Fulfilling Your Creative Purpose

Think creativity is just play-time fluff? Think again.

In a survey of 1,500 executives conducted by IBM in 2010, creativity was cited as the single most important factor for future success due to the ever increasing complexity of an increasingly interconnected world. From the C-Suite down to the factory line or the reception desk, every member of an organization needs to be tapped into their innate creative abilities.

Complexity

People who exercise their creative abilities and potential at work typically like their job. The constant engagement and challenge provides a kind of freedom that creative types absolutely need.

But, we know that more than half of all workers don’t like their jobs. A lot of factors contribute to this, but in another survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management in 2011, only 42% of workers said that creativity and innovation were rewarded.

Hmm. Seems like there is a disconnect here. On one hand leaders say that creativity is the most important factor in achieving success. But, it seems leaders aren’t rewarding creativity. No wonder so many people would trade their current job for a new one.

“Creativity is not a fixed quantity, but rather a renewable resource that can be improved and nurtured by optimizing the environment that allows an individual’s creative potential to blossom.” From Inspiring a Generation to Create, Center for Childhood Creativity.

Let’s face it, the workplace has changed and it hasn’t. It has changed in that more and more organizations are employing part-timers, contract workers and freelancers while phasing out full-time jobs. It’s tough to implement part-time creativity (unless one is hired for a specific creative task like a designer or writer). The workplace has not changed in that most successful businesses rely upon tried and true systems to get the job done.

Tried and true systems don’t rely on creative thought or action. They simply need execution.

So, what is a worker to do?

Creative expression is a basic component of living a fulfilling, authentic life that you love to live. Most people desperately want to employ their creative abilities on the job. Evidently less than half of workers really are encouraged to do this. For the half that feel like zombies stuck in a rut walking on a treadmill, here are three choices you may want to consider:

Innovate as best as you can. While organizations depend upon reliable systems, just about every business is focused on performance. Can you find ways to make the system more efficient? Is there a way to tweak what you’re doing in order to make it more enjoyable while improving performance? Innovate if you can. If you’re not in a position that gives you much opportunity, consider the 2nd choice.

Design your own gig. Most of us can’t just quit if we’re not happy in our job. We have bills to pay, after all.  But, according to a report done by University of Phoenix in 2014, 40% of workers want to start a business. If you aren’t happy where you are, consider designing your own gig. Every skill on the market can be freelanced. And there are thousands of service-oriented businesses that can be entered. Focus on something you want to do and then find people who need what you want to do. Simple concept, not necessarily easy.  However, most people I know have something on the side. If your side gig finds some traction and a market, who knows, maybe your gig will become your main source of income and satisfaction.

Piano Hands

Fulfill creative expression outside the workplace. There are a lot of actors and artists that sling coffee and wait on tables. Conversely, I know high level executives who turn financial deals during the day, but pick up a paintbrush at night and on the weekends. Remember Richard Gere in the movie Shall We Dance? He was a corporate attorney whose train passed by a dance studio on his commute home. One night he got a shot of courage and got off the train. He began dancing in secret. Every day on that train the tension within him grew – something was missing. He didn’t want to leave his well-paying day job – he just wanted to dance. His life became richer and more fulfilling – especially so after his wife discovered his secret passion.

So…what’s your art? If you don’t care about income and just want to give freedom to your creative voice, what are you waiting for? Get off the train!

Embrace the Box

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God” – Ray Bradbury

ArtistHow often have you heard, “We need to think outside the box?”

Seems like a lot of folk use that phrase or something similar (my favorite is, “The solution came from left field.”).

While I believe that every human being is a creative type, everyone thinks differently. My experience is that most linear thinking folk are more apt to use terms like “outside the box”.  There’s nothing wrong with that – it means they are willing to go outside their comfort zone and consider more abstract, perhaps even illogical solutions or ideas.

I’ve always been a non-linear thinker. One of the benefits of having ADD is that my mind tends to race ahead, see the big picture, and identify connections that maybe a linear thinker wouldn’t necessarily see right away. While it is a benefit, it comes with potential problems in communicating with my linear colleagues.

When I was younger I would often become frustrated while I stubbornly tried to make people see the distant, abstract connections, or explain a complex concept. Over time I learned to have patience and empathy: the linear thinking people were just as frustrated with me! And, Heaven forbid, maybe even thought I was a bit looney or weird.

That’s okay with me. I don’t mind being a little weird or abnormal.

Then I discovered a concept that changed everything.

There is no such thing as “out of the box”.

Human beings, no matter how creative, abstract, modern or innovative, are designed to create order. In fact, in his beautiful little book, The Courage to Create,  the noted psychologist, Rollo May, makes a strong case that it is the artist’s job to bring form to chaos.

This made me think deeply about the nature of art, about life, about the universe. The fact is that there is an order to everything – even when it is not readily apparent. In essence, everything has a box. Even if we’re pulling an idea out of the chaotic swirl of cosmic matter, that idea was born from some type of order.

While I may be making a mountain out of a mole hill here, I think it’s an important distinction. Most people are linear. For that reason, knowing that everything intrinsically has a boundary can actually make the creative process easier and less overwhelming.

Our job is to either expand or contract the box.  It is to recognize the current order – and then to change the form. Artists do this all the time. Ask five painters to look at a scene and we’ll typically get five very different interpretations.  Their perceptions help us all to expand the box.

Same thing rings true when five colleagues are sitting around a conference table looking at a problem. We’ll get five (or more) different solutions that expand the box.

I think the key to solving problems is to first embrace the box. See the existing form as a reality. Begin there, and then go to work expanding the box with the realization that only God can exist outside the box.

Loving the Life You Live

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

MasqueHmm. In a recent survey by British phone maker, HTC, 75% of people  said they make their lives seem more exciting (than what’s real) on social media.

That probably isn’t too astounding to believe. It’s been drilled into our heads to not trust what we read on the internet, right? A little embellishment is okay, isn’t it? We expect that, don’t we?

What about this: according to the Society of Human Resource Managers, 53% of resumes have a falsification. Mix into this the fact that worldwide twice as many hate their jobs compared to those who like what they are doing.

How about this: GlobalWebIndex reported that 42% of those using Tinder (an online dating site) were married.

There’s so much more. There is a study or survey on everything.  A lot of it isn’t promising.

Why not? Why aren’t we loving the lives we lead?

Generally speaking we all have something in our lives that is satisfying. Some more than others. And life satisfaction isn’t really tied to money. Granted, having enough than not enough contributes to overall satisfaction, but only fractionally (Gallup reported that of those making $125,000 or more only 60% were satisfied). In employee surveys financial compensation is typically way down on the list of why someone is happy in their jobs.

Early in my career I had worked hard in creating a merger between the organization I led and another local entity. It took over a year to navigate the deal – but once it was consummated, I was named the executive director for the new organization, doubling my salary. And the moment it happened I could feel the emptiness in the pit of my stomach. I knew this wasn’t going to be the right fit. I endured for two years, finally resigning. I began living a life meant for someone else – I was bored, dissatisfied, and cranky.

Thoreau said that most men live lives of quiet desperation. That’s the thing, isn’t it? All too often adversity happens. We make choices in response to that adversity. Suddenly, 20 years later, we’ve lived that life of quiet desperation. Maybe we’re satisfied with certain things – but overall there is a lot of things we would change.

We don’t get do-overs, though, do we? Or…do we?

In doing research I have scanned many many prescriptions for living a life we love. Common themes emerged – some obvious, some surprising. Shockingly, there were a few no-brainers that didn’t make anybody’s list. Maybe I was shocked because the omitted items were things my grandmother, Babe, taught me.

