I embarked on the Creative Pathfinder journey on September 3, 2010 – eight months ago! And I’ve so enjoyed the experience – every step on the “path” I’m finding/creating. I’ve said it before, but need to say it again: Mark McGuinness is smart, and wise, and insightful, and Creative, and most generous to share this course for Free. It’s worth a lot. I’ve benefited a great deal in these eight months of examining myself and learning methods and practices to increase my productivity and success.
Topic = What Motivates Us?
- I have a hard time ranking the intrinsic motivations. Really they are all super important to me, but if I had to, this is how I would prioritize them: meaning; purpose; creative flow; interest; learning; challenge. This is helpful to know in terms of how to get and stay really motivated.
- Also good to consider that extrinsic motivators do play their role and help us along, too. For example, I particularly enjoy praise (positive feedback, etc) and appreciation.
- And it’s always worth keeping in mind that the hardest part usually is getting started. I find that once I “get into it” the momentum builds on itself.
The funny thing is, the work is usually quite enjoyable when you get going and intrinsic motivation takes over. But to get you going in the first place place, you sometimes need the extrinsic motivation of ‘deadline magic’.
- Keep reminding myself that meaning and purpose (my two biggest motivators) are found in the simplicity of living each moment to its fullest: being really Here and Now, being the best we can be (our Authentic Self), and offering our Positive Energy to the world around us, whatever we are doing, no matter how small it may seem. And also remind myself that every time I pick up a pen, paintbrush, pastel, marker, etc, and start moving, if I stick with it for awhile, I get into the creative flow (the third of my motivators) and what a nice place that is to be!
Topic = Rejection and Criticism
- Yes, when we “put our heart and soul” (even a small bit of it) into our work, it hurts when others don’t like/appreciate it. Also, we all just, at a fundamental level, want to be loved – that’s human nature, whether we’re aware of it or not.
- Similarly to homeopathic medicine, when we expose ourselves (in small doses) ,repeatedly, to what challenges us, we become stronger.
- It matters not that we fall down and get dirty. (We will – it’s a natural part of being human.) What matters is how we choose to respond. If we learn and grow from the experience then we are living our purpose.
- Meditate everyday! By tuning in to my Inner Light, my Highest Self, and connecting with the Abundantly Positive Energy of the Universe, I am strong, balanced, calm, clear, and confident. I’m planning to participate in The Chopra Center’s 21 Day Meditation Challenge.
Topic = Difficult People
People are much more complex than the labels we stick on them.
- Not only do we generate potentially negative energy by labeling people, we also limit the possibilities for how we can interact with them. If we recognize them as multi-dimensional, ever-changing, infinite beings like ourselves (see last Lesson 22 ‘Actions’ re meditation…) we expand the possibilities tremendously.
- As usual, focusing on the specifics is worth every bit of effort. If we understand what we want from the other person, and why, and if we take the time to understand their perspectives and motivations (empathy serves us well), we can approach the situation with clarity and a big-picture view.
In Aikido, Harmony, and the Business of Living (Zanshin Press), Richard Moon calls the practice of being fully present and fully aware “Feel Where You Are.” If you are to truly listen, engage, and empathize with someone challenging you then you yourself must be completely aware of your situation and aware of their situation and all the subtle signals. One who is fully in the present cannot be caught off guard. “Feeling where you are,” says Moon, “refines awareness into attention.
- Give others respect and understanding by not labeling them, not assuming, just as I hope others will do for me.
- See last Lesson 22 ‘Actions’ re meditation…
Topic = Fun and Informative Presentations
- The best presenters are great storytellers. They know why they are asking for their audiences attention and what the desired post-presentation actions are. And, they weave in interesting stories that illustrate their points, so the audience is entertained while being informed. While studying architecture, learned that even math can be fun (for an arts and literature type) to learn when taught by someone who is friendly, funny, entertaining, and engaging.
- Follow the ‘three key points + call to action = the structure of your presentation’ formula for fun and informative presentations.
