Archive for the ‘creativity’ Tag

Diameters vs. degrees

Driving back from a visit to family yesterday in the steady misty rain, I thought about circles and perspectives.  On the road, I tend to fixate on the signs of all kinds, reading every one as I pass, and the habit is limiting.  So with an effort of will, I move my vision to the surrounding landscape, and view the trees and hills instead.  Accompanying the switch is a release of the mind, from the mundane to the sublime.

We are each the center of our worlds, and the circle around us describes our awareness.  But because we westerners tend to think linearly, we often just gaze out, instead of around.  We look to widen our circle, and admire the reach of those with gigantic tribes surrounding their centers.  We respect diameter, but seldom put much thought into degrees.

The number of degrees in a circle is infinite.  Unlike the infinity of diameter, which stretches indefinitely in front of us, the infinity of degrees keeps the focus on the center, on our selves right where we are.  Rather than striving to move from A to B, with concentration on the degrees of your circle, the challenge is to gather rather than grasp, to refine rather than expand, to study the fullness of what is rather than endlessly covet strategic growth.

I wonder if this analogy is apt in suggesting new ways to approach economic health.  The 20th century was all about extending reach and the worship of size.  The perspective served its purposes, but now we see the concommitant waste, pollution, international tensions, and injustice that result when forward progress alone is the ideal.  Now we are beginning to think more about the quality of perception; about how tending to all the degrees of our circles is healthier and more rewarding than focusing solely on their diameters. 

When considering how to deal with business losses and the prospect of sluggish sales for many months yet to come, the image of the circle perhaps can help.  Seth Godin has championed tribes, and this idea is very similar.  The concept is about the quality of your service and relationships, the authenticity of your participation in society, the generosity and efficacy of your offerings.  It’s about examining the opportunities that already exist for you, and achieving success by making the most of them.  It’s about creativity and a heightened sense of appreciation.  It is no longer about dominion and fame; ‘progress’ in today’s world means exploring the numberless degrees of your circle, and actually being careful not to fix your vision on any one outward direction.

Social media revolution

Studying intensely this strange animal called social media marketing.  As communications is the major focus in my work, I recognize the social media movement as revolutionary in the extreme.  It may upend not only our marketing practices, but every aspect of business planning and operations. 

One issue we encounter when establishing communications online is how to balance personal and professional posts.  Given the time involved in keeping up with, say, your Twittering, you’re probably inclined to have just one account there, and not try to maintain several different ones.  The culture of the ‘net requires a very soft touch in your marketing posts, with an emphasis on your personality more than on the services/products you offer.  Many folk in the social marketing course I’m taking wonder how to synthesize; how to be personable but also aim for an ROI.

In my opinion, this question is at the heart of the movement’s meaning.  We’re looking at re-inventing our economy right now, and a large part of the new global understanding is that we’ll succeed by being authentic, by aligning our personal goals with whatever we do in the business world.

This is a major difference from the past, when your job was generally regarded as something apart from your true self.  Our challenge now is to identify and focus on the things that are actually personally meaningful; to use our personal, native creativity in service to the world’s needs.  When what you do for money is closely aligned with your personal dreams and understanding of reality, posting and commenting online in a way that’s both personable and professional becomes second nature.

Does this mean you should change jobs?  Maybe.  But more likely, it means that if you apply foundational creative thought and practice to your daily grind, you will begin to see how your work is an expression of your self.   Whether you flip burgers at a fast food joint, run errands for the boss, make automobiles, or own the company, careful, creative observation will bring you an understanding of how this work aligns with your deepest motivations.  It’s from that place of clarity that we must all proceed.

More about Joy

Though growing old ain’t for sissies, one of its major benefits is the slow coming to understand mysteries that have plagued us for decades.  A thought that’s been enlarging in my awareness is that life is meant to be a journey towards joy. 

More and more, I order my activities according to what I really want at this moment.  The trick is knowing what you really want.  Opting for actions that seem attractive but are not aligned with your ultimate pleasures will not work.  It requires quite a bit of sophistication; the ‘gimme gimme’ of youth has nothing to do with realizing joy.  You have to have an idea of perfection, a vision of ultimate joy, and your choices must continually refer back to that ideal.

But once solidly aligned with your ideal, you have a sure way of being, one that remains in close contact with your joy at all times.  You see that it’s unnecessary to take any action that’s unrelated to your joy.  You consider, at every juncture, only what will make you really happy.

The conundrum for many is how to find their joy.  Things thought to be happiness-creating end up empty.  There certainly is no prescription that works for everyone; it’s a solitary search for every individual.  I try, in this blog, to make little suggestions, like inverting your spine, or doodling.  The only suggestion that is truly universal, though, is to set the intention.  You have to consciously want to find your joy and believe in the importance of this mission before you’ll get anywhere with the project.

For that matter, I’m beginning to think that studies in approaching joy are all that we ought to be teaching young people in school.  We should be learning from the git-go that our responsibility as humans is to live our joy.  We should be taught methods in using creativity – both personal and group – and we should be bred to understand that all other effort is subordinate to the search for profound happiness. 

Few adults today were taught anything like this; our grooming was more along the lines of fear of judgement and poverty, fierce competition, winners and losers.  We seek ‘success’ much more than happiness.  We’re sadly out of touch with our native creativity. 

So I’ll keep up the patter here, hoping to cajole readers into a search for their personal joy.  For today, I return simply to breathing; inhale deeply, exhale slowly, take a 15 second break to perceive and appreciate the instant purification that oxygen supplies.  This is where the search for joy begins.

Unemployment and education

They say that the future for American workers – a future that is pressing closely on our present – is one in which people can expect to change jobs many times during a career.  The old days of working 30 years for one employer are gone.  Certainly many thousands are now dealing with the syndrome, as unemployment reaches 14-year highs.

I know well the shock and confusion that ensue when challenged to reinvent yourself as an adult.  We work hard at learning a profession, we carry debt from university training, we put in our time, and then in middle age it’s suddenly necessary to do it all over again. 

The reason why this is so difficult is that we’re conditioned to think we grow up to become something.  Identity is absolutely dictated by occupation.   And the reason why this is so, is that we’re just not very good at knowing our souls.  We don’t know who the hell we are, and so accepting that we’re a dentist or insurance salesman or hamburger flipper is the best handle we can get on our identity.

I had the dubious honor of working in public schools for some time in past years, and it’s certainly no wonder that we have such wimpy self-knowledge.  Public education does its best to wipe out curiosity about the self; studies in creativity are regarded with the highest suspicion.  Creative disciplines are relegated to the wierdo art room, and the vast majority of students are not exposed to the profound resources of the creative self.  Students are encouraged to learn about the world, but they’re given no instruction in learning about the self.

As with so many of our current issues, change in education is the only sustainable way to effect change in the larger society.  For those of us advancing on seniority, however, dealing with today’s challenges has to happen without a foundation in creative discipline.  I sincerely hope that this experience will cause changes in the way we teach young people, so that middle age identity loss becomes a thing of the past.  And I continue to be committed to exploring in this blog ways we adult Americans can reconcile economic demand with the dictates of soul.

Webs

Imagine a web as big as the universe.  The spider may or may not still lurk at its edges, but we can surely sense the web itself.  We experience tiny moments of empathy that fleetingly reveal the connections.  We know that fluctuations in our American economy affect all other parts of the world: but we also are coming to see that the psychic condition of fellow humans affects us as well.  We’re connected, physically, psychically, spiritually. 

Thus everything we do has impact on the entire web.  The choices we make warp and shape the universal matrix.  The beliefs we maintain color it, the hope we hold determines its nature, the extent of our compassion unveils its light.

If we choose to ignore the web, pursuing an individual glory in isolation, believing that by ourselves we can succeed and feeling disconnected from those who fail; if we see life as competition, with winners and losers, then we create the world as we currently know it, and continue to deal with the heartbreak of foreclosures, wars, and oppression.

If, however, we open up our perspective to get a grip on the universal web, we learn to apply a whole new standard of measurement.  Suddenly we are no longer in exile, battling out our solitary way.  A new reality opens up, one in which the blessed creature known as humankind interfaces with eternity every day.  Such intimate relationship with creation sparks personal creativity:  and in nurturing, exploring, exploiting, and sharing creativity, we can realize our Joy.

