Creative Innovation is when individuals, duos, or whole wild packs of creatives make novel, meaningful contributions to their fields. Who’s doing it? How do they do it? What are the factors?

To Envision Your Best New Year, First Focus on the Inner You

new year inner-you-mountain-quest

Alison had published three books, delivered a talk at a renowned conference, and advanced her distinct brand enough to garner gigs around the world.

So, what was the problem?

“I’ve kind of run this thing to its end.  I’m ready for what’s next, but I don’t know what that is. And whenever I get an inkling, it seems radically different from what I’m known for.” She wanted to start off her new year with a whole new “thing.”

She wanted to Break Brand.

And sometimes, most times, that’s fine and necessary. But this kind of situation raises profound doubt. The kind of doubt the Alisons of the world experience has a different hue than the kind of doubt, say, of someone just starting out with his first venture ever. Alison’s kind of doubt comes post-success, post-mastery. She’s already accomplished in one field. So, for her to arrive again at uncertainty makes her think she’s a failure or a fool for surrendering success in that one proven arena. To become an uncertain apprentice again who must ask for guidance feels, to the accomplished professional or creative, kind of vulnerable.

But this junction of doubt turns out to be profoundly normal for successful people who excel in creative and entrepreneurial fields.

The hard part for Alison and others of us like her is staying in the confusion long enough to let something real and true germinate. When we cannot endure the unknown next horizon, we often respond in one of three ways:

  1. Stick with the safe thing.

  2. Leap to another safe thing.

  3. Get stuck in paralysis.

Not fun. Read more

Who Do You Take Your Biz Story-telling Cues From?

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Let’s assume that one thing you do for your business is you tell stories about your business. You or someone on your team tell stories about how your business originated and why, why it matters to your customers, and why it matters in the early-21st century. You tell stories about your customers and other related people who illustrate what your business does and about your business’s larger message.

Now let’s assume you want to excel at what you do, and one thing you do is tell stories.

Who are you going to take your cues from when you want to excel and how? Are you going to learn from your competition and from your peers? Or are you going to learn from examples way outside of your field and industry?

Your inclination may be to assume the former – the land of the familiar. That’s the assumption of a colleague of mine. A friend of mine offers marketing services to service providers – coaches, online teachers, consultants. He complained to me that much of the advice being given to this audience for content marketing drew from strategies that corporation-sized brand agencies and venture-backed start-ups use.

“Why is that a problem?” I asked.

“Because service providers don’t need those big concepts from those outsized companies,” he said. “They need to understand how to tell stories to their potential customers more intimately, more genuinely.”

Maybe. Maybe not. Read more

Why Poets Have All the Fun

rain-me-voila_flickr

rain-me-voila_flickr

Rain falls on her parade, and she cries and curses.  Rain floods his garden, and he swears he’ll never plant again, a farmer’s folly. Rain clouds hover over her head, and she settles into the nooks of her familiar despair.

Those are three responses.

To excel, we often need a wide repertoire of responses when faced with challenges. Sometimes we need surprising sources to shift our responses.

Again, those are three responses, and then there are these:

1.
The rain returned.
It didn’t come from the sky
or out of the West:
it came straight from my childhood.
Night split open, a peal of thunder
rattled, the racket
swept every lonely corner,
and then
the rain came,
rain returning
from my childhood,
first
a raging gust,
then
a planet’s
soggy
tail.
– sung by Pablo Neruda, from his “Ode to Rain”

2.
All night the sound
had come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain.

Love, if you love me.
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.
-sung by Robert Creeley, from his “The Rain”

3.
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain, has such small hands
– sung by e.e. cummings, from his “somewhere i have never traveled gladly,beyond”

These three guys sing rain. They get to have all the fun with rain. Why?

One, I suspect they keep priming that capacity to love the world, especially the parts that other people curse. Where others gripe about wet shoes, these guys find puddlicious days to romp through.

