Monthly Archives: July 2012

What you do is irrelevant until you do this

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I’ve been trying to follow my bliss (it’s not a destination, it’s a journey). The thing is, I have a pretty good idea of what interests me, what skills I possess, what my talents are and what I need to improve. There is no ONE RIGHT WAY. This is all good news.

But I wonder if I’ve been asking the right questions. Or more specifically, if I’ve asked the right question (singular).

What is that all important question? It’s not what I want to do or what I am passionate about. The question I think we need to ask ourselves first is this:

 WHO do I want to be?

 We are all multidimensional people who have lots of interests, skills and talents but what we do and who we want to be are not the same thing.  Asking WHO we want to be opens up a completely different dialogue.

 To answer this question, you have to dig deeper.  And I think your success in achieving a life you love is determined NOT by what you do, but by deciding WHO you want to be. And then using that as a means to align all of your efforts and make decisions. WHO you want to be affects your thoughts, behavior, beliefs and emotions unlike what you want to do.  WHO you want to be lays the foundation for what kind of (doctor, teacher, artist, banker, mother) you will be.

Here’s an example. Gordon McDonald said that there are two types of people: Driven and Called. Driven people believe they own everything and spend huge amounts of energy protecting what they think they own (relationships, things, businesses). Called people believe that everything is on loan. As a result, called people tend to foster or cultivate relationships. They understand that people and things will flow in and out of their lives and are more grateful for the chance to have them and while in their possession, will act as stewards, caring for it for whomever has it next.

The point isn’t whether you agree with McDonald or if one is better than the other. The point is becoming aware of your subconscious thoughts and how they might direct your behavior.  Once you become aware of them you can decide if they are serving you well or not. Awareness will help you make a different choice.  You can live life on automatic pilot or you can take control of the wheel and steer in the direction you want to go.  Accept the responsibility.

Most of us don’t give a lot of thought about what we want to do, often falling into the first thing that comes along. We probably give even less thought about WHO we want to be. Asking what I want to do before figuring out WHO I want to be is putting the cart before the horse.  Humans are illogical and imperfect beings. Our behavior is determined by our feelings and emotions so figure out who you want to be and that will help you reframe your perspective and align your behavior in a (hopefully) more positive direction.

Figure out WHO you want to be and your path to what you want to do will be a lot simpler (not necessarily easier).

Learn how to Draw

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I’ve always loved to draw but I was way too critical of my work. I thought that “real” artists came out of the womb drawing like da Vinci.

Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we demand perfection and great technical skill right at the beginning? If we demanded that of our children we would have never evolved.

A couple of years ago, instead of coming up with New Year resolutions, I declared that it would be a year of my art. I took several art classes and a bookbinding class.

One of the art classes was at SMU and the teacher taught Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Drawing is like any other skill – sewing, cooking, driving, etc. You can learn it. I think the big hang up to learning how to draw is most people don’t learn how to see.  Your teacher tells you to draw your shoe, so you try to draw what you percieve as your shoe. In other words, your perception of “shoe” gets in the way of actually seeing your shoe.

I would highly recommend that you learn how to draw. I think Edwards’ book is the best because it really breaks down the skills you need. Some other fun books are:

Drawing Lab by Carla Sonheim

Any of the Zentangle books

Drawing for Older Children and Teens – A creative Method for Adult Beginners, too by Mona Brookes.

All you need is some paper and a pencil to get started. Relax, doodle, let your mind wander and be free. Learning how to draw will help open up your creative channels. 

 

Crayon Batik

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All of this talk about finding my bliss has put me on a DIY journey. I’ve been itching to flex my creative muscles and someone put a bug in my ear about dyeing. Which led to a book about batik. Which got me thinking that you should be able to do this with crayons. Which eventually let to this tutorial.

My first effort was definitely a learning experience. Here’s what I learned:

1. Trying to take off the paper from crayons that are 10 years (or older, I raided my 16 year old’s art box) could be tricky. Paper can stick to crayons.

2. If you plan on doing this more than once, buy an electric skillet that your muffin tin can fit into. It took me twice as long for this project because I had to keep putting the crayons back in the oven to remelt them (not very energy or time efficient).

