“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”
Vincent Van Gogh
The best ideas often come from raw and difficult experiences. It’s like we take everything we are feeling, ball it up and use what skill we have—be it our voice, guitar, words on a page, dance—and creatively express it out of us.
Creativity can be an excellent release valve when the pressure of life starts to build. Making something is a creative way to release what’s bottled inside in a positive way.
Difficult moments in our lives suck—but they also add a little bit more color to our story.
Difficulty is part of being human. At least it’s a big part of being creative and putting yourself out there. When I feel the most comfortable and complacent, my ideas suddenly dry up. Imagine that. It’s like we need challenge in order to be imaginative and create something worthwhile.
Now, challenge is not the same as sabotage or danger. It’s one thing to push yourself to the limit of discomfort, it’s another to sabotage yourself and make life difficult for yourself.
Challenging yourself and stretching your comfort zone is getting you somewhere. Sabotaging your success (and failures) with bad habits (or negativity) is only holding you back.
Remember, there will always happy “days” and hard “nights” in our lives. If you’re going through a rough night, keep your head up because night is always followed by day.
“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”
Whenever I’m feeling nervous about something, I know it’s a good sign that I need to be doing it. Singing, for example. It’s something I’ve been learning for the past couple of years. It feels natural singing and playing guitar by myself, or with friends. But I know I’m still in the beginning stages, so I always feel a little discomfort in the pit of my stomach and my heart starts fluttering when I sing for others.
If something is easy, it means we aren’t challenging ourselves enough.
It’s not difficult we want, rather challenge. Hard, not for hard sake. Hard because we want to feel uncomfortable. Well, we don’t want to bu uncomfortable, but that’s where improvement and growth build from.
Discomfort is how we grow. When we step out of our cozy slippers and step into a new and unfamiliar place, we push ourselves to grow.
There are many ways we can challenge ourselves. We can challenge ourselves by doing more. By doing less. By doing something different. By doing something that scares us. By doing something that is unfamiliar. By mimicking others.
We push ourselves to fail. Again, not intentionally, but because dancing on the edge between failure and success is where the magic is.
“Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.”
Ambition—the drive to work hard and dream big—naturally has its advantages. It makes us challenge ourselves. It’s a forcing function for continuous growth and change. It prevents us from being complacent. It helps us build momentum and keep going when difficulty arises.
But ambition has its disadvantages too. It keeps us up late past a healthy bedtime. It pushes us to overwork and stress ourselves out. It keeps our mind focused on the future versus enjoying the present.
We need a healthy amount of ambition to make things happen, but if we become too ambitious, we can over overextended ourselves.
It’s the classic Icarus story. The Greek myth spins the tale of Daedalus and Icarus. Locked away on an island, Daedalus built two pairs of wings, made out of bird feathers and wax, so that he and his son Icarus could escape. When the time to fly arrived, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, but of course Icarus didn’t listen and the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea.
Everything in moderation. Left unchecked, our ambition never stops expanding. We say yes too many times. We take on one too many projects. We adopt too many good habits at once. Basically, at a certain point, we become too big for our breeches. And the original goal collapse.
The key to a healthy balance of ambition by adopting a similar mindset we typically have when buying things. We generally put purchases into two categories: needs and wants. We need food and we want the latest and greatest phone and gear.
When you have a great idea, ask yourself—
Is this a need or a want? Do I need to do this, —as in I feel called to do this and will give my time, energy, and money to try—or do I just want to do this—because it sounds cool.
Watch out—sometimes a want is disguised as a need or vise versa:
A need is a want that we give priority too.
A need that’s not necessary or not possible right now is a want.
Needs can be disguised as wants by the fear we have of doing them.
A need can often come from someone else’s wants.
A want that you feel called to do, or no one but you can do might be a need.
A need is really a want when it has ulterior motives, like fame and fortune.
* A want can be a short term solution to a hidden need we aren’t aware of or we are ignoring.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”
I think personal freedom most of us want—the flexibility to do whatever we want when we want it—isn’t what truly gives us freedom.
True freedom is a balance between flexibility to create the life you want, and constraint and challenge to do so by our own hands rather than something given or easily bought.
Without challenge, life feels dull. Too much challenge (at once) and life becomes unbearable. Personal freedom lies within those boundaries.
This plays out on the micro-level of life as much as the macro.
I love reading and I think I want an infinite amount of time to read, but I’d probably burn myself out if that’s all I did.
I love traveling, but if all I did was travel I would eventually feel like a ragdoll.
I desire more wealth, but if all I did was work I would have no life outside of work.
Like everything in life, too much of anything has diminishing returns and becomes harmful. Absolute freedom leads us to Netflix in chill our way to oblivion. it’s the equivalent of having a diet of only eating ice cream. Not only is this harmful, but its also increasingly satisfying.
All this to say, that a balanced life is more than just work, or more than just your art, or more than just your friends or just your family.
A life in balance is all these things and more. Failure needs success. Loneliness needs love. Money needs a purpose. Happiness needs contentment. (Yin needs Yang.) And vice versa.
Lewis became a master of connecting. Maria became a master by connecting ideas from across time. Paul became a master of speaking, teaching and emotional intelligence. Ramit became a master of money and psychology. Pat became a master of podcasting and business by helping others.
We all have our influences in real life and on paper. Titans of our industries. But no one starts at the top. (And if they did they wouldn’t have the values to stay there.)
The question is what strategies and insights can we learn from them and apply to become our own thought leaders. How do we get from 0 to 1? (H👺ll, how do I get from 0.01 to 1?)
I see writing as a direct window into the soul. Our thought process, fears, strengths, ideas — who we are, etched a period of time. (Even lies give us valuable insights into their psyche.)
That’s why I’ve decided to start binge reading blogs of thought readers I follow and enjoy. To know where they started, and understand how they become who they are today. I don’t want to be Tim Ferriss, or Pat Flynn or whoever, but I want to similar things they have created for lives. I want to be able to learn, create, and connect without being encumbered by if I’ll be able to pay rent next month.
Of course a blog is just a piece of their life, but even a small slice of what it takes to be successful is enough to create radical change in our lives.
And I figure, If I’m going to binge something, might as well make it something that improve my life and makes me a better person. (… …. okay fine fine, I’m still going to binge Stranger Things too. 🙂
Here are 5 ground rules I’m following:
1. I am binge reading at most two blogs at a time. (Two because I want to find connections and correlations between the two influencers) 2. I will read every relevant post, but if they seem useless to my life I’ll skim them. 3. Any time a blog sparks an idea, be that a writing prompt for Renaissance Life or an idea I can use for my work (at 60Watts, boldsheep, Pass It Down or Paul) I will immediately start working on the idea until completed. 4. If any blog post mentions something I should do (action steps) I will immediately do it before moving on. Whether that’s a challenge, business advice, or anything that resembles increased happiness and wellbeing. 5. Some Influencer don’t JUST have a blog but a podcast, books or other areas of interest. I will binge those as well.
I’m looking for patterns, insights into life and how they become who they are today.
If I am every going to be worthy of the title of a Renaissance Man, I’ve got to learn from the best.
Age 25. Residential Counsellor at a group home for people with different physical and mental disabilities and behavioral disorders. Freelance artist which includes photography, writing, painting, tattoo design, etc.
Located in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. A little town five minutes from the Atlantic. Come visit yo. I’ll take you to the water.
Q:What / who inspires you and why?
The wilderness/any place with mountains, lakes, and oceans. I just adore the fact that it was all made for you and I. It’s gold and inspires my heart to create out of seeing beautiful places and soaking it all in. There is clarity in the wilderness and thats where I feel most at home.
One of my best friends, Eric Weaver. His heart is on rhythm with love and honor and beauty and creativity. He sees people well in moments when they feel unseen. He sees beauty in the simple moments. I treasure our friendship/brotherhood. At a time I felt like I didn’t belong he held me and said “you’re home.”
Jedidiah Jenkins. His work, his words, and his heart resonate so much with mine.