The most basic thing we need to grasp is that loving the life we live is proportional to the positivity of our attitude about life. To that end, here are the pillar concepts:

Live for today, in the moment. Some call this “being present”, Life is lived in a never-ending state of NOW. Life happens NOW, in the moment. Jesus said don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow – there is enough to think about today. Grandma Babe said to take time to smell the flowers (and you may as well pick a few while you’re standing in her garden).

Being PresentBe grateful. Cultivate in your heart a feeling of generalized gratitude by daily considering those specific things in your life for which you can give thanks. In fact, do this: when you wake up in the morning, immediately give thanks that you are alive and breathing. Give thanks for having shelter, food and the other stuff inside your walls. Give thanks for all the people who love you – and whom you love. Do that daily. The gratitude mind-set will seep in. Babe would say, “Be happy you were born in America and not (fill in the fascist country of your choice)”.

Be true to yourself. Sometimes it is hard to drill down through all the ideas about life you’ve adopted based upon reactive choices, or by being influenced by people close to you. But, the treasures are there. You can hear them whispering at the edges of your consciousness. Sometimes they shout at us. Either way, you know. The truth – your truth – is there, in your heart. I’ve written an entire section on this subject in my book, Blazing into the Creative Wilderness. The basic is something my grandmother told me, “Follow your heart. The rest isn’t really worth your time.”

Give. Human beings, at our core, tend to be selfish. We’re focused on our survival. But, there is also this little bit of magic in us that let’s us see others, too.  We begin by giving to those around us, the people we love. For most of us, we receive love in return.  As we grow and gain experience, we learn that the more we give, the more we receive. It isn’t always reciprocal with everyone, but the scales balance eventually. There is an ebb and flow. Babe was a giver. More than anything else, she gave love. Even now, many years after she passed away, she’s still giving to me, and her memory continues to wrap me in her warmth.

Love. It’s simple to say and hard to do. Love isn’t an emotion – it is a choice. It encompasses giving, forgiving, listening, receiving, and so many other things. Grandma was married to my grandfather, Herb, for 55 years. It wasn’t always easy. They survived the depression, world wars, and so many other adversities. But, they had love. Love for each other, for their children, for their community.

Laugh. As Babe told me, it was the secret to being married to the same human being for 55 years.

Love God. Jesus gave two great commandments to His disciples that sum it all up: Love God with all your mind and your heart, and love others as you love yourself. Pretty simple. Despite the secular humanism and relativism that pervades modern culture, by and large the most successful and happiest people believe in God, or at least a universal power that was far greater than themselves. What’s interesting to me is that each of the pillar concepts in this list describe some aspect of our limited understanding of God.

300px-Hands_of_God_and_AdamObviously there are many other things to consider, nuances, things specific to your situation. But, by focusing on these pillars you’ll be well on your way to loving the life you live. Don’t take my word for it – trust Grandma Babe.

 

The Value of Plan B

plan-763855_1920The creative process is messy.

The journey you will take toward giving authentic expression to your creative voice is rarely a straight line. You may begin at Point A, completely miss Point B, and end up at point D. The road will be filled with potholes, pit stops and occasional smooth pavement. There will always be bumps.

One of the most influential people in my life is a man named Richard King. When I was in high school, and had just discovered the freedom that writing could bring, Richard encouraged me. It meant something coming from Richard because he had creative chops of his own.

A singer/songwriter with an amazing voice, Richard wrote songs for numerous country music stars during the 1970’s, including Mel Tillis and Roy Clark. Richard also appeared on stage in Las Vegas. It was a rocky road, though. As Richard would tell it, “I had terrible stage fright – it would take a lot of whiskey to give my performance courage.”

That path was unsustainable, so his creative expression took another form. Besides music, Richard also had a gift for designing and crafting very high end pieces of jewelry. Each original piece was a work of art – and he made his living making custom rings for many years in his Northern California studio.

