What is the science behind motivation, novelty, follow-through, collaboration, or project completion? How do we facilitate wonder and wander?

Practicing excellence & flow is not a privilege

mountain-peak-stockPracticing excellence is not a privilege. It’s a birthright. It’s in part what we human beings are here for. We have these remarkable faculties. Perhaps what most elevates us is to finesse our best attention and direct it toward specific endeavors that benefit others, whether that benefit is through art, social change, business artistry. It turns out that excellence has little to do with the easy life. Read more

Why entrepreneurs & creatives succumb to bedtime procrastination


Cannot the laborers understand that by over-working themselves they exhaust their own strength and that of their progeny, that they are used up and long before their time come to be incapable of any work at all, that absorbed and brutalized by this single vice they are no longer men but pieces of men, that they kill within themselves all beautiful faculties, to leave nothing alive and flourishing except the furious madness for work. – PAUL LAFARGUE, The Right to Be Lazy (1883)

Canadian journalist Carl Honoré used to battle with his two-year-old boy over bedtime stories. “You’re going too fast!” the boy would say. Honore admits he would often lead his son, who savored the long stories, toward the short ones. Why? Because Honoré was eager to finish up his work before he went to bed. That same year while waiting impatiently in an airport, he read a newspaper to feel productive and noticed a headline that stopped his fast-tracked mind: “The One-Minute Bedtime Story.”

“Think Hans Christian Anderssen meets the executive summary,” Honoré writes in In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed, the book that the one-minute bedtime story article plus his own guilt with his son inspired him to research and write.

If Honoré is like a slew of entrepreneurs and creatives, he likely suffered from what scientists in the Netherlands call “bedtime procrastination.” Bedtime procrastination is “defined as failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so.” 

That last part of the definition “while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so” – I find especially fascinating. 

Why is bedtime procrastination unique to our times and unique to entrepreneurs and creatives, male or female? And what if anything can we do about it without “managing” our time? I am especially calling out you men because we do not talk about these matters publicly (although we do privately). Read more

From Trauma to True Story: Owning Your Brave Medicine

Mike Boehning Photography. Limited use. Creative Commons.

Mike Boehning Photography. Limited use. Creative Commons.

Note: Many business artists come to us in deep transition. They know that writing & publishing their books and shaping their brand stories are part of a larger Story they cannot quite articulate. Working with Tracking Wonder Consultancy is different than working with a coach on one hand or a creative agency on the other. This guest post by Tracking Wonder’s Lead Consultant Cathy Shap gives you an idea of what it is like. It also gives us the opportunity to highlight one of our extraordinary heroes, Ginny Taylor – Chief Creative Officer of Women of Wonder. As Ginny notes in our “Here’s to the Heroes” film below, her quest has “given me the courage to own my story and not be owned by it.”


Guest Post by Cathy Shap, Lead Consultant at Tracking Wonder

Ginny Taylor didn’t wake up one day, early in 2014, and say to herself, or anyone else for that matter, “It’s time for a Quest, by golly.” She said what I imagine any normal person feeling the pull of change would say: “Do you think I’m ready for it?”

Such was her query in an email to me dated January 8, 2014. She was about to join our first Tracking Wonder ArtMark™ program, which helps business artists shape their larger business Story and expand their presence with integrity.  The program seemed an ideal incubator for Ginny as she was initiating a transition out of her day job into creating her own business. 

Ginny had initially come to us for help with her memoir – a book that deals with the trauma of sexual abuse. She was very much in her head about it all until yoga and journaling helped her get in touch with her fuller self.

In our early months of working together, she shifted from over-thinking her ideas into deeply feeling them. Where she’d felt blocked, things were beginning to move. And sometimes even the slightest movement can start to crack open much deeper shifts. Soon, Ginny wanted to share the power of journaling and yoga with other women, to teach them how journaling and mind-body practices could be empowering, could help them step more fully into their lives, even if she was still in the process of doing so herself. She was now hearing a call. 

“Do you think I’m ready for it?” 

