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Puerto Rican Beach - Artwork 13 of 200 for 2013

Puerto Rican Beach – Artwork 13 of 200 for 2013

It’s been a hard Spring. As maybe some of you have noticed, I haven’t been blogging much in the past few months. Not only was it a tough winter in New England, but I had a bunch of personal challenges happening to me also that took up a lot of my mental energy. I’ve also been lucky enough that I’ve been getting a lot if new career consulting clients, so that’s kept me busy and away from writing.

Now that we’re finally starting to have consistent good weather here in Massachusetts, I’m starting to have the mental space to get my thoughts together. I’ve been working more at being consistent in my morning meditations and yoga practice, as well as get some reflection time in. It feels so nice to feel like I’ve got what I call “mind space” to actually be more responsive instead of reactive.

Part of that now is that I really need to take more time to be creative. I performed at the New England Folk Festival and it brought back to me that I need to do more music playing (and practicing) as well as doing more artwork. I set a goal for myself in 2013 to produce 200 pieces of art (a doodle in my journal counts. It’s about volume here, not quality). I’m up to 17 so I’ve got to kill the critic and just start producing.

Additionally, I’ve reconnected with a great muse who I’ve known for years, but we’ve started to look at ways that we can collaborate to a deeper extent. Tara Rodden Robinson is a specialist in productivity and coaching, and has a great energy (check out her blog and website!). In talking with her, I lamented that I haven’t been writing much recently, and her response was “Ken, you’ve got too much to offer. Get writing!”

So, with that, here I am again. So, Tara, this blog post is for you!

So, what do you need to return to?


A number of years ago, I was at an organizational development workshop where we brought in an improvisational comedy troupe to give us some training on improv techniques.  I remember is being very cool and somewhat freeing, as the whole thing was about “Yes, and..”, which is sort of the equivalent of playing verbal hacky sack.  You’re trying to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible, and it’s very light hearted.  Also, you have to be very present about where you are and what’s going on, as you don’t know what’s going to come next and be ready.

As I have been doing my own personal development (as well as professional development) work, I’ve noticed that this concept can help you in all sorts of areas.  One thing that I’ve said over and over is that I’m a firm believer in reality.  I wish I were six feet tall, but I’m not, so what can I do with what I’ve got.  I’m not going to be 25 again, so how can I be the best middle aged man I can be.  You can’t deny what’s here, but it’s best to play with what you’ve got. It’s also accepting the personal power that you have within the situation.  You are powerful if you have control over your own actions in the moment, and don’t give them away to others.

I was thrilled when I found the YouTube video of Jane Lynch‘s Address at the Smith College 2012 Commencement.  In this, she expands on the topic of “Yes, and..” to state that we have to accept what we’ve got, and see what creative opportunities we can do with.  I invite you to watch the video and see how you can think about including more spontaneity and possibility in your life.

So, when was the last time you said “Yes, and..”?


It’s past Memorial Day, so in these parts it means that summer is officially in session. I know that many people have a reading list for the summer. I have not been one of those people. I don’t tend to read books as a “start here, finish book, start the next” type of reader. I tend to pick up about four or five books and read them spottily and sometime finish them, sometimes not.

My bookshelf has been crammed with books that I thought would be great to read, but I’ve never gotten to them. In the quest to be more intentional and to actually do things that I say I want to do, I’ve decided to publish my summer reading list and write a review of each book after I’m finished. I don’t tend to read fiction and as you’ll see most of them have something to do with spiritual, career, or productivity matters (or all three at once!) I wish I liked to read fiction, but as you see they are all non-fiction

Here are the books that I’ve decided I want to try to finish this summer:

  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: This book has been suggested to me more times that I can imagine from so many people, and I understand this is about how we can be with our creative selves.
  • Transitions by William Bridges: Career development is all about changes, and this is the standard book in my field. I’ve never read it before, so this is sort of my “good medicine” that I really need to experience.

  • Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal Stone & Sidra Stone: I, like so many, have some internal issues to work though, and this book was recommended by my friend Elsa (a mental health counselor) as a good resource for looking at this issue.
  • Planets in Work by Jamie Binder: Another recommendation from Elsa. I have been researching archetypes, and I’ve been looking at how those show up in astrological readings. This looks at how astrology could be used in career development decisions.
  • A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle: This book was given to me by Casey Miller and he read this many times on his cross country bike trip. I’ve seen videos of Tolle speaking, but never read any of his works. It’s about time.
  • Awakening in Time by Pamela Kristan: I was at a presentation Pam gave at the Theosophical Society of Boston, and Pam’s work has to do with the intersection of productivity and spirituality. As you can imagine, this is right up my alley. I had to see how I can incorporate her ideas into my work.
  • Living & Loving Well by Joseph Stuczynski: Joe presented at Easton Mountain a few years ago, and his work focuses on getting clear with our values in order to make good decisions in our lives, especially about our personal relationships. This is more of a workbook to clarify your goals, so this should be a quick win in getting it done!
  • Mastering Respectful Confrontation by Joe Weston: Joe is an amazing human being and presenter, and I have been to numerous workshops that he has done, and this book puts done in words what he preaches. Joe’s main concept is that the concept of power in our culture has gotten to be connected more with physical strength and power over others, and he bases his alternative vision on Easter philosophy as the power within and with other people, and how we can have conversations that empower everyone and don’t deny our own needs. This is great stuff!
  • Making It All Work by David Allen: I have been a “Getting Things Done” (GTD) fan for a number of years, as David Allen’s philosophy about personal productivity is all about how to free yourself from the stress of life and having a “mind like water” so that you can easily accomplish things in your life without fretting about them. I was lucky enough to attend a seminar last year that David personally taught, and Making It All Work is the continuation of those theories.
  • How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy! by Paul Chek: In 2008, I was part of an online weight loss challenge through (which I won!) and DIAKADI Body was the exercise consultants on this. Though continuing to follow their great advice, I found out about Paul Chek’s work, which integrates the concepts of health, exercise, and nutrition with a more holistic & spiritual sense that really attracted me. I don’t know it so well, but have liked what I’ve seen.
  • Mindfulness by Ellen Langer: This book was given to me by my boss back in the early 1990’s, and while I’m obviously interested in it, I never finished this book that was one of the first on the subject. It’s time. Thanks Dave!
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert: Dan’s research into what makes us really happy (as opposed to what we say makes us happy) has been really enlightening to me, as I work with people to get at the core of their happiness.
  • Eating Free: The Carb-Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good by Manuel Villacorta: In the aforementioned weight loss challenge, Manuel’s crew at MV Nutrition in San Francisco was invaluable to giving me the knowledge to eat better and lose weight. This is a new book that just came out last month, and again, I need to read it to remind myself of all the knowledge that I’ve learned (and maybe forgotten!) I highly, highly recommend that you pick up this book!

I might not get them all finished by Labor Day but it’s an intention (not at goal!).

So, what are you reading? Do you have any comments or experiences with any of these books?

I haven’t posted in the past week, as I’ve been on a sort of personal sabbatical.  I’ve had quite the busy and full past few months, and I needed some time that I could take to slow down, take stock of where I am, and get prepared for the months ahead.  I’m just now coming out of it, and I think I’m better centered to do what I need to do for the winter.

Part of that was doing my Alternative Black Friday retreat.  I had planned on doing that at a location in Arlington, but as luck had it I instead went to The Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts, which is a lovely place.   The day consisted of meditating, journaling, reading, walking, and other activities.  I’ll be planning on doing it again in the future, so let me know if you’d like to be a part of the next session!

Part of doing this was to see what interesting and creative ideas could come out of my head at this time, and I think I got a good one.  Massachusetts has 351 cities and towns.  I’ve been to a majority of them (having lived in the Commonwealth for most of my life) but there are a number of towns that I haven’t been to yet.  I have seen at least one blog about a couple working to visit all 351 towns and cities, and I thought this might be a great idea for me, as I’ve been looking for ways that I can incorporate practices to my life. I’m calling this the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge.

So, here’s my spin on this: I have to do a number of things in order for a town to count in the 351.

  1. I have to actually be in the town and either meditate/pray/sit quietly for at least 10 minutes.  This makes it so I can’t count places that I’m driving through on the Massachusetts Turnpike (Yup, just picked up Blandford!)
  2. I have to take a picture of me in front of a landmark or building that would only be in that town (e.g. post office, town hall, police station, etc.) It doesn’t have to be a government building, but at least one where there’s no mistaking where it is.  For example, I could choose Durgin Park or Fanueil Hall in Boston.  It also means I can’t just step over the border 3 feet and sit for 10 minutes.  I have to find where the life of the town is.

When will I finish this?  I don’t know.  It will be a fun project, and might get me to go out of my way to see a town I’ve never been to.  I’ve always wondered about Nantucket, Egremont, Wales, and Plympton. I’m setting this as an intention and not a goal.  I think that this will allow for some interesting things to happen, and if I just give myself the space for this, I hope they will.

Here’s my first proof:

So, what are you creating in order for interesting things to happen?

