Jonathan Harris

January 7th, 2014

Getting Stuck – at New York’s Lincoln Center fountain, with an approximate timeline of my life.

Editor’s Note: First I’ll quote an email from my 16-year-old daughter, Hope: “Okay so I just read that whole thing- twice. And it made me cry a little bit- twice. Well played, Jonathan Harris, well played. Everything he does is so perfectly unusual and against the norm. It’s like, I think I have this view of the world and then in walks JH with his mind and ideas and I’m like, ‘oh, shit, now I have to fit that new astonishing piece of information into my now turned-upside-down worldview.’ Once again he’s made my life better by ruining it.”

She’s referring to Jonathan’s new Transom Manifesto, “Navigating Stuckness,” an autobiographical journey with teachable moments, following Jonathan’s path as a diarist, painter, storyteller, data artist, web visionary, and who knows what next? That’s the question. You’ll find ponderable lessons for all of us who are ever stuck, accompanied by wonderful original illustrations. Jay A

  • Download “Jonathan Harris” Manifesto (PDF)
  • Navigating Stuckness

    Getting Stuck

    A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with my mom in Manhattan. She was telling me her plans for this year’s Christmas card. “This year,” she said, “instead of writing my usual newsy card, I think I’ll just say, ‘Amanda’s about to have a baby, and Jonathan moved from California back to New York.'”

    “Sounds good to me,” I said.

    “Well,” she said, “it seems like you used to do so much in a year, and I always wanted to include all your news. But this year, it just seems like you haven’t been doing very much, so I figured a shorter note was in order.”

    I squirmed in my chair and readjusted my napkin. My mom — maybe like all moms — has a special way of saying just the thing that’ll hit your most vulnerable spot. She’s right — this year, I haven’t been doing very much. I’ve spent a lot of time wandering into churches, reading old journals, watching YouTube videos, and staring out of windows, but very little time making any work. I’ve been feeling really stuck, unsure about what to do next, and struggling with a lot of self-doubt and confusion.

    After dinner, I walked across the street to the Lincoln Center fountain, and I sat on the granite slab next to the water. The night was dark and cold. Operagoers in tuxedos rushed to get taxis. I could feel the black stone below my body. I looked at the city sky but I couldn’t see stars. I turned my head to look at the water. The columns of water were moving up and down in some kind of pattern, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Sometimes the columns of water were tall, and moving up and down within their tallness. Other times, the columns of water were low, and moving up and down within their lowness. The columns of water were never not moving.

    I thought about stuckness, and about where I lost the flow. I remembered other times in my life I’d been stuck, and how the stuckness always eventually passed. I thought how life is a lot like that fountain, with its columns of water moving up and down, and how the low points are actually thrilling because the high points are about to come back, and how the high points are actually terrifying, because the low points always come next.

    I thought of my life as a series of chapters, and I realized that each time I’d been majorly stuck, it meant that a life chapter was ending, and that a new one needed to start — like the stuckness was always a signal indicating imminent change. My life has had a bunch of different chapters, each one beginning with the fresh-faced idealism of a new approach to living, and each one ending with a period of stuckness and a moment of crisis. I’d like to tell you about those chapters, in case they contain something useful for you.

    I should say up front that I’m lucky to make a living mainly by giving talks about my work at conferences, companies, and universities, which affords me a lot of time each year to make new work (and to obsess endlessly about what that work should be). In Zen philosophy, they say that anything pushed to its extreme becomes its opposite. Sometimes I wonder whether too much freedom produces a weird kind of psychological paralysis, which is almost like prison. Still, obviously I’m grateful to be grappling with too much freedom instead of too little.

    Chapter 1: Paint (1995-2003)

    Paint – a foggy field in Deerfield, Massachusetts, with pages from my travel journals.

    In high school, I was a total romantic. I had a field easel, and I’d stand around in meadows doing oil paintings while wearing a little beret. In college, inspired by the travel journals of Peter Beard, I kept elaborate sketchbooks filled with dead insects, pasted plants, ticket stubs, watercolor paintings, photographs, and writing. I made these books by hand and kept them for several years. At the same time, I was studying computer science in the early days of the Internet, and I felt a growing rift between the sober art of painting and the dizzying potential of the web. I couldn’t find a way to bridge these two worlds, and I started to feel torn — partly pulled into the future, and partly stuck in the past. I’d graduated from Princeton but was still living in town, doing odd jobs and generally feeling bad about myself and unsure about what to do next. I took a trip to Central America and ended up getting robbed by five guys who put a gun to my head, beat me up pretty badly, and stole my bag, which contained a sketchbook with nine months of work. It was one of those odd moments in life that’s really traumatic, but which ends up being a doorway into something new. After the robbery, I gave up painting, stopped keeping sketchbooks, and resolved to use computer code as my new artistic medium. I wanted to make things that guys with guns couldn’t steal. Around this time, I received a one-year fellowship at Fabrica, a communications research center in northern Italy. I moved to Italy, and I started writing code.

    Chapter 2: Data (2003-2008)

    Data – coding I Want You To Want Me in my old apartment in Brooklyn, New York.

    I became obsessed with the potential of data to tell me everything I’d ever need to know about life. I could sit safely at my desk and write computer programs to gather vast amounts of Internet data, which I thought could finally answer timeless questions like “what is love?” and “what is faith?” with precision and clarity. With manic self-confidence, I pumped out project after project visualizing different data sets, pairing each project with a bombastic artist statement about how the work revealed insights about humanity that had previously been hidden.

    There was We Feel Fine (a search engine for human emotions), Universe (a system for deducing new constellations for the night sky), I Want You To Want Me (a study of online dating), Lovelines (a portrait of love and hate), 10×10 (a distillation of global media coverage), Phylotaxis (a visualization of science news), and Wordcount (an exploration of language).

    My data visualization work coincided nicely with society’s increasing obsession with data-based reasoning, which was infiltrating nearly every aspect of our lives — from news, to sports, to finance, to education, to politics, to healthcare, to dating. Because of this, I got lucky, and had some early success. I got to speak at TED, got a commission from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, showed my work at Sundance, appeared on CNN and NPR, and companies started paying me to give one-hour lectures about working with data. I quit my job, and spent all my time giving talks and making work.

    I burned through projects and people, devouring a series of relationships that never seemed as interesting as my work. I was full of pithy insights about human emotion to spout at cocktail parties, but I started to notice that my data-based insights did very little to help my actual relationships. I began to grow suspicious of data. My insights felt increasingly superficial, and though they made me sound clever and witty, they didn’t do much to help me be kind. The world’s love affair with data was just heating up, but mine was cooling down.

    MoMA commissioned the last data-based work I made: a project about online dating, called I Want You To Want Me. I’ve never worked harder on anything. For three months, I spent eighteen hours a day in front of a five-foot-wide touchscreen, poring over hundreds of thousands of dating profiles, and writing over 50,000 lines of code. I’d go for walks in the evening around my neighborhood in Brooklyn, and I’d look into restaurants at actual couples on actual dates, unable to imagine what they could possibly be saying. My mind was completely inside the machine, and I’d never felt more alienated from other human beings. I guess I thought the MoMA commission would somehow change my life, catapulting me into even higher echelons of fame and attention. But that didn’t really happen. The show went up, there was a big party, and then people basically went back to their lives.

