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Archive for the ‘Practice’ Category

Before I die.

13 May

Before I Die Art Installation

One of the most powerful exercises we use in our Drawing Down the Vision workshops is the “life list” exercise.

The ‘life list’ is what most people refer to as “the bucket list”, or “what I’d like to accomplish before I die.”   What we do differently is ask workshop participants to put drawn images to these goals and aspirations.  This iconographic approach to life goals makes them that much more tangible and therefore, that much more attainable.  A visceral image is one step closer to actuality than a word.

In our hurried world, not enough time is spent analyzing our chronic goals, until, often, it’s too late.  But a New Orleans artist, Candy Chang, is changing this with her interactive installation “Before I die…” on an abandoned building.

I encourage you to read the article and consider what your life’s important work is.  Even better, find images that represent these goals.  Whether they are drawn or found images, collect them and consider them often.

After all, we only get this life once.  Make the most of it.

Popularity: 46% [?]

 

The Lost Art of The Proposal: Get paid for anything!

26 Feb


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:

  1. find people who can benefit from you doing XYZ,
  2. explain to them how you doing XYZ will help them, and
  3. THEN do XYZ.

Here’s a bit more practical advice on getting this done…

  1. Do an 80:20 Analysis. Look at how you spent your time this week… if you really get objective, you’ll notice that about 80% of your positive results came from 20% of the time you spent. Summarize what you do well, most easily, and try to do more.
  2. Develop your tagline. Write down 2-5 words that summarize what it is you do well, across all the work you find yourself doing. Maybe you’re a ‘Product Developer’ or a ‘Musician with Project Management Skills’ or a ‘Visual Artist with Creative Leadership’. Use this to quickly introduce to others how you can help them.
    1. Try the Harvard Business School Elevator Pitch Builder if you’re really stumped.
  3. Develop your portfolio. You need a quick, simple, and engaging summary of great work you have done in the past. Use this to prove to other that you can help them.
    1. Build your page on About.Me. It’s really simple, looks great, and it can aggregate your content from other social media. Only aggregate the content if that helps support your tagline and it relates to what you learned in your 80:20!
  4. Start writing proposals. Now that you’ve defined ‘This is me. This is how I can help.’… go find people who could use your help and write a quick email, or better yet, physical letter dropped off in-person explaining, ‘This is you. This is me. This is how I can help you.’ Include your tagline and links to/a copy of your portfolio. Make sure to spend some time to understand their problem, and if possible, find a reference or person you can connect with directly, rather than just leaving the proposal with someone random. Drop them off, and follow up on them.

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.

Popularity: 62% [?]

 

How to build a creative juices pump.

25 Feb

DISCLAIMER: This works much better with 25+ cool people.

Arts Enterprise is a group effort to break down the silos between art and business. I’m still buzzing from the summit this past weekend.

Before we can merge the world of art and business… we must break down personal barriers between everyone attending our conferences and presentations.

Here are two techniques I practiced this weekend to get creative juices pumping, and people excited.

The Reciprocity Ring

Chris Genteel, Business Development Manager at Google, got everyone at the summit stirred up and mingling within 30 minutes. Each participant came to the conference with things in mind they’d like to accomplish. The Reciprocity Ring (by Humax Networks) was an activity that had each of us voice three things we could use help with, related to arts/business or not. What resulted was an instant connection of people willing and able to help each other.

  1. Get a big ring of dots on the wall. Provide some pens nearby.
  2. Give everyone a sticky note, and ask them to write three things they could use help with, related to the conference or not.
  3. After a few minutes, gather everyone around the big ring of dots on the wall, and ask people to one-by-one share their three things they could use help with. When they’re done, ask them to write their name next to one of their dots, and place the sticky note next to it.
  4. Other people who can help that person with one of the three things should write an answer on a sticky, and place it on top of the persons plea, then draw a line between that person’s name and another dot with their name on it… showcasing the connection.
  5. After everyone shared and listed connections… open up the room for everyone to chat with people who have answers!

The Critical Run

So, you’ve got a big problem you’re trying to solve… its hairy, and you don’t know where to get started… you just want to have an open and engaging discussion about it.
  1. Get everyone who wants to chat it together dressed and ready to run.
  2. Appoint a leader who will guide the group on a 3 mile run. They must know the loop, be able to lead the pack, and be knowledgeable enough about the topic to foster discussion when its not flowing.
  3. Let the magic happen, and enjoy the run.
  4. Get a more formal discussion organized as a wrap-up, after people get a chance to get a drink or shower. :)

What techniques do you have to engage a big group?


Learn more about conducting The Reciprocity Ring or The Critical Run.

Popularity: 82% [?]

 

Solitude and Leadership: If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts.

21 Jan

The Guiding Tenet: "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." - Mark Twain

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…

Popularity: 64% [?]

 

Picture this.

12 Nov

Lynda Barry is a cartoonist, writer and teacher who was featured on NPR’s Talk of the Nation yesterday.  Her new book, Picture This is a wonderful workbook for anyone wanting to inject the drawn line into their daily life. Her drawings create a fun and safe place to experiment with developing your own visual language, and we all have one if we simply put pen to paper and explore it.

Barry’s NPR interview brought to light much of her thinking on the power of drawing to tap into that often unreachable part of our brains; the area we want to reach into for innovative ideas or creative solutions in life and work.  Lynda Barry knows the drawn line is key. One caller to Barry’s interview said drawing in her sketchbook had enabled her to deal with debilitating anxiety without medication.  The relationship between brain chemistry and the simple act of drawing has been documented as a way to focus the attention of people in meetings.

