Monday, July 28, 2014

True Nature and the Selfless Self

“We are what our environment makes is, and if our environment is such as to produce excellent health, beauty, joy and comfort, it will reflect immediately in our lives.”

Rudolph Schindler

The quote above is almost 80 years old – 80 years ago there were “progressive” thinkers out there, pushing the edge and challenging the status quo.

I recently saw a little Rudolph in an issue of Dwell magazine, relating it to how modern design functions best when it embraces and supports nature, and I am seeing a pattern much more universal at play here:

When any form of success is desired, start by including what’s around you first, instead of focusing on ‘you.’

Heck, I think the “me” culture has gotten us in trouble… I think we can agree we see evidence of that all around us.

Take the popular and inspirational meme “be the change you wish to see.” There is a fascinating outward-inward dynamic that can inspire (and create) successful change. For instance, while there may be perfectly legitimate moments for you need to create your own happiness first, what if your own happiness was created by making those around you happy first? What if this attitude of service to the world around us was our modus operandi for life? Oh, I know, just call me Mr. Idealist, but I’ll still try…

Be the change you wish to see, by seeing the change all around you, or better yet…

Be the change < > Enable the world to create change for you

Or something like that.

Basically, just pay attention to both… don’t cut yourself off, keep both arms as you strong-arm your success!

The delicate interaction between internal change/success and the external environment is waiting. You could even argue that the “internal and the external” are ultimately the same thing, and that the human mind is the only reason there is separation: it has been the only way we can easily understand it… but that’s changing.

The consequences of focusing on ‘us’ (as an individual) first? I submit that while it certainly IS useful in many situations, if it is our only approach – and we don’t pay attention to the delicate dynamic between us and the world – we cut ourselves off from the power of the universe to work with us, provide us energy, and ultimately create the circumstances for our happiness. WHOA, now that sounded spiritual. That said, I can cite numerous times, when I have seen it work! Maybe that’s another post, and you’ll just have to believe me for now.

Like a CEO colleague of mine once said (and this is NOT a quote): helping others first is ultimately self-serving, because it creates energy that comes back around to encourage and rejuvenate your own success.

Well, no matter how you phrase it, here’s to holistic success, and a thriving internal/external personal and professional environment. Focusing on the whole, creates a whole new successful you.

Why do I do what I do? I’d love to say it’s just selfless service to the world. But we are all IN the world – and ARE the world. Carry on friends!!!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Three Cs

“Sustaining work that works for you requires a balance that goes beyond any single factor.”
We make compromises as we make decisions that will get us where we want to go. It’s not always easy, but it should still be enjoyable in the right percentage… all in balance, know what I mean?
Reflecting on having achieved the goals you wanted is very important. How can you learn from what you have done and make the necessary adjustments in your path to work better towards goals.
As much as I LOVE working for any particular organization, I also need to enjoy the actual content I’m working on, as I develop training for that content. In no particular order, when it comes to training, I look for rewards in these three buckets.
  1. The Company
  2. The Content
  3. The Creativity
The Company
What does the company do? What is the nature of their work? What is the culture of the company? What kinds of people are attracted to the company?
The Content
Do you like the actual content of the tasks you are given? Is writing, designing or creating around a specific topic interesting, and does it make you curious to learn about it?
The Creativity
How much of “yourself,” can you bring to the table? This means, how unique can the results be, or has the form of the product already been determined? The amount it has been determined can impact how interesting the process will be—at least in my experience.
In the training environment
This looks different for everyone, but I would especially encourage consultants to reflect on these three Cs when working on projects. With consulting, these three factors will likely change often, but even in the midst of a full-time staff job, the three Cs can be applied. While there may be factors more logistical—like how your 3 hour commute is killing your motivation—these 3 factors are about the work itself—after you immerse yourself in the culture and details of an organization.
As a bit of a generalist, I find I work across many types of projects and skill sets, but I also find that I have my preferences around these three areas—and it may only be revealed during the development of training with a company. Training concepts can be applied to all kinds of companies, and this can almost make the job look completely different—but often it will not look different in the job description, so reflecting on the three Cs early in the process can be advantageous to your overall happiness in the work place.
Reflection is an ongoing process, as you and your projects will most likely change often. Try to walk into your own “hall of mirrors” regularly.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Real Time

