Tag Archives for " Creativity "

Turn down the noise this holiday season.

from perusals.wordpress.com

I had a quiet Thanksgiving yesterday.  No parties, no gatherings, just my roasted cornish hen and me.  And it turned out to be one of the best Thanksgivings ever.

Having had a more spiritual than religious upbringing, I wasn’t raised to celebrate Thanksgiving.  I was instead raised to be grateful for every day and blessing that comes my way.

And so, alone with my thoughts yesterday, a surge of gratitude swept over me.  I have a family that loves me unconditionally, friends who lend a listening ear when it counts, and the independence and freedom to design the life of my choosing.  It took some effort, a dash of creativity and lots of personal growth to get here, but I wouldn’t trade how I feel right now for anything.

Would I have come to the same conclusion amidst the feasting and merrymaking of a Thanksgiving party?  Probably.  Chances are that I would have been grateful for and raised a toast to the people who were physically present, and felt some sadness for those who weren’t.  And then I probably would have gone right back to my turkey or alternate entree with nary a second thought.

Without the external ‘distractions’ of yummy food and enjoyable banter, I found myself delving into those thoughts and feelings a little more.  Much like a meditation, I came out of the experience calm, alive and refreshed.

My appetite may not have been satiated with barrels of food (though my attempt at a new cornish hen recipe last night was a delicious triumph), but my being was satiated with oodles of peace and gratitude.  And all is not lost on the merrymaking front either – a couple of house parties await this weekend, with chances to raise that toast to good friends.

As you navigate the holidays this year, I hope you get a chance to reflect on the spirit of the season.  For every blessing that comes your way, may your heart be filled with joy and a desire to send it back out to loved ones, friends and strangers in need.

Happy Holidays!

Are you in your body?

from http://myembodiment.files.wordpress.com

It’s 10.30pm and I’ve just returned home after almost 10 hours at my office desk.

If you can relate, you’ll appreciate that my brain is buzzing from its self-induced hive of activity.

And if you’re anything like me, this is probably the time you’re most vulnerable to
a) stumbling over a uneven sidewalk
b) stubbing your foot against a door
c) missing the fact that the crossing light has turned red; and reeling from the car that narrowly missed you as you absent-mindedly started to cross the street

Absent-mindedly. Ah, therein lies the crux of it.

For your mind is indeed a million miles away, either engaged in or spacing out from thoughts of the day. But much, much more than that, you are consequently totally unaware of your body and the space it’s taking up right this minute.

Have you ever wondered why professional dancers (physically) glide through life as sure-footedly as they prance about on the dance floor? Do you ever gaze at an African tribal dance troupe and become entranced by their powerful, almost hypnotic presence?

This is leading somewhere. Bear with me.

We’ve been trained, and conditioned, to live and thrive in a largely (left) brain-based economy. Industrialization and process-oriented management have favored the analytical thinkers among us. Much of the fabric of our modern society has been woven by left-brained worker bees, droning through well-defined, structured paths that lead from product/service creation to sales/marketing and fulfillment.

But there’s been a new life & business kid in town for some years now. Amidst the sea of procedural & mechanized teams, innovative companies like Apple, Pixar & Amazon are standing out and changing the way we interact with the world and each other.

And in a parallel and perhaps not uncoincidental stream, practitioners versed in the martial arts and bodywork (yoga, energetics etc) are enjoying a healthy resurgence.

What might innovation & creativity have to do with being in touch with your body?

A heckuva a lot, I say.

We are not simply creatures of the mind. We potentially have a somatic system that listens and responds to external cues. We also have a soul or spirit which, depending on your chosen faith, goes by many names but arguably performs the same function i.e. serving as a moral/ethical compass or ‘inner voice’ that oozes the wisdom and intuition of the ages.

When you’re not in your body, you miss out on the cues that it or your soul may be sending you.  Grounding yourself in your body (and there are many ways to do so, from dance to tai chi) helps you live and lead from a more integrated focal point.  Here are some ways it can help:

  • It will get you in touch with the fact that, say, your left toe has been throbbing for 2 hours.  We sometimes get so lost in our heads that we don’t listen to our body to notice its minor aches and pains.  By the time the pain reaches fever pitch weeks or months later, you’re probably in serious doo doo.
  • It makes you a better communicator.  When you plant yourself firmly and evenly, and speak from your diaphragm (which is, after all, in your body and not your head!), your message resonates and reverberates.
  • With a greater awareness and understanding of your own body cues, you might start to pay closer attention to the non-verbal signals of others.  And instead of blindly pushing your own rationally-led agenda, you might open the window of possibility into listening, responding and building on the ideas generated by your inner voice or by your team members.  Hello, head?  Meet creativity and innovation.
  • You start to make decisions from a deeper, more holistic place.  Rather than get solely in your head about something, you’ll be able to view it from many perspectives i.e. with your head, heart and spirit.  You’ll start to integrate your thoughts, feelings and values more frequently and effortlessly.

