The Patron has a new home

To provide even more services to you, my wonderfully devoted readers (really, you are the best),  I have worked with Clever Crow Design Studio to create a new site that features the blog plus many more offerings.  Posts have been migrated to the new site, so you won't miss a thing- including the final post for this year's novena coming up later this week.  I won't be adding new content to this site- so stop by the new location and sign up for the newsletter and feed so you receive all the new posts and great live events taking place.  Clicking on the new logo will take you there.

Stay Inspired,

Unchain the Brain

In week eight of the Shattering the Meme novena, we examine the meme of self-limitation.  No matter how much we may say we want change in our lives, we tend to cling white-knuckled to the comfort of the familiar, never realizing how much that is keeping us stuck.

Unconsciously, we believe that we are only allowed a certain measure of success and that anything else is presumptuous.  In our careers, this manifests as a holding back, no matter how unhappy or unfulfilled we might be.  After all, what would your boss think if you said you wanted to own the company one day?  How would a client react if you said at the start of the project that you wanted to have it published?  It is certainly a conditioned response, this self-limitation meme, but did you ever stop to think about what would happen if there were no big thinkers?  We might all still be living hunter-gatherer existences.  It is not presumptuous to think big, it is wasteful to limit yourself.

In our lives we have a total of four resources; time, energy, relationships and money.  Everything we need is acquired by spending one or more of them.  The money thing is pretty self-evident as we live in a cash based economy.  But what about the others?  Well, much as having money wouldn’t do you any good at all if you buried it in the ground and didn’t spend it, you have to spend your other resources in order to enjoy what they can bring into your life as well.  Notice that I said spend not squander and also realize that these four resources are interdependent.  To live at your highest potential you have to understand that these resources (in effect all that you have) must be leveraged by actively investing in the life and career you want to have.

Well, that didn’t work
Failure.  That would mean that we had squandered our big four resources, right?  Wrong.  We operate in such fear of failure that it is easy to forget that it is the only means to success.  Our brain shuts down around the idea of risk-taking, or we dream big, but only at a really fuzzy global level and don’t see how their are opportunities for action all around us that would set us on the path the realizing those dreams.  Part of unchaining your brain from that rock is to cultivate resilience.  Failure of a task or venture is not failure of you as a person.  It simply means that that particular thing did not work out.  You may even be on the right tack and just need to allow for a different variable.  Find out why what you tried didn’t work, make the necessary adjustments and try again.  Even something as big as losing a job or a client does not make you a failure, it simply means that something wasn’t a good fit.  Resist the urge to extrapolate that event to your whole life and let pessimism and “I told you so” limited thinking kick in.  Instead, realize that you always have choices and resources.  Commit to moving forward and take control of the situation instead of being a passive victim.

Kick the “but”
When I work with clients and make suggestions that take them outside of their comfort zone, it is not uncommon to hear the “yes, but...” response.  What they are really saying is that their fear of the unfamiliar is stronger than their desire to succeed.  When you put it like that, all those excuses sound downright silly.  But we don’t very often put our “yes, but...” statements in that context, do we?  Instead, we buy into all of them, we turn our fears into pseudo-facts and talk ourselves right off that ledge.  Did you ever notice the relief you feel in those moments when you can convince yourself NOT to make a bold move?  However, what do you really get by staying stagnant in your life or career?  It’s easy to think that you are conserving your resources of time, energy, relationships and money by playing it safe, but the exact opposite is true.  No matter how much it may cost you to take a risk, think about what it costs you to stay stuck.  Is your energy sapped?  Are you upset all the time?  Do you harbor resentments?  Are you really enjoying and savoring life? 

Stay Curious
Instead of fearing change because you are focussing on what you may lose, think instead about change being the gateway to endless possibilities.  In nature, change is the means of generation.  Do you feel depressed that it is autumn and the leaves are going to fall, or do you enjoy the splendor of the trees cloaked in shades of yellow, red and orange?  You, too are part of the universe and the events in your life are meant to constantly evolve and change. There are cycles of growth. Even when you are in a “winter” it is only in preparation to regenerate again in a “spring.”  Recognizing when your fallow period is related to being stuck or that you are just between leaps evolves cultivating a curiosity and sense of wonderment.  In short, an appreciation of change.  Instead of shutting down your potential with “yes, but...”  reframe that response to say “what if...” and see what happens.  Stay open to all of the possibilities instead of focussing on the problems.

