The Four of Cups is about missing the connection right in front of you.
In January, the company I was working for laid off half the creative staff. No one saw it coming. That is, until the night before, when the president sent out a cryptic email asking everyone to be on time the next morning.
A bit panicked, I spent some time after reading that email wondering what I’d do were to lose my job. I knew I’d be going back to school, so finding a full-time job for just four months didn’t make sense. One crazy idea I came up with was to, at least in part, try to make money reading tarot. My wife laughed—not because it was so far fetched, but because it was halfway serious. In what world could we have foreseen that tarot reading would be a viable financial path in any sense?
In the end, I was fortunate to not have to fall back on tarot for my daily bread. But it is true that that little hobby had turned into something more. In fact, just this past weekend, my friend Ash hired me to read tarot at her birthday party.
I was reflecting on it all as I drove home, how I never would have thought tarot would turn into anything. Or improv. Or this blog. That I just started spending time on something that interested me and magically it became a big part of my life.
I was half-listening to a podcast at the same time. Tyler Cowen was interviewing economist John Nye, who said:
“In some sense, the spirit of the age favors specialization, and my personal tastes favor generalization or being a polymath. Or as my advisor once to put it, I have too many hobbies…But clearly, a lot of it [is] to just read a lot, read very deeply. If you are a humanities person, take some hard math and science classes. If you’re a science person, read Shakespeare. Learn a foreign language, really learn it. Spend some time.”
I’m always writing about the importance of breadth for creative people, so it’s no surprise that that part of the conversation caught my attention. But something else stood out. Nye never said why this breadth was important. And I realized I rarely do either. I take it for granted that having varied interests and diverse knowledge is, on its face, a good thing. My tarot story is a testament to it. But why else?
I often come back to what Steve Jobs said:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”
But to connect things, you must remember what you saw:
“For creative work and for problem-solving there is something special about having an internalized understanding. It enables speed in associative thought, an ability to rapidly try out many combinations of ideas, and to intuit patterns, in ways not possible if you need to keep laboriously looking up information…certain types of thoughts are much easier to have when all the relevant kinds of understanding are held in mind.” –Michael Nielson
And to remember what you saw, you must first see:
“Everything is connected, but the connections only matter if you make them!”—Austin Kleon
And to see, as Nye says, you must “spend some time.”
Each Monday, I share strategies to help you master your limited time, get started, and build creative habits that stick. Try it. You’ll like it.