It’s funny how when everything is going well in life—goals are being met, dreams are coming true—rarely do we stop we stop to consider the habits behind our state of contentment. We walk around on top of the world thinking, “This is just how I am. This whole ‘life’ thing is cake.”

It’s only once the walls start closing in do we stop and ask, “Why is this happening!? What am I doing wrong!? How do I get back to where I was!?”

There’s a reason the phrase “ebb and flow” has cemented its way into our culture’s lexicon. Life is not a cake walk through and through. Those days of feeling untouchable are usually followed by waves of doubt, depression, and an overall sense of malaise.

Maybe one day I’ll figure out 7 habits for creating a rainbow bridge to a magical field of permanent elation. For now, I hope you join me in keeping this not-to-do-list close by for when the emotional waters get dicey.

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Leonard Cohen’s first album, Songs Of Leonard Cohen, turns 50 this year. The late, great Zen poet was a master of his craft and a man who never let his creativity stop moving. When I listen to his lyrics or read his words, I can’t help but think, “Man I wish I’d written that.”

I can’t go back and steal his poetry, but I can use his philosophies for being creative. Cohen made a lot of beautiful music, but he also shared plenty of wise words on the craft of songwriting. Here are 11 laws of creativity I stole from Leonard Cohen:

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The other day, I beat my girlfriend, Ava at Gin Rummy 7 times in a row!

Our tournament started a few months ago in the Galapagos Islands. Warm ocean water, friendly sea lions, and no WiFi (gasp!). So, when it’d get too hot, we’d find shade and play cards.

We traveled for 3 months and learned that we had to mix adventure and relaxation with real PLAY.

It wasn’t just cards. We’d go bowling. Find water slides. Only speak to each other in foreign accents. Anything to stay playful. Anything to be silly.

When I play, time becomes invisible. I forget about goals and lists. I become a human being. Not just a human doing.

Sometimes I forget to play.

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As a music lover, I’ve always been drawn towards the darkness. Not the black-metal, hail-satan type of darkness, but anything that holds that unsettling urgency of angst or rebellion. I embraced the punk-rock mentality of Us vs Them from the get-go. My favorite albums were always the ones with the most menace. It was Zeppelin over The Beatles. Rawness over melody. It was that possessed quality in Cobain’s voice that kept me up all night, learning to play Nevermind from front to back on guitar.

There was never any casual listening in my bedroom. Music for me was an all or nothing endeavor. I didn’t dance. There was no swaying under the palm trees to a feel-good beat. I needed to be fully steeped in the sounds of the angst I felt. I needed to feel haunted.

But that was then. These days, it’s harder to connect with the primal scream of my youth. I do my best to keep up with the new stuff, and every now and then I’ll hear something different that turns me on. But it’s been awhile since I’ve felt fully consumed by the uneasy feeling of a record reaching up from the depths and shaking my soul. That grit and grime of over-distorted, palm-muted paranoia that seemed to expedite puberty.

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