Artists' Rituals, Increasing Cognitive Capacity, Rejecting Ed Sheeran, and More

Bring Ambition Newsletter - December 31, 2020

Welcome to the New Year's Eve edition of the Bring Ambition Newsletter. Thank you all for supporting the blog and newsletter in 2020!

In the Bring Ambition Newsletter, I share 5+ things that are fascinating me lately in the world of professional development, the psychology of performance, meta-learning, lifestyle design, and more. You'll find unconventional, tactical resources, cool gadgets, mini-essays, book recommendations, and great articles, to name just a few...

Without further ado, enjoy this edition of the Bring Ambition Newsletter!

1.) Inspiring book of the month:

I've recently finished Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey which was selected for NPR’s Best Books of 2013, the Tim Ferriss Book Club, and The Millions 2014 Year in Reading.

The author catalogues the working habits and daily routines of artists who have created enduring works. In total there are 161 creatives — novelists, poets, playwrights, architects, composers, painters, philosophers, scientists, and more. The stars of the show range from Beethoven to Carl Jung to Maya Angelou.

You won't find any one "right" ritual, any secret recipe, any mystical rain dance that summons forth the muse and enchants your work with creativity. That's not the point.

You will come away with some interesting techniques and behaviors to test drive, motivation to be more thoughtful about your own routines, and heaps of inspiration to carve out extra time for deep work.

But you'll also be struck by the fact that even the most prodigious creators were just people like you and me, with their own pressures, schedule, psyche, family situation, financial standing, etc. Importantly, though, despite their individual circumstances, a vast majority of the artists made time each day for deep creative work, they had routines and positive habits that supported their endeavors, and most importantly, they stuck to them, consistently.

This book is well worth a read, or at the very least a skim-through, especially if you're interested in:

  • Doing creative work

  • Learning about the lives of great creatives

  • Studying and cultivating good habits and routines, or

  • Finding interesting material to read that feels productive while you procrastinate from doing whatever you should be doing.

Check out the book here. Stay tuned for a full commentary / review on our blog.

2.) Most recent blog post:

Today we published a NEW article, just in time for New Year's — 14 Journal Prompts for Special Occasions. It offers 14 thought-provoking prompts to help you reflect on your year, goals, and growth in the chaos that was 2021. Let me know how it goes for you, and shoot me an email or DM if you have any favorite prompts or questions that aren't included!

3.) Thought-provoking article:

"Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity". The title is self-explanatory but can't be stressed enough — without even using, touching, or looking at it, just knowing you're near your phone is a significant distraction.

Challenges to try:

  • Take a walk without your phone, alone or with a companion. After the initial twinge of oh-crap-where's-my-phone anxiety, it's surprisingly serene and liberating. (Plus, walking was an extremely common and valuable routine for the artists in the Daily Rituals book, 99% of which didn't have a cell phone.)

  • Put your phone in a drawer, far from where you're working. Once you overcome the first several urges to grab it and flip to Instagram, you'll forget all about it, and settle into a nice working flow.

  • Go out for the entire day without your phone. Try this in partnership with a friend. You'll have a constant nagging feeling that you forgot something, but once you put that behind you, you can open your eyes to the present moment. (Just don't get lost without Google Maps.)

If any of these work for you, think of the Daily Rituals book mentioned above and implement them as part of your routine!

4.) Podcast I'm enjoying:

We Regret to Inform You is a podcast about overcoming rejection. Description from site:

"The road to success is littered with speed bumps. Every celebrated actor, writer, musician, artist, inventor and entrepreneur has faced debilitating career rejection on their journey to the top. We tell their fascinating stories and break down exactly how they achieved their remarkable goals. Because hidden inside each rejection is a unique insight. And we’re here to find it."

I'm currently listening to the episode about Ed Sheeran, which is equal parts funny, heart-wrenching, and inspiring. I can't recommend it enough.

5.) Quote that got me thinking:

“Even if 2021 doesn’t change, I will.” (Source)

My reading list for 2021 (so far):

—> Question for readers — What's on your reading list for 2021?

As always, I'd love feedback on this newsletter. What did you enjoy? What's the worst thing about it that needs to be fixed as soon as possible? Reply here, or reach me on Twitter or Instagram.

And finally, Happy New Year!

Jon D'Alessandro

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