Thursday, February 24, 2011


So why do we find it so hard to break out of our rutines and do truly innovative things?

Tough question, but I  came closer to the answer when I just stumbled upon these 8 interesting rules of innovation based on Tyler Durden from the novel/movie Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.  For those of you living on a remote island,  Fight Club is basically about living the life you truly want to live, and the hard path to getting there. Tyler helps the story’s protagonist in his search for enlightenment in the age of western consumerism.

The idea behind these 8 rules is that we can all learn something from the teachings of  Tyler. The  idea is that Tyler Durden says a lot of things that apply directly to innovative and creative action. Here are his 8 rules for creative people to live by… and please feel free to talk about them as much as you want to!

Tyler’s First Rule of Innovation:

“No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.”

This is the most important lesson, and it’s the one people struggle with and resist. Tim Ferriss advocates the 80/20 rule of productivity, where you focus relentlessly on the 20% of the actions that lead to 80% of the return. People see this as nice in theory, but not practical.

The 80/20 rule of productivity requires radical elimination, or letting that which does not matter to creative moves truly slide. Use that newfound time for creative thinking that leads to innovative action, and you will succeed, guaranteed.

Tyler’s Second Rule of Innovation:

“No fear! No distractions! The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide!”

Seriously. Don’t break the first two rules.

Tyler’s Third Rule of Innovation:

“I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”

Let’s face it, when we break Tyler’s first two rules of innovation and distract ourselves with foolish productivity, it’s often because we’re afraid (which also violates Tyler’s first two rules). We’re afraid of failure, ridicule, risk, mediocrity, and perhaps even success itself.

If you’re going to evolve and grow as a creative person, you’re going to make mistakes. In fact, you should start making twice as many mistakes as soon as possible if you want to have an innovative breakthrough.

Make mistakes and let the chips fall where they may. You might like the landing.

Tyler’s Fourth Rule of Innovation:

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

Oh, yeah… don’t be afraid to make big mistakes. More importantly, don’t worry about everything going according to plan. In fact, if everything’s going according to plan, there’s a good chance nothing remarkable is getting done.

They say life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Innovation is what happens when you recognize when to change the plan and perhaps the entire game. Maybe your initial plan falls apart, or maybe you simply need to throw the current plan away.

Don’t let the plan restrict the freedom to have a game-changing idea, and act on it, at any time. Losing everything may be the best thing that ever happens to you.

Tyler’s Fifth Rule of Innovation:

“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your...  khakis.”

When we talk about fear, risk, mistakes, and losing it all, what are we really afraid of? Are we defined by the stuff we own, or would we prefer to be defined by what we accomplish and create for the world?

I’m not saying give all your stuff away or take foolish risks that harm your family or yourself. I’m saying don’t let the stuff you own start to own you to the point that you can’t live the life you want to live and do the things you want to do.

Tyler’s Sixth Rule of Innovation:

“People do it everyday, they talk to themselves… they see themselves as they’d like to be, they don’t have the courage you have, to just run with it.”

I bet you’ve got a great idea right now, bouncing around in your head. What are you going to do with it?

Be what you’d like to be, and do what you’d like to do… it really is that simple.

Having the courage to just run with it is the difference between a fulfilling life and a life full of regret.

Tyler’s Seventh Rule of Innovation:

“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.”

On the other hand, wearing black hipster clothing and hanging in cafes smoking Gaulloises cigarettes does not make you creative. Buying a MacBook Pro and an iPhone doesn’t get it done either.

Creativity and innovation are mainly about hard work. It’s about constantly coming up with ideas and thinking through problems instead of vegging out. And it’s about taking action, plain and simple.

Tyler’s Eighth Rule of Innovation:

“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.”

First, you have to know, not fear, know that someday you are going to die. Until you know that, you have no sense of urgency. You think you have all the time in the world to do amazing things, but you may not live to see that particular someday.
So quit reading articles for a bit and go do what really needs to be done today.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Michael W. Dean, who produced and directed this documentary, is an underground cultural icon; his "how-to" books ($30 Film School, $30 Music School, and $30 Writing School) are testaments to the D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) ethos and spirit...and are a kick in the creative ass to those of us who need a kick every so often...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
- 2 Corinthians 4:18
It's not what you see that is art, art is the gap.
- Marcel Duchamp

In born-again America's renewed culture wars, it's a fair guess that contemporary art and mainstream religion won't end up on the same side.

