Kyra Maya Phillips is the co-author of The Misfit Economy, a book which chronicles the creativity and innovation of the underground. The book, which explores the lives of pirates, gangsters, and hackers, urges people to discover and embrace their inner misfit.
I Am Driven By | One simple adage: make something every day. It doesn’t matter what, really. And it doesn’t have to be related to your professional work. If you’re a writer, it doesn’t have to be a story, or even part of one. What I mean here is to take at least one thing and do it mindfully, staying present every step of the way. Making or eating a meal, reading a book, watching an episode of your favourite TV show, listening to a record you love. What drives me is less about achieving anything in particular and more about making sure I’m present while I’m doing the things that I love.
My Highlights | Having a baby boy and still managing to do certain essential things, like showering and brushing my teeth. Hard to answer this for my career, but I would say every time I’ve messed up and owned up to it is a highlight.
A Key Talent | It’s very kind of you to consider me a successful person, so thank you. Also, my name in the same sentence as the words “powerful” and “effective” is a first, and for that milestone I thank you. The only answer I can really give here is the following: the most effective, powerful method of achieving what you want to achieve is to stay present. I know I’m sounding a bit repetitive here, but I’ve always found that I could get nothing done if I was worrying about the past or thinking about what the future holds (usually terrible things like getting acid thrown in my face by a clown, or finding myself auditioning for American Idol and blanking out in the middle of “I Will Always Love You,” in my case). Staying present is the hardest thing in the world. I still fail at it a lot. Often, particularly while working, I find myself lost in my own head. Over the years though, I’ve practiced this skill by meditating as much as I can. So this is what it looks like:
– Make sure you’re charging your phone overnight outside of your bedroom. Get an old school alarm clock. I find it a horrible habit to check my smart phone right before bed, and then first thing in the morning. I find it’s not a great way to start and end a day. So banish it from where you sleep and relax.
– Sit at the edge of your bed, feel the ground beneath your feet, close your eyes, and start meditating. I usually focus on my breath – the feeling of my lungs filling with air and then becoming empty. When my mind wanders (it’s meant to), I just bring it back to the breath. I do that over and over again for about 15 minutes. A helpful way to hold your focus is to count each breath. I try to do this every morning, sometimes I can’t, or don’t, and that’s fine – things happen. But when I do, it really helps me to stay present throughout the day and achieve whatever goal I set out for myself in a calmer way.
Also, there’s an app for that. Headspace is ace.
How I Use My Mind | I think it’s almost impossible to control what you’re thinking, your mind sort of does its thing and the best thing to do is sit back, watch, and not get in the way. Though one thing that does stick out for me is the research around mindsets. The gist: if you have a “fixed mindset,” you assume that your intelligence, character and creative ability are all set in stone. This leaves little room for movement. You can’t improve, and you avoid failure because failure means you’re not “smart” or “good” at what you do. If you have a “growth mindset,” it means you see failure as an opportunity for growth, you believe you can always improve, and that people aren’t born with set capabilities.
Moving towards the “growth mindset” has really, really helped me. Instead of starting a project and hoping it’s perfect from the get go, I just dive in head first and suck at it until I’m good at it. Only sometimes though, often I get stuck and have to take a walk or dream of destroying my computer with a jack hammer.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired |
- Here’s a virtual bookshelf of everything I’ve read/am reading: http://kyraandherbookshelf.tumblr.com/
- Austin Kleon’s two books: Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work! are bibles to me
- Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes Please, is unbelievably good. I read it in three hours and I can’t stop thinking about it.
- My favourite newsletter is Long Reads. It arrives in my inbox every Friday with the five best long form pieces of the week. A wonderful antidote to the often short, quick journalism of today (see: Kim Kardashian)
- I can’t stop listening to Taylor Swift’s new album, 1989. It’s great. Trust.
- Other music I adore: Simon & Garfunkel, an amazing and unknown Australian band called The Lucksmiths, Jurassic 5, Jamie T, Bastille, Jenny Lewis, HAIM, and Belle & Sebastian.
- By far the best television show ever written is The Wire. I have been completely obsessed with it ever since I first saw it many, many years ago. It’s so twisted, real, and difficult to watch. I am jealous of anybody who hasn’t seen it, what an experience to look forward to.
- I love comedy. The best out there, in my opinion: The Office (the British version is amazing, the American version phenomenal), Parks and Recreation (treat yo self), 30 Rock, and Arrested Development.
- I am a film geek, so movies is a tough one. Some of my favourites over the years: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Silver Linings Playbook, In America, Requiem for a Dream, Bridesmaids (so good), Mean Girls (even better), Juno, The Way Way Back.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | Two from Amy Poehler: “Good for her, not for me.” & “Talking about the thing is not the thing. Doing the thing is the thing.”
Advice On Building Wealth | Change your motivation. Going after money always inevitably shows in your work. And it doesn’t look good.
Principles I Live By | Being kind, fair and always more generous about the achievements and talents of others over your own.
I Am Inspired By | I love women who have the guts to tell their own story and not apologise for it: Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (her book, Americanah, is unbelievable, and so is her beautiful TEDx talk about feminism).