Topic = Managing Creatives
- As fellow creatives, even if we are in roles not traditionally seen as creative (IT project manager, etc..), we understand that freedom plays a big role in our ability to produce. If we are too limited by micromanagement, the flow of our ideas and thus our products/deliverables get restricted. And, every one of us has some creative fire within, even if it’s not regularly applied, or even recognized. So, even if our title is not “manager”, when we are managing and coordinating projects and the people involved in those projects, we’ll do well to encourage that creative fire and the brilliance it can produce by giving freedom of thought and action.
- Feedback! As a communications and project manager (by nature and profession), I cannot say enough about the value of feedback. The best managers I have had over the years were those who regularly shared their thoughts/feelings about my performance and work. I learn so much, we all do, when others take the time to share their perspectives with us. I also encourage you to actively seek it out as well, as even the most well-intentioned managers sometimes need to be asked. And, whenever you are giving feedback (either solicited or unsolicited), also see it as an opportunity to ask for feedback yourself.
- I’m a pretty good listener, but I know what it feels like when someone you are trying to share with is not totally focused on you – it feels like “why bother?” And we’re missing a lot of greatness when we are not really present in the moment with those around us. So, I commit to greater presence and attention when sharing with others. Oh ya, this is important in a management sense, because as we learned in Lesson 23 (when dealing with difficult situations), through understanding others we have a better chance of getting the desired outcomes.
Topic = Measuring Success
- Regular self reflection and assessment allow us to see where we’ve been, how we’ve been doing, and how that measures up to the goals we’ve set for ourselves.
- Yes, let’s say it again: money is a positive resource if we are using it to do good (and doing good includes taking Great care of ourselves and feeling Great all the time.) The more we prosper, the more good we can do!
- What we focus our energy on is what we get. So if we desire to be a positive force in the world, we need to actively envision and work towards that.
Maybe you want to save the world, or at least part of it. Or maybe you want to delight and amaze it, which is just as valid. But if you don’t make it a priority, you risk falling short.
- I so, so, so appreciate Mark’s shining light on an area that many of us fail to give attention to: recognizing “the positive difference we are already making to others and the world at large.” This is a positive use of our energy and attention. As we acknowledge, and celebrate, the good we are doing each day, we are inspired to do more good! I also appreciate Mark encompassing animals, plants, the environment, and the Universe in the web which we are connected to. And lastly, I would like to enthusiastically agree that even the smallest gestures/actions/reactions can have a large and positive impact, frequently rippling out far beyond what we imagine.
- Some of the primary goals I am actively working on?: more collaborating, connecting, and positively contributing.
- Continuing to cultivate Mindfulness. Being Awake and Aware and trusting my gut/instinct/inner wisdom and the Universe to guide me along this brilliant path.
- Find meaning and purpose in the choices I make and the actions I take each day which positively contribute to the world around me and the universe as a whole. What a perfect note to end the course on!
This quartet of lessons from Mark McGuinness takes us through the fundamentals of protecting and sharing our intellectual property, recognizing and utilizing our many non-monetary assets, and knowing our self.
Topic = Protect Your Work, Respect Their Work
- As a creator, putting your work “out there” to be experienced/enjoyed (and purchased!), it behooves you to know your ownership rights in relationship to that work, your intellectual property.
…since ideas and their execution are the basis of your creative and commercial success, you can’t afford to be ignorant about intellectual property.
- Likewise, when we use the work of others, incorporating it into our own work (e.g. quotes, photos, video/audio clips, etc), we need to know what is legal/fair use. Mark lists some good resources and I highly recommend Creative Commons for learning about and engaging in smart sharing/collaborating. Their video section is a fun place to start learning.
- Get CC licenses up on all our sites (this action item is long overdue.)
Topic = Share!