“Slowing down on the outside is a significant step towards slowing down what’s inside; allowing you to observe with a new awareness of what’s happening in the moment—in real-time.”
I departed for Tucson last January, knowing I needed something. There was definitely some kind of hungry desire for peace. I hadn’t fully relaxed in a long time, and knew I needed to do something about that. I had even been in California the previous month, and hadn’t felt relaxed.
Just. Too. Much. Going on.
There was much movement in 2013. And it was time to slow down. Fortunately, as I headed to Tucson I knew I was staying with a good friend that I trusted deeply. I knew I could be myself where I was headed. There was so much static in my body that I felt like an old radio that barely worked, but when it did, all it played was a single old 70s talk show… over and over again… like sounds of old patterns that no longer served me.
I unplugged.
A new pattern started to emerge: silence. And I really mean that. Not just “no sound,” but silence, as in stillness, calm, empty, restorative, soothing and strengthening silence. WHOA.
Even my meditation had fallen prey to static. I can’t embark on productive meditation very long, until I am distracted. Stress had taken a toll in 2013. ! I challenged myself to avoid distractions, and as soon as I felt an urge to ‘do’ anything, I would not feel obligated to do it—after all, it would still be there tomorrow. It was a struggle at first...
But why feel obligated to do anything? Be genuine. Be intentional… Ok, be yourself.
So far, it seemed like I was involved in a very natural process.
I always knew relaxation was a key part of the restorative process, but I soon learned that is might be more than that. Meditation promotes the exploration of being still… which is different than relaxation. But you have to be relaxed first.
I then moved into what I call “idle time.”
“Idle time” is where time stops. You have no sense of time. The key is to allow hours to pass—if that’s what is required—and to be ok with that. If this is the first time you experience this process, you should allow for a long retreat! Until you master this process, it is hard for it to exist in smaller windows. Mastery opens the doors to making it a regular part of your life.
This is an amazing place to be. All of these stages can ultimately exist together—happening almost simultaneously. They ultimately give birth to rejuvenation and various forms of creativity in your life.
Now mind you one important clarification on creativity is needed here. Creativity can be a lot of things. As a “creative” individual, that might mean playing an instrument or drawing a picture, but it can also mean looking at your life with “new eyes,” or coming up with a new idea or way of living your life, or a new way of working with a client or manager.
I’m going to sum it up below in some basic and informal notes. I am starting to call this “finding my inner Einstein,” because creating a space to just ‘be’ is also creating a space for creativity to grow. Einstein believed in processes similar to this, and at our core, it’s what makes us all tick. Yes, creativity and creating are what keep us moving forward with some kind of sense of accomplishment as we grow. Why are we here? To be better at what we do now, and better and what we don’t even know we can do. Here are the basics of a four-step process; I include the input—stress. This process proposes stress as an input, and creativity as an output… but there is huge variability in the inputs…

1.     WORK > Stress/trauma
Thoughts can become “cluttered,” jumbled or even irrational and disconnected, resulting in a tendency to ‘react’ to our surroundings with reflexive responses. Lots of static here, and it’s created by all kinds of experiences that challenge your abilities and/or status quo.
2.     RELAXATION > Downtime
Conversations, thinking and decisions are more thoughtful and responsive (more outward). I often stopped right here, especially when I only had an hour to relax!
3.     IDLING > Stillness/silence > Renewal
Resisting all sense of obligation is critical: do what you want, when you want to do it, and only allow for action when it feels right. Allow “whatever needs to be, to be.”
In an ideal world, having longer breaks is best to reach the “idling” phase. This is where you renew. Thoughts and conversations continue to be responsive, but can also be contemplative and inward. Ultimately, the ideal result of this phase is renewal – rejuvenating and cultivating your soul, something that can be done by relaxing, but the results are often more lasting when you experience the idling.
4.     CREATIVITY > Ideation
Out of the stillness comes insights and glimpses of brilliance. This is the true “soil” of your life, and where you cultivate inner strength. It’s worth visiting this place regularly.
Thoughts and conversations have the greatest potential to be productive and contribute to others and/or the environment around us.
Ultimately, you may not be painting a picture with paintbrushes, but you’re painting your big picture—you’re creating your own life, and not being controlled by life!
For me, I am committed to working with this process is much smaller timeframes, and incorporating it to rejuvenate more regularly. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
So far, the result has been being able to observe my feelings in real-time, and responding to them more intentionally in the moment, as opposed to being controlled by the moment. I react a lot (less) these days, and make more intentional responses that shape my world, as opposed to living life having my buttons pushed—but I’m far from perfect. I hope some or all of this was helpful. I’ll keep you posted on my progress with living life in real-time.

See ya next time!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Universal Skills in Design: a Common Language

Happy "Post-Christmas" everybody!

With the book now available in the United States, life is good, and I continue to really think about my role as a designer—from a much broader and expansive height.

When I set out on my “design path” I was young—and honestly: design for me was more a way to make some money drawing and being “creative.” Over the years, I have had numerous opportunities to reflect on growing up, and how I have changed. Then today, I read this post and started thinking about the bigger picture.

While co-writing the book “Stories that Move Mountains,” I started to feel like I was finally seeing first hand, how design is really a mindset—part of an approach that drives collaboration and is not just about “specializing” in design. There is Instructional Design, Graphic design, Interior Design and Industrial Design—to name a few, but it starts with design intention, the common desire to create something useful for client AND consumer.

Design IS about the creative approach towards this end-goal, regardless of your specialty area, and at this time in my career I think I am finally seeing that often our specialties just get in the way. We all need to specialize, but the conversation and collaboration are most exciting when we drop the walls of our own specialized languages and look for common ways to communicate the same goals—regardless of final delivery mechanisms.

Let’s just talk DESIGN.

Perhaps it’s about why I got into this to begin with… I liked to express myself through creative means. I never really cared about being a “graphic designer,” and being an “Instructional Designer” is fine too, but sometimes the role just plain gets in the way, doesn’t it?

I like art, learning and being creative—trying new things every day.

This is how I ended up on the path to trying new things in art, music, teaching, etc.
I just liked the topics… I never really wanted to BE the role. I thought I did… or rather thought I ‘should’ have a role to prove something.

It no longer really matters though, is no longer relevant, and is only a matter of convenience, when titles are needed. I’m a person first… with general communication and consulting skills first. Then there is design… a broad area. Learning happens when people are not so quick to label everything.

Design has become a really big deal for me, and less about what anyone would normally think of as ‘being creative.’ A key premise for my blog, for instance, is design from a life approach perspective. I applied some “life design” over the last few years… shifting career focus from college education to corporate training. I did this through a process of analyzing economic niches and needs, as well as what would capitalize on what I enjoyed and did well. I transferred a great deal of strength into new areas. This is at the core of design-focused thinking: transferring key skills across new areas.

My life turned out to be something much richer than just drawing pictures. I became a designer that was relatively happy, doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I led a life of design education and taught in many colleges for almost 15 years.

It fostered a love for learning—my own learning—as well as helping others learn and achieve their own goals (through teaching, coaching and instructional design). I still love to make music and art, but I also design for learning. From a higher level, it follows similar processes across the board.

Whether it’s math, science, engineering, visual arts, music, psychology, sociology…

We can all benefit from design, and design thinking.