Most of us live in a similar question at certain stages in our life and trajectory as business artists. We wonder if we’re ready to shift careers, write a book, invest in what matters. But underlying those tangible goals is a deeper yearning and curiosity. A calling.  Read more

I Promise to Give

maker8The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him – it cannot fail – Walt Whitman

In 2008, Wired editor Chris Anderson saw “Free” as the future of business.  Anderson was spot-on.

Not to create any kind of free swimming hole for your audience to engage you or your brand in is, well, foolish, counter-productive to your creativity, and kind of stingy. It’s the hoarder’s or snob’s tendency to hold back. (I didn’t call you a hoarder or snob!)

There are obvious reasons why otherwise well-intending business artists and owners hold back, but they might not see how giving away is an investment and a creative catalyst.

Read more

Prioritize Possibility in 2015 (webinar w/ Jeffrey Davis)


Photo: Bob Protus of Kool Kats

Many moons ago, I let one project after another drive me.

You know the impulse. You or your team can chase after one project after another.  An Etsy shop. A new tool or product. A new book. A new studio. A new podcast show. A new interview series. A new workshop.

But living in Project Land – taken by one project’s whim versus another – is not sustainable over the long-term for most business artists.

The problem: Which project to prioritize? Which project is your priority now and which one later and which one never? Which project in which sequence?

At least one key difference exists between those creatives and business artists who flounder and those who flourish.

It’s not coming up with lots of cool ideas. It’s their ability to learn to discern.

I’ve since spent many moons studying the art of discernment. Discernment is the ability to say, “This, not that. This, not that.”

“This project serves my path as a business artist now. This one might serve it later. This one, maybe never (as great of an idea as it seems).” 

This vein, not that.

Limited Advice for Prioritizing

I’ve reviewed old school and new school advice offered about prioritizing. It usually falls into one of two extremes.

First, the Analysis Action Camp: Break down the pros and cons. Advance forward.

Second, the Authenticity Gut Camp: Trust your intuition. Feel your way.

I’ve zoomed in on the art of discernment. Here’s what I have found in my experience, research assimilation, and consulting: By themselves, both camps are incomplete. Neither of them alone address how we creatures with nuanced brains make optimal, aware decisions.

What if you could combine quick emotional intelligence with rational thinking to decide within minutes which project to prioritize over the other? 

I want to share with you my and Tracking Wonder’s signature method for prioritizing possibility.  Read more

Jason Silva gives a shot of awe to #Quest2015


Take a little Bucky Fuller’s visionary views of the planet and architecture and technology, throw in Terrence McKenna’s views of the mind and evolution, and mix it with a Richard Branson-like optimism and an impassioned artist’s fervor and sensibility for imagination and what we make in and of this world, and you get Shots of Awe creator and National Geographic’s Brain Games tv show host Jason Silva.

Media artist. Futurist. Weekly mind-blower. That is Jason Silva. 

Jason is one of the 12 Visionaries I’m bringing to everyone who joins Quest2015 for our adventure this December. 

I’ve written about Jason’s work in my Psychology Today column, and I’m revved up that he’s agreed to come on-board with us.

Wonder’s Larger-Than-Life Cousin

Jason is a leading voice for awe, wonder’s larger-than-life cousin. 

Wonder resides in soft tracks in snow and apple skin. It quietly cracks us open to possibility and reality.

Awe resides in the cosmos, on the breath of Tyrannosaurus Rex, on canyon cliffs, and other places where we’re stunned into stillness and recognize our smallness.

If wonder gives us perspective on seeing our days and cracks of light anew, awe zooms us out into the stratosphere. 

Together, wonder and awe make us “cosmic heroes,” to use Jason’s term.

Here’s a taste of Jason’s “cognitive ecstasy”:


Our Quest2015 Visionary Team

I can’t wait to see how Jason catapults us to imagine 2015 with a shot of awe. Jason joins scientist Todd Kashdan, CEO and philosopher and Iraqi team leader Charlie Gilkey, women’s empowerment leader Tara Mohr, personal growth pioneer Jen Louden, and others on our Quest2015 Visionary Team.