This isn’t touchy-feely woo woo stuff.  I’ve spent my entire life training both my mind and body, using conventional modalities (like, erm, graduate school) as well as somatic and self-awareness techniques (like yoga, tai chi, meditation and improv).  Through trial and error, and long spells where I leaned toward one extreme or the other, I now firmly believe that an integrated approach to life is our natural birthright.

So…are you in your body?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Till next time, have an inventive week!

Staying grounded in life’s spin cycle

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  And when life throws you (or you throw yourself!) into a spin cycle, trust that there’s a clean and warm space waiting for you at the other end.

Have you ever had a Murphy’s Law kind of month (or year), where everything you took for granted turned upside down?  Be it relationships, career aspirations, your community or even your country; where the assumptions & expectations you had of them start to erode or morph?

We encounter and expect these paradigm shifts during life’s rites of passage like puberty, marriage or the death of a loved one.  But the increasing complexity and interconnectedness of modern living, plus the virtually unlimited access to information and cross-cultural exchange, presents more opportunities for all of us to reflect on the values and beliefs that we grew up with or want to hold on to.

I’ve been in just such a spin cycle for more than 2 years.  Through equal parts circumstance and choice, I left the comforts of the only home I’d known in Asia to work and live halfway across the world in the US.  I’d worked with US clients for several years, but living and interacting with them in person took the experience to a new level.  Two years on, my entire world view has deepened and with it, a keener understanding and appreciation for what binds us as a universally creative, collaborative species.  (More on this in later posts!)

But the transition hasn’t been easy.  Once I opened the door to the possibility of a different future, everything and everyone around me shifted in turn.  For when you decide to change, the chess pieces that are the rest of your life must also now adjust to your new perspective and life path.  Frustration & confusion will mount on both sides, and there are times when you wonder if it was worth taking the new path to begin with.  Life would be much simpler (and people around you would be less upset) if you had stuck with the status quo.

And even though we are creatures with limitless potential and creativity, there is only so much brainpower or focus we can exert at any given time.  In times of transition, we must consciously release elements of our past in order to make room for a new future.

So how do you know if you should stop with all the change, or keep riding the wave?

Here are some ideas to help you stay grounded:

1) Remember what led you toward this new path/perspective in the first place, and assess if those motivations and intentions are still strong.

2) Evaluate your motivations against the ‘negative’ changes it has created e.g. friends/family/colleagues moving away from you; feeling unsettled in a new work/living space.  How important are the old relationships & spaces to you vs. following through on your motivations?

3) How do you feel about potentially losing these relationships & spaces?  Do you think/believe there are new and different ones waiting in the wings of your new life choice?  Do you have the courage and capacity to forge new relationships and do what it takes to integrate into a new space?

4) Does the implementation of your new life choice need some tweaking?  The best-laid plans often become obsolete as soon as they’re made.  As things shift around you, stay true to your initial intent but allow yourself room to be changed where needed.  That inner flexibility will help smooth the rough edges that accompany any transition.

5) This good ‘ol test still works well: how would you think/feel 5 years from now if you hadn’t explored this new path?  Would you regret not having tried, or would you regret letting go of the old people and places in your life?

So, rather than reacting to every soapsud of change that whizzes by you in your spin cycle, brush them aside, take a step back and remember why you’re in the washing machine in the first place.

As for me, I believe I’m at the end of this current spin cycle (it’s been an extremely wild ride) and know that the clean and warm afterglow of my new life choice is just around the corner. 

I wish you the same, and more, as you create the personal and professional life you want and deserve!

2 8 reasons why a World Cup team is like a corporation

FIFA World Cup 2010This blog has been quiet for a time because I’ve been consumed by World Cup mania.  I store my love for the sport in a 4-year reservoir, then drain it all in a gloriously intense 4-week spurt!

