On the podcast today we interview someone who actually found out how to make his living doing something he loved.
And, I swear to god, if he can do it with this niche, there’s at least a chance for you to do it in whatever topic that’s got you excited.
Because this guy, Ross Symons, literally makes little paper animals.
Origami, that’s the interest Ross pursued.
No, I’m serious, ORIGAMI! Little. Paper. Animals.
Is there something you’re dreaming of pursuing? Or something that’s growing in interest for you?
Chances are, if you’re like a lot of us, you can’t even tell — your life is so crammed with responsibility, obligation, and, as Ross puts it, “What you THINK you want” that you can’t hear that little spark of true interest in you.
If that’s you, LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE. It’s a heavy duty, full-on glorious, interesting, quirky and human example of someone finding their own way.
My dream for you listening to this would be:
That’s what I want for you. So, let’s dive in!
Ross:I just find myself questioning like, “Why am I here?” You know?
Ross:I wasn’t getting paid what I thought I would be paid or what I felt I deserved for the amount of work I was putting in.
Chase:When you look back on that, what was it that was so unfulfilling about it? You mention like, “Okay, I wasn’t getting paid enough,” but it sounds like there was more than just that. It was like if you were getting paid an awful lot, you still would’ve been going like, “Is this it? Is this it?” What were the things that you were like, “No. This isn’t enough.”
Ross:A lot of the stuff was about me coming up with an idea or sitting in a team and we brainstormed this … I don’t know. I worked in advertising, so you’re sitting around and everyone’s talking. You can feel this, there’s quite vibe going. It’s a good idea, it’s like, “Man, Dude `that’s a good idea.” You feel this whole thing at the beginning stages of a project turning into something. That feeling, just, through the process of the whole corporate system, by the end of the project looks absolutely nothing. Firstly, you don’t get credited for the idea which is, as a creative person, it’s not always about the idea, but those are the things that we are, that’s what we do, we create, we make, and we come up with good ideas.
When you don’t see, or when you see an idea at the end, or what was your idea, something you were part of that was this beautiful, amazing, creative piece turn into nothing at the end, you’re just like, “Okay, well maybe the next project will be better.” And maybe the next project will be better. I just found that every time there was something, not only from my side but from everyone that I worked with, something that’s a really good idea that was born sitting in a meeting, it always just had so many barriers to getting to where it should be-
Chase:So you’re talking about this moment of- I love what you’re talking about that you’re sitting in a group. You know I can picture the creative advertising room and it’s like the ball’s being passed around and you’re building this idea. And it’s like the this is coming together moment. But then that waws completely neutered for you from the sort of outcome of it.
So you got, it almost seems to me and what it feels like to me as you’re saying this, it’s making me think of those moments where things are coming together. And then there’s just like there’s no fulfillment of this thing that’s coming together. It turns into something else because management needs it to be or something like that/ But you’ve been turned on by this process. You’re like, “Wait a minute. This was good. This was good. This was life. This was life giving. This was invigorating.” Is that what it was like? Am I hearing you right?
Ross:It’s inspiring. Yeah, absolutely. That’s exactly what it was. It was, I could feel those little moments of- and it was, it was working in a team and it was seeing these ideas being passed around. And you’re just like, “Oh, this is gonna be the best thing I’ve ever worked on.”
And by the end of it you just want to die. And that’s what you do, you die a little bit inside. I mean, there’s a part of you that’s just like, “I can’t do this anymore.”
Chase:Now what was the thing that made you want to die though? Help me understand more about that.
Ross:It’s just that feeling of I put so much effort and creativity and thought and passion and inspiration into that. And at the end of it it was just like, “What? Really? The client didn’t like the blue line.” Or whatever. You know, it was just like, “Guy’s, really? Is this really what happened to this whole project?”
And eventually I just- it caught up to me and I was just like, “Well, I think it’s time to get out of here.”
Chase:So, you mentioned that the whole time you were working at this agency you were making these little origami things just throughout the office. Tell about what that looked like in your work environment.
Ross:So the first time I ever folded a little paper cran was I was about 21. My brother asked me to fold something for a project he was busy with. I folded that and it was a habit. It became this thing that I just always did. It was my cool party trick. Fold the little paper thing and give it to the girl at the party. Whatever. It was just- that’s all it ever was. And it was never more than that.
Until I decided in about 2013, while I was working at an ad agency as a web developer. I was building websites. That I wanted to get into this origami thing a bit more. I had a lot of free time at work because I finished all my work and have my project manager standing kind of glaring over me, watching me fold these little- while I’m supposed to be putting a website live or sending a link to a client or something. He’s peering over my shoulder and there I am doing a duck origami tutorial or something. And I’m like, “Just let me finish this and I’ll do the work.”
And I realized at that point maybe this origami thing is more than just a distraction. It started becoming something that I was just doing all the time. I would whenever there was someone new that started at the office I would give them. Like an intern or whatever. I would just leave these little very basic origami folds all around the office.