The music industry is a tough business. Richard had the stuff to be a star – but it was messy and extracted a price he no longer wanted to pay as a performer. His Plan B, though, not only made for a nice living, but still fulfilled the creative expression his soul needed.

And he never gave up music. In fact, he had a small recording studio in his home. He even occasionally played local gigs for charity.

Richard always had – and still has – a certain star power, It just wasn’t on the road he originally set upon.

You see it in most creative types – a diversity of interests and talents. Jessica Simpson designs clothes. Ice-T is a rapper turned actor. Stephen King plays guitar in a band. NFL star Vernon Davis is also a gifted visual artist.

Sometimes Plan A and Plan B run side-by-side. Sometimes they merge. Sometimes Plan B becomes Plan A or Plan C.

The secret is to be open to new ideas, new thought, new action. Richard’s path was his own and chosen with conscious intent.  It was authentic, allowing him true expression.

There was tremendous value in his Plan B – and there will be value in yours. Plan B doesn’t mean forsaking a dream – it could mean writing novels instead of screenplays, or painting murals instead of portraits. It could also mean directing plays instead of playing the lead. Whatever it is, if chosen with integrity it is the right and true choice for you.

Success & the Law of Attraction: The Missing Link

When The Secret exploded into our popular culture, the Law of Attraction was suddenly everywhere. Even Oprah weighed in.

There was nothing new about the Law of Attraction. This wisdom has been around for thousands of years. “As a man thinketh, so he is” comes to mind. We really do create our own reality because everything begins with a thought.  If we think negative thoughts, the world will seem dreary, lonely and everyone will call you Eeyore.

On the other hand, if our thoughts are positive, we will have a tendency to attract positive things into our lives. In fact, through the science of positive psychology it is proven that those with sunny dispositions tend to have happier, more prInspiredLightningoductive lives.

However…many who have attempted to implement the Law of Attraction have been sorely disappointed when the man/woman of their dreams remains in silent slumber, their checking account still comes up short at the end of the month, and their best vacation option is a long weekend at the Motel 6 in Bakersfield (that’s right, “Sun, Fun. Stay, Play!).

What the purveyors of the Law of Attraction didn’t tell you is that there is a part 2 to making this concept work. Yes, you need to see it and believe it, up your ante on vibration, and open your mind to the possibility of new possibilities. After all, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive, it can achieve.” Thank you Napoleon Hill. This is truth.

What is also true is that you can’t just stop at naming and claiming. There is some work involved. Here are the three things you need to do after you send your request to the great distribution center of the universe.

Gain knowledge. So you want to be an internet gazillionaire? Terrific! After you put in your request, start learning how online commerce works. Sign up for Wealthy Affiliate, read Online Marketing for Dummies, find yourself a hungry Millennial who can show you the ropes.  Whatever it is your heart desires, you best be learning how it works, discover the nuances, and learn the dance you’ll have to do to manifest your dreams.

Gain skill. As you add knowledge, put the knowledge to use. This is the action part. To be an internet gazillionaire you will need a website. You will need to be a marketer. You’ll probably need to write copy and do design work. You’ll need to Like, Tweet and Post. In other words, you’ll need to work. If the work follows your dream, it won’t feel like work at all. Hopefully it will be a joyful exercise in fulfilling your deepest desires.

Get connected. Internet gazillionaires don’t live in a vacuum. They aren’t shacked up at a cabin in the woods or live in a silent monastery somewhere in the Italian Alps. They are connected to people. Key people. They have a community. Find yours. This is actually the scary part for a lot of people. We’re afraid that we won’t measure up, won’t be accepted, won’t be taken seriously. We fear rejection. Keep this in mind: everybody experiences this in one way or another…so, if everyone experiences this, we’re all equal! Reach out to a potential mentor. Ask questions, As you receive, be willing to give. Be reciprocal. Pretty soon you’ll attract your community.

In my book, Blazing into the Creative Wilderness, I go into each of these three areas. Check it out if you want more detail.

