191: 20 Things I Learned in 2020


“The universe is going to throw you cosmic bricks and they’re going to get bigger and bigger if you don’t listen to them.”

Hey, guys, welcome back to ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio), the podcast where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey!

Part of the journey I’ve been on in the last few months is consolidating my personal brand. Don’t worry — photography is, and will always be, a part of my work. But, if you follow me, you know I’ve been getting my hands dirty with a lot of other creative ventures, which include making hats, painting murals, and recording this podcast. These new endeavors are the result of the spiritual journey I’ve taken over the last few years to awaken deeper levels of my creativity and consciousness.

See, I believe that as we become a more true and complete version of ourselves, our work — our art — also reaches a more true and complete version of itself. This is Creative Alchemy in its simplest form. And it’s an alchemy that we get to participate in every day. 

As we enter a new year, I want to share six lessons I learned in 2020 as I pursued Creative Alchemy in my life. If you’re struggling with any inner pain, trauma, or what’s going on in the world, this message will be a gold mine for you — because, I’ll be real, 2020 was a doozy for me. I felt like I faced the challenge of turning circumstances I didn’t want into something I did want every day. Along the way, I learned a lot, and that’s what I’m excited to share with you now! Let’s get started.  

Cosmic Bricks: Life’s Greatest Gifts

I’ve been handed some cosmic bricks over the last few years. Cosmic bricks are life-altering events that can knock you out or become building blocks for the next great thing in your life (sometimes, it does both). Here’s the catch: You decide what that cosmic brick in your life becomes by the way to think about it and respond to it. 

A few years back, my cosmic brick was coming out of a relationship and declining business in the same few months. It forced me into a space where I was questioning things existentially and trying to find the meaning of anything! Looking back, I realize this was the beginning of my awakening and catalyzed a series of shifts that led me to where I am today. 

You need to be on the lookout for cosmic bricks because the Universe is going to throw them at you. If you don’t listen to them, they will get bigger and bigger because the Universe is trying to trigger your awakening. When you get to the other side of pain or a cosmic brick, there is indescribable beauty. 

When you realize cosmic bricks are raining down on you and hitting you in the face, choose to be grateful. Gratitude will help you transmute those hard experiences into new feelings of possibility. And, when we live with the mindset of possibility, the cosmic bricks accomplish their purpose, and we are set free to create the life we want. 

You’re Allowed to Not Be Okay

This is something I’ve talked about before, but I think it’s worth talking about again because, as creatives, there’s a lot of not feeling okay. There’s a couple of reasons for this, but I think the biggest reason is that Creatives tend to be empaths. We feel a lot, and from that place of deep feelings, we create.

So let me ask you, “When was the last time you felt not-okay?” Whatever your answer was, that’s okay — don’t hate yourself for not feeling okay. You are a spiritual being with a meat suit living on this crazy planet that basically just made it through hell and mayhem. You’re allowed to feel NOT okay. 

Now, this isn’t permission to stay in your not-okay feelings. Actually, it’s a call to action to ask yourself, “How can I transmute this feeling of not being okay and move through it?” So the next time you don’t feel okay, choose what you want out of life and do whatever you need to do to move through the not-okay feelings. 

Tools for Ascension: Therapy and Plant Medicine

I’m a true believer in therapy and using plant medicine to work through trauma to awaken your most authentic and creative self. Most people don’t realize that I started my growth journey with therapy. Therapy is a good starting point to breaking down and learning the operating manual for this human experience we have on earth. 

The first seven years of our life, we’re subconscious beings absorbing everything around us — what we’re taught, the culture we live in, the energy of those around us. Whether we want them or not, all these experiences — thrilling or traumatic — build up and become the lens through which we see and navigate life. As a result, a lot of us are walking through our lives in pain from experiences we may or may not understand or remember. 

Therapy and plant medicine are modalities that can help free you from the pain and clear your channels. I believe plant medicine is huge — mushrooms and Ayahuasca, in particular. If plant medicine and therapy feel daunting to you, read How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollen. This book really helped me gain a different perspective on how other medicines can help you create a clear channel and peel back the layers of hurt or false beliefs you subconsciously absorbed.

At the end of the day, therapy, plant medicine, peeling back the layers — all of it — is about getting to a space where you can shift from where you are to where you want to be and live fully expressed. If you’re experiencing frequent or continual emotional suffering, I strongly encourage you to seek help in some form because, here’s the truth: You can’t reach the fullest version of your creativity and expression without healing and finding the version of you beneath all the absorbed beliefs.  

Why You’re Suffering

Attachment to the physical realm is the cause of suffering. The kingdom of heaven is within you. You’re the creator of your own suffering. The more attachment you experience, the more suffering there is. We create our own suffering by being attached and resisting anything we’re worried about for the future or regretting the past. 

Everything — past, present, or future — is all just a moment in time. And if we can learn to live in the present, we’ll live and breathe where possibility exists. We will live where stories can be changed, and dreams can come true. 

Living in the present moment takes a lot of work. For me, it takes a lot of deep meditation. Deep meditation teaches you how to take thoughts of your past and future and create a new reality from them. This is what I love about Joe Dispenza‘s work. His meditations take you into the present moment where possibility exists. 

