May 11, 2020

Do you use a crayon or a fountain pen?

Crayon or Fountain Pen


Before I became cantankerous and cynical, I used to run workshops to help people find their purpose, make a difference, leave a legacy and set goals; that sort of thing. And, I loved it. I loved teaching people to design their lives so that they could be anything they wanted to be. For a brief time I felt comfortable in my skin. You know that feeling … you feel at home and you know your place in the world. It’s intoxicating.

As things moved on I realised I was more Velveteen Rabbit (loose at the joints and very shabby) than Superman. It became apparent to me that I was getting it all wrong and teaching all wrong. (That’s why you should be hesitant to drink the guru’s Kool-Aid because she is often more fractured (and clueless) than the people she teaches.)


It occurred to me that when I tried to manufacture a positive outcome through my own endeavours, it rarely succeeded. When it did succeed, it was often an anticlimax. If you already know what’s coming to you, where’s the surprise and mystery in that? Also, when it did succeed, I was often disappointed and disillusioned. It wasn’t quite what I thought I wanted. The perfect girlfriend, bank account, car, house, kids, business. Mmm, ‘perfection’ comes with it’s own set of complications and the apple loses its shine quite quickly. It occurred to me that destinations are where dreams go to die.

It is apparent that when I try and control the outcome of my life, it looks like a child’s crayon drawing, barely fridge-worthy.

I have come to realise that there’s something infinitely more ingenious than me that is elegantly and eloquently mapping out my life (with a fountain pen and not a crayon). This perfect mess of a life is working out just as it should.

If this coronavirus situation has taught me anything, it’s taught me that The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men often go awry. The poet Robert Burns was spot on. This project of life is fraught with missteps and wrong turns and more than likely something will go wrong.

This coronavirus has taught me that I really have no control of how my life will pan out. All I know is that like you, I am an unlimited masterpiece with at least one magnum opus in me.

So, what’s the trick then? It’s not smart to ask me (and, stop asking others). You’ve already got the illumination inside you and you’re smart enough to figure it out.

This is what I’m going to try and do going forward:

  • Surrender. I’m going to try and stop controlling the outcomes of my life. I’m going to throw away my crayons and let a true artist take this burden from me. I want my life to stop looking like an amateur community play. I want it to be magnificent. Not for anyone else, just for me. Just for once, I want it to be a work of art so that I can produce maybe just one magnum opus before I’m called home.
  • Become a follower and not a leader. In World War ll a batman was asked why he followed his captain everywhere. He replied something to the effect (yes, it has been a while since I’ve time-travelled to 1942 and the story is hazy) that he never knew what the captain would get up to next. He was alway curious to see what would happen next. That’s what I’m going to do. Just let this thing unfold and not put conditions on what will make me happy. I’ll be open to the mystery and uncertainty of what’s going to happen. I’ve no clue, really – that’s scary and exciting. And that raises my pulse, sends a tingle down my spine and makes me feel alive.
  • Gratitude is the grammar of life. Hell yeah! I’m going to be grateful for everything, every person and every moment that presents itself to me. I feel it deep down that this world is benign to you and me. Why would it harm us … it would only be harming itself? I feel that you and I are the point of this whole endeavour. This story that we are living in has been written for us to entertain and enchant us. I’m ready for a bit of enchantment, excitement and mystery, aren’t you?

The more I try and design my life and control the outcomes around it, the more it becomes like an unsophisticated crayon drawing. I’m going to let the ingenuity infinitely more talented than me create a masterpiece out of me .. something nuanced, something with finesse, something beautiful and something quite magnificent.


This is my quote of the month (maybe the year). Etsko, you shot the

lights out with this one.

Writing Eccentricities

  1. Before I became cantankerous and cynical, I was manipulative and Machiavellian. I used to write sales copy for my clients. I became the worst version of myself in that time because I studied everything I could about manipulation – neuroscience, social science, hypnotic commands, psychology, black art persuasion – you name it, I’d studied it. I was good at it too. I made millions of rands for my clients and even had a course called How to Persuade Anyone to Buy Almost Anything (5000+ students through that) to teach others to be the same as me. Somewhere along the line I had a Damascene experience and picked up an eccentricity called morality. I’ve been seeing a lot of manipulative text on Facebook lately. These pieces of manipulative trash reminded me of how awful I was and how I preyed on the vulnerable, hopeless and hopeful. Last week I lost my shit and ranted in a piece called, Are You A Predatory Marketer? Read it as a cautionary tale. Both you and I fall for this stuff. You’re smart enough to know that in real life you can’t hack the system or find an easy way to reach your dreams.
  2. I fell in love with Seth Godin long ago and now I’m falling in love with Margot Aaron. I’m on her mailing list and she sent me a piece of text which starts with: A friend of mine admitted to me recently she was embarrassed that she *actually* believed the marketing messages targeting her about making “6-figures while working 3-hours a week from the beach!” She was shrouded in shame as she told me and perplexed as to why she was STILL clinging to that dream. She’s brilliant. If you want to read the rest of her article, email me (I can’t find it on her blog) and I’ll forward it to you. She told me to “Stop posting your fucking highlight reel.” You’ve got to love someone with that kind of honesty.
  3. My favourite copywriter is Drayton Bird. He probably also writes manipulative copy, but at least it’s a work of art (not like the crayon drawing of crap that I saw on Facebook) and you don’t mind being persuaded by a loveable old rogue. He’s just written a memoir called You Did What? 82 years of misadventure, mayhem – and millions. Just read his sales copy, it’s brilliant.


If you think someone will enjoy my writing, please forward this newsletter to them.

If you’re seeing this newsletter for the first time, you can subscribe here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *