Use Writing to Discover Your Brand and Business



Whether you tag yourself “writer” or not, writing can feed the ideas you’re obsessed with and the questions you’re living and that your brand and business is delivering on.

Writing can inform your brand’s integrity. And if you’re in transition – in life, business, brand – oh, yeah. Writing is an ally there, too.

Someone asked me recently about the work I do and how I help to  build brands and the brand stories they’re based on. The answer. I do build a brand the same way I build a life: An idea consumes me. I write, research, dive deep, create, test. Through that process, I unfold a brand and business. Read more

How Art Disrupts Your Life Like Nothing Else


Sometimes something about your life is off. You’ve played by the rules and followed the laws. You can master a week of meetings. Your team achieves its goals. Your writing gets published. Your art gets exhibited. Your kids make the grade. And, yet, when you have time to gaze out the windshield or the train window on your commute, or when you have a rare and real lunch break to pause between meetings, you hear or feel that kind of “off” something.

Is it your relationship, your job, the whole way you’re approaching your days?

It might be not only your business but how you conduct the very business if not busyness of your life that is at stake.

Here’s the funny thing: All of us, men and women with an iota of sensitivity, experience deep existential unrest at least once in our grown-up life. Yet when we feel that “off”-ness, a part of us refuses to admit that whatever is off is serious.   Read more

Inadequacy & the Flip Side of Why You Create


Steinbeck, a man with why

A series of phone calls I have had this week hearten me about humanity. A thought leader, a start-up co-founder, a memoirist, an herbalist professional, a novelist, a marketing boutique owner-cum-memoirist – they all reminded me of the importance of why.

But they also remind me of the flip side of why. And that positive flip side has more to do with the value of inadequacy than the need to feel good about ourselves.  Read more

The Pursuit of Excellence is Part of the Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Excellence is not Perfection

I’ve been wondering what holds us back from asking for the help we know we need and from pursuing excellence at whatever we’re doing.

Here’s what I’m thinking aloud and invite your responses: Pursuing excellence somehow smacks of perfectionism. It connotes young athletes being driven to harm’s way in order to win medals. I’ve heard and read a lot lately in the personal growth and creativity fields about people disclaiming expertise, about the beauty of not-knowing, about letting go of such pursuits.

When I’ve mentioned mastery before, people have responded with virulent claims that the pursuit of mastery is elitist, old-school, exclusive, aggressive.

People I work and talk with shrink away from their best possible creative work. I know that desire to pull back, crawl under the tortoise shell, and be very, very small.

But here’s what I’m thinking based on my work with others:

Pursuing excellence is not obsessing about perfection. Pursuing – not achieving – excellence is about letting our best selves show up to do the best work we’re meant to do with the best finesse we can learn and muster.

(Read more here about how wonder and the pursuit of happiness fit in with the pursuit of excellence, and share your thoughts, provocations, amens, and disputes in the comment section.)  Read more

A Fable: Talking Yourself into Work That Matters


It’s not easy to stay committed to the creative work that matters when there’s no immediate deadline or audience demanding it.

But many of us have a hard time even entering this zone, let alone staying in this zone. We have a hard time admitting to ourselves, “I have creative work to do that matters, that might not pay the bills just yet, that might not have an immediate ‘productive value.’ BUT. IT. MATTERS. Uh, doesn’t it?”

I have to talk to my best self every day to stay with the intangibles I create. The following fable I wrote as much as a conversation with my best self. It’s also a reflection of conversations I have every week with talented people I admire – the thought leaders, business owners, writers, scientists, and artists who are my clients.

I give it to you in hopes it helps you talk to your best self. When Something Startling This Way Comes, we don’t want to acknowledge it. It’s part of what I’m calling Wonder with a 1000 Faces, a reflection of how wonder’s many forms pervade our many cycles of life and pervade Joseph Campbell’s mythic story frame. 

Once upon a time, after a day hard at work, a man in the middle of his life stopped at the grocery store to pick up some fruit, maybe some pears, for a cobbler dessert, as his wife had asked.

