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Are you willing to be challenged? Who challenges you?

We describe things with the word "comfort" when they lull us into complacence. This is not always bad, but it's not always good.

The comfort of your own space, for instance? Awesome. Your surroundings are familiar. You know the smells, where to sit, where you can be productive, how the coffee pot works. You're probably not on your toes (unless you have a Kato in your life). You can kick off your shoes and fall into whatever it is you're doing.

Comfort food? Maybe on occasion, but think about it: When you eat a big plateful of fried chicken and macaroni and cheese, you're ready for a nap. Conquering the world will have to wait.

Art, for me, is somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, I'll dance around to a pop song, but the art I come back to over and over really challenges me. After 40 hours in the car last week, I listened to a lot of music, and I was reminded that James O'Brien's work has always challenged me. From his song "Paint":

Like God, this will demand a conversion
Strip you bare, make it say what it is you're scared of
Like God, this will certainly divide you
What you think, what you feel, what you love
So you sit and sip your coffee
You consider the blackness of your cup
You said, "Paint? I thought you were a singer.
Now all this talk of canvas and God?"

I don't know why I picked that one. It could have been anything. Don't want the music (or can't find it at this point)? Try his book on being an independent writer.

I figured, if it's the challenging stuff I come back to, I'm probably not alone. So I was surprised I got exactly one response to a tweet asking who challenges you. I mean, I'm not Superman (or Tim Ferriss), but I have enough people following my Twitter feed that I should have had more than one response.

Here is Derek Hess's work. He's got a clothing line, too. His stuff is, indeed, challenging. Great stuff.

But why did I only get one response to two askings? Are most people simply not willing to be challenged? Why not? It makes you more complete, moves you forward. I promise.

I'm going to leave you with two things. First, I know I've said it before, but read The Flinch. It's essentially the opposite of Malcolm Gladwell's classic Blink. Instead of being about the stuff that makes you make a sudden judgment, it's about breaking the snap "don't" reaction. It's free, and it's about a 2-hour commitment. Plus a little sweeping and a shower.

Also, I'm leaving you with Tom Waits's "Potter's Field." It's a bargain from the edge of a maniac's dream.


Click through to see lyrics.

Now, what challenges you? I'm looking for new stuff.

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2 Comments

  • Posted 04/12/2013 at 11:36 | Permalink

    I completely agree with you, and the Pink Panther segue is clutch (still laughing at Pink Panther just like the first time I saw it).

    Familiarity is great. It’s easy to relate to, and you can develop great ideas from familiarity.

    Stepping out of my comfort zone is where it’s at. The anxiety that precedes stepping into the unfamiliar or new territory–whether this is a place, a date, an activity, new music, or even a book–is a sure sign that something will come of this. Risky behavior is one thing, but we don’t want anyone hurting themselves.

    I’ve been listening to French jazz, which is odd, but it’s helped with my writing and creativity significantly. (I wish I could write like Tom Waits.) Improv, which I began in January, was difficult yet incredibly rewarding. Traveling by myself and taking on different responsibilities have opened new perspectives, generating new outlooks and voices.

    In short, do something positive that makes you initially uncomfortable. Good can come of it.

    Keep up the great work, Josh.

    • Posted 04/12/2013 at 11:53 | Permalink

      I’ve always kinda wondered about Kato’s opportunity for advancement within the organization. I know he handles some of the butler-type duties, but the biggest part of his job is keeping his boss on his toes by attempting to severely injure or kill him. If he’s successful, he’s out of a job (what with the boss whose laid up and not bringing in cash), and if he continues to be unsuccessful, can you really give him a raise and new duties?

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  • […] (thank you, Pandora Radio), which I commented with and on fellow a CNY blogger’s, Josh Shear, post about challenges that yield artistic expression. ¬†Through the comment and consecutive¬†Twitter¬†tweets with Josh–yes, I just said Twitter […]

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