Save the Economy with More Exercise, More Showers, Longer Commutes

Banking Hours?

Do you have certain hours of the day when you are most creative? People always say they get ideas while showering, exercising, or commuting. If these are indicators for creativity, I wonder which countries have the great environment for generating ideas?

I don’t know who takes the longest showers, and does the most exercising but there are numbers available for longest commute. According to Worldmapper The world average commute is an hours and twenty minutes each day and the nation with the greatest commute time is Thailand with over 2 hours. In fact, Southeast Asia, on averaged commutes almost twice as long as workers in North America. Bad for fuel consumption, pollution, and productivity but is it good for generating ideas?

Do you think urban or suburban commuting makes a difference and which is more conducent for generating new ideas: Mindless driving? Or being a passenger in a taxi and letting your mind wander?
Here is an innovation: for Fashion Week, A fleet of 50 taxis in New York City are providing free rides to test a new service. The already equipped in-taxi TV screens will be used for this experiment to allow passengers to view advertisements and make direct purchases of items, like lipstick, by scanning a code with their mobile phones.

Apparently, a supermarket has tested this idea in Seoul allowing passengers to buy groceries (for delivery) directly from billboards in their wifi enabled subways. This could certainly revolutionized and expand the concept of what is a store, if anything printed with a barcode becomes an opportunity to buy and sell. But will it give us more to do during our commute and take away our precision time to daydream?


Found in Translation: The Right to Be Yourself

Hearing Spanish in my left ear and the English translation in my right ear, the cross talk was confusing. Have you ever had a mismatch between what you’re hearing and what you’re hearing? It was my first experience using U.N. style earphones with a live translator and I was sitting so close to the people speaking that for the first few minutes there was a disconnect between my ears. Then, suddenly my brain synchronized and everything made sense.

Isn’t art also about getting ideas to synchronize? Through art we can express ideas that often cannot be said with words. When we couple our creative efforts with ideas we can clarify and amply essential messages. Whether visual arts, music or pottery, when our creations are synced with messages, then our ideas can carry beyond the borders of a canvas or the walls of a concert hall, and they can carry more water than any pot. Of course art can stand alone, but when coupled with essential ideas that must be spread, then art becomes a media that adds clarity and increase a messages impact.

I had the honor of producing the “Freedom Kite” painting that is being used by the Pan American Health Organization
to promote and protect health and human rights for Human Rights Day today and beyond.

In the experience I had the opportunity to learn about the essential work being done so passionately by the people at PAHO and by other world leaders who actively use their creativity to protect and promote human rights in their daily job, making the world a better place for all of us. The challenge for all of us is to help people like these by using our strength and our abilities.

In my speech at PAHO, I said: “when we do something we love we often succeed, but we also need the freedom to be ourselves and the freedom to be ourselves is a basic human right.” Creating is all about being yourself too. We are influenced by others but our greatness does not come from copying or fitting in but by being ourselves. What do you think?


Natural Beauty: What kind of tree are you inspired to be?

on the rocks

on the rocks

Even though Seinfeld episodes are supposedly about nothing, so much happens in each show – likewise, do you ever have a supposedly lazy day that is filled with inspirations? Looking back, some of my favorite paintings were inspired from events that happened unexpectedly on a single day. A rainy day in London and a foggy day in Huangshan China come to mind.

Magical days are conjured  when we step off our regular path. Last week, I made some changes in longitude which brought me to San Francisco. Within 24 hours, I watched the waves break on the Pacific, hiked Mount Tamalpais, strolled through the ancient Muir Woods, had lunch on the dock in Marin, and drove through wine country in a convertible with one of my oldest friends. I only had my toy camera but it was sufficient to make photos that will bring back my memories.

“Fresh beauty opens one’s eyes wherever it is really seen, but the very abundance and completeness of the common beauty that besets our steps prevents its being absorbed and appreciated. It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common every-day beauty.”  Described the naturalist John Muir In the Sierra Foot-Hills (1894)

Experiencing natural beauty inspired me to finally have an answer if Barbara Walters asks “If you were a tree, what kind would you be?” Of course the answer is a giant redwood. These are the tallest trees and frequently live 600 to 2,000 years  even though they don’t look a day over 200. What kind of tree would you be? Can you recall a single day that  filled  you with inspiration?

