From Depression to Paradise

It was 1997 and I was 16 years old.  My parents were in the midst of a divorce.  I was experiencing depression for the first time.  I had mearly just started to “find myself” after my family had moved to Los Angeles just a coupld short years earlier.  I had made close friends, fell in love for the first time, got my drivers licence and was in the early stages of planning post-secondary education.  I was in the middle of my own puppy-love break-up and life felt upsidedown.  Marijuana and escapism started coming into play.  It was the begining of a depression that would last the next two decades of my life.  

I was able to relocate to San Francisco for the begining of college, which I would drop out of shortly after due to health and financial reasons.  My family retunred to Canada and I was yet again at the crossroads of my life, without direction.  Feeling lost and displaced, my camera was my only identity.  It was my backstage pass to any cultural movement.  I had made many friends in Califnornia, and after crossing the border on-tour with my freind’s band, I was stuck back in Toronto where I had no personal identity or connection with.  This set the stage for the next 20 years of my life.  This summer I’ll turn 38.  I decided enough was enough.  I’ve been awaiting the perfect time to return to the place where I first “found myself”, my creativity, my soul and meaningful friendships.  

Admist rising living costs in Toronto, Canada, the loft I was renting was purchased by new owners, they wanted old tenents out to convert units to condos.  During the slow year I was having in business, I was bought out of my lease and saw an opportunity to leave the country.  Enter HAVEN.  A coliving house in Venice Beach, California.  A beautiful compound of furnished amenities and travellers of a health and wellness mindset.  To most my friends and family it sounded too good to be true.  After a Skype tour, application and background check, I was accepted into the community.  Within six weeks I sold everything I owned and bought a plane ticket to paradise.  

Upon arrival and dipping my toes into the sandy beach, surrounded by palm trees, a glowing sun and energy of the ocean, I made it back home.  It’s been an emotional first week of happiness and relief from two decades of depression and displacement.  Mind you, a little CBD in my iced coffee help put me in touch with my feelings.  I’ve been experiencing tears of joy and relief almost every day.  But today I am surrounded by spiritual house-mates and old friends I haven’t spoken to in over two decades.  They have all welcomed me with open arms.  People have responded to me within 24-hours here, where in Toronto, people drag their feet to comit to anything or may not respond at all!

As of today, I have six months to get my shit together and make a life work for me here.  I honestly feel I have found the end of the rainbow. I plan to reinvent myself, my career and attract the things I care about the most, friendships, creativity and my health.  The weight of 20 years has instantly been lifted off my shoulders.  I sleep like a log and my dreams are more vivid than ever before.  Just the sight of a palm tree puts a smile on my face.  Every plant, person and street makes me feel more optomistic about life here again for the first time.  What took me four years to develop community in Toronto, has take me four hours of landing in a safe place, community and country I feel most alive in.  My soul has been touched, and while I have risked so much, I have found hope in life again.  I won’t go too far into the depths of my despair, but I was ready to end my life.  Instead, I flipped life on its head and took the greatest chance I could, to be happy once again. 

So while my friends and family had a lot of questions and concerns about my choices, they are now releived to see me happy again for the first time.  My goal is to become a better friend, brother, son and overal human.  But first I have a little work to do on myself as I open myself up to all posibilities.  To follow my heart and be a passenger of life.  I could cry just writing this.  Today I went for my first run down the street and jumped into the ocean.  Within my first week we experienced the biggest earthquake California has had in 20 years.  Internally, I feel my life decisions have been earth shattering.  So whether I’m here for six weeks, six months or six years…I’ll never regret making the choices I have today.  I won’t die asking myself “what-if”.  And all my old friends have welcomed me home, because they know this is where my heart is.  And for anyone questioning their own life choices, I say, just do it.  

What Does Your Content Look Like?

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What does your content look like? What stories are you telling?

Less is more. You’ve heard this saying over and over again but simplicity is a virtue. You’ve seen it in Apple’s advertising. People use the word ‘simple’ and ‘clean’ over and over again. Because it works. While we are all suckers for overthinking things, knowing what you want to say is usually more valuable than knowing how you want to say it.

Just say it! Get it done! Spit it out! Get to the point, quicker. White. White is simple.

We identify white with clean. Clean feels refreshing. A blank slate. A new idea or opportunity. You feel optimistic. We like white.

Black and white. Why is black and white classic? Why is it timeless? Is it because the first film invented was black and white? So we identify it without judgement to time, style or colour? Regardless, we are fans of black and white. Video and photography. It allows us focus on our subject, who they are and what they have to say.

We like characters. People with a good story and sense of self. We like go-getters, entrepreneurs and disruptors. Casting real people for camera isn’t easy. Finding a good story to be told on-camera isn’t easy. We all have a story of how we got here and where we are going. We are all products of our environment. It’s how we chose to share our stories that matter. It reflects what signals we put out into the world and what we attract. CHANNEL8 prides itself on finding great characters and real people to shoot, profile and share their stories.