- Now that you’re well educated about protecting your creative work, it’s time to start sharing. Giving freely of products and services that will help/inform/entertain others is both generous and savvy. It’s a way for people (potential clients/customers/connections) to get a taste/feel for what you have to offer, and begin learning the value of your work. This course is a grand example of that.
- See Lesson 17 Action.
Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to keep their copyright while allowing certain uses of their work — a “some rights reserved” approach to copyright…
Topic = We Have Many Assets
- This point – that we each possess many valuable assets, besides just the financial – is really worth understanding. Recognizing the value of our network, reputation, popularity, credibility, time, attention, opportunities, and web presence means we can leverage and enhance these assets for the success and growth of our business, which will increase that other valuable asset, money.
- These assets are all interconnected and complimentary. For example, if we invest our time and attention into sharing our work freely (see Lesson 18), assuming the work is helpful/insightful/entertaining, our network/reputation/popularity/credibility/opportunities will grow over time. Aha!
In a sense, all of the other currencies — including money — are designed to create more of this one. If you have money, a great reputation and network, valuable intellectual property, and control over your own time and attention, you’re in a great position to create new opportunities.
- The worksheet for this lesson is full of good questions for assessing the current status/value of your assets. I’ll be referring regularly to my answers to leverage and enhance these assets.
- Invest more time in networking. Current goal = 2+ hours a week. Long term goal = 5+ hours a week.
- Continue building credibility through studying, training, learning, practicing, doing, giving.
- Continue the healthy daily life practices to improve my attention: meditation, mindfulness, eating well, deep breathing, yoga/movement/walks/exercise, getting Out and experiencing the New.
- Recognize the many opportunities that are available to me Right Now, see the value of each step on the path, and keep walking!
Topic = Know Thyself
- We talked about it in Lesson 13 in relation to marketing, where it was really more about knowing your work (products/services.) Here we go deeper.
I can say with great conviction that the more we understand what makes us tick/hum/dance, how we approach and interact with the world, and what we do best, the greater our happiness and success will be.
- It’s OK, healthy even, to be at peace with what we are not good at. That frees up energy to apply to our natural talents. What am I not good at?: statistics/accounting, aerobics/complex dance moves, and competitions (mostly because I don’t like them.)
- Celebrate and embrace your talents! Combined with interests and opportunities, they are your pathways to Great Work (thanks to Scott Belsky for that formula.)
- See Lesson 19 Actions. Just as the healthy daily life practices of meditation and mindfulness help us to improve attention they also help us know who we really are. And not only does that make us more comfortable in our own skin, it makes our interactions more comfortable too. And I for one am all for more comfort, inner and outer!
- Re-engage some of my dormant talents, specifically drawing and writing poetry. For many years they came naturally to me, but those creative channels have gotten somewhat blocked and I want to get into that FLOW again.
- Review on my MBTI profile and reflect on how to best honor and utilize my natural tendencies.
- Start learning about the Enneagram, something which has interested me for years.
I’m actually on Week 20 of the course, but catching up w/ my reviews. These four lessons are all about one of the most important aspects of your business: money – marketing, selling, negotiating, and managing. This is valuable guidance so Thank-You, as always, to Mark McGuinness for offering it.
Topic = Marketing in the Web
- When working on marketing, as an entrepreneur, it’s so important to “know thyself.” Because,
If you don’t know why people should be paying attention to you, it’s hard to persuade them to do so.
- Good headlines are what grab readers’ attention, and short, succinct, helpful paragraphs are what keep them reading.
- What I’m hearing time and time again is: in order to build a name for yourself/your business, to get people interested, it really helps to give away some things (of Real Value) for free. When I think about some of the products I’ve benefited from (like this course, and Chikara-Reiki-Do’s Sunday chat, for example), these are now trusted and respected resources, and the first places I will go when I want to make a purchase in their area of expertise. Free e-books are a popular, and effective, way for web businesses to give a “taste” of their offerings.
- Getting on the radar of influentials will grow your reach organically. Just like I ask those who visit my sites to take a moment and comment/share, I need to (and am beginning to) reach out and connect with those whose sites I visit/learn from/enjoy. Energy flows both ways!
