Joshua Keel

Keep Going→

November 17, 2019

Austin Kleon’s creative work has been part of my background consciousness for years. I once bought his book Steal Like an Artist, but it wound up in a big stack of other books. I never read it, and finally got rid of it when I was tidying up.

In the first half of last year, I signed up for his weekly newsletter, and realized what I had been missing the whole time. Austin is amazingly well-read, and his short daily blog posts are an encouragement to my artist’s heart. His book Show Your Work was brilliant, as I mentioned in a past newsletter.

Austin’s latest book is called Keep Going, and although I haven’t read it yet, I’m in love with the title. You see, for many years I’ve wanted to write and create, but I’ve had a hard time actually doing it. Turns out making stuff is hard work. Getting up early to write, or spending time reading a challenging book after a long day at the office, can be tough, especially when no one is breathing down your neck telling you to do it.

The trick, I’ve found, is to just keep going. I’ve started and stopped blogging many times over the last decade. I’ve been erratic, with long stretches of no writing at all. But I haven’t given up. You don’t lose if you don’t give up.

I have heard from countless successful creatives that success takes years. Not years of half-hearted effort, but many years of committed action-taking on a consistent basis. Entrepreneur and writer Steve Pavlina bluntly makes this case:

If you actually want results, make a 5-year commitment to a particular path, like building an online business, developing your social skills, becoming a world traveler, etc. A lesser commitment is largely pointless.

I agree. You just can’t get many places worth going in a year, or even two. Creative coach Dan Blank puts it this way:

I didn’t just send a newsletter once a month, missing months when distracted. I have sent a weekly email newsletter (and posted weekly to my blog) every week for more than 14 years. I have shown up to my writing and to connecting with my readers.

You’ve got to show up, so that people can count on you. So they know you exist, and that you’re doing something worth talking about. It’s easy to dream, but dreams are unrealized promises—you have to make them real with your actions.

In that spirit, I’ve been writing this newsletter for 11 weeks now. I’m proud of that, but we’re at the very beginning. We’re at the ground level. There is so much more work to be done. So many weeks of showing up to be realized in the future.

So just keep going. Success is when you refuse to give up, for a year, five years, a decade. Relentless pursuit, through good times and bad. That’s what commitment looks like. Like Steve and Dan, let’s keep showing up each day.

What inspires you to keep going? Below are my picks.

Things I loved this week

Twitter hates me. The Des Moines Register fired me. Here’s what really happened.

A tragic tale of journalism and social media gone wrong. I had previously read the reports of Iowa celebrity Carson King, whose past offensive tweets had become a news story, sparking outrage about him being “canceled”. Aaron Calvin, the journalist who reported the story, was fired, but there’s a lot more to it. This is Calvin’s side of the story, and it’s fascinating.

As I read, I was confirmed in what I already knew, that social media is a hazard to careful thought. Too often, the mob rules, demanding the head of some unlucky soul. It often gets its way, to the detriment of us all. To the angry masses online, nuance isn’t really a thing. It’s string ‘em up first, ask questions later.

The Redefining Women Icon Collection

This icon project represents women in “design, technology and leadership” positions.” Women are notoriously underrepresented in technology jobs like software development, and unfortunately sometimes turned off by the culture we software devs are creating. I want to do what I can to empower women to succeed in STEM careers, and this is a great way to do that by showing women in those roles.

My experience with debilitating anxiety, and the 8 things I did to overcome it

Vegan fitness coach and podcaster Karina Inkster (who was once my coach, and who I consider a friend) wrote a piece about her struggle with severe, sudden onset anxiety that left her mentally crippled for weeks. She bravely shared her experiences, and in return realized that she is far from alone.

Anxiety played a major role in the death of one of my best friends. That experience definitely woke me up to the true danger it poses. I myself have been a somewhat anxious person (with major episodes here and there) since my teenage years. We would all do well to learn about this condition so that we can do our best to support the people in our lives who may be struggling, but don’t know how to ask for help.

Start before you think you’re ready

I can’t seem to shut up about Austin Kleon, can I? This is one of those (short) daily blog posts I mentioned. Such beautiful wisdom. Pure gold.

And last but certainly not least, I furiously typed this into my phone yesterday afternoon:

I just finished listening to Edward Snowden’s book, Permanent Record. There are tears in my eyes. In my view, Ed is one of the most courageous and honorable people I can think of.

I feel a great sense of sorrow knowing what he and his then girlfriend (now wife) Lindsay went through in the aftermath of Ed’s efforts to expose the NSA’s mass surveillance program. He has given all of us the chance to have a voice in the conversation about what our government is allowed and not allowed to do; what invasions of privacy we are willing to accept, and which we will vehemently fight.

He’s a fucking hero. I’m both proud of him, and thankful for him. All people everywhere deserve to live free of unwarranted violations of their basic right to privacy. It is up to all of us to fight for that right, and hold our government accountable when it trespasses it.

Please do yourself a favor and read this fascinating, eye-opening and moving book.