Trust. This might be one of the most unique traits that we have little control over between two people. Outside the lighting, vibe and posture of your subject gaining your subject’s trust is single handedly and arguable the most valuable characteristic a photographer or director needs to embrace. Especially when you’re asking someone to spill their guts and tell you their views and opinions on life, business and relationships.

But trust is how we connect. More so than communication. Communication is a tool.

Two people can speak two different languages and without trust neither will care to understand the other party. Willingness to listen is equally as important but with trust comes vibe and you have to want to trust before listening. And whether someone wants to tell you their truth or not is up to them. It is the story they wish to tell you in that moment. Without a history or relationship with this person, it is not up to us to judge, but to learn from each other. As they say, there are no mistakes. We may feel regret in a relationship but we are meant to learn from our encounters. From the content we read, consume and share. From the conversations we have with each other.

Packaging. This is a process that takes time, trial and error. Not over one video but over a course of a career. We believe in getting the content out there. Nothing is “perfect” so to speak. Everyone has different standards and as long as everyone involved is happy than the content must go out. No need to dwell for hours or have sleepless nights…just get it out there! We like classical music, slow motion picture and inspired sound-bytes. That’s the world we live in. That’s the world we are creating.

Everyone has a story to tell, what story are you trying to tell? You can also direct and influence the conversations you have with people to inspire you and in-turn, your audience. Have conversations you want to have. People believe in what you are passionate about. So find something to be passionate about and go for it. Your audience will follow.

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Juice Up Your Life

Take basic social media platform and amplify with better content.

Wow Kalen, can you have a more boring tagline?

What I’m trying to share with you is that A) I love juicing and B) you should make better content and C) I can help you

For starters, be genuine!  Viewers want authenticity.  Vulnerability and humility is another big one.  I understand you need to be professional, but that doesn’t mean you have to mask who you are!  Look at me, being a complete idiot, but, I’m being as vulnerable as fuck.  It’s more entertaining!

 

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But for real, if you are going to differentiate yourself from your competitors, then find great spokespeople who translate on-camera too.  Some public speakers aren’t great on camera, and vs versa.

Then you want good sound and lighting equipment or a quiet space near a window if you’re using . your phone.   But Kalen still likes cameras, so he brings out his gear.

Then find a tangible product or tool to display or represent your brand on camera.  In my latest silly rant stream of IGTV videos, I use fruits and vegetables to get my conversation about health going. Now while I likely don’t have a streamline of conscious purpose to my videos (besides displaying how I can execute video content) present your case, product or service and why we should listen to you!

Then we edit out all the bad boring parts and keep the gold, that’s how we package you!

I’m sure you feel better about your life already.  Especially since no one will read this far, except you! xoxo

_Kalen

Health x Happiness: How To ‘Unstuck’ Your Creative Self

There is truly nothing worse for an artist for when they are stuck in the mud and can’t move forward with their work.  Various life elements come into play.  Working as a professional freelance contractor, this happens more often, the longer you stay in the game.  So how do you ‘unstuck’ your creativity?  I battle with this myself and want to share my experience with you.

Almost once a year I’ll come up with a new project to focus my attention and energy on.  Something I put all my eggs into one basket.  An idea that I invest all my professional time, money and resources believing in the new direction of my creative work and business.  It’s taxing.  Starting from scratch with a new focus or idea, even with the most research and packaging, doesn’t alway result in what you expect it to become.  Either your direction gets taken in a way you didn’t expect or the return isn’t greater than the reward.  Either way, you need to pull up your boot straps and keep moving on!

Taking chances as a freelancer has been risky for me.  I isolate myself to prepare all the marketing assets I need to help sell my idea.  Last year alone I spent learning about new technology in my field, but was not able to sell my new platform.  It was taxing on my mental health, big time.  When you sacrifice your health and relationship for the goal of achieving or creating a new identity for yourself, I ask myself, why am I doing this?

I have been a dreamer my whole life.  For better or for worse, I believe in my dreams and ideals.  But so many other factors come into play before your dreams may come true.  Timing, persistence, patience, luck.  And all those things may work against you.  I listen to famous people say things like “don’t give up on your dreams”.  It can be tough.  But something I have learned the hard way is, you can’t do it on your own.

Support in all areas of your life are essential.  I personally hide away to avoid distraction from life so to work and be productive on my goals.  Not everyone will understand your process or sacrifices.  But keep your support system close.  You’ll need them when you things don’t go your way, and you’ll want their love when things work out in the end too.

My cousin and I cutting deals over juice.