    I didn’t know what to do next. I went on some Internet dates, but it was hard to connect with anyone, and I just ended up feeling worse about myself. I started to get really depressed. I went down to Texas. I drove out to Marfa and saw the Marfa lights. I drove to the Mexico border and waded across the Rio Grande into a desolate Mexican town. I slept out in the desert under the stars. Being away from computer screens, I started to feel better. A sense of adventure and possibility crept back into my life. I’d meet strangers in diners, and it would feel good to talk to them. I started to feel human again. I liked the feeling of rambling around, getting into strange situations, and actually living life in the physical world. I decided to start making projects about the real world — where instead of using a computer, I’d do the “data collection” myself. I’d take photos. I’d shoot videos. I’d record sound. I went back to New York to get started.

    Chapter 3: Documentary (2008-2010)

    Documentary – characters from The Whale Hunt, Balloons of Bhutan, and I Love Your Work.

    Instead of trying to be the smartest person in the room, now I wanted to be the most interesting. Many people make choices to try to be better people — they take up yoga, they become vegetarian, they resolve to spend more time with their parents. Often, I use my work as a way to steer my life in a particular direction. I’ll identify something I want to change about myself, and then I’ll design a project to help me do it. In this case, I felt like I’d never really become a man. My childhood friends in Vermont were hunting deer, building houses, running farms, and being dads. I was just typing into computers, writing clever programs, and looking for praise. I wanted to change that. I wanted to live a bolder life, and I designed a series of projects to force me to try. I went whale hunting in Alaska. I traveled to Bhutan to learn about spirituality and happiness. I filmed the everyday lives of lesbian porn stars in New York. For each of my deficiencies (masculinity, wisdom, sexuality), I designed a project to help me confront it, which I hoped would help me transcend it. In a way, this worked. My life suddenly got interesting. People were curious. I always had outrageous stories to tell. I’d present these stories in intricate interactive frameworks of my own design, and I’d release them on the web. Again, I got lucky. My work with interactive storytelling coincided with society’s increasing obsession with “storytelling” in all of its forms.

    Storytelling, which used to be a reasonably small niche populated by organizations like This American Life, The Moth, and StoryCorps, was suddenly everywhere. Every advertising agency was now a “storytelling agency,” every ad campaign was now a “storytelling campaign,” and every app was now a “storytelling tool.” Storytelling had gone mainstream and become one of those words — like “sustainability” and “innovation”– that’s so ubiquitous as to be basically meaningless. Yet through all this, I was riding the wave.

    The World Economic Forum named me a “Young Global Leader,” citing my storytelling work. I was constantly being invited to trendy cocktail parties in New York. I was flying all over the world to give lectures. My life was moving very fast, but I began to feel like a fraud: I was wearing my stories like armor, telling the same winning tales again and again to laughter and praise, but never going deeper, and never revealing myself. I began to feel like a hunter, constantly chasing down the next story to win me acclaim. Since all my stories (like most documentaries) basically belonged to other people, I also began to feel like a thief.

    One night, I hosted a dinner party for twelve at my apartment in Brooklyn. We stayed up till five in the morning and drank eighteen bottles of wine. My friend Henry stayed over, sleeping on the couch. At 7:00 a.m. a loud BOOM awakened us; the whole building was shaking. We rushed to the window to see that a car had crashed into the building; only its trunk was poking out of the hole it’d smashed in the wall. Smoke was rising from the hood. We ran into the street in our underwear, unsure if the car was about to explode (luckily, it didn’t).

    I took the car crash as a sign to leave New York and find a new direction. I wanted to slow down. I wanted to simplify my life. I wanted to find balance again. I didn’t want to rely on other people’s stories. I didn’t want to be a thief anymore. Instead, I decided to hold a mirror up to myself and tell my own stories.

    Chapter 4: Autobiography (2010-2011)

    Autobiography – my cabin in the woods in Sisters, Oregon, watched by an owl.

    When I turned 30, I left New York, bought a car, and drove across the country to Oregon, where I spent four months living in a little log cabin in the woods. I’d see another person about once every four days when I traveled to town to buy groceries. I started a simple ritual of taking a photo and writing a short story each day, and then posting them on the Internet each night. I continued this ritual for 440 days, and I called the project Today.

    At first, Today was a wonderful addition to my life. I found myself becoming more aware of the world around me, more capable of connecting with others, and better at identifying beauty. I became obsessed with life’s “teachable moments” — the little things each of us encounters that might have a teachable value to others. I got good at spotting these teachable moments and condensing them into little narrative nuggets, so that others could digest them. I began to understand that principles delivered out of context will never be remembered, and that telling people the story of how you came to hold a given principle is better — so it’s like they lived through it themselves. I got obsessed with the potential of stories to communicate wisdom, but at the same time, I began to understand that really, you can’t teach wisdom — it has to be won by experience. Stories can alert you to the existence of certain truths, but you never really embody those truths until you reach them on your own.

    I traveled from Oregon, to Santa Fe, to Iceland, to Vermont, doing a series of art residencies, living like a hermit, and continuing my daily photo project. More and more people began to follow along, until an audience of several thousand strangers was observing the intimate details of my everyday life. This began to be a burden. The project took on a performative quality; I found myself intentionally hunting down interesting situations, just so I could write about them that evening. I found myself plundering the relationships in my life for material, often with damaging consequences. I began to feel like a spectator to my own life, unsure whether to document it or simply to live it.

    During this time, I fell in love with a young woman named Emmy. She was working at the art gallery in Vermont where I had a show. We only knew each other briefly, but when she chose to leave me for her ex, I was devastated, and for a couple months, I could barely get out of bed. This was probably the lowest point in my life. My daily stories around that time were brutal and strange, and my family and friends began to worry that I was in danger of harming myself. At that point, the daily stories were simply too much, and I abruptly decided to stop the project. I sent a brief email to the people following it, saying I wouldn’t be doing it anymore, and thanking them for their attention.

    Within an hour of sending that email, I received over 500 responses from people all over the world, telling me how much the project meant to them, and thanking me for doing it. Most of these people I’d never heard from before. One woman in the UK said the project had kept her from killing herself, because it gave her hope each day to keep going. Many people said they’d never written before because they never knew what to say, but that my daily story was their favorite part of each day.

    I never imagined that such a simple project — just a photo and some of my thoughts — could touch so many people so deeply. It made me realize that the most powerful things are often the simplest, as long as they’re made honestly and with a lot of heart. It also made me believe in the power of personal stories, so I decided to make a tool to encourage other people to tell them.

    Chapter 5: Tools (2010-2013)

    Tools – coding Cowbird in Siglufjörður, Iceland, under the aurora borealis.

