legacy.

Let me share a way of living I’ve had since I was a little kid and that still serves myself and my clients today…

When I was about 8 years old, I’d spend lots of time out in the woods behind my house. I’d go all the way down the path, over the stream I wasn’t supposed to cross, to the small pond where I would stand at the edge of the water and throw stones into it. 

I loved the plopping sound the stones made and all the ripples that flowed out from there. I loved how the ripples glided out to the rim of the pond, moving things, shaking things up and making a subtle difference to the world of insects and plant life along the edge. 

Before I’d head back home, I’d always search for the most perfect throwing stone. When I’d found it, I’d grip it just right, lean way back and with an ‘umph’ I’d throw the stone as far and high as I  could. 

This time though, immediately after releasing it, I’d turn my back to the pond and quickly run up the path. The stone would still be arching through the sky as my feet thumped on the dirt and the pond hid itself in the woods behind me.

I’d be gone before it landed. 

Leaving a Legacy

What I loved then was knowing that even though I was gone – even though I couldn’t see it and I couldn’t hear it – the stone would most certainly be hitting the surface of the water and the ripples would still be flowing out from it.

I knew that even though I was gone, my having been there was still moving things.

What I was doing as a kid, out at that pond in the woods behind my house, was leaving a legacy. 

There is an even deeper and important insight here too. It is a distinction that allows ‘leaving a legacy‘ to to come not from ego, but from the heart.

Being Remembered vs Having Mattered

At the pond, I wasn’t doing it so that I would be remembered

It wasn’t about me or who I was or what I did. There was nobody there to remember me.

I was doing it so that I mattered

I loved knowing that even when I was gone, I’d be moving things, shaking things up and making a difference.

I loved knowing that I mattered – that I had impact.

It wasn’t about what the world thought of me, it was about about what I did to the world.

Leaving a Legacy Fills You With Love & Passion

As a child, even in the seemingly meaningless form of throwing a stone into a pond, knowing I was doing something to the world filled me with spirit and passion.

The same applies for us as adults, but somehow we forget it. Somehow we forget how simple it can be to feel passionate and alive.

Knowing that you mattered, even when you’re gone – from a conversation, from a relationship from your life – is the key to the deepest experience of living.

Leave a Legacy Today

Leave a legacy..not just from your life, but from every moment of engagement or interaction you have.

In every moment of your engagement with the world, with every person you communicate, with everything you touch or create – is an opportunity for you to have impact.

Every moment is a choice to either stand on the shore or throw a stone.

You can make ripples.

So get out there. Go throw some stones. And start loving your life.

This is also why I coach Heroes – people who create impact and make ripples in the world.  

My clients are my throwing stones. I love you all. 

What You Fear is What You Want

Do you, from time to time, experience the fear of robbing a bank?

How about when you consider it now? Does fear rise up from your belly?

No. Of course it doesn’t.

And why not? Why aren’t you feeling fear?

Wouldn’t you worry about getting caught or shot? Isn’t that scary?

You don’t feel fear, because you don’t actually have any desire to rob a bank.

Even if you pretend, in the back of your mind and in your heart, you know that you have no real desire to do it, therefore no fear arises.

You can only experience fear for things you have desire for.

You fear public speaking, because deep down a part of you wants to do it.
You fear talking to that man or woman, because deep down you want him or her to like you.
You fear that job interview, because you want the job.
You fear getting on an airplane, because you want to live.

You don’t have to feel fear.

Of course you don’t have to experience fear for every desire you have.

Maybe you want to live and you do NOT fear getting on an airplane.
Maybe you want that job and you do NOT fear the interview.
Maybe you want that man or woman to like you and you do NOT fear talking to him or her.
Maybe you want to be a public speaker and you do NOT fear doing it.

Fear & Desire are two sides of the same coin.

Imagine in the palm of your hand you hold a coin. At any moment, either the heads or tails can be facing up at you.

In this same way, at any moment, you experience fear or desire based on which you focus on.

You feel fear or desire based only what you think about.

But can you fear things you don’t want?

Just as you can have desire without experiencing any fear, you can have fear without experiencing any desire.

Maybe you fear public speaking, but you think it doesn’t matter, because you don’t even want to.
Maybe you fear going for a new job, but you say you don’t even want it.
Maybe you fear getting on a plane, but say it doesn’t matter because you don’t want to travel.
Maybe you fear talking to that man or woman, but you tell yourself that you don’t care to anyway.

It’s BS though.

You can have fear without experiencing desire, but you can NOT have fear without there being desire.

That which you most fear is what you most desire.

What is that thing that scares you the most? What is your reoccurring fear?

In the face of such fear, have you ever told yourself, “Oh no, I don’t want to do that!”

It’s as if you are holding a coin in your clenched fist and most of the time you just ignore that it is there. But sometimes you forget and you open your hand, looking down at your palm, and you see that’s its tails – you feel the fear.

Every single time you open your hand – you feel the fear. After awhile it seems as if that is all there is. You become sure fear is the only way you can experience it.

But really, you have just never bothered to turn over the coin.

Reverse engineer your deepest desires from your greatest fears.

In the same way that you do not fear robbing a bank because you don’t really have any desire to do so – you have your greatest fear, because on the other side, you have a deepest desire.

If you don’t know what it is you most want – if you don’t know what is you must do – then consider what it is you experience the most fear around.

Face your fear, flip over the coin, indulge in imagination and allow yourself to be raptured by desire.

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