- Read Brian Clark’s ebook, ‘Authority Rules: the 10 Rock Solid Elements of Effective Online Marketing’.
In order to get the power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior online, you need to become an authority that others cite (link to) in their online content. Which means, of course, you need a content-rich website that demonstrates your authority in the first place.
- Read the Copyblogger pieces on Content Marketing and Headline Writing. Start structuring my content in more attention-catching and easily digestible ways.
- Publish more! Get that editorial calendar up and running again and follow it. Since last month’s BABS (Bay Area Bloggers Society) meeting, Suzanna Stinnett’s white board daily calendar method has been a recurring vision for me. I’m very visual so a physical daily schedule I can write on in colorful markers, and look at whenever my eyes need a break from the computer, sounds appealing and fun! (I’ve got my eye on a nice one at Staples.)
- Keep working on the first e-book concept (in conjunction with the new site which we’re developing.)
- Offer to write a guest blog post.
Topic = Selling, What and Why
- When we are clear about our interests and passions, and align our work accordingly, it is much easier to stay motivated and committed.
…before you start worrying about products and services, benefits and features, offers and objections, stop and ask yourself: “Why am I doing this? Who am I here to help? What problem can I solve for them?”
- Discovering our purpose comes through combining those interests and passions with problems we see around us and want to solve.
What I am interested in/enjoy + What is meaningful + People/Problems needing help= My Purpose
- Whether we’re an employee, entrepreneur,or artist, we all need to sell our products/services/brand in order to generate income. Knowing our audience/clients/customers, really listening to them, and understanding their needs/desires (through asking plenty of questions), is essential to the sales process.
- Know the features of your products/services but then move beyond that and emphasize and illustrate the benefits. Mark suggests a good way to do that, by asking these questions:
What’s in it for them?
Why should they care?
- In order to sell, we have to make an offer and give people an easy way to make a purchase. Don’t expect it to happen automatically
- Regularly remind myself of the problems I am solving and people I am helping.
- Problems I am solving:
Ineffective/poor/unproductive/negative/lacking: communication and project management/coordination/facilitation
People not recognizing their personal power and ability to be holistically healthy and happy, not opening up and embracing their best and brightest potential.
- People I am helping:
Individuals/groups/orgs/teams/communities who will benefit from my communications/project management and personal empowerment assistance
Topic = Negotiating Through Life
- We are continuously negotiating in life, not just at work but also with friends, family, and the people we encounter in a given day. The better we understand the process, the more we get what we want, And make other people happy too.
- It is always important to have multiple options – the power of choice. Viewing the situation from the other sides/perspectives, and with an open mind, can open up new options.
- Know the value of your products and services. This involves researching the market and distinguishing yourself.
- Look for common ground, areas of agreement, and start there.
The key to a successful negotiation is to ferret out everyone’s interests so you can maximize the outcome for everyone. This is easier said than done, since most people hold their interests close to the vest, believing this gives them a stronger negotiating position. But oftentimes this strategy is misguided, because in actuality what you want might be right in line with what the other party wants.
- Keep all these pointers in mind as I negotiate through life.
Topic = Healthy Cash Flow
- In order for cash to flow positively, you must have an effective means of keeping track of it. The more you understand the sources and trends of its inward and outward flow, the better you can manage it.
- I agree with Sarah Selwall (guest author for this lesson) that a monthly review/reconciling session is a very good idea. I have a recurring appointment for that on my google calendar, the last Sunday of the month. During that time I add all monthly business expenses to my spreadsheet. (Once a week, also on Sundays, I process the week’s receipts and file them accordingly.) I find it much easier to manage at that frequency.
- And I also heartily agree that being organized with receipts (I use an accordion folder with slots for each month, separating business and personal receipts) cuts down on headaches when you review/reconcile.