Halloween’s a contradictory sort of tradition:  the combination of fun and sweet candy with ghouls, darkness, and death makes little sense.  We string up spider webs to augment the atmosphere of fear and entrapment.  It’s an entirely different thing to see webs as opportunities, as havens of connectedness and comfort.  Still, the metaphor’s potent:  in modern times, we have shunned the life-giving interconnectedness of our web, and viewed our fellow humans as problems or threats but seldom as the other end of our very own thread of web.  The first new perception on the road to finding your Joy is this: that the web of existence includes us all in equal measure, and we – all humans and perhaps all sentient beings – are in every way utterly dependent on one another.

Water and wealth

The news today says 75% of Americans are depressed, stressed, and angry.  Money bubbles are bursting everywhere and we’re panicking like the sheep we are.  We feel victimized, and are hot to pinpoint the culprit, the thief who caused this horrific injustice. 

Yet modern psychology knows that we are never victims without consenting to it.  We are always in control of our reactions, and while we can’t change others, we can always modify our responses.  Rather than copping the attitude of victims at this point, we could study the situation for ways we’ve perpetuated the crisis and ways we can live and work with greater awareness in the future.

Consider water.  I was reading an article yesterday about the dire lack of potable water in many of the poorest areas of our globe, and it occurred to me that we can profitably compare water and money.

Though most of us pay for the water we use, it’s one of those things that is “too cheap to matter, though not too cheap to meter.”  We take clean and plentiful water for granted.  In Southeast Asia and Africa, though, millions die annually from drinking and bathing in toxic water because the infrastructure to provide decent sanitation is nonexistent.  And theorists claim that the day will come when there is not enough water for our exploded population, when the distribution of water will wield much greater power than that of gasoline today.

So it makes sense to respect water, and to conserve it at every opportunity.  It also makes sense to value the world’s water supply in even greater measure than we value money.  If we persist with this thought only a little further, we begin to see that respect and conservation of natural resources is the true source of lasting wealth.  Wealth, like clean water, should be equally available to all.  But not wealth that’s grounded in money; I’m talking about a new definition of wealth.  We need to leave the wealth of materialism behind and mature into a species that understands wealth as profound appreciation for creation and the natural gifts of the Earth.

Too big for our britches

An article from Time today suggests that historians will find fault with our leaders for not explaining sufficiently the economic woes we Americans are facing, and not making clear how their bailout plans will effectively address the problem.  The issues are complex indeed, and perhaps no one has a comprehensive explanation for the current crisis.

Sometimes it seems as though almost all our issues stem from the fact that there are simply too many of us.  We are continuing to use old systems and mores, ones that worked when the population was manageable; but since our numbers have exploded in the post WWII world, much of what we’ve held to be true simply doesn’t work anymore.

My much admired corporate spy, Hugh MacLeod, said a couple days ago: “I could also go on about how many good people I know are caught in oversupplied markets, and how every day they wake up, feeling chilled to the bone with dread and unease. Advertising and media folk are classic examples.”

In an oversupplied market, only the most cutthroat competition, the trickiest maneuvers, the whims of luck can advance the individual, and even then, only for a short time.  In an oversupplied market, we becomed preoccupied with show biz, and dangerously disconnected from real needs of real people.

How to avoid this trap?  As a nation, we’ve fallen straight into it, and will now be forced to claw our way out, one hopes with some grace and aplomb.  As individual business owners, we can be shrewd about avoiding oversupplied markets by seeking the creative core of our work and marketing with profound compassion.

Capitalism and competition both glory in human greed, and fundamentally depend on its continuous increase.  But the shadow side to this world view looms large today, and we are learning about its inherently destructive nature.  Perhaps appropriately for a nation beginning to move beyond adolescence, America must undertake a vision quest, seek effective ways of handling our growing population, and find new fulfillment through cooperation and profound individual creativity.

Creativity and the crash

While the pervading sentiment appears to be that a bailout by the federal government is the only way to avoid pervasive recession and massive unemployment, a thinking person can’t help but suspect that such an action is just more of the same profligate strong-arming that caused our economic woes to begin with.  It seems the big guys always get rescued.  The big guys get salaries hundreds of times bigger than the average Joe; get bonuses of astronomical proportion; and get bailed out when they make mistakes.  Such lenience is actually the opposite of capitalism, and is light years from the everyday experience of average Americans.

Still, we fear for the wellbeing of so many workers (one estimate puts it at some 11 million people) who would be affected if the banks were left unassisted.  Here and now, in our time, many more than just the bosses would experience financial disaster.  We would surely descend into the darkest shadow side of capitalism.

Consider, for a moment, your own personal saga.  Perhaps you have been bailed out by indulgent people yourself.  Have you remembered the close call, and worked hard to avoid repeating the experience?  Or is it easy to slide into the feeling that you’ll always be rescued?  On the other hand, perhaps no one came to your aid, you hit rock bottom, and had to figure out how to climb up from there.  Which of these situations is the creative one?

Here’s the hard part:  though all the above may be true, and we will do just about anything to avoid disaster for so many of our fellow citizens, the truly creative thing would be to let the failed institutions die and to start over with better control.  Creativity (may I say it again?) is an unflinching search for truth.  Creativity does not patch and mend; it cuts to the naked chase.  It may be ugly, depressed, even hopeless-feeling down there, but creativity takes a charred stick and a pile of ashes and builds a new dream.

We will not be so brave as to be creative as a nation in this current crisis.  We are far too fond of our privileges and toys.  But perhaps as individuals, we Americans can learn from the situation.  Perhaps, in your own business, you’ll seek equity and you’ll re-invest rather than falsely reward.  Perhaps, in your personal life, you’ll give renewed attention to your priorities, learn to live within your means, and properly respect the structures that support you.

Wall Street and You

While current Wall Street shenanigans may be shocking and scary, the repercussions for everyday people are hard to identify at this point.  Various analyses are speculative:  the most helpful article I read was from Time magazine, comparing us to France, and suggesting that, “In bailing out mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, our government has basically turned America into the largest subsidized housing project in the world.” 

The scope of the bedlam is apparent when you think how we Americans won’t ensure that everyone has equal access to healthcare, but the government confidently and immediately takes over when big finance takes sick.  In other words, we are quick to defend money, leaving human (and environmental) wellbeing to fend for itself.  Is it really helpful to tend to your finances while leaving your body sick and your environment polluted?

Creativity is a mindset, one that arranges priorities in a way wholly opposed to traditional capitalist instincts.  Creativity is about discovering baseline truths, human (as opposed to economic) realities, and ultimate motivations.  Creativity busts the box to smithereens and introduces us to a whole new set of ambitions that have more to do with personal salvation than with the survival of Wall Street.  And which of these goals do you care more about?

If your income is threatened by the current fiasco, consider facing at long last your humanity, your reason for being, the gifts you can share that are not dependent on a fat wallet.  These may be tough times economically, but they represent as well a fantastic opportunity for personal growth.  More on this as the week progresses ….

Bailing out, digging in

Oh brother, we’re worried now.  There’s no more denying it.  Banks closing and stocks plunging indicate more than a harmless economic slump.  The events of this week (so far) are enough to cause mild panic, as in, gee maybe I should get my greenbacks back under my mattress. 

Certainly businesses are forced now to consider alternative approaches to marketing, and even survival.  My networking group yesterday was full of concern at the slowdown.  The same old PR tactics just aren’t turning up the clients anymore. 

From the long view, the scare is an excellent opportunity for growth.  We can shake off the dribble and dross of clever marketing, and return to the core value of what we are doing.  Do you believe your product or service is useful, helpful, a boon to humanity?  (It should be, and if it isn’t, perhaps you’ll want to look at doing something different.)  When sales are no longer produced by fancy tactics with clients dying to spend money, we can with relief return to the essential, real-life, direct convenience or comfort of the thing we produce.  We can work on improving it.  We can customize it to answer to real needs.

In short, we can ignore the selling and concentrate on the creativity.  This is the time to remember that money is a measure, not an end in itself.  The ultimate reason for your product or service is to assist your fellow man/woman, to increase the quality of life.  Now’s the moment to return to that core meaning of your work, to tweak it so that it performs to perfection; and even to extend its virtues to new applications, to dream of yet uninvented solutions.  In other words, to use this helplessness in the face of a failing national economy to return to essentials and thereby rediscover the true worth of our commerce.