It is at this time each year, around springtime and Easter, that I take time to reflect and plan for the year ahead.
I find the Easter story inspiring, the archetypal pattern of re-birth, of letting go of old patterns and freshening and lightening-up, reminding myself of my own untapped potential and that of all the people around me: my partner, children, friends and colleagues.
Spring is the same, each year on my allotment I am amazed to see the first shoots of garlic and onions pushing through, literally transforming a seed into something real, tangible and useful (and tasty!).
How do I translate these muses into practical action? A little while ago I came across a deck of cards called ‘free the genie’. The Genie being the archetypal symbol of unexpressed potential, the cards give 55 ways to unlock your inner creativity and take some practical steps towards results.
Here are three examples pulled randomly from the deck:
Attend: Resolve your concerns – What are your biggest concerns about your newest venture? What suggestions do you have for resolving those concerns? “You must do the thing you think you cannot do” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Extend: Invent the Future – Imagine five years from now and your most inspired idea has become reality. Write – or tell – the news story describing your success. “If you can dream it you can do it.” – Walt Disney
Connect: Position Yourself – if your hottest new idea were a baseball team, what positions need to be filled? Who can you draft in to fill these positions in the next 30 days? “Life is on the wire. The rest is just waiting.” – The Flying Wallendas
I encourage you to reflect on your own untapped potential and unlock your inner genie.
Ozwald Boateng, the Savile Row tailor and fashion designer, has a film out about his life so is popping up all over the place giving interviews. In this week’s Big Issue magazine, when explaining how and why he first turned to fashion, he says “there weren’t any reference points in fashion for me”.
Normally one might expect that not having reference points would be a disadvantage. If you don’t know what has gone before or what perceived wisdom or best practice, is how do you know if what you are doing is right or correct or what people want? Clearly in Boateng’s case this was not a problem. Not only did he open his first fashion studio when he was 24 but he had his first shop in Savile Row when he was 28!
Sometimes a reference point just encourages us to keep our worldview, our biases, our grudges and our affections. The truth is though that doing what you’ve always been doing and conforming to known reference points is just going to get you what you’ve always been getting, and probably give everyone else that as well. Sometimes reference points inhibit us from breaking out and going against the grain. Maybe not having a reference point, or losing the ones you have, is actually a good thing.
If you have studied any NLP this will be a familiar term… taking different views or perspectives of a topic or situation, a similar approach to a previous post Change your vantage point, by Peter.
This is an important skill for the versatilist… it is the one skill the takes the versatilist into different domains and provides the pathway to match patterns from one domain to another…
This skill is like a muscle that requires regular exercise to stay toned…
Whatever you are working on right now…choose at least three other ways to perceive it… as your next customer market, your boss, your creative self….
To quote Einstein ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’ and ‘Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions’…
Perceptual positions is just focusing your imagination skilfully.
A colleague once complained to me that they could spend all of their time “on admin” and not doing any real work. I call this “oiling the machine”. If large corporations are big machines then to keep all their parts moving they need constant lubrication. This is not to be confused with productive work however. Oiling the parts just keeps the machine moving, it’s not creating new parts or moving the machine in different directions. As Hugh MacLeod says:
“What is is about large organizations that makes everything other than doing the work the focus of people’s lives?”
A lot of it is to do with being seen to “do the right thing”, with being liked, getting on and doing it because “that’s the way we do things around here”. To be clear, these are all things you need to devote some of your working week to doing but they are (hopefully) not the reason for your existence and most definitely not the creative acts that you were hired to do in the first place. Here are some tips for how to avoid spending all of your time oiling the machine:
- Block out a period of time in your diary every day for some “non-oiling activities (AKA creating your art). Choose a time which works best for you. Early in the morning, late at night it doesn’t matter when as long as when that time arrives you take it.
- During this period don’t just sit at your desk hoping inspiration will arrive but get up and do something different. Take the dog for a walk, cut the grass, go sit in a coffee shop and watch the world go by for a while. Whatever it is just make sure it is sufficiently different to where you spend most of your time.
- Wherever you go don’t forget to take something with you to record your thoughts and ideas. Remember that ideas come at you in many different forms so being able to record sound as well as images helps.
- Don’t censor your thoughts and ideas, just record them, filtering and refining can come later.
- Finally, don’t forget that creativity comes not just from within but also from connecting with others. Make sure that at least some of your “non-oiling” comes from talking with others, either directly or via the ever expanding array of social networking tools we have at our disposal.
As a final thought refer to the post by David called Metaphors we live by and think how we might change our perception of organisations if we did not think of them as machines but something a bit more approachable and human such as a tree or another living organism. Maybe, rather than oiling, we would call it nurturing and see that as a a more positive approach to how we inevitably spend a large part of our days when working for large organisations.
However you view this, remember we only get a certain number of brain cycles to spend each day. Make sure you spend as many of them as possible on your art and not on oiling the machine.
In the book ‘Metaphors we live by’ Lakoff and Johnson propose that metaphors are more than just “poetic imagination” or “rhetorical flourish”, but form the very basis by which we perceive our world.
They propose that our conceptual system, the very way that we perceive our world, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature, and that if we become aware of the metaphors of our conceptual system we can change our perception and change our vantage point.
Our ordinary language is littered with conceptual metaphors.
What do I mean?
Here is a conceptual metaphor: Time is Money.
We hear how this metaphor plays out in our language:
I don’t have time to give you.
How do you spend you time these days?
I’ve invested a lot of time in her.
I am running out of time.
How would our perception change if our conceptual metaphor for Time changed to: Time is Liquid?
I have to freeze my time for now.
I have a small reserve of time for you.
Time is flowing quickly today!
The day just evaporated.
All feels a bit different? Interesting.
In Pete’s post ‘Change your vantage point’ we are encourage to get an external change of perspective; in this post I am encouraging an internal change of perspective.
Have a bit of fun with conceptual metaphors today and start to notice how they shape your perception.