    I set out to create Cowbird, a storytelling platform for anyone to use. My dream was to build the world’s first public library of human experience — a kind of Wikipedia for everyday life. After making so many projects for people to look at, I wanted to make something for people to use.

    I thought Cowbird would change the world. I thought it would become the anti-Facebook, harnessing a growing desire for substance, and that millions of people would use it. It was simple and beautiful, and brimming with detail, sincerity, and depth. I worked on it alone in isolation for two years, with monomaniacal certainty that people would love it.

    During that time, the world changed. Storytelling apps became commonplace. Internet use went mobile. Tablets went mainstream. Geolocation emerged. I noticed these things, but I ignored them. I worked with single-minded focus on Cowbird, sticking to my original vision, which became increasingly out of touch with reality. By the time Cowbird finally launched, it joined a crowded field of storytelling apps (Instagram, Path, Facebook, Vimeo, Tumblr) with more to follow (Medium, Vine, Wander, Days, Storybird, Maptia, etc.). All these apps were basically the same — ways for humans to share photos, videos, and text — and this process began to bore me.

    But I was living in northern California near Silicon Valley, and everyone urged me to do what everyone out there does, which is to start a company and raise money, so that’s what I did. I hired fancy lawyers for $850 an hour, founded a Delaware C-Corp, and arranged an angel round of $500,000 from a dozen investors, using a convertible note. This whole process felt icky to me, but I did it anyway — it was simply what everyone in California did. Right before we signed the paperwork, I had to fly to Spain to give a lecture.

    For the first time in months, I had a few days away from computers and away from Silicon Valley. I wandered the streets of Barcelona, sat in cafes, and thought about the life I wanted to live. I watched old Catalonian couples walk hand in hand through leafy plazas. The women wore ankle-length dresses, and the men wore clunky shoes and fedoras. They walked slowly, said hello to friends, looked around at the buildings, and up at the trees. It was a world away from the frantic ambition of Silicon Valley — here it was just human beings living their lives.

    A couple months earlier, a wealthy Internet friend had invited me on a sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands. One day, we visited Richard Branson’s private island. I was struck by Branson’s humility; even with all of his fame and success, he’d never stopped being kind — maybe that was his secret. It was interesting to see his life — the secluded tropical island, the flamingo colony, the giant tortoises, the lemurs, the bungalows, the sailboat races, the assistants, the phone calls, the beautiful people. This was the endgame of the money life, and it made me realize it wasn’t for me.

    When I think about my own future, my dream is always the same. I’m living in a small beautiful farmhouse in a small beautiful town among a small community that values me. I’m living with a wife and kids I love deeply, and I spend each day making art and watching nature. My mind is clear and calm, I’m in control of my time, and I’m kind.

    In a cafe in Barcelona, I decided not to take the investment money. In my heart, I realized I just didn’t want to run a company. I didn’t want to sit in meetings, manage people, market products, raise money, and send emails all day. Really, I just wanted to make small, beautiful things.

    Getting Unstuck

    Getting Unstuck – in my childhood bedroom in Shelburne, Vermont.

    All we have in life is our time. People struggle after success. They hunger for fame, fortune, and power. But in all of these things, the same question exists — what will you do with your time? How do you want to spend your days? As Annie Dillard reminds us, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

    In life, you will become known for doing what you do. That sounds obvious, but it’s profound. If you want to be known as someone who does a particular thing, then you must start doing that thing immediately. Don’t wait. There is no other way. It probably won’t make you money at first, but do it anyway. Work nights. Work weekends. Sleep less. Whatever you have to do. If you’re lucky enough to know what brings you bliss, then do that thing at once. If you do it well, and for long enough, the world will find ways to repay you.

    This fall, in a toilet stall in Burlington, Vermont, I saw this scrawled on the wall:

    “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. The world needs more people who have come alive.”

    If you’re doing something you love, you won’t care what the world thinks, because you’ll love the process anyway. This is one of those truths that we know, but which we can’t seem to stop forgetting.

    In America, success is a word we hear a lot. What does it mean? Is it money, power, fame, love? I like how Bob Dylan defines it: “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”

    We have these brief lives, and our only real choice is how we will fill them. Your attention is precious. Don’t squander it. Don’t throw it away. Don’t let companies and products steal it from you. Don’t let advertisers trick you into lusting after things you don’t need. Don’t let the media convince you to covet the lives of celebrities. Own your attention — it’s all you really have.

    In the tradeoff between timeliness and timelessness, choose the latter. The zeitgeist rewards timeliness, but your soul rewards timelessness. Work on things that will last.

    Inside each of us is a little ten-year-old child, curious and pure, acting on impulse, not yet caring what other people think. Remember what you were doing at ten, and try to get back to doing that thing, incorporating everything you’ve learned along the way.

    When I was ten, I was writing words and drawing pictures.

    Maybe that’s the path out of the stuckness.

    Jonathan Harris. Photo by Bianca Giaever

    About Jonathan Harris

    Jonathan Harris currently lives in Brooklyn, where he splits his time between programming and painting. All the projects mentioned in his essay are viewable at

    213 Comments on “Jonathan Harris”

    • momurphy411 says:

      The timing for this piece to pop into my email is perfect. Thanks. Really, thanks.

      • Glad it hit home for you, Mo.

        • Jake says:

          Same here man, I’ve been in a really similar place. I spent almost all my time during school, college, uni etc making music and recording stuff in the hopes I’d get somewhere and make a living off of it eschewing literally everything else, until I realised I didn’t want to play live because I hate the egotistical aura that comes with it. I eventually made so much music that it has actually become tedious, uninspiring and I now need a break. I’ve spent so much time on music that I didn’t focus on my ‘stable’ future, failed one of my uni modules, can’t get benefits or student finance, and literally broke I’ve moved back to my parents place with next to no social or romantic life which is where I’ve started to learn computer programming because it feels like more of a down to earth profession and like my work will actually benefit someone and I am now stuck. It’s uncanny, that whole data thing. Seriously. Your idea of having a project to move you forward into a direction you want is such a good idea. I’m going to try it out while I continue searching for part time work to get me started again. I’m 22 now and I’m taking this recent happening and super tedium as an imperative that I must begin to live more fully and leave my head and live in the physical world for a while. Also here’s the music I ended up creating and deciding I didn’t want to do any more:

          Just another one of those people your stories have touched. Hopefully I’ll forge just as interesting ones as you have during the course of my 20’s, thanks for this article, gonna read it a lot I think, hopefully my story will give you the same satisfaction as yours gave me x

      • Karyna says:

        Same here. Email came in just at the right time. “Ask, and you shall receive.” Dwelling in what to do and how to do it, takes most of our time. I see people with ‘less’ skill and definitively less doubts – or awareness of the quality of their work/products – publish/produce/put stuff out all the time. When Jonathan started Cowbird I always kept an eye open to see his stories, and when he was silent for a while, I wondered what was up – kinda knowing he was searching for stuff… in his soul.

