CultureSkills

There’s something undefinably pleasing about knowing you’re the first, only, or one of the few.

Perhaps it hearkens back to our primordial roots, the ones that spread from Africa to the Americas in pursuit of survival by any means necessary. When our prehistoric cousins finally did discover how to survive by some means, they must have felt something similar to how we feel when we define ourselves through bold action and unusual experience. Breaking from the norm and achieving survivability in an unconventional but effective way – that was truly impressive.

Similarly, when we skip the cliché and seek the unorthodox, we engage in behavior that is more than just hipster nonconformism. Nonconformism for its own sake is usually more pretentious than purposeful. Nonconformism for our sake is different: it grounds us in our personal purpose, teaches skills and skills-building, and leads to innovation and creative diversity. Thus, breaking the mold with intention always succeeds in some way or another.

In contrast, cliché is the typical pattern of things done by people before you. It might be well-tested, but it’s also tried. It might be popular, but it doesn’t necessarily fit or serve you. Moreover, taking the typical path might get you to where you need, but certainly does not provide you (or anyone, for that matter) with trailblazing perspective and fresh experience. In fact, sticking with the cliché actually diminishes your potential returns because you can rely on others for help or use their methods to get through. In other words, you can cop out.

The most likely result of taking the most likely path is learning the most likely lessons – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s much more to be gained by seeking the unorthodox.

If you’re like most, you have a daily or weekly routine. Routines can be useful: they’re efficient and they give us a sense of security by putting order to chaos. Amidst the multitude of options available to us, we usually choose to do the same things consistently because it allows us to plan/strategize our lives more effectively. Exercising in the evening, buying groceries twice a week, going to school Monday through Friday… This is our routine, and it gives us the ability to easily schedule a proper time and place.

However, if you’re like most, your routine also starts to drag after a while. We know for certain that work starts at 9am, ends at 5pm, and there are X more days until the weekend when we can binge-watch old seasons of Breaking Bad on Netflix. The thrill has long been gone. Even though we have the opportunity, we choose to adhere to routine because it’s easy and the consequences for doing otherwise can be high. Who hasn’t thought about quitting their job to [insert dream here]? Which of us has actually followed through?

And so, skipping the cliché means reframing routine as ritual. It means grounding oneself in personal purpose. That’s not to say that you should go quit your day job – you shouldn’t, but rather, you should find ways to get excited about living your unique life. Rediscover awe. Turn the things that drain you into the things that sustain you. Commuting is a chore, but it’s also 45 minutes to enjoy music and audiobooks; data entry is mindless, but you’re doing it now so that you don’t have to at your next job. Your daily routine can become a ritual of self-empowerment helping you gain the insight you need to achieve your long-term goals.

Once you’ve left the clichéd road more traveled by, find the one less traveled by. Ditch the yes-men, the doubters, and the stubborn status quo-ers; exit the whole system entirely and trailblaze your own path. THAT is truly sticking it to the Man, dude. If you encounter difficulty along the way, it will force you to troubleshoot, work around, and creatively problem-solve. Confronting the unfamiliar is an opportunity to see life from a different paradigm.

Seeking the unorthodox provides you and those around you with effective, constructive knowledge. Living and sharing atypical experiences is a way of contributing to the collective human understanding. By going down alternate pathways and living to tell the tale, your insight can be compared and contrasted to the norm. Think of it like you’re adding data points to the cumulative data set, thereby making the subsequent conclusions more precise. It’s a way of fact-checking: does traveling to China always result in the same set of experiences? If you stick to the cliché of visiting the domineering, capital of the world, Shanghai, or pop-historical megapolis, Beijing, then it might. But what does your trip to Dunhuang, Tang Dynasty city near the Xinjiang-Gansu border, have to say? More than likely, your trip to ancient China’s remote outpost will offer unique perspective and a fresh take on what it means to travel to the Middle Kingdom.

