Josh Long

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This is Crazy

Over a year ago, I stepped out and went with my gut on a bold vision. In November of 2013, I started Patterns, a business and design school aimed to help artists sustain themselves better. I took the school from idea to a 3,000 sq ft, fully-renovated space in the matter of three months. I was on a mission to alleviate the world of the phrase “starving artist”. Through a lot of my work with The Great Discontent (and my admiration of it), and my work with Seth Godin, I noticed patterns that led to successful people and projects regardless of whether they made traditional business sense or not.

As a true designer, I kept digging into these patterns more and more as time went on. I heard stories from students and then received emails and calls about the projects they all started when they went home. The more I kept searching for the essence of what was happening here, the more I realized that this went much deeper than just a few patterns and business models.

Now, coming full-circle, The Great Discontent has teamed up with my friend, Elle Luna, to launch the 100 Days Project. Starting April 6th, I’m going to join in on this project with an even crazier idea. Throughout my studies of patterns, I’ve realized that there is psychology, biology, philosophy, business, and even metaphysics behind what makes someone successful in this life (whatever terms you may use to define success).

So, this is crazy, but… I’m going to sit back and dig into these patterns for those 100 days. I’m going to define them, write them, accompany them with a geometric drawing that I feel is connected to the pattern, and share it on Instagram as part of the project.

This is crazy. It makes no sense. It will explore ideas that scare me, might make me sound like I’ve lost my mind, and there’s a strong sense that I might fail miserably at it.

But it doesn’t matter. This is crazy, but it’s something I must do.

Creating Our Reality

The biggest challenge we face in a day is the battle that’s going on in our own heads. Sometimes we just think too much. We think too much of ourselves or we don’t think enough of ourselves.

We battle over the most simple task, like writing a blog post or designing a button, as if the entire world will see it and laugh at us.

First, people aren’t really paying attention to us as much as we’d like to believe. Second, everything that we tell ourselves about what might happen simply doesn’t exist.

The reality that we live in is very much in the control of our own ability to design. The mind patterns that we use on a daily basis are either patterns that serve us or hinder us. Are we going to approach our work as something that we create while staying safe from ridicule or do we create art that is bold and reflective of the fabric we’re made from?

Your own world is made of your own choices.

How you approach your day and your work is the foundation of everything you build or don’t build. Since no one is actually paying attention, go boldly on your path. By the time they do pay attention, you’ll be too far into the right path you won’t even notice anymore.

Create your own reality. Make something that you’re proud of when you lay down to sleep at night.

Skill Gifts

I spent a wonderful Saturday doing nothing but meditating, reading and reflecting. All day I sat at my desk with a wonderful gift at my side. A few weeks ago, my friend Frank gave me a beautiful print from his book, Shape of Design.

I found myself staring at this print, reflecting on what it meant (or could mean), and thinking about how lovely it is to receive a gift. Not just a gift that someone haphazardly bought for you because it was your birthday last week, but something that they made. A gift that has a lifetime of thought and decisions behind it.

In this overly-industrialized and consumer world that we live in, the things that we have seem to become less and less valuable.

This provides us a wonderful opportunity to stop, reflect and use the skills that we have to make a meaningful gift for someone. I wonder what it would be like to sit and create something from the heart – that has no point except to give it to someone as an unexpected gift.

Maybe I’ll do just that.

Why Ancient Wisdom is Better

It’s no secret that there are certain principles that have served us well throughout time. Principles like The Golden Rule or Supply and Demand have stood the test of time because they were grounded in being human and not subject to the technology of the times. There will always be new technology, but it’s what happens around the new technology that usually gets you where you want to go.

An understanding of technology is almost always necessary to build products and services because of how vital that information is to make decisions and to lead – but if you keep chasing the latest trends in technology, you could spend your life chasing your tail.

Some things like writing, design, learning how to “see”, leadership and decision-making will never go out of style.

I think it would be best to be aware of what the un-changing elements are in your life and try to spend more time getting better at those.

Ancient wisdom is better because it always remains relevant.

Consistency

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the last few years it’s that consistency can carry you farther than almost any other trait.

In a world where people build an app and give it two weeks to take off or die, consistency is a seriously overlooked advantage.

If you’re trying to build a brand, a business, an app, or a writing career, consistency is an essential part of fundamental business principle.

In my opinion, too many people forget that most successful careers, projects and businesses have taken over 20 years to build.

Don’t fall into the trap of Silicon Valley’s overnight success dream. Show up every day and do your work.