        You – Jonathan – are an incredibly talented person, who has enormous awareness, and what is obvious to you – has yet not even been questioned by many. It is this very precise genius of yours that calls for constant expansion. :)
        I can’t wait to see all the good stuff around the corner, and once you resume your ways, again. :)

        WE LOVE YOU!
        (little house – little city – loving family: sounds perfect :) )

      • Marie says:

        You are lucky, Jonathan. Embrace the love of the Universe for you. I’ve been stuck for a couple of years. S t u c k. Lots of huge life changes. Although truly, I’m beginning to understand and appreciate the journey. In retrospect, it was a couple of years of allowing the Universe to design my learning curriculum – up until now! – though it didn’t and doesn’t seem like it all the time. And in this very moment, although I’m not exactly sure what my passion is because it seems that as soon as I think I’ve found it and have delved into it somewhat I’ve changed my mind (though my heart has always – always – sung), but I’m kind and open and loving and have been blessed with time, though not necessarily money (still figuring that out). I started to compare myself to my supposedly successful peers (death to comparisons!) but noticed that the main difference is that they value their freedom in the sense of money, while it seems that I value mine in time. Time to wonder, wander in awe of the beauty of the human experience. Time to observe. Time to just be. And in this sense, I am stuck. Happily stuck and would like to stick to my slow and steady retired lola (grandma in tagalog) lifestyle for the most part, though my physical age my have one thinking otherwise.

        Out of curiosity, did you design your life to be like this, or is it only clear now how it all came to be in hindsight?

        Much love, high fives + hugs,

    • shan says:

      Thank you for sharing your journey… sounds like you are finding peace with the here and now.

    • Beth Boucher says:

      Thanks for putting this universal wisdom out there, Jonathan. There is a certain “stuckness” I fear I’ve come to expect as part of becoming an adult. While it’s tragic to write this, there’s the reality of a need for security of income/healthcare/retirement for many- especially in the US. You’re on to something, though, and you’re not alone in wanting to make change in what success is, what happiness can be, but, like, not just theoretically. Like, for real. What writers/artists like you are helping to do is create a culture shift. It’s working. Please don’t stop. I’m doing my part as well. So, thanks.

    • sfalderman says:

      You are a bright light, and I’m grateful for you as always.

    • “Own your attention – it’s all you really have.” Wonderful. Thank you for this.

    • Katie Brown says:

      Thanks for sharing you progress, its an underscore for where I’m heading. I’ve appreciated all your work so far and your letting it go, too. Thanks JH.

    • Alberto says:

      Thanks for being honest. A lot of this stuff resonated with me. I’ve been a fan of your work for some time now, and I’m wondering why you abandoned cowbird.

      • Thanks, Alberto. I didn’t totally abandon Cowbird — it’s still humming along in a mostly autonomous fashion, and there’s a community of people who use it and find it very meaningful. I guess I just abandoned my dream of it becoming the next big thing on the Internet, on par with Facebook, Twitter, etc. Of course, that’s a very bold dream, and I know it’s fine to be grateful for the more modest but still substantial impact it’s had so far. Take care.

    • Jenny Bhatt says:

      This has been such a wonderful read. I keep returning to it because, as it has been for other commenters here, it’s as if you’ve given voice to my thoughts (but, much better-expressed, of course). Thank you.

    • That’s great Jonathan….seeing the struggles and small victories of others is inspirational – we are not alone out there.
      Best wishes David

    • brook says:

      At 8 years old, Lily is singing and painting a lot Jonathan. At 88, I hope she’s doing the same :-)

    • Hey Jonathan, we first met at a dinner (w Burda) at gramercy 6 years ago, and we had a fascinating long conversation about creativity and learning — that led me to follow and respect your unique creative & honest mind ever since . Thanks for this beautiful and painful autobiographical essay and for sharing honest reflections about your challenging path. Mine has been similar in so many ways. Lots of food for thought (and action )…Sending a big hug. Follow your dreams….Anything you can dream you can do. Xx Idit.

    • Hi Jonathan — Great piece of writing and one that I’m sure a lot of us will connect with.

      I love the intrinsic irony. That it is a piece about being creatively stuck, yet you’ve produced something thoughtful and creative to describe this condition. Great, thought-provoking stuff.

      Nice new site too by the way :)

    • Ferhan Cook says:

      Jonathan…. I met you at the Picnic conference in 2007 or 8 and since then I have been following.. You are so wise… Thanks for those word of wisdom. They come at a time where i am reframing my life and my thoughts completely, and they are valuable insights that you’ve learned a lot earlier than I…. better late than never though.. Good luck achieving your little dream of happiness, and bliss in that little farmhouse, in the little village… And keep writing.. You are inspirational. Thanks again.

    • anouschka d says:

      Thank you for being so open and sharing your experience, Jonathan! We all need a reminder every now and then that being stuck actually can bring us closer to what it is that we really want deep in our heart and can serve us in our highest good… :-)

      • Yeah, I think I’ve begun to understand the value of being stuck. A minister friend of mine compared it to winter — when above the ground, things look wasted, but under the ground, there is lots of new life happening.

    • Nick Childs says:

      Really interesting, beautiful, and helpful. Thank you and Transom for creating and sharing.

    • Katie Dwyer says:

      What a powerful essay! Thank you for sharing your journey–I found profound inspiration in both the high points and the stuck times. I can’t wait to delve into your past projects, and to see what inspires you to the next project. .

    • julie keefe says:

      Thank you Jonathan. This helps.
      I teach thousands of children each year and I have always told the 10-year-olds to pay attention to what they love now.

    • Thanks Jonathan. Your journey touched many along the way, me included. Writing stories on cowbird, in one of my stuckedness times in my life transformed it – and me – an led me from the bottom up. Painting your portrait from your arctic journey was one of the steps back into my own flow and bliss. Yet again I am seeking a way out from another dark place. My creativity and hunger to live and love fully are my fuel. And your words coming in, again at the right moment into my mailbox are a clue to follow and keep going where my heart leads me. So thank you again … You may be a stranger but you are also a fellow traveler I am grateful to walk alongside on my path. Good luck – and till the next contemplation spot at the oasis of thought and joy….

    • cynthia says:

      Thank you for this- I’m a graduate student in photography, and this resonates very well with me. I plan on sharing it with my class this semester.. really great and honest wisdom here. all the best, Cynthia

    • Kim says:

      I almost bought this, your writing is so good … and convincing. But being stuck is a bunch of baloney. There is always something to do, but our minds have ways of criticizing our voices and decisions and thoughts. Someone has to the mop the floor.

      • Stuckness might be baloney, but I think it’s something many people feel, and it feels true to those people when they feel it. I think it’s actually a useful feeling — it’s a signal that it’s time to change course, and get back to a kind of doing that feels more authentic and true.

    • Meg says:

      I just finished reading The Unwinding by George Packer, and I was feeling pretty low about life, America, hope. Thanks for this.

