Structure for Creatives by David Choe

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Meet our friend David Choe, founder of Cuz.

Rhythms are a paradox. Through the repetition of notes and sounds and beats and their intentional and specific construction, rhythms move people. It’s fascinating to think that something so methodical and structured like a rhythm can cause something so fluid like the tapping of toes and the swaying of bodies.

In my world of strategy and design and creative work, rhythms often look like process. Creative people hate the idea of processes and structure, but without them there’s almost too much to consider.

For example, when someone tasks you with creating a brand, the thought of it is daunting. Where do you even start? This is when rhythms and process often come into play. Instead of putting a bunch of notes on a score hoping it creates something beautiful, it’s painstakingly considering each note and line, and their interactions with one another. It’s forcing yourself to put boundaries on your creativity. Putting your ideas into processes and boxes gives you something to push up against. It creates something for you to break and to change.

When stuff hits the fan and deadlines pile up, revisions seem endless, and people are tired, there’s a temptation to forsake rhythm for completion, and the work suffers.
It takes discipline to dig in and get back into the groove despite the mess that is going on around you. Rhythm and a person’s ability to keep it, is what seems to produce the best kind of work. To create work that means something to someone, maybe even move them.

At Cuz, rhythm is a bigger challenge for us, because we do all of our work on nights and weekends. But that’s also a part of our magic. We have even more limitations than the normal creative agency and in order to produce amazing work, we have to be more disciplined, go deeper faster and hold ourselves to even higher standards. You can be assured that because of our limitations and our convictions about our clients, we will be working harder and smarter than the rest.  For us at Cuz, there is only one option- to move people and we won’t stop until that happens.

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Rest and Work by Joshua Becker

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Written by Joshua Becker, from his Blog Becoming Minimalist

It is no coincidence that most of the major world religions exhort human beings to set aside time each week for rest. And even those who would not consider themselves religious still speak to the value of rest. As humans, we all have physical limitations.

There is a danger in our world to self-exalt ourselves over our limitations – to claim that we can work without rest. There is great danger in losing the natural rhythm between rest and work. Great danger for our physical bodies, our emotional well-being, our relationships, and our spirituality. Simply put, we must guard the natural rhythms of life.

Minimalism provides more opportunity for valuable rest, refreshment, and enjoyment. Removing the relentless pursuit of physical possessions from our lives frees us from the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Removing unnecessary physical possessions from our lives frees us from the burden of caring for them. Removing clutter from our homes allows energy to flow more freely. And removing the value we place on physical items allows us to redirect our values and priorities.

So take a deep breath or better yet, take a nap. And return to the natural rhythms of work and rest.

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On Rhythms by photographer Rachel Iliadis

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Rhythm: a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound.

It is the arrangement of habits and daily decisions that will ultimately determine the direction of your life (no pressure). As we see in the human body and nature, it provides the framework and foundation for life to move peacefully amidst chaos. We all live and breathe in these rhythms for better or worse.

As a 28-year-old INFJ(P) mom of two entrepreneur married to my polar opposite, I’m constantly on the quest for the ever elusive concept of rhythm (read any semblance of balance or sanity). But as it turns out, trying to create a harmonious life out of two unique personalities while parenting and running a small business has proven to be quite the challenge. Surprise!

I am a visionary and idealist. I live wide-eyed and openhearted, oftentimes prioritizing spontaneity over schedules and the future over the present. The big decisions over what culture might classify as mundane (laundry, taxes, bed time routine, etc.) Routines don’t come naturally for me.

For instance, when my oldest daughter Penelope was 2 days old, my mom asked me about our schedule, to which I quickly replied, “We’re not those types of people. We prefer flexibility. The constraints of a schedule have no place here.“

What I didn’t understand at the time is that a lack of an intentional rhythm oftentimes translates to disorder, and if we’re honest, wasted time.

Fast forward three long, sleep deprived years and one giant epiphany later, things look much different. Instead of waking up and letting life take me wherever it wants, I set intentions for each day and determine the course (with limitations of course). The result? Peace. Productivity. Health. And, my mind finally has the space it needs to create and process with clarity.