3. When you apply the dye, wipe off the excess, unless you want a lot of black blotches.

4. Start small to get the hang of it. I decided to do two rather large panels and it took me 6 hours. I was losing steam and enthusiasm the last two hours.

The end results weren’t bad but they weren’t perfect. As I pointed out above, I made the mistake of not wiping the excess black dye from my panels. While they are usable, they aren’t as good as I hoped for.

I can understand why batiking is not a popular craft. It takes a lot of time. First I had to prewash my fabric (I used muslin). Then I had to figure out my color palette. It took me a lot longer to peel the paper off of the crayons. The biggest time waster was having to put the crayons back in the oven every 5 minutes. And then there is the ironing, but that is the most gratifying part of the process because you can see your final design coming to life.

I intend to try this technique again, after I get an electric skillet. I hope to  find one at the thrift store or a garage sale. I have lots of crayons left over and having gone through the process once, I know how to make it go faster the next go round. I was hoping to use these panels to make a bag but going forward, I think I’m going to stick to six or eight inch squares and use them in quilts or smaller bags.

Please leave me a comment about your crafty adventures – the good, the bad and the ugly!

 

 

 

 

Follow Your Bliss – Midterm Break

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Or “Don’t be in a hurry to figure it all out”.

 I’ve been trying to pinpoint my passion for a long time. My search always centered around a defined set of variables but I’d jump from one thing to the next, convinced each next thing was “it”. 

My first mistake has been to frame each of my little ventures as “the one” instead of seeing it as playing around – trying it on to see how it fits. I would have saved a lot of heartache and left more of my self-esteem intact if I had approached it with that mindset.

 My second mistake has been to jump right in – guns loaded. Don’t get me wrong, action is good. You should act, but maybe you should hold off investing in resources and education (i.e tons of money and time), etc until you know it’s really what you want. And sometimes you can act too soon. Sometimes it is beneficial to just let things stew around for a bit. Let your subconscious work on the problem. Do a little bit more exploring, let more of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

Here’s what happened to me since I’ve started posting about finding my bliss. I’ve done all the steps that I talked about and I continue to learn. All good. But I was anxious to get on with it. I wanted to have it all figured out – NOW – even though some aspects were still a little blurry. I felt as if something was not quite right. But I chalked that up to insecurity, stepping out of my comfort zone.

But yesterday I made a connection between two pieces of unrelated information that I found and suddenly it all became clear. I knew what it was all along but I was focused on the wrong part of the equation. I may not have made an earthshaking discovery, but a little tweak in my thinking (remember “If your not getting the results you want, do something different – that includes thinking about the problem), brought about such a sense of purpose and clarity that I hadn’t had before. And I know that this time I really hit the nail on the head because I suddenly came alive. I felt as if I was an electrical cord and someone just plugged me into the wall. I was energized and literally buzzing with excitement.

It’s not fuzzy or blurry anymore. The pieces are falling into place and all because I gave it a little more time. Sometimes procrastination can be your best friend.

What have you learned about your journey? I’d love to hear about it.

Inner Peace

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Peace of mind. I want it.

 So I picked up Dr. Wayne Dyer’s 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace. (As a side note, I got it at the Salvation Army for 50 cents. I get great deals on books there. Just the other day I got 6 books for $8, If you are a bibliophile like me, it’s worth checking out.)

This book is exactly what I need. As an introvert I am always inside my head and sometimes it can cause me heartache. Let me summarize the 10 secrets:

1. Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.  In other words, don’t judge and don’t make your happiness or success dependent upon an attachment to any person, place or thing. You don’t let other people’s opinions or your things (or lack of) have any bearing on your worth.

2. Don’t die with your music in you. Follow your passion. Do what energizes and engages you.

3. You can’t give away what you don’t have. According to Dyer, the universe responds with the same energy we send out. I had a revelation recently that illustrates this secret. Being appreciated is important to me. I spent a lot of time whining that I wasn’t being appreciated. Then I realized that I wasn’t being very appreciative of others. So I started to make a conscious effort to thank and appreciate others and guess what happened? More appreciation started coming into my life.

4. Embrace silence. Find time to still your mind. Commune with nature. Our lives are too hectic and that hectic energy not only affects you but everyone around you.

