How do we shape a meaningful life of creating, build a signature presence with integrity, and make a difference?
That’s the singular question I’ve been tracking and living for most of my adult life. It turns out it’s a question that rings with numerous people I’ve spoken and worked with, too.
They’re fatigued with Buzz – all the distracting messages about what “it takes” to get your work out into the world and still enjoy this one wild life.
They’re aching for a different tune.
I’m about to release work that has burned in me for thirty years and that comes largely from my living that and other questions about how we live and create. Collectively it’s called Live the Quest.
Some of you, like me, are curious about the thinking that happens behind an idea, so I wanted to share with you what led to this project. Think “Follow Your Bliss” meets “Science of Flow.” Think “Story Architecture” meets “Brand Architecture.”
I’ve been devoted in several roles ~ as an author, poet, fiction writer & editor, teacher, speaker, creativity consultant & book strategist, small business owner, family man.
I’ve also studied and taught Story Architecture for over 20 years.
I’ve immersed myself in and have written extensively about the art & science of captivating creativity. The psychology of motivation, resilience, flow. The neuroscience of creative insight and daydreaming. The practice of somatic creativity and somatic intelligence. The research of deliberate practice and of excellence. Case studies of how successful artists, businesses, brands, and entrepreneurs shape, unfold, and lead story-based conversations.
A lot of study and living. And then two big dots connected with two big thinkers’ work.
Where Hero’s Quest Meets the Science of Creative Flow
Joseph Campbell devoted his life to studying world mythologies. His aim: that we might find our cultural commonalities and that each of us might fulfill our lives as a meaning-driven quest. More than any one person, he arguably has contributed to bringing “hero’s quest” and “Follow your bliss” into our common vocabulary.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has devoted his life to studying how people flourish. In his seminal books Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, he describes the conditions and traits of people who have made notable contributions to their fields and who describe themselves as generally gratified and happy. His aim: that we might cultivate meaningful, rewarding lives of creating. His work has brought “flow” into our common vocabulary.
When I laid out Campbell’s studies of a quest next to Csikszentmihalyi’s description of flow, certain similarities became obvious:
- meaningful moments do not arise from the benefits of wealth or drug use
- involve high degrees of novelty and, hence, uncertainty and ambiguity
- involve risk-taking and constant challenge
- require devotion to something greater than one’s self (self-transcendence)
- are driven by interest, curiosity, and wonder
So when we’re engaged in a meaningful creative life and flow, we potentially are engaged in a quest – and all of the challenges and potential transformations that can ensue.
Where Book Architecture Meets Brand Architecture
I also connected two other dots. The tenets of what make for a captivating story in a novel, memoir, or trade nonfiction thought leader book transfer in part to what makes for a captivating story in a brand.
More than the latest information or product, we ache for Story. It turns out that when an intellectually curious and creative-minded author, thought leader, or service provider has a Story framework for building her signature presence and brand, she’s not only centered and driven. Her actions bring greater results. More engagement. More return. More gratification.
Hero’s Quest meets Creative Flow meets Book Architecture meets Brand Architecture.
Now I’ve been living this question this year behind-the-scenes:
Is it possible to design a series of learning experiences for intelligent, creative people
that help them live out such meaningful creative quests
that in turn help them make a right livelihood and make a difference?
That question expanded to a more ambitious question:
How could it be possible to
overlay and play with models of Joseph Campbell’s heroic quest with
the latest science of captivating creativity and flow,
the art of Tracking Wonder,
the research of deliberate practice & excellence,
the art of experience architecture and of story architecture, and
the art of captivating and elevating content
all in an elegant way that guides people to
design intentional lives,
make art that matters happen,
build a signature presence, and
make a difference?
I’m going to unfold a series of skill-building, habit-changing, action-leaning learning expeditions aimed to help us do just that: design our lives as creative quests so we can make art that matters happen, build a signature presence, and make a difference. Together.
If You Want the Lowdown on the Past 30 Years’ Quest
If you’re still curious about my backstory: 18 and restless at the University of Texas at Austin, I found a book that lit me up. My English professor had assigned a passage from Thoreau’s Walden. Walden promised to this poet in a Texan’s body a different, imaginative way of life that was not devoted only to making money and building status and aiming for comfort.
I could live a fulfilling life deliberately to pursue meaning first.
I was soon immersed in psychology courses and literature courses, reading Jung, Maslow, Modernist lit, and Joseph Campbell’s studies of world mythologies and story forms. Grad school led me to more philosophy and the study of “What makes a life worth living?” and “What makes a good story?” (Aristotle lived both of those questions.)
At 25, I co-founded with a professor at Southern Methodist University The Walden Institute. For ten years, The Walden Institute was devoted to studies of living deliberately in the early neuroscience of the time, world mythologies & literature, mindfulness traditions, and existential psychology.
Fast-forward, I’ve published a breakthrough book on the writing life with Penguin, designed ancillary signature programs, and taught in and spoke at Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative & Professional Writing Programs as well as at major writer’s conferences and optimal living centres in four countries. I’ve devoted much of my adult life to shaping books, stories, and brands for my audiences, as Fiction Editor for Tiferet Journal, and for numerous clients and teams.
Clients have become New York Times best-sellers. Earned 6-figure advances. Written breakthrough books for the big 5. Leveraged self-published books to build their platform with great return.
I’ve also rolled up my sleeves and helped entrepreneurs, authors, and thinkers take their big idea and build their powerful signature presence online and live. Think: branding as creative process with integrity and handsome return. I’ve built a solid business with complementary brands.
And with my entrepreneurial wife I’m raising a little girl (soon to have a sister) and building a home base, our own Ithaca, for our adventures.
But overall my greatest reward is helping intelligent, creative people lead and shape deeply gratified lives of meaningful making.
I don’t typically write about my own process of thinking & creating out loud. I give you this background because what I am about to share with you is not theoretical. It comes from my living my own quest and questions steadfastly in an oft-circuitous odyssey-like pathway, and it comes from trekking successfully with others who are doing the same.
On January 8, I will unveil these learning expeditions and share with you in-depth 16 Talents & Skills to help you make this year the year you
Join me here.
Does any of this resonate? Let me and the other readers here know what question you’re living now and this coming year. What are you questing after?