- By analyzing the flow (where’s the money coming from, where’s it going, etc, etc) we can develop smart action plans.
- Taking control of our finances via a well-organized, efficient, user-friendly system, and clear goals and action steps, gives us the power to be financially healthy and strong.
Goals are the fundamental building blocks of success, not just in personal finance, but in every area of life. Without goals, you are living reactively, letting life push you around. With goals, you can live a proactive life, steering toward a destination. When you have an end in mind, it’s easier to see when you’ve made a wrong turn. You know where your path is supposed to lead.
- Continue researching/trying out financial management software/tools and transition to a system which integrates with my bank accounts and incorporates analysis, which my .xls spreadsheet does not. (I use Mint and really like it as a cloud based tool, but I need to play around with it more for tracking business specific expenses. Another issue is there’s no invoicing option…)
Four more weeks of learning about how to be a successful entrepreneur a la The Creative Pathfinder. These lessons hone in on: creating a portfolio/online presence, networking, and knowing your business.
Topic = Your Portfolio/Body of Work/Online Presence
- It’s more fun, effective, and helpful to show what you do instead of just talking about it (this applies to most areas of life and communication actually)
- Produce a “flagship project that will convince the right people they should make every effort to persuade you to work with them” – great advice, Mark!
If you want to work as a writer, start writing and publishing. If you want to be a film-maker, make films. If you want to be a musician, make music. If you want to be a designer, design something and get it built. If you want to be a marketer, sell something or spread an idea that inspires action.
Natalie Goldberg says the same thing, over and over, about writing. And all the wise leaders on the life path say the same thing about being enlightened: do the practice, your meditation and the application of wisdom and guidance in daily life, each day, throughout your days – that is enlightenment.
- Write a few solid essays to show publications my wordsmithing skills and style (and then start connecting w/ those publications)
- Ditto for a couple of short stories and ten + poems
- Outline one of my e-book concepts
- Collaborate w/ J on a video poem
Topic = Finding Your Tribe
- I agree with Mark that “‘finding your tribe’ sounds a lot more fun to me than ‘networking.’” It reminds us of the primal need to connect and collaborate.
- What are “my industries”?: Communications, Writing, Blogging, Creating/Healing/Empowering, Consciousness/Meditation
Human beings can’t help it: we need to belong. One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people…
–Seth Godin, ‘Tribes’ (via Creative Pathfinder)
- It’s really important and healthy to think regularly about all of your talents and gifts.
Don’t forget what you can offer the other people you meet. Whatever your level of experience, you have knowledge, skills, experiences and contacts they don’t…Notice how you feel when you help someone in your network, connect two people who can help each other, or introduce someone new to the network (see Suzanna Stinnett’s Cloud Alchemy Manifesto.)
- New business cards (‘cuz I’m almost out and they can be improved upon)
- Consider using “@dorothylarue.com” email address instead of/in addition to gmail accounts
- Research industry (see second bullet above) groups/orgs/events to connect with
Topic = Growing Your Network/Tribe
- The web opens up a whole world (literally) of possible connections – for sharing, exchanging, and collaborating.
- Connecting becomes relevant when you have good, interesting, helpful work to share/exchange/collaborate on.
…if you’re doing something meaningful, original or remarkable, it will be much easier to grow your network…
- I so appreciate Mark’s approach to social networking and hope that many people will heed his advice which is basically: think about what you can contribute and how it will add value to people’s lives.
- Put some time and energy into Twitter. Can I learn about what interests me there and will it enhance my connecting?
- Grow my offline network – start having coffee dates w/ local like-minded/hearted people.
Topic = Uniquely Me
- What am I better at than anyone else?
- Planning/organizing/coordinating/facilitating/managing projects and events
- Developing and fostering positive and progressive communications
- What do I enjoy doing the most?