5. Give up your personal history. You are not your past. You can’t change it, you can only learn from it. Get over it, take responsibility and move on and don’t let it define you.

6. You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it. Change your thoughts. You get what you focus on so focus on the positive – being more loving, more empathetic, more peaceful.

7. There are no justified resentments. First, remove blame, own your feelings whether you understand them or not. Second, respond with love, peace, joy, forgiveness and kindness instead of reacting from your ego (who is always getting you in trouble because it’s always a contest about who’s the best, brightest, smartest, etc).

8. Treat yourself as if you already are what you’d like to be. It’s the “act as if” principle. What do you think a person who is a (insert what you want to be here – i.e. writer) does? For writer you might say that they write daily, they read a variety of things, they subscribe to trade journals, they belong to a writing group, they submit proposals to publishers, they accept rejection as part of the job and don’t take it personally. Then do it.

9.Treasure your divinity. Quit looking on the outside (externally) for your source of strength. It’s in you.

10. Wisdom is avoiding all things that weaken you. Everything you think either strengthens or weakens you. Dyer talks about power vs. force.  “Power urges you to live and perform at your own highest level” Force, explains Dyer is movement and for every action there is a reaction or counter force. Force is a negative energy and is associated with judgment, competition and control. Instead of choosing to “wipe out the competition”, a more peace-inducing thought would be to perform at your highest capacity and give it your best shot.

Got other ideas? Please comment and let me know. I can use all the help I can get.

 

Follow Your Bliss – Part 2

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I got a little long winded on Part 1, so I am going to keep it short with Part 2.

I liken Part 1 to laying the foundation. I’ve got some guidelines to keep in mind, know where my true interests (essence) lie and now I am ready to put it all into action.

Between Part 1 and 2 I kept coming across a theme in my research. I’m taking that as a sign and hence I give you Part 2:

PLAY.

That’s it. In this stage I intend to just go for it and try it all. Kind of like throwing it all on the wall to see what sticks. Too often we cut our self off from experiencing all of life. Do you always go to the same restaurant, take the same route to work, eat the same foods, go on the same vacation? I’m no better than anyone else except that now I intend to just go for anything that looks interesting and try it. Getting different books and magazines are helpful, but actually going out and DOING something different or trying a new hobby, volunteering somewhere  – these things can help change your perspective and introduce you to something that you never even realized you liked.

School has made us so rigid – there’s only one right answer – only one path to follow. Who says? This is my life and I’m going for it. I’d rather try a hundred different things (and ignore most people who will think you are flighty and can’t commit or “settle down”) because there is so much out there to experience, why limit yourself. Each new experience, skill you learn etc just adds to your knowledge and you never know where it might lead. It’s all good.

Follow Your Bliss – Part 1 Find your Essence

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I’m a creative. I’ve known this in my heart of hearts for a very long time. But my well-meaning mom told me that the things I liked to do (crafts, sewing, knitting) were fine as hobbies, but you couldn’t make a living from them. She was just trying to do what she thought was best for me. I went on to get a marketing degree (ugh).

 My mom is not a creative in the same sense as I am. She’s very analytical – a numbers person. While she was the one that exposed me to crafts and needlework, she could buy enough yarn for a sweater, knit it and be done. My yarn, fabric , pattern and bead collections are testament to our differences in this matter. For her, it truly is a hobby. Me – it’s wired in my DNA and NOT creating would be like not breathing.

 I’ve tried for many years to carve out a creative freelance career but I’ve never been able to manage it. I’ve gotten hung up on money, credentials, and confidence. I let marriage, moving, motherhood and a whole other host of excuses (I’m too old, I don’t have a degree, I’m not as talented as _____, etc) stop me.

 I’m at a very significant point in my life. I have a year until my son goes to college and then I am really free to do, go, be whatever I want. And after half of a lifetime of exploring different options (fashion design, graphic design, interior design, writing, event planning, custom drapery business,  etsy shop, craft shows, website that featured sewing, knitting, crafts and interviews with creatives) and never really sticking with anything long enough to harness any real success, I am hoping that this time I can come up with some sort of reasonable plan and start putting it in place so that a year from now I may be able to escape the cubicle jungle.

