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Word Art: Seven Ways to Sneak Past the Lizard Brain

Whenever possible, I set aside my birthday as a day to go out, explore, ramble and indulge myself a bit.  June 14, 2010 was no exception.  I spent the day visiting Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia Aquarium and that evening I went to a restaurant in Virginia Highlands for Linchpin day.

Linchpin day was, in short, a gathering of folks inspired by the Seth Godin book Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?, which I hadn’t even read yet but was looking forward to doing so.  I had a marvelous time meeting with people who were enthusiastic about the idea that work could be about passion, about connection, about making a difference in the world and that your job didn’t have to be some horrible hellish thing you put yourself through so you can pay for a secure place to sleep and watch television in.

While gathering information about the meetup, I also found out that a group of people were putting together a magazine to commemorate Linchpin day and to make sure that contributors would ‘ship’ as quickly as possible, they placed a 48-hour deadline just after the meetings, so people would get their ideas and impressions in right away instead of dithering.

So the next day, I bought a copy of Linchpin, read the whole thing, got out my materials and made some art.

Seven Ways to Sneak Past the Lizard Brain

1.  Tell the lizard brain you’re only going to work on The Big, Scary Thing What That Needs To Be Done for only five minutes.  Do so.  When the five minutes are up, do just five more.  Repeat until momentum causes you to lose track of time.

2.  Picture the awful things that the demon in your head goes on about being said by somebody you would dearly love to piss off.  (You might do best to invent someone, so your contempt doesn’t carry over to a live human being.)  Imagine him like the villain at the end of some comedy, at the moment he has been proven powerless and is stomping and flailing and trying to reassert his vanished authority.

3.  Do the lousiest, crummiest first draft of The Big Scary Thing What That Needs To Be Done that you can possibly come up with.  Get from Point A to Point B and fix the result.  There’s no way to sharpen a blade before it’s been forged.

4.  Procrastinate your self-indulgence.  Sure, you’ll go and check on how the Internet is doing.  Eventually.  Just five more minutes on The Big Scary Thing What That Needs To Be Done, that’s all . . .

5.  If you have the flexibility to do this, give yourself two options: you will work on The Big Scary Thing What That Needs To Be Done, or you will do nothing at all–no books, no Internet, no phone, nothing.  Sooner or later, your lizard brain will get bored enough to roll over and let you work.

6.  Imagine that somebody is anticipating The Big Scary Thing What That Needs To Be Done and looking forward to the day that your creation meets the world.  Even if the only somebody is you, it is more than enough and you shouldn’t ever deprive yourself or any other.

7.  Always remember that the amount of energy you put into worrying about something does not count as effort expended towards solving the problem . . .

(For those of you scratching your heads and wondering what a ‘lizard brain’ is, I’ll just quote a bit from the book itself to explain:  “The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe . . . The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival . . . The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can.”)

The reason the word “Done” is in bold?  Because I screwed it up the first time I wrote it and correcting it resulted in it resembling boldface.  So I kept it for all subsequent iterations.  This was very much a making-it-up-as-I-went-along kind of work, which meant I reached into my handy bag of Stuff I Say To Myself An Awful Lot (particularly the last line) in order to get the page filled.  But it seemed like the kind of advice that others might benefit from, so there you are.

I sent it in to the magazine and wasn’t sure if they’d even make use of it, or if it would just wind up on the website edition, but much to my amazement when I got my copy, there I was on page 33.  Then I looked in the back and saw that my website was there on the contributors list and thought, hmm, I should probably update or something . . .

Printout of this work (3.1 MB .jpg file) available here.  Please read the license details.

The original is not for sale.

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