I experienced my first life quest back in November 2012.
I decided to fulfill my childhood dream of learning martial arts full-time. My online business had my back, so I took the plunge and travelled 7,663 miles away from home to spent three months in a small fishing village on a remote island in the Philippines.
There, I learned a variant of Kali–a deadly Filipino martial art–directly from a grandmaster who is the last living descendent of the family that developed it (check out this video of my grandmaster in action).
Sounds like a story straight out of Karate Kid, right?
I didn’t know it at the time, but this quest laid the foundation for what I would end up calling The Art of Freedom.
Whenever I think of my time in that village, I have a real mix of emotions.
Those were three really intense months.
When I look back, they seem like a lifetime. Three months of overcoming so many things: pain, loneliness, personal growth, willpower, and gruelling training sessions.
On top of that, during those three months I surprisingly managed to write the draft of my first book about lifestyle entrepreneurship. A book that will become a Spanish #1 Bestseller in Personal Development and Business.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I suddenly had nothing to do there during the day and could really focus on writing full-time, looking over green fields with my lovely cup of tea and feeling the inspiration effortlessly flowing through my fingertips (yes, I just describe every writer’s wet dream.)
Not quite like that.
In fact, I was quite busy. And beyond than that, I was destroyed–physically, mentally and a lot of times also emotionally. My days were basically eight hours of intense training, which I needed to combine with as much rest as possible so I could keep up with the training pace.
So how did I manage to write a book in those conditions? And more importantly: Why?
Long story short:
I didn’t write it on a whim.
It was a matter of survival.
But let’s start with the environment.
An Unexpected Monk’s Life
Once I was fully integrated in my daily routine there I was surprised to realize that I was basically living a life of solitude.
I was staying in a “resort”–a pretty lofty term for what was really a series of nine or ten rustic cabins lining the beach–with only four people: the grandmaster, my instructor, the grandmaster’s mother who ran the place, and that one weird foreigner who for some reason decided to train there for three months–me.
Needless to say my social life was pretty limited. Besides the training sessions with my instructor or the lessons with the grandmaster, I rarely spoke to anyone else throughout the day.
Before getting there, I bought an Internet 3G modem but coverage was so poor and had so many micro-cuts in the area that it was practically useless. I managed to do some IM and e-mail, but all in text mode via terminal (for the geeks out there: I tunneled the connection through VisualizeUs servers using Mosh, a special type of terminal built for intermittent connectivity scenarios). Forget about my high expectations that I’d be touching base with home daily via videocall or that I’d have any of the other modern Internet luxuries we’re used to, like Youtube or watching Netflix.
If I would have known that would be my situation, believe me I would have packed a huge supply of movies, TV series, books, and just about anything I could use to fill my free time there and keep me entertained and distracted (something we will get to later).
When Doing More of the Same Is Not an Option Anymore
For the first few weeks, training was the only thing on my mind. Remember, I flew from another corner of the world to fulfil my childhood dream and get trained–I was highly motivated! In fact, when I wasn’t training, I spent my free time practicing on my own and reading some books about Kali they let me borrow. I didn’t need much else.
But after a while, that wasn’t enough.
Being a multi-passionate person, I can immersed very very deep and focused into a skill, topic or material (a learning approach that I enjoy a lot), but at the same time if I take that inmmersion for too long or if I don’t diversify with other interests and follow a well rounded approach to it, I can get burned out easily.
And both things were happening there: I was only training (no social life, nothing else to do) and I was doing it for a very long period of time.
So I gradually started noticing that I was approaching that dangerous point of losing interest for the topic, the burn out barrier. But at the same time I knew I had more than two months of training ahead, which made it a really bad spot to be in.
So I needed to fix this, and the sooner the better.
This is where being aware of how my Doer Energy works saved the situation.
I knew I had to find a way to channel my mental and creative energies into something.
After going back and forth with some ideas (starting a blog, recording a video blog, etc.) all focused around the experience I was living, I finally decided to give my old idea of writing a book about lifestyle online entrepreneurship a shot. It was an idea I started years ago but git abandoned and lost among a pile of other projects and obligations.
So I put all my creativity and intellectual activity into it.
I started by reading the twenty or so pages I still had saved from the first time I tried writing it. I threw them all out and started everything from scratch: structure, chapters, take-aways.
All of the precious little free time I had there was devoted to this. I wrote while I ate breakfast. I wrote on my days off (when I wasn’t crushed in bed). If I found even the tiniest break in my schedule, I jumped right back into it and drafted, re-read, edited, and even erased and started over when needed.
