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.

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.


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.


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?

Perceptions Interview with Dave Ranney

1. How does perception play a role in your creations?
By day, I am a graphic designer that uses color, form and typography to influence the way the public perceives a brand. The work I am creating as And Also sprouted from a 100-day project that had the goal of rediscovering my own visual POV outside of clients needs, wants and expectations.

2. How did you begin seeing the world this way?
I grew up going to the National Gallery and Hirschhorn museum in Washington DC where I stared endlessly at the works of Sol Lewitt, Frank Stella and Roy Lichtenstein. That modern minimalism bore its way deep into my psyche.

3. It seems like in every piece of art you create there are multiple ways of seeing reality. What deeper meaning are you communicating through this in life or culture?
I am easily distracted and my brain often feels like a computer with 100 different tabs open simultaneously. My work is a meditative process that follows a strict grid to create abstract forms with both 2D and 3D compartments for my thoughts. Think of it like a graphic version of The Container Store for my busy mind.

4. We noticed you are starting an Atlanta series. What do you hope for these new depictions?
The Atlanta buildings are part of a collaboration with a young, local fashion brand and an homage to the city I love. I get to explore my two new favorite things; generating figurative forms from physical inspiration and repeatable pattern design.

Toyota, Honda and the Perceptions that Drive Us All

by Jeff Shinabarger

I wanted a new car. You may have never thought about this, but as the leader of a nonprofit organization you can’t just drive any car. A used car would probably be the best choice, but my car-fixing abilities are minimal I even struggle to change a tire. So when it came time to choose a car, I started asking other people what kind of car a nonprofit leader should drive.In the end, the poll came down to two brands: a Honda or a Toyota. I will forever drive a Honda or Toyota. There’s a perception about both of these brands of being reliable, inexpensive, and not flashy. This is one of many decisions we make as leaders that create a set of perceptions about us. The perceptions of others impact how we are known.

We often try to navigate or shape these perceptions to work in our favor. We share only the best photos by setting up a shot, followed by editing that image or adding filters. Other times, for a heightened response, we pontificate about how hard life is to provoke empathy from our followers. Much of storytelling in the modern world is the art of crafting our story to shape a perception.

The problem with the information age is that we are given the power to shape what others think our lives look like every minute of every day. Is our artistic depiction of life the real landscape or a photoshopped version of ourselves?

I first realized this while writing a book. I was done with the first few chapters and sent them to my sister, Joanna, to begin the editing process. Being my older sister, Joanna has known me my entire life. She called me. Overall, she thought the chapters were good but wanted to talk to me about a couple of the stories. No matter what you do, you cant get anything past your older sister. She called me out. The stories, how I wrote them, were not completely true. In every story, I somehow became the hero even when I was not the hero. I spun the truth in favor of me.

Why do we think that making ourselves look good is what others want to see? What others actually want is an authentic depiction of a real life, full of hopes, dreams, and failures.

In contrast to the hero-focused chapters that I first sent to my sister, a couple of years ago I sent a transparent letter to our community apologizing for a failure. We had decided to end a project and felt it was important to openly share about what was happening. To this day, that letter led to the greatest response I have ever heard back from our community easily over 100 email responses filled with encouraging notes about how my honesty created relatability and nurtured a deeper belief in me as a leader.

We dont want untouchable heroes; what we want are courageous friends to share life with.

Donald Miller says, Sometimes the story we are telling the world isnt half as endearing as the one that lives inside us. The question becomes how do we come to know our true selves when we have built this habit of constantly working to shape how others perceive us?

If we can come to know ourselves truthfully, we might be able to share ourselves with others in a way that draws people in. We are all attracted to people that humbly share their tension-filled lives, not people that seem to have it altogether.

In the early nineties, Paul Feldwick defined brand in a classic way. He said, “a brand is a collection of perceptions in the consumer’s mind.” So, if a brand is equated to peoples perceptions, and we know this instinctively, then it must shape how we depict what we want others see. At a deeper level, we all want to be known for something, so we try to form that perception in how we present ourselves. If you are like me, you want to understand the perceptions of others, then determine if those perceptions are actually true.

There are three questions you should ask to help you move towards sharing what is true and to gain greater understanding of how you are currently known, personally or for your organization:

How do others perceive my personal life and my business? Ask people. Create a survey. Ask a question on social media. Host a focus group.

What are the differences between others perceptions and my true story? Sometimes it’s hard to hear what others say. It’s easy to defend your positioning. Process this question with a close advisor, friend or mentor. Select a person that won’t just tell you what you want to hear, but a person that speaks what you need to hear.

What needs to change? If the perceptions of others don’t line up with the life you are living, something needs to change. We usually either need to change how we live or change the story we are sharing with others. There is a great process we can all do to read our last 100 posts to see what we say about ourselves. This simple listening exercise will bring an awareness about what we say about ourselves. Now imagine the next 100 posts telling the truer story and start writing that for what may be next. Make a plan to speak what is true and remember that we all want to know your true story.

We can’t always control others perceptions, but let’s try to positions our lives, brands and communities as examples of courageous authenticity. We all want to live a great story and sometimes we forget that our current story is whats greatest in the minds of others.

And yes, I bought a Toyota again.

Success Rises and Falls on Culture by William Warren

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Culture is everything: success rises and falls on culture.

I’d define “culture” as the shared personality, values and beliefs of a team. It’s intangible but absolutely crucial.

If you have a good culture, your team will love working for you, you vendors will love working with you, and your clients will love hiring you. The opposite is true for a bad culture.

To build a culture, it must be defined, modeled, and reinforced.

Culture must first be defined, usually through a written mission statement (what you do), vision statement (where you’re going) and set of core values (how you act). At the Sketch Effect, we go a step further and have outlined “key behaviors” associated with each value. This is our filter for hiring decisions and performance reviews.

Next, culture must be modeled by leadership, which begins with the boss. A team will naturally replicate the behavior of their boss.

Finally, culture must be reinforced through activities and artifacts. Activities are things like scheduled retreats, lunches, celebrations, etc. The key word here is “scheduled” – it must be intentionally calendared and protected. At The Sketch Effect, we have quarterly retreats, semi-monthly team lunches, a weekly “sketch up” (i.e., “catch up”) meeting, and bi-weekly individual hangouts. Artifacts are physical things that populate your workspace. Examples are printed posters of your values, physical manifestations of inside jokes, or objects that hold special meaning to your team. For example, at The Sketch Effect, we have a “Gong of Awesome” in our office that we strike whenever anything awesome happens…whether that’s receiving a positive client survey, landing a big project, a team-member anniversary, etc.

At the Sketch Effect, we want our culture to be fun. I believe that if you hire people who are responsible and remarkable, you don’t need to worry about them having too much fun.

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