Change the Process

I am approaching it this time with this in mind: DON’T do what I did in the past. Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. (For instance, I love the idea of a day planner. I’ve bought many but they last about a week. I’ve finally learned that I’m not a “day planner” kind of person no matter how much those leather binders lure me.) This time, I’ll try a trial and error approach. I’ll try something new, if it works, I’ll add it to my repertoire, if not, out it goes and move onto another approach. In the past I never really considered why I wasn’t able to stick with something. I assumed it was confidence and beat myself up over it (way to improve the confidence, right?). Being a little older and wiser, I’ve realized maybe I don’t need to fix me (i.e. get more confidence), maybe I need to change my approach/process/system. What a relief this revelation has been for me.

So, how am I going about looking for my “ideal” career. First of all, I am striking the word “ideal’ out. Why pick one ‘ideal” thing when I am obviously attracted to many different things?  I like variety so a freelance career where I have an assortment of different projects is appealing from a “being engaged”  as well as from an income standpoint. Not being tied to one source of income means if I lose one, it won’t be a financial disaster.

Find your Essence

My starting point was to do a little self-analysis. I made up a list of every job, project, etc that I’ve ever done and noted what I liked about it. Then I tried to narrow it down to its essence – why I liked it. I came up with:  learning new things, creative collaboration, designing and creating. (None of this was anything new to me.) When you’ve narrowed your likes down to their essence it opens up many different paths you can take to satisfy that essence.

I’ve read a lot of books about finding your passion and most ask you to list what you like to do. But what you like to do isn’t as important as why you like to do something. I like to write but there are dozens of reasons people write. I do it  1) to process my emotions and thoughts and 2) to learn.  I can now see why I lost interest in copywriting. But if I focus on topics I want to learn more about, writing is still a viable option.  Spend some time figuring out the why and the whats will appear (but they may not be the whats you originally entertained).

I also went through all of my past creative pursuits and tried to figure out why I quit. I mean, from the looks of these, I should have loved doing any one of them. It’s easy to see why I left the insurance industry but why didn’t interior design or writing work? I thought it was confidence but turns out, confidence really had nothing to do with it once I really looked at what I was really doing.

Take writing as an example. I tried it for awhile, made some progress and then quit. Why? Well, when I was trying to be a copywriter (that’s where the “big” money was). But what I discovered in my self-assessment was that I use writing as a tool to learn. I should have been trying to write articles/books/blogs/presentations etc, about things I wanted to learn. 

Another example is interior design. I loved designing my home. I was hands-on in the process – coming up with a plan, sourcing items, finding the right fabric for the drapes, sewing the drapes, painting the room, repurposing garage sale finds and then seeing it all come together. But after taking an interior design class, even though you do get to design, the majority of your time is spent managing people and resources.  Learning why I quit serves two purposes. First, I can quit beating myself up for quitting because in the end it didn’t fit my essence and reframe it as a learning experience. Secondly, anything I decide to do from this point forward I can do a little research to see if the day-to-day realities match what I want to do before I invest too much time or money in it.

Here is a summary of my search so far:

1. Don’t do what you’ve always done if you aren’t getting the results you want. Keep trying different options till you find ones that work for you. Don’t focus on changing/”fixing yourself, focus on finding the process that works for you.

2. Keep your options open. There is more than one path.

3. Find your essence. Figure out the things that energize and engage you.  

4. Reframe past “failures” as learning experiences and move on.

Please post a comment about your creative journey and what is helping you tap into a more passionate life.

Houses from Reclaimed Materials

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Say goodbye to cookie cutter houses!

I just viewed this TED talk by Dan Phillips. He is a builder from Texas. I love these little houses and how much personality they have. This is a great talk and Mr. Phillips is entertaining and truly an artist.

I want one of his houses.

Check out his website

Who’s Running Your Life?

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Chances are it isn’t you if you haven’t given any thought to how you want to live it.

 If you haven’t given serious consideration to how you want to live (and I mean serious, none of this “win the lottery” B.S.) then it’s likely that you are moving along with the current, going wherever life sends you, adopting other people’s (you parents?) ideas of how you should live your life. That feeling that there must be more to life is a sure sign you aren’t running it.

 Be the Creator of you life. Engage in it, don’t watch from the sidelines.