Gain a fresh way to envision your best 12 months far beyond ineffective resolutions, goal-setting, and vision boards. Plus it just might help make this dark December the most illuminating ever. Together.

If you’ve already joined, I cannot wait to begin!

Thanks for running with me,


Read more

How are you enabling belonging?

Photo By David Marcu

At our core, every human being longs to belong.

That’s not a claim this former lone wolf artist makes easily, but it’s something my blood knows now.

“Well-being is about a harmonious relationship with oneself. But it is also about having empathetic, successful, and gratifying relationships with others and nature.” – Rodolfo Guttilla, executive director at Natura 

I spent four days with over 250 entrepreneurs, business artists, artists, and open-hearted human beings from around the world. And in a rare instance with a group that size, I belonged.

I felt comfortable enough to stand before a smiling audience donning my red pants and deliver a performance poem called “Coat Thief” that includes the climactic line, “Why wait? Go naked now.”

The need to belong is something that pal and Camp GLP founder Jonathan Fields and bright light Emiliya Zhivotovskaya espouse and live.

It’s a key ideal that humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow recognized decades ago as one of a handful of fundamental drives in the human spirit, and it is a key ideal we at Tracking Wonder emphasize when consulting certain business artists about their signature brand stories.

In fact, we’re pretty adamant about DIT (Do It Together) over DIY.

But my Camp GLP experience let my knowledge seep deeply into my bloodstream.

Read more

Less Labor Works Better: The Value of Mind-Wandering


“The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation. … The gap between paid time off in the United States and the rest of the world is even larger if we include legally mandated paid holidays, where the United States offer none, but most of the rest of the world’s rich countries offer between five and 13 paid holidays per year.”
No-Vacation Nation, Center for Economic and Policy Research,
Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt, May 2007

” It is your relaxed and easy worker, who is in no hurry, and quite thoughtless most of the while of consequences, who is your efficient worker; and tension and anxiety, and present and future, all mixed up together in our mind at once, are the surest drags upon steady progress and hindrances to our success.” 

“Just as a bicycle-chain may be too tight, so may one’s carefulness and conscientiousness be so tense as to hinder the running of one’s mind.”

– William James, “The Gospel of Relaxation”

1. An invitation for working differently

Our five-month-old girl gurgled in the pre-dawn morning and nudged me awake. A montage of media and corporate icons such as CNN and IBM floated in my dream-memory. The images gave me clarity about how to solve a client’s book promotion problem. It was not a problem I consciously aimed to solve, but had I not stayed in that half-sleep state I likely would have missed some intuitive connections and insights.

Ray Kurzweil, scientist-in-residence at Google, assigns himself a problem to solve in his dreams. Always sure to sleep for eight hours a night, he then upon awakening stays in bed for a solid 15 to 20 minutes to let his mind wander in that twilight state.

It’s a state I’ve been tracking for several years because it’s conducive to deliberate daydreaming. Deliberate daydreaming is an art that can be learned to capture those goldfish insights that otherwise swim by unheeded. . 

The amateur lets the mind wander vagrantly. The over-worked expert demands the mind work 17 hours a day. Somewhere between is business artistry.

Today, I’m taking you on a walkabout through my archives on the subject and pointing you toward several other contemporary sources.  Read more

How Business Artists Quest on the Job

2014-01-02 15.06.42Talking about mindset to other people is tricky.

I love to speak to and consult with individuals, groups, and organizations about doing just that – changing how they frame their work and themselves. That frame shapes how they do what they do and potentially changes their environment.

Mindset. Method. Place. It’s not a formula. It’s a working tripod that any individual, group, or organization must consider to lift themselves and one another out of an “eh” work world and possibly toward an “Ah!” work world.

One of the first bits of Southern wisdom I assimilated as a malcontent teenager applies here: Either change your circumstances, or change your mindset. Easier said than done for the less “rosy” among us. To change a mindset incrementally requires a creative cognitive reframe and cognitive tools.

Read more