A few weeks ago I was introduced to the concept of Strategic Renewal, which focuses on optimizing our energy (which is a renewable resource) rather than our time (which is not a renewable resource). Our culture tends to focus on time — spending time, wasting time, optimizing time, scheduling time, etc. We often think that the more time we spend on something the more efficient and productive we will be. The idea of strategic renewal suggests that is the wrong perspective. Our time is not a renewal resource. Every minute spent on something is a minute that can never be recovered. It’s gone. Additionally, when we approach our work with the perspective that more time equals more productivity, we begin to burn out, lose focus, and ultimately accomplish less.
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Like many artists, I like my freedom. I value the freedom to do what I want, when I want. And there are certainly perks to that kind of freedom. However, in reality that “freedom”, which was really just a lack of structure and direction, wasn’t all that freeing, as I’ve talked about the past few weeks. The “freedom”, combined with a lack of clarity about my values and priorities, left me in a position in which I wasn’t accomplishing all that much. That defeated the purpose.
Last fall I had the opportunity to reconnect with Roderick, an old friend who was just a little kid when I saw him over ten years ago, and go to Mile Rock Beach in San Francisco for a photo shoot.
It wasn’t that long ago that I would wake up every day feeling a bit overwhelmed by the all the tasks that needed to be done, or at least that I thought needed to be done. I wasn’t even immune to it during the weekends. I would wake up Saturday and Sundays wondering how I could accomplish work in between “down” time with my family. Every day I would start tackling items on my to-do list, never really sure what was most important to accomplish, and what was ultimately a distraction. Also, as I mentioned last week, when moving from one task to the next, I often felt paralyzed by the decision of what I should do next. I would end up stalling the decision by checking my email or social media, and when I would make a decision it was often a task that was “low hanging fruit”, I.e. It was an easy, mindless task that allowed me to avoid the bigger, more important tasks. At the end of every day I was tired, frustrated by what I didn’t accomplish, and distracted by other unfinished tasks. I was paying a heavy price for the ways in which I was approaching my schedule. Not only that, but my family was paying a price as well since I was often distracted by what felt like important, unfinished work.
In the Fong family we value experiences and adventure, and we seek out ways to live out, and instill in our children, those values. In a culture often consumed with materialism and consumerism, we try to live differently. One way we attempt to do that is by going on family adventures that allow us to experience the world, other cultures, and and other communities.
Lately I've been learning a lot about my personal capacity, or lack thereof, in my daily life. My life is busy. I have a family. I work as a photographer to help with the bills. I work as a web developer to help with more bills (I do live in San Francisco after all). I am building a new organization/community called ASH that invites companies and individuals to come together around shared stories and experiences. I have personal creative projects I am working on. I regularly meet with and mentor artists around the Bay Area. I have a lot on my plate.
California is in the midst of a severe drought. The water is running out, the rain is absent, and the lawns are brown. Looking for lush, green grass? You’ll have to look elsewhere. Does your life ever feel this way? Your current life situation—community, relationships, art, culture—does it feel like it’s drying up? Perhaps you should look on the other side of the fence because, you know, the grass is always greener over there. Just look. It’s so inviting, so beautiful. It has everything that this old, dry side doesn’t have. Find a gate, climb over the fence, or just knock down that fence. Whatever it takes to get to the other side, where you can roll around in the grass, giggle like a little schoolgirl and experience the best that life has to offer.
Nine years ago, while living in Bangkok, I was invited by a few of my students (I was an English teacher) to celebrate Loy Krathong at a special dinner event by the Chao Phraya river. Enjoying good food and entertainment, I received my first introduction to the Thai holiday celebrating the rise of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. This year, from November 16-18, I learned that Chiang Mai does its Loy Krathong celebration in a much more elaborate and raucous fashion.
A couple of years ago I decided to pursue a video series that highlighted artists who are not only great at their craft, but also view their creative pursuits as part of their responsibility to make a positive difference in their world. Enter Cameron Moberg, also known as Camer1. A gifted graffiti/urban artist and rapper, Camer1 and I met up in San Francisco to spend a couple of days hanging out, working on a wall, and talking life, art, and ministry to youth in the 6th Street corridor of SF. Here's his story.
Every week I come across people, organizations, websites, and other resources that inspire me. Below are a few I thought you might enjoy.