developing doubt and uncertainty

When all the doubts and questions are an adventure

It’s better to avoid having doubts and questions about your art,* right?

Wrong.  If you’re already producing and contributing your art,  doubts and questions become points of development and growth.**

I found myself coming away from an inspiring and challenging event last night, with many doubts and questions about my art, my work.  I won’t be ducking these, or passing over them quickly.  I find myself to be drawn deeper into innovation and will remain open to these doubts and questions as long as I can and as long as I need to.

This workout for the mind and heart makes it better for our art to get better, and, as with any exercise, there’s pain.

Stay with it.  We need your art to make a dent in the universe for good.

(*Art here is the creative contribution you must produce out of your life, out of your passions and skills.)

(**I’m not thinking of those who can’t get started or who find themselves unproductive – my answer would be different to you.)

two resistances

Spud was caught in two minds

As a Human, you’re meant for great journeys and challenges and adventures, beyond borders and boundaries, into greater connections with our world and universe, with others, and with your future Self.

It’s in your nature.

We know Mohandas Gandhi’s eponymous saying, “Be the change you want to see.”  He could say this because you are the change you want to see; this is what you’re made for.

The bad news?  There are two major resistances to overcome.  (The following is a little of the background stuff to what we face in life every day.)

You and me, we’re lazy.  It’s  just that we don’t know it.

A lot of the time we allow our information-gathering and storing mind and thinking to guide us – let’s call this our first-brain thinking.  Once upon a time it made sure we escaped from trouble and chose the right mate, and followed the food.  But we have a second brain – the one that uses all the information and takes considered decisions and calculations.  You’d think this Human attribute would make sure we make great decisions, and accomplish brilliant work.  What’s been found, though, is this second brain is lazy, prone to take shortcuts.  It wants to make judgements quickly.  It wants to avoid failure – putting more effort into reaching par, than going beyond it.  The good news is, it can be trained to be open, ask questions and deal with uncertainty for longer so we can make better decisions and go further.

The second resistance comes in the form of Human vulnerability to being controlled by externalities and made to feel ineffective.

If you don’t recognise your skills and passions, you’re vulnerable to the “tyranny of others” – what others think you should do and push you towards.  To know our skills and our passions – making it possible to connect with our future Self (therefore, to be the change we can be), provides us with the power to resist this control and tyranny, and even more.  When systems and people try to squeeze us to their way, we refuse to succumb, we maintain our integrity, and even more – using these experiences to grow, to be the force of nature we’re meant to be, each person around those things which fascinate and absorb us for a lifetime.

Follow your passions.

where sameness comes from

excuse me 2

When you remain quiet, perhaps unsure of who you are or how to make your contribution, sameness wins.

The same voices, the same ideas, the same votes, the same outcomes.

You know there is a cost to offering your opinion, your idea, your art, and the fear* keeps you quiet, hidden, compliant.

The antidote to sameness is found deep within you, the way you see and understand the world, the skills and the passions you have.

These last two – skills and passion – are really important.  Skills, or, competencies, aren’t enough on their own – we can be a competent puppet.  Having passion isn’t much good on its own either – it creates dust storms and when the dust settles, everything’s the same.  But when skills and passion get together, sameness better watch out.

Produce your art, put an end to sameness.  I’m excited to see what you do.

(Otto Scharmer mentions three voices we have to overcome: the voice of cynicism questions anything outside its small world- you’ve already overcome it; the voice of judgement questions whether you have anything to offer – you know your talents and passions; the voice of fear tries to stop you doing what you must do – now’s the time to jump.)

before you live

i'd like you to become an artist

Two opposing thoughts?

First thought: there were five elemental truths passed on in traditional imitation rights:

Life is hard
You are not as important as you think
Your life is not about you
You are not in control
You are going to die

Second thought: Humans have a great desire to live with freedom: to be autonomous, the develop competency, and to have a purpose.  This means living courageously (to do what we MUST for the sake of others); generously (to develop a pay-it-forward culture out of our “wealth”), and to live wisely (all we know, our skills, and our imagining of the future connecting up).

On the surface, these appear to be saying different things.  However, the intention of the elemental truths is to free up young people entering adulthood to die up front so that they are free to live as contributing members of their societies and cultures.  We shortcut these at our peril: when an Australian aboriginal boy was about to enter adulthood, the final rite would be to leave the village for a particular location where he would source flint and fashion an axe, which he’d then bring back as symbol of his contribution to his community.  When the British and Irish arrived, they distributed steel axes – I’ll leave it to you to imagine what this did.

But with this meaning of freeing, the five statements can be added to.  Here’re some possibilities; you’re welcome to add your own:

Life is hard but we can help one another
You are not as important as you think but neither are you unimportant and you have something unique to contribute
Your life is not about you but in focusing on helping others you’ll be more fulfilled and satisfied than you can imagine
You are not in control of many things but you are in control of your choices over who you are and what you have and what you do with these
You are going to die but every day until then you have an opportunity to live with creativity, enjoyment, and generosity

the myth of life/work balance

life just got upgraded

I don’t think life/work balance exists.   I offer two reasons from personal experience.

One: For sixteen years, I tried to make a particular job work.  I had three goes at doing this in this time but, if I’m honest, failed each time.  It’s now almost eight years since I left this behind.  In moments of weakness I sometimes miss being at the centre of everything, of knowing everything that’s happening and often having a final say in things – but I quickly get over it.  It’s all been replaced by pursuing the work* my life has been whispering to me about for such a long time.

Two: What we often mean by life/work balance is, the job we get paid for is put in this box, leisure time in that box, and so on … and then we patrol the borders.  But I love my work and I struggle to contain it within this box or that box: it’s simply life – ideas and energies and excitement come to me in different places and at unexpected moments and I need to respond to these (I do admit, I still have a lot of honing of this to do).

“Two” won’t make sense if you haven’t got “One” sorted out, but when you do you can begin what Mitch Joel calls “blending,” mixing up work and leisure and dreaming and resting and running and (well, fill in the rest).

Life has a rhythm, or rhythms, to it, more like a piece of music with fast and slow and rests and crescendos and whispers.

(*A definition might be helpful at this point.  By my job, I mean what I get paid for, a specific role.  By my work, I mean the art of creativity I produce (I think in terms of there being four major ways: creative thinking, creative relationships, creative influencing, creative actioning).  We may or may not be paid for our work, but it is the stuff we MUST do.)

life in inner space

exploring inner space

As opposed to life in outer space.

Contact, starring Jodie Foster is about life in outer space.  Her character as a child asks her father “Dad, do you there’s people on other planets?”  He replies, “I don’t know, Sparks.  But I guess I’d say, if it is just us … seems like an awful waste of space.”

Is there life out there?

Humans are fascinated by the possibility of intelligent life being found somewhere in outer space and what kind of life it will be – just look at the movie industry (Contact is sitting amongst my favourite films too).

Whilst this great quest continues, there’s one greater that touches everyone’s life.  This odyssey is not into outer space but into inner space in search of the vibrancy of life to be found in every Human.

The most complex thing we know of in the universe is the Human brain, with its intriguing desire to create the future as it opens to the world and to others and the future Self.

Every day, we get up to the possibility of this quest, of engaging with expansive creativity to do what we love and love what we do: your path with a heart.

Do you know if you have found the path?  Here’s a question to help, from Mitch Joel: ‘So who do you think the future belongs to?  Those who can’t wait for Monday or those who are dreading it?’

creativity myths

crammed full of creativity 1

Here are three we can debunk at the beginning of the 21st Century:

Only a few people are creative
Creativity is a solo occupation
Creativity is finding answers

Last night I was part of an event full of creative people which underlined the following three – performers and audience alike.  Let the debunking begin:

Only a few people are creative: This one is debunked because everyone is creative.  We increasingly know creativity manifests itself in many different ways, including your way.  Some creativity is obvious –  and some can can be devalued, missed, or dismissed.  No more.  The measure of creativity is found more in the energy experienced by someone doing the thing they love and which makes them curious, productive, and contributing to others – even if it’s to one person.