- Studying/exploring/experimenting with consciousness, cosmology, cultural anthropology, and holistic health
- Developing and doing practices to expand and evolve, heal and empower, and enlighten
- Contributing and sharing through my writings, creations, and connections
- Planning/organizing/coordinating/facilitating/managing projects that are interesting and meaningful
- Developing and fostering positive and progressive communications
- The “unique combination of elements” that is my USP (Unique Selling Proposition or as Mark suggests, and I prefer, “Unique and Special Proposition”):
- I am a talented and creative communicator/coordinator/facilitator/manager who incorporates Universal wisdom and interconnectedness for a Big Picture approach and healthy, positive results (???)
- This is my first attempt at distilling “the essence of Dorothy” so it will be in development for awhile…
- Following your heart, your gut, your vision, your Big Dreams is, I believe, the way to really discover your USP. Mark’s successful career path is a shining example of that and one thing to note is:
it’s an ongoing process of development – we are always evolving!
- Keep following my heart/gut/vision/Big Dreams and developing my best and brightest potential into great work.
Four more weeks of The Creative Pathfinder Course full of valuable lessons on nurturing our creative talents and successfully bringing them forth into the world. See this post for context and week 1-4 lessons.
Note: As my study and practice of meditation and consciousness continues (see my last post, or previous posts on meditation), I see more and more overlap between the wisdom of those life elements and healthy, successful creative work.
Topic = Information Processing
- Through our senses and our consciousness, and subconscious, we are sponges, continuously taking in information (etymology: knowledge communicated.) And in order to utilize all that info, we must process it. Learning, and practicing effective processing methods has a profound effect on our creative output.
This is how I’m seeing the flow of energy:
- Reframing: This is such a key, not just for opening up creative possibilities, but also a critical skill for enjoying life. A truly important lesson: how we interpret and what we do with our experiences is always Our Choice. This is a gift – Use It!!! And, as with any other skill, the more we practice it, the better we get and the more natural it becomes.
The more you do this, the more you will realise how much human beings make themselves happy, sad, anxious, or plain miserable over their interpretation of events, rather than the events themselves.
And, as one of my favorite wisdom teachers says:
Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.
- Mind Mapping: This is fun stuff. It’s great to get away from just black and white, left to right, and heavy reliance on words. Letting ideas flow freely and arranging them organically and colorfully is liberating and definitely helps us see things in new ways.
As you draw the mind map, you will start to see relationships and patterns emerge as if by themselves, which will help you order the material later on.
- Insight: means “sight with the eyes of the mind”; internal sight; inner knowing. I like the recognition that we can cultivate this gift through our actions. It’s not about just waiting to be struck with knowing, as with all growth it comes through continued effort.
This is how I’m seeing the Insight Flow
As I was writing about this lesson, this guidance (from an Insightful teacher! – see my last post on the SAND conference) synchronistically came to me:
Often our best ideas come, not when we are struggling to solve the problem, but when we are doing something completely different. When the mind is free and relaxed. So if you are struggling with something right now, take five minutes off. Give yourself a break. Do something completely different.
- Creative Flow: Again, being present and mindful, we begin to discover what choices and actions make our creative energy flow and what tangles it up. And also, knowing our true passions, our Big Dreams, and dedicating a majority of our time and energy to those pursuits, naturally feeds the flow. When we are in that flowing river, we are part of the cosmic rhythm, without separation, moving beyond space and time.
- The suggestion to observe those around us as they frame reality is a great one. Because, it is frequently easier to learn by observing externally. That practice, along with our personal practice of consciousness development, helps us see the self-limiting frames we all use, and to reframe. So, I will be paying closer attention to others and my self. As I observe negative/unproductive/self-limiting frames, I will run through the list of positive/productive/expansive options and shifting frames. And, in the creative realm, I’ll be giving more thought to the lenses (frames) that inspirational artists are using, and looking at my work (the tools/techniques/mediums/subjects/etc) through a variety of new lenses.
- I am in the midst of my first mind map, and a broadly encompassing one at that. Having fun with it and will write about when done. I plan to utilize this technique for other life and creative reviews/planning sessions.
