Month: January 2017

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Minimizing Distractions With Alex Nemeroff

Alex is a man of many hats. For starters, he and his friend Bryan are the co-founders of a digital design agency, called Dynamo. That was 16 years ago, when the pair was fresh out of business school.  He hosts a conference called Dynamic/MTL which brings together a slew of interesting guest speakers. On top of that, he hosts a monthly podcast called WorkMode. Alex is a father of two, a husband, and a thinker.

 

WHAT DOES ALEX DO?

Let’s start with Dynamo; Alex’s agency which currently employs 32 people, ranging from designers to art directors to project managers to content managers to front-end developers to back-end developers to partnership managers to anything else you could possibly think of in the digital space.

Alex also hosts the Dynamic/MTL conference, put on by colleagues at Dynamo, which takes place every three months. These conferences bring together three speakers from the design and technology industries, each giving a talk to the audience followed by a large group discussion. According to Alex, the conference “brings together the community and also creates compelling conversations.”

Alex also interviews industry leaders in a podcast series called WorkMode, which is released every two weeks.

 

THE TYPICAL DAY

“It’s an interesting time to ask me this,” declares Alex. The reason being that he’s currently in the midst of a shift in his daily way of thinking. He credits a book called ‘Deep Work’ for changing his outlook on the standard workday. He’s also been working with a coach who drives home the concept of time blocking based on priority. His business coach serves as an in-person reminder that you can’t hit the snooze button on.

“I front load my day for what I consider to be important but not urgent things. Afternoons are usually wall-to-wall meetings. It used to be the reverse so I could get meetings done and have my afternoons, but my brain would be fried by the afternoon that way,” he explains.

 

MANAGING THE DAY

Alex uses a number of different techniques to optimize his days. First and foremost, he tries his absolute best to differentiate between his work life and his home life. “I’ll give my kids breakfast and set them up for the day, and after that transition into work mode,” he describes.

Another key that Alex describes is something he learnt from ‘Deep Work‘, and that’s getting out of the habit of running your day by your inbox. In order to do so, Alex insists that “it takes breaking awful habits and using mindfulness or meditation.” He admits to still having some pretty bad habits when it comes to distractions or being led by his inbox, but that’s because “my brain has been wired to crave this idea of distraction. I think about meditation or mindfulness or just being brought back to the moment; that practice is so important to break those bad habits.”

'It would make me take a deep breath, calm down, and be aware of the moment' Click To Tweet

Alex stresses the importance of breathing, and how something so simple can make such a drastic difference. He even offers a simple tip for anyone who gets overwhelmed easily: use your passwords. Alex explains that we are rarely mindful of “the interactions that happen most often. For example, every day I probably enter my password 100 or so times.” He continues, “One example is a guy who broke up with his girlfriend and his way of getting over it was he changed his password to ‘ForgiveHer’. My password is now something different, but it was ‘Breathe’ for a long time. It would make me take a deep breath, calm down, and be aware of the moment.”

He’s also hyper-scheduled. At the beginning of each week, he creates a map for the week ahead and is able to allot “one thing I want to focus on for each of those days.” Alex insists that this idea of ‘One Thing Per Day’ helps give focus to his entire week and allows him to be completely aware of what needs his attention. (Check out ‘One Big Thing with Nick Burka‘ for more on this)

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THE ROLE OF MINDFULNESS

“I could make a good case on why to bring mindfulness into your day-to-day life, but I’m awful at actually doing it,” confesses Alex, who admits to still being very early in this journey. He does his best, though, even going as far as to bring a guest speaker from MindSpace Clinic in Montreal to speak to his office and educate the whole team on mindfulness.

'Differentiate between important and urgent.' Click To Tweet

He sums up his mentality and approach to mindfulness in four main thoughts:

First, the “easy one”, is the ability to ask what’s actually important right now and differentiate between important and urgent.

Second is the concept of breathing. “We don’t understand the impact it can have or how important it is. It has these wonderful ramifications down the line,” he stresses.

Third, is the ability to say no. Alex clarifies how saying no allows you to “get things out of the way and focus on the important things or the one big thing.” Saying yes too often can lead to clutter and eventually become unproductive.

Lastly, Alex explains that “every day when I walk into my house I do my very best to make the transition as clear-cut as possible.” Admittedly, he isn’t always capable of making the distinction so evident. “If my wife reads this she’ll be rolling her eyes big time right now, but this is something I aim for and I’m working very hard on,” he confesses. Ultimately, the work world is another place, and home is where his phone can be shut off and “I can take all the things that I think are important and make them go away.”

Alex’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What’s actually important right now?
  • What can I say no to?
  • How is my breathing?