Consider the teams. There are the defenders of Christian values whose perceptions of cutting-edge art are clouded by memories of Andre Serrano's pee-dunked crucifix, Robert Gober's Blessed Virgin with a culvert through her chest, and the dung-gobbed Mary by Chris Ofili that sent Rudy Giuliani through the roof. Then there are artists, people whose values of diversity and constant questioning make them unlikely bedfellows with evangelical Christians. But, just as the myth of red states and blue obscured a reality that's more purplish in hue, perhaps there's a place somewhere between George W. and Gilbert & George where spiritual seekers and artists can find common ground.

It's not such a long shot. Artists and spiritual searchers have long grappled with the same existential issues and shared the same sense of the sublime. English art critic Clive Bell linked aesthetic and religious rapture in 1914 when he wrote of "two roads by which men escape from circumstance to ecstasy," and Jean Cocteau once described de Chirico as "a painter of secular mystery." That mystery is evident in both how we discuss art and how we experience it.
We refer to an artist's inspiration (literally, bringing in spirit), an object's animation (the imbuing with animus or soul), or the "leap of faith" prompted by an empty canvas. Duchamp's "gap" recognizes that art is the realm of transubstantiation, a mere object is transformed into a conveyor of profound meaning by the participation of its viewer.

The parallels between art and spirituality are many, if not overlapping: artists revel in the wonder of creation (Andy Goldsworthy's ephemeral interventions in nature); artists suggest the kind of awareness Buddhist's seek (by focusing on soup cans, Andy Warhol suggests a reconsideration of the mundane); artists openly explore taboo subjects on which religions have long ago rendered verdict (Joy Garnett's paintings of corpses and Marlene Dumas' sexually explicit portraits). But it's the social aspects of art that have such potential for bringing people together: Art can illuminate our interconnectedness.

Timequake, writer Kurt Vonnegut explains why he pursues his artform: "Many people need desperately to hear this message, 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don't care about them. You are not alone.'"

Witnessing is another social role of art that resonates with religious tradition. "Art is prophetic," says artist and former Trappist monk Ernesto Pujol in the book
Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art. Artists can bear witness to injustice, delivering "messages the powerful may not care to hear." In the age of Jessica Lynch and Fox News, the world needs alternative reporting by the likes of Alfredo Jaar, whose famous photo series compared sky-high gold prices with the low wages and harsh conditions endured by Brazilian miners, or Picasso, whose Guernica recorded the horrific saturation bombing of an ancient Basque city. As the old Catholic hymn goes, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me"; on this count, many artists are keeping score.

Art, it seems, allows us to ponder the sacred in non-dogmatic terms, i.e., divinity for the reality-based community. Of course now is not the heyday for that bunch. But perhaps there's hope in what theologian Finley Eversole called a "spiritual underground." For him the term referred to a complex notion that artists who confront the emptiness of a godless world, writing in 1963, he was thinking of Rothko, Pollock, and de Kooning, connect us to the holy by presenting its inverse: "If our artists have been incapable of religious faith, they have at least shown us that modern man is incapable of unfaith." But I suggest that artists make up a spiritual underground in a different sense. While many mainstream religions are being hijacked by rigid fundamentalists, contemporary artists make up a loose-knit band of the covertly spiritual. If artists of the "secular mystery" can create work that resists co-optation by religious and political ideologues, perhaps we can call on them in more enlightened times to reacquaint us with the joys of asking questions we don't yet have the answers for.

Paul Schmelzer
AdBusters (2004)


C'mon, may have lost that lovin' feeling, but that doesn't mean you have to rip off the gallant flying techniques of Tom Cruise...

Monday, January 31, 2011


First music video from the Icon West album, Life's Little Atrocities; directed by me and produced by Gentle Thug Productions. Enjoy!


Nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Documentary," this little gem is actually a "how-to" primer on getting your art done (no matter what)...see it, breathe it, live it...: