TEAM of One

TEAM of OneI was having lunch with a colleague of mine the other day and he asked me how my latest project was going.  After lamenting about how much I have left to accomplish.  I felt compelled to add something that made me feel really strong.  I said, “Never underestimate the power of a great team behind, beside and in front of you.”

As “Father’s Day” has come and gone and I am knee deep into the process of publishing a book based on some of my father’s infinite wisdom he imparted on me when I was young.  I can’t help but think about the day he retired for the last time (and yes, he has retired twice).  I was asked to speak and before I uttered a single word I looked out over the audience and saw the faces of the people my father had touched and those who were with him along the way during this part of his journey.  I’m not sure what possessed me to say this, but as I  thought about him and where I was in life, I said.  “Each of us walks a path that at times that was paved by those who come before us.”

So as I am knee deep into publishing this book I wanted to say “thank you” to everyone who has helped make this dream possible.  Continue reading “TEAM of One” »

Seeing Chris Guillebeau in Seattle for his new $100 Startup Book

Yesterday morning I sat down with a cup of strong Irish tea to catch up on a ton of email. I didn’t get very far before I discovered Chris Guillebeau was scheduled to speak that night at Town Hall Seattle. I’ve never met the guy, and his writings expressing his unique way of thinking about our world provoke and inspire me. I love his blog The Art of Non-Conformity: Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work and Travel. He has a book out with the same title that also stirs the pot, your pot, with relish. It stirred my pot for sure.

Fueled up with a late afternoon cup of coffee, I hustled downtown and promptly got lost. I make the same stupid mistake every time by parking in the wrong underworld garage then meandering around in the labyrinthine maze atop the Convention Center lid over the freeways. I caught myself ranting on the phone to my wife as I tried to get her to come meet me, but she was too far away to arrive anywhere close in time.

She listened with more patience than me as I caught myself getting angry. Feeling silly, I burst out laughing at what a fool I was. I cooled off quick and chilled out. There were more important things to do than get wiggy over buses and cars, and, boom, Town Hall. Wow, I’ve never happened upon it so quickly. I could hear the Universe poking me and saying, “So, there!” Continue reading “Seeing Chris Guillebeau in Seattle for his new $100 Startup Book” »

Commit to the Cubicle

Cubical LifeThis past weekend, I saw a friend whose son was graduating from college.   As we laughed about the empty nest he was about to experience our conversation circled back to our work and now the newly found job of his son.  I asked him how his son was handling the transition from college life to the nine-to-five world of work.  He said his son hated it.  He then laughed and commented on how his son is now a younger version of himself.  How he dressed and had to get up every day and go to work.  He then said something I’ll probably never forget.  He said, “Yeah, he’s just not ready to “commit to the cubicle”.  What!?!  His son is a gifted athlete and snowboarder.  I mean practically an Olympic level instructor type.  He spent every second of his free time on Mt. Baker between classes while at Western Washington University studying for his degree and has also appeared in a few snowboard promotional video commercials.  So you can imagine my heart sinking when I heard his father say this.   Especially with me on the heels of finishing my soon to be published book “The Art of Working for Yourself”.

All I could imagine was a scene from National Geographic in my head as they chased down this young lion that was about to be tagged and released for observation.  First, the lion struggles after it’s been hit by the tranquilizer dart.  Then they pet him to keep him calm, so he won’t wake up and eat them alive as they slip the transmitter collar around his little neck. Before the lion realizes what hit him, he wakes up and realizes that he’s got this thing now wrapped around his neck.   I know this is a bit dramatic, but I had to ask myself the question… “Did this happen to me?  Did I get tagged and “commit to the cubicle?”  When did I give in and what type of tranquilizer dart did they use on me?

Knowing what I know now, I think back to when I was younger and wiser and believed I could do anything.  I couldn’t quite remember how I fell for the Jedi mind trick and committed to the cubicle.  I’m sure it happened slowly at the guidance of our beloved media, teachers, friends and family; somehow I was trained away from my true essence.  As for my friend’s son, my lament for him is that most of us who “commit to the cubical” never leave it and we will begin to look at the cubicle as the best thing we will ever accomplish. Our wants and desires will take a back seat to day to day existence.  Sure there will be promotions and awards that reinforce our role as the cog in the wheel.  But, I wonder whose greater good this is serving?  Does committing to the cubicle mean we are not working for ourselves?

I believe the way we live and work is about to undergo a radical shift and it will be those who can’t and won’t commit to the cubicle who will show us the way.  They will live and work in a way that is more fulfilling to who they are and how they live (even when they work for someone else).  I’ll leave you to answer this for yourself.  Can you “commit to the cubicle” and still embrace the “Art of Working for Yourself”?  If so, how do you do it?  If not, then why not?