And then towards the end of 2013 I had started an Instagram account and I only ever posted origami onto it. That’s pretty much all that was ever on that account. So I just thought, well why don’t I try and get better at origami and document it some way. And I’d had the idea, well I’d be inspired by the idea by an author by the name of [Wayne Dyer 00:05:58]. I don’t know if you know who [Wayne Dyer 00:06:00] is.
Ross:Yeah. So he did a project where he dedicated an entire year of his life to meditation practice. And it was based on the Dao de Jing, which is the way of life kind of. He took the book and for every parable or proverb that was in the book he meditated for so many days on that. And when I heard he did this full year project dedicating that whole year something that was gonna mean something to him I was inspired by that.
So I thought, well why don’t I do that with origami? Why don’t I try and document origami as sort of a yearly journey. So I thought, cool 2014 I was just gonna fold photograph and post onto Instagram a figure each day of the year. And that’s how it started. And it was day one of 365, on the first of January 2014, I had about I don’t know 120 followers or something. It was never about that. It was just to keep a record. A digital record of the stuff that I’d folded. That’s what I wanted it for, you know?
Steph:So take me back. Okay. I love this. I love that so you heard about this story of how [Wayne Dyer 00:07:15] did this year long thing. That was like a project dedicating this year to some little practice. Just like this is going to be a little totem for me throughout the year. And you’re like, “I could do that.”
But before that, take me back to this moment again where you’re like- describe for me this moment when you’re in your office and you’re like, “Maybe this origami stuff is more than just a distraction.” Take me into the moment. What were you wearing and tell me what it felt like to have that feeling.
Ross:I think it was more- the feeling kind of it wasn’t this like, “Oh my god. What is this moment?” It was like it kind of happened over time. Because what happened is I eventually just started feeling- I was working and I was working late nights and I was told that I couldn’t go do this in that because I had to work and whatever. And I was like, “I don’t need this in my life.” So I quite my job.
And when I quit my job, that’s when I realized like, “Wow I can actually focus quite a bit on this origami thing.” Because it was nothing more than just a sort of side project at that stage. And I quit my job. And I didn’t think cool I was gonna make money from this. I was doing freelance web development work. I started little business, electronics bases business with a friend of mine. So that’s, in my mind, how I was going to make money after I quit my job.
So the origami thing was just taking over. And people were only speaking to me about that. They weren’t asking like, “So, how’s the freelance work going?” They’re like, “Dude, this thing you’re doing on Instagram is really cool.” I was like, “Thanks. Okay. Well it’s cool for me too. I enjoy it. Keeps me out of trouble.”
And I was watching myself getting better at it and understanding the art of origami. Which is what I set out to do. And I think when I realized that it was a little- when I got paid for the first time to do an origami job it was an installation I had to do. I was asked to fold about 250 little origami pigs for a restaurant. They wanted something for one of their- it was just a little display. So they said, “Cool could you send us a quote?” I was like, “A- a quote? That means you’re going to pay for it.” I was like, “Um, okay well that’s kind of cool.”
So I sent them the quote. Didn’t have a clue of what you should charge for something like this. But I made money from it. And I remember that being quite a significant moment. Because I felt, I’m doing this thing that I enjoy that I would have never expected to get paid for. And now someone has asked me to do that for them. And their gonna pay me for it.
So something there happened and I was like, “Well, maybe I should start paying a bit more attention to this and maybe turn it into something.” And it was around then that I decided I was going to brand the Instagram account and the origami project. So I called it White on Rice. That was obviously a play on white, the color of rice, the color of paper being like the color white all over rice. Meaning- you know the term? If you’ve never heard it before.
Chase:Yeah. We’ve heard it.
Ross:And I thought that’s a pretty cool name for an origami brand. And so I called my account, it changed from I think my alias was Calvin Rockstar or something. Yeah, don’t ask. But I changed it from that to White on Rice. And when I named it and when I called it something else was no longer this guy in this little fishing village at the bottom of Africa folding paper. It was like this origami inspired lifestyle brand. And that’s when I started getting contacted for a couple of, “Hey Ross, could you fold this for us? How much would it cost for that?”
And this was about halfway through the year. And again my focus wasn’t the money. It didn’t change. My focus was still to fold 365 different designs. So that’s what kept me going. And I was watching myself get better at it. Obviously I mean my following was increasing, I was getting more likes and comments on all the photos and stuff. But I still just reminded myself, because I knew why I got into it. And that was to get better at origami. That was it. And as the year went on I got featured by Instagram and my account just caught alight. It was incredible. And even now, where I am now is just like it’s insane.
