In it, I will tell you the one thing that is guaranteed to not only shut your monkey once and for all but also to transform your life and leave a lasting mark on the world. What is your mission? And how can you make it your destiny? Let’s discuss it.
Yesterday I had to pick out a few representative watercolors from my sketchbooks to share with a magazine editor who asked to include my work in an upcoming issue. I didn’t have a scan that was high enough resolution, so I decided to go through my sketchbook archive and shoot some new ones.
But something odd happened.
After going through the first few books, I started to wonder why they all looked so dull. The colors were washed out. I turned on more lights in my darkened living room but they still looked lifeless. But there was more to it than just the vibrancy. The brush work seemed primitive and half-finished. And the lines were dreadful and crude. Page after page, the drawings I knew so well looked just, well, bad.
How could I send any of these things to a magazine devoted to watercolor art? It was laughable. How had I ever had them published in books? How had I dared share them on the Internet? Had I ever done a single drawing that was any good at all?
I flipped through more books. Nope. They were all dreadful. Every last one.
Maybe they had faded over time? Nope. They were all stored, closed, in a light-proof cabinet, closed. Maybe the iPad was affecting my ability to look at analog colors? I looked through my Instagram page. Nope, they were all dreadful too. I clearly do not know how to draw and have been pulling off some massive con on the universe and myself. This magazine editor was clearly deluded in thinking she should include me in her publication and would soon lose her job. Hmmm.
Today, Something has happened to them again.
I went back, looked through the images I’d picked, then flipped through a few of the books on the shelf, then looked at my Instagram. Not so bad. In fact, I liked quite a lot of them. Wonky, sure, but with style and a POV. I’m glad I made them. Whew.
A cautionary tale. Maybe it’s because it’s so stupidly cold. Or because I haven’t been sleeping terribly well. Or because, well, I’m me. But I can’t always rely on my judgement of the given moment. I need to trust myself, and others over the long run, and meanwhile just keep my head down and keep making stuff. It doesn’t matter if it sucks. Especially if I’m going to think it sucks so much I stop making anything altogether.
I’ve written blog posts about it. I’ve made a podcast about it. I’ve even written a book about it. But the inner critic, the monkey in my head, remains a part of my life. Keeping that voice under control is, frankly a lifetime project.
Here’s a powerful new weapon for your arsenal. Powerful and free.
Recently, I was talking to my pal, Jim Posner, who is a former Wall Street executive, turned Mindfulness meditation instructor. He can relate to everyone who’s ever been a victim of that inner critic. Many years ago he went through his own crisis —a job loss, while his wife was pregnant with their first child. He became terrified of the future, overcome by anxiety, and could barely function. He kept telling himself he wasn’t good enough. His inner critic beat him up so badly that he suffered debilitating panic attacks. Eventually he did crush that inner critic.
Jim asked me if I’d join him in making a free series of interviews specifically designed to help you conquer your inner critic, crush self-doubt, unleash your full potential and stifle the monkey. Kinda like the Shut Your Monkey podcast but with a whole new super-group of experts chatting on video.
Jim put together an amazing group of 21 experts — best selling authors, accomplished doctors and scientists, well-known artists, CEO’s, top executive coaches and respected professionals in fitness and well-being. Oh, and me. I had an amazing discussion with Jim and it’s part of the lineup.
He’s interviewed each of us about mindfulness, self-doubt and -criticism, and he’s put it all together into a free online summit. Free, no sales, no shtick, no strings. Just smart people giving useful advice. Experts who really want to help ease peoples’ suffering and increase their potential.
Here’s how it works:
Click here to watch a video from Jim here that explains the idea and to sign up. Then, starting on April 24, every day for 21 days, you’ll get emailed a video interview with an expert. Pretty simple. Unless you’re a monkey.
I think it will be full of lots of useful ideas and insights that I, for one, can’t wait to put into practice. Let me know what you (and your monkey) think of the series.
Ever since Baudelaire and his pals started wolfing down hashish, absinthe and laudanum, we’ve been stuck with this lie that creativity is best fueled by getting wasted.
Have you heard of the 27 Club? Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse … they are just a few members of this mythical group of creative people who died at 27, thanks to drugs, booze or suicide. Romantic, but stupid.
In fact this is just another monkey con to distract us from what we are supposed to be doing, creating intoxicating ideas, rather than firing up the bong or draining the keg.