Coincidentally, within a bowl of smooth metal shaped stones on the counter of a Sonoma antique shop, I noticed one with Chinese characters so I picked it up turned it over to read the word “creativity.” John Muir said “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. “ Do you think this could be true?


Original Copies or Original Sins?

Seeding our clouds for a rainstorm of ideas

Seeding our clouds for a rainstorm of ideas

Like dialing your rival at the same moment they try to dial you, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone at the same time as Elisha Gray. Bell got to the patent office first and legally received the credit and fame, but were they both being original? It’s your call?

A certain number of people read the same news, watch the same movie, face the same problem and have a collective ah-ha moment to offer a collective solution. You could be thinking of a “new” idea and unbeknownst to you, somebody on the other side of the globe is thinking the same thing. It’s discouraging to come up with a “original” idea only to enter a few keywords into a search engine to find others are already standing in the same space.

Paul Bloom described in a TED  talk how especially in the arts, we appreciate originals more than copies. He tells how a once admired masterpiece lost its value when it was discovered to be forged and how a gifted violinist, who was appreciated in concert was largely ignored when anonymously playing at a train station.

What can you to do to be original? As you are saturated with information, does too much stimulation prevent you from being original? A talented artist and prolific writer Val Erde recently asked the good question: “I do think that the more I’m on the internet – certainly with my habit of always filling up my mind with stuff I read on it – the less creative I am in terms of originality. Does it affect you the same way?”

Original and salt free

Original and salt free

Of course we are all influenced by our environment. Filling our heads with the latest thinking on subjects is like seeding our own clouds for a future rain storm of ideas. Everything we do is done in our own way and is somewhat original.

Some people believe that art is a reflection of our environment and culture -so as the kaleidoscope of our world changes, so does what we produce. Don’t worry so much if someone else is doing something similar – do your own thing and soon your brief overlaps will dissipate.

“Yes, one may make mistakes, one may perhaps exaggerate here or there, but the thing one makes will be original. You have read in Rappard’s letter the words: “I used to make things now in this, then in that style, without sufficient personality: but these last drawings have at least a character of their own, and I feel that I have found my way.” I feel almost the same thing now.” described Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, c. 22 June 1883

We all have a unique experience and we all express things differently – as you put some words together, draw some lines, or dance, it’s possible someone else has done this before but when you add your own context and write a paragraph, paint a picture, dance a number, then it’s likely to say that this hasn’t been done exactly the same way. Does awareness of others increase or decrease your originality?


Looking into the Sun

Almost a Miracle on 57th Street

You foresee hazards when you are driving; you anticipate vacations while at work, but do you try to predict opportunities to be creative? Two atmospheric phenomenons happened yesterday in NYC and each was predictable and provided an opportunity.

By an accident of city planning twice a year, the east/west cross streets perfectly align with the setting sun making what is called the Manhattan Stonehenge Effect. You can mark your calendar for May 30th and June 12th and find a spot to watch and take your own Stonehenge type photo.

I tried the corner of 57h street and 10th avenue, (pictured) however; it was not ideal since a building across the river in New Jersey blocked the horizon during the suns descent.

The other event happened earlier in the day. If you dial down the power on your crystal ball to low, rainbows can be predicted too. When the clouds part after late afternoon showers, the sun shines through distant raindrops and if you look around, you can usually find a rainbow. Yesterday storm yielded a strong double rainbow over midtown as seen from my kitchen table. (someone’s better rainbow photo after the same storm)

Where Trouble Melts Like Lemon Drops

Photojournists and sports photographers anticipate action. Often we can predict an event like a sunset, a rainbow or fireworks and than add an interesting background or foreground to create more interest. Whatever your medium, do you predict occasions to be creative?


Does Your Life Come with a SOUNDTRACK?