Read Gerald’s blog @ The Twelfth Power

The Madness of Art

Can’t you see the beauty in it.
Blank in its formless shape a potter begins to mold her creation.
Whisking paint across an already smudged canvas he screams…
Can’t you see the beauty in it!
How can you not. My god!
Pounding, Slamming, Crying out for understanding.
What do you want of me says the singer?
Forcing the melody to a page of lines from the clouded head of creativity.
A hum too faint to be audible becomes a chorus of the first line.
Meanwhile out back in the garage the high pitched whistle of white hot light whispers.
Forged from rusted steel, iron and sweat.
Can you see the beauty now?
Maybe you if you stand back…over there…
How about now?
I understand this madness all too well.
Words coming so fast I can’t think.
The artist knows of this madness.
A madness that can’t be squelched.
Like water from a fire hose it comes through them.
There is no relief from this stream of the unconscious pursuit of the perfect.
For there is beauty in the ordinary that makes things extraordinary.
It comes and it comes and it won’t stop.
No amount of sleep, drugs or therapy will make it end.
It only dulls the din of wanting out of his head.
A self expression so pure only the artist knows the madness of art.
Can you see it now she cry’s.
Backed into a corner slumped down, brush in hand… it is done she smiles.
The torch of molten creativity has faded like a boiling tea pot removed from the flame.
The madness of art stops…only to be torn down and begun again.
Can’t you see the beauty in it!?

 Spoken Words by Gerald Grinter

Art in Life – Confessions of an Artist

So I am making strides in going out and putting myself out there. I have been taking the buddies on visits and the books are garnering nice compliments. I am learning to stop comparing myself to others in my field and their progress and I am feeling very encouraged. As artists we seek approval of our work, which sometimes translates into approval for who we are as well.

Life in Art

But today I was taken aback by something I saw on my way home. I was out doing the normal Sunday things – Target, groceries, lunch, etc. when out of the corner of my eye I saw it. It was the most incredible art installation that I have ever seen. Do check out the gallery below but if you live in the Seattle area it is worth a trip to Redmond for this.

To continue reading…..

Susan Straub-Martin

Jimmy In the Ring

Dad? Jimmy here, Could you take me to the ring? I so enjoy the ring. When dad announces we are going to the ring, I get all excited and start to jump up on him. There, I get to show off how well I conform to the breed standards; that is why it is call conformation.

You ought to see me strut in the ring. I move like a finely tuned German automobile. And why shouldn’t I? I have German Heritage!

You may be asking, what is conformation? I have never heard of that term before. Imagine the Westminster Dog Show. That’s when all the dogs strut around the ring showing there stuff. There is a judge in the ring, too. That judge has the unenviable task of deciding what dog most closely matches the breed standard.

Did you catch the Westminster Dog Show?  The Wired-Hair Dachshund won the Hound group. That means of all the hounds at the show, she most closely matched its breed.

I thing she got misjudged in the finals. I thought she was the best looking dog there. Then again, I might be  a little biased.

I hope to one day strut my stuff in the big ring at the Westminster Dog Show. I’ll show them how it is done!

Dog Eat Dog or Miracle on 34th Street?

This week, I ran into someone. His attitude made it hard to work with him. Working with him got me riled up. He hit one of my soft spots, fairness. I felt unfairly treated by him.

I talked to Deborah about it and she put a good frame of reference on it. I’ll call it The Miracle on 34th Street attitude. Through the good will of Santa, Macy’s generated more business.

In retrospect the first person had a dog eat dog attitude and seemed unwilling to help anyone. Is it any wonder the person made me feel uncomfortable.

You know, I can gladly say that I share a  belief closely matching  Deborah’s belief,  practice good will, and business will follow.

Question: Do you feel you more closely resemble The Miracle on 34th Street attitude, or the Dog Eat Dog attitude?

Before the Curtain Rises

proc·ess  n. pl.  A series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result

What happens before the curtain rises may be more interesting and feel more important to the participants than you can imagine. Take a look inside the process.


Opera Maine cast

Amelia Goes to the Ball by Gian Carlo Menotti

Still to Come

At one time I was the Executive Director of an opera company as well as a performing musician. One night after the last rehearsal, for Tosca I think, I was leaving the hall with one of my artists. I commented that I was feeling sad because now it was all over. Mind you, the performances were still to come. I thought I might get a what the heck are you talking about kind of reaction. To my surprise this singer concurred with me. I thought I had been alone in this feeling. I have since learned that this feeling is more common than you might think. In fact I think it may be universal to all seriously creative people.


Don’t get me wrong. The performances are always glorious and nothing can beat the feeling of exhilaration you get when the audience rises, as a whole, to its feet in bravos and applause. And the exhaustion you feel bringing it to opening night is certainly worth it. But a performance is in some ways an anticlimax to the process.

Learning the music and the words are just the beginning of the process. The real fun begins when you get into the head of the composer and the character. When you begin to live the music, that’s when it gets exciting.

Opera Maine's Julia Child

Elizabeth Patches as Julia Child in Bon Appetit by Lee Hoiby

The Process

Everyone is going through the learning process together, even if …

to continue reading this post please visit Suspended Soul


A Year to Live. What Will Your Legacy Be?