Q: What are the best lessons your mom and dad taught you? (Or siblings)
To stretch my heart out and love the ones that some may forget or the ones that may not be easy to love. Going to every extent to love and serve and give to others even if it causes you to sacrifice everything. That love wins in every situation even if it’s not the easiest to do and goes against the grain. To be known as a deep lover of people. To be known for not being afraid of love or to be swallowed whole by it. To forgive always. It’s a process but I’m thankful for it and know I’m getting there.
Q: What’s a challenge you’ve faced recently and how did you handle it?
Rejection in relationship.
There has been a cycle of being rejected in love. It’s hard to heal in similar processes after someone leaves you. I feel the hardest part has been not feeling enough or worth a yes or no. Learning to walk into the next free version of myself has been a challenge. Technology these days makes it hard to move on. You almost need to go off the grid for a while to find yourself again. That’s where I’m at and I know the sunshine is finding my oceans in the process.
Q: What’s your favorite travel experience?
I’ve been majorly blessed by many, but this one stands out. Backpacking / leading a team of students through East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania) for 5 months. Was probably the most challenging and best thing.
Q: If you could have a dinner party with anyone in the world (or in history) who would you invite?
Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Amy Winehouse, My best friend Morgan, Alexander the Great, My grandfather, Jedidiah Jenkins, Michele Obama, Timothy McVeigh. Pretty dinner? Yes.
Q: In one word, how would your best friend describe you?
(love you deep Morgan.)
Q: What are some decisions you’ve made that has made you who you are today?
I decided to throw away my boundaries once and open myself up for any challenge even if fear is in the equation. I’ve felt in doing that, fear leaves and the boundaries and walls come crashing down leaving room for free creativity and love to flow. Ba-bye fear, hello freedom.
Q: What songs do you sing when you are alone? And what new bands are you digging recently?
I love singing powerful love ballads or gospel songs.
Q: What advice would you give to someone pursuing creative work?
To be authentic in every way.
Find / fight for spaces and places that make you dream and get lost in.
Always do what makes your heart come alive, and let go of what needs to go in order to pursue the wild creative you. You never know what wonders may come out of you and what beauty you can create.
“Fear has no place.” repeat until you’re not afraid to create what you want and until you don’t care what people will think. It’s your work and your eye. Own it babe.
Learn to dance and not care.
Q: What’s your mission in life?
To love deeply and empower others to do the same. To create spaces where people come to know how loved they are and to pull the gold out of one another. To come alongside others that may be having a hard time, meet them where they’re at and show them that they are not alone in the process. That even though days are hard that there is beauty in our own processes and journeys whatever direction our lives may be going in and wherever we are at right now. Out of that, live overflowing and passionate lives. To keep my eyes and heart wide open.
Q: If someone gave you 10 million dollars, what would you do with it?
Give it away to people that would create self sustaining opportunities to give more away and create a ripple.
Visit and spend time with everyone I love.
Q: One thing you liked about last year, and one thing you want to improve this year?
Found / built a community of amazing, beautiful, passionate, and creative humans to live life with and celebrate one another on the daily. They’re pretty damn rad and it’s an honor/privilege to be surrounded by so many beautiful people.
(J: I want to build a community like this..)
Maybe not give my heart away so easily. Listen more, rest more, breathe more. To live in freedom and not as a victim.
Q: What’s a question you wish I asked, and what’s your answer to it?
Q. Do you like flowers?
I do. I adore flowers. I love giving them away most of the time. But maybe I’m stuck in this place of still bringing flowers home for the one my heart used to be fond of. Or maybe they are for healing my heart. Either way my house usually has vases of dead flowers and I’m slowly growing.
(J: I need to do this more. Give flowers to those I love. They not only brighten up the home, they brighten up the person you give them to, and solidify the relationship.)
Thank you Gregg for taking the time to answer my Q’s
Q. How do you answer the infamous question, “So what do you do?”
I hate this question haha. Maybe it’s because I feel like it defines you—or attempts to define you. I hope that I love others well and am a constant to people in their lives. Everything else is an aside.
Q. What’s your favorite travel experience?
India. Hands down. It is a piece of my heart. It’s the first time I feel like I knew what it was to fall in love. While it may not have been a person, to know that you had been meaning to “meet” a place for so long—once I found that, everything about that place becomes a rhythm that you feel beating with your blood, within you. That’s how you know.