In the produce section, he reached for two apples. A woman about his age, maybe older, reached for an apple at the same time.

“Go ahead,” the woman said.

“No,” Brian said, “you go ahead.”

“Always letting others go first, eh? You find virtue in sacrifice, don’t you?”

Brian chuckled. “How did you know?”

“I see it in your eyes. And the circles beneath them.”  Read more

Talking on Purpose with Jen Louden & Tara Mohr

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Jen Louden and Tara Mohr are two people I relish connecting with. Why? They’re real, smart, infinitely creative. They also get that in order to captivate their audiences, they first have to create work that’s true and real. They get what tracking wonder is all about – tapping into our native emotional genius so we can make our patch of the planet a better place.

Jen is one of the most genuine and far-reaching teachers in the field of personal growth & creativity I know. A pioneer in her field, she’s also become a phenomenal teacher who brings out the great teacher in all of us.


Tara has the gift of clarity about what it takes for women to play big in life. Her wit makes the “play” part genuine, and her track record shows she knows what going for “big” in an authentic way requires.


Not too long ago, I found an excuse to talk with these two radiant people as they each came back onto my idea radar. I was preparing a talk about how successful creative people let their purpose unfold with intelligent passion. (I have my qualms about using heavy words like “purpose” and “calling” too loosely.) Anyway, within the same week, Tara and then Jen published articles about purpose and calling. And their views differed from each other. And from mine. Great excuse to have a conversation, I thought.

That is what we did. We had a talk on purpose, a call on calling.  Read more

A New Take on Callings & A Life Delectable (with a Challenge to Yoga “Purists”)

There’s a story I want to tell about purpose and calling that’s different from what we assume is true.

We assume that people with callings “receive” them in certain ways. #1: As a young person, you know your singular desire and you follow it with fervor. #2: When you’re an adult, a burning bush or a voice or a sign “speaks” to you in some mystical moment, and you know your destiny – and, hence, a calling must be divinely inspired. #3: And you only get “one” such calling. (Better pick up the phone when it rings!)

But when you track wonder, something else can happen. Here’s a different story.  Read more

How is this Day Part of a Creative Quest?

Image: Matt McGee

Days spellbound me. Most of them, at least.

Like a boy with an unshaped summer day ahead, I still take it upon myself to “shape” a day, to give non-rigid intention and meaning to its flow.

But to make a day a quest, now that is an art I’m trying to finesse, and I’m refining the tools we need for a creative quest. Read more

The Secret Stance to Create What Matters


1. To Stand & Stare

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
– W. H. Davies

(from Good Poems, Selected by Garrison Keillor)

That’s one question I’m living in these days.  

It’s a stance to take these digit-dazed days, to stand and stare.

This is a non-action action vital to optimal productivity over the long haul. And it’s crucial to the numerous thriving creatives and scholars with whom I work and talk.

I’m less interested in quick creative spurts or in serial creative entrepreneurship for profit’s sake.

I’m more interested in what factors help us shape a meaningful, coherent, creative life over four, five, six, seven decades. Not years. In what helps us craft a life that includes both revenue and purpose and captivating creativity – the kind of creativity that holds you captive plus holds your tribes spellbound.

Case in point: One of my client’s first books comes out with Ann Godoff and Penguin Press in July. The book, Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists, traces the spiritual life of John Cage, arguably the mid-twentieth century’s most controversial and most influential thinker and artist.

“This is the result of 15 years of work,” the art critic-cum practitioner-cum author Kay Larson recently told me. 15 years! And she’s working with one of publishing’s star editors and preparing to launch an extraordinary tour of talks and events. That’s stamina that captivates me.

I’m interested in what factors help us sustain our creative momentum and make of this one wild life a creative quest.

One of those factors is space.  A Mind Break is a shaped space between create-and-work flows. The capacity to take Mind Breaks and shape space inside and outside – that’s crucial. Why? Read more