    • Joan says:

      Johnathan…I originally planned to “scan, cursory” your email then run off to “address/plan” what my life was demanding at the time when i found myself (and the lower case “i” is an accent) slowing down as I absorbed you and your life and struggle(s). Over the years, I have watched you grow through your works, I have seen glimps of what I instinctly new was sheer “brilliance” flow through your work yet mingled with a little insecurity of you not knowing how good you and how you were impacting the liveS of so many. Again another job well done and you sheepishly equivicating between “knowing” and “not Knowing” your really are that inspirational. Gotta go now! You give me HOPE, your life ENCOURAGES me because you share…007 got nutt’in on you babe!

    • Bryan Fuhr says:

      Thanks so much for sharing this. Like many people in the technology, media, and communications fields, I’ve been stuck in a rut while the commercialization of the internet picks up steam. Your essay gave words to the feelings I’ve been experiencing.

      • Yeah, it’s sometimes hard to remember what a wonderful space for self-expression the Internet can be. It sometimes feels like start-up land, where everybody’s just trying to profit off of everybody else. Despite all this, I still love the Web as a space for self-expression. I think it’s the best one we’ve got.

    • Chris B. says:

      “The world needs more people who have come alive.”

    • kiki le fleur says:

      sitting down under a tree, the buddha awakened. he touched the earth with one hand- a symbol of total presence.

      i think you are touching earth, jonathan, and yet you have been all along. i am deeply grateful that you’ve chosen to share your journey.

    • Melissa says:

      Oh Jonathan, you could not have been more eloquent. When the call to introversion comes in this wild, wooly world we are often loathe to respond. You did. Look at yourself now. Absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful!

    • shoelady2 says:

      Hey! If you are writing for us “baby boomers”, you really hit the mark!

    • Rick says:

      whatever you experience is eventually personal – -you getting stuck is me tacking ;-)

    • Miriam says:

      After reading this, I almost feel like it would be inappropriate to thank you for this story. But I’d want to thank you for all your stories. For me, they are inspiring because you seem to have a perseverance that I would like to have in my life. Also, the way you seem to have made life changing choices and your awareness of them is inspiring. I guess for a long time, I just lived my life. I made some choices, but looking back at it, I wonder if they were mine, or others.
      Last year, I quit my job to pursue a dream, and it really frightens me. Because it forces me to find my own way, instead of following the obvious path. And that’s why your stories are so inspiring: you show me / us / people who dream of things but might be afraid to follow their dreams that you can actually do it. As long as you have perseverance..
      What I love about this story though, is that it comes down to being among loved ones and to be kind. That is something we can all dream about.
      So, thank you. For being inspiring, and for being honest. And for making beautiful things.

    • Jen says:

      Great stuff here. Wow!

    • Koins281 says:

      Texas was good to me after getting my cold weather gear stolen in Minneapolis , on my way to ride my honda up to Alaska ,I had to detour, to the south. Cheers

    • David Aikman says:

      For what it’s worth, you never felt like a fraud to me. Please don’t confuse “success” with “significance”. What you do matters.

    • Katie Shelly says:

      Dear Jonathan,

      I really enjoyed your article and much of it resonates with me. I want to know what you think of this article:

      Thank you,

      • This article makes some good points. The world is obviously complicated, and people’s access to opportunity is absurdly uneven. It is easy to feel terrible about nearly everything we do (shopping at supermarkets, flying airplanes, buying overpriced coffee, preferencing loved ones over strangers, etc.) when you think about the brutal suffering that many humans experience. But that kind of logic is itself bleak and brutal, and stripped of joy. The world has a lot of shitty stuff happening, but also a lot of wonderful stuff. That’s life. I think each person needs to accept their reality, whatever it is, and try to do their very best within that context. Some people will try to “change the world,” and that’s admirable. Others will simply try to change themselves – to be the best person they can – and I think that’s actually just as admirable, and possibly more so.

        • On second thought, I think my last comment wasn’t quite right. I don’t want to pretend I have some big theory about the right way to live your life. I’m not sure there is one. I used to date this girl who worked for a labor union. She did really righteous work every day, fighting for the rights of workers, protesting nasty corporations, and picketing outside restaurants that refused to let their employees form unions. She felt really good about the work she was doing, and I could tell it was noble, and for her it was true. Yet still, it never captured my heart. In my head, I knew it was good work, but I never really wanted to help her, or get involved in all of the protesting and shouting. It always felt a bit angry to me. She used to criticize me, saying I wasn’t helping our democracy, that I was ignoring the injustice running rampant in the world, that I was selfish and privileged and elite. Maybe she was right, and maybe I am all of those things. I don’t know. I just remember wanting to sit in my room and spend my time trying to make beautiful things for the Internet. It felt like she was dedicating her life to fixing bad old things, and I was dedicating my life to making good new things. Both of these approaches feel worthwhile to me, but they’re different. When I read articles like the one you mentioned, lambasting the whole “Do What You Love” logic, I think about my relationship with the labor union girl. It’s not that it’s wise and right to do only what you love, nor that it’s selfish and wrong to do only what you love. I think we all develop these different logics for how we choose to spend our time. Some people are fighters. Some people are thinkers. Some people are makers. I think I’m more of a thinker and a maker than I am a fighter. I’m grateful that there are people in this world like my labor union girlfriend, fixing all the bad stuff, but at the same time, that’s not me. I’d be pretending if I tried to live by that logic. I hope the world has space for both kinds of people. Beauty is important too, and I think beauty usually comes from people who are doing what they love.

    • Numblock says:

      What a life you’ve led already!
      Hope you find your way to continue creating things that always remind me to ‘come alive’. Or not.

    • Dave Pappas says:

      A switch has been flipped in me recently… and I’m trying hard… not to try so hard… we’ll see what happens. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on getting stuck.

    • I feel heavy with gratitude for having found this. A million thank yous.

    • Camille Guice says:

      I don’t think you are stuck – you are evolving. Just because you aren’t totally engrossed in a project doesn’t mean you aren’t doing anything. This essay is a great example. It’s eloquent, touching, honest, heart-breaking… and you are sharing it with the world. That takes courage. It’s easy to share when you’re doing something exciting, much harder when you’re not. I have no doubt the next idea will come in time. Being creative is part of who you are and not something you’ll ever lose. I think you have the right idea about the life you’d like to have. In the end, it’s people who matter. Thanks for sharing your art/heart with us.

    • Thank you Jonathan for these stories, they come to me at a particular time in my life when I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer–one year after having launched a non-profit organization that took 8 years to scale, and which is still struggling for vital funds to stay afloat. I indeed do feel stuck–stuck seeking to hear what Life wants for the next chapter of my life. The concept of timelessness is something that I will ponder today and as I move forward crafting this next chapter of my life, and praying every step of the way that Life/Spirit is guiding not I. Blessings, and thank you.

    • Cindy Gallop says:

      Nice one, Jonathan.

      Let’s catch up :)

    • Lisa Shobhana says:

      I am a creative person who has been struggling to become unstuck for sometime. Thank you for this. It is exactly what I needed to read today.