20111115-150752.jpgBeing successful, whichever way you define that, can be a difficult thing, as there are so many variables in the mix. It’s a combination of you, what you have to offer, the needs ofothers, and the zeitgeist of the moment all aligning. While you can’t change the world situation (on the large scale at least), you can affect your own situation.

As was mentioned to me again this past weekend, you need to “put on your own air mask before helping others” and that all comes down to managing your own needs first and foremost. You need to know what the situation is out there (e.g. Is there a need or market for someone who sings show tunes while riding a unicycle?) before you know what parts of you you need to develop. That being said, you also need to know what’s important to you before you decide which people, companies and industries you need to investigate. No use in trying to please someone or something that isn’t important to you.

That being said, there are three different areas that you have to be sure of yourself:

  • Head: Do you really know what you’re talking about? Are you sure the information is accurate? I’ve had too many clients take action steps because the “heard from somebody” that a certain job or industry would be a good choice. Do your research and get the facts.
  • Heart: Is this something that matters to you? Are your insides feeling good about what you’re doing? You need to know what’s important to you before spending your time, money and energy pursuing something that you are going to throw away later. Granted, sometimes you don’t know for sure, but listen to yourself first.
  • Guts: Do you have an instinct that you should do something? Not sure shy you’re interested in something but you know there’s a reason deep inside you? Our minds are complex and don’t always state our needs clearly to us (like our dreams). Again, it’s something to listen to.

We can’t ride on just our head, heart, or guts, but need to balance a great insight from one of them with wisdom from the others. Do you really want that great paying job that will make you travel too much? Are your dreams of Broadway stardom realistic given your mortgage? You need to consider all parts of you.

So, are you listening to your head, heart, and guts?

Note: If you want to another opportunity to slow down and listen to your body’s wisdom, please consider coming to my Alternative Black Friday workshop: Taking Stock of Your Life.

I’ve just returned from Easton Mountain where I participated in an intensive tantra and breathwork retreat lead by Ian Ellington. While I can’t go into all of what I learned, I can share one particular learning that was really revolutionary for me, and I think has a direct relationship to what how we connect our spirits and the way we show up in the world (e.g.  your career choice).

Here are some of the most powerful messages for me:

As I’m learning about tantra, it’s about accepting all the is, and not judging it, but instead seeing if it serves you or not.  This non-judgemental presentation of reality is really quite freeing. We tend to get so down on the “right” answer, that it puts so much pressure on it.  If we just see each action as an experiment, then we can be easier on ourselves.  So that interview didn’t go so well.  Hopefully you learned from that and will be better the next time.

Ian also presented a concept of masculine and feminine energies and coupled them with the classic yin and yang approaches of Eastern philosophy. He presented that our classic presentation of masculinity is the Masculine Yang (targeted, goal-oriented, adventurous) and the Feminine Yin (nurturing, enclosing, receiving).  He also said that there are other options, like the Masculine Yin (steadfast, resourceful, abiding) and the Feminine Yang (Thrusting, Moving, Transforming: Think Giving Birth).  You can see more about this in his video about it, but what was fascinating to me about this is that the Masculine Yin is more about creating safe space, and the Feminine Yang is about the crazy, wild, creative stuff that gets dreamed up when the conditions are right.

How many times have we gotten a great idea, or clarity on something, and it seems to come out of nowhere? Times when it seems that the planets are aligned and everything finally fits together?  We can’t seem to make it happen (like landing your dream job) but what we can do is to create the proper environment (Masculine Yin) so that good things (Feminine Yang) can happen.  Most clients that I have are doing so many Masculine Yang actions (applying to posted jobs, etc.) that aren’t getting them results, and I keep saying that they need to do more Masculine Yin actions (networking, researching, etc.) that will creative good relationships and the conditions that will make getting the job (Feminine Yang) to happen.

While this might seem a little philosophical, the jist of it is that too often we try to force things to happen, and creativity can’t be forced, but it can be coaxed.  I know from this that I need to be kinder to myself to set up space for great things to happen for me (it’s a lot easier to make space for others.  I’m a professional at that!)

So, how are you creating space for magical, creative things to happen in your life?

I tend to work with a lot of people who I would classify as “creative entrepreneurs“. These are people who tend to develop things and work on a more project based process. I would include in this field not only novelists, screenwriters, filmmakers, actors, musicians and the like, but also ministers, yoga teachers, and others whose work tends to be in the more consultancy tradition of having many projects to do that starts and end.