As the year went on more people started contacting me. I got more and more requests for little bits and pieces. And when I started making little animations. I started making stop frame animations. Which is again, it was just my desire to create and just to make stuff and do different things. I love film, I love music and sound. So I thought, what would be a cool way to take this paper folding. And I had a basic understanding of animation and stop frame animation. And let’s put it together. Put couple of those out onto Instagram. And that’s when brands started saying, “Hey, he’s telling little stories with these paper figures. His following is not bad at this stage. Let’s see how much he would charge for little animation for our brand.”
And that’s where it really kind of started for me. That was at the end of the project, end of the year around December 2014. And it was then I just decided- I remember just deciding to myself I’m not going to do any other work. This is what I want to do. And yeah that was nearly two years ago. No it was more than two years ago. Yeah.
Steph:I love when you reached out to us I love that you described yourself as an accidental origami artist. That totally just like captivated me. I love the way that you described that. So I guess one thing that I’m curious about is- so you’re going through 2014, right? You’re starting to gain a little bit more of a following. You’re doing the freelance work. I’m curious to know because you sort of mentioned- It seems like it was somewhat of an intentional decision to keep this Instagram project something that was really not something that you were relying on for income, right? It was sort of like a playful thing. It seems like you wanted to preserve the sort of I don’t know just the creativity of it. You weren’t trying to monetize it.
Was that a conscious decision for you through the course of that year? I have to imagine that you had a moment in 2014, maybe halfway when things were starting to pick up. You’re getting more likes and comments. Did you have any moment before that restaurant reached out to you for that installation where you thought to yourself, “Could I get paid for this? Could I turn this into a business?” Is that something that you consciously decided not to do? I’d love to hear more about that.
Ross:So that’s a great question. I can honestly say that before I got- even after I’d been paid for that first job, even then I didn’t think I was able to make more. I thought that was that. I was like, “Cool, I got paid to do my hobby. That’s it. I can die a happy man.” And I never thought- even before then I didn’t think ever that I could get paid for this. It was honestly never ever ever about money.
But as soon as my focus shifted. As soon as I decided well if I fold a lot of these I can charge more money. And I’m pretty quick at folding them. And I’m pretty good at folding. And people are asking me to do it. If I do this regularly I could make quite a bit of money. And it was at that point, and that was only towards the end of the year. I honestly like, every time I started thinking like, “Oh are gonna like this?” Or “Will this bring in more work?”
And I still use this, it’s like I think about what is the next thing. Or I was thinking about what was the next thing I was going to fold. It went down to the basics of what is the next color piece of paper I’m going to use? And am I going to fold a rabbit or a duck or a horse or whatever. And not to get to I don’t know what the word is, but on a spiritual level it was kind of like just focus inward and remember why you started this. Because if you keep going back to that surely the same things will happen. You know or these crazy things will happen.
And I honestly go back to that. When I start thinking like, “Woah.” Because I get asked to do interviews and all this stuff that’s just- and we’ll get into that, but it’s crazy. And I just go back to like is this what I want to be- like how can I make sure that I’m doing this for me. And it’s kind of like just focus on what I’m doing right now. And bringing it back directly to that next fold. Which was for me, during the project, was what is the next thing I’m gonna fold? Don’t worry about the likes. Don’t worry about the comments. Don’t worry about any money that could potentially come in. What is the next thing I was going to fold. And I just keep coming back to that.
Chase:I’m curious about that right there. What have you learned about that? About remembering why you started this?
Ross:There’s so much. But I think the main thing is that … Well what I have definitely learned is that I think what I was taught about how to make money and how to be happy and how you should live your life was all wrong. It was very- it might be right for some people but it was very wrong for me. In terms of, you go to school, this is what you need to study, this is how you’re going to make money. And no one ever tells you that that little whisper that you have inside you that’s telling you like, “Hey, maybe you should just go fold this little origami thing. Or draw this thing. Or do whatever.” We’re not taught to listen to that.
So, when things do get crazy and I’ve got a lot on the go. And I’m whining because no one’s getting back to me at work or whatever the case is, I just go back to that. What is going to make me happy right now? And that’s one thing that I still go back to. If I’m in a weird place and I don’t really know if work is going to come in. Or where this whole thing is going. Which happens often, on a regular basis. I just go back to, well let’s just fold something and see what happens. Calms me down and something always comes of it.
Steph:I love this. Ross, I love one thing you said. I want to just repeat it back because it’s totally resonating with me. I focus on the next paper that I’m going to fold. That to me is just such a beautiful, simple reminder of- and we’ve talked a lot about this on the Fizzle Show lately on controlling what you can actually control. Right? I think a lot of us want to believe, and we’re tempted to believe that we control the outcome. So, the Instagram followers, how many people comment, what the next job is gonna be.
But really what you’re saying, I think what I’m getting out of this, is if I can just figure out what is literally the next color of piece of paper that I’m gonna fold when I fold the next origami pig? I love the idea that this is kind of your anchor that helps you figure out. I can’t control all the things that are gonna come of this, but I can control the very next project that I do. And I’m just going to keep going with that.