One of my failures is not setting distinct goals and milestones.  I come up with ideas, research and package them so well, yet my only goal is to get paid for the projects, ideas, services and materialization of my ideas.  But getting paid represents more than financial success, it signifies that someone believes in what you have to offer.  Acknowledgement and affirmation.  What other factors keep you inspired?  What keeps you going?  What is your daily motivation to keep moving forward?  The answer is different for everyone.

You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with.  This thought scares me sometimes as there people I love for different reasons.  I like people with bold character traits who wear their individualism on their sleeve.  These types can be exciting to be around, but may not always live, work or share the same life or career passions or drive than you have.  I have some lazy friends who are great people, but I worry they may slow me down.  I believe life is all about balance, love, respect and communication.  Elements not easy to achieve but essential to peace and happiness.  Some of the most successful people you may cross, don’t always have the time to be your best friend.  I believe in mentorship.  I believe in helping people the same way people help me.  We can’t always be taking from each other, energy exchange must flow in and out.  What you give is what you get.  Or so they say!

To say “think positive thoughts” doesn’t always come so easy.  When life gets in the way, how can you create or be productive for that matter?  I believe in routine.  Creating a lifestyle that is conducive to results.  Once I turned 30, health and fitness were top of mind.  My thought train was, exercise to have more energy to be more productive to make more money.  Low and behold, I ‘unstuck’ myself.  Making small changes and sticking to them, was everything.  We don’t have to be so extreme with our diets, purchases, commitments or otherwise to help ourselves.  People give up eating certain foods, or quit drinking or purchase a large fitness program in hopes of their life changing over night.  Newsflash, nothing happens over night!  You can start something over night, but it’s only just the beginning.  Your commitments will dictate your outcome.

Caution: forcing a smile can result in a real smile.

Health, fitness, mentorship, setting goals and asking for help are part of the process to making any big changes in your life or career!  It’s a lot of responsibility, which is why most people don’t go out on their own.  After a decade of self-employment, I see the appeal of working for someone else.  Stability to build a life and family.  But really, the grass is always greener.  What you don’t have always seems more appealing.  So don’t compare!  Comparing your life to others will only get in the way of your success.  Trust me, I still struggle with this today.

For over twenty years I have battled with my mental health and depression.  It’s something that being self employed, gets in the way of my success.  It gets so bad sometimes that I’ll start to hate anyone I know who has found success in their field.  I’ll have days where I am so exhausted from being stuck after pursuing my passion for so long, only to feel like I am so behind a younger generation that has creeped up with a following that half these kids have online.  The FOMO over success seems to be such an empty pursuit.  Some of the most successful people can feel so alone.  Why is that?  Is it the sacrifices they have made in their personal lives?  I see a mix of both.  I hear people who win awards thanking their “…family who believed in them…” which tells me all I need to know about their support system.  Growing up in an environment that supports your beliefs is a beautiful place to come from, but we’re not all that lucky!  Luck does play a part in success, but not without consistency.  Most success comes after years of hard work.  My personal issue is that I change my target more often than not, making it hard for me to see success on any given idea, project or pursuit.  My skills and my practice is all I know.  I picked up the camera when I was 15.  I’m 37 today as I write this.  I’ve been shooting for over 20 years and in business for over 10.  It’s been a career of shooting on film, tape to memory cards.  A world that now everyone is a photographer and content creator, changing the value of what I offer.  The general public seems to have a hard time paying for creativity, which is why finding your niche is so important!  People want to put you in a box so they know who to ask for and for specifically, what you have to offer.  There are certain things you can’t fight, so go with the flow and adjust accordingly.

You’ll know when you’ve found your purpose when you’re happy in the zone doing what you love.

So my advice to anyone who is stuck and can’t find the creativity they are looking for, I recommend starting with any of the flowing tips:

  • keep a healthy routine
  • start new routines
  • exercise often
  • surround yourself with positive, inspired people
  • ask for help
  • seek new resources
  • mentor and be mentored
  • try new methods of practice and approach to your practice
  • set distinctive goals that aren’t just monetary
  • support the communities in which you wish to be supported by
  • mediate, practice breathing techniques
  • write down your thoughts, especially your negative ones, clear out those cobwebs!
  • self care.  make good life choices.  make small, daily changes in your life

This post was partially inspired by my readings of The Artist’s Way.

The good news is, the world keeps turning and not everyday is the same.  The universe will respond to you making choices each day.

Lastly, I can’t stress enough about community and self care.  Surround yourself with good people who bring you up and raise your frequency!  Take a look around at the people in your life and consider who lifts you up and who brings you down.

Even in the darkest of moments in life, there is light to be had and I am living proof that we can all obtain a level of happiness that we deserve.  We just have to believe in it.  Give yourself time to be down, sad, lost and stuck in your creative path.  Then one day, get back on that horse and do again what makes you happy.

Get in touch with your inner child. That’s where you’ll find your gold.

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