In the end, I had the first draft that was the foundation of Móntatelo Por Internet, a book that I would have never been able to offer to the world if I hadn’t been confronted with this challenge.
Why am I telling you all this?
Maybe you think I could have managed to write the book while trudging through my normal day-to-day routine.
Maybe you think that the environment wasn’t an important factor in achieving the result.
Maybe you thinks there’s no take-away here.
What I Learned About Creativity and Creation and How You Can Leverage It in Your Life
Even though I wrote this first draft during this martial arts life quest, once I returned home the manuscript was left untouched for months while I resumed my routine, my old rhythm of work with my startup and other projects.
I didn’t work on the manuscript again until I left to take my second mini-retirement the following year. This time, I spent almost four months living and exploring Thailand and my need to create something resurfaced, blossoming into something imperative, something I couldn’t ignore.
It’s even more interesting when I stop and realize that the circumstances that surrounded the creation of my startup VisualizeUs had common characteristics–although nowhere as extreme–as my time in the Philippines (but that’s a whole other story).
It’s interesting, but it’s also obvious if we stop and reflect on it.
The normal rhythm of our societies doesn’t give us space to channel our creativity because it’s completely numbed down.
We’re so busy with thousands of petty little things nowadays that by default we don’t have time for our spiritual needs, like creating.
But what do we do when we find ourselves without anything to do?
We reach for the remote, turn on the TV, and consume some of the visual equivalent of fast food. Or we grab our iPhone, go to Facebook and kill some time browsing our newsfeed. Tapping “Like”, “Like” and “Love” and voilà, our daily contribution to the world is done.
Consuming vs Creating
When we find ourselves in a place where all of these things are not an option, even if it’s just for a brief period of time, like when we take a weekend technological detox, suddenly the need to create retakes its rightful place.
Because we are creative beings.
We are all born creative and we use our creativity for many years, until the societal message that creating is just frivolous sinks in.
If you need proof, just look at children. Every single one of them enjoys painting, drawing, singing, telling stories, dancing, and so on. But then we adults take over and make them believe that it’s just not realistic to live a life of creativity–which is completely false–and teach them to consume instead.
And it’s at that point that our real creativity, the one that is connected with our soul and spirit, begins to fade away.
And then as adults, people tell me, “I want to create my lifestyle business, but I can’t seem to find a good idea, because, you know, truth is I’m not very creative.“
But they’re framing the problem the wrong way.
We shouldn’t think of creativity as something that we never had. We should think of it as something that has wasted away and become weak. We should think of it as a muscle that needs a lot of exercise after atrophying for years.
Don’t get me wrong, consuming isn’t bad in and of itself.
I read tons of books that inspire me and expose me to new ideas. I consume the information I need, while trying to keep on check the addiction to information. I watch videos that inspire me and motivate me to follow my purpose. I educate myself so that I’m better able to achieve my goals and fulfill my dreams. And a lot of the information that I consume is ultimately channelled into later creation. But I also consume media entertainment, watch movies, read novels and more, just for fun and relaxation purposes.
But I believe that there must be a balance between consuming and creating.
And when that balance isn’t respected, when this innate creative vein that we all possess isn’t given an outlet, we create the perfect breeding ground for feeling unfulfilled or not fully satisfied and to restrain and weaken the Doer Energy that we all have within us
Perhaps it’s the rhythm of your day-to-day life that causes you to put creative activity at the bottom of your to-do list, or maybe it’s the imbalance of consuming too much entertainment.
The reason doesn’t matter.
Today, I invite you to get back to creating just for the fun of it.
This is an invitation to find time today to let your creativity run wild, to offer your message to the world through this gift.
And who knows?
Maybe the next time you look back and reflect you’ll be surprised to see that the online project you began after reading that one article is now paying your bills and letting you travel around the world, just like it did for me and for tons of other people.
Or maybe the tale that you dusted off that day is now going to be a novel sold in all the best bookstores so that it can bring joy to thousands of people.
Or maybe your love of creative photography that you let re-emerge will result in beautiful shots that are about to be displayed in an exhibition to delight all of those who stop and look at them.
You’ll look back on it the same way I do now on those three months in that remote village that I had no idea would plant the seeds for a book that would help many people live out their dreams.
So, what creative project are you going to tackle today?
Leave a comment and let me know.