    • rasaestee says:

      Thank you, for articulating this so well. Chapters and the spaces in between. With attention, I find, they are exquisitely heat-rending and infinitely creative. Every time. Thank you. :-)

    • tokyomike55 says:

      This was an amazing read. Loved it. And learned from it. Thanks!

    • Joel says:

      Sometimes we forget what is important. You helped me remember. Thanks!

    • Zack says:

      Having recently celebrated my birthday, graduated law school and completing an arduous, soul-destroying licensing process, your manifesto came none too soon for me. While I look now for my first “real” job, I can’t help but wonder where I will be next and what will make me happy? We spend our whole lives building this world around ourselves, often to fill the unfulfilled needs and wants we had as children.

      The realisation at times that we can/can’t have everything we want is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, but still leaves the question of what’s next? What is there to do if this is as good as it gets?

      Very recently, I have come to the realisation that “as good as it gets” does not exist. We arrive at points in our lives where we reach the point of “enough”. Whether it is enough of school, social lives, money, power, those that are happy find enough and move onto the next challenge. I’m hoping I will be strong enough when the time comes to know when I reach this point and move on.

    • Cliff Paige says:

      My name is Cliff–I have met you twice at Whillplehill— i am coming to a big unsticking in my life–retirement—I have borrowed inspiration from you—I am retiring from a long life in education next June. This June I will begin a project where every week I mail one of my neckties(I have many of hem) to a person who has meant something to me—I will ask that person to take a pictue with the necktie on and make a short video with an anecdote of our times together.WHat do you think??

    • Laura says:

      Hi. Nice one, and thanks. One thing though, I feel that you still talk a lot about “do”. Do things, get up and do…what you like, etc. i’m in with the “do” myself, I know him, and acted most of my life on it. And I would rather undo and rewind or so to the point of just Be. I am. That’s it. Enough. Love, life and procreate, as in create. :) love, L from Bucharest, Romania

    • sheila says:

      Wow, this is inspiring. It sounds like my life amplified. I’ve always been wandering between art and finance. I spent the last year painting and storytelling. I’m always getting stuck and unstuck…finally deciding that I had to pursue my passion for painting, and wondering if I got anywhere at all (hence, deciding to start looking for finance jobs again). I know I made the right decision to do what I love. I love to paint. Thanks for reminding me to stay alive.

    • Hey Jonathan, I saw you many years ago when you showed in Singapore. You humbly presented your project and I didn’t even have a clue who you were at that time, but since that day; I’ve followed and have been greatly moved and inspired by your work and I sincerely would like to offer you a thank you for your all your hard work that has become so inspirational.

    • Jessica Dunlop says:

      I am truly stuck today, and as usual life is reflecting my inner state perfectly.. fridge broken, cooker broken, sink blocked, home in disarray and a seemingly impossible mountain of creative projects ahead, none of which I have begun and feeling phased and blue about it all..stuck! I find myself laughing after reading your essay. A timely reminder of the bigger picture, it’s just an ebb before the flow. Thank you for sharing your experiences of ‘being stuck’, inspiring words indeed.

    • Lisa Kate says:

      Thank you so much for this, @Jonathan.

    • jennifer hill says:

      Thank you so much for this. It’s something I should read and re-read a couple time a month :) I’m married, have two amazing children, a beautiful home, a rewarding career. And yet I feel “stuck” because I do not do enough of what I love. I allow the world to dictate my time and tell me what’s important. When what is important…it’s right there. Staring me in the face.

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks for sharing this! I’m 28, living in the South Eastern part of Asia. The country where I live in emphasizes a lot on academic successes – it is as if we are all factory-produced products of society. I can’t fit in. The things I love to do are media-related, and media in terms of broadcast, radio and social media, doesn’t make much money, making living kind of hard. There are a couple of friends I know who want to live the lives they want, but because of such living standards, we have no choice but to conform to our 9 to 6 jobs, and try our best to be contented. I had the honor – or the misfortune- of job-hopping through the past 8 years, ending up with a part-time degree, and no full-time job right now, because of some bullying issues which caused me to quit my high-paying sales manager position. Life’s tough these days, and I think I’m stuck, as I can’t seem to find a dream job upon having a degree finally. Life seems bleak right now. But your article gave me hope as well. I’m not sure how things will move from here, but one thing I know – the job I’m in will not define me for life, I have to constantly keep in touch with myself, so that when the things I want to do appear, I will learn to grab hold of the opportunity. Thanks a lot, Jon!

    • Elizabeth James says:

      Jonathan, are you familiar with the work of Richard Bargdill? He has written several papers on the phenomenon of life boredom. I think a lot of people, myself included (and possibly several of your commentors), suffer from life boredom, stuckness, pervasive ennui. It’s all a search for meaningfulness.

    • viirj says:

      I’ve been really inspired by your work and it’s really very refreshing how honest, real, and vulnerable this piece is. In a lot of your points of this reading, I found myself relating to them deeply. I grew up painting and always thought I’d make it a career. It’s been 5 years now since I’ve last painted. Since going to school, I’ve gotten myself willingly lost in learning about the world of social problems, architecture, business, design, engineering, robotics. Now that this chapter is nearly ending, I am stuck. And in a way divorced from how to connect my artistic cores, with social problems I want to contribute to, and the self-doubt that lingers as I consider continuing to study CS or robotics. For me, this stuckness is testing my sense of purpose, identity, and potential against external ideas of value. Being authentic to myself and filtering through the noise of external pressures is the hardest part of being unstuck. For that, you seem to have down and commend you for inspiring so many through it.

    • kbloom6 says:

      Jonathan, your journey is very poignant. You are a magnificent writer. Thank you for sharing. Your story is insightful and self effacing. I am honored to have known you – once upon a time, and again, now, through your writing.
      Kari de Burgh Bloom

    • Julie Baun says:

      Perfect timing for my life. What a beautiful piece. Thank you.

    • aj0011 says:

      Nobody knows the world of being stuck better than I do and this essay came along at just the right time for me. Thanks, Jonathan!

    • Aviva Jaye says:

      Amazing, Jonathan Harris. Thank you so much for posting this! Your work is incredible also.

    • Luis says:

      Thanks Jonathan. Thank you for sharing.

    • Ralf Lippold says:

      Jonathan, your story going back to your childhood, very much resonates with myself. Yesterday I was asked, “Please tell me what you really do. I can’t quite understand your personality, and what you strive for.” – this struck me, while doing an online course on storytelling, #AcumenStorytelling, right now and together with your text it once more encourages me to put my own biography (spanning now almost 49 years) onto electronic paper.

      “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. The world needs more people who have come alive.”

      h/t to @jhagel (John Hagel, who just shared on Facebook)

    • Thank-you! This is an absolutely beautiful piece. I’ve recently discovered your work and I’ve found it very inspiring. Its a gift to read your insight behind your ups and downs and to be reminded that the ups will come back.