Two, they find music in the sky’s heartbeat.

Three, their rain woos their lovers.

You can sing it anyway you want, but whatever your circumstances or creative challenge or frustration today, try to find the music, however faint.

 

To Envision Your Best Year, Get Clear with Yourself

VisionQuest_AlicePopkorn_FlickrAlison had published three books, delivered a talk at a renowned conference, and advanced her distinct brand enough to garner gigs around the world.

So, what was the problem?

“I’ve kind of run this thing to its end.  I’m ready for what’s next, but I don’t know what that is. And whenever I get an inkling, it seems radically different from what I’m known for.”

She wanted to Break Brand.  And sometimes, most times, that’s fine and necessary. But this kind of situation raises profound doubt. The kind of doubt the Alisons of the world experience has a different hue than the kind of doubt, say, someone just starting out with his first venture ever. Alison’s kind of doubt comes post-success, post-mastery. So, for her to arrive again at uncertainty makes her think she’s a failure or a fool for surrendering success. To become an uncertain apprentice again who must ask for guidance feels, to the accomplished professional or creative, kind of vulnerable.

But this junction of doubt turns out to be profoundly normal for successful people who excel in creative and entrepreneurial fields.

The hard part for Alison and others of us like her is staying in the confusion long enough to let something real and true germinate. When we cannot endure the unknown next horizon, we often respond in one of three ways:

  1. Stick with the safe thing.
  2. Leap to another safe thing.
  3. Get stuck in paralysis.

Not fun. Read more

Intensity Not Relaxation Inspires Creative Courage

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“It was clear…that what kept [top performers in flow] motivated was the quality of experience they felt when they were involved with the activity. This feeling didn’t come when they were relaxing, when they were taking drugs or alcohol, or when they were consuming the expensive privileges of wealth. Rather, it often involved painful, risky, difficult activities that stretched the person’s capacity and involved an element of novelty and discovery. This optimal experience is what I have called flow.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

Real transformation comes not from luxury or wealth or even deep relaxation. It comes from intensity punctuated with emotional relief and delightful surprise.

They came from every coast to climb a ridge, enter a castle, and make magic happen.

Entrepreneurs, teachers, an architectural designer, writers, consultants, therapists, a mountaintop farm owner, professionals, artful parents – every single one of them pow – er- ful – had arrived at Mohonk Mountain Resort. Mohonk is a veritable 19th-century castle-like structure perched on the Shawangunk Ridge in New York’s Hudson Valley that boasts awe-inspiring views of the Catskills Mountains.

But this pack didn’t come mostly to soak in the views. They didn’t come mostly to soak in the top-rated spa waters.  They didn’t come mostly to loaf and lean along the languorous trails.

They came ostensibly for an author’s intensive called Your Brave New Story. They sought to learn how to shape their books, break through blocks, own their larger brand possibilities, consider their best path to publish.

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But they really came to taste bravery. What they gave back was the formidable alliance necessary to live bravely together.

It’s one thing to feel brave for a moment. It’s another to become brave and stay brave upon returning home.

That kind of change rarely comes from deep relaxation. It often comes from a certain kind of intensity and a certain kind of bonding.  Read more

Is Obsessive Genius Your Model for Mastery?

Courtesy of Monica Holli (Creative Commons)

Courtesy of Monica Holli (Creative Commons)

I know you can get fixated on advancing your book, your business, your brand, your art – your whole business artist life. And you might think you’re not “the real deal” in part because of the images of geniuses you see and read about.

I’ve noticed something lately, and I’m not the only one.

Films and pop psychology lit on creativity steep us on models of obsessive geniuses.

Think of the young character in the Oscar-winning film Whiplash, Andrew Neiman. A first-year jazz student at a New York Conservatory, he compromises his relationships and health to chase after his mentor’s approval and to become a jazz “great.”

Think of the character Max Cohen in Darren Aronofksy’s film Pi in which the brilliant number theorist shuts off everything – love, money, religious intrigue – in devotion to his pursuit of truth. 

