Tag Archives: fear

How To Reshape Our Understanding Of True Strength

What does “true strength” mean to you?

Original Superman Art by Joe Mad

Original Superman Art by Joe Mad

I used to think of most things in the context of the comic book characters whose posters and movies which would adorn my walls. I sometimes still think of athletes who can do incredible feats with their bodies. I think of inner courage, heart, and perseverance, especially in the face of near impossible odds.

I think of Bo Jackson. Self-explanatory there.

Yet when I want to look for an example that we can learn from, I spend my time searching the internet for the things I listed and come up short. Isn’t it odd, the things that I want to associate with being true strength I only half-heartedly support, instead relying on some physical example to fulfill the need to “see it” in action?

Are Superman’s limitless powers true strength? Of course, flying into the sun takes some balls. In his case, it also maxes his pedigree and bench press by doing so. Moving mountains and trains and other giant objects that weigh more than what can be defined numerically counts as strength too. It’s also impossible strength.

Moving to athletics. Bo Jackson highlight videos are illustrations of strength. As are JJ Watt and any defensive end who can push over a 300 lbs man. Finesse is also in there, and combining those two elements makes for some magical video viewing.

Rocky's true strength is physical and internal in Rocky 3

Rocky’s true strength is physical and internal in Rocky 3

True strength is harder to characterize than only in a physical embodiment. Perhaps that’s one of the draws to Rocky Balboa, despite the fact that he had a considerable physical ability. That inner voice that won’t allow you to quit, no matter what, is something that only the truly strong have.

Speaking of Rocky, it takes strength to face our fears, especially when that fear stands 6’2″, weighs 230 lbs, has a mohawk and delivers pain. Strength isn’t just a physical attribute, it’s internal too. Rocky showed me how to face and overcome fears in powerful ways.

What about Mother Teressa or Ghandi? Those two people stood up against oppressive regimes, fighting for the ignored and abandoned, and didn’t use violence as their weapons, even in the midst of violence. That takes real strength, strength that no physical attribute can grant you.
I’ve been reading the autobiography of Muhummad Ali. It shows the man’s inner strength was the real force to be reckoned with.

The most endearing attribute of Ali has more to do with how he stood up for his beliefs in the wake of the draft and the war in Vietnam than any of his championship belts. How he stood in the face of hatred from his own countrymen and women because he didn’t want to shed the blood of another man, how he was ostracized and called anti-American because he didn’t want war is incredible to conceive. Withstanding that kind of rhetoric and public sentiment while not lashing out against anyone took more strength than anything else he did in or out of the ring. And yet it’s not something we would associate with him as strength until we’re confronted with it ourselves.

In this space of growth farming, where cultivating seeds of connections with new people is the method of achieving success, it takes a different kind of strength to win. It takes inner determination, love, grace, empathy and compassion. It takes us going first, initiating the connections and doing things differently than what has come before us.

It takes us finding that we’re made of more than just what we think. Inside you and I are what looks like the muscle-bound warriors whose physical appearance gives us inspiration. Yet that need for leadership, courage, risk-taking, vulnerability, and perseverance are the true measures of strength that draws our tribe in.

It’s actually these qualities that make us grow, because that’s the change that we all want to see in the world. Your heart makes you strong. What you put into it is what fruits will come out from it, and what will draw others to you.

 

Why Culture Determines Your Growth & Success

 

The entrance to Bonnaroo

The entrance to Bonnaroo, escaping a place of fear and into a place of love & acceptance

There are so many areas in our world that we blame our culture on. The perpetual violence in the US, especially in places where children or minorities are the victims, leads to division among our own people. When we look deeper into the causes of these problems, a destructive culture is at the root.

How can culture be such a powerful influence on the behavior or people? That’s the question I am searching for answers to right now, especially after returning from a trip where a culture of love and unity had created an amazing culture.

What does “culture” mean

I live in a small town in West Texas. The predominant culture is older and white. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, as the world has become more diverse with different ethnic groups, beliefs, races, and cultures inter-mingling together, we’re starting to taste the beauty of multi-culturalism in ways we haven’t before. There are positives and negatives that come out of this, but I am going to focus on what we can take away from the growth of culture in our every day lives, as well as how we have the responsibility of determining our own culture for growth and success.

Culture is simply this: the collection of arts and expressions of human intellectual achievement and growth.

Culture determines growth because that’s a part of what it is. A=A in simple math terms.

