How to find spirituality in your craft

It was a seemingly average day of work in a coffee shop I frequent. An old man, probably in his 80’s slowly moseys into the the shop with his bike and a gigantic book on Latin. He orders his drink and sits down to read before he starts his daily 20 mile ride.

As the day passes he overheard me mention that I’m a writer to some other people in the shop.

When my work is done I start to pack up and get ready to leave, and he asks me. “I heard you say that you are a writer, what do you write about?”

He was, at best, disappointed in my response.

I told him I wrote about businesses, marketing and entrepreneurship, and I had a book that taught students how to start their own business.

Aghast at the idea, he begins a rant on why I should be writing about spirituality, or poetry, something of worth.

“You’re not a brand, you’re a human being god dammit!”

I tried to brush this conversation off through the day. If I am going to do anything of worth, I’ll certainly have to endure hundreds more enraged haters telling me to do something else. I probably should have interrupted him and started reciting my world famous poem right then and there.

The assumptions he made that what I was doing had nothing to do with spirituality are very common ones, but they are also dangerous and untrue.

The greedy executive.

It’s worth noting a few false associations made that often crop up when the word “business” is mentioned.

The first thing that appears in most people’s minds when they hear “business” or “entrepreneur” is some executive in a blue shirt, sitting at the corner office in a tall glass building, signing papers to bulldoze a village in Ecuador so they can extract oil and buy a new Ferrari.

I thought the same thing when I first started this journey.

Though this does happen, it’s a poor way to represent the whole. Especially in this day an age where it is easier than ever to create a “business” of your own. Something that could have an impact on many people and leave the world a better place.

I see an entrepreneur as more of a functional artist, trying to create something new and valuable. They are passionate inventors and problem solvers. They do want to profit from what they create, but only so they can continue to do more of what they love to do. This business is their craft, they are professionals.

Elon Musk - “My proceeds from the PayPal acquisition were $180 million. I put $100 million in SpaceX, $70m in Tesla, and $10m in Solar City. I had to borrow money for rent.”

The greedy executive is a powerful stereotype, you see it often in movies, music and the news. It’s oversimplified and easy to hate. It makes most people shy away from entrepreneurship, because why would anyone try to start a business if they see it as something heartless and evil, and serves as a convenient excuse to not try.

So in the end, instead of creating, it keeps people consuming and watching commercials. Ironically, this stereotype ends up serving the interests of greedy executives who would rather have you buying things than making them.

My roots as a songwriter

Long before I started writing about entrepreneurship, marketing or startups. I was writing poetry. Well… not exactly poetry, but music. I attribute a lot of my success in this work to my background in music.

I played in a few bands, and I played by myself. Everything from a cozy coffee shop acoustic set, a blaring rock set covered in sharpie tattoos and, to a benefit concert in Argentina.

Kyle gray on stage

I hauled my guitar all over the world. Playing to process the experiences and to let off steam. I knew where I could usually stash my guitar in the passenger cabin on planes so I would not have to put it with the bags where it might get damaged during the flight.

I was certain that the only way I was going to live a happy and fulfilled life was to be a songwriter. I had high aspirations. I wanted to come up with a new brilliant chord progression that would be even more catchy than the same four chords that every hit song ever uses. But more than that, I wanted to write lyrics that inspired people the way that many of my favorite songs inspired me. I wanted to connect with people on a deeper level with my music, I wanted to share ideas, change minds and hopefully make someone’s day.

In the end I slowly suffocated this passion, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I began to lose focus on the process, of practicing, learning, growing and refining the craft and only desired the end result. Every time I picked up the guitar I demanded that a hit song pour out of me.  It had happened many times before. Most of the songs I had written seemed to come through me all at once, but never when I demanded them to.

And so, as my frustration grew I played less and less. But little did I know that the seeds I planted as a musician would bear fruits in unexpected ways in the future.

Finding the dream again in writing

Around 6 years later, I found myself on a one-way ticket to Asia. I was going to work with entrepreneurs Dan Norris and Alex McLafferty by running the content marketing for their startup WP Curve.

The work was very challenging, and I struggled a lot at first. I needed to get a great deal of writing publishing on the blog each month. It was tough to keep up at first, but I got better with each piece of content I published.

As I began to hit my stride, I noticed many connections to the work I was doing now with what I set out to do with music.

My writing was helping people achieve their goals, better themselves and develop their projects. Though the stage was digital, the audience was very much there.

Those years of working hard to arrange words and notes in a way that created an emotional connection served me well in this new work. It meshed well with the new skills of writing clearly and simply to make the ideas as easy as possible to share and spread.

I felt the ties to my musical roots even more so while working on The College Entrepreneur. I worked hard to mix my own personal story and style with powerful ideas put in a way that a student could easily apply to their own life and run with.

You can learn more about my process for creating that book here.

A spirituality in the craft

Though I rarely directly address spirituality in my writing, it is an important part of my life.

I have begun to see a spirituality in the craft of writing itself. Or in doing anything that is difficult and worthwhile. I had this connection with music, and found it again in writing helpful ideas for entrepreneurs, students and marketers.

The way I see it, heaven is inside you, and you connect with it through your craft. It is your responsibility to bring it to the world by putting in hard work, developing and sharing it with the world, even if you’re afraid to. You must give your gifts generously, not concerning yourself with any particular result. Your brand is the story you are remembered for and how you shared those gifts.

The way I see it, heaven is inside you, and you connect with it through your craft. Click To Tweet

Faith in yourself is what you need to show up time and time again to continue practicing. Instead of hoping for a specific result like what I did with my music, it’s doing the work for it’s own sake, and trusting in whatever path it takes you down and the doors that may open in the future.

Whether you’re a painter, an inventor, an entrepreneur, a yogi, a writer, a photographer, a podcaster or a dancer. Your faith will be constantly tested, and your work will be better for it.

Kyle Gray

Kyle Gray is the founder of Conversion Cake, where he helps small businesses and startups with content marketing strategy and sales funnels. He is also the author of “The College Entrepreneur” a guide that teaches students how to build an entrepreneurial skillset while in school and use their university’s resources to help them build something amazing.