Tag Archives | Try Something New

Creating Space for Wonder


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Last week I wrote about how wonder both requires and creates space. (You can read it here.) I had found myself thinking, as the result of a road-trip, about how external space can trigger the process of creating internal space, but I also ended up with a bunch of questions:

  • How can I create that internal space without going on a big road trip?
  • What about people who can’t get away? Do they have to wait to light the Wonder Fire for something big like that?
  • How can we maintain that sense of wonder once we have come home and the physical and mental walls close in and the distractions begin to fill up our minds?

For me, there is one answer and it is very simple: Notice.

  • Notice the things and people around me.
  • Notice the way the light is highlighting the hills behind me – I never realized there were two layers of ridges before.
  • Notice the little bird with a bum leg.
  • Notice the laugh-lines around the eyes of a local shopkeeper.
  • Notice how the oak tree that was bare of leaves a few days ago is now covered with a haze of new green leaves.
  • Notice the paw prints that some local cat has left all over my car.

Notice.

Simple and easy are not the same

I admit that simple is not the same as easy.

When my mind is busy thinking about all of the other stuff of life, stuff like the conversation I had with my sister, the maintenance I need to do on the car, the bills I need to pay, the projects I am working on, the things I should have said… When I am living in my head with all of that swirling around, all of that distracts me and takes up the space in my head. And it can be difficult to take a step back.

Create space for wonder

But if I can consciously quiet that chatter in my mind, I can create space to notice things. I can create space for wonder.

Mental calluses and protective clothing

In fact, when my mind is cluttered with busy thoughts, it is almost as if all of that stuff moving around in my head creates calluses on my mind – just like using a certain garden spade creates calluses on my hands or wearing certain shoes creates calluses on my feet.

Calluses aren’t necessarily a bad thing – calluses protect us from pain. The calluses on my fingertips keep my fingers from hurting when I play the guitar, and when I’m not distracted by that pain I can focus on the music.

We also create artificial calluses to protect us: I wear garden gloves to protect me from blisters and cuts and bites and from dirt buried deep beneath my fingernails, and I wear shoes to protect my feet from sharp rocks, glass and hot pavement.

Calluses protect me from pain, but they also keep me from noticing the way certain fabrics feel in my hands, or from noticing the feeling of the grass beneath my feet.

Ah-hah!

There are things we can do to remove our calluses and take off our protective clothing so that we can experience what is around us. Sometimes it is as simple as deciding to do it and reminding myself, especially when I notice those busy thoughts flying around my head. (Ah-hah! – I have to notice those thoughts as the first step to quieting them and making space to notice the world around me.)

I can create space for wonder by deciding to do it.

I can create space for wonder by paying attention to the world around me.

I can create space for wonder by taking off my mental shoes and work gloves so that I can feel the grit under my feet that the cats have tracked across the room from the litter box, feel the prickly welcome mat on my front porch, feel the soil as I pat it in around this plant, feel the way this quarter is grimy and a little sticky compared to that one that is shiny and new.

Drive home using a different route.

Say hello to the check-out clerk and really look at his or her face.

Sit in a different seat on the train.

Notice.

It will create space for wonder.

Why?

Why is this important?

Because it is fun.

Because it is wonderful.

Because when I create space for wonder, new ideas show up. (And if I don’t write them down or say them out loud to someone I forget them, so I keep pads of sticky notes all over my house and a notebook in my bag.)

Greater minds than mine have been writing and talking about ideas like this, such as Mindfulness, for hundreds – even thousands – of years. But for each person an idea can be new, and each experience can be new.

Take off your mental shoes. Give yourself permission to be an emotional tenderfoot.

Notice, and create space for wonder. We can go together.

“I sha’n’t be gone long. – You come too.” –Robert Frost, “The Pasture”

*  *  *  *  *

Last Thursday I was thrilled to publish the first guest post in a series on Curiosity. The first was by Claire Tompkins, and there is another one coming this Thursday, by Susan Daffron, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, you might be interested in visiting the blogs of Jeffrey Davis, who writes about wonder and creativity, and Mark McGuinness, who wrote a marvelous post about curiosity and creativity.

What Do I Do? I’m Glad You Asked That…


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This post comes to you in response to a challenge from blogger and IttyBiz marketing guru, Naomi Dunford. (You haven’t lived until you’ve listened to her read Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go.)

In her most recent blog post (which you can read here), Naomi challenged readers to answer a very scary question: What do you actually do? Although I do try to answer that on my About and Services tabs, here it is with a slightly different twist – with the questions provided by Naomi:

What’s your game? What do you do?