Creativity is a solo occupation: This is a myth  because, in the age of connectedness, you’re not left in isolation, and we know creativity is something best honed through interaction with others.  Last night’s performance of music and dance came together in only 6 weeks – from finding people, writing the script, rehearsing, to the performance.  Increasingly, creativity is about what people can do together.  You may sometimes work alone, but innovation comes through connecting with others who bring their creativity to the party.

Creativity is finding answers: This one is debunked because creativity is really about asking questions.  Find an answer and you stop looking.  Keep asking questions and find many.  Last night musicians asked, where can we go with this music and the dancers asked where they could take this idea in movement.  What if there were more people, more time, more space, what could be done then?  Asking questions means we are open and listening: listening to the world and to one another and to your future Self.

Creativity is creativity only because it is never at rest, it is always moving.

crazy, weird, or what!?

crazy like you

Because others haven’t been on the journey you’ve been on, they struggle to understand what you’re doing, and more, why you’re doing it.

You’ve had an idea, faced down the challenges, overcome the problems, failed (and failed and failed again), picked yourself up, regrouped, innovated, embraced your idea again – with excitement, persevered, delivered.

Others haven’t done this.

Are you crazy?  Yes.  Are you weird?  Yes.  Are you “what!“?  Yes.

Your instincts are right.  The world needs your crazy, weird, what! kind of stuff.  What you know is there’s something inside driving you on more powerfully than anything outside could.  Crazy, Weird, and What! are the new norms.  Resist “standard.”

The following words – well known from the Apple ad – are for you.

Here’s to the Crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,

disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent. They imagine.  They heal.
They explore. They create.  They inspire.
They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas
and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can
change the world are the ones who do.

(If you’ve got this far, just to let you know, I’m here for you.)

who are you?

mirror, mirror, on the wall

Are you the same person you were 50 years ago.  How about 30 or 10?

What about yesterday?

What about tomorrow?  And how about ten years from now?

One of the facts of being Human is we change.  We just can’t help it.  I can never know you completely.  You can never know yourself completely.  It sounds weird, but you have a capacity to grow and develop that we don’t know the limits of yet.   May never.

You’re not the same person you were ten years ago.  Okay, you’ve got all these memories that suggest you are, but you’re in a totally different place now, and who you are today makes it possible to become someone else.

Where do you want to go?

Listen to your life.

What are your dreams?  What energises you?  Which of the world’s injustices grieves and angers you most? What are the repeating themes from your life?  These are some of the things which matter most of all?

Some folk have researched things like these in people’s lives and they’ve discovered they lead to vitality, dedication, and transcendence – all of which are change-makers.

A friend was sharing with me yesterday how she’s entered for a half-marathon in March.  This is more than double her present personal best distance of six miles, but I know now, she can do it.  What is required is step-by-step practice.  In the parlance of spontaneity and originality I used a couple of days ago, this is about Faithfulness.

Who are you going to be tomorrow?

a new common sense?

the 21st century migratory patterns of humans

Because the emerging future is going to feel counterintuitive. because it’s looking strongly like we’re going to have to move from safe to unsafe.

Or, at least, that’s how it feels.  But safe has moved – like the Land Rover Evoque owner who’ll return to their car today to find it missing.  Maybe a big car and big bank account meant you could park on a yellow line once upon a time but not this morning.  This car was being hoisted onto a truck with its alarm going off as  I ran by.

There was a time when you could ignore what you’re really passionate about and get by in life, but not any longer.  There was a time when you could fit in, go unnoticed, and everything would be okay until you retired, but even those who’ve been loyal and productive over the long haul are vulnerable.  Traditional industries are dying out or moving somewhere else and working patterns are changing – will the future see increasing numbers of people working parallel jobs?  We’re still getting to grips with the extra time technology provides us with, or, contrarily, how it makes us work harder.

The good news is, there has never been a better time to pursue your art – that is, the work of your life – paid or unpaid or a mix (there are many ways).

Maybe this is a Matrix moment for you.  It’s messy and scary and uncertain, but the most dangerous place may prove to be where you are right now.  We are most vulnerable and weak when we try to live in a 21st century world within a 20th century matrix.

We move from answers to questions, from comfort to discomfort, from arriving to journeying because the new safe is somewhere else.