Drawing, or ‘doodling’ as Sunni Brown describes, is a crucial tool to help solve complicated business problems, thinking creatively, and aid recall.
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We all have daily rituals.
They may be structured by a calendar, or by rules. You may follow a set schedule, or you may just believe something like, ‘everything in moderation, including moderation.’
Here is a contrast of five daily rituals practiced by some famous creatives:
THE ONE WHO LOVED CLOCKWORK RIGIDITY.
CS Lewis. Writer and thinker CS Lewis had a very clear schedule of his day, with activities such as work, walking, meals, tea, and socializing down to the very hour they should be done. He even describes when beer should be enjoyed (not at 11:00 for fear of running over the allotted 10 minutes for the break).
Alexander Dumas. Whether or not he had heard the adage about keeping the doctor away, the writer of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, Dumas started each day eating an apple under the Arc de Triomphe.
Franz Kafka. Kafka started his day at his job at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute from 8:30 to 2:30. Afterward he would lunch until 3:30, then sleep until 7:30. Upon waking, he would do exercises and have dinner with his family. He began writing at 11:00 in the evening, usually working until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning–sometimes later.
DRIVEN BY A MUSE.
Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway described his writing ritual as starting just as the sun began rising, then working straight through until whatever he had to say was said. He likens completing his morning of writing to making love to someone you love–being both empty and fulfilled at the same time. Upon completing that morning’s work, he would wait until the next morning to begin again, going over his ideas in his head and holding on to the anticipation of starting again the next day.
ONE WHO NEEDED TO TAKE HIMSELF SERIOUSLY, AND THEN NOT.
John Cheever. American writer John Cheever wore his only suit of clothing each morning as he rode the elevator down to a basement room where he worked. Upon arriving there, he would undress to his underwear, hang up his suit, and get to work. He would dress to go back upstairs for lunch and again at the end of his day when he would ride the elevator back home.
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After participating in a panel on ‘The Portfolio Career’ at the Arts Enterprise National Summit, I felt a need to share some practical advice on how I find more of the right work at P&G and in the ‘real world.’ Here’s how:
So.. you’re freelancing… or in human terms… you have some skill you want to use to make some extra cash. But no one is buying it!
Well, don’t just sit there, find someone who can use your help and PROPOSE to help them.
Your job is no longer to do XYZ.
Your job is now to:
Here’s a bit more practical advice on getting this done…
Creativity comes through restraint… find a way to make the most of the resources and skills you already have.
Here is more thinking on how to sell what you already do.
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Amy and I are back from the Arts Enterprise Summit in Kansas City. It was so much more than a conference…
Back in the real world, I found myself explaining the experience to a colleague. This event was special not because of the content of the slide decks or the caliber of the speakers, but rather the combination of all the people. This was the intersection of a network passionate about business, design, art, music, and everything in between.
The edge between all those worlds is where the action is… this is where you foster Diversity of Thought, the ability to see the same thing in many different ways, simultaneously.
As the summit was full of practicing musicians (more than I’ve ever spent time with!), I had the opportunity to explore how the musician thinks, the struggles their working community faces, and how they overcome it all to create a working piece of art and help the community grow.
Peter Witte, the Dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, had an enlightening quote about the growth of this creative organization: “Through music-making we learn to listen, to accompany, to support, to empathize, to work together… all non-verbally.”
Every organization could use this kind of perspective.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to sit at the table with business professionals, freelance designers, visual artists, and practicing musicians to discuss creative output and bringing new ideas to the world… do it. This event was a pinnacle example of whole-brain thinking… so many quick wits, so many interesting perspectives, so many memorable jokes!
Now, I must get back to training for karaoke next year.
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Amy, my partner here at Drawing Down the Vision, shared a fantastic read with me this week: Solitude and Leadership. I’d like to share a taste here with you, but would greatly prefer if you read it in its entirety. I do it no justice.
William Deresiewicz, a former Yale professor, addressed the Plebe (Freshman) class at West Point Military Academy in October of 2010. He spoke about the crucial and difficult role of solitude in developing as a leader.