    • Molly M says:

      Wow, I really connected to your voice and your art, especially toward the end. Thank you for sharing your story. Here’s to less reality TV and more reality period. Mindfulness is key. Be well.

    • Paula Ring says:

      Thank you for the genuine writing. It’s refreshing.

      One of my favorite parts:
      “I began to understand that really, you can’t teach wisdom — it has to be won by experience. Stories can alert you to the existence of certain truths, but you never really embody those truths until you reach them on your own.”

      This resonates on a similar wavelength to David Foster Wallace’s speech “This is Water.”

      Here’s an excerpt of his talk, accompanied by some clever artwork:

      Thanks again!!

    • Mary Nelson says:

      Dear Jonathan,

      It’s taken a snowy Saturday afternoon for me to make the quiet time to reacquaint myself with your journey. I met you at one of your corporate lectures (Cincinnati), devoured We Feel Fine and tracked with you for 440 Today days, always cherishing the privilege of your insightful vulnerability.

      For me the most powerful sentences in your entire essay are the following:

      When I think about my own future, my dream is always the same. I’m living in a small beautiful farmhouse in a small beautiful town among a small community that values me. I’m living with a wife and kids I love deeply, and I spend each day making art and watching nature. My mind is clear and calm, I’m in control of my time, and I’m kind.

      Is there a reason you just can’t “unstick” from Brooklyn and take baby steps toward this dream? It seems like a pretty clear and tangible vision. When I read your essay I was listening to an old recording by Metamora, specifically the song Little Potato ( and it occurred to me that someday you will be writing and illustrating wonderful books for your children, and they will be shared and read by many other children. And their lives and the lives of their parents will be better for it.

      Very sincerely, Mary Nelson

    • Juliann says:

      You fascinate me, Jonathan Harris. I heard you speak at a conference in 2008 and I was so inspired that I began writing more and blogging. It’s grown into something so wonderful to me. (I joined Cowbird, too, and contribute to that.)

      It’s wonderful to read more about you here. Can’t wait to see what the next chapter in your life holds.

    • .. says:

      Maybe, it’s far more simple than all this, what people were moved by was your voice, whether it was paint, data or words, and the fact you are brave enough to share your soul. Maybe you are not stuck. Maybe, you are a writer?

    • Rachel says:

      I remember Cowbird and enjoyed the concept you introduced, and how I felt inspired. Thank you.

    • Just a well wisher says:


      Thank you deeply for sharing your life experiences.

      Each human being (or entity) has a ‘Life Navigation Service’. This powerful instinct guides one through life, mostly subconsciously, to make the choices one makes – both so-called positive and negative ones – based on its ‘tendencies’ earlier in life by itself and then later in life along with life’s thus-far experiences.

      Almost every human being has an innate talent. Most go without discovering it. Several let life’s learning experiences affect them in a limiting fashion.

      A significant section of the population in India, especially south, subconsciously go through life following the simple concept you finally laid out.

      Welcome to the Silent Revolution of the Self-Realization! or Inner Engineering…

      Best wishes,
      Fellow Traveler in Life

    • jackie Boudina says:

      I have always known that to do the things that bring you the most happiness, in my case riding my horse and caring for stray dogs and cats, is more important than having a successful career, making you a stressed and most likely depressed human being. it s not easy as we can see when reading your article to follow your dreams but you seem to have found your way and I think I have too. leading a simple, humble life , close to nature feeds the soul thus bringing happiness. i look forward to reading more of your article and thank you for being an inspiration to so many people.

    • Leslie Malin says:

      This is an extraordinary read, And the paintings…amazing and such a wonderful counterpoint to your words. I am currently writing a book on the transformative power of failure, shame, stuckness, and confusion. It combines quotations that powerfully capture these feelings and my experience of them as well. I would love to use some of your words, if that is OK with you. This piece deeply touched me, I will distribute it to many, as well as keep it close as a source of inspiration. Thank you.

    • You’re about to be inundated with appreciation from subscribers to–so let me be the first. I’m “stuck” just outside Deerfield, Mass. the place where you began, sowing the slow seeds of the next creative cycle. My career started about 20 years before yours did, and took me from New York to Europe to California and now back to the East coast, with a few major cycles of walking away from everything to start anew (and lots of mini-lava flows in between). In the 90s, I began a non profit in California called Sacred Words: A Center for Healing Stories, to help women deal with stuckness and transition, in their work and personal lives. That was after working as a journalist, a film editor, a lobbyist for women’s sports, a wine writer, PBS commentator, health reporter and improvisational pianist. I was the kid who answered “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with the bewildered expression, “What? I have to choose?” But variety doesn’t mean there is no stuckness.It means you get on pretty intimate terms with it. As you know life will also keep you humble (from humus from the same root for the earth or soil beneath our feet.) I just wanted you to know that what you’ve written makes great sense to boomers, too. The seasons never stop coming, and we must still willing to go into the dark space for reinvention–especially in our 60s when the nature of the challenges begins to change and time starts getting short. There is always that question of how to be true to the inner life—and how to wait with the right mindfulness until the answers begin to reveal themselves. So thank you for the reminder to befriend the quiet and the fallowness. All blessings on your work and on your life. Valerie

    • sheila burns says:

      Jonathan, I know of a man who is living a life just like the odealized one you talked about. He lives on his small but encredibly diverse little working farm along with his family, his dogs and the many animals he cares for & photographs in a small quaint part of Vermont. While he is always working & busy he also photographs the most beautiful scenes along the way & posts them for others to see on the internet(John Churchman, Facebook). An artist with Brickhousestudios, he studied Theatre/English at Vassar College and now lives his simple/full/beautiful/inspirational lifestyle as the renassaince man many envy.Check him out.It is possible…

    • Seth Samuels says:

      It’s funny how, despite how different our lives are that each of us lead, there are these invisible consistencies, these common threads that bind and in turn characterize our shared highs, lows, and the journey between them. As with many of your other projects, the way you communicate your own life experience effortless pulls me in to consider my own. The temptation to list talking points over cups of coffee persisted as I read (and admittedly I jotted down a few), but again and again I reminded myself to simply read on, for this piece, despite being imprinted in time and space, is itself a conversation. As much as its a manifesto, it’s an open-ended dialogue between your journey to discover how you’ll spend your time, and for us on the receiving end of that dialogue to not only consider the same for our own time, but also how we’ll spend that time together as a human race.

      In figuring life out yourself, Jonathan, you’re helping all of us to do the same. This whole thing is an improv show, and though I will never be able to fully appreciate the depths of your lows and highs, I can and do appreciate your contributions to the show, and the reminder that it persists. “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Well sir, you certainly have.

    • Andy says:

      Thanks. Being stuck has always opened the next chapter, the last time when I was 64. Now I’m 74 and wondering if there’s another chapter beyond my busy-enough routine, which, perhaps unfortunately, I enjoy. How about doing a workshop at Esalen – I’d come for sure.

    • Danya says:

      Much love to you Jonathan. Thank you for your amazing words….

