Grounded & Steadfast

The journal of Chris Bowler, a collection of thoughts on faith, business, design, and the creative process.

“When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth? We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us. Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.”

Brady Quinn, the day after teammate Jovan Belcher committed a murder suicide.

Nov 20th, 2012

Surreal

We all have those days. Where one bad thing piles on another, until you ask yourself, “Is this really happening?” That was our weekend.

Friday was a busy day at the office, a short staffed kind of day. In the middle of that, my wife started to have chest pains. Several hours later, she was headed to emergency while I stayed at home with our four children. That night, our beloved dog Nacho never came home. Saturday morning, our son started throwing up. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, you know?

And that’s the moment where the temptation to give in comes. As I rolled my eyes upward, the thought comes; “What now, Lord? What else have you got for me?”.

Thankfully, I’ve been through hard times. I’ve experienced this moment before. And I’ve heard Him answer and He has guided me to new life. The truth is, all good gifts come from above. This is my reality. We benefit from mercies we don’t even see, mercies we overlook.

By Sunday, my son was recovered. My wife was home and feeling much better. Sadly, Nacho was found lying in the middle of the road, a victim of her failing eyesight and early winter nights. But, as we buried her body on Sunday morning, even that was an opportunity to teach our children about death. How it wasn’t a part of His design and how it has no place in the world to come.

And so when these moments come, I’m so thankful He’s taught me to sing with the hymn writers of old.

When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.

Amen.

Nov 9th, 2012

Kevin Richardson describes the issue of matching your times of creativity with your life’s schedule. As a father of many youngsters, this resonates with me — I know exactly what he means.

As a result, this impromptu late night motivation is essentially wasted. If only I could bottle it and save it for the morning… While I occasionally indulge myself by working a late night just to scratch my creative itch, I know it’s not practical to work that into my routine.

I love his conclusion as well, but I also have a few methods of actually capturing the inspiration. When an idea or a creative direction strike me in the late evening, I do one thing: write it down. I get a big pad if I need to sketch, or a separate piece of paper that captures the project or idea. I get it all out of my head.

Then, when time allows, I knock off as many little pieces of the task as possible. The key for me is remembering not to buy into the guilt. Rather, I remind myself that even a small bit of progress is just that — progress. And so I do my best to break that idea, that inspiration, into pieces as small as possible, then move them forward. It’s slow, but at least the idea isn’t lost in the business of the workday and its minutiae.

For me, the key is knowing that the creativity may not be there in the morning, but the motivation is. So if I can capture enough of the creativity when it strikes, the motivation will keep me moving forward.

Nov 6th, 2012

Rian van der Merwe shares describes how social media has started to make him feel. It fits well with my piece on the aforementioned Read & Trust magazine.

Nov 5th, 2012

A Daily Choice

I’m reminded that every day brings me one essential choice. I can make the most of what the day brings, or I can choose to despair.

Despair is a strong word, but it’s at the end of the road that starts with a complaint. Last week, after returning home from a week abroad, we found that winter had arrived while we were gone. A week away from home results in a lot of catch up work on its own; throw in 2 feet of snow to the mix, and suddenly I easily find reason to complain. Instead of spending my evenings working on a side project or prepping Bible study, I’m dealing with snow for 2 hours.

And those are the moments where I’m faced with the choice. I can grumble inside, allowing myself to be stressed by the mounting task list. Or, I can take a deep breath, look up into the moonlight heavens, recognize the majesty around me, and remember that I’m incredibly blessed to be warm, to have a home and family to care for, and rest in the knowledge that the work will never be done. Not in this world.

I struggle with this choice every day. But with age comes wisdom, and I’m learning.

Oct 30th, 2012

Tim Smith recites a great story that gives a glimpse into the every day, non-Apple event life of Steve Jobs.

That’s the moment. You don’t often get close to people like the Jobs, much less in a ridiculous situation like this, where you realize that they are just really good people. They’re normal, funny, charitable, real people. Not the people the press talks about. Steve is not the maniacal business and design despot the media loves to portray – well he is, but not always. These were real, nice, people.

