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The Heroine’s Journey & The Business Artist

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11169549_10152840355971161_3650447059151620528_oNote: Saundra Goldman is a smart, quietly powerful mentor and leader. She has been leading a conversation for a few years at Creative Mix where she helps women connect the dots of their creative lives and step up with work that speaks to their deepest calling. Saundra has been taking stock of what the heroine’s journey entails. What is the heroine’s journey? How is that different from the hero’s journey? How do we live out a heroine’s journey as an artist or business artist – especially when we must contend with our own health and life constraints? Those are the questions Saundra has been living.

I’m grateful that she has agreed to share this piece here.

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Opportunity by RK Rockefeller, Flickr

Do Your Best Work, Not Someone Else’s

Opportunity by RK Rockefeller, Flickr

Opportunity by RK Rockefeller, Flickr

He had made up his mind.

Archie told his two friends he just couldn’t risk starting his own animated studio. “It’s a stupid fantasy.” Benjy and Sahib sat silent and stunned.

Archie had come from a long line of respected business innovators and creative people – his mother and father both investors and business owners; his grandfather played sax for Bennie Goodman; his grandmother, a jazz singer. The youngest of three brothers, Archie had admired his older brother Sam, his best friend, a talented artist who always saw the best in his younger brother. “Little Archer,” he nicknamed him. He would watch Archie excel at drawing or playing sax or amateur video production. “Man,” Sam would say,” little Archer, when you set your aim on something, you’ll hit it, brother. You’ve got the knack.”

Then at 18 Sam left for Europe and never looked back.

Archie could’ve gotten lost. But amidst a family tree of accomplishments, he had found his own talents and own way of grieving his brother’s absence through animated design. Still, he drifted through his 20s, getting jobs at agencies and studios more out of prestige and security than anything else.

Then on the same day, he lost his job and his girlfriend, the one person who moored him. Over the next several months, he took stock of his life until, boom, it became clear that his next mission was to start a small animation studio. He’d start it with his two colleagues and chums – Benjy who had business smarts and Sahib who had smarts in many areas plus brilliant artistic talents like Sam. Read more

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Jef Safi)

Imagine Your Future To Be Wholly Present

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Jef Safi)

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Jef Safi)

Creativity is a revived currency in business. The New York Times Magazine ran a full feature on the burgeoning field of us creativity consultants and idea leaders. Advances in technology have automated numerous jobs and made follow-instructions-and-gather-information managers almost obsolete.

Yet what do we entrepreneurs, business owners, and business artists do when we make professional plans and goals?

Some of us complain that we’re not analytical or MBA-savvy enough and forfeit our innate creative tools. Yes, rigorous analysis of data and competition and the market are necessary, but analysis alone will not get you to the heart of your professional life and future. And for most of us motivated by meaning more than money, we must get to the core to keep our business’s heart beat thumping through good times and bad.

One oft-forgotten tool, inherent to your creativity, can help you get to your professional heart and envision your professional year accordingly. Read more

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

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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

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Ziggy Stardust & Business Owners: Different Rules?

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

In 1972, the post-Beatles music scene felt dour, pompous, overly earnest.

Then, came Ziggy.

Ziggy was a fictional character borne of David Bowie’s imagination, biography, and possibly his encounters with another musician obsessed with UFOs.

Bowie and his alter ego gifted the music scene with elaborate performance art, social poetry and commentary about the rock music scene’s drug abuse (at the time, Bowie wasn’t using drugs), and its phony glamor – all with a narrative revolving around the planet’s near-end.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars would later later be tagged one of the best, most important rock albums of all time.

Yet, at the end of the tour that brought the snow-skinned golden boy American fame, Bowie was nearly broke. Bowie cared about helping other musicians whose work he admired, he cared about music, and he cared about his future. What he didn’t tend to, at the time, was business.

By one account, none other than John Lennon – the backup voice to what would become Bowie’s first #1 Billboard hit “Fame” – sat the younger innovative muse down and steeped him in the business of music and of, especially, trusting the right people.

