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If only.

Today was the first day I’ve yelled at my kids in what feels like weeks. I have resolved that I don’t want to be a yelling parent any longer. I’ve been running and meditating most days for a while now, and I have worked hard to erase the yelling habit, while cultivating more calm in my life and my mind.

Tonight, in the quiet moments as I clean the kitchen, I feel like parenting is the biggest challenge I’ll ever face, ever. And I don’t know whether I’m slowly breaking my kids or slowly building them.

Being a parent is full of challenges, mostly without guidelines and certainly without rule books.

I want my daughter to be a wonderful human. I want her to realise that she can create the life of her dreams and make it come true. I want her to understand that working through the hard stuff is worth it, because when you keep going after most people have already quit, then you get to enjoy the rewards most people never see.

I want her to learn this by my example.

(I want all this equally for my son, too.)

But.

Sometimes, like tonight, when we’ve fought for the first time in ages, and she’s been punished for disrespectful behaviour, and there are tears before bedtime, and my wife is still in the kids’ bedroom having a D&M with her a full 90 minutes after they were supposed to be asleep…

Times like these, I reflect on the challenges that we’ve dealt her this year.

When your parents are online entrepreneurs, and have arguments about work and about life and about lost money and tight budgets. When you’ve had to give up your friends and your pets and your community and the only house you’ve ever known, because your parents have a crazy mission to travel the country in a green bus and try to change people’s behaviour, all for a bunch of kids they will hardly ever know.

When you get frustrated at the lonely, isolated 7 months you’ve spent waiting for your life to start again, because your Mum and Dad keep promising this amazing adventure, just over the next hurdle and beyond the next challenge and after the next argument.

When each day you plug in to the iPad that connects you to your schoolmates, but secretly wish they were sitting at your dinner table with you, so you could share cheeky looks and pass notes while the teacher wasn’t looking.

When your brother wails and whines and fights with you for the thousandth time, because he, too, is struggling with this life in limbo, but has neither the language or self-awareness to understand or articulate himself to the same level as you.

And when, in the face of all this, your Dad takes away your safe haven – books – because you got angry at him for a stupid reason, when underneath you were angry at him for everything he and your Mum have put you through this year so far, and angry because you’re only 9 and dealing with challenges that most adults would struggle with and come up short.

If only my daughter could feel my remorse and my pain at seeing her hurting. If only she could comprehend my total and utter love for her. If only she could see the future we see for our family and for her individually. If only she could understand that our work isn’t just for money, it’s for art, it’s for life, and it’s for humanity.

If only I could understand that she loves me as much as I love her, and her angry words aren’t at me, they’re at the situation she finds herself in.

If only I could understand that we’re all human, struggling through and trying to do our best with what life throws at us.

Resilience


Resilience looks like this:

Imagine waking up and hearing your wife and kids talking in the kitchen. Mostly it’s friendly banter, but because your son got up early he’s now past the point of needing food and has crossed over into full blown hungry-stupid meltdown.

All you want to do is roll over and go back to sleep, because the thick, warm arms of depression are caressing you today. Staying thick and stupid and sad can be so enticing and addictive, but you decide to get out of bed anyway and try defuse the meltdown.

A few tender moments, including a fleeting cuddle with your wife, and the day starts looking happier. Shortly after, the family dresses and starts walking to the beach for some fresh air and exercise.

Another meltdown kicks off because the handlebars of son’s scooter are at the wrong height. The inner struggle you felt to even get out the door has been successfully masked so far. When your daughter takes off with the scooter, and you read the scenario wrong, it causes a whole new batch of arguing and meltdowns.

You elect to stay home, apart from the three you love most while they get outdoors. An angry SMS conversation adds salt to an already raw wound. Tensions boil and both parents yell how they’re sick of this and can’t take much more. Breaking point appears like the shadowy silhouette of land on the ship’s horizon.

A calm moment of reflection would show that the prevailing undertone of anger and frustration is a side effect of stress and despair in both parents and kids due to chronic uncertainty. Where is our home? How do we live? What does peace and consistency feel like again?

Questions like these are underscored by much larger, simpler question: What the fuck are we doing? Why have we chosen possibly the hardest road on offer?

In the dark, difficult moments, resolve falters and alternatives like “Just get a job and do what everyone else is doing” become seductive and alluring.

But if not you, then who? If not now, then when? And best of all, would you be able to live with yourself if you compromised on your ideals, dreams, mission?

 

Resilience looks like this.

