Where Light Gathers

Interested in building and nurturing a growth mindset and bringing more creativity to the world? This blog could help.

A lifetime ago, when I was an animator and studying Chuck Jones, I found this quote from him.

The rules are simple. Take your work, but never yourself, seriously. Pour in the love and whatever skill you have, and it will come out.

It's simple, but maybe not easy. How do you dig deep to create quality work, and also be lighthearted. To be great at what you do, but open to the fact that you are just a person. With flaws and some rough edges, perhaps.

Some thoughts:

  • Keep a regular creative cadence, as a single thing you make is less important than the repeatable structure you build. Some people phrase this as “show up every day”. Creative work is still work.
  • As fast as you can, get comfortable with feedback on your work (email me if you have feedback on this post). Some of it will be good and actionable. Some of it won't be. Some of it will be misdirected and attack you and not the work. That stuff sucks. Critique the creation, not the creator when giving feedback.
  • Do both of these in public. Write about it, tweet about what you're doing and how you're doing it. Most of us are rooting for you and want you to succeed. What may be a boring routine, and perhaps a grind for you sometimes is straight up magic to others.

We’re thinking ahead, creating a future in our minds. Anxiety about what could, should, and would happen cloud this vision of our future selves.

And when we reflect, we’re recreating a past event. Our minds add in our thoughts, feelings, and emotions from that time. Augmented by those from the lives we’ve lived since that past event.

Humans aren’t good at thinking in absolutes, we think relatively.

That past experience is all relative to what’s happened and what we’ve thought since, up until right now. The future in our minds is relative to what we’re feeling now too.

So, we do not have a future or a past at all.

All we have is right now.

When coaching, it’s solving with, not for.

It’s easy to slip into a problem solving role as a coach. But that’s not coaching, it’s mentoring or consulting.

As a coach, when we give advice or solve for, not with, we close people off from themselves. We constrain them to our experiences and world view.

The coach is Obi-Wan, Gandalf, Dumbledoor, Alabaster. The guide, not the hero.

When we start to slip into advice or problem solving, flip this into questions for the person being coached.

This returns the focus to the Hero of the Journey. It’s their story, you're the guide.

When people start writing, or any creative endeavor, they have some fears. Some of these fears are self-imposed, others external, sometimes both. One of them is “what if nobody reads/sees it”?

Unpopular opinion time… If no one reads your early work, consider it a gift. It gives you the time and space to put things into the world, and get better each time. You also build the muscle memory of publishing and begin to build in public.

Does that reframing help you feel better about nobody seeing your work? Maybe nobody is reading this, and that is OK.

I was having an email exchange with a friend about some creative outlets around the area. For one in particular they said “it terrifies me so I think I have to do it”. The old Stoics have this concept of Amor Fati. Ryan Holiday puts it like this...

Amor fati is a mindset that you take on for making the best out of anything that happens: Treating each and every moment—no matter how challenging—as something to be embraced, not avoided. To not only be okay with it, but love it and be better for it. So that like oxygen to a fire, obstacles and adversity become fuel for your potential.

The idea is that you have the opportunity to grow the most via the things that challenge you the most. I mean, if theres a frigging bear chasing you, don't think what kind of opportunity does this present to me. Run away, or stand still, or play dead, I forget what the rules of engagement are for bears.

Anyway, for creative work, I love this idea. If you're looking for ways to express yourself, or learn creative skills to apply in your work/day job, pick the thing that terrifies you the most. Then go do it.

Yesterday, at work, I asked a group of people some questions that caused “the longest, most uncomfortable silence in history” according to one attendee. Causing that silence, and the resulting conversation was the best thing I’ve contributed to work all week. Possibly all month.

That moment and conversation came about not because I have a list of go-to questions. I wasn’t about stumping or triggering someone. That’s a zero sum game. 1 winner + 1 loser = 0.

It was about being present and asking the right questions. Questions that challenged the way we do things. To probe for change. My improv teacher taught us that “You have two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Use them proportionally”.

That works in a lot of areas of life, I think. If we want to go deeper, to explore, and observe, to look for change, can we do that while we're talking?

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. Pierre Marc-Gaston

One drop of water landing upon a stone doesn't do much to erode the stone.

One drop of water, landing every minute of the day, for 100 years does.

Building our single drops into repeatable process and practices is a challenge. How does one muster and sustain the self-motivation? Or avoid the guilt of missing a drop or a series of drops?

It's not about “not breaking the chain” as much as it is awareness and patience.

And forgiving ourselves.

Figuring out our own detractors from, and attractors to the process.

Too often the charlatans or the mislead of the world want to sell us things to increase the amount of drops, or additives to make the drops more powerful. Or things we can do in addition to the dropping of water to make the stone weaker.

Does any of that ever work?

I've abandoned the practices of dropping the water on the stones for about a month. It has affected my physical and mental health.

Consider this post my next single drop of water on the stone.

The definition we tell ourselves of Introvert is “I do not like being around people”. And an Extravert is self-defined as “I do like being around people”.

Maybe a deeper explanation is warranted. Introverts have their energy drained by being around other people. And it's replenished by solitude.

Extraverts have their energy replenished by being around other people. Their energy is drained in solitude.

Digging even deeper, this energy expenditure and replenishment can vary based on the kinds of people one is around. Friends, family, your chess club, open office cube space. Working from home, alone.

Have you considered how your energy is expended and replenished with the lens of the different kinds of groups you participate in?

I’ve been skiing three or four times in my life until this year. The previous attempts didn’t end well due to my own self doubt, and my lack of training. I kinda just jumped into skiing previously, without lessons or instruction. When I was 15 it was to impress a girl, and later it was to spend time with my wife and kids who already knew how to ski.

This year I committed to taking lessons. I’ve taken two of four planned lessons. This weekend, I spent some time out of the lessons, and on the learners hill. I spent some time on the “bunny hill” going over my lessons and trying to make progress, in terms of figuring out how to turn, and stop. Also battling the monkey mind who was chastising me for being too old, too this and too that, and not enough of yet another thing to even try skiing at 47 years old.

Focusing on the skis, the snow, and the mountain underneath my feet helped me quiet the monkey mind. I was encouraged by my wife to go up the lift to the bigger bunny hill. I reminded myself to focus, and took three calming breaths on the ski lift. The first couple runs were slow, and somewhat steady. I was lucky to have my immediate family with me and I took much joy in skiing with them.

We went our separate ways after a couple runs. I stayed on that part of the mountain, and made the run on the big bunny hill 20 or more times. Somewhere around the 3rd or 4th time, my lessons clicked, and my monkey mind stopped chattering.

I’m not ever going to be in the Olympics or a racing team, but I now can get around on skis in a way that is safe and really fun. It’s not the speed of the hill that is appealing to me (although that’s fun). It’s the oneness with self and terrain and weather. Plus hanging out with family and friends on the mountain and in the lodge. I’m grateful that I have the means and opportunity to ski a couple times a season, and that I have people close to me to share it with.

I’m grateful that my monkey mind wants me to be safe and not take risks, there’s wisdom in that, in some contexts. I just wish the monkey mind was kinder to me. Perhaps the more I stretch the comfort zone, the nicer it’ll be, or I’ll be able to ease it’s chattering in better ways.

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