A sidenote: stories like this a the perfect use of Quora.

Oct 18th, 2012

Overcoming Project Guilt

Sacha Greif wrote about side projects in his last newsletter, making some good points about the benefits of such things. He mentions that these side projects allow us to exercise creative muscle we might not otherwise get to and build up our resume. And I agree.

He also defines a side project fairly broadly and recommends keeping them to 10 hours in duration, start to finish.The issue though, is this: for some, even 10 hours are hard to come by. Personally, I don’t have 10 extra hours a week. He talks of the need to make sacrifices elsewhere:

I suggest committing a block of time that you usually spend on something else. For example, stop going to the gym or eat a sandwich at lunch for a week (or even call in sick for a day, or, as I like to call it, “self-initiated 20% time”).

I’m stretched and don’t have time in my life for going to the gym (I exercise my doing work on my land, something my kids can be involved in). If I’m going to squeeze in 10 more hours of work in a week, sleep is the only thing left to sacrifice.

Sacha makes some good points, but I don’t believe he has any children. And that makes a difference.

Your Family is not a Side Project

Over time, there can be a sense of guilt, or being left behind. I haven’t had time to learn SASS, or use GitHub enough. I haven’t redesigned my online store yet. These are all things Chris Bowler would like to do. And I hope to at some point.

But my purpose here is to simply encourage those with families. Please do not spend your time endlessly comparing your accomplishments or progress with those who have no family. Your setting yourself up for guilt at best, and resenting your family at worst.

Do not confuse this advice with a good work ethic. There is a place for working hard, for being focused, and for sacrificing things like social media and RSS so you can meet a target. So you can create more than consume.

But people who do not have a family to care for don’t even realize how much free time they have. They can even afford to waste some, because they have it in such abundance.

Not so with the family man (or woman). I have a wife, six kids, a full time job, a decent sized house, 1.5 acres of land, and lead a small group bible study. I cannot possibly pump out side projects at the pace of a single 20-something living in an apartment in San Francisco. The sooner I realized that, the sooner I could let things go and be at peace.

Priorities

In all of this, you will have to decide where your priorities lie. Is launching a new application, store, blog more important than building up your children? Do you find yourself watching the clock between 5 and 8 PM, waiting for the kids to go to bed so you can get in a few more hours of sketching, coding or PhotoShop?

Im not proud to say that has been an accurate description for a lot of my days in years past. And I still struggle with focusing too hard on one project or another. But what I’ve stopped doing is comparing myself with others. And that has led to more peace.

Oct 16th, 2012

Shawn Adrain writes:

The choices we make about our time determine the emotional response to the experiences we have. Therefore, it’s important to do what we love while enjoying contrasting experiences, and creating good habits as part of a whole and harmonious life.

He presents an interesting approach to this topic, which is increasingly relevant in our always-on culture. I especially appreciate his take on contrasting experiences — there’s a lot of wisdom in knowing that things you enjoy are better flavored when not experienced constantly. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Jul 9th, 2012

I’ve seen a number of folks link to this piece recently, which means many of us identify with the problem outlined within. I agree with the author that using ‘busy’ as a badge of honour is a sign of misaligned priorities in our culture.

But his conclusion is disturbingly myopic. The idea that everyone should work 4–5 hours per day and then relax and socialize the rest of their day shows a severely limited worldview. I hope Tim Kreider realizes that when he’s sitting down to a nice lunch with a friend, in order for them to enjoy those pomme frites, somewhere down the line there is a person who has to work more than 4–5 hours per day. Many lines of work simply require more time.

Most importantly, this type of thinking is only possible in an affluent location. The majority of the world’s population has to work extremely long hours simply to exist. So let’s not be busy for busy’s sake, but let’s also work hard to make things better for others, not only ourselves.

“When we’ve been humbled or embarrassed. When there’s no food on the table — can you imagine that? When our team loses. When we’re unmotivated. When we err. When we’re feeling depressed. When we think we may have lost the strength to go on. That’s precisely when we need strength from Jesus.”

David Mathis