Gary Bacon

Solving Complex Problems & Dispelling Anxieties

How’s that for a headline? Rolls right off the tongue. Let’s dive into creating solutions, getting rid of clouded thinking, and making forward progress.

Artfully Frustrated, Again

There are times where I find myself being Artfully Frustrated, again. I have to remind myself that others experience this, it’s a sign that I’m still growing, and to push on forward.

That frustration comes from a drive to constantly be improving. As with all things in life, there is a balance. When that drive escalates to perfectionism, then it can be a problem. Dysfunctional perfectionism is at the heart of depression, anxiety, workaholism, procrastination, and suicide.

How do we change for the better? By focusing on what we do have, being thankful, expressing gratitude, and being authentic.

Authenticity & Gratitude

Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we really are.

When we are focused so hard on expectations, even those that are imposed by our own self, it leads to anxiety.

Instead, we should trade those expectations for appreciations.

The best way to get rid of that worry is to express gratitude. The two can not coexist.

In the book Flourish, author Martin E. P. Seligman suggests keeping a gratitude journal or the Three Blessings Journal. At the end of every day write down three things that went well and why they went well.

When I worked at the Apple Store for a summer in 2010, we were trained to ask customers open-ended probing questions. It gets at the heart of why a customer is shopping and how best to meet their needs. This Forbes article paints a clear picture:

Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs. This simply means to ask a series of closed and open-ended question so you can match the customer with the right product, not the most expensive product. In the Apple Store, a closed-ended question elicits a simple yes or no such as, “Will this be your first Mac?” An open-ended question is more general and gives the sales associate (specialist) more information to guide the conversation. For example, “What will you be using the iPad for?”

Asking why probes further and gives clarity. That’s why we do it in the gratitude journal. I’m thankful for my brother. Why? He is always there to talk with me when life seems overwhelming. Even further…Why? It’s great to have someone to talk to when you feel alone in your experience.

Say No to Yak Shaving

This one concept has meant so much to me over the years. I continue to share it with friends and family members to this day. The reaction is always the same, “Wow. I do that!”

I like Seth Godin’s version of the story best:

Yak Shaving is the last step of a series of steps that occurs when you find something you need to do. “I want to wax the car today.”

“Oops, the hose is still broken from the winter. I’ll need to buy a new one at Home Depot.”

“But Home Depot is on the other side of the Tappan Zee bridge and getting there without my EZPass is miserable because of the tolls.”

“But, wait! I could borrow my neighbor’s EZPass…”

“Bob won’t lend me his EZPass until I return the mooshi pillow my son borrowed, though.”

“And we haven’t returned it because some of the stuffing fell out and we need to get some yak hair to restuff it.”

And the next thing you know, you’re at the zoo, shaving a yak, all so you can wax your car.

This happens all the time.

It even happened while writing this post. My internal dialog: “I am going to write a post on Yak Shaving. [ Writes two sentences. ] I should try and find a featured image that has a yak in it. [ Google ] Wait! Back to writing!”

In an environment where many things are on demand and distraction is at an all-time high, this is a technique to be mindful — pause — and place focus back on the task at hand.

Push through Resistance.

Taking a few small steps is better than taking no steps at all.

Pushing the Needle Forward

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my life is to be authentic, not fill the void with a sense of false self-worth. Not to say, “Look at me. I do good things. See I’m great at what I do! Right? Tell me how wonderful I am, please.”

Instead, I say: “I’m enjoying this journey, right now. I’m putting my heart and soul into this. I take the initiative. I care.”

As Seth Godin says, “Initiative is scarce.”

Overachievers place so much stress on themselves. I know, I am one. I continue to work on it.

There are times when I forget, and then I have to remind myself to be present, mindful of what’s going on, and not let the worry of pleasing others consume the happiness in me.

Instead, acknowledge that drive and use it as motivation to keep pushing the needle forward. One step at a time.


There are a few sub-themes to which I follow in order to maintain happiness. However, my overarching theme is this:

Happiness is sustained fulfillment.
Fulfillment is born out of creating art.

What does that mean? How do I achieve this baseline?

  1. Create art.
  2. Be authentic.
  3. Travel and have new experiences.
  4. Solid relationships: friends/family.
  5. Peace where I live.

Being authentic.

I believe in being 100% authentic. The person that I am at work is who I am at home and amongst my friends. What you see is what you get.

After observation, some folks in life learn to conceal genuine thoughts and feelings, which can be an aspect of insecurity. A breakdown in communication sure, but they are trying to protect themselves. When encountering someone who is authentic, it can be intimidating. They hide behind a veil and this exposes them.

Trying to be someone who we are not, trying to “make the right moves”, or the fear of making the wrong decision: all of those reasons hinder us from being truly authentic.

Being Artfully Frustrated

There are times where I find myself utterly passionate about my work, my art, to the point where I’m frustrated to no end. Why can’t it be this way? Isn’t it obvious. Yet I push on, refine, and labor to birth that vision into the world. Bit by bit.

In order to whittle down an experience to the essential it must be beat with “the simple stick” as described in Ken Segall’s Insanely Simple. Anyone who cares about “the work” and acts on upon that care is performing a work of art.

“The magic of Steve Jobs wasn’t being right. It was being sure.” – Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

Tim Cook said of Steve Jobs, “He would flip on something so fast that you would forget that he was the one taking the 180 [degree], polar position on it the day before,” onstage at the D10 conference interview. “It was an art; he would never know that he fought the opposite. I saw it daily.” ( Source video. )