Bonnaroo Main Stage

Bonnaroo Main Stage

As you know, I recently treked halfway across the country to attend Bonnaroo 2016. We had a little caravan of friends go together, and we all had a lot of fun. There were some standout bands who performed including Pearl Jam, LCD Soundsystem, Brett Dennen, and Band of Horses. I also was turned on to the music of Bob Moses, Chvrches, Chris Stapleton, and Dresden  (among others). The music was simply amazing.

However, it wasn’t the music that impacted me the most. It was something else: the predominant culture of love and acceptance to EVERYONE, regardless of race, age, belief, creed, heritage, or ideology.

When you have over 65,000 people converging on one location, you’re going to experience diversity. There’s inevitable (remember A=A). As soon as we entered into the farm (Bonnaroo sits on a 700 acre farm in Manchester, TN), the overall feeling of being safe as ourselves, being accepted for who we are, and love for each fellow person was the established rule of order.

Our Team & New Friends

Our Team & New Friends

The best thing about this culture was that we all knew it going in based solely on what we saw and felt around us. There were no “10 Rules Of Attending Bonnaroo” when we entered in. There wasn’t a form we had to sign that said we agreed to be kind, loving, and supportive of each other before being admitted in. And there wasn’t a punishment of being banished if anyone didn’t adhere to this loving culture. It was the opposite of what our modern society is and does, where rules try to dictate the behaviors of people.

Am I saying that rules and laws are not good and are a problem? NOT AT ALL.

DressedForDay1What I am saying is that it was the cultivation, seeding, nourishing, and continual harvesting of a loving culture that makes this 4 day music festival continue to grow. Any musician who has tried to get on stage at a festival like this runs up against some pretty big-named bands. There’s a reason for that.

Anyone who has tried to start a music festival and build up momentum to keep it going the following year has experienced the difficulties of building something new. The Bonnaroo guys did too 15 years ago.  A farm in the middle of nowhere Tennessee isn’t a beacon light for most people. However, give people great music (arts) and a supportive atmosphere of love (culture) and you can build a winner year after year.

What culture are you building

The tragedies of the Orlando shooting took place on the Saturday (day 3) of Bonnaroo, and we all had a lot of serious conversations with fellow Roo-vians that day and the days that followed. It made us confront ourselves, and look closer at this societal disparity in our modern culture where we turn ideologies into things that divide us to the point of death. Terrorism is all about creating more division by killing off people who cause them no harm, yet whose beliefs contradict their own. It’s bullshit. And it’s cowardly. That’s the terrorist culture.

Is the response to terrorism more violence to send a message? I don’t know. Hopefully our political leaders are discernible enough to find a path that works. My response to these acts of violence in our local and national areas is to operate from a culture that is loving and accepting. AND THAT IS FREAKING HARD TO DO IN THE FACE OF HATE AND VIOLENCE.

Don’t get me wrong, none of this is easy. But we’re uncommon people creating remarkable actions. It’s who we are. A=A. I believe that loving culture creates positive change, where people can be more whole and more themselves. Is this a utopian ideal? Hell if I know. I’ve seen and experienced part of this. What if we carried the heart of Bonnaroo with us in our personal lives, our social interactions, and the communities we’re a part of with our art and business? How would that change our society for the better?

These are the questions I’m asking myself, and the question I’m asking you. Are you the difference that you want to see in the world? Ghandi was. In the face of direct violence, hatred, and a negative culture he became the change he wanted to experience. And he changed his world. More on that in this video:

How To Have Success In Business & LIfe- BE The Change You Want from DGrantSmith on Vimeo.

 

The Art Of Asking Is Community Building Manifesto

theartofasking_imageI’ve known the name Amanda Palmer for several years. I’ve known some of the music of Amanda Palmer for about the same amount of time. But after viewing her Ted Talk from 2013, I had to read her book The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Helpbecause her talk spoke to my soul in a way very few people have.

Subsequently, I did something I very rarely do. I bought a brand new book from the book store and paid cover price. You can call me cheap, and you’re right. I buy a lot of books (hard copy and paperback, not digital/Kindle) and my preferred sources are Half-Price Books and Goodwill. Amazon on occasion will do for hard to find stuff. It’s important that you know this little facet about me because I don’t buy new books hardly ever. I made an exception in this case and it was one of the best decisions made this year.

The Art Of Asking is billed as a memoir, and it is. But it’s so much more. Palmer is not your typical artist, both musically or visually. And her openness and honesty with her struggles, self-image, and relationship building pave a subliminal pathway to understanding how asking really works. I’ve struggled my entire life with asking for anything, especially for help and for money. Yes, the two things we as humans, as creatives, and as builders need more than anything are these two things and I have spent decades trying to do so much on my own out of fear of asking.

Asking is a fear shared by you and I and (really) everyone else

It turns out that I’m not alone in having this fear. There’s a strong chance you fear or are at least hesitant in asking for something, though it might not be what I am hesitant in asking for.  I can say it’s because of how I was raised or grew up or something or other, but at the end of the day, I’m the common denominator for why I don’t have what I want and why I couldn’t ask for it. And I have to take responsibility for that.

The Art Of Asking was like a blueprint for me in shedding off the old skin that told me that asking for help, or asking for money, or asking for anything was a sign of weakness or failure, that it would annoy and bother people, that I would be perceived as a taker and not a giver, and that the answer would always be NO. Having written and now looking at that last sentence I see how frail my thinking and ideals had been for so long, which is why I’m so thankful for this book.

It turns out that Amanda struggled with asking too, though her reasons were different, and despite being able to ask her fans for nearly everything from promoting a gig to having a place to sleep after a show (couch surfing as she calls it) , there were somethings she struggled with for a long time before she could ask for it. It took nearly losing someone very close to her for that fear to break.

How to build community the Amanda Palmer way

The headline for this article states that The Art Of Asking is a community building manifesto and it certainly is that. From the perspective of audience growth, there are only a few other artists who have done anything close to building the kind of high powered, passionate, loyal and worldwide audience that Amanda Palmer has. She details what her fan growth process was and it mostly involves being WITH people, giving her fans access to her outside of the music stage, having personal and deep conversations with people who are strangers at first and then become something more.

This is how communities are built. Communication, openness and trust are the pillars of what build the communities we are a part of, be those artistic, business, or the locations we live in. Closing ourselves off from people and only giving them a portion of ourselves, or only showing them our gifts but not our faults limits the power of the community and the people who build it. This is not to say that there aren’t methods of safeguarding yourself against people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Amanda does give a few good examples of where openness went too far, and how she dealt with it. But being afraid of everyone in your community being a potential fiend is not how you treat the people who are building with you.

The Art Of Asking could have also been titled The Art Of Vulnerability or The Art Of Loving Completely. There are some very profound and powerful quotes that are still moving around in my brain, like seedlings just starting to grow roots that will sprout into amazing new things. I want to share some of those quotes with you here in the hopes that it will have a similar effect on you at the very least, and even more, lead you to read this book.

“It isn’t what you say to people, it’s more important what you do with them. It’s less important what you do with them that the way you’re with them.”

“If you love them they will give you everything.”

“It’s about finding your people, your listeners, your readers, and making art for and with them. Not for the masses, not for the critics, but for your ever-widening circles of friends. It doesn’t mean you’re protected from criticism. But if your art touches a single heart, strikes a single nerve, you’ll see people quietly heading your way and knocking on your door. Let them in. Them them to bring their friends up. If possible, provide wine.”

Amanda does talk a lot about naysayers, and breaking free from the ideals or criticism of people who consider asking to be the same as “shameless self-promotion.” This is especially hard for artists (or for anyone) who aren’t naturally social. This is what leads many artists to try and find a promoter or label to do the asking for them. At times that’s a good fit, but too often it’s not because the art of connection is the art of communication, and even people who think they lack a social strength still need to engage directly with people in some capacity.

Overcoming the fear of asking for help

All artists and creators face a similar fear: the fear of rejection or the fear of criticism. That’s honestly what kept me plugging away in near isolation building my work for many years. Thankfully I’ve been blessed to have some incredible friends, colleagues, and family who are givers despite my unwillingness to ask. Chances are you have connections with people like this too. What is keeping you from asking? Let me know, I’d love to hear your story and build community with you.

If you want more inspiration, enjoy her Ted Talk that would eventually lead to the writing of her memoir.

*Yes there are affiliate links to Amazon.com in this post for you to buy Amanda’s book should you be so moved by my experience with it and want to have a similar experience yourself. I appreciate you reading and choosing to buy through this page. You can click on this image here to see more details on buying the book on Amazon (which is cheaper than any other bookseller, and free shipping if you’re a Prime member).