- As I am more regularly in the moment (through meditation and consciousness development), I am more able to fully apply myself to the work, sense when it is time to take a break and shift focus, open to the insights that arise, and committed to using them constructively.
- I am consciously giving more of my time and energy to my passions and minimizing distractions to the flow.
Topic = Free Flowing Creative Energy
- Everyone experiences creative blocks, they do pass, and there are tricks to help them pass more quickly? That’s comforting!
- There are many, many reasons we resist doing good work. If we are really in the moment, we can recognize our inner dialogue and reframe it!
- Self discipline is critical, too. I like the suggestion to commit to staying present, with your materials, and bringing your focus back to the work.
Remembering why you are doing it and why it is worth the effort are great motivators as is envisioning the future we are creating.
- Sharing the experience of blocked creativity with trusted friends/family/colleagues/teachers often brings support and understanding which can actually loosen the block.
- The suggestion of making a list of past successes and continuously adding to it is great! We don’t tend to take much time to reflect on all that we have accomplished in life.
- Sometimes we just need to take a break, to shift focus. The more we know our true self, the more we’ll know when that’s what’s called for. And, just like developing an understanding of what keeps your creative energy flowing, we need to learn the best ways (for us) to rest and rejuvenate.
Just as others can inspire us to good work, we can inspire ourselves.
- I need to get going on that List of Past Successes.
- Read more of Mark’s ‘creative blocks’ series when I’m experiencing my own block, and learn from how others move through them.
Topic = Maximum Creativity and Productivity
- What is my top priority, in terms of productivity? To “carve out more time for creative work.” What are the benefits of doing that? More will be created/produced. I will feel a regular sense of accomplishment. It will build my confidence. I can move on to new projects/elements. My skills will grow. I will be happier.
- What is my weakest link right now? Routines. I have a good daily schedule, I just need to be more committed to, and disciplined in, following it.
- I’m doing quite well with the systems I have in place to capture ideas and commitments – yay for that!
- Read ‘Time Management for Creative People’
- Beyond following the general daily schedule, beginning each day by creating a short list of action items will help me focus in on my top priorities, and have a sense of accomplishment as they are crossed off. I do this but don’t start fresh every day – that’s going to feel really good, I think.
- Get out and meet new people. Dialoguing/sharing with people and experiencing their productions is inspiring, and inspiration feeds creativity and productivity.
Topic = Career Goals/Life Vision
- I have always seen myself, Big Picture, Big Dream, as a creative entrepreneur. I have plenty of ideas and inspirations, the challenge has been deeply assessing them, prioritizing, making a do-able action plan, and Doing The Work, staying focused, confident, and committed. The good news is that I am currently meeting all of those challenges, with consciousness, openness, and as much grace as I can summon. I am a “creative entrepreneur in training.”
- Doing work for other people, as an employee or consultant, can be in harmony with working on my personal creative projects. I have successfully balanced the two and this is actually the healthiest approach for me now. The stability and structure, challenges and collaboration of outside work can be both supportive and inspiring to my personal work.
- The trick is doing great work that is interesting and really brings forth your true talents and gifts. I am learning that trick!
My favorite takeaway from this series:
Happiness + Contribution = Success
-Ask yourself ‘What work do I love doing the most?’ and ‘Where do I contribute the most value?’
-Focus your efforts on the overlap between the two.
Thanks again, Mark!
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!
I volunteered for a daylong at Spirit Rock this past weekend. It was my first time volunteering there, first daylong, first time doing walking meditation, and first time practicing lovingkindness. A lot of firsts in one day! I am so grateful for Spirit Rock and the opportunity to assist in exchange for participating in classes/events.
The day was led by Donald Rothberg and our morning session focused on mindfulness. There was some instruction on the basics of getting comfortable in your posture, tuning in to your breathing, and bringing your awareness back to the present, which is where mindfulness occurs. And in the second half of the day we learned about the practice of lovingkindness, phrases to personalize and silently repeat, and the different groups to direct this positivity towards. Both sessions alternated between sitting and walking meditations, and questions and guidance.