* I feel that way when I travel. As if I’m taking off the weight of my ‘normal’ life and experience the world completely different and new.
Q. When did you first start playing and singing music?
I started playing music when I was around 15. It began around the time my Nanny passed away unexpectedly. I remember writing an instrumental piece on piano for her funeral. I started writing songs when I quit my lessons (‘rebel’) in high school. It was mainly to get back at girls who had done me wrong. As you can see, not much has changed.
Q. Who in your own life has influenced you to take the leap into the music biz?
My mentor, Jeff Bourque. He was the worship leader at my church for years. He used to come pick me up from high school and we would go back to my house or his and he would show me how to write a song. It’s his fault I always tell him, hahah. He was and still is such an encouragement. Little did we know, he and I would embark on recording the singles I released over the course of 2015 and 2016. I am forever grateful for him and just his belief in my potential. It’s an amazing thing to see someone go from being a mentor to a friend to a brother.
Q. What bands or individuals have influenced you?
I have always been infatuated with Fleetwood Mac. How can Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham embody SUCH CHEMISTRY onstage every show? It’s mesmerizing.
Q. How has relationships and connections impacted your craft (and life)?
It (relationships) has literally been the inspiration for all of it. I would say if you know my songs, you know my love life—and in many ways…me. A few miss-truths here and there, but songwriting for me is therapy. It has helped me walk forward. It’s the one place to be totally open and have no need for a filter. No one can tell you what to say or how to say it. You get to recount every memory, every instance. I have found it to be one of the most ethereal places for me.
Q. What’s your song writing process now? Is it any different since you started?
I always just begin.* I usually play my piano and start singing at the same time. I’ll rarely deviate from that and base something off of a line in my head or a melody I hear when I’m sitting in the steam room at the gym.
* Same here, songs come from a hum, or unexpected places.
Q. When did the name Bandit Heart pop into your head? What’s the story?
I just wanted to name this thing something that wasn’t my own name. I wanted it to have no preconceived notions on what it could be or would be for anyone listening.
Q. What are some decisions you’ve made that have made you into who you are today?
Trusting Jesus Christ has been the anchor for me in my life. Everything else pales in comparison right now. It is the one, true adventure.
Q. What songs do you sing when you are alone? And what new bands are you digging recently?
I usually listen to classical music when I am alone, haha. I love where it takes me. I feel like I’m in an indie film usually. ‘Spiegel Im Spiegel’ by Arvo Pärt is my favorite piece.
Q. What is your story around health?
Well I am a vegetarian who occasionally eats fish. I love to run. Running is another therapy I entrust to get my spirit moving. I eat pretty clean and I love wine. Those are my caveats. Years ago, when I was in another band, I became sponsored by a company called Garden Of Life—and they have pretty much become my girlfriend.* (IG @gardenoflife)
Q. What advice would you give to someone pursuing creative work?
Always be yourself. Never let anyone else ever put a dream in your mind that you don’t want. Always listen to God. He will never steer you wrong. He is guiding your life in a way that you might possibly may never be able to completely fathom, but He loves you and wants you to trust Him. Success is not about money. It’s who you impact and how those things along the way bring joy to your heart.
Q. What advice would you give someone who wants to jump into music, but hasn’t taken that leap yet? (aka me ha)
I always feel like the word “leap” has some expected HUGGGGE action to it, but in all reality, it’s just deciding to put your foot down and start somewhere. I usually tend to turn off sensor in my brain that makes me nervous and just do things how i believe they should be done. NOT in a cocky way, but to the extent that i don’t keep freaking myself out. If i’m so nervous about releasing a song or an EP, it will never release. But the biggest thing you can think about music, in my eyes, is you are creating for someone else. In the grand scheme of things that person is God, but at an earthly level, you never know who truly needs your music.You never know. And once that stuff is out there, it’s theirs…it’s the listeners. Who are we to say that they don’t deserve to hear it? Who are we to say that they may get more out of a song than we ever will….even if we wrote it. Find people that you can pour into but also find people that can pour into you. Not just to give you technical advice, but those who can encourage you and you are able to encourage them. Building a community around creativity is vital to your survival. Not just as a musician, but as a human being. Some of my favorite and most personal relationships revolve around people who aren’t even other musicians. I don’t have this secret circle of music pro types. It’s those who love life in the way that I do, and in most ways, do it entirely better than me—BUT they build me up and spur me on to want to do the same for them as well.