Riverside Park

Do you pair music with exercising, driving, or creating? Seeking a new song to play on my iPod while running along Riverside Park, I tried New York State of Mind by Billy Joel. It’s a near match with references to the Hudson River and Riverside and will make a perfect pairing someday when my pace slows down. What perfect pairs have you come up with?

Sometimes music and venues are logical mates:  Gamelon +Bali or Buffet + the Islands, but other combinations like Patsy Cline + New Delhi,   or Jack Johnson + Borneo  are like peanut butter and bananas – meaningless to most people but stuck together for me.  You must have some unusual pairs joined by strange events too. Continuing to listen to Joel’s Greatest Hits, I heard Piano Man as I passed the train piers and Big Shot near the boat basin before turning around as Scenes from an Italian Restaurant played.  These songs carried me back to childhood summers listening to A.M. radio.  Does your life come with a soundtrack? Do you add new songs or do you continue to listen to your favorite 45s?

Songs bring back memories and jog our imagination and many people use music to set a mood and provide inspiration when they create. Music itself can be a compliment to a piece. Dance and film are linked to music but what about cooking or painting? When you play music while creating, did you ever consider linking the particular songs to what you make? Try playing the song during a meal you serve or while displaying a painting to set a mood and help others fully appreciate your intent?  Everything is better with the right music.

At the end of my run, my iPod suddenly became silent and dark. Using all the king’s horseman, I was unable to bring it back to life –  maybe Mr. Joel was right and the good really do die young.


Oceans of Creativity: Are there Limits?

Cloudy days end with spectacular sunsets

Giving the impression that our oceans are limitless, we see waves roll endlessly into shore. World Ocean Day today reminds us that our limited resource affects our climate and food supply. Have you noticed that your creativity at times seems limitless but other times feels bounded.


“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me,” described Sir Isaac Newton.

Newtons First Law says: “Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. It can only change forms.” Does this apply to creative energy too?

By exercising your creative talents; do you generate more capacity to create? It seems that people who create often have diverse interests and create in many different fields.

Do you find that on days spent sitting on a plane or in front of a computer, energy gets stored up and afterwards, you have the urge to do some exercise. Likewise on active days, an evening jog is the last thing you need. Similarly, on days full of routine tasks, do you feel more creative at night? And after a full day of solving interpersonal problems, and being innovative, do you have any creative sparks left to light the evening?

After a long time paddling through the waves, you get stronger but also at some point get tired. What do you think, does being creative bring more creativity? And are there limits? How can we sustain our oceans? And how do you sustain your creativity?


Sharonomics – You Heard it Here First


Wanna bite to share?

Oprah Winfrey said “it’s not just about being able to write a check. It’s being able to touch somebody’s life.”  Rockefeller, Melon, and Carnegie used innovation to amass unimaginable fortunes. Later in life they used their fortunes for the betterment of society, and blazed a path that Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are following today.

Although few of us have amassed incredible level of wealth but we all have an abundance of something valuable to give back. Sharonomics is a new word I created and defined as follows:

SHARONOMICS (Share – ON- Omics)
1) Form of philanthropy for the information economy that involves the distributing of accumulated knowledge and experiences to where they can do the most good.

From your lifelong experiences, what troves of wisdom have you collected that have served you well and now can be shared to benefit others? Did you drink from the purest streams? Did you seek the finest teachers, read the best books, travel to the most magnificent locations and strive for unique experiences? WHAT are you going do with all of this rich data that you collected?

My challenge is for you to find creative ways to share your wisdom as a teacher or a mentor. Look for opportunities to use your unique abilities to reach and teach others. Not by divulging your valuable intellectual property but by sharing your wisdom to empower others, reduce suffering and make the world a better place.

Finding the place your ideas will do the most good is part of the challenge. “I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution,” described Andrew Carnegie. You may have a few pieces of a puzzle in your pocket or some  spare parts on your workbench that are useless to you, but can solve someone else’s problems. You may have some ideas that don’t have much use in your hands but can empower someone else. Try to identify other’s needs and place your ideas into their hands.