Simply put, by avoiding the cliché and opting for the unorthodox, you can become more grounded in your personal, compelling purpose while gaining perspective, skills, and insight for yourself and your community. That’s a pretty great deal if you ask me. You can even start slow – set your alarm one minute earlier and brush your teeth with your awkward hand. Feel inspired yet?

Image: Flickr

EducationSkills

As much as we hate to admit it sometimes, we can’t all be Superman or Superwoman. Finding the time to get daily necessities done, as well as doing things just for pure enjoyment and relaxation, can be difficult. Here are some ways I multitask with my busy college schedule!

1. Work Out Between Loads of Laundry

Believe it or not, having to do your laundry can actually be a useful way to manage your time. Instead of being that one person who leaves their load in the washing machine for hours on end until you’re finally out of class, set a timer for each load that you do. You’d be surprised how much you can get done in a 30-45 minute load. Personally, it’s usually a toss-up between napping and working out, but I usually like to try to get a little exercise into my day which can be difficult when piles of homework are calling your name. Try splitting up your workout to give you plenty of time to get a few sets done and take a breather. I try to split my workout into sections and do legs during one load and abs during another!

2. Brew Your Coffee While You Get Ready

The simplest trick is the book is over-looked way too often! I can’t survive my 8:30 AM class without a hot cup of coffee, but it can be difficult to find time when you’re rushing to get there because you wanted to sleep late. Instead, make your coffee first and go about your daily routine. This will also give your coffee some time to cool off so it isn’t boiling when you go to take a sip!

3. Call Your Family While Walking To Class

That 15 minute walk across campus can really make a difference. It can be difficult to find the time to keep your family up to date on your life while being away at school, but a quick catch up here and there while walking to class can easily make your day and their day and fit into both of your schedules. It also makes the walk there a little less lonely!

4. Your Cell Phone’s Speaker Is Your New Best Friend

Whenever I’m in my dorm room eating takeout, cleaning, or doing homework, I’ll try to call or FaceTime a friend to catch up! It’s the easiest thing to do and is multitasking at its finest. Plus, if you don’t understand something on your homework you can ask away!

5. Review Notes While Catching Up On Your Favorite TV Show

We all dread that night of studying before the next-morning-quiz. To make it a little more bearable, try binge-watching that show you’ve been meaning to catch up on and review your notes at the same time. During breaks you can quiz yourself on what you just went over!

Image: Startup Stock Photos

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Erik Fabian has always enjoyed performing. As an artist working in performance, installation, and conceptual art, Erik is interested in the interaction between people and how “space and circumstances around that interaction shape your experience.” Erik is a graduate of the Master of FIne Arts program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his experience at grad school greatly changed his work.

While working as an artist, Erik is also the Director of Brand & PR at Moleskine America. Erik tells stories about the Moleskine brand’s values while also inspiring people to create more. We’re definitely inspired – as huge fans of putting pen to paper, we are guilty of carrying our Moleskine notebooks around with us everywhere we go to note down ideas and to-dos.

Though busy, Erik has great tips for managing his time. How does he do it exactly? By identifying two or three big goals for the day, as well as smaller tasks to accomplish. Keep reading to learn more about Erik’s successful career, his creative process, and the simple yet effect things he does when he needs to unwind or reset.

Name: Erik Fabian
Age: 38
Education:
The Evergreen State College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Follow: @ErikFabianInstagram / ErikAndTheAnimals.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Erik Fabian: Take responsibility for your own happiness, impact, growth, and future. The sooner you take responsibility for yourself the more you can enjoy your youth and make choices that will help you enjoy your adulthood. I would define “responsibility” as being able to explain your choices and being willing to stand behind your actions whatever the outcome.

CJ: You are an artist working in performance, installation, and conceptual art. What sparked your interest in art, and why specifically performance art and installation?

EF: I have always enjoyed performing. I think of it as this very big, philosophical playground and lab. It is a kind of play that gets lost as you get older. During a performance rules of interaction can be rewritten and questions about the world can be explored. I also like that performance can be so physical.

