Nick Onken | Evolve or Evaporate: Accessing Your Creative Identity to Feed Your Soul


“I think we're in a creative renaissance right now. The artists are being rebirthed, reinspired, and reinvigorated. As a collective, as we start to take action of stepping into a more creative flow and mindset, we're not just creating art – we're creating our world and our reality. As we all step into a space of creating our own reality, that's going to raise the collective consciousness.” – Nick Onken

Wellness + Wisdom Episode 441

World-renowned photographer, Host of Onken Radio, and creative entrepreneur, Nick Onken, shares how you can become a creative force, how to navigate career setbacks, his own Dark Night of the Soul and wellness journey plus how to balance one's career and moral compass.

What is your unique genius?

Nick shares how his Creative Identity Quiz can help you unleash your artistic skills whether to begin a new wellness hobby or launch a new career.

I think we're in a creative renaissance right now. As a collective, as we start to take action of stepping into a more creative flow & mindset, we're not just creating art - we're creating our world & reality. - @nickonken Click To Tweet

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Listen To Episode 441 As Nick Onken Uncovers:

[1:30] The Journey of a Creative Alchemist

  • Nick Onken
  • Creative Identity Quiz
  • Onken Radio
  • Who Nick Onken is and what he hopes to bring into people's lives with his art.
  • His childhood growing up in a conservative, Christian household and his own spiritual and creative journey.
  • Alan Watts
  • His parents' support and their own creative sides especially his father's and how that inspired Nick.
  • The fear that was implanted in him, especially the idea of going to hell, by the Christian church and how long it took him to heal those wounds as an adult.
  • Nick's “Ramen Days” as a young artist and what he experienced in the early days of his career.
  • The different career paths his family members took and why Nick is the black sheep of the family.
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
  • How Tim Ferriss' work inspired Nick's career; especially his book, The 4-Hour Work Week.

[16:00] Navigating Career Setbacks After Quick Success

  • The up and down journey that his career has taken him on and lessons he's learned along the way.
  • How a trip to Africa early on in Nick's career shaped how he works and gives back to developing countries.
  • The people in Nick's life who helped him see that he could turn his passion for photography into an actual career.
  • Nick's big breakthrough as a commercial photographer and then how he navigated the setbacks that followed soon after that.
  • Nick's incredible skillset to capture someone's essence when he photographs them and his process for doing it.
  • How technology and especially social media have shaped the careers of photographers.
  • What Nick does to stand out against the rest by building a photography style that he's known for in his industry.

[26:00] Balancing One's Career & Moral Compass

  • The moral dilemma of working for brands like Coca-Cola or Pepsi and how he balances it.
  • What it's been like for Nick to live in New York City during the pandemic.
  • The burnout he felt that eventually led to an emotional spiral as he traveled all across the USA and the rest of the world for work in a short period of time.
  • Why it took him awhile to realize what was happening to his health because he was in such an ego space during that time.
  • Mastery in Transformational Training with Lewis Howes
  • Vipassana Meditation – A Spartan Race For The Mind
  • Why it's so easy to get sucked into a groupthink mentality and mistake your identity for someone else's.
  • The power of doing a program, listening to someone, reading a book, or attending an event and only take what serves you so you can leave the rest behind.
  • Exploring the relationship between ego and service plus how Nick stays balanced so that his intention comes from a place of service.
  • Why it's so important to have a grounding practice to help you stay true to yourself and your mission.
  • The fact that everyone struggles with an endless cycle of ego vs service on some level.
  • Russell Brand

[35:30] Nick's Wellness ToolBox

  • Jeff Krasno from Commune Podcast
  • The temptations we all face that try to keep us out of alignment with who we are at our core.
  • Downsides of working in the world of commercial photography compared to working from a place of the inner creative.
  • How you can keep going when something is standing in the way of your creative path.
  • The dark night of the soul that Nick went through for about a year after a relationship breakup.
  • How reading about the ego and educating himself so he understood it better was important for his journey.
  • Why breathwork and meditation have been essential wellness practices for his daily routine; especially during the pandemic.
  • The fact that he could not work for four months while living in New York City because of the pandemic.
  • What people in the creative space like Nick can do in between jobs to keep building their careers or for personal development.
  • How entrepreneurs can build themselves up over time to achieve more success.

[50:00] Revealing Your Creative Identity

  • Nick's quiz to help you uncover your creative identity and which mediums you can start exploring to help unleash it further.
  • The program he's currently developing, Identity Alchemy, to help people build up a personal brand that is aligned with who they are.
  • Identity Alchemy: What I Learned From My First Big Photo Job
  • Where he suggests people start when they begin a journey of entrepreneurship.
  • The biggest moments of self-fulfillment that he experiences and why they often come to him when he is traveling.
  • Official Trailer | The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki
  • How we can grow as a collective through our creative skills and exploring different ways to express ourselves.
  • What helped him the most to unwind and step away from the judgmental pressures he grew up with.

Power Quotes From The Show

Once you start getting external validation, the ego comes in and you have to stop it, shred that skin, and go back into a service state that fills you up. - @nickonkenClick To Tweet

Connecting to God Through Art

“My North Star is to create art that inspires and empowers people to find their true selves – to connect with source and the greater space that is out there; whatever you want to call it – The Universe, God – I believe in it all. God is creativity and as artists, we are the midwives of creativity. We give birth to sources and ideas on this planet.” – Nick Onken

Inner Work for Greater Creativity

“As an artist, the more work I do on myself, the greater shift I see in the art that I create. I took a lot from MITT but left behind whatever didn't serve me and that experience created a huge shift for me; from there I launched my podcast and started to build myself back up.” – Nick Onken

Ego vs Service Driven

“Once you start getting external validation, the ego comes in; it's like the snake eating its own tail analogy. You have to stop it, shred that skin, and go back into a service state. Even still for me, that is something that challenges me and it's a constant balance. I try to come from a place of having a service intention and allow that to fill me up rather than get caught up in needing to be acknowledged and honored for this work. Every day I have a grounding practice that helps me live in a more service-oriented state of being.” – Nick Onken


Links From Today's Show 


About Nick Onken

Nick Onken | Evolve or Evaporate: Accessing Your Creative Identity to Feed Your SoulNick Onken is a world-renowned photographer, host of Onken Radio and creative entrepreneur devoted to inspiring the world to create their moments.

Nick has photographed personalities such as Justin Bieber, Tom Hanks, and Jessica Alba. He’s been featured in Fast Company, Huffington Post, and MTV. Nick has traveled to over 60 countries and 7 continents and is the author of the travel photography book, PhotoTrekking. He has photographed global campaigns for international brands such as Nike, Coca Cola and Adidas and his work has been published in magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler, Cosmopolitan, and Marie Claire.

On his podcast, he’s interviewed celebrities such as Usher, Donna Karan and many others. He is the founder of the lifestyle brand, NIONlife and has been a featured speaker for Adobe on activating creativity. He also photographs for the charity, Pencils of Promise as he believes that education is the root problem solver of our world.


Why Focus and Motivation Are Crucial For Artists & Their Art

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About Josh Trent

Josh Trent lives in Austin, Texas with his love Carrie Michelle, son Novah, and a cat named Cleo. He is the Founder of Wellness Force Media, host of the Wellness + Wisdom Podcast and the creator of the BREATHE: Breath & Wellness Program. Josh has spent the past 19+ years as a trainer, researcher, and facilitator discovering the physical and emotional intelligence for humans to thrive in our modern world. The Wellness Force Media Mission is to help humans heal mental, emotional, and physical health through podcasts, programs, and a global community that believes in optimizing our potential to live life well.

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