Things are really starting to happen, hitting us in torrents in an increasingly connected world, and fortunately, we’re starting to realize the value in design. Reports are finding that “design schools are not only a major source of new talent for the economy's rapidly growing creative sector, but are critical catalysts for entrepreneurship.”

David writes: “Design, broadly defined, is an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving that seeks to develop more effective products, environments, and organizations. At its heart, design is about understanding people and how they interact in the larger world.”

This quote ends on a key point: design from a systems perspective, meaning we design our environment—and everything in it, in a much bigger system. The system just keeps expanding, and more sustaining and successful solutions exist when they take the bigger picture into consideration.

NONE of these issues focus explicitly on art, graphic design, architecture, interior design or any of the “creative professions.” They exist across everything, and signify a way of thinking, not a specific way of doing.

Nigel Cross would be proud, as he has a great body of work encompassing what he calls “Designerly Ways of Knowing.” His work over the last 40 years has developed from the basic premise that designers (whether architects, engineers, product designers, etc.) have and use particular ‘designerly’ ways of knowing and thinking. This continues to expand beyond the professions listed above…

And seeing and discovering that human innovation may hinge on a design-thinking approach that crosses all boundaries to true inter-disciplinary kinship…

Here’s to letting go of job titles!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Updates and Discoveries

The last few months have really been revealing. I have realized I can’t do it all, imagine that!

Stories that Move Mountains” is a book in full swing and will be out in the U.S. soon. Sales have been great outside of the U.S, and I look forward to seeing it come to the U.S.  The message is clear… there is a very intentional way to bring the right story to your audience and deliver it in an engaging way that can affect change.

I have been writing feverishly… but not for my own personal blog, and that’s ok. I have been writing for many other blogs. Look for upcoming posts on the book website, as well as Visual Loop and I want to ‘get the word out’ on design to many that don’t believe they can do it. No—I know, we all need to have our specialties, but when you’re developing a presentation, we ALL need to have an eye on the overall design.

And when I say design, it doesn’t mean we all need to grab a pencil and start drawing. We just need to think in an organized way, and start making connections that your design “specialist” can relate to, so that your ideas come to life.

I helping to write the book I realized this! Design is a universal concept for everyone… you just need to know when to hand it off to a specialist.  Look for the posts, and we’ll talk more on that soon.


SO this post is not only about updates, it’s about discoveries. I just wanted to express that a ‘visual discovery’ for me was the fact that I have realized I need a few new outlets for expression—but I have never seemed to have the time, energy or inspiration. With so many interests, it’s often hard to find a way that fits into your day and ‘flows’ in a way that feels natural.

While drawing pictures and painting all day is definitely something I would LOVE to be doing now, I realized that I also had a long-lost love for photography.

I used to do it all with a Pentax manual-adjust camera (thank you Mom and Pop) that I used during my undergraduate work in Graphic Design, and into the 90s. Over the last decade it seems to have fallen away. Working in the dark-room was very cool, but I think my throat feels much better knowing all those dark-room chemicals don’t always need to be breathed anymore—that’s right, I’ve figured out how my love for images and social networking can be combined. No surprise… it’s Instagram!!!

My iPhone 5, Lumia 920 and various other digital resources have become very convenient (and mobile resources) for living my life throughpictures.

Anyway, Instagram has become a bit of an obsession for me. Why? Well apparently because it gives me a convenient outlet to record my world in a way that doesn’t take a lot more time. I enjoy the process, and also have time for all my other commitments. I enjoy the process… sharing as I do things in the midst of my day. It’s very easy with my smartphone, especially since smartphone camera technology has really come a long way in the last decade!

Anyway, an unintended consequence of all this posting on Instagram has been the way in which it has effected how I see the world. I literally SEE the world through images and with a much stronger design orientation—meaning I see much more through the senses—color, lines, shapes, directionals, touch, texture and composition all come together...

And I love it.

Please keep in touch. Whether it’s through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Stories That Move Mountains, or just plain old-school email or phone calls…

Keep in touch.