I became particularly interested in how people interact and how the space and circumstances around that interaction shape your experience. That led me to create more installations and events. I currently express this interest mostly through my role at Moleskine in creating events and partnerships with artists/cultural organizations.

Erik F

CJ: You are a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). What was that experience like and how did you determine where to study?

EF: At the time I wanted to explore performance in a broad sense…that included both the history of theater and the history of visual arts. That choice narrowed my options. You can do more tradition theater work in several places or be the conceptual/performance person in a more visual arts focused program but a mix is rare. When I met the faculty at SAIC I felt it was a pretty good fit and it was a well-regarded school and I was fortunate to get accepted.

I loved being a grad student and having the time and resources to think alongside very talented people. I enjoyed getting a stronger sense of visual art history and how visual artists work. It also gave me a vocabulary to talk about my work and other people’s work. The experience did change my work a great deal. For one thing, I wanting to experience how to make solo work after working collaboratively for a long time and had time to do that. The funny thing is that most visual artists I met had worked solo for so long and were looking for collaboration.

In the end your network is a key professional asset you take from any graduate school experience. I unfortunately didn’t want to live in Chicago permanently and left much of that network behind after the program. If you can, go to school where you want to live.

CJ: Your work explores notions of value and how we value art and the experience of performance. How do you come up with ideas and topics for your work, and what is your creative process?

EF: If I am working alone, I just follow my interests. My interests are usually are obvious based on the kind of reading and media I am consuming. I read a lot. I consume a lot of media. When working with others, it starts with conversations about interests and using formal idea development sessions. I am the kind of person who has way more ideas than time and resources to execute them.

To develop an idea into something for sharing, I set some kind of restraints around a project based on my interests, current resources and go from there. The process helps refine/reduce all my ideas and to fill in the blanks where needed. My process is a combo of doing structured, practical things and just noodling on ideas. For instance on the practical side, I start with making a calendar and working backwards, setting goals that lead to the result I want. On the looser side, I tend to draw lots of simple representation of ideas for aspects of the work.

Often I find I have clear ideas about the space and sequence of events first. I also tend to summarize the project as a kind of poster at some point. Getting on your feet and doing things rather than talking is a powerful way to move things forward when making a performance. When doing other kinds of projects, rapid-prototyping is the same kind of idea with a similar contribution to the process.

Erik F 3

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who wants to be an artist and creatively branch out on their own?

EF: First on the creative side, don’t ever be shy about pursuing your creative life. Everyone has a creative spark – nurture it, practice daily if you can, find what thrills you, hang out with other creative people, consume art that excites you, and enjoy yourself. With that said, I think your question is asking more how to become an “artist” as in not someone who doesn’t just makes stuff but has an audience and ultimately might be a professional.

I say don’t become an “artist.” There are too many vague “artists” in the world and the opportunities to express yourself isn’t limited to just traditional mediums like painting or poetry. You need to become something much more specific and powerful than an “artist.” “Artists” rarely have a sufficient audience to sustain a professional career. I know a ton of talented people who are doing odd jobs so they can paint or whatever and maybe get a lucky break. I have heard that most MFA graduates stop making work in six or seven years after graduation which I find sad and it should scare you. Find a niche where your interests, talents, refined craft, and the story you tell about yourself makes you very different than everyone else.

Andy Warhol isn’t an artist – he is a clever guy who took the notion of the commodification of visual goods and made his life into a metaphor for the industrial system. In doing so he created a ton of work that was easy to sell and still sells while also hanging out with kooky folks and living a life where he got to express ideas to an audience who cares.

You can write a similar blurb about any successful “artist” as well as people who express via entrepreneurship, social work, politics, or whatever. What is the blurb you want people to write about you? Write it without using the word “artist.”

On your way to living your blurb here are a couple other things I have noticed. Take your creative impulses and refine them into a craft – people with good technical skills in any traditional medium always have it easier. Identify a creative process that helps you consistently produce work – people who create a lot of work have it easier. Learn to talk about your work with non-“artists” – people will constantly ask you what you do and need a concrete response and these folks are your potential audience. Think about your work as a business and learn how the business of your relevant art market works – the people who are good at business and marketing have longer and bigger careers. Get really good, be really interesting, get good advice, handle your personal finances responsibly, and don’t let the pursuit of this professional stuff squash your creative self.

CJ: You are also the Director of Brand & PR at Moleskine America. What drew you to Moleskine and what does your job entail?

EF: I basically tell stories about the values that underlie the Moleskine brand. These values are the bedrock that supports the kinds of objects and experiences Moleskine designs and shares in the world. I also have a mandate to expand and protect the brand both as it is understood both among Moleskine America staff and in the public. If you take the time to look at Moleskine.com for instance you will see that the company has a ton of stuff going on. I help spread the word about these activities to our fans and try to inspire folks to create more.

I was attracted to the values of Moleskine and liked the design of the notebooks. The role they offered fit my experience as someone who has a background in the arts and expertise in creating events.

CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

EF: I have sat in a privileged seat as the head of the brand at Moleskine America. Moleskine is one of the most passionately loved brands in the world and I am constantly impressed by the creative outpouring Moleskine fans put into their notebooks. I have certainly learned a great deal about building a successful brand and how the power of arts/culture contributes to building a brand like Moleskine.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

EF: There are different periods that focus on planning, budgeting, and execution of projects over the year. Most days I start by setting my to-dos and reviewing my calendar. I then jump into emails unless I have a pressing document to write. My days are dotted with meetings both with staff and external folks. Most of the work at an organization of any size is focused on alignment and focusing of everyone’s effort.

CJ: What are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient?

EF: I identify two or three big goals for the day and maybe two to four small tasks I want to get done. This helps me focus. I try to keep my unread email basically at zero. I keep a digital calendar up to date for meetings and create dedicated project calendars for anything important. I take notes in a Moleskine notebook of course and find being able to write/draw ideas and notes helps me be efficient because it roots the information in my brain more powerfully than typing.

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

EF: Finding time to be as physically active is always a challenge. I am always experimenting with how to be efficient at getting some movement into my week.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

EF: Walking when the weather is warm is great. I like to get out of the city and camp when I have time. I like to cook and go to restaurants. I also read a lot and consume a lot of media. I have been a long time meditator and have found a rigorous seated practice hard to maintain in NYC, but I takes aspects of that practice that I apply throughout my day.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

EF: Don’t wait for anyone else to take action. Go forward and people who are interested in your path will show up alongside you.

Erik Fabian Qs

Image: Erik Fabian, Emilie Baltz, Rachel Scroggins

Health

Life gets in the way of a million things: plans, expectations, and more importantly, meals. Maybe you were already seven minutes late for that meeting and the idea of breakfast was pushed aside onto your mental list of irrelevant things you should do but don’t, such as wearing your retainer six months before your next dental appointment. But what if I tell you that skipping a meal translates to skipping out on a million ideas, brain connections, and memory collections. If you’re getting a clue at where I’m going with this, meals are not meant to be a burden, but more so, a fundamental supporter. They provide for the building blocks of your body. If you are having trouble keeping up with your meals, try out different things and explore a little change. And by this, I mean take more control of your days. Meals should be consistent and here are a few reasons why:

  1. Sugar roller coasters are not theme park-fun

In other words, eating lunch at 12pm and then at 4pm interchangeably between days calls for chaos in your system. When you have not eaten for a while, your blood sugar drops drastically and the next time you do eat, it sky rockets. In turn, you are setting yourself up for a diabetic lifestyle due to the constant insulin blasts. Doctors say that eating as many as five to seven small meals a day is a healthy way to keep your blood levels at a more-or-less steady level for most people. Take control of your schedule. If you are in the middle of work or class when you should be taking a lunch break, take the time to pack a meal in some tupperware or bag up a sandwich to squeeze in a chance to refuel your body during that busy time of day. It is essential that your body collects the appropriate vitamins and minerals in order for it to function properly. This also brings into consideration the content of your meals and snacks. Refined sugar will drastically spike blood levels unlike whole natural foods which, in turn, slowly and steadily raise your sugar levels. Sugar rushes not only cause disorder in the body but they also cause blood sugar to suddenly drop and this causes hunger shortly after. We all know that this isn’t exactly the most convenient of cravings when keeping an eye on health and weight.

  1. Your metabolism is like a muscle

People skip meals because a) they are incredibly busy or b) they are trying to lose weight. Either way, your muscles will weaken if they are not worked and likewise, your metabolism will get slower when it is not put to use. Each time you eat and digest food, your metabolism is making use of itself, as it should. A great portion is transformed into energy for daily necessities and a small portion, depending on the food of course, is turned into lipids. Skipping meals, on the other hand, halts this ongoing process and essentially affects your metabolic process. The next time you do eat, much of what you put into your system will not be as quickly broken down as it once was. Another way to view your metabolism is by thinking of it as a computer. If you turn it off, you must wait a while for it to start up again. Promoting its regularity is vital.

  1. Untimely meals translates into formless days

When a person lacks the discipline of eating on time, it only leads to a sense of disorientation. Putting off meals creates an entire shift when it comes to eating regularly. If breakfast is belated, your lunch will be too. If lunch is skipped, dinner will become your lunch and a late night snack will undoubtedly creep into your nocturnal endeavors. The cycle is eternal and one way of avoiding this is by making sure that you get something in your body shortly after you wake. Be it some yogurt and chia, toast with hummus, or even a vine of grapes, breakfast is the turning key to your engine. When outlining or scheduling your day, make it so your meals become your bullet points and your daily activities become your sub-points.

Eating on time is fundamentally important. It allows for a poised body ready to be productive. Living by a healthy meal routine will only help you conquer each day through a balanced system, a clear mind, and better access to the well of information your brain houses.

EducationHealth

College can be overwhelming, and with so much to do it can be difficult to figure out how to balance all the activities and obligations you come across. Managing the 3 S’s takes practice and organization on your own accord, but here are some tips to help you get on track!

1. Your Schedule

Choose wisely when picking what times to have your classes. It’s always a smart idea to have your classes earlier in the day. Though you may miss out on sleeping in until lunch, having morning classes will give you more than enough time to get your homework done before dinner time!

2. Plan in Advanced

If you know that an event is coming up when you want to hang out with friends, make sure that you have all your work done and your evening free. It’s a good idea to save socializing for later in the day so you can have all of your work already done. Another good time to hang out with friends is on the weekends!

3. Don’t Stay Out All Night

We’re all bound to have our share of all-nighters, but doing it all the time isn’t a smart idea. Your friends will still be there in the morning, so take it upon yourself to set your own bedtime. If you know you have an early class, make sure you get your beauty sleep so you’re awake and ready to pay attention. This doesn’t mean don’t have fun, but keep in mind your obligations in order to keep everything going smoothly.

4. Write Things Down

Whether it’s in your phone or an agenda, write down when assignments are due and when you have plans. This way you know when you need to study and how to fit other things into your schedule. It’s important to keep track of everything!

Of course, figuring out how to balance your college life is a process of trial and error. Make sure to keep in mind your priorities but to also have fun! Staying focused, organized, and dedicated are the key steps to balancing the 3 S’s as you journey through your college career.

Image: Steven S., Flickr

Travel

Summers are underrated. Relaxing under the sun, hanging out with friends, seeing movies whenever you feel like them, and worst of all desperately attempting to avoid work all lead down a high speed road until you’re plopped back into the fall at work or at school and wonder what you’re doing with your life.

For me personally, I am staring the inevitable death of summers right in the face, as I prepare for my senior year of college. But no matter what situation might bring you towards your last summer vacation, what’s important is that you make the most of it.