The Monkey of the Week is the Enabler. It’s that voice that says: Have a drink, you deserve it. Get high, it’ll make you more creative. Act like a prima donna, you’re a star. I’ll give you some thoughts about why that’s uncool and how to cut it off pronto.
This week, I am joined by Victor Yocco, author and psychologist, who shares how he wasted a fair amount of his life by pounding drinks instead of the keyboard. When he finally sought help and turned his life around, Victor was able to write the book he and the monkey had been putting off for years.
I felt a little shitty and inadequate last week for giving the podcast a bit of short shrift. So I decided to compensate for it this week.
First step: be a day late releasing the podcast and the newsletter. Check.
With that bit of self-flagellation out of the way, I do think this is a great episode. First there’s some very important stuff from the Book (note, capital B), all about how the monkey tries to nail labels on to us, categoricals that distort who we really are and limit our futures.
Then a profile of a vile and insidious monkey subspecies: the Utopian. You know that little crystal-ball-gazing bastard. It’s the one that says, “Your life could be so perfect, so much better than this if only you would listen to me. Instead, it sucks and so do you.” Don’t worry, I put that Monkey of the Week squarely in its place.
Next up, a Monkey Tale from Susanna. it’s a return visit for her— she was also my first guest, way back in Episode 2.
And finally, a longish a chat with a very special guest: Jennifer Louden. Jen is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book. She has gone on to write 6 more books on wellbeing and whole living which have sold over million copies in 9 languages. She’s been invited to speak around the world, has been on hundreds of TV and radio shows, wrote a national magazine column for Martha Stewart, and has led retreats and workshops and online communities for the last 25 years.
Jen has just come out with an invaluable new book called How to Follow Through on Your Creative Desire.
This book is a serious first aid kit for your creativity. Full of salves to heal the inevitable setbacks of making stuff and different-shaped Band Aids for every type of wound. Every creative person should keep it handy and you can get your copy for free. Just click here and it’s yours. FUH-ree.
Thanks again for tuning in. But please, give me some feedback, yo.
It makes a difference. F’r instance, I heard there were a few people grumbling that my first episodes were a little hard to hear and that may well have been the case, I don’t know, I don’t listen to podcasts myself.
I have given a severe talking to my audio engineering team here at Gregory® International, Inc. and even raised my voice a little to show how miffed I was and it would seem the problem has been helped, at least so my VP of Audio Tech claimed at our last offsite on the corporate yacht. Honestly, it seems that no matter how many PhDs and Grammies and nose rings people have, they still can’t be counted on to mix a decent sounding podcast. Sigh. You have no idea how hard it is being me.
So don’t just write to complain.
Anyway, I really must insist that you make this whole thing a 2-way road. I give you blood and sweat and, in return, I just want you to buy hundreds of copies of my books, to book me to speak at your local prison, to send me home-baked lo-carb desserts, to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave glowing 6-star reviews, to leave recordings of your monkey tales at dannygregory.com/monkey and to, once and for all, shut your monkey! Do it!
Here’s this week’s excuse. We’re in the middle of the biggest shoot we’ve done for Sketchbook Skool and I have been debating all week with the monkey on getting out this podcast. We’ve been at it from the crack o’ dawn till well into the dinner hour every single day this week and the Fuggedabout-It monkey has been gleefully urging me to skip posting a new episode for the first time.
I almost gave in a few times until the Perfectionist monkey chimed in to say, “What!? I thought you said this was gonna be a weekly podcast. You can’t miss an episode, you lazy buttwipe.”
I would nod earnestly until another voice piped up to tell me no one listens to or cares about the podcast, another would say I never follow through with anything, another said I was being a slave driver and it was time for a cold beer, and on and on till the break a dawn.
Which bring me to the podcast itself which you are about to listen to (I hope). It’s about how the monkey moves the goal posts, giving any sort of contradictory advice it wants, anything that fits its agenda and derails mine.
I had a nice chat about this topic and many others Ilise Benun. She is the founder of Marketing-Mentor.com where she dispenses sound, actionable advice for creative professionals. Ilise has been coaching freelancers and creative business owners for thirty years and has written more than a half dozen book essential books on how to build and manage your practice, connect with great clients, and be smarter and happier in what you do. She is intelligent and empathetic, and her counsel is practical and clear.
Self-help needs help. It can be tedious. It can be preachy. It can be dull and holier than thou. It’s an embarrassing part of the book store to be caught in.
Unless you’re with Karen Salmansohn.
