Rough around the edges

It can be lonely at the edges. (Image via Austin Neill)

Things are more interesting and potentially more truthful around the edges. This applies to anyone, from politicians to musicians.

Politicians that speak the truth become outsiders. But politicians¬†who abuse the ‘outsider’ status to pander to populist voters¬†squander their authenticity. They¬†can be as thoughtful as Bernie Sanders or as morally corrupt and downright¬†offensive¬†as Trump.

The artist also treads a fine line between a unique creative process to one that becomes manufactured. Take the case of MIA; the Internet made her a star and removed her underground status along with it. Another case and point: Diplo, once a revered beat-smith from Florida, now produces hits for Justin Bieber.

The challenge for politicians and artists alike or companies like¬†Apple, therefore, seems to be retaining their edginess despite a growth in popularity. Radiohead may be the paragon of balancing mainstream success while maintaining outsider¬†status. By changing up¬†their sound on each album, they’re able to appear credible to both the experimental listener¬†and the person seeking the¬†wisdom of crowds.

So how does a politician or artists push the boundaries without manipulating their uniqueness to the point of appearing fake? It depends on¬†how honest they are in their approach. If the work is worth talking about, it’ll spread along with its originality.

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Give it some thought

There’s always a ‘why,’ even if the oberservation is visceral. Feelings are antecedents to descriptions. The problem is communicating your gut into words. 

You already know the answer. What you don’t know is how to explain it. You can’t possibly understand anything until you give it some thought.

Reflection is at the core of all deeper understanding. If you’re still struggling to express it, grab a piece of paper and make a list. Reasoning starts from the inside out.

A cultural critique

Culture is a broad term used to describe¬†the¬†habits and practices of society. Cultures differ because people differ–in looks, tastes, and religion–and when there’s a hodgepodge of cultures, they mix to create something novel, i.e. America, which then becomes its own cultural pillar.

As broad as culture is, in say music with its infinite number of genres and subgenres, it can also be limiting. For instance, the three most popular operating systems smartphones run on are iOS, Android, and Microsoft. Given the scarcity of choice, people choose sides, resulting in Apple fans, Google geeks, and Microsoft traditionalists.

But even when there’s a variety of choice, a favorite always wins out. Whether it’s a preferred operating system, musician, film, or shoe style, some cultures become mainstream.¬†If you copy¬†such trends, you are the benefactor of the wisdom of crowds. If you’re an early adopter or renegade, you look for things on the edges which are a plausible reaction to the herd mentality.

Given culture‚Äôs categorizations, people always conform to a certain type regardless of how big or small a niche while at the same time, continuing to make something entirely new. Culture’s resistance to sameness guarantees its plasticity and therefore continues to evolve; unless you’re Mark Grief who appears to be¬†against everything:

Read Louis Menand’s ‘Cultural Criticism and the Way We Live Now

Success depends on your ability to endure boredom

50 cent curtis jackson success boredom

Your success depends on your ability to focus for extended periods of time. Whether you’re a writer, a musician, or basketball player, the goal should be to practice your craft at least an hour a day.

Focus is a discipline. It takes work, just as being happy is a decision that requires consistent effort. It’s easy to procrastinate and let distractions come to us so we can appear busy. Busyness often gets confused with checking email or social networking, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes waiting to pay at the grocery. You’re better off using that dull time to observe, listen, or mull over your own thoughts. Perhaps there’s something you forgot to do.

Your mind works like a dishwasher even when you’re awake to clean out the crap that’s not worth hanging on to. The internet more often adds to the noise and produces little signal. You want a brain that’s clear and connective rather than cloudy and chaotic.

The author Neil Gaiman believes that the best way to write a book is to be so bored you don’t have a choice. Imagine all the things you could accomplish if you used your time doing the work instead of dreaming about it.

david foster wallace on boredom