Life Kerning and the Practice of Creating Space

Have you ever noticed that common marks among solid leaders often include reading and the frequent exchange of ideas? I’ve heard it said that “readers are leaders,” which rings true in a variety of industries and applications.

In this vein, two years ago I started what I expect will be a lifelong practice: read a minimum of twelve books plus articles and blogs consistently every year. This year I increased my goal to eighteen books plus articles and blogs, and I am well on pace (a resolution that I can actually believe in!). Of course, the reason to read more is not just to consume as many titles as possible, but to intentionally engage important ideas that hold personal value or application potential for me, as well as for enjoyment in the art of story.

Creating Space is a Life Practice

An insightful writing I came across this week is out of Justin Ahrens‘ book, “Life Kerning: Creative Ways to Fine Tune Your Perspective on Career and Life.” Ahrens is the Founder and Creative Director for Rule29, a graphic design and branding firm all about Making Creative Matter®. Here’s what he says about creating space and living purposefully:

Most of us are moving so fast that we forget to take a step back (outside of the few vacation days we enjoy). Creating space is a habit. Like becoming a great typographer, it takes practice. Through repetition, recognizing what fits within a certain space and what doesn’t, knowing which areas require adjustments and which are best left alone is all part of recognizing the right fit. To achieve any great kerning result, a designer must look at the letterforms close up, from different angles, upside down, and from a distance. Only then can the right adjustments truly be made. The same is true in life. Understanding where more attention is needed and how to make the correct refinements is an art form — one mastered only with time and practice.
In order to purposefully create space, you must give yourself time to step back and consciously think about you. Time to be honest with yourself about how your life is going. Time to look at what is going well, situations that are frustrating you, things you want to change, or ideas you are dreaming about. You can’t allow life to become so busy that you can’t work in some time to step back and assess how your life is going and what may need to be adjusted. And I don’t mean taking vacations (yes, you need those, too) — I mean a purposeful time set aside to look at yourself and your life. Whether it’s 15 minutes per week, a whole day every month, or a couple of times a year, create whatever space necessary to give you enough time to pause and be a student of you.
Early in my marriage, I was telling one of my good friends some of my concerns and fears about my wife and I evolving as individuals and as a couple. He shared with me something he and his wife did yearly that one of his mentors had shared with him. my friend had also married young, and he knew that living on love, even though it makes for a great movie, is not the fuel you can solely depend on. The answer for my friend and his wife was to go on “life retreats” — annual two- to three-day trips dedicated to talking about their marriage, their lives, and their dreams.
The first day, they talk about the details and events of the past year — including the kids, finances, individual goals, friends, vacations, struggles, you name it. The next day they talk about the future. They make plans, create goals, and dream about what life could be like a year from now. The last day they do something fun, as a little treat.


This excerpt speaks well to the nature of intentionality. Goals won’t be reached accidentally. It’s nice to think that everything will fall into place, but the reality is that meaningful work, meaningful relationships and meaningful experiences nearly always require some sort of commitment and effort.
Scripture says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Humans are meant to strive for something. We stand in awe of things bigger than ourselves. But to recognize the potential before us, our sight must be trained to see with fresh eyes.
Creating space is really about perspective.
What have you read lately? How do you create space to navigate your life?

6 responses to “Life Kerning and the Practice of Creating Space

  1. I knew I read this before! I was about to comment, saying about the same thing I said the first time. It’s becoming clear to me that I’m addicted to sound. I need to take time to sit by myself and think.
    Also, I’m going to get back on the reading train tomorrow. I’m going to read a chapter from “The Meaning of Marriage” (which is teaching me much about much), and then I should read a chapter from “The Radical Reformission on Thursday (this week’s sabbath). This is a good post, John. I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment the first time.

    • Cultural expectations are demanding our addiction to the sound we’re immersed in.
      Glad to hear you’re diving into reading again. I read “The Meaning of Marriage” recently and found it to be one of my favorite, profound books on the subject. I’ll be writing about my highlights from it soon.
      Thanks for reading and writing…again!

  2. Good stuff man. My thing is making the most of what time I’ve been given. I have a uniquely busy schedule and learning to work (i.e. think) around the blocks of busyness is something i’ve yet to perfect but am getting there. An actively passive approach.

    Too busy writing to read. That’ll pick back back up mid-summer.

    • What might happen if you face that fear and think without distraction? Perhaps you could better evaluate your perspective…even evaluate why you may have an aversion to down time. Humans are meant to sabbath, to ebb and flow in the rhythm of living.

      Let me know what you discover.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.