That sensibility perhaps helped Bowie continue to spread his musical magic for another several decades. Philosopher Simon Critchley calls Bowie the most influential, most important musician of the past 40 years.

Here’s the thing: The naive artist claims to be above business. For that matter, the naive if not philistine business owner or entrepreneur claims that art is useless.

Artists and entrepreneurs can – and I would suggest must if they wish to thrive in this time – learn from one another and contribute exponentially to the greater good.

So, are there different rules for artists versus entrepreneurs when developing business models with sustainable revenue?

Artist vs the Entrepreneur?

This question came up recently on a forum I participate in:
The Artist vs. The Entrepreneur: A query for you all. Businesses exist to solve problems (in my mind). If you’re not solving a problem then you don’t have a business. But artists (painters, dancers, sculptors, poets etc.) don’t ‘solve problems’ in the way that businesses do – and yet many of them are trying to make it as a business. I’m curious about your thoughts on this. 

Here are my unfinished reflections:

Artists in whatever culture are in a societal exchange whether financial or tribal. The artist who claims to work in silo asks to starve.

Business owners and executives on the other hand hunger to experience the freedom and aliveness they sense in artists. The business owner who shuns artful experiences potentially starves her soul and that of her customers.

Where do the two meet?

We work with this topic every day at Tracking Wonder because we call our heroes “business artists” – mission-centered executives, professionals, service providers, authors, artists, organizational team members who aim to bring forward their best work for the greater good.

In the past 100+ years, arguments have been made about whether artists need talent or practice to flourish. They need both, but they also need versatility – the real virtue.

That means they are able to experiment like scientists, create like artists (imaginative, social, emotional intelligence), and earn like entrepreneurs. Read more

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Get Back to Where You Once Belonged

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

What led 350 innovators, creatives, and change-makers from around the globe to show up at a summer camp ground just north of New York City for 4 days?

It’s a fair question.

Sometimes we can say why we’re drawn to a place or an event. Sometimes, we can’t. 

A renowned painter and photographer from France had moved to Dallas. In the glittery city of steel and diamonds, the artist had found a few acres rich with hardwood trees, rock outcrops, and a stream where he made home. I asked him how the place inspired his work.

“Most people I know,” he said, “myself included, seek the landscapes of their youth. This place reminds me of my boyhood.” 

In the French countryside, he said, he felt free to roam the outdoors that to him contained the mysteries and beauty that led him to pursue the artist’s life.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe many of us do, whether we know it or not, seek out our childhood landscapes. If so, what are we looking for? What are we wanting?

Was that what led this troupe of strangers to a summer camp for grown-ups?

For this introvert who grows itchy in groups larger than 20, I suspect it was what has led me there two years in a row and to leave a massive group feeling not suffocated but rejuvenated.

The event is called Camp GLP – which stands for Good Life Project.

For the record, I don’t take easily to crowds, and I take even less easily to anything I view as silly or frivolous or some desperate attempt for grown-ups to feel creative. It’s not a snob thing. It’s a disposition thing.

But there I was on Day 2 donning a blue t-shirt, blue jeans, a blue plastic lei, a blue bandana, and blue face paint. The camp staff – volunteer entrepreneurs and creatives from around the globe – had divided us into four teams to compete in traditionally campy competitions such as egg races, potato sack hopping races, that sort of thing.  Read more

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The Heart of Story Starts With Want

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1. From A Taste of Fish to a Taste of Freedom

Thelma wanted to go fishing for a weekend with her buddy Louise. Just the two of them cutting back, drinking beer, and soaking in the great outdoors. Problem? Her good ol’ boy hubbie wouldn’t hear of it. And wide-eyed Thelma complied.

With savvier Louise’s nudging, though, Thelma does something way out of character: She leaves Hubby a note saying she’ll be back Sunday night and hops in Louise’s 1966 T-Bird convertible to hit the road.

