Pure Potential

I have always been seduced by blank books. There’s so much potential in them! The reality never quite lives up to the hopes though – sometimes I write in them, sometimes I don’t, but once something goes in, the possibilities are narrowed and the perfection I seek doesn’t exist.

Recently I’ve started coveting planners. Again, so much potential! I could get organized this time. I could save all the important stuff in one place. Plus, it has the blank book feeling of possibility. Yum! I have a tendency to start a planner, be really devoted to it for a few weeks, then I stop carrying it, or I start writing on scraps of paper instead of in my planner, and pretty soon it’s just another “should” for me.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/62/ea/60/62ea60112095fe62c9f8e5dc14a1b539.jpg

Sometimes I think that one reason we like children so much is the potential we see in them. They could do anything! They could learn and grow and become the savior of our economy or ecology or a great musician or anything at all! Once they start working mundane jobs, all that possibility is gone. At least, it feels like it’s gone. It’s harder to get at in working adults, even if it’s still there.

https://emotionatpeek.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/1.png

I also think this feeling of possibility shows up in strategic planning sessions. And, so does the falling back into old habits. It’s so exciting to plot a new course, to envision blue sky possibilities, to come up with ideas that could change everything! And then, we go back to work, and have to put out fires, or deal with drama, or just get buried under paperwork, and all that hope gets forgotten. The new ideas become “shoulds” that feel like burdens, not freedom.

https://i2.wp.com/seeincolors.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/graphic-recorder-at-work.jpg

I have two ideas about how to change these patterns. The two ideas come at it from different directions. One, make friends with not being perfect. One reason a lot of my blank books only hold a few pages is that what I put in there isn’t perfect, so I abandon the effort. But when I can accept that what I put in doesn’t have to be perfect, I can keep going with it. I my not live up to the full potential of the book, but I’m still stretching and growing and that’s all that matters. No one can fulfill all potential at the same time.

The other idea is around habits. It’s easy to fall into old patterns. If we want to change that, we have to work at it. So, I’d say block time into the planner to review where you want to go every day or week. Figure out the best use of your time. Delegate or let things go. It doesn’t have to be perfect. But if we don’t focus on the changes we want to make, they won’t happen at all. Starting the day by looking at our guideposts can help us head in the right direction.

My final idea is this: be gentle with yourself. Punishing ourselves when we don’t live up to unrealistic expectations is setting ourselves up to stay stuck and unhappy. Let’s live free and joyous and imperfect but expanding lives!

Rummage Sale of the Brain

One of my strategies as an artist is to look for new input all the time. I look for new ideas, look at other artists’ works, go to galleries, go to open studios, and visit garage sales and places like the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse which have lots of random bits of things that can be crafted and art-ed with. I let these new ideas and materials and possibilities simmer on the back burner of my brain, and new ideas get cooked up.

https://i0.wp.com/media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/de/9b/77/de9b77cd4502eb4baca5a231618f4d68.jpg

In other news, I was reading an article by Daniel Goleman, author of the bestseller “Emotional Intelligence,” that was linked on LinkedIn. In it, he says:

The good news is that Adaptability, like each EI competency, is a skill leaders can develop. And, the EI competencies build on each other. Three keys to developing adaptability can be summed up as “Listen Inside,” “Look Outside,” and “Step Outside.”

  • Listen Inside means tapping into emotional self-awareness to recognize what you are feeling, how it impacts your behavior, and whether you are operating from habit.
  • Look Outside is shorthand for looking beyond your usual information sources, paying attention to data that contradicts your current thoughts. This means tapping into skills in organizational awareness, another EI competency.
  • Step Outside involves intentionally stepping beyond your comfort zone and seeking out new experiences, opinions, and environments.