Seth Godin is one of the most successful people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting, and every morning I still have an article in my inbox.

Consistency, my good friends. Consistency.

Taming the Voices

Our lives are a constant battle between ideas, what to do, when to do it, and what to do first. We have bouts with resistance, doubt, fear, uncertainty and negative self-talk.

What app should I build? Which one of the hundreds of ideas floating around in my head, should I do first? What is my process? What is my design philosophy? How will I stand out? What makes the things I make different?

The key to getting what you want is to “Tame the Voices”. The way to tame them is to first identify them, and then act on them.

Identify ideas. Get clarity on whether or not they are worth testing. Understand when you’re negative talk is just fear of the uncertain. Find a way to separate the good ideas from the bad ideas and act on them immediately.

All of the ideas that you have philosophically about the work you do can easily be worked through by writing.

The only way to “Tame the Voices” is to isolate them and execute.

The longer they’re left to converse in your head, the longer they’ll keep you from your art.

Master

Have you ever been in the presence of someone that is an absolute master at what they do? Can you remember how it felt?

Trying to describe how I feel when I’m watching a master work is hard for me. How do you describe such admiration, respect, craft, legacy, and awe? How can you summarize the tools, the hours and years spent practicing, the broken fingers, the callused skin, and the breadth of knowledge?

You can’t.

You can only see it in their face. You can only see it in their work. You can only see it in their confidence.

“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.” Albert Einstein

That’s an interesting quote: “Mastery demands all of a person”. When watching a master in action you can see them consumed in their craft. You can literally see the passion flooding out of them with every swing of the hammer, every stroke of the key, and every swipe of the brush.

Everything has purpose. Everything has singularity. No step is unnecessary and the process is gospel.

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Michelangelo

There’s your advantage. People love to witness mastery. They love to taste it. They love to own it. They love to experience it. But the number of people willing to sweat and bleed to attain it are nearly nil.

What will you master?

Kill Your Heroes

I have a lot of heroes. So many people that I see online impress me with great work, thoughts, and creativity every single day.

So much so that I spend more time in admiration and thought than I do in creation. This is backwards and unproductive to say the least.

I think it’s a good thing to study and admire the work of others, but I think it’s counter-productive to have heroes. I say “Kill Your Heroes”. The people that we look up to are no different than we are. They still wake every morning with their own routine and their own ambitions for the day. They have the same fears, challenges, set backs, and epiphanies.

The difference is that they ship. Even if it’s something incremental, the people that we admire ship some form of work almost daily. They write, code, build, make, paint, draft, and anything else related to producing something of note.

The irony of all of it is, that once you start to be known as someone that makes, ships, and creates, your heroes will eventually come to you.

If you have no body of work there is nothing more than the potential discussions of one-way flattery.

Build something great.

Then you’ll have something to bring to the discussion.

Kill your heroes. Their work is great but it’s no more than you’re capable of.

No Such Thing as Side Projects

A lot of people have been asking me lately how I can do so many side projects. The truth of the matter is that I don’t do side projects. Side projects are ideas that people want to try and tinker with on the weekends. I feel that I have my work and that’s it.

This year alone I’ve written 3 books (Execute, Jenius and Design Evolution), started four podcasts (Happy Monday, Execute, Treehouse Chat, and The Industry Radio Show), started one job (Editor at Treehouse), started two applications, started a new magazine (Execute Mag) and started one company (Execute Ventures).

If you know me or know of any of these projects, you’ll know that none of them are side projects. They’re serious projects each with their own goals and execution of those goals. They’re businesses and passion projects all at the same time. I simply don’t work any other way.

That being said, new opportunities for projects and businesses come across my desk every day, so I thought it might be helpful to share a few of the factors that I use to test whether or not I’ll take on a new project.

Here are a few of the factors I look for in new projects:

  • Does it make money or is it viable?
  • Is it possible or feasible?
  • Does it help or delight people?
  • Is it different?
  • Does it have a unique hook?
  • Is it simple to prototype?
  • Does it make me uncomfortable and push me to learn something new?
  • Does it fit into my life’s goals?

These are just a few factors, but I think you get the point. I try to make sure that everything that I do has a point or a purpose. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s how I’m wired. I just don’t want people to think lightly of their work by calling it a “side project”. Start and test things to be real projects with your whole heart and purpose, and it will make a lot more impact than other people’s “side projects”.

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Copyright © 2015 Josh Long — Designer and Writer