So I just love that you’re able to center yourself on that.
Ross:Yeah, Steph. I totally agree with you. And it’s almost like in choosing to do that, that is actually the key to getting the things that you want to come into your life. I know that sounds bizarre.
Steph:No, I get chills from that. That’s amazing.
Ross:It works. And what’s very strange for me is that in hindsight- and as I’m speaking now I’m also feeling kind of, I’m buzzing a bit-
Ross:Because it’s like looking back everything that I learned from books, from like I said listening to podcasts, to seeing interviews and it just everything that I’ve learnt I’ve applied. But not consciously. And it comes back to, well just listen to what is going on inside you.
I mean, personally I had to go through quite a bit of just- everyone does. I’m not saying it was me only. But as soon as I started looking inwards and finding out who I was and what I liked why I did certain things. And worked out what my strengths and weaknesses were. And yeah that started happening when I was about sort of 30 years old. And when that happened that’s when I realized, okay cool the answer actually is just to look inside. And move in a direction that feels good instead of the direction that you think you should go.
Chase:Here’s what I’ve loved so far: I have loved hearing you talk about being in a situation asking yourself, “But isn’t there more?” Like there’s parts of you that were coming alive. And then those parts were needed. There was necessary in your job that we squash those. “Come on. That’s not what the job is now, Ross. The job is this thing over here. So please stop being like that.”
And you know, I’ve been in that situation. And it’s kind of like, okay that’s what I should do. That’s the smart thing. That’s what I think I should do then. And then you find yourself working nights, doing too much. And you were just like, “I’m over this. I’m done with this.” And you quit. You pulled the rip cord. You ejected your seat out of that job. And you have this- you have a little fantasy on web development. Doing some things on the side. I’ll be freelancing and doing this stuff. But the people in your life are sort of reflecting back to you where you’re really coming alive.
Like that Howard Thurman quote, “Don’t ask the world what it needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive? Because what the world needs is people who’ve coma alive.” And it’s like the people around you were going, “Dude, I love this origami thing.” Because they were responding to life. They were responding to you being alive. And it’s like that started creating energy that was palpable for people. And you had this very centering process of this thing. This was just like, “Hey, don’t forget why you started this in the first place.” Because it’s just sort of fun in a completely inane way to make these little foldings of papers.
So what is the very next thing you’re going to do? You give yourself this project of one a day for all of 2014 I think you said. And so it’s just this extremely personal, tangible, un-sexy, unnotable-
Chase:Uncool. Profoundly uncool. You know, it’s literally the thing the nerdy kid did at lunch in high school. It’s like, “What’s Oscar doing? Folding paper cranes?” “Yeah, he is.”
Do you know what I mean?
Chase:But for some reason you’re finding this life in this. This expression. It feels like play to you, and you make a commitment to that. Because you were inspired by a commitment that someone you admire made to a practice that they wanted. So you did that same thing and you stayed specific about it. What is the next animal I’m going to fold? What is the next color paper? What’s the next size? Just getting specific about the very next thing. Because these are, like Steph was saying, the things that you can control. And I love- I feel like there’s this-
Okay so here’s an interesting thing. It’s one thing- because obviously the big story here is like, holy crap this guy did it. He found a way to support himself doing something that he just utterly enjoys. To find a way to get paid. Alan Watts talks about, “Like any sensible person I’ve done the thing al other sensible people would do. I found a way to get paid to do something I enjoy. There’s no more to it than that.”
Right? And you’ve done it. You’ve found a way to get paid doing something that you enjoy. Right? And you have to be scrappy and all this other stuff. And there’s this big story about that. But then to me there’s this other story, cause I’ve been in this vein for a while now. And I watch the way that my own personal interest comes and goes, right? And some days it’s easy to go like, “I’m going to fold a crane on green paper.” And just be like that’s enough. And other days it’s like, “I’m going to fold a crane on green paper and Why? What the hell? What’s the point of it? Does this even matter?” Do you get into moment like that? And if you do, what have you learned about being in moments like that?
Ross:So, one of the things that I, once my Instagram following started picking up. And obviously there’s a big ego thing that happens. And fortunately for me, I’m not saying that I have my ego in control. It is out of control most of the time. But was that starting to do things for other people. And putting stuff out there because you think like, “okay I’m folding this green crane, and it makes me feel good. And I do it because I love it. But if I post a picture of it, someone’s going to know that I folded a green crane before.” And I have to have this- well I don’t have to but I do have this battle in my head of like, “Am I going to post it? Because now people are watching.”
Now it’s this thing because the 365 days project is done and now I use Instagram as a marketing channel. So now I have think about- well I don’t have to but I do. I think like, if I post this is it potentially going to bring me in another job. Or are people going to unfollow me? Which is a big thing. It’s like anything, when you start getting popular- I mean I’ve never been popular in anything. And I’m not saying I’m popular now. But my Instagram account tells me that what I’m doing is something that people can relate to. And I have a following growing. It’s not my following, it is people that have opted into clicking a little button.