As these type of careers tends to need to have a solid track record in order to succeed, it usually takes creative entrepreneurs a while to develop their portfolios of work, and they will need done other means of supporting themselves in the interim. I like to say that they need to have their creative career, and also “their career that supports their creative career”. This parallel career is different than a day job.

When you say the phrase “day job”, you are sending out two messages:

  • First, you are stating that you don’t care about this work and don’t plan any advancement in this role, and
  • Second, you’re implying that your creative work is not important enough for anyone else to value.

I say that a “career that supports your creative career” is one that you also enjoy and can see some upward mobility in, but that also gives you the money, time and energy to do your creative work. If you have a job that is paying the bills but makes you exhausted at the end of the day, it’s not supporting your creative career.

You could also say that if you have s life outside of work, you need to have a career that supports that.

So, how is your career supporting you?

I just come back from an amazing vacation where I got a lot of personal and professional learning and it was absolutely amazing experience. I was really in need of a vacation and I’m sorry that it’s been so long since I posted last year but I think I just was in mental summer vacation mode as many of you probably have been.

One of the main things that happened to me was that I met up with David Thompson who writes a blog called Anchorhold. I have been following his blog for about a year but I didn’t know that I actually knew him. He specializes in making of rituals

At Easton, he had set up a altar play space which was just a large tent that he had lots of different things that you can put on the altar in the tent set up and thinking of different ways to set up sacred space. The purpose was so that you have what you need to try different objects to see if the resonate with you in creating your own separate space.

I have my own sacred space in my in my house but I haven’t felt like it was really serving me. It was a little bit stale and what I found from talking with him was that the space didn’t work with my way of manifesting sacred space. I have grown to use the term “spiritual fooling around”. It’s a more playful way of feeling my connection to something larger than myself in a more lighthearted way, and my altar had more of a venerated, stuffy air to it. The stale things there weren’t going to work for me. I got home and completely cleaned out that room, and made it one where id want to come on and play, do yoga, play music, and other things that feed my soul.

This gave me the permission that I can change my environment if I need to. Just because it’s one way doesn’t mean it always has to be that way if it’s not serving you. I do have the power to affect my surroundings and change them. It’s a simple thought but powerful once you embrace it.

So, is your environment (home, work, friends, etc.) serving you? What do you need to change?

Sorry gang about the AWOL-ness of the past week. I went away on vacation, and I took a breather from posting.  I was at the Country Dance Society – Boston Center July 4th Contra & English Dance weekend at Pinewoods Camp in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Lovely dancing, lovely place, lovely people, and lovely weather.

Here are the stories that have caught my eye in the mean time!

And in celebrations of the North American National Holidays:


More will come next week! Keep checking!

In the past day, I’ve seen two very inventive videos of people who are doing the things they love and sharing them. The first is a video by Emerson College students where they are doing a lip psyching video to a compilation of Lady Gaga songs. It involves over 400 students and was basically a campus tour as the showed all the facilities but also demonstrated the skill sets that they were developing in their studies (namely performance, video production, editing, event coordination, etc.). I’ve worked with a number of students that I see in this video and it’s amazing to see what they’ve accomplished. It’s also starting to go viral around the world too.

The second one was a music video of musician performing jazzed-up Christmas carols, but only using different iPhone and iPod apps. They replicate hand bells, guitars, conga drums, and numerous other instruments.  The performance is great, and really shows off their technical skills.

This reminds me a lot of the video of the band Atomic Tom that performed and recorded a music video on the subway using just iPhones for both the performing and recording.

What do these all have in common?  These people are demonstrating to the works what they have to offer others professionally. You don’t have to wonder what they can do, as they are showing it off. You don’t have to go and ask these people of their value; it’s right in front of you.

What does this have you do with your career? Everything!

Most people I work with hide what they have to offer the world, or at least make it so difficult to find out this information that people never see it. It’s either so cryptically written in a resume or an interviewer needs to ask so many questions to find the answer that the news of your value never gets out to be seen.

If you’re going to be happy in what you do in your career, it needs to cone from the capabilities that you have that you love to do (and are skilled at!). Are you a good writer? Write things that people can actually see (instead of keeping it all locked away on your computer or journal. Really good at organizing? Organize something that people in the world will experience. And mist importantly, after you’ve done it, let other people know about it! Your reputation is built on your works, and other people will be able to say good things about you to others (like hiring managers) in the future.

So, what beautiful, creative things about yourself are you keeping from the world?

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

I am a career consultant who specializes in the connection between what your spirit wants to do in the world, and how to marry that to the work that you do in order to support yourself. While I work with people in all fields, I specialize in working with "creative entrepreneurs" and the LGBT community.

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