As we edge closer to the finals tonight, I’ve realized how many similarities there are between the game of football and our daily corporate playing field:

  1. The CEO – The team’s coach sets the tone on the pitch, in the dressing room and with the media.  In this year’s crop, France’s missteps and eventual demise began when their coach catalyzed and didn’t nip in-fighting in the bud.  Uruguay’s coach was often described as a ‘schoolteacher’ (which he had been in real life), using his calm and encouraging demeanor to lead the team to the semi-finals for the first time in decades.  The Netherlands’ coach was applauded for being able to keep his players’ egos in check and leading them to the finals.  And there were times when some South America coaches’ cantankerous behavior was mirrored in their players’ tempers on the pitch.  Players take huge lessons from their coach.  And whether we know it or not, we respond to our CEO’s cues every day, for better or for worse.
  2. The competition – From the preliminary Group stages through to the final game, the best-performing teams are those who study and strategize ways to out-perform their opponents.  Every continent delivers a certain brand of football, and each country within it adds their unique layer of flavor.  Then there’s the element of surprise.  For years, for instance, it was fairly easy to tell how Germany would approach the game – they were seen as solid defenders with a formidable if predictable attacking strategy.  This time around, however, they combined that solid game foundation with breathtaking flexibility and innovative game play in the moment.  That seems to have taken many an opponent by surprise, and I believe it helped get them to 3rd place despite being the second youngest squad in the tournament.
  3. The teamwork – This probably sounds redundant since football is, well, a team sport.  But there have been so many sides that crumble because some players are after individual glory at the expense of the team’s overall success.  Lionel Messi, Argentina’s star player, did not manage to score a single goal.  And yet, he was noted in some quarters for his commitment to the team’s success.  Then there are players like Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal, who can sometimes be seen making physically impossible attempts at goal, presumably to add to his personal goal tally more than his team’s.
  4. The unsung heroes – We tend to remember the top goal scorers (usually strikers) and the more flamboyant coaches or players that grace the pitch.  After all, a team’s fortunes eventually rests on how many goals are scored and/or how entertaining they were in getting there.  What sometimes goes unnoticed, however, are the hardworking mid-fielders and defenders who go quietly about their task.  Mid-fielders size up the tactical situation and create opportunities for strikers to hit a home run.  At the other end of the field, defenders make sure opponents don’t get within striking distance of the goal or their goalkeeper.  So…take time to observe and reward the quiet and busy bees working in your corporate hive.  If they aren’t tooting their own horns, find ways to uncover and acknowledge their contributions.
  5. Being creative – No matter how many hours of practice and coaching each team undergoes, and no matter how much you try to anticipate what the opposing team is going to do, the final reckoning takes place on the field.  It’s you vs. your opponent, under the glare of floodlights and amidst thousands of screaming fans.  Just like soldiers going to battle, you need all your senses about you, and you need to act and react to solve the ever-changing landscape of the unfolding game.  If a path opens up amidst the defenders and you have clear  line of sight of the goal, will you a) notice it and b) capitalize on it?  At work, we sometimes get so caught up in the usual way of doing things that we fail to see opportunities in our industry or marketplace.  We stick to tried-and-tested routines because it’s in our standard operating manual, or because that’s the way we’ve always done it.  These days, it’s the most flexible and adaptive organizations that survive and thrive.  Is your company/team equipped with tools and techniques to be creative when you need it?
  6. Keeping the bad guys out – It never ceases to amaze me how tightly some teams defend their goal.  I have watched games where defenders risk (or sustain) great physical injury in the process.  And I have seen many a goalkeeper berate their defenders for not properly doing their job and for leaving the goal vulnerable.  Taking this to corporate life…yes, we do now live in a networked world where collaboration or co-opetition holds the key to longlasting success.  But don’t forget what your company’s crown jewels are.  Do everything in your power to defend them or to prevent hackers and bad hats from unpicking your competitive advantage.  Do you have a committed team of defenders in your company (be it an IT 100% uptime team or effective business counsel), ready to stand against your attackers?
  7. Find and use your strengths – This year, some teams like Spain have an embarrasment of riches with extremely strong players in all positions i.e. strikers, mid-fielders and defenders.  Not everyone is so lucky.  Other teams have had to play to their strengths and hope their opponents don’t crush them too quickly because of their weaknesses.  If you don’t have the immediate good fortune of an all-star corporate team, are you doing everything it takes to uncover and play to your strengths?
  8. Thanking your fans – One of my favorite moments occurs after the game ends, when some teams walk around the pitch applauding fans for their support.  Many companies talk about customer service & appreciation, but few actually walk the talk.  Your fans and customers place their faith in your products, services and what your brand stands for.  They spend money buying your wares, and time defending your worth to others.  Applauding them is the least you can do.

I was going to think of 2 more reasons, to make it an even 10.  But I’m getting excited and distracted by tonight’s final.  And being 25% Dutch by ancestry, there are no prizes for guessing who I’m rooting for.

Till my next post, have an inventive week!

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