    • CC says:

      Time is meaningless in the face of creativity. Thank you for telling your story, and reminding me of mine. Now to get off this computer & live my story!

    • Scott Downs says:

      Love the thoughts and insights … and the glimpses of your work. Thank you! Looking forward to following more of your journey.

      Recently, I’m hearing voices saying “following your passion is terrible advice.” Personally, I think it’s the best possible advice. I love your offering in that vein. Go well!

    • Joanne Atkinson says:

      Jonathan, Thank you so much for this incredibly honest, heart warming, soul searching account of your life so far. You seem very wise for someone your age and I’m thankful you are and can write so inspirationally. At fifty one and several careers under my belt, I have yet to discover what I’d like to be when I “grow up”. I know I need to touch lives and for all our ides to be better for the interaction, but haven’t figured out what this needs to be to fulfil me. So I’m going to re-read your article as often as I need to to give me inspiration and keep your lesson in mind. With love & thanks. Joanne in Scotland xx

    • This e-mail through about your article just came right on time when I felt stuck..this would be one of my inspirations to go on and find another flow along the way too! Thanks Jonathan and love the artwork! :)

    • Dennis K says:

      I knew Jonathan when we attended high school together. I respected him then for the person he was; over time, I’ve enjoyed learning of all the things he’s done. His creations and accomplishments are/were impressive. However, I’m most inspired by what’s he’s shared in Navigating Stuckness. It’s not just his wisdom and experience that he’s offering; his greatest gift is that of sharing himself, and for all his successes who he is as a person continues to be his greatest contribution

    • Lynn Girardi says:

      Such inspiring writing and absolutely gorgeous artwork!!! Thank you for sharing your many talents we the world and inspiring us to do the same…such an important message.

    • Hugs to you Jonathan for sharing your Story and vulnerability. As a Cause Focused Storyteller I resonated with finding those small moments as well as focusing on what one loves to do and following that path. I sold my house & most of my possessions to create/facilitate a literacy project. So far donated programs for 33K kids & trained 800 teachers. I may not have the biggest bank account, but I am fulfilled and happy! (most of the time) this year went global. I feel Lucky! Big big HUG to you as you continue doing what you LOVE!

    • Lynnda says:

      Yes…this is true at any time in your life…getting back to the thing that one does best is the truest pathway to success…and cannot be measured by a material rule. In the end…as you said…all the we really own is our time. Be sure to spend it wisely. When it is gone…it is truly gone.

    • Kristi says:

      I’m printing this out. Wow. Thank you so so so much for being a soulmate to me at the perfect time in a way. I wish we could meet for coffee. Cheers.

    • laralizbeth says:

      ditto on the timing…… Most would think that at age 52 a person would have life pretty well figured out. Life in general – just about. Life personally….still working that learning curve!!!

    • Hey,

      I work for MatadorNetwork. We would love to republish this.

      Can you whizz me a email and I shall follow up with more details.


    • Luisa Nims says:

      Great article on your progress through life, I would like to share this with mixed media art magazine readers, may I republish? Luisa, Editor and Publisher MMAM

    • Kelly says:

      After a life-altering experience, I’ve found myself creating dream projects in my head and on paper. I wasn’t thinking specifically about the fact that I created them to confront and hopefully transcend personal deficiencies. Thank you for writing that – it allows me to see clearly and be ok with seeing– the connection my dream projects have to my deficiencies.

    • bzoe1 says:

      Thanks for the “morning cuppa…” Off to gather my paint, fabric and clear(er) visiion for the new day!!!!! OH, and to grab one of my many writing books!

    • @ahhfred says:

      Jon whatever you choose to do next, I do hope you keep sharing your story. As a young globetrotting web developer and creative with too much freedom, it’s fascinating and deeply inspiring to follow your story. Our modern time is unique and we need honest people to light the way.

    • MvdK says:

      Thanks. This is the story that all the burned-out, media-addicted kids, like me, should hear. Your projects are a real inspiration. I hope you find what you really desire. Lots of love from Holland.

    • jayhawk2008 says:

      I discovered your work just today. Brilliant. Bold. Daring. Courageous. Thank you. Here is my new quest:

      “If you’re lucky enough to know what brings you bliss, then do that thing at once. If you do it well, and for long enough, the world will find ways to repay you.”

      Now, I’m off to reconnect to the 10-year-old me!

    • Fornik Tsai says:

      Yes, think about what I own is very important, it is the only faith.

    • Minnie says:

      Hey Jonathan, I met you once or twice in New York at dinner parties through mutual friends during your Data period. I came across this work and so much of it resonated with me. Thanks for your sharing your words, your images, your self. Best to you.

    • Dear Jonathan, What you’ve described I think, is a coming of age story. I had similar experiences (though a lesser degree of outer succes than you) of perfecting excellence and working for praise and status etc. And those moments of finding the ladder was up against the wrong wall, and anyway I didn’t want to climb anymore, I just wanted to walk out in the sunshine with my friends.
      What you call ‘stuck’, at the moment I’m referring to as transition, I see the doubts so many of us have about what we were told our goals should be as part of the whole transition the society is going through. And I think this ‘life between stories’is recurring, if not permanent, for anyone willing to let go and follow where life is taking them. I love the writings of Charles Eisenstein, especially ‘The More Beautiful world our hearts know is possible’, he really pierces through a lot of activist arrogance, I recognised it in myself at certain times, and as you described in your past girlfriend, and he singles out how the small acts of kindness done for themselves really do change things.

      I followed your year in photos after the fact, reading through several days at a time, living with you. It was a beautiful experience, thank you for sharing it.
      I recognise in you, something that has been a long process happening in me too, there is a gentleness creeping in- towards myself and others.
      I love that you didn’t go for the business deal in Ca., that you seem to be coming closer to your own truth (which has shone out all along) It is beautiful to watch.

      I had an insight that all I wanted when I was striving to be an excellent artist, or bring off an intersting art/healthcare project, was love and connection.
      Now I don’t use my skills for those ends. I’m just resting and seeing what is next, connecting mroe to my village and friends, writing about my own process, trying to understand why my lifelong professional skills are not really valued in the present society; and still painting, though outside the gallery world; blogging; and above all, walking. That is what is bringing me peace and new movement and ideas. I’m so glad you are out there.
      kind regards,
      Sarah (64 going on 16)

    • Merry Malcontent says:

      What I am not is fanatical. What I am is an empath. Once I read that he went whale hunting I could read no further. How disappointing that finding himself included slaughtering one of the most intelligent and sentient beings on this planet.

    • Eve Turek says:

      Thank you. I’m late reading this, if I think of when you posted. And I am right on time reading this, as my heart and mind had been prepared for your words. I appreciate that you take the time to share the journey, thus creating signposts for those who also walk here.

    • Leslie Malin says:

      There are so many who can identify with your words of truth and self discovery. And then, find the hope and inspiration to move forward by releasing self judgment and blame and allowing self compassion and curiosity to enter. Thanks again Jonathan.

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