But I’ve worked up that I can use that firstly to get my ideas out there, which that’s more important for me than the amount of money in my bank account. But I need to survive as well. So there’s that kind of fight that I have every now and then with myself. And at the beginning of this show I just decided I’m going to go back to that thing of you know what I’m just going to post it because it looks cool. So I’ve started playing with video and doing different things. And you can see- well I can see on my Instagram account it’s gone through phases of okay cool well I had a bit of a- well maybe I was on holiday there or I was doing a different style there. But it was very curated, it was very like I was aiming at- I could see myself aiming at like, well this could potentially please the crowd and grow my following more. Or whatever the case was.
And now that I’ve just gone back to, “okay cool, well let’s just get back to the origami. Stick to the basics. Do what you enjoy.” And everything just has fallen into place-
Chase:So hold on, so I-
Ross:And that’s kind of what I-
Chase:Am I hearing you right in saying that like, okay once the 365 project was done then you would have to come up with sort of other ideas. And sometimes those were maybe more ego driven. More like, maybe they’ll really like this. And a little less sort of just erupting from the ground up, from your self out, right? And then you kind of- is that what you mean when you’re saying you see these kind of cycles on the thing? And then you kind of come back to the origami? Come back to the like, “Hey, remember why you started doing this.”
Am I hearing you right about that?
Ross:Absolutely. And like I said, I can see the times where I wasn’t feeling good it reflects in my Instagram account. I mean it’s difficult. I could point it out if I was explaining it to somebody. But I can see. I’m like, “I wasn’t inspired there.” And I can see now that the stuff I’ve been posting lately I’m like, “Cool, there’s a bit of fire in there again. I’m excited.` I’m doing it.”
Chase:All right. Tell me about fire. Tell me about that word fire. “There’s a bit of fire in there again.” Just give me more words about what that means to you.
Ross:It’s almost like the time it takes me to come up with the idea, create the piece of content, and put it onto Instagram is so short. Because it just flows out of me. As opposed to me thinking about for weeks, “Okay, cool. So in two weeks time I’m gonna post what’s Monday the 17th is this holiday and I can put this thing and get a lot of likes and comments. And blah blah blah.”
And that’s all it is. I can just feel it. I’ll wake up, like yesterday was whenever it was. It was the 31st of January was backward day. And I heard it in a meditation I was doing. The lady on the app said, “Today is backward day. Why not try to do things backward?” And I was like, “Cool, I’m just going to record myself folding a little origami thing backwards.” Posted it on Instagram in it was awesome. It took me half an hour and it was amazing.
It just flowed out. And that’s that fire that I’m talking about. Just how easy it is for inspiration, and creativity, and ideas to flow through you when you’re in that state.
Chase:Okay. How easy it is for inspiration ideas to flow through you when you’re in that state. Okay when I- now in my life that state, I’m going to just throw out some words that that state sort of means to me or has been. It is a state of presence. It is a state of whatever the opposite of cynicism is. It’s sort of childlike. It’s like normally grinning a little bit, ear to ear in some ways. Right? Everything’s exciting. Everything is interesting. Everything is beautiful. Because I’m not holding myself to some standard that belongs to someone else. To someone else’s standard. I’m not saying, ‘This will be successful if it gets this result or that result.”
For some reason there’s just these moments where it flows. You keep using that word. I’ve always used that word. Rumi used that word when he said, Can I get it? Okay I’m going to do my Rumi poem real quick, all right?
“I believe god will give me my daily bread (next stanza)
When I go after what I think I want.-” I don’t know if you remember but earlier on in this conversation we were talking about what I think I want.
“When I go after what I think I want
My life is a furnace of distress and anxiety.-” But, and he doesn’t say but in the poem but you need it when you say it orally.
“But when I sit in my place of patience
What I want flows to me.” Okay?
“What I want flows to me.”
So when Rumi talks about it he says, “When I sit in my place of patience.” This is not somebody else’s place, this is not like I’m reaching out to become something more than I currently already am. And it’s my place of patience. It’s not, “I can’t wait.” It’s not, “Oh it would be so great if..” It’s not- and so for him it’s my place of patience. And this is in Daniel [Ladinski’s 00:30:23] translation of it, I believe. Oh no it’s not, actually.
Anyways, I geek out on- I go so geek out on mystic ancient poetry. So just forgive me that one. But you use this term flow and I don’t know. I guess all I’m trying to do is draw that out for the listener to hear. This concept of flow. And it’s something that’s been talked about in more sort of research based productivity modes as well. That you don’t have to be like, “Woo Woo spirituality” Wayne Dwyer and Rumi to get into this. You know? Because there’s this great book by [inaudible 00:30:58] I can’t remember his name, called Flow. And it’s about the sort of science and the psychology of flow. Which is not dissimilar to that experience when you’re driving and then you go,”Wait a minute, who’s been driving this car for the last eight miles?”