DreamDearWhat if the Mayans are right and the world ends at the end of 2012? A sobering thought, but not unlike a doctor who diagnoses a patient with  cancer or some other fatal disease. I am not going down a long morbid path here. What I am really asking is this: If you knew you had a year to live, what would you do with it? Would you feel sorry for yourself or would you get the most that you possibly could out of the year?

Living Each Day

I am of a mind set that each day is a gift. I would like to think this would not change. What would change is that I would find a way to spend more time traveling. I would see all of the places I have wanted to go but made excuses as to why I couldn’t get there: Ireland, England, Italy, Alaska, Vermont, Boston, Washington DC, and Texas.

I would go to these places with the people I love.  What better way to connect than seeing the sites, unplugged, creating memories of a lifetime.


I would spend time doing the work I love, simply because I love it. Creating new pieces of art, making toys and creating books that kids love; great job don’t you think?

I saw John Lasseter on Charlie Rose the other night and he talked about the first time he saw one of the toys, from  Toy Story in a child’s hands at the airport. He said it was his biggest accomplishment. Made me cry.

I love the pictures that people send me of their children with my books and buddies. The smiles on their faces are the reason I love what I do. It is worth more than all of the money in the world.

Pie in the sky

Now this might all sound a bit Pollyanna, but this is who I strive to be. I believe we are all here for a reason; we all have a purpose. If it is within my power to live each day following my dreams or helping others follow theirs, then this is what I want to be doing –  whether I have one or fifty years more.”

So what would you do? What legacy would you leave?

As a new year begins and we have time to reflect, we can make changes small or big.

I am going into the New Year with one small change; every day I will do something that scares me just a little. At this time next year I will look at another small change and continue to grow into the me I want to be.”

May your New Year be filled with peace, joy, happiness, love, and prosperity!



Go Write! Write like a Dog!

I grew up writing like crazy. My Mom, a poet, encouraged me to write from the get-go. I’m told I could write my name by age 3, although I don’t know if anyone could read what I wrote. I learned to write with both hands and even with both feet. Never had the elegant cursive of my lettered ancestors, though. I was too impatient and liked to go … FAST! You should’ve seen the jagged sentences scribbled with a pencil gripped between my toes.

One sunny afternoon in October 2008 as I drove around the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Garrison Keillor came on the radio. One of his short, nap-time blurbs for NPR. He quoted another writer, Augusten Burroughs:

“The secret to being a writer is that you have to write. It’s not enough to think about writing or to study literature or plan a future life as an author. You really have to lock yourself away, alone, and get to work.”

Now that kicked me in the ass. Ow!

I pulled off to the side of the road, whipped out a little notepad of paper I kept up front between my water bottle and a cup of coffee, and began to scribble furiously.

A couple of years earlier I saw Dan Poynter present to a group of struggling Seattle authors. What a blazing performance! While his style and subject matter didn’t resonate with me, other things did. I will always remember his vivid description of himself as “always writing.”

“I’m always writing,” Dan said as if it was just plain ol’ common sense. “When I’m standing in line, I don’t wait as that’s time going to waste. So I whip out a pad and pen and start writing. When I sit down on the airplane or the train or take the bus, I pull out my pad of paper and start writing. I’m always writing.”

It echoed that corny but intensely cutting line from Alec Baldwin’s character Blake in that 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross, “Remember ABC. Always Be Closing!” Almost won Baldwin an Oscar, too, that always be closing. So, ABW, always be writing!

Garrison Keillor claims he gave up golf to spend more time writing. I instantly felt guilty for all the time I spent playing in the great outdoors. Oh, I rock climbed, hiked and camped, canoed and kayaked, backpacked and pedaled, got into alpine mountaineering, and did wild, crazy things. Like almost dying. And if I had succeeded in that I certainly wouldn’t be writing. But I had to stop beating myself up. And I did. Those adventures gave me many wonderful and sometimes terrifying things to write about…and for.

In June of 2011 Seth Godin came to Seattle and presented. While I sat there observing in awe, someone asked him how did he write and what structures did he put in place to write? Seth snorted and shook his head.

“That’s has no relevance, so I won’t answer it,” he said. “And I’ll tell you why. It because you can’t copy me or anyone else, you have to find out what works for you. If I were to tell you how I write, then you would try to imitate it. We each are unique.”

“And,” Seth went on, “I made choices. We each get to make choices. Mine was I write like a dog. I write like a dog!”

The room was silent. “I don’t wait until it’s perfect, either,” he said. “I let it go. I ship it.”

So if you desire to write, or feel compelled to write, go write. Write like a dog!


William Dudley Bass

Seattle, Washington

August 8, 2011

Revised November 27, 2011

December 4, 2011

(NOTE: Originally published in Cultivate and Harvest, one of my earlier blogs, on August 8, 2011. Revised and re-published on my Blog On Earth at the Brink @ and again here.)


© Copyright 2011 by William Dudley Bass.