Lots of difficult days that no one sees, sometimes not even your spouse. Lots of doubtful moments that are overcome, one by one. Lots of tough decisions that, collectively, take you so far from the well trodden path it sometimes feels like you can’t see six inches in front of your own feet.

Resilience is not pretty. It is a constant battle between what you want and the easy option. It is the inner flame that flickers and threatens to go out every single day, yet somehow finds the fuel to keep burning, however dim its light.

Resilience is finding the motivation to leave the house and catch up with your family – despite, or maybe even because of your fear/fury/despair/heartache – and then sitting with a smile while watching your wife and daughter have sprinting competitions as your son builds castles of sand.

 

Resilience, like most things, is not easy. But if you can find it, it is worth it.

 

Change. Holiday.

There’s a saying: “A change is as good as a holiday.”

I posit that the reverse is also true. A holiday is as good as a change.

I have been absent from publishing these IQs for several weeks now. I have such beautiful readers that have sent me “R U OK?” type emails, for which I am wonderfully grateful.

The reasons for my absence are several, and I owe it to you to explain what’s been happening and why I fell off the face of the virtual world.

 

Firstly, life has been insanely busy, and I have had to prioritise my priorities. As it stands currently, they are (in order):

– my personal health & wellbeing
– quality time with my family
– the financial security of me and my family
– our businesses and their clients
– the build of our bus
– preparation for our Australian trip
– preparation for our (current) USA holiday

I feel as though I have, for the most part, been simply putting one foot in front of the other and keeping just ahead of my to do list.

Finding up to an hour each day to curate images and quotes, and take time to write my own personal insights and philosophies, was beginning to impact my ability to meet my prioritised priorities. As such, I felt I needed to take a rest.

 

Secondly, writing IQs and publishing each day is something I feel requires time to reflect, and find insight in my own daily experience.

I have felt for some time as though I was running on empty. I was struggling to find new and interesting images, and I was also struggling to find/make time to reflect and come up with something valuable and/or meaningful.

It could be argued (and often is, by my darling wife and closest friends) that I put too much pressure on myself and set standards that are too high.

I agree, to a point. I set very high standards, and I do put a great deal of pressure on myself. This is because I know in my heart what I am capable of, and I rarely “settle” for anything less than my best. This is who I am, and how I work, and I don’t think it constitutes any kind of reason to stop striving to produce the best work I can, or stop producing if my standards cannot be met.

Hence it was a simple – and necessary – decision to pause, when I felt I could no longer keep up my standards, or provide value and meaningful contribution to you.

 

Thirdly, I have been feeling for some time as though there is a glut of inspiring quote type graphics on the interwebs. Mine are unique and – I believe – valuable, and so I have been happy continuing to produce them to date.

However, after the best part of two years producing these IQs, I am beginning to wonder if the value in what I produce comes from the images and quotes themselves, or rather, what I write about them each day. The IQ images give some focus to what I choose to write about each day, but in some respects they also limit or constrain what I write about.

I also wonder if I am producing my best value by publishing daily, or if I might be better publishing a deeper missive less frequently. I have several friends who publish beautiful email newsletters / blog posts once a week, which enable to them to provide a deeper slice of what they’re currently learning or thinking about, and it’s a suitably-long interval that I’m completely ready and excited to read it each week.

 

Change. Holiday.

The last piece of significance that ties directly to my recent experience is that I’m writing this from Las Vegas, USA. My family and I are on a 17-day holiday to the USA – Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Hawaii – which is a celebration of a dear friend’s 50th (think Hawaii 5-0) and a celebration of my wife and my recent 10th wedding anniversary.

Taking a holiday somewhere – especially the period of travelling to reach the destination – is a wonderful tool for providing perspective and allows time for reflection. I certainly feel this is the case for me on our recent 23-odd hours of transit from leaving home in Sydney to arriving at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas!

 

As for recent events in our life, there have been many – and they have been expertly summed up by my wife’s recent email newsletter for The Root Cause. Click here to read it, and please do take the time to follow the links and read the blog articles, too. (Please excuse the “Hi <<First Name>>,” intro in the generic web-version of the email.)

Exciting highlights: a large financial sponsorship from Bendigo Bank, progress on our bus, and a new website for The Root Cause, among other things.

 

So, I can’t say when I will be back to producing IQs, or even if it will take the same shape as it has for the past 600-odd handcrafted episodes.

I can, however, say that I will be back eventually, and your support and encouragement is deeply appreciated.