If you’re familiar with the 1991 Thelma and Louise screenplay, written by Callie Khouri (who received an Academy Award for her first screenplay), you know that Thelma’s seemingly inconsequential decision leads to a sequence of other consequential decisions – making out with a guy at a honky-tonk, sleeping with a young drifter played by Brad Pitt, holding up convenience stores for cash.

A series of consequential decisions makes up a strong plot line but not necessarily a Story.

At the heart of a powerful story – whether for film, fiction, nonfiction – is something else. It’s useful to remember what this heart is and how to find it and use it when shaping a book, either when drafting or rewriting.

Otherwise, writers of novels, memoirs, and trade nonfiction books get tripped up.

What most writers with whom I speak and work want is a meaningful, non-simplistic way to shape their stories from beginning to middle to end.

They want the heart.

There is such a way.

Read more

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5 Stages of Confidence in Writing a Book

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Catch only what you’ve thrown yourself, 
all is mere skill and little gain…

–Rainier Maria Rilke

A funny thing happens with a writer’s confidence level when writing a book. Confidence shoots up and down seemingly as erratically as weather.

Part of what makes confidence so unreliable is what we base confidence on. We try to base confidence on nebulous emotions such as passion and a blind belief in our own abilities & authenticity and bull-headed willpower.

If I just believe in myself, I can write this stellar book. Just gotta believe! Just gotta write, write, write. Practice, practice, practice.

What if your confidence in building your book could be grounded on something solid, authentic, and heart-opening at the same time?

In working with literally thousands of writers and professionals with book ideas, I’ve identified 5 common stages of confidence. See what resonates with your own experience. Read more

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Neal Sanche)

Writer’s Block as Your Teacher

Note: I am honored that multi-author and longtime teacher Laraine Herring is part of the Tracking Wonder Consultancy Team as a Premium Consultant. She is a master at helping writers and professionals unravel the knots that block them. In this guest piece, she shares with us how to leverage writer’s block as a learning opportunity.
Courtesy of Creative Commons (Neal Sanche)

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Neal Sanche)

Ain’t no such thing, to use my Southern grandmother’s colloquialism, as writer’s block. But you knew that already, didn’t you? That secret part of you told you. The part that kept whispering to you when you got stuck, “This isn’t real. This isn’t real,” which often got shouted down by the fear-based parts of you that said something like, “See. Silly writer. You thought you could do this. You thought writing was no big deal. Gotcha!”

It can become quite difficult to hear that first whisper – your real voice – when the blank page seems to mock you. Seems to dare you to etch anything of value into its canvas. Parades its long history of other successful authors (who don’t happen to be you) in front of you at every turn. It can be difficult to hear your best voice when you stare at the shelves of books in your house full of stories that already found their covers, found their places.

When you feel overwhelmed, you may feel your writing doesn’t matter. The world is already too crowded. You can forget that someone needs to read what you’re writing. You can forget that you need to write it.

If you stay still long enough, in the silence that emerges from the stacks of books on your shelves, you’ll find yourself hearing lots of voices. The voices of your stories. The voices of your essential nature. The voices of those you’ve internalized and come to call your own. That silence, inhabited by all those conflicting voices and bookended by all the hopes you have for what your book could be and all the fears you have about what it can never be, is where this thing that has come to be known as writer’s block lives.

So large is its mythology that it is perceived as a tangible thing. A structure. A wall. A block. And most of all—a reason for you to stop writing that everyone will understand. “Oh, geez, man. Blocked? Yeah. I get it.” And you won’t feel so alone. You’ll feel so validated in fact that you won’t even notice you’ve abdicated your power. There are others who have been blocked. You’ll identify with their sheer numbers. And soon, it will be easier to push that true whisper even deeper. This isn’t real. This isn’t real.

And so the years will pass. Your stories’ calls will go unanswered.

But what if writer’s block became your greatest teacher? What if the natural pause in the creative process was viewed as an invitation to move deeper into your story, rather than a signal to stop? Read more