Ross:How the hell did we get home?
Chase:So what I’m seeing in my head is like these two big stories. The first one is accessible to more people. And it’s this idea of you are doing this thing and you’re feeling these things that are making you come alive. And then in order to stay successful in your job, you have to crush those things. You have to crush yourself to do it. And you’re strong, and you’re tough, right? And you’re smart. And you can crush those things to be successful. Just know that when you’re doing that you’re pursuing “success” in air quotes. “Success” over yourself. Right?
And what Ross’s story is showing us is there’s this other path where you can choose instead yourself. You’re not guaranteed success. Welcome to the f**cking furnace and the nightmare of like how are we going to pay the bills. But, you’re concession here is oh my god, I am happy.
Chase:I am satisfied. I have energy. I have ideas. These things just flow out of me. So there’s this one big story which is like hey there’s a way to follow sort of what interests you. What makes you come alive. There is a way. And we have a huge podcast we just did on this about why following your passion is terrible and necessary advice.
But then there’s this other story which is like, okay “I started following my passion. I started pursuing my care. I started pursuing what made me come alive. And it worked. I started really enjoying things. I started seeing some results from it. In that just people in my life were going ‘I Love what you’re doing on Instagram.’ My Instagram following started growing. It started working.”
And then it’s like, “okay so now how do we stay in that?” That’s a very different question. And we already have talked quite a bit about that.
Steph do you want to say something?
Steph:Yeah, well there’s one thing just to even deepen what you’re saying right now, Chase. What’s interesting to me, and what’s amazing is- So Ross has told us about how he’s kind of stayed in this area of flow that Chase is talking about. And what’s amazing, and Ross you’re probably aware of this but maybe you haven’t thought about this super consciously, but even in- as out listeners know, I am the person who receives all of our email, right? And Ross reaches out to us to tell a little bit about his story. And you guys, I receive a bajillion million emails. And a lot of people have asked us to be on this podcast. And no one has ever been a guest on this podcast before.
Steph:So, why is Ross here right now? Because all of the things that he’s saying literally- we should probably like either read out his email or publish it. Because it comes across, even in email. It sort of like, “Hey, I was this guy who was miserable. I started folding this paper. I started this Instagram where I was super disciplined and diligent. I posted every day. And now I’m here. And I just want to tell my story because this has been a really cool ride.”
And I immediately forwarded it to Chase. I was like, “Hey, is it me or is this guy awesome?” And Chase was like, “Yeah, he is.” So I think it’s really amazing that this- when you can get in this zone that Ross is telling us about, it really does kind of just take over everything. It’s even in your email correspondence. And a lot of people ask us, how do I get partnerships? How do I get on big podcasts. I think this has a lot to do with it. It’s the authenticity, and the curiosity and the sort of- I don’t know there’s almost this tone of, “I don’t need this.” You know? And it’s so interesting to me that that attitude works in so many areas of life.
It works in dating. We’ve all kind of been at the bar and you know the guy who just clearly wants to go home with somebody, anybody. Like when you become that person in business it’s a problem. So it’s really interesting, I think, that everything Ross is talking about it kind of is just like this cloud that follows him. Even in sending an email to be on this podcast. And I just think it’s really cool.
Ross:Everything that’s happened for me are things that have happened to other people that they’ve written in books, that they’ve said on podcast, on TV shows. Everyone’s telling the story of how to do it, but nobody’s listening to it. Everyone’s like, “Yeah, yeah. That’s a good idea. Wow. Great advice-“
Chase:Woah, hold on. Say that again. Everybody’s telling the story of how to do this, but nobody’s listening to it.
Ross:Yeah, well everybody’s listening to it but they’re not hearing it. They’re not feeling it. They’re not taking all that advice. It’s easier to just go have a beer or a cappuccino than- because you feel inspired. I mean hopefully one person listens to this and what we’re talking about now and feels it and then acts on it. I think it’s taking action. And that first step, could be the next step, could be the 10th step, whatever. It’s just about taking that step.
Moving- because it’s almost like that fire, that state or whatever is- it’s an energy that either enters you or you create or you’re a part of or whatever and it want to move you forward. But it can’t physically move you forward. You need to take that step, which is taking action. And step into wherever that idea or inspiration wants to go.
And that’s what happens to most people. They sit and they like, “Oh yeah but I just, you know, I tried and it didn’t happen.” It’s not about trying. It’s about trying and not stopping until you die. And you just go for it until it happens for you.
Chase:So camp there for a second because that makes me go like all right, so for you to say, “I’m going to make an origami thing every day.” You know like my real gentle language about your craft? An Origami thing. “Hey, if you’re gonna make an origami thing every day, I don’t know. [inaudible 00:36:52] Frogs or whatever I don’t know what you do.”