Even though my personality naturally gravitates towards go-with-the-flow spontaneity (the jump in a van and drive wherever the road takes you kind), that lifestyle wasn’t grounding when the storms came. It left me feeling anxious, depressed and unprepared. In our family, we’ve learned that implementing a slower pace of life with more boundaries is necessary for our holistic health.

Turns out my mom was onto something.

It’s important to remind ourselves that the now is all we have.  All we’re given. Live the story that you want to read when you’re older. And in order to achieve this, I believe you must mindfully define your goals and then establish rhythm and routines to slowly achieve them.

These singular, repeated notes of your daily decisions will create the song that is your life: either a harmonious symphonic masterpiece or noise. How do you want it to sound?

To check out Rachel’s lovely work: racheliliadis.co

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Healthy not Perfect by Jimmy Starnes

Today, Jimmy Starnes, Executive Coach, breaks down what Rhythms mean for him and gives us a guide to use for ourselves.

WHAT RHYTHMS MEAN TO ME:
Rhythms to me are regular, recurring, consistent activities. Add the word healthy” to the definition & I would say that they are critical in helping us move forward in the right direction. They equip us to achieve our most essential goals, & even accomplish our life purpose.

The older I get, the more chaotic life gets. The more information & opportunity is thrown my way, the more important healthy rhythms become to my ultimate success & sanity in life.

Rhythms are the foundation of my schedule. Everything else is scheduled around them. My personal rhythms uncover the most important priorities in my life. They reveal what is truly important to me. They point towards an ideal future that I am trying to create for myself & those around me. They create tremendous momentum & results. This is why it is so important for me to make sure that I choose the right ones, the best options. They must align with where I am trying to go & who I want to be in the future.

HOW DO I MAKE RHYTHMS A PRIORITY?

I make healthy rhythms a priority in my life by planning ahead & putting them on my calendar first.

The idea here is that the healthy rhythms will always be more important and valuable than the other activities that will begin to fill up your days & take over your schedule.

During the Paterson Center LifePlan process, I learned to break my rhythms down into different categories & specifically define them. Each individuals categories & lists will differ as we are all unique in our design. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when planning your rhythms, along with some of my personal examples:

Physical: What rhythms are important for me to take care of my body? How do I keep high energy levels? How do I rest & replenish?Example – Run 1 mile everyday before breakfast.

Intellectual: What stimulates my mind and feeds it? What challenges & inspires me? What helps me grow in the mastery of my profession?Example – Read 1 book per month that challenges & inspires me.

Emotional: What emotions are going on inside of me? Why those? How can I best process & understand them?Example – Journal my emotions every Tuesday afternoon & process with my wife.

Spiritual: What activities feed my soul? What gives me hope for the future? Example – Daily morning prayer/mediation for 15 minutes.

Relational: How can I connect with loved ones on a consistent basis?Example – Take my wife on a date night every other Thursday.

HEALTHY NOT PERFECT

There will be times that you miss a rhythm for one reason or another. Dont get discouraged: Its not about perfection, but developing a healthy consistency over time.

If your rhythms aren’t working, ask yourself these questions to reevaluate the process:

  1. Why are rhythms important to you?
  2. What have you learned about rhythms in the past?
  3. What’s working?
  4. Whats not?
  5. What is best for you? (Not necessarily what is easiest for you).
  6. What must you change in the future to make them successful?

All healthy rhythms start with a simple, new action. An action that can become a huge benefit to you if done on a regular, recurring, & consistent basis!

I believe we all have the opportunity to create a better future for ourselves & our world & I believe “healthy not perfect” rhythms are a critical part of the process.

To quote my friends at Plywood, “Better is possible & the future is good!”

RHYTHM: It’s what gets people out on the dance floor.

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Today, we have the opportunity to hear from Joy Thigpen, Creative Director, on the idea of the flow cycle. She breaks down her method and challenges us to think creatively about how to recognize this rhythm in our work when creating.

We all know it’s not the lyrics or the melody that matter even a fraction as much as the rhythm.

