Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

I have to start this post by acknowledging that it has been a really long time since I last wrote.  Really long.  The only real excuse I have is that I have been doing other work, in addition to coaching, and that has kept me really busy.  But, I never stopped working with clients or loving coaching or feeling a desire to write about things that interest me.  I have thought of posting many times because I continue to read a lot and be excited by ideas and insights, but I have let myself be derailed (I know exactly how it happens…I am tempted now to get up and start going through my closet to get rid of things.  That needs to be done too, but for now it will have to wait.)

But today will be different.  I am mostly caught up with my work, so I am going to sit here until I hit the Publish button.  And since I have done this a few times before (I have a few drafts from years past where I never did hit that Publish button), I am going to keep it simple.

This article by Carl Richards in yesterday’s New York Times, “Time to Be Honest About the Fear That’s Getting in Your Way,” feels like a good place to dive back in.  That’s because I completely relate to the first few sentences:

There is something you have been working on, isn’t there?  Something big. Something exciting. Something you have always dreamed of. It’s that perpetual “work in progress” that you tell only your close friends and loved ones about. The novel that is in “final edits.” That website that you are going to start … tomorrow.

Ah yes, tomorrow.  I know it well.  Some avoidance is about laziness or lack of time or something else, but for the big things, the bold things, the things we keep wanting to do despite the “roadblocks” we imagine…they are stopped by fear.

Our own work, when we are judging it ourselves, is never finished or good enough. I have a secret for you: It’s not because we are perfectionists. It’s because we are scared. Scared nobody will like it, scared it won’t work out, scared to be embarrassed.

I think I stopped writing blogposts because I got really busy with other things, but then once I was out of the habit, I started to have doubts about the worth of my posts and were they good enough, and who cares what I think.  Fast forward several years and here I am, with blogposts to write and other creative projects I want to do.  Carl Richards asks the questions I need to answer.

Once we understand why we are perpetually stuck at 90 percent, we can make major strides toward 100 percent. It’s no longer about this or that specific roadblock. Now it’s about, “How do I work with fear?”

That is a much better question than, “What font should I use?” and it’s one that is much more interesting.

So how do you work with fear? Do you have specific things you do when you have something you really want to do but are hiding because you’re scared? Mantras you repeat, stories you tell yourself, music?


** Another of my long-neglected drafts finally being published.

I really liked this opinion piece from the New York Times: The Rise of the New Groupthink by Susan Cain.  Her first sentence, “Solitude is out of fashion” immediately resonated with me.  But it was the last sentence of the paragraph that struck that note of, Yes!  That is so true!  “Collaboration is in.”  I’ve noticed it especially in comments my kids make about school.  Collaboration is the new Holy Grail, and it kind of pisses me off!

I’m not against collaboration…it can be wonderful.  But a lot of collaboration is just draining and unproductive, and no one seems to want to admit that.  Why do we need a Holy Grail.  Can’t we just accept that different things work in different circumstances and for different people.   I have found myself flat-footed a few times when my son has complained about his teacher’s insistence on making it work with everyone. I want to back the teacher up and take his side, but I lack conviction because I am pretty solitary worker.  I mean, I get it, they’re kids, they do have to learn how to get along, and all that.  But can we also acknowledge that collaboration doesn’t always work?

Near the end of the article, the author explains that most humans have two contradictory impulses:

…we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy.

To harness the energy that fuels both these drives, we need to move beyond the New Groupthink and embrace a more nuanced approach to creativity and learning. Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time.

So, how does this relate to coaching you may ask?  Well, I have seen many creative and solitary people become dispirited by the constant feeling they don’t fit in and are different.  So they try to adapt.  And that is often the wrong thing to do.  Wrong in the sense that when you go against who you are and accept that your ways are wrong, you can’t shine.  Although there are plenty of exceptions of people who have stood their ground and done amazing things, the majority of us don’t necessarily have the singularity of vision and the strength of ego to constantly go against the tide.  We put so much energy in trying to just stay afloat that our creative genius is drowned.  I see it again and again.

After reading this article, I will say to my son:  You’re right.  It does sometimes suck to work with people. And that’s okay.  Sometimes it’s great.  Go off on your own.  Be brilliant.  Then ask for feedback and interaction.  Then go away alone again and see what you believe and stand by it.

How do you work best?  Do you like working in a group, alone or a mix?

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “Do what you love and the money will follow.”  I have.  Many times.  And in many ways I believe it, but I also understand when people are skeptical…I’m skeptical too.  I don’t have a great answer when clients ask how they are supposed to pay the bills while they make a movie, write a novel, pursue athletics, work with immigrants, teach, and on and on.  And yet, I still believe it’s my role to push people to do what they love.

Last night I was reading an article in the New Yorker (September 5, 2011) about a Dutch artist, Theo Jansen, who does what he loves.  He makes giant beach animals out of plastic tubing and they’re in a commercial for BMW.  What popped into my mind the minute I read that fact was:  he’s making money by doing what he loves.  And no one could have predicted that.

For me, it goes to show that you really never can tell what will happen.  Theo Jansen and those around him could have (and possibly did) come up with a million reasons why making moving beach animals wasn’t practical or worthwhile, but he went ahead and did it anyway.

As I engage in mental dialogue with myself in the coming weeks and months about what is worthwhile and how I can help more in supporting my family financially, I’m going to remind myself of Theo.  I’m going to keep doing what I love and believe anything can happen.

A friend just sent me a link to a talk by Ken Robinson about creativity.  (To listen, click  here.)  The gist of it is that he believes that schools kill creativity.  This is of particular interest to me now because we are embarking on the process of looking for a high school for my older son in San Francisco.    (Many people  have told me this is worse than applying for university.)  There are academic schools, science schools, arts schools, schools with grades and schools without, and everything in between.  There is a flurry of panic in the air as parents (and students, but they don’t seem as panicked) start this process.  I do not want to panic or get sucked into the hype around each school.  But it’s hard.  And I think that’s maybe because of the way I was educated and taught to think about education.

And that leads me to how this talk feels relevant to coaching.  Ken Robinson’s talk is a strong reminder of how schooling has shaped each of us.  Whether we see it or not, school plays a big part of teaching us how to be in the world.  And, I agree with Robinson, that in most cases, it kills creativity, or at least causes serious damage.  And not just creativity in the arts, but creativity in creating a life we really want to live.  Doing what comes naturally to us, even if it seems strange to most everyone else.

I think I’ll listen to this talk now and again over the next months to remind myself there is a different and creative way to view this process of finding the “right” high school for my son.

How do you think the way you were educated plays into how you live your life today?