Here are some ideas for how to make the most out of any summer, and avoid that downhill tumble into September:

1. Make fitness a priority.

The hardest part about exercise is getting it into a part of your daily routine. The dog days of summer are the perfect time to set yourself up for the busier seasons ahead by installing an exercise plan throughout the week. It feels like work, but after awhile the habit will kick in. You’ll want to go for a run rather than need to. Whether it’s to stay in shape or just to keep your mind sharp, exercise is a valuable asset to any go-getter’s arsenal.

2. Mix up your environment.

You’ll have the rest of your life to work in a typical office experience. While getting any professional experience will be incredibly valuable in the future, try to find it in an avenue that’s possibly more of a peripheral interest, or that’ll challenge you in ways your aspiring career might not. I’ll give you a personal example.  During my last summer, I have spent my days as a Creative Writing Intern for a small video game company. Though I’ve always enjoyed both writing and video games, I had never fully combined them into one workday until this experience. I feel like its really broadened my preexisting skillset, and opened a door to a potential career field I hadn’t initially thought about.

3. Keep an idea journal.

One of the most powerful things humans have are ideas. Keeping a journal of your day-to-day ideas keeps them under your control and in your hands. Big or small, easy or difficult, all ideas should be saved. You never know when an idea will come, or when the timing is right to seize on it. Write it down.

4. Take advantage of a flexible schedule.

The last summer also presents the ominous prospect of potentially leaving your home or your hometown. Take some time to revisit landmarks from the past,and to discover new places and possibilities too! The flexible schedule of the summer will leave you with some space to get out of your house and your comfort zone. Sleeping in is always an incredible option, but when you’re young and the world is this old, you gotta take advantage of all it has to offer.

5. Set away time for fun.

At the end of the day, this is still summer vacation. I know it’s hard to remember that second part. But it’s still there! When the waning summer days start to get hectic, give yourself the space to recharge in whatever outlet you find best. Binge a television show you’ve always wanted to binge. Read. Sometimes the best thing you can do to further your professional goals is to achieve your recreational ones. You should love the work you do, but don’t forget to love your life, too.

How have you been making the most of your summer?

Image: Jay Mantri

Skills

When you are trying to juggle five different balls, staying on top of your projects takes skill. One of the best ways to keep those balls in the air is to be organized, both physically and mentally. That is, you want a physically organized space to work and live, and you want to have your duties organized mentally so you don’t forget a single thing. Being organized requires consistency and some effort, but once you have a system down, you may be able to add in a sixth ball.

1. Maintain an organized schedule. When you have a jam-packed schedule, the last thing you want is to be running late, miss a meeting or an appointment, and not finish your tasks on time. Keep your ducks in a row by writing down everything, from new assignments to places you need to be.

2. Tidy your work space. Having a clean desk can sometimes be the simplest way to clear your mind. De-clutter your work space by tossing scraps of unused paper and using folders to divide up different documents and subjects. With room to work, you’ll feel as though you can accomplish anything.

3. Keep your priorities in check. When you have a lot of things to do, it feels overwhelming to figure out what needs to be finished first. Organize your priorities by numbering them, with #1 being the first task to get done. You might choose to do a little bit of a few things, or to just concentrate on finishing one task completely. Either way, have a way to manage your to-dos.

4. Write it down. Using a large whiteboard or cork-board can be beneficial for organizing your life because you can write notes and messages about things you want to remember.  A small planner might not be big enough to grab your attention.

5. Divide and keep track of group tasks. If you are working on a group project or with a team, organization is a must. You can write down each person’s duties in a planner, but that might be too cluttered and confusing for you. We have found Trello to be an awesome resource for not only individual tasks, but also for team projects. Your team members can update one another on their progress, you can see what your teammates are working on, and you can move around the task cards into different columns to maintain an organized group system. The best part is that everything is all in one place, which makes managing a team or working with others very easy and organized.

 How do you stay organized?