I did weddings (photographing and designing them) for over a decade and have seen, time after time, an empty dance floor and a shy, scattered crowd transform into a throbbing mass, joyfully flailing in unison as soon as that first compelling beat drops. Some people will know every word, some will only know a few words, and some will even endure lyrics they despise—because they
there for the rhythm. Inevitably, some people will hold out on the edges of the room, committed to conversation and/or unwilling to fully abandon their bodies to the music so publicly, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a single soul that’s not influenced. At minimum, their foot bounces, head bobs, hips sway, or walk falls in step. We just can’t resist a good beat.

But that’s on a literal dance floor. On the dance floor of life I’ve come to observe a pretty different scene—there is an amazing four-count beat going on that most of us try really hard to resist. It’s called the flow cycle.

Flow is the actual scientific term for when you’re in the zone; when you become hyperfocused on doing something and everything else melts away. You lose track of time, forget to eat, hit a new level of creativity, and are killing it at whatever it is you’re doing. Researchers have studied flow states in everyone from rappers and improv jazz musicians to waitresses and snowboarders and found that there are some neurological changes happening in a flow state that are highly addictive and may literally be the best feeling on earth.

This state of peak performance and feeling amazing is a place most of us have at least tasted and crave to be. And we can be frustrated if we’re not there. But what most of us don’t understand is that flow is just one beat of a four count rhythm. We have to go through three other phases before we can hit flow again.

In an attempt to understand and kind of learn to hack the pattern for the rest of us, Steven Kotler has been studying flow states in extreme athletes for years. He’s learned that there’s a cycle. Here’s a summary:

The Flow Cycle

1. Struggle. Struggle is the uncomfortable place where you are learning new information or skills, and/or working through the structure of what you’re going to do. Kotler says, “to get the most out of this stage you want to take this (the struggle/discomfort) almost to the point when you’re about to lose your mind and then pull back.” During this period all your stress hormones, cortisol, norepinephrine, adrenaline are rising and your brain is in high frequency Beta waves.

2. Release. You have to take your mind off the problem. Your brain slows down into Alpha waves and you trade your slower, lower ram, conscious thought processes from the struggle phase in for faster, subconscious thought with endless ram. “During the relaxation response, you’ve got a global release of nitric oxide gas, which is a signaling molecule everywhere in your body. It drops all the stress hormones out of your bloodstream and instead forces the release of dopamine, serotonin, anandamide, norepinephrine, endorphins, all the good chemicals that you want for flow,” Kotler explains.

3. Flow. Now your brain shifts into Theta and sometimes even Gamma waves. You’re in the zone, make fantastic decisions effortlessly, and feel one with the universe. You can enter a flow state (perhaps to varying intensities) while doing anything active but you’re much more likely to when you are acting out of intrinsic motivation. Freedom from distractions and self-judgement are critical. You’re most likely to hit a flow state when your challenge level and skill level is high. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the guy that coined the term flow, also hypothesized that autotelic people—people with a high level of curiosity, persistence, low self-centeredness, and a high rate of performing activities for intrinsic reasons only (so…Plywood kind of people) may be able to achieve flow more often than the average person. People in flow can be up to 500% more productive than when they’re not in flow (which would mean you could work one day a week in flow and be as productive as most people working 5 days a week), especially if they allow for the next phase…

4. Recovery. Last but not least. By this point you’re dropping into Delta waves. Your brain is spent and needs a period of recovery to replenish, consolidate memories, and rewire itself, which is where learning sets in. This is a great time to look back more objectively at what you did while in flow and see what’s worth keeping and what was just a crazy idea (so, editing). You can feel pretty horrible in this phase, especially compared to how good you felt previously, so it takes some awareness and grit to let yourself be here. Sunlight, sleep, and good nutrition can help you move through this stage more gracefully. The important thing is to not stress out about being here or you will crank up your cortisol which will prematurely send you back into the struggle phase.

Learning about this cycle has helped tune me into and give myself more permission to move through this rhythm more freely. Hopefully, becoming aware of this natural rhythm will help turn up it’s volume in your own life and invite you to at least fall in step with it if not give yourself over to it with full abandon. It’s a great beat.

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When you think about this process, where do you get stuck?