There was a time when our collective knowledge was passed through generations by word-of-mouth. Later, apprenticeships were common for teaching trades and crafts. Artists have always shared their ideas through what they create. Today there are plenty of new media outlets like Wikipedia where volunteers transfer information to the next generation, and if you can cut through the noise of twitter, you can share specialized knowledge, but do we take it for granted that our important values, techniques and life lessons are reaching the optimum audience.

Henry Ford said “Time and money spent in helping men to do more for themselves is far better than mere giving,” but is it the time and money that helps or the shared ideas that provides empowerment? Most of us don’t have surplus time or extra money to give but we do have expertise. Look for ways to share your expertise and the world will be a better place.

Are there ways that you are sharing that you would like to share?


Live Longer by Eating, Drinking and Relaxing: 2 Books 2 Save Your Life

No time to be a crab.

John Belushi, Jim Morrison, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Vincent Van Gogh… unfortunately the list goes on and on – what else could they have created if they had lived longer? If you cut out some of your vices, does life become longer or does life just seem longer?

Today, the number of centurions is growing by 7 percent a year. Will you be one of them someday? For a living history, talk with one and learn how they adapted to a world that changed from long trips on horse and buggies to long waits at the airport, from silent movies to cell phones with streaming ads, and from deciphering Morse code to miscommunicating by SMS texting.

The greatest innovations weren’t air conditioning, TV remote controls, or microwave popcorn as many suspect, but instead came from improved health and nutrition that actually kept us alive and increased our life expectancy.

Thankfully, we no longer have to worry about being eaten by dinosaurs, falling out of chariots or freezing in an ice age, and OSHA standards have reduced workplace accidents to mostly paper cuts and burning our lips on coffee, but will our life expectancy continue to increase with our seemingly poor diets and increased stresses? While technology focused on making things convenient, and marketing focused on making things affordable, has anyone been concerned with our well being?

Sometimes we have to take matters into our own hands. Although they are no spring chickens themselves, here are two books that can help you to live happily ever after. the Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson M.D., shows how an easy to learn and simple to practice form of meditation can reduce your stress and reduce a host of nasty physical ailments.

The second book was given to me as a present and became a true gift. In general, the medical community has a predisposition to prescribe drugs and the Department of Agriculture has a mission to promote farmers. Who has the incentive to promote your longevity? Not the governments who pay out entitlements, the answer is YOU. In Eat Drink and Be Healthy
by Walter C. Willett, MD, the author provides practical advice about remaining healthy that is designed to enrich your body instead of enriching special interests. Both books have a long shelf life and I won’t spoil the endings.

When I was packing to move to Hong Kong, I sent thousands of my books into storage, but these are two books I brought along. What books would you bring to a tropical island?
What books will you share that you think could help others stay healthy?


No Children Were Harmed in The Making of This Mother’s Day Card

Made by hand or by foot?

We all did it in preschool, some of us in camp, but when was the last time that you made a greeting card by hand?

My mom always encouraged my creativity and whatever I made, she always said something overwhelmingly positive and always uses the word “BEAUTIFUL!” As a child, her praise was so loud that while many other kids became discouraged away from art by criticism, I was insulated.

Everyone has only one mom but you can send more than one card. Every year I made Mother’s day cards for my mom, wife, mother-in-law and grandmother. My favorite was a collaboration (pictured) with my son when he was only one month old. Pouring a set of washable finger paints on a tinfoil palette, I used his miniature foot as a stamp. He was not pleased but not harmed either.

Making Mother’s day cards is the one time of year that I paint flowers. One year, when I was living in Tribeca, I found some tulips growing in Hudson River Park. As I was painting them a class of toddlers came by and their teacher said that the children planted the flowers from seeds. The kids were happy to see me painting their subjects, and being all experienced watercolor artists and card makers themselves, we had a sophisticated discussion about techniques.

Mother’s day is this Sunday and there is still time to make a card. You don’t need anything fancy. Get a sheet of paper, fold it into four and draw, paint or paste something that you think your recipient will appreciate. Then, just write something nice on the inside. In today’s world of e-cards, don’t be surprised if your real paper card ends up hanging in a frame. Beware that once you start making cards, you raise the bar for next year.

What memorable cards have you received or what were your favorite cards you made?