Please stay tuned, and as always, please feel free to drop me a line at israel@israelsmith.com or +61 413 708 432 if you need a chat, want to say Hi, or have any other feedback you’d like to share.

 

I appreciate each and every one of you, and I hope to serve you even better in the near-ish future.

With love and gratitude,
Israel. xo

 

The aim of art

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“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle

There is a joy, a rapture, that I find in projects that are creative and for people I like. I got up at 5am this morning, and have been working on family portraits for clients (super busy right now!) and a logo/brand identity project for a friend of mine. I normally don’t do logo/brand identity stuff… but I have to say that the process is thoroughly enjoyable and gives me a creative buzz.

What brings relevance to this quote is the inward significance of the work I have been doing, and how it makes me an artist, and is an expression of my art.

My family portraiture is an expression of how much I love family as an institution, how much I enjoy working with kids – their youth and playfulness is intoxicating – and how much I love seeing the love in families that I know to be true in my own. It reassures me, comforts me, and uplifts me. Love is a beautiful thing, and in the context of people connected by blood, with a common objective, founded on a strong relationship, the love is utter bliss.

The art of my family portraits, therefore, is the inward significance of the love, connection and energy found in the family unit. Not for nothing does my website say I photograph loving, energetic, connected families.

The logo/brand identity project is art in a different way. It is a quest for the inner significance of the work, and the person for whom the brand will live and breathe. It will take time, it will require me to dig deeper and bring forth my skills of illustration and drawing that are latent and unrefined. The project will ultimately be successful and beautiful, and yet another expression of my art, but that will come after the struggle, the learning, and the journey.

This struggle and journey are the parts of that creative project that I am enjoying the most. The feeling of satisfaction I will draw from knowing I dug deep within myself and crafted something meaningful outwardly and inwardly for my friend, will be akin to that of a framed finished family portrait that SHOUTS love and connection and energy.

It is such a rollercoaster, being an artist, but the beautiful part – for me, at least – is that I am fortunate to be able to connect with my emotional, creative, sensitive, insightful self, and earn a living for myself and my family while doing it.

Huh. How about that. After all it comes back to love and gratitude.

Funny that.

With love,
Israel. xo

 

 

Success is where preparation and opportunity meet

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“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” – Bobby Unser

Yesterday was an amazing day.

I mean, truly amazing.

Here’s the short version:

We got in-principle commitment from a national TV network for a series of exclusive interview/feature spots for The Root Cause, we secured our first major sponsor for our round Australia trip (signwriting for the entire bus and trailer!), made massive progress on the new website launch for The Root Cause, and pulled together a fabulous education program to take the Mad Food Science™ Program to a teen/tween age group.

To say we have worked hard is like saying space is kind of large.

It is immensely comforting to know that our months and months of preparation has been building so that when opportunities appear as they did yesterday, everything falls into place.

In all your endeavours, may you be well prepared to take full advantage of opportunities.

With love,
Israel. xo

 

Still round the corner there may wait

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“Still round the corner there may wait,
A new road or a secret gate.”

– J. R. R. Tolkein

Adventure? Excitement? Huh. A Jedi craves not these things.

Well, perhaps not a Jedi, but certainly an Israel. I love adventure and excitement, as you may have guessed (see: Around Australia bus trip with young family…)

Mr Tolkein seemed to have a knack for crafting adventure tales. The mental image of a secret gate is such a mysterious and alluring one – and it was the perfect fit for this lovely picture of an old timber gate.

That’s about all today… it’s been a long one, with many sources of joy and exhaustion.

With love,
Israel. xo

 

The 6 elements of life

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“The 6 elements of life are to laugh, give, share, enjoy, care, and live a strong and full life.” – Indrani Smith

I am regularly amazed by my daughter. Today’s IQ is entirely by her, and I couldn’t be prouder:

———–

Such beautiful things, elements of life.

Today I’ve given you six to think about.

I uncovered these wonderful sparks in the world we live in by thinking about my past few days; from the things I’ve done and the things I haven’t.

I learnt from my pride, rage, and happiness, and I hope you uncover some of your own sparks and surprises in life, because everyone has their own unique abilities.

———–

She’s 8 years old, by the way. Mind = blown.

With love,
Israel. xo

PS Thankyou, Indrani, I love you, and you amaze me. Constantly.

 

Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise

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“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.” – Kobe Bryant

For what am I grateful?

I am grateful for many things.

I am always grateful for my health, for my wife, and for my kids.

I am grateful for the opportunity to constantly push up against at my own boundaries.