I wonder. No, really, not about what I do. That is what I do. I notice how things work, how people think and act, and how human systems work (or don’t work). I ask questions that make people think.

That’s a practice that could be extremely irritating if not used wisely. But I ask questions that give people ideas. And I create a safe space for them to answer those questions.

I apply that in a variety of ways:

  • I rock at facilitating group discussions and meetings, especially when it involves getting people’s creative juices flowing.
  • I write and analyze surveys, drive strategy planning projects, develop and present training, and provide individual and group coaching.
  • I write about these and other things that make me wonder and that I hope will inspire you.
  • Oh, and I’m a photographer on the side.

Why do you do it? Do you love it, or do you just have one of those creepy knacks?

I do it for a lot of reasons. I do love it; I’m naturally curious about – even fascinated by – people, nature, why things are the way they are. I want to share that wonder, and I believe it can open many doors.

And I do have a knack for usually asking the right question.

Who are your customers? What kind of people would need or want what you offer?

Maybe I have a big head, but I think everybody needs what I offer.

Have you ever thought,

  • “Now what do I do?”
  • “I should get this, but it just isn’t coming.”
  • “It’s right on the tip of my tongue…”
  • “I wish I had someone to bounce this off of…”
  • “I’m pretty sure I know what they think, but maybe I should check. How do I ask?”
  • “I’m stuck,” “I’m trapped,” “I’m bored,” “I’m in a rut,” or…

Then I can help.

If you need someone to…

  • Come in and ask the questions that need to be asked, or
  • Help you to formulate the questions that will help you get useful answers, or
  • Maybe you want to have a team event that you can participate in without having to lead it…

Then I’m the one you want.

What’s your marketing USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? Why should I buy from you instead of the other losers?

Because…

  • I ask great questions that give people ideas.
  • I will tell you the truth.
  • I’ve been around, and survived a few things, and I know you can too.
  • I have a lot of tools in my toolkit, not just a hammer.
  • People say my meetings are fun.
  • I know the difference between being a Consultant and an Insultant.

What’s next for you? What’s the Big Plan?

In addition to helping more and more people build their curiosity muscles,

  • I’m developing a series of workshops on Asking Powerful Questions in both personal relations and business interactions.
  • I’m updating my ebook, “Remember to Look Up: 35 Tips for Making a Comeback.” The new version will include exercises to help you with some of the tips, and it will be ready by the end of November.

So there you have it. If any of this appeals to you and you’d like to talk to me about helping YOU out, click here. Or give me a call at (925) 580-6922. (I’m on Pacific Time.) You may also leave a comment if you have something to say but aren’t ready for us to work together.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

What Matters Now


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In an essay for Seth Godin’s ebook “What Matters Now,” Dan Pink wrote, “After a decade of truly spectacular under achievement, what we need now is less management and more freedom – fewer individual automatons and more autonomous individuals.”

Hmmm. Isn’t it interesting… thanks to a national Unemployment rate of 10%, that’s exactly what we’ve gotten in the last two years, even if we didn’t choose it for ourselves. If you are part of that group, how are you using that new autonomy? Is it your friend or your enemy?

What about the portion of the country that is still employed and trying to figure out whether to hold on more tightly or let go a little bit? Creativity, innovation and problem solving don’t thrive in a white-knuckle environment. Creative solutions depend on at least some autonomy.

To be effective and autonomous requires Conscious Use of Self. How mindful are you of your needs, wants, skills, fears, and beliefs?

Are you more autonomous than you were previously? If so, how are you using that autonomy?

Would you like to be more autonomous? In what way? What do you need to do to make that happen?

How can you help the people around you to be more autonomous?

What frightens you about autonomy? Does it feel like chaos?

The seasons are changing this week. What changes can you make in this area?

Creativity, Problem Solving and Apple Pie with Cheddar Cheese


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I don’t like salads with apples in them.

I just don’t. It’s a quirk, I admit it. I love apples, though, and the handy-dandy apple slicer that you place over your apple and push down to core and slice your apple in one easy motion changed my eating habits forever. (That and my salad spinner.)

So why would I even think about, much less LOVE, a grilled steak and cheese sandwich with sliced apples in it?

Well, I was making lunch the other day and looking for inspiration in the refrigerator. I found the remains of a piece of steak, some cheddar cheese, and some good bread. Sounded like a good sandwich to me. I wanted to put something green in it to give it a little zip, though, and I didn’t have any greens. (OK, I did, but they weren’t green any more and they were in the garbage.) But I did have some apples (Granny Smiths, to be exact).