Shatter the Meme:
As human beings, we would be nowhere if we didn’t have a sense of wonderment and the desire to experiment.  It is your birthight to embrace the possibilities that come from a world where change is the only constant.  There is no virtue in limiting yourself and not working to achieve your fullest potential.  Instead, you are wasting your resources and cheating the world out of the opportunity to benefit from what you uniquely have to offer. Let your creativity soar- removing all the obstacles to your time and energy you place in your own way.

Minority Report

In week seven of the Shattering the Meme Novena, we focus on how to stop feeling like a victim.  Overcome feelings of being left out or treated unfairly by looking past the superficial differences and finding the more profound sense of connection that is available.

Do you have a chip on your shoulder because you feel that everybody else is ganged up against you?  Do you focus so intently on how you are different from everyone else (race, sexual orientation, gender, age, experience level) that you forget to notice how much more profoundly you are the same?  The minority meme is rife in creative professions because the criteria for success is so subjective.

If you feel insecure or dissatisfied, it’s way too easy to focus on that sense of isolation and to feel like you are a victim.  And minority status can be defined in many, many ways.  For example, you may feel like the young gun misunderstood by the senior members of your firm.  Or maybe you feel like you are more creative and loose in your work process than your hard-driving professional environment and that you are steamrollered, never getting an opportunity for your ideas to blossom.  Even the “usual”  kinds of minorities, based on race and gender  allow you to feel like you are not in control, thereby absolving you of all responsibility for your own success.  How do you really want the world to see you as a (fill in the blank) minority group, or as a talented creative person with the unique ability to (fill in the blank)?  I would suspect that it is the latter, so how do you stop allowing the former to shape your identity for yourself and others you interact with?

Birds of a feather

It’s important to see what you have in common with others in your workplace, to really work to find others with the unique and unusual traits that you share so that you have something to really bond over.  Even if you work at a firm where the culture is very innovation oriented and your co-workers and superiors are equally committed to thinking outside the box as you are, you will find an even greater affinity and sense of connection with someone who shares your trait for say, using storytelling techniques in the design process.  If you don’t feel that there is anyone you can connect with, can you identify others in your professional community who you can form an alliance or mentorship with?  Find your tribe and draw strength and energy (as well as validation) for the point of view and work style that you contribute to the profession. 

Step outside of the box

The less you define your self as any type of outcast, the less others will perceive you in that way.  Understand that what makes you different is what forms the basis of your identity.  You get to choose how you are perceived and defined by either playing into a stereotype, or playing into your strengths.  It’s critical to know the difference.  For example, I am an introvert.  Introverts are not the least bit shy, but we can seem rather aloof, as we tend to be more comfortable with an outside-looking-in approach to the world.  For many years of my life, I let others (first my extroverted mother, then teachers, then colleagues) make that core personality trait wrong.  I fought to push myself to be more extroverted, which of course, only led me to feel more like an awkward outsider.  Then my path crossed with Dr. John McIntosh, who headed up the urban design program for Arizona State University.  I was a young architect on the Phoenix Housing and Neighborhood Commission and looking to make a difference in my community and John saw that.  He helped me see how I could orchestrate the right collection of people in the room to take action on initiatives, not just talk about doing something.  Even more than that, he modeled unabashed introversion, while being a well respected and influential community leader.  I realized through my connection with him that I could do the work I wanted to do without having to change my personality.

Take a stand

As important as it is not to make yourself a victim when you feel less than connected to a group you work with, I am not insinuating that there is not real discrimination of every stripe going on in the world.  And that needs to be addressed, not ignored.  If looking for common ground is still not breaking the ice, or someone is willing to “play nice” and say things you want to hear to your face, but takes actions that show they view you otherwise, call them on that.  Ask them point blank to explain to you why they are not following through, or why the opportunities you have expressed a desire to achieve seem inaccessible.  Then, listen, really listen to their response.  If you receive constructive advice you can take action on, work with this person to put together a success plan with a timetable.  If you hear a response that creates self-doubt in you, makes you feel embarrassed for asking, sweeps your concern under the rug, or makes you feel inadequate, then your feelings of being a victim may very well be stemming from psychological manipulation called gaslighting (read my detailed post on that) or downright prejudice on the part of this individual.  In that case, you need to call a spade a spade and  leave that situation.

The purpose of looking past differences and finding common, shared traits is to help you feel less intimidated about building a network, finding a mentor and going for your goals big time.  The superstar of design that you admire is still just an designer and had to deal with the same basic challenges as you do every day.  Looking at them in that way, takes away the unapproachable “aura of success” and lets you see how you can best approach them to form a connection.