Mindfulness is not a new concept to me, in fact, cultivating it every day, every moment is my goal. I have been aware of the power of being present for quite a few years and that awareness is evolving into more and more of an active practice versus just a passive realization. In other words, I read ‘Be Here Now’ by Ram Das, and many other books of spirituality, eastern philosophy, etc, which taught mindfulness, back in my twenties, but continued to be somewhere besides here and now almost every moment. Really just within the past three to four years have these teachings started to dawn on me in a new, deeper way. I am gradually putting all of this wisdom (thousands of years worth) into practice. And that is the key to so much in life – doing the work, the practice.
I enjoyed Donald’s patient and lighthearted approach and the affirmative effect of all these people coming together to learn about slowing down, tuning in, and being present. It was nice to be a part of that and to have the time and space to dedicate to it.
Walking meditation is interesting. It’s a nice chance to stretch your legs and get outside. It requires concentration in different ways. I found, as did others in the class, that balance was trickier the more I slowed down. The positive effect was that being challenged to find balance brought my thinking and feeling back to now. And as is often the case with physical, tangible lessons, it made a lasting impression:
You need to be present in order to be balanced.
The afternoon was harder for me. I’ve found through observing my natural daily rhythms and patterns (and thank-you to Mark McGuinness’s Creative Pathfinder course for the prompting), that as the afternoon progresses, my concentration diminishes. And lovingkindess requires another level of concentration beyond mindfulness (which we still need to be practicing.) It was well worth the effort and very rewarding, though. Again, to give myself permission to sit quietly and cultivate positive, loving, patient, and kind feelings towards myself and towards the people, and creatures, of my world – if we all did this on a regular basis the world would be a nicer place. So much negativity could be dissipated by taking the time slow down and be kind and loving.
Donald provided some suggested phrases and this is how I personalized them:
May I/he/she/they be safe, secure, and comfortable.
May I/he/she/they be happy, healthy, strong, and vibrant.
May I/he/she/they live with ease and grace.
And May positive energy flow to and from me/him/her/them.
Thank-you, Donald, for your generous teachings.
What I find most interesting is that the following day was a hard one and three days later I am just starting to feel lightness and awareness return. I didn’t recognize what was happening on Sunday, just that my energy (physical/mental/emotional) was quite low. It was hot and Saturday had been a long day (and also hot) – that’s what I attributed it to. But on Monday I began to examine my thoughts and feelings and recognize that they were primarily self judgement, insecurity, doubt, and worry and in the past or future. At some point it hit me that I was being challenged in the very areas we had practiced on Saturday: being present (not caught up in analyzing the past or worrying about/imagining the future) and being loving and kind, starting with ones self. Hmmm…
The only way to really learn is by Doing and the most powerful learning, and growth, comes through the biggest challenges. So, little by little, moment by moment, I have been able to see the opportunity in this challenge of focus. And there is a gift there, too: I have the choice of what to focus my attention (thoughts/feelings/energy) on at each moment. Starting with mindfulness, the more I am fully present, in the here and now, the more I can recognize and release negative thoughts/feelings/energy and cultivate positive and productive thoughts/feelings/energy, including lovingkindness towards myself and the world around me.
I spent some time with ‘Be Here Now’ last night and like this description of mindfulness meditation:
The southern Buddhists (Theravadin) practice a form of meditation called Satipatthana Vipassana (Application of Mindfulness). It starts with the simple exercise of Bare Attention. All that you do is register thoughts, states, etc. in the present. This process slows down the transition from the receptive to the active phase of the cognitive process. You don’t think about your thoughts. You merely note them. This produces “peaceful penetration.” You transcend conceptual thought.
So I will start there (for a week is Ram Dass’s recommendation) and once I’ve gotten good at Bare Attention, I will move on to the next level of the practice.