Whatever you do, don’t just focus on part one of the Law of Attraction. Make the elements of part two a daily ritual. Within time you’ll be living the life you love.

 

Need a Brain Change? Meditate!

If you want to change your life, change your brain. This wisdom is ancient. Usually, when we quote ancient wisdom during the 21st Century, it means there’s something to it.

Every spiritual tradition embraces the precept of getting still, quieting the mind, fear not. Meditate.

There has been much research done that has identified the beIlluminationnefits of meditation. Mental clarity. Lowered blood pressure. Reduced anxiety. Heightened creativity. There’s good reason for this. Meditation creates physiological changes, increasing brain density and boosting connections between neurons.

Researchers at UCLA have found that meditation has a profound effect on the cerebral cortex. With regular meditation our ability to process information, make decisions, and increase mindfulness – among many other benefits – increase.

So…want to change your brain? Meditate.

So, what exactly is meditation? For me it is an opportunity to regenerate, relax and let go. My mind quiets and my focus gently sharpens – but without trying. There is no work to it. It is a rest stop during a busy day, a way station where I get to recharge.

But, what if you have never attempted meditation before? Or, maybe you have, but it just didn’t resonate? As a rational person you know that meditation can help you – after all, the science is there. You know there is a profound neurological benefit.

I recommend that you try the 9-Day Meditation Experience by Deep Origins (see my recommendation). You’ll receive, at no cost, nine guided meditations that cover a variety of functional areas (prosperity, abundance, healing, etc.) and you are taught how to meditate. Each meditation ranges between 6 and 20 minutes. By the end of the nine day experience you’ll really get why this practice works – you’ll want to continue. It very well may become the best part of your day.

And you’ll change your brain.

Conceive it, See it, Be it.

In the vast field of neuroscience, one of the most interesting things to me is the act of re-training the mind through visualization.

What is visualization, you ask? It is the deliberate act of first quieting the mind, and then imagining what you want in vivid detail. And, do so in a way that is unattached to an outcome.

Sounds hard, doesn’t it? It really isn’t.

We get hung up on the outcome part, I think. When I was 7 years old I began playing baseball. From the moment my father put a glove on my hand I was hooked. When I wasn’t on the field or playing in the streets with my friends, I was throwing a rubber ball against the garage wall.

I would imagine myself being Don Sutton or Steve Carlton pitching against the likes of Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. For hours upon hours my imagination ran wild with diamond success as I toed the rubber against the greatest players on earth.

By the time I got to college and pitched for my school’s team, During the grind of training in which I’d run 3-5 miles each night, I would offset the tedium by pitching a game in my mind as I ran. These long periods of intense visualization would prepare me for my time on the mound.

During the game I would trigger my imagination into quick visualizations before each pitch, imagining that my arm angle was correct, that the ball would go where I wanted. Often it did.

What I learned is that I needed to focus only on what I could control. I wouldn’t imagine a swing and miss, but just putting the ball into the desired location. That’s all I could control.

This technique of visualization can be transferred into any area of life. It’s a process of training the imagination, directing it, breathing life into whatever it is we are doing. At first you may have to concentrate a focus a little – but after a while it comes naturally and quickly.

I find the best time to practice is during times of meditation. As a writer I begin to see words on the page. The story comes together. I allow myself to experience the emotions associated with the piece.

When it comes time to write the words generally flow easily from my mind to the page.

The key is being focused on the process rather than the outcome. With some things outcome is intertwined with the process – and that’s okay. Just don’t get too attached. The more you focus on process – of becoming a craftsman at whatever you are doing – the better your outcomes will be – without being attached to them.

Why be unattached to outcomes? Because they lead to expectation, perfectionism, and ultimately disappointment.

However, the simple act of seeing yourself doing a thing, and then manifesting the actions through repetition (action), you’ll master the process and you’ll experience success.

Simple. See it. Be it.