– See more at: http://www.kornferry.com/institute/train-your-brain-for-change#sthash.Aw56QMBK.dpuf

This made me think about my artistic habits. It also made me think of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. After all, part of what makes LSP work is that people think with their hands. Which means they need to have a big old pile of LEGO® bricks on the table from which to choose. The amount of possibility lets them sort through and figure out what they want to build, and say. Maybe something they never thought about before. Maybe something they never had the courage to say before.
https://i0.wp.com/dad-camp.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/lego-pile.jpg
Sometimes someone will feel the need to sort the bricks before they start building. When this person is the boss, it worries me. It makes me think that perhaps this leader feels more comfortable in the position of being in control, and that perhaps they don’t invite in opposing views. They may end up in what the Harvard Business Review called  a CEO Bubble, or Daniel Goleman refers to as “feedback deserts.” They don’t really want a lot of ambiguity, possibility, chaos, new ideas, or additional information cluttering up the clarity of their desk or vision or direction. But this also means they are less likely to be flexible and adaptable when the inevitable need to change arises.
It is difficult to tell a leader that you think they lack the necessary flexibility and adaptability to change with the changing world. You may well end up changing jobs if you do. Some people crave poking through rummage sales, some people think it’s garbage and don’t want anything to do with the chaos and clutter. I don’t think that LSP will single-handed-ly change a person’s innate nature. But perhaps, maybe, possibly, introducing such a leader to more new ideas can open him or her up to a little more change. Maybe, it’s possible, that giving such a leader an article like this one can help them think about bringing in information from more sources, including ones that don’t feel comfortable. Possibly, maybe, perhaps, they can be convinced to water their feedback desert and get more options (with the corresponding lessening of clarity) to bloom.

I’m a Turtle

https://i1.wp.com/www.pets4homes.co.uk/images/articles/2059/large/turtles-that-live-on-land-5401b653e50dd.jpg

I have always been a late bloomer. I didn’t date in high school. I developed late. But I thought that once I got there, I’d be on the same fast track as everyone else.

Lately, I’ve been taking classes that promise breakthrough results and exponential growth. What I experience is incremental growth. I mean, I keep learning and changing, but it’s slow going.

In addition, I’ve realized that every time I stretch and grow, I need to withdraw and integrate what I’ve learned. I often withdraw far, running to the opposite extreme and hiding from the world. I always have blamed myself for this, thinking that somehow I should always be able to be on the cutting edge. But that’s not how I work.

I’ve been hearing about the idea of radical self care, and somehow I keep thinking this means scented baths instead of quick showers. But it really is a radical idea that taking care of oneself is more important than continuing to press on. Whether it’s a bath or a nap or reading a book, if I can honor the times I need to withdraw into my turtle shell, it makes it easier to come out again.

Just the idea that it’s not somehow shameful to need to rest is freeing! To honor the way I work and what I need to grow feels indulgent, but then I get so much better results. I’m able to see my need to turtle as part of the ebb and flow of the world. Everything in the universe is in motion, and my movement includes expanding and contracting, and there’s nothing shameful about that.

So here’s to the turtles of the world. We might not get where we are going quickly, but we never give up. We need to experience safety in order to risk putting ourselves out in the world. And we have so much to offer the world! I’m learning to love my turtleness instead of blaming myself for it. I hope you do too.

Creativity Games

I haven’t talked about creativity games in a while, so I wanted to touch on them again. As I’ve mentioned, play provides a way to create a space where there is no winning or losing, which makes it safer for people to practice speaking up. This only works, of course, if the people in charge are making it safe by appreciating all answers, not preferring some over others.

I think it’s cool that even if people don’t speak up, just by thinking up the answers they can stretch their comfort zones and exercise their creativity muscles, so it will be a little easier to speak up next time. Or the time after. Whenever it feels safe enough and they feel confident enough of their answer.

I’m going to draw some cards from the game Disruptus. This is a card game by Funnybone Toys designed to help people stretch their minds. There are four choices of what to do with the cards, then a box full of pictures of things. The four choices are:

Improve. Make it better: Add or change one or more elements depicted on the card to improve the object or idea.