Images: WorkMode & Unsplash

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Finding Perspective with Adam Hurly

In an age where everybody and their grandmother wants to be a professional creative, real artists are becoming less and less common. Sure, making that album or that web series would be cool, but what separates a creative from a legitimate artist is their motive. Adam Hurly is an artist, true and true.

 

THE WHY

Adam, the author of ‘The Prospectives’ series, isn’t doing what he’s doing for followers. He isn’t trying to “go viral” or appeal to the masses. He’s simply trying to make something that he loves and that he’s proud of, without anyone’s opinion clouding his judgment.

A lot of people have a strong grasp of ‘What’ they do; whether you’re a doctor or a lawyer or a fireman. People also know ‘How’ they do their thing. What’s special, however, is when someone can clearly identify the reason ‘Why’ they do what they do. Adam Hurly wants to create, and he wants to create with the purest of intentions. That is, for all intents and purposes, the definition of an artist.

 

THE PROSPECTIVES

“I started writing it in May of 2014 and launched it in July,” states Adam. He started it with clear intentions to do this series for three to four years, which is impressive because he’s planning on finishing off the series March 2017, almost exactly three years later. He began the project with three clear goals in mind. Firstly, he wanted to start something and see it to completion. Check. Secondly, he wanted to create something that he’d be really proud of regardless of what the feedback was. Check. Lastly, he wanted to create something that he’d love every day and that would motivate him. Check.

In the three unique series—two fiction and one nonfiction, each ranging from seven months to one year—he collaborates with an illustrator friend to deliver a graduated narrative and visual that slowly lends a few lessons. His illustrators have been Sam Kalda, Levi Hastings, and Justin Teodoro.

The project, which you could call ‘the first Instagram serial of its kind’, has a loyal following and Hurly is making sure to end things on a note that the people who care about it will appreciate. More so, though, he wants to end things in a way that will propel him forward. Although his series has a loyal following, Adam still considers himself far from a success story. “I have $200 in my bank account right now; I don’t know why people think that’s successful.”

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Adam constantly asks himself, “Will doing this help me grow in a way that I want to grow?” He admits that blowing up isn’t one of his priorities; therefore he doesn’t do much promotion. He’s also an editor himself, so he knows from experience that any pitch he receives from a publicist is just because they’re being paid to do so. Any pitch he’d send to an editor about his own project will likely get ignored because “of course someone is going to pretend like his own work is outstanding. I’d think it was B.S. if someone sent me that, plus I doubt any of those editors finds the time to actually read it. And I understand that.”

That being said, the project has landed him a lot of work as a freelance writer. His current client roster includes GQ, Men’s Fitness, YouTube, Bloomberg, and BMW; many of those editors—effectively, his bosses—have found the project impressive.

'It takes life’s rough tumbles to shape you into the best version of yourself' Click To Tweet

PERSPECTIVE

Ironically enough, it took writing a series called “The Prospectives” for Adam to find true perspective. He learnt many valuable lessons along the way, starting with the notion that patience is a virtue.

“I couldn’t have done it at 25, that would have been absurd,” he explains. He continues, offering, “I think my advice to people is just wait 10 years and screw up as much as possible, because at 30 you’ll be happy.” It takes life’s rough tumbles to shape you into the best version of yourself. People, much like Adam’s projects, require patience in order to grow steadily and evolve naturally.

After moving to New York from Sioux Falls, SD, Hurly found himself caught up in a life he wasn’t happy with; “I felt I was tired of trying to keep up with a certain crowd or trying to live outside my means.” He points to social media as the biggest proponent of this “people trying to be something they’re not” mentality. Hurly soon found a group of friends he felt comfortable with and developed the support system he needed. He admits, though, that it’s not something you can force. Once you’re able to recognize what happiness is to you, then you can begin to preserve that feeling and cut out the rest that makes you unhappy. “I had to do a lot of wrong things to make me realize what was right,” he admits.

Another thing that Adam admits to learning is the ability to find the good in having little. “I’m happiest when I’m broke,’ he claims, continuing “There’s actually an advantage to having few resources because you get creative and you get innovative and you start to realize the benefit of what you do have.”

'find the time to stop and think' Click To Tweet

It’s all about perspective and being aware of your situation. Adam credits his ability to stay levelheaded and focused to his mindfulness practices. He takes every opportunity that’s available to get his head right; whether it be a daily jog, which he recommends strongly, or simply enjoying his daily commute and using that time to relax and think.  He urges everyone to find those moments throughout our hectic days to find the time to stop and think, otherwise you get too caught up in it all.

Adam’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • Is this editorially interesting?
  • Will doing this help me grow?
  • Do I have the patience to let this grow steadily and evolve naturally?

Illustrations: Justin Teodoro