When we’re caught in a loop that’s negative and creating suffering, we can choose to get out of that. It might take some work, plant medicine, or therapy, but if we can learn how to navigate our attachments and resistance, we’re going to create more joy. And ultimately, live a life of joy. 

You Are Responsible for Your Own Happiness

You, and only you, are responsible for your own happiness. I found this to be more true in 2020 than any other year. Nobody is ever going to make you happy. You’ll never be able to make everyone else happy. You are the only one that can choose to do the work, clear the channels, go to therapy, and really get into the space of happiness for yourself. 

What does all that soul-work have to do with happiness? To start, our inner child knows what makes us happy, but trauma is real and often suffocates our inner child. All these modalities I listed help us break through the trauma and release our attachments, so our inner child can be set free to create happiness. 

I know how I started this section may have sounded harsh, but really it’s such a beautiful thing because as soon as you can take responsibility for your own happiness, you’ll start to become more happy and creative. Go take ownership of your happiness!

The Power of Becoming Self-Aware

We live in a world of narrative wars, for better or worse. What I mean by that is, there’s conflicting information and stories going on all around us, whether they’re political, economic, social, personal, or internal. In each battle, both sides are clamoring for victory. And if there is one thing 2020 has really shown us, it’s that social media amplifies these narratives. However, just because a certain narrative is amplified doesn’t mean it’s true. 

Two great resources I recommend to understand this a little better are… 

Resource #1. The Social Dilemma. This documentary touches the tip of the iceberg of what is currently happening due to social media. It is definitely worth watching. 

Resource #2. Listening to interviews with Tristan Harris. He was the main guy in the film, and the interviews go deeper into how these narrative wars and algorithms are feeding us the same thing repeatedly. 

Both of these resources show how amplified and repetitive narratives end up radicalizing people into one specific narrative, whether it’s the left or right, or conspiracy-theory, or non-conspiracy. Ultimately, radicalization fosters hate towards those who hold an opposing viewpoint. 

At the end of the day, understanding that these narrative wars are going on around us should motivate us to master our own self-awareness. To navigate these narratives without letting them turn us into hate-monsters requires us to work through our own trauma and triggers. If we have done that work, we will be able to receive these narratives and create a space of love, inclusivity, and togetherness. Instead of allowing the narratives to divide us, we’ll use them to unite us. 

Why You Should Listen to This Podcast Episode Right Now…

I hope this message reawakened you to the fact that you are the creator of your own reality. You create the narrative of your life — everything from the quality of your lifestyle to where you live, how you take care of your body, the people in your life, and the places you travel to. It’s all a decision you get to make. To regulate the way that you think to be one of love, authenticity, and creativity. Let’s be Creative Alchemists who boldly bring their art into the world and invite others to do the same. 

If you’re wondering what a Creative Alchemist is, let me begin by explaining alchemy. Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

With that being said, I define Creative Alchemy as using the process of creativity to create a lens through which to perform alchemy — turning ordinary into something extraordinary. These principles not only apply to artists and creatives in their own creative processes but to anyone who wants to create an extraordinary life for themselves. I’ve found that 80% of creating is alchemizing the thoughts, emotions, and other inner blocks that keep you from putting pen to paper. Once you alchemize your way through what’s holding you back, all you have to do is show up boldly! The art — your extraordinary life — will flow from you. 

If the idea of Creative Alchemy inspires you, but it feels a little lofty, you’re in luck! One of the big things I have lined up for 2021 is creating and launching a course all about unlocking your Creative Alchemy. So make sure to follow me on Instagram, so you don’t miss any updates!

As always, thank you for joining me today, guys! I hope you enjoyed this episode — if you did, please screenshot it and post it on Instagram. Tag me, @nickonken, and let me know which lesson stuck out to you the most. And if you’ve got time, leave me a review on Apple Podcasts! I’d love to hear your feedback.

That’s it, my friends! Now, go tap into that cosmic intelligence and never stop creating!

Nick Onken

“Our human experience is the gift to the divine intelligence that is within us.”

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And please leave me a Rating and Review!



Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • Nick’s goals for 2021 [0:50]
  • Nick’s new course offering [1:35]
  • What the purpose of life is [4:15]
  • Where suffering stems from [6:35]
  • What a creative alchemist is [6:53]
  • The value of plant medicine [15:25]
  • How plant medicine works on the subconscious [17:05]
  • How we create our own suffering [21:25]
  • How cosmic intelligence is expressed [22:00]
  • Why creativity heals [22:45]
  • What your relationships say about you [25:49]
  • What it means to love loosely [27:07]

20 Things I Learned in 2020

  1. The cosmic brick is your biggest gift
  2. It’s okay not to be okay
  3. Healing is peeling
  4. All is mental
  5. Question everything
  6. Transmitting fear daily is essential
  7. Plant medicine is a huge tool for therapy and ascension
  8. Follow your white rabbit
  9. You become who and what you want to attract
  10. Gratitude is the biggest state changer
  11. Your attachment to the physical realm is the cause of suffering
  12. Your human experience is the gift to cosmic intelligence
  13. Creativity is healing
  14. You and you only are responsible for your happiness
  15. Creativity as your business is just as important as creativity in your craft
  16. Relationships are a mirror for your own growth
  17. Letting go and loving with a loose grip is not easy
  18. We live in a world of narrative wars
  19. You create the reality that you want to live in
  20. We are living in one holographic virtual reality experience

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