She is a former copywriter (in fact, she named the Burger King Croissanwich®) and she has great knack for reducing wisdom to pithy memorable phrases. Her Facebook page is full of things like “You are a fine piece of china. Don’t let anyone treat you like a paper plate,” “If 2 people love each other, nothing is impossible (Except deciding where to eat)” and “If you are in a relationship and all you do is cry, you need to stop and ask yourself, are you dating a human being or an onion?” Her preoccupations may seem to be love and food but there’s a lot more to her too.
Karen has sold over a million copies of her wonderful and hilarious self-help books, gorgeously illustrated books like How to Be Happy Dammit, The Prince Harming Syndrome, and The Bounce Back Book. She’s a contributor to Oprah, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, Lifetime TV, a relationship expert for match.com, and a radio host on Sirius. I am lucky to call her my friend and to have her share her wisdom with us on this week’s podcast.
We talked about Aristotle, optimism, perfectionism, masochistic equilibrium, breaking bad habits, changing your neural pathways, and the bucket list from Hell. Oh, and she defines “flawesome.” It’s a funny and fascinating conversation.
Monkey of the Week: The Fuggedabout-it. It’s that voice that says: Tomorrow’s another day. So’s the day after next Thursday. That tells me to quit doing anything that seems to be making a positive difference in my life. It’s an exhausting and boring beast.
Every artist has their own way of working — tools and techniques they’ve honed over years of practice. We each figure out what works for us, what we need to do to pull an idea out of the recesses of our minds. Every artist faces obstacles and self-criticism along the way and being productive means figuring out ways to dodge the arrows the monkey fires at us as we settle down to work.
Some people start work at the crack of the dawn, while the monkey is still groggy and unable to put up a fight. Others work late at night when the monkey is exhausted. Some have stringent rules for how they work, what pens, what software, how cool the room, how hot the coffee. Some plunge into work like lemmings off a cliff; others fret and bustle about, sharpening pencils and brushing lint off their smoking jackets.
It’s fascinating to learn about the processes we each devise, but there’s no one correct way to proceed. Each person’s monkey erects a different set of road blocks and each of us has to figure out our own way to navigate around them.
One of the cool things I’m discovering about making this podcast is that it’s a great excuse for meeting people I admire and asking them all sorts of questions about their private doings. I happen to discover that one of my favorite novelists, Jonathan Carroll was following me on Twitter so I tripped all over myself to invite him to join me at the microphone.
What a treat! We talked about how he starts a novel, why writers need to read, how the wrong day job can leech your soul, what it was like to grow up in an intensely creative family (his dad was a screenwriter who wrote The Hustler (what a flick!), his mom was a star on Broadway, his half-brother is the genius composer Steven Reich), what it’s like to read your own books, how to judge an artist’s work, how to become friends with your inner creator, and the joys of writing books by hand.
I had big plans for this week, clearing the decks so I could focus on doing some writing and drawing. Instead the monkey managed to help me find a million distractions.
He and I have been having a lot of discussion about why I need to force myself each week to A) make a podcast, B) make a newsletter and C) write a blog post about it as well. He insists that I need to be consistent about it or else I will disappoint my dozens of fans. I would rather be a bit flexible and play it as it comes but, as you can see (because you are reading this), he won.
To be honest, we could totally switch places. I could say it’s important to commit to this and see where it leads me and he would say, take it easy, it’s 80 degrees out, let’s go eat a Good Humor bar in the park. He loves moving the
I think he’s worried that with a fat block of free time, I might come up with something really nuts to do next.
In this week’s podcast, I talk with Todd Colby, the poet, artist, and former member of Drunken Boat. We’ll discuss the creative process and the role of discipline and preparation in keeping the monkey at bay. Todd is awesome, so’s his poetry and his art and his band rocked savagely hard.
Monkey of the Week: the Paranoid. It’s that voice that says: “They’re laughing and sneering, because no one likes you. Or trusts you. Or admires you. And they can’t wait to see you screw up.” What can we say in response?
Monkey Tale: Lenore has a revelation in the shower about who her monkey really is.
All the episodes of the Shut Your Monkey Podcast are on iTunes.
To hear them, you can can either:
Subscribe directly from your podcast app by searching for ‘Shut Your Monkey’.
Tell me about it. I am collecting Monkey Tales, stories from all sorts of people about about the challenges the monkey brought them and how they dealt with them. Real stories, real moving. If you have a monkey tale you’d like to share, just visit my website and click the red tab on the right to record it. That would be great.