Coming up in December, Adam and I will be working with 24 teen volunteers at the Cincinnati Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.  These are bright and forward thinking students who have been chosen for this program for their potential for leadership in their communities.  We are tremendously excited to meet these future leaders and introduce them to the simple, but life changing, practice of keeping an illuminated sketch journal.

Whether you are looking to change your work life, your personal approach to the world at large, or to learn how to communicate more effectively, a powerful first step is to start drawing.  When you do, let us know how it goes.

Popularity: 18% [?]

 

Working wellness.

25 Oct

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:

  • Thinking about ideas and content freely – with the deadline far away.
  • Working without interruption on a single project.
  • Using a wide variety of tools and techniques.
  • Traveling to new places.
  • Working on projects that matter to me.
  • Having things come back from the printer done well. (think manufacturer, employee, contractor…)

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?

via TED, Stefan Sagmeister shares happy design.

Popularity: 19% [?]

 

Living Differently

22 Oct

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:

  • When hiring the original Mac team, he hired musicians, artists, poets, and historians. This made it work for everyone, not just techies.
  • When designing the original Mac, he integrated Calligraphy he learned after dropping out of college. This made it the first computer with beautiful fonts.
  • When he wanted the Apple II to be the first personal computer used in the home, he went to the Macy’s kitchen department. This made it easy to plug and play.
  • When starting Apple Stores, he didn’t hire a tech guy, he hired former Target executive Ron Johnson. This made Apple Stores world-class retail.
  • When developing the service model for Apple Stores, he didn’t analyze Dell.com or Gateway Stores, he emulated the concierge at the Four Season Hotels. This created accessible, comfortable, world-class service.

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.

via Oxstones Investment Club

Popularity: 16% [?]

 

Warm-ups

20 Oct

Before heading into the studio to attempt any ‘serious’ art work, I often need to warm up by drawing something in my sketchbook.

These little drawings are typically unrelated to any project at hand.  Working at home, I tend to draw the nearest dog.  I find this exercise to be an amazing warm up to thinking clearly.  It’s like meditation, only without so much tedium.  But what if you work in a more traditional office environment?  This exercise can still be a valuable one, provided you have on hand some simple drawing tools and ‘objects de art’ that you find interesting.  These can take the form of found items from nature, or an interesting coffee mug or pen that you like the look of.  It can really be anything.

Place your chosen object on your desk, not too far from view and open your sketchbook.  Now spend a few minutes looking at the object.  Pick it up and find your favorite angle of it.  Can you identify simple shapes in the object that might simplify it at first glance, such as circles, triangles, rectangles, etc?  Now, without too much thought, pick up a pen or pencil and without looking too closely at your paper and keeping your eye mostly on the object, begin making a line drawing that traces these broad shapes.  Try to get a basic outline and then continue to fill in where one shape moves to another.

This may feel (and look) ridiculous at first, but it is truly the first step in learning to draw.  You can practice this simple exercise in about 5 minutes, with the same object, each day, and see how it progresses.   You will see progress in what your drawings look like.  But beyond that, you will notice a little something about how you feel as you make these little drawings.  You might find that your mind gets into a different groove and that you are thinking differently.  A little less restless.  You may even find that sometimes great ideas pop into your head as you draw.  Even a simple drawing exercise such as this one can get your mind working in a new way.  Practicing this can be a valuable tool in pushing the boundaries of your normal day to day modus operandi.

Find an object that you find interesting and give sketching it out a try.  Then try it again the following day. Let us know how it goes.

Here are a couple more fossils of mine to inspire….

Related: How changing your perspective changes your results.

Popularity: 15% [?]

 

Where do good ideas come from?

19 Oct

A recent article on Steven Johnson’s new book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From‘ offers support for our practice of ‘paying attention to what you pay attention to,’ something which can only be achieved through journaling.

Steven debunks the myth that ‘Ideas just pop into people’s heads.’ Contradictory to the examples of how an apple hit Newton’s head and lighting struck Benjamin Franklin’s kite, ideas do not arrive in one fell swoop of glory isolated from the rest of our work. There is no muse.

But some may argue… ‘I definitely had the idea ‘click.’ Yes, there is a certain moment when we become aware of ideas… but they have been in our mind in some hidden form all along. I can often find precursors of thoughts posted in my journal 3, 6, 9 months before I realize what they really meant. After building enough of a critical mass in one specific subject or problem, the solutions begins to take shape and you can see all the other pieces merging into the final outcome.

Ideas are woven combinations of all the people, places, and things we encounter and work with, slowly burgeoning until we become aware of them.

So go ahead and pay attention to what you pay attention to. Spend a few minutes each day for the next few weeks journaling and drawing… and see what happens when you look back at it all. If you already journal, share back any interesting events you’ve had in being retrospective.

via CNN: ‘Eureka moments’ and other myths about tech innovation

Popularity: 26% [?]

 

Drawing is Seeing.

09 Oct

James McMullan teaches basic drawing skills every Friday, through writing. His New York Times series, ‘Line by Line,’ showcases the value of drawing as a way to see the world, and the relationships of objects within it.

Try his lessons to help make your sketches, drawings, notes that much more engaging.

Also, checkout our posts on templates for drawing out ideas, drawing a landscape, and how changing perspective changes your results.

Popularity: 26% [?]

 
 



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