I read an article by Mark McGuinness in last month’s the 99 percent newsletter. It was a call to embrace your (noble) ambitions.I enjoyed it, visited Mark’s site, learned about his Creative Pathfinder online course, and signed on right away. How could I not? For one thing, the subject is one of my three central passions (along with holistic health and happiness): creativity. Plus the syllabus was overflowing with topics that examine creativity from every angle and as it relates to all major areas of life. And the majority of those areas are not being covered by any of my other channels of personal study . And they are all very important, to my development and success as a creator, and an entrepreneur. And, Mark is generously offering the course for free. I blocked off a two hour time slot for it each week. It was an easy decision and, four weeks in, I can say with conviction that it was a very smart decision.
One thing I was quickly reminded of is how much more beneficial ideas and guidance are when we try them out for ourselves (instead of just absorbing/consuming them.) Through the worksheets that accompany each lesson I am really digging in, deeply contemplating, and analyzing my life. That then leads beyond the page – putting ideas into action.
Each week I take away fresh and helpful insights and assign myself action items to further the growth. Here is a review of what I’ve learned, and what I am working on, through week 4. (This a six month course and I plan to do a monthly review.)
Topic = Life/Career Goals and Dreams
- Contemplating our goals and dreams is so important. Without that awareness of what we care most deeply about, life can start to feel meaningless. I do a thorough life review at the end of each year but this made me realize the value of checking in more regularly – it strengthens the vision.
- Looking back on the work I have done so far in life is something I had not done before. I gave quite a bit of time to this and found it quite powerful to see patterns of what makes me happy and unhappy in a role/work environment.
- Acknowledging that Big Dreams bring up fear, and that it is normal, made me feel less alone in that. Thinking through the worst-case-scenario made it clear that there is nothing to be scared of. There are always new options. And when we succeed? So worth the effort!
- Continue being mindful of which actions/projects/roles make me feel good and which do not.
Topic = Using, and Expanding, Your Gifts
- What are my signature talents? My natural gifts? I know this, and do think about it periodically. Now I see that keeping that awareness central keeps me confident and focused on finding ways to apply those talents/gifts.
- Keep learning! This is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned, and Mark had some good suggestions for expanding our knowledge, beyond just reading books. This is something we should build into our schedule and it should take us outside of our comfort zones and attractions.
- I particularly liked the work around understanding who our tribes are and hadn’t explored this before.
- Make sure you know the motivations for what you do, especially when things get tough. Great idea to check in on that every day – it helps us stay focused and committed.
- Continue to develop my tribes: people/groups doing similar work, with similar interests, and with similar passions. And give thought to the ways I can share and contribute.
Topic = Your Creative Potential and Process
- I realized that I didn’t have a clear understanding of my natural daily rhythms. When am I most productive and at what? When is my energy highest and lowest? When do I lose focus and need a break? I spent several days observing myself at work and this was probably the most useful exercise so far. I now have a daily schedule that works in harmony with those natural rhythms and it is making me happier and more productive! Seemingly simple thing (that most of us don’t take the time to look at) – Big Payoff.
- Continue thinking about ways to collaborate and get feedback. Who/where are the people and what is the benefit for them?
Topic = Being Inspired, Being Challenged, and Practicing
- Yes – I need to get OUT more and experience what others are creating. I always get inspired at museums, galleries, performances, talks/readings and that inspiration is (necessary) food for our creative fire.
- Here we give more thought to the daily schedule and being more specific. I am now aware of my distractions and call myself out on them. Then I, gently but firmly, steer myself back on course/schedule (just like I’m learning to do in meditation practice!)
- And more emphasis on the importance of feedback.
- Schedule time for reading/commenting on blogs/sites related to my areas of work/interest/passion.
- Schedule regular cultural outings.
- Get my work Out There – share it and welcome/utilize feedback.
My favorite takeaway so far, and something I wrote out and refer to regularly now:
What can you do to make the biggest difference – and reap the greatest rewards?
1. It’s something only you can do – solving an unusual problem, or doing it in an unusual style, or both.
2. Because it’s so distinctive you can charge more than the next guy for it.
3. If you do it – and sell it – well enough, you don’t necessarily need to be ‘busy’ all day every day.
4. It’s in ‘the zone’ where you find your greatest fulfilment.
5. It’s a challenge that will fascinate you for the rest of your days.
Thank-you, Mark, for so generously sharing this great course!