Disrupt. Look at the picture, grasp what the purpose is, and come up with a completely different way to achieve the same purpose.

Create 2. Take any number of elements from each (of two) card(s) and use these to create a new object or idea.

Transform. Use the object or idea on the card for a different purpose.

I’ve selected 4 cards at random:

DisruptusCards

How can you improve, disrupt, create, or transform these images?

Here are some ideas I came up with; I’d love to hear yours. (Just as an aside, my insecurities come up too. I want to label these ideas as silly, or somehow put them down, so you won’t judge me too harshly for coming up with unusable or stupid ideas. But I’m not going to censor myself because of these insecurities. Please don’t censor yourself either!)

Disrupt: The sink is to wash hair in a hair salon. What if there was a chair that could rotate upside down, and lower the person into a sink? Maybe into a series of sinks, for shampoo and rinsing and conditioning. The person would need to be strapped in, but they might not need plastic covering since they will be above the water.

Create 2: That clothes hanger looks like it would work for a zip line with the rope. Maybe a zip line for clothes from storage to your hand, or a zip line for a person to get from one place to another. (We could even include the tall building and make a zip line that ties two buildings together!)

Transform: Use that high-rise for a farm. All those windows can let in light to grow plants. Maybe the center of the building can be used to trap and store rainwater.

Improve: Rope is really thick. That makes it good to support heavy things, but it makes it hard to tie it or tie things to it. But you could make a rope with a strand that has loops in it. So the loops would be tied into the strength of the rope, but would be sticking out all over so things can be attached.

What ideas do you have? I’d love to hear them!

Social Capital

I’ve been thinking about this idea of social capital for a while. I feel like I only have so much influence, and I need to be careful where I spend it. It’s like the strategy games my husband likes to play. If I have 20 influence points, do I want to spend 10 of them on changing the font on the flyer, or do I save all 20 to fix the grammar? I’m afraid I can’t do both. And so, I don’t always speak up on matters that seem to be small, so I can save my influence for things that seem big.

My fear stems from being too much. I’m afraid that if I speak up all the time, people will stop listening to me. If I take up more space, people may take what I say less seriously. It’s like the more rare a thing is, the more valuable it is. So I have to make my voice be rare, so it can be valued.

I’ve been trying to question this story, because it is a story that I’ve invented. I could tell myself another story, such as my voice is so important that people want to hear from me all the time. That the more I speak up, the more of an expert I am, and the more people will pay attention to me.

But the idea of limited influence points didn’t come from nothing. We get it when someone says “Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t spoken up yet.” I like hearing those words, because I like hearing from everyone! But at the same time, it can imply to a sensitive speaker that they are oversharing. In fact, TMI, Too Much Information, implies that there is such a thing as just the right amount of information, and we need to be socially adept at telling where that line is.

How much is too much seems to depend on social status. Men can get away with talking more in meetings than women can. Higher ranked people can talk more than lower ranked. White people can express more opinions than people of color. At least, that’s my perception of how the world seems to work.

But this means that people don’t speak up about the microaggressions that happen every day. They save up their energy for the big things. They fight for those people of color killed by police, rather than the judge who assumed the man at the table had to be the defendant, rather than the lawyer, based on the color of his skin. I didn’t tell the very tall man that he loomed over me and could he please step back a bit, he was in my space. Why? I was waiting to see if I would have to speak up about something he might say or do that would be more clearly crossing a line. My own comfort is small potatoes compared to assault.

Not speaking up eventually leads to resentment and disengagement, at least in my experience. So I am practicing speaking up about the little things that I once regarded as not worth using up my influence. I’m choosing to believe that there is not a limited amount of social capital, and that I have the right and even obligation to speak my truth whenever it seems important to do so. No one else can speak it for me.

What is your experience? Do you believe in a shortage of social capital? Why or why not?