I’m an introvert. I spend a lot of time thinking. I am inside my head a lot, thinking about ideas, concepts, problems, solutions and what I’m going to eat at my next meal. I’ve recently taken action to move my life in a different direction. It was painful and scary but the right thing to do. Determined not to repeat the same mistakes and live in alignment with my passions, values and talents,  I decided to craft a personal philosophy. I hold creative thinking in high regard so I’ve used the word creativity as an acronym.

 C – Childlike curiosity –  Invite your inner child out to play and have fun. Laugh. Question everything. “We’ve always done it this way” is lazy thinking. Change is going to happen, you can look at it as an exciting new adventure or let it run you over. Innovations don’t happen by following the status quo.

                I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” – Dr. Suess.

R – Rules – Know them, but don’t be afraid to break them (legally, that is). Or better yet, invent some new ones. Or forget them all together.

                “The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.” – Mark Twain

                “Madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations and ages it is the rule.” Freidrich Nietzsche

                “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” – The Golden Rule

E – Empathy – Before you jump to conclusions or judge someone, put yourself in their shoes. Be open to new ideas, new experiences, new cultures, new people. Get out of your own head and explore different perspectives.

A – Amateur – don’t be one. In Carl King’s book “So you’re a creative genius, now what?” he defines a pro, amateur and hobbyist. You want to either be a pro (you love what you do and work your butt off to create a viable career) or a hobbyist (not interested in money, does it for sheer joy of it). Don’t strive to be an amateur: a hobbyist who is half-heartedly trying to be a pro. As the great Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Amateurs fall in the “try” category.

T – Talents – Know yours and align yourself with them. Invest the majority of your time in them. Sure, it helps to beef up your weak areas but you’ll probably always just be mediocre and as a result, those are not the things that will bring you great joy. When you operate from your talents, tasks become easier and life in general becomes less of a struggle, and even, dare I say, a pleasure.

                “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman.

I – Imitate – Growth (as a human being) is important for our mental well-being and learning facilitates  growth. How did we learn as children? We imitated others. There is a saying “Good writers borrow, great writers steal”. There is a reason that art students copy the masters, not to plagiarize them, but to learn from them. Let’s say you are a salesperson. Watch high producing salespeople in action. What are they doing? What are they saying? What aren’t they saying? What are they wearing? What are their mannerisms? Watch the faces of their prospects and see how they respond. Obviously, you can’t be that salesperson (writer, painter, drummer, etc) because we each have a unique set of skills, traits and talents. Find the essence of that great sales presentation, piece of art, poem, music, campaign, etc, learn from it and then put your spin on it.

                “I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” – Eartha Kitt

                “We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” – Lloyd Alexander

V – Values – Figure out what your top 4-5 values are and use them as a guide for living your life. My top 5 values are: being connected, learning, design, stewardship and appreciation. Funny thing, once I realized how much I valued appreciation (I wasn’t getting any), it dawned on me that I wasn’t being very appreciative of others. Since then, I have gone out of my way to make sure others know how much I appreciate them or what they’ve done. And wouldn’t you know, what goes around, comes around. Not only does identifying your values give you a filter in which to run every decision through, it helps you see your own behavior in a whole new light and when guided by those values, change is a lot easier.

I – Imagination – Use it. A lot.

                “You see things; and  you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and  I say ‘Why not?'” – George Bernard Shaw

                “Live out of your imagination, not your history.” – Steven Covey

                “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

T- Thankfulness – Humans have a bias towards negativity. We overreact to the bad and undervalue the good.  We get what we focus on. If we focus on the negative stuff then that is all we’ll pay attention to. So to get ourselves out of the trap of negative thinking, we need to take time to give thanks for all the good that we have. It’s hard to do when you are chin deep in troubles but you can’t get yourself out of a negative situation with negative thinking.

                “When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears.” – Anthony Robbins

Y – Yin/Yang – Accept and embrace all of you. You’re a flawed being who can be silly, compassionate, petty, angry, sad, hurt, funny, ditzy, intelligent, thoughtful, loving and everything else inbetween. This doesn’t mean that you  give up trying to be a better person. It just means accept who you are right now. 

What would you include in your personal philosophy?