Think of the portrait of Walter Isaacson’s portrait of  Steve Jobs as the mean-spirited, conniving obsessive genius.

What’s the story? Are these stories your model for mastery? Read more

Own your brave medicine (poster).

Your Brave Medicine poster

It’s not enough these days to stay in your creative studio or thought leadership laboratory and create your art.

It never has been, actually. Walt Whitman and James Joyce found alternative means to get their disruptive medicine out into the world. ManetMonetPissarro, and Cezanne couldn’t get into the prestigious Salon to sell their art. So they forged their own society of artists, sculptors, and painters, took over a series of rooms, and opened their own show.

Thomas Edison was not the inventor of the light bulb, but he was the inventor who figured out how to keep experimentally and then get word out about the value of this then-frightening low-wattage thing.

If not enough people know about your business or your books or the value of  your hard work as a service provider or artist or professional, if you are not yet reaching the people you yearn to reach with the return your yearn to earn, then take this poster as a reminder of what you can do this year. And check out the link below to learn how you own it.

This is the Year of Business Artists – for the people who can navigate the artist’s messy interior life, finesse the business of engaging customers and audiences with integrity, and leverage the unprecedented resources to produce and publish elevating goods and services – the new art.

Read more

Write Your Year Anew

greenvillage

“Poetry forms the quality of light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”

– Audre Lorde, “Poetry is Not a Luxury” reprinted from Poets & Writers

Poetry startles us to listen to an interior voice we business artists often forget or ignore.

That voice, rife with image and cadence, odd combinations and surprising twists, reminds us of a reservoir we each possess for intentional living, business artistry, and, yes, innovation.

Poetry more than any form might be the innovator’s language whether she identifies herself as poet or not. Innovation to create, to combine, to think, to make, to feel, to live anew.

A few things have conspired in my attention to write this piece today and to invite you to write your year anew.  Read more

Prioritize Possibility in 2015 (webinar w/ Jeffrey Davis)

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Photo: Bob Protus of Kool Kats

Many moons ago, I let one project after another drive me.

You know the impulse. You or your team can chase after one project after another.  An Etsy shop. A new tool or product. A new book. A new studio. A new podcast show. A new interview series. A new workshop.

But living in Project Land – taken by one project’s whim versus another – is not sustainable over the long-term for most business artists.

The problem: Which project to prioritize? Which project is your priority now and which one later and which one never? Which project in which sequence?

At least one key difference exists between those creatives and business artists who flounder and those who flourish.

It’s not coming up with lots of cool ideas. It’s their ability to learn to discern.

I’ve since spent many moons studying the art of discernment. Discernment is the ability to say, “This, not that. This, not that.”

“This project serves my path as a business artist now. This one might serve it later. This one, maybe never (as great of an idea as it seems).” 

This vein, not that.

Limited Advice for Prioritizing

I’ve reviewed old school and new school advice offered about prioritizing. It usually falls into one of two extremes.

First, the Analysis Action Camp: Break down the pros and cons. Advance forward.

Second, the Authenticity Gut Camp: Trust your intuition. Feel your way.

I’ve zoomed in on the art of discernment. Here’s what I have found in my experience, research assimilation, and consulting: By themselves, both camps are incomplete. Neither of them alone address how we creatures with nuanced brains make optimal, aware decisions.

What if you could combine quick emotional intelligence with rational thinking to decide within minutes which project to prioritize over the other? 

I want to share with you my and Tracking Wonder’s signature method for prioritizing possibility.  Read more

Business as Art – The Rising Movement

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Hyperbole repels me. Still, call it a movement. A wave. A surge. A revolution. An evolution.

A tide of creative people and business people are driving one another to do business as unusual. To do business as art.

We’re not bonded by trade or profession. We’re bonded by hunger. We hunger for something different. We want integrity.

Glimpse these signs and add your own in the comments below. Read more