But you’re like, “I’m going to make a piece of origami every day for a year.” Okay so, the investment of time in that is your like maybe anywhere from five to forty minutes every day on that? Is that typical?
Ross:Yeah. But that’s just folding the thing. So just to get into a little bit of the origami side. So, origami, ancient Japanese art of folding paper. And origami design itself has only in the last sort of 50 to 60 years really been explored. In terms of coming up with new designs. There were a set of designs, like a bunch of what you call bases. So you’d have the frog base, the frog, fish, windmill, whatever. The basic things that as some point during your life you have folded something. If you’ve folded a paper jet, you’ve folded origami. If you folded those little, I don’t know what they’re called, fortune teller things where you’re like, “okay, pick a number. Choose the top one.” Yeah that’s origami. And those are all based on the very simple principles of Origami.
And all those bases or whatever eventually someone just decided well, let’s just explore this further. And that’s been happening in the last 50 to 60 years. So, there’s this massive amount of content in terms of a diagrams and youtube tutorials and books online and in libraries and stuff. Where you can go and find all these designs. And you can fold them. You can’t sell them because it’s essentially copyright. If someone’s designed an origami piece and you fold it and sell it, it’s essentially you’re breaking a copyright rule there.
But you’re allowed to fold it, take a photo of it, and post it onto Instagram. So that’s what I did. I was like, “Well these people have folded all these designs. Well, they’ve designed all these designs and they’re freely available online.”
So I just took those and the hardest thing for me- just to get back to the question was finding- it’s five minutes to forty minutes of folding or following the tutorial or reading the diagram. But finding what I was going to fold next was kind of tricky. And I didn’t start like cool I didn’t have the whole year planned out. I knew like three or four days in advance what I was going to fold.
Chase:Okay. So stop there for a second. How important was that piece? And you mentioned this before. How important to you is that piece to being in flow?
Ross:Well for me I didn’t overwhelm myself. Maybe because I’m lazy, I don’t know. I didn’t want to think too far ahead of where this could go. And I think it comes with everything I’ve practiced throughout my life up until this point. But don’t get too caught up in like- because if you think about it, had I started this project at the beginning of 2014 and thought to myself, “you know, okay I was to do a 365 day project.” Which at the time were very popular projects. There’s a lot of those going on now. Where you just post one thing every day for the year.
And I thought, “Cool, I’m going to fold- on day one I’m going to fold a crane. Day two a rabbit. Day three a this da da da” and then gone through the whole entire year, I wouldn’t have even folded day two. Because I just would have been like, well how the hell am I going to do this? Where am I going to find all this stuff. So I kept it short. I think I kept my- I kind of had to reel my inspiration in in a way. I had to keep it like, well don’t get too ahead of yourself.
And how I did that, particularly for this project, was I set themes for each week. So I would do a dragon them for the next week. And then all I had to think about was, what’s next week’s theme? So I thought, “Cool, next week I’ll do flowers. Origami flower designs, cool.” Find the designs and then fold them daily. And the next week would be butterflies, cool fine, butterflies. And that’s kind of how I just kept ahead of my anxiety and thoughts of where this whole thing could go, at bay.
Chase:Yeah, I love that.
Steph:Yeah. Ross, I’d be curious to know a little bit more about that. So what do you think the danger was of looking too far ahead? Why was that? When you say, “I don’t think I would have even have done day two if I’d planned the whole thing.” Why is that?
Ross:I think just the enormity or how big you think a year is and how much time it is. And a 365 of anything is a lot. So now you need to invest. It’s like, well speaking about between five minutes and and hour each day. Like, wow it’s a lot of time. What if I go away on holiday? Which I did. I did it through the holidays. I went away for three weeks. But I planned for it. So I knew that I just have to post it on that specific day.
But had I thought too far ahead it’s just the size of what you think a year looks like. Or what this whole project looks like. Because while I was doing the project I remember bumping into a girl who was like, she wants to do a 365 day yoga project. And I was like, “That’s amazing! Go do it! That’s cool.” And I said, “Cool, so have you started it yet? Have you started doing anything with it?” She’s like, “No, I’m still planning it. So I want to do-” and I’m like, “Well what are you planning? What do you have to plan?” She’s like, “Well I just want it to be like perfect and just-” and I was like, “you’re going about it all wrong.”
And I mean the whole perfection thing. Just to touch on that. I’m not a perfectionist at all. And I think that’s the one thing I have going for me. Because it’s not that I don’t care about what I’ve put out. But I just know that 80% is good enough for me. Because also at the rate at which you put stuff up these days, by the time your next thing comes in as long as it feels a bit better than the last thing then you’re winning.
Ross:You’re only as good as your last show.
Steph:That’s so good. I love it.
Chase:Yeah. Okay well we should wrap this up here. So I have one big question here for you Ross. Why did this work?
Chase:In your words. To you, why did this work?
Steph:That’s a really good question.
Ross:Okay. Let’s think about this. I don’t know if there’s one specific thing that made it work but I just … I have an insatiable desire to create. I just have to be creating stuff all the time. And I just picked up that-
You know, can I tell you- honestly what I think made this work was the fact that the few years before I started the project I did a lot of self investigation. I looked deep inside. And I had to admit a lot of things to myself that you don’t want to admit. And there’s things that everybody’s got them. And you’re just like, well- and there’s things that you think you’re good at. You think you’re funny. You think you’re this. You think you’re that. You think- like I played guitar for so long. And I was like, I was okay. But no one ever told me, “Just put that down and go fold paper, man.”
So I just, I felt that, or I feel that me going through that and really finding out who I was and being honest with myself. And being honest with the people around me helped me get to that point.
And as far as moving forward and doing the whole origami thing, I don’t think I’ve ever been searching for that one thing that I’m gonna be doing for the rest of my life. Even now. I mean the origami thing for me is awesome. I love it. But I’m under no impression that it’s going to be the final thing that I do. You know, I might still be folding paper in 50 years time but it also might not be the thing that I’m making money from.
And I think as long as you can- for anyone who’s listening, if you can just be honest with yourself and find that little bit of interest in something. Because often I speak to people and it’s almost like- you tell them- you ask them, “So what are your interests? What are you-” and it’s like, “I like this thing” or whatever. It’s like, “okay well show me some stuff.” And then they show me it’s like, “Woah! That’s amazing! You should put that on Instagram or have you shown anyone this?” And they’re like, “No, it’s not really.” I’m like, “Just put it out there.”
And particularly with creative people, and maybe it’s all people, but particularly creative people because I’ve been around a lot of them and I’m around them most of my day, they just have this thing inside them that they want it to be perfect. They want this piece of what they think is a part of them that they’re sending out there. Yes, it is a part of you. But it’s not the part of you. It’s not the part of you that if it gets kicked around or burnt, it’s not gonna be any indication to what kind of person you are or whether you’re gonna be successful in life or whatever.
So I’ve never been scared to stand up and say, “Well, this is what I can do.” Even if it’s shit. Honestly, I just put it out there. And I think that that’s probably one of the main things that’s helped me get to where I am.
Chase:So I’m hearing you say, this is actually quite profound, I’m hearing you say it’s successful- this worked because of who I became. Not because it was this particular thing or because of any particular tactics. It was because who I was was pursuing what made me come alive. And I’m not convinced that origami will always be that thing. But I am convinced that that’s what I’m here to do is pursue what makes me come alive. Am I hearing you right with that?
Ross:Absolutely. And it’s not specific to me or to you guys or to anyone. It’s like, this can happen to anyone. Back to what we were talking about earlier. If everyone’s been talking about it, all the books, all the artists, all the poets, all the speakers, everyone has been saying it. They’re like, “Cool. You just need to do this thing.” Just go and- I like, you say follow your dreams or follow your passion or whatever. Most of us don’t really know what those are. I still don’t know what my dreams are. Honestly, I really don’t. And I’m okay with that. But I know that this thing that I’m doing right now, that next little thing that I’m folding, makes me happy. And for me that’s enough right now.
And externally what’s happening outside of me and the reaction that I’ve got from all this means that by me going and stopping and focusing on what that next thing is, is working. And I’m just going to continue to do that. If paper gets swapped out for clay, and if clay gets swapped out for a guitar and if a guitar gets swapped out for a hammer and a chisel. Whatever those tools are, if I’m happier hitting a hammer against a wall in five years time than I am folding paper, I’ll do that. That’s it.
Chase:Love it. Steph, anything else you want to ask?
Steph:No, I don’t want to ask anything else. I just want to repeat my favorite part of what Ross just said. Which is, “I don’t know what my dreams are, and I’m okay with that.” Man I don’t know about you Chase, but for me that just releases some kind of pressure valve or something. I can just breathe into that. And I think so many people- you know Chase and I have been talking a lot lately about journaling. And we just did this big journaling webinar. And a lot of people had questions like, “But how do I know who I am? How do I know what I like? How do I know what my dream is?” And I don’t know this is-
The word we used when we did that webinar simple. And by simple we meant uncomplicated. And there is something just profoundly simple and uncomplicated about what Ross is following. And it’s just kind of this question of what is making me happy right now that I can get into and play with and have some curiosity with? And I don’t have to worry about what my big dream is. And I don’t know there’s just something very refreshing and approachable about that I think.
Chase:Well Ross, thank you so much for joining on the Fizzle Show, man.
Steph:Yeah, thank you Ross.
Ross:Thank you guys so, so much for having me. This has been a blast.
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