What made me think about slicing an apple ever so thinly and putting some slices in my sandwich? I don’t know, aside from the fact that I hadn’t eaten an apple in a while and I didn’t want to have a plain bread-and-meat-and-cheese sandwich. I wanted something just a little healthier. I thought about the apples in the fridge, and at first I thought, “Eeeew.” But then I thought about apple pie with cheddar cheese on it, and I thought about a nice grilled sandwich, and I decided to give it a try.

That was a darn good sandwich! Everything was nicely warmed through and the cheese was nice and gooey and the apples weren’t hard and cold and edgy; they were warm but still crisp and apple-y. In fact, it was so good that I made it again the next day and it was good the second time, too.

It’s not about my food habits and quirky tastes. It’s about creativity.

You might be wondering why I’m telling you this. It’s not about my food habits and quirky tastes. It’s about creativity. And about being willing to try something new.

I learned something important about creativity and problem solving from this: Although sometimes the best solution is something completely new and disruptive, sometimes the best solution is something that works in another context but hasn’t yet been tried in this context.

When was the last time you were stuck for ideas, and the only idea you had was so far-fetched that you didn’t think anyone would try it? Or it was so far-fetched that you wouldn’t even try it?

The next time you – or your client – is stuck between a rock and a hard place, think up a crazy idea and ask yourself, “Is there a connection to something else here that makes this reasonable?” (Like apple pie with cheddar cheese.) Or, ask yourself, “What can I do to the old solution to change it just a couple of notches so that it works here?”

I’d love to hear from you about a time you came up with a solution to a problem by thinking of a connection that made sense in another context.

Opportunities for Inspiration Are All Around Us


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Opportunities for inspiration are all around us if we are willing to try something new.

A new show started on HGTV earlier this year, “The Antonio Treatment.” The design star is a musician and former set designer, and he looks more like a biker than an interior designer. I love this show, because it is iconoclastic.

In one of the series’ first episodes, he brings in a friend who is a cartoonist, Steven Silber, to meet with the client, who is also a cartoonist. The client makes a comment about not having the courage to distort people’s faces (an important tool of the caricature artist). Silber’s response was great. He said, “Sometimes something that may break your usual mindset is to use your opposite hand than what you’re usually using, and then you’ll do something completely different from what you’re used to doing.”

What a great reminder to just change things up a little bit to get very different results.

What a great reminder that even “creative people” need to spark their inspiration.

What a great reminder that even people who say, “Oh, I’m not creative,” can find inspiration in just doing something differently.

What can you do – or have you done – just a little differently in order to get your creative juices flowing?

Suspend Disbelief


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We must suspend our disbelief in order to allow for the possibility that something new can be created.

I can’t remember where I heard or read it, but somewhere in my past someone said that the reason Theater works is because the audience is willing to suspend disbelief. Willing to forget that the people on the stage or the screen are actors, that it is a contrived situation, and accept the premise, at least for a little while, that what they are observing is somehow real.

I was reminded of this when I was writing a different essay on the importance of doing something in a new way in order to get a different result. In the process, creativity is sparked.

You know the saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done then you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Well, it occurred to me that in order to try something new, we have to suspend our disbelief in our ability to create something. Suspend our disbelief in the possibility of a better outcome. Suspend our belief in a negative outcome if we take a risk.

Negative outcomes such as a result that looks even worse than our previous effort. Negative outcomes such as people laughing at us. Negative outcomes such as an unknown result. (“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.”) The unknown is scary. The unknown is outside of our control. The unknown is Chaos.

(If you grew up watching “Get Smart” like I did, then you might remember that the acronym for the Bad Guys’ organization was KAOS and the acronym for the Good Guys’ organization was CONTROL. Hmmm.)

In order to try something new, we have to suspend our disbelief and believe in the possibility of an outcome other than Chaos or, even more revolutionary, believe in the possibility that Chaos is not bad. At least not as a transitional state. Can we suspend our disbelief in the possibility that the outcome of trying something new can be anything other than anarchy, failure, or ridicule?

If you believe that trying something new will not result in something good, if you do not believe that it could result in something positive, can you suspend your disbelief long enough to give it a try?

You do it every time you go to the movies, and the result is that you co-create a different reality, even if only for a short time.

Imagine the possibilities if you were able to apply that in other areas…

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