I am grateful for the challenges I face, daily, at being a better husband, father, entrepreneur, human.

I am grateful for even having the opportunity to occasionally feel depressed, because it means that so many of my basic needs are so well provided for, that I am out of survival mode, and am privileged enough to have time for depression.

Depression is a privilege? Really? Yeah, kinda.

I am grateful for you, dear reader, giving your eyeballs and thoughts and time to my writings.

That I have an audience of any kind to observe and share in my quest is an honour. That you constantly return and share celebrations and commiserations with me is exciting and humbling.

I am grateful for the material possessions which I use to create and publish these IQs every day.

I am grateful for the chance to be of service; to help.

I am grateful for the deep connection I feel with nature and the ocean.

I am grateful for the transformational power of gratitude. As I sat to write this today, I was furious – for a whole bunch of silly reasons – and felt like I wasn’t interested in doing these IQs anymore. (Truly.)

Yet, at the end of a few hundred words – mostly based around the phrase “I am grateful for…” – I feel my mood lifted, my spirits buoyed, my heart light again.

This is actually an interesting taste – for me – of the profound power of gratitude. I have been following the work of Toni Powell (filmmaker, author, TEDx speaker, gratitude expert) for some time, and this morning as I sat down to write my IQ I thought to myself: “I’m really pi$$ed off right now, so maybe I should just start writing all the things I’m grateful for, and see what happens?”

And here I am, happier and lighter. Magical.

Toni has recently done some booked-out free webinars on her work with happiness and gratitude, and has subsequently just released an online course called “The Great Full Life Class”. The course is normally $349 but has an earlybird special of $169 for the rest of today (Sep 28th). I only just remembered – thanks to a reminder email – so I’ve decided to sign up and see what I can learn from Toni’s work.

Click here if you’re interested. Note: This is not an affiliate link. I just love what Toni does and want you to have the chance to check it out.

In the meantime, I shall be pondering the wise words of Mr Bryant – amazing NBA basketballer – and thinking on how I can use my challenges to rise.

Have an amazing Sunday, wherever you are in the world.

With love,
Israel. xo

 

The soul always knows what to do

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“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.” – Caroline Myss

You may have noticed an absence of IQs for the past two days.

In a word? Overwhelm.

I have been so utterly overwhelmed, and so “spent” that I haven’t had anything meaningful to say. I wish it were otherwise, and I feel bad for breaking my own commitment to publish every single day, but I guess something in me needed the time out.

When my head gets really full, as I’ve probably written about before, I start to drop commitments. It’s like a built-in pressure-relief valve in my head.

Recently I’ve become really solid on what actually makes the biggest difference for my family – my paid work, and my health – and I take care of those things first. In itself, this is a big deal.

Previously, I have shunned even the paid work part, meaning that I sabotage not only my own well-being, but that of my family too. (Not a good idea.)

So I can at least say I’m getting better, which is kinda the point of this whole journey, right?

Today’s IQ is all about letting my intuition take over, and simply dropping the IQs for a short break. During the past two days of non-publishing, my mind was going crazy. In spite of this, my heart and my soul felt a sense of relief at not publishing, which tells me that my soul needed the rest.

The fact that this IQ has felt cathartic, fun, and of some value, tells me that I made the right decision.

I hope you are well.

With love,
Israel. xo

 

Make it count

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“Make it count.”

There’s a touch of truth in the statement most commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

Turns out it was originally stated thus by Aristotle: “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.” (At least, so says Wikipedia.)

This morning – despite the inevitable inertia, tension, and stress at trying something new – we all got out of the house and down to Maroubra Beach by about 6:30am ish. Bel packed us a picnic brekky, and I went for a surf while Bel and the kids did some exercise at the outdoor gym, had running races, went for a quick dip, and scooted around. We all re-convened for breakfast, before coming home and getting ready for the day.

It got me thinking about what it takes to make each day count, and in fact what “make it count” actually means.

To me, it means making the most of our health and vitality, our resources, our talents, and our time. Make the most of those things, and see what we can create.

Use our skills (or skillz – go gangsta) to do something interesting, beautiful, creative, wonderful, loving, special, unique.

Make our lives mean something. It only has to be meaningful to ourselves, but it ought to have some meaning.

Make it count:

  • your time
  • your vitality
  • your love
  • your pain
  • your joy
  • your effort
  • your mind
  • your skills
  • your beauty
  • your passion
  • your soul
  • your energy
  • your life

Make. It. Count.

With love,
Israel. xo