Q. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Listen to God, always.
Open the door for her.
Walk her to her car.
Listen to what you want to do, not what others think you should do.
Don’t always run; learn to walk.
Q. Who or what inspires you and why?
Nostalgia. It’s always there. It’s included in the memory packs of our brains. We can go there when we want; there are clothes and feelings and hats we can wear to make us feel like we’re 18 again….or 22…or 27. Nostalgia is special; it’s potent. It can get all over you if you let it and it can run you. But what I love about nostalgia, is I can go there and leave when I want. You can see old girlfriends, old memories, new loves, mistakes, happiness…whatever you want. It’s all there. I’ve never really said it that way, but I think that’s it.
Q. In one word, how would your best friend describe you?
Q. What’s something challenging you faced recently and how did you handle it?
I brought back a pretty rare buddy (sickness) from India that resurfaced after four months. It took me by surprise as well as my doctor. And in the five days of pain that I had, he told me that I couldn’t work. So I sat out on my porch and just soaked everything in. It was hard because I had to slow down, but i think sometimes in our lives, we get forced into things because we need to. And I needed that.*
*I’ve been experiencing my own flavor of this force recently. It’s humbling.
Q. What’s your mission right now? What does success mean to you?
Success is an illusion that we make up to feel compensated for and like we have approval. In my heart, success has been completed. Jesus lives; and He died for me. Anything I do now is out of joy because of that. My mission right now is to create music that can relate to other people, to be real with music, to not hide or cover it up. I also hope that at any moment, as my heart grows for India, that He is paving a way for me to transfer my life over there.
Q. If someone gave you 10 million dollars, what would you do with it?
Pay off my student debt; move to India; give the rest away.
Q. Do you have a mentor? If so describe them and the most valuable things you’ve learned.
I have had one since I was about 15. I mentioned him above, Jeff. I think the biggest lesson that he has taught me is mentoring someone isn’t about this massive transfer of information from an older person to a younger one. It’s about walking with them. And that should happen effortlessly. It’s deciding to stop and take the time. He taught me so much through that and that’s how we are still friends now. He’s one of my favorite people and his family still pours into me in an incredible way.
Q: Have you mentored someone?
I would say a lot of the reason I am a youth leader now is because of Jeff. For the last year I have had the honor of walking with guys who are sophomores in high school. It’s my hope to be with them through graduation, but I tell them all the time that it’s a never-ending dedication to them.
Q. One thing you liked about last year, and one thing you want to improve this year?
I can’t stress enough how valuable it is to be present with where you are. I am fighting in that arena and want to grow. Be present for the people you love.Be present for the job that you work at. Be present for the struggles just as much as the joys. You will never get back today. If you are always pining for tomorrow or the next big thing or the next year, you’ll always be one step ahead of “right now.” THAT is what I want to be working on this year and every year.
Q. What are some impactful books you’ve read recently and why? (Recent reads / or books you’ve read multiple times)
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” — Henry Ford
The Renaissance Life is not a solo endeavor.
Sure, if we wish to create change in our lives and the lives of others, we must be self-reliantand take continuous action with our own hands.
Being an Individualist doesn’t mean being alone.
We are more capable together than we are by our lonesome.
We become our best selves by connecting with others. We are better together.
And thus, a new segment on the RL called We the People: highlighting creatives who are a part of the Renaissance Tribe and represent our Ethos.
I ask you questions, you give us insights from your own life.
Enter Bonny Jean.
(bold’s and styling by yours truly — Josh Wags 🙂
Q 1. What are the best lessons your mom and dad taught you? (Or siblings)
“It’s okay if you’re not okay” – My little sister Suzannah. She told me that two years ago in the depths of my depression. I’ve learned that over and over again these past couple of years: It’s okay to be broken, to admit brokenness, to lean on friends and family who love you, and then do art, run, dance, sing, be outside… do something to work through your pain, but never ever ignore it. Your pain brings you closer to a truer version of yourself, but you have to face it and feel it to let it shape you into who you are meant to be. The first step, for me, was hearing “It’s okay if you’re not okay”.
Q 2. What’s your favorite travel experience?
Living on a hospital ship off of the coast of West Africa: My roommates from that time are still my best friends. It was definitely a life changing experience.
Q 3. What are some decisions you’ve made that have made you into who you are today?
Traveling after high-school and college and most recently moving to San Clemente- up rooting my life, starting over. I was once told “Travel trims the fat off the soul” by John Stember, a man I met while camping in the Grand Tetons. It’s true! Being around people with completely different childhoods and belief systems tests you. It reveals who you truly are deep down under all that comfort we’re surrounded by in our daily lives.
Probably the most profound decision I ever made was to live.
I found myself with bleeding wrists on the bathroom floor, hysterical, crying, rocking, wanting to die, when suddenly a profound calmness poured over me. I looked at myself in the mirror and said “NO. there is more life to live, people to meet, places to see, laughter to be had. You will not kill yourself” So I bandaged my wrists, wiped my face, and started being honest with myself and others.
Being honest means disagreeing with people.The decision to listen to my still small voice has been a big change for me. disagreeing with people is hard, but learning to exist and observe the world around me from an island within myself has been life changing. If you can live from a place of solitude (read: Henri Nouwen’s “reaching out”) you can love others more and appreciate and respect their beliefs and ideas.
Q 4. What songs do you sing when you are alone? And what new bands are you digging recently?
I sing “Day Dreamer” by Adele a lot… it’s just in a good key for me.
Q 5. What advice would you give to someone pursuing creative work?
Do something that scares you and you think you’ll hate. Turn off your brain and create, even if you think it won’t make any sense. Sometimes I paint something, then I write a bunch of stupid stuff all over it to ruin it and then I paint over it again… just don’t put boundaries on yourself. There are no rules!
Q 6. What or who inspires you and why?
Nature– being outside fuels my creativity. It’s big and fathomless and beautiful. We could never come close to creating something as magnificent, simple, and complex as a blade of grass.
Q 7. In one word, how would your best friend describe you?
Q 8. What’s something challenging you faced recently and how did you handle it?
It’s been a challenging year, to be honest, but the best thing I have learned to do is to make a list. One side is a list of things I know I want to do but aren’t good for me (think drink, reach out to certain people that aren’t good for me, rely on certain relationships too much) and on the other side is a list of things that give me life and bring me joy (think yoga, running, tea, safe friendships). I make rules for myself that I try to follow and then I breathe and do the next right thing for however long it takes to come out of the cloud I’m in. Sometimes that’s a day and sometimes it’s three months. I claim grace days. Where, if i got out of bed, put on clothes, and went to work, I am very proud of myself. “Should” doesn’t exist in my dictionary during these times and if I slip up and do something on my “not good for me” list I breathe, forgive myself, and remember that all that exists is today and I can do my best with what I have in this moment.
Q 9. What’s your mission in life? (Or mission right now)
To be present
Q 10. If someone gave you 10 million dollars, what would you do with it?
Invest in small businesses in 3rd world countries.
Q 11. One thing you liked about last year, and one thing you want to improve this year?
I learned to laugh again. I want to be more consistent.
Thank you Bonny Jean for your vulnerability, advice and words of encouragement.
If you want to give yours on the Renaissance Life, email me @: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: We The People. Tell me who you are, why your a good fit for the Renaissance Tribe and link your social media’s.
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In fact, even how we express our bodies changes how we think and feel.
‘Our bodies speak to us. they tell us how and what to feel. They change what goes on inside our endocrine systems, our autonomic nervous system, our brains, and our minds without our being conscious of a thing. How you carry yourself — your facial expressions, your postures, your breathing — all clearly affect the way you think, feel and behave.’