Mr. Deresiewicz derided the false image of the conservative, robotic West Point grads to ensure that is what they do not become. They are training to enter one of the largest bureaucracies there is. He exalted how in order to be successful leaders on the world stage, they must be true independent thinkers who know what they stand for, and fight for it. In essence, the larger the bureaucracy you enter, the more of an independent thinker it is your responsibility to become.
It seems counter-intuitive. Solitude and Leadership? It flies in the face of the common phrase, ‘a leader is nothing without followers.’ But flying in the face of the ‘common’ and accepted when appropriate is exactly what Mr. Deresiewicz advocates we must learn. We must not become expert hoop-jumpers. We must become confident, focused leaders. We must learn what we stand for. This is a lonesome journey if done right.
But how can they, and how can we, become those independent thinkers and successful leaders? For starters…
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There are times in work and life when things are going so well. It seems we’ve got everything under control… nothing could be better. And there are times when that is not the case. Our frenetic, demanding work environments cause a great deal of stress. This stress limits our ability to experience and enjoy life and work, to be creative in the process, to create things and solve problems others.
How can we have more of these days when things are ‘going so well?’
Well, here are a few scenarios elicited by designer Stefan Sagmeister in which he finds himself most satisfied in work and life:
A simple technique of my own is, ‘Do more of what I love, and less of what I don’t.’ It sounds simple, but to truly put it in practice involves using the word, ‘No,’ more often than were accustomed.
‘No’ is tough for many people who don’t want to hurt or annoy others, we want to be seen as effective citizens of the world. But the reality is that making a choice to do less of something and more of something else is a short-term sting, a necessary evil to allow you to focus on doing bigger and better things that really matter.
Let go of a few things, and be comfortable with it. Some things may fall apart, and some people may get angry, but that’s life. Take some time to think through what you’d really love to accomplish, and do it.
What other techniques have you applied to live and work more creatively?
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A recent article, How To Think Like Steve Jobs, by Carmine Gallo, author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, got me thinking about how we can all live and work creatively, to be a more worthwhile addition to the communities and live and work in.
Steve Jobs is the pinup boy for successful, simplistic product design. He makes grandmas want gadgets. His success in doing this stems from the Apple slogan, an embodiment of his character, to ‘think different.’
But what does ‘think different’ mean, and how can it help us? Let’s break this problem down, and reassemble it.
Why would we want to ‘think different?’ Thinking differently will help us deliver creative breakthroughs, solutions to people’s problems that weren’t able to be solved with conventional thinking. We all want to do that.
So, if we believe the assumption that your thoughts are a product of everything around you, how can we come up with breakthrough ideas? The answer is simple… live different.
Steve Jobs has always made an effort to surround himself with non-conventional people and search for answers in non-conventional places. For example:
How can you break away and ‘think different’ to bring new solutions to today’s problems?
For starters… find some new people, try to learn some new tools, and try to get inspiration from new places. Be dramatic. And have fun with it.
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Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert, gave an enlightening talk about education reform around the world. Education reform is happening less through legislation, and more through an awakening of what creativity, knowledge-gathering, and motivation really are.
Education reform is a critical topic as Thomas Friedman (of the NYTimes and ‘The World is Flat’) recently opined that, ‘America’s core competency is is ability to attract, develop and unleash creative talent.‘
Is that competency in danger? Are other countries struggling as well?
Sir Ken Robinson challenges a few key assumptions that stem from the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment and the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution.
The most alarming statistic Sir Ken Robinson provides is from a study on divergent thinking published in Breakpoint and Beyond. Divergent thinking is the ability to think of many answers to a specific problem… this is the first step to problem solving… before we get analytical and make THE BEST decision (this latter process if where business education focuses today). 98% of 1500 kindergartners scored at the genius level for divergent thinking. Their scores went down as they progressed in the education system.
What examples have you seen of successful education reform? What programs are creating vibrant students who are making a difference in the world?
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