Susceptibility to externalities

After a day of ego blows the day before, it was fascinating to reflect on my response yesterday. I gravitated towards creating things, and showing people what I had created in order to get positive feedback, and help me feel better again.

One of the things I created was a soccer goal for my kids, combining two other soccer goals that were falling apart to make one that was perfect for our purposes. The act of creating was soothing. Able to look at something I had put together from other, discarded, things was satisfying. Showing it to others gave me a buzz.

I did some similar things with a spreadsheet I had created at work: refining, revelling, showing. And with some sales I made of the breath mints.

I am taking some good and not so good points in reflecting on this. The good is that in acting despite how I feel, particularly in creating or refining something, I feel empowered and alive and taking responsibility for my plight. This is so good in helping me move through a tricky patch.

The not so good is the desire for and boost I get from external feedback. In itself there is nothing wrong with it, it can be a great way of validating that I have created something useful. However if I become dependant upon the feedback to get me out of a tricky patch, then I am simply finding the other end of the spectrum of where I was: having my feelings dictated by externalities.

Externalities can be a good guide, but I don't want them to be my driving force. This I want to come from within.

All of me

I was at a book launch last night for Mykel Dixon's Do 50somthing.

Myke promised that it would be more than a book launch, and it was. I don't quite know how to describe it - it was part cocktail party, part open mic, and part a poking at our collective creative calling.

One of the things he said last night really rang true - it was that the world needs all of me. And that is true for everyone of us - the world needs each of us to bring all that we have, even those bits we kinda think are awkward and shameful. To show up as we are, expressing and revealing.

I was so challenged by his words that I found myself taking to the stage when he left the mic open for people to say what they wanted. With my heart pounding and with no plan of what I was going to talk about, I found myself in front of 100 people and a couple of spot lights. 

But somehow, being out of my head and connected to the emotion and feeling of what I wanted to share, the words eloquently came out, and a story flowed. I loved being up there. I loved the theatre of it. I loved revealing myself.

I am now challenged to follow-up on what I think I need to do. Myke's book is about doing something, making something every day for 50 days. He wrote his book in 50 days, and through it is encouraging all of us to create and put things out there for the world to revel in.

I think I need to speak. In public. Every day for the next 50 days. In my head this is showing up on street corners and soap boxes, expressing what ever it is inside me that needs to be expressed. I am petrified by this idea. I may just have to do it.

Creation through expectation

'...all the data indicate athletes' expectations as important factors in physical performance, to be taken into account in training strategies.'  -- Placebo and nocebo responses, Fabrizio Benedetti

There is much talk about visualisation and manifestation and laws of attraction in some of the groups I hang out with. I see some of this in my own life - coincidences that seem too strange to be just that.

I read the article that the above quote comes from recently which talks about placebo, and how telling athletes they are going to perform well causes changes in the physiology, enabling them to tap into reserves in their energy and ability that are usually kept for crisis events. In essence if athletes have an expectation that they will do well, they will lift the cap on their physical limits, and perform better than they otherwise would.

I suspect that the same is true for other areas of our life. In relationships, work, wellbeing: if we have an expectation that we will do well, that good things will come our way, we will physically have more ability and more awareness of these things as we move through our days than we otherwise would.


Theory of constraints

Through a series of decisions, some made by me and some made for me, I am coming to a clearer realisation that the work I am doing at the moment needs to be within an arrangement where I am equal, or I am working for myself.

Work in general employment is not going to cut it for now (a decision that was made for me). And I need to go at it alone with my podcast instead of joining a podcast network (a decision I have made for myself).

There is something about not being restricted in my curiosity and creativity that I am holding very dear right now. Nor do I want to be restricted in what I do with my time.

I understand that sometimes these constraints are useful in getting work done, even creative work. Right now the work I need to do, as unclear as it may be, needs to come with constraints that are not imposed upon me by others.

Progress over perfection

I have two more show notes to write before I launch my podcast, and I don't think I could be stringing it out any longer. I have a hunch that I actually don't want to launch, that I am a little fearful of what might happen when I do.

Some good opportunities seem to be opening up at the same time: I randomly met a guy who is starting a podcast network called Pidgin, and he has invited me to be part of the network.  And the few people that have had a sneak peak of the podcast are saying good things about it.

So, time to write some show notes and complete the task, even if I am not completely happy with what I write. Progress over perfection.

Not starting for fear of nothing

I am in the middle of writing the show notes for the first eight episodes of my podcast. I am experiencing a good amount of flow in doing this, having completed 5 of the 8 episodes inside three days, and am on track to launch next week.

I have noticed something happen to me in the pause between my writing, when I have completed the show notes for one episode and am having a break before I start the next. There is a real sense of doubt that I can repeat the effort of writing the notes for another show. I feel like I may well have extinguished all ability to coherently write, as if there is a finite reserve of words inside my head, and the previous effort was all I had left to give.

This uncertainty and fear prevents me from even starting to write. I don't want to commit to starting just to find out that there are no words left to flow through my pen. What would I do? How would I cope with this catastrophic scenario?

I recently completed a thirty day challenge to write non-stop for 15 minutes each day, without worrying about the coherence or punctuation or profoundness of what I was writing. To write whatever it was the flowed through my consciousness. The freedom this exercise gave me is something that has extended beyond writing. The thing I learnt was that I have had a belief that it is only acceptable to take something from my head and put it into the world if I knew it was going to be perfect. The truth is that it will never be perfect the first time, and it can never be understood and refined until it is in a tangible rather than intellectual form.

This thinking has held me back in so many areas - creating art, learning new skills, starting businesses, meeting new people. Time to allow whatever it is inside me to flow, and only then to try and understand what it is I am creating.

Laundry List Item 12: It's a random universe to which we bring meaning

I create meaning by organising an event for my birthday.

I create meaning by giving my kids space to be.

I create meaning by taking care of myself every day.

I create meaning by nurturing friendships.

I create meaning by aligning my actions with my heart.

Meaning comes from within me. Without my ability to create, my life is without meaning. It is a conscious decision I make. My life is meaningful because I choose to be deliberate in my actions. It is not my job to say how meaningful, or whether it is successful, or whether it is valuable. It is meaning that is worthy of expression because it comes from the deepest and truest place within me.

A 3 year old with 5 blocks of duplo

On Friday mornings I get some one on one time with my 3 year old son. This morning we went to a cafe, and he insisted on whittling down 12 blocks of duplo to five blocks as the toy he wanted to play with while we were there. 

After placing our orders he taught me the game he wanted to play with the blocks, which was simply to construct something recognisable using these five blocks. We proceeded to spend the next 45 mins taking it turns to build over 100 different objects.

Not only were both of us utterly enthralled and energised by the game, but I learnt so much about the nature of creation.

Many times I did not know what I was going to create. I had a hunch about how I wanted to arrange the blocks, and then only once it was complete could I see what I had made. We also feed off each other's effort, getting inspiration from what the other built. And the crazy thing is, my son came up with some really good stuff. A bird's nest in a tree and grass. A crocodile. A car.

What this got me pondering was the nature of constraints. It seems to me that it is only through constraints that we can find out what we are capable of. Without them we are without meaning, without form, and without purpose. It is because of gravity we can grow. It is because you cannot use your hands in soccer that Cristiano Ronaldo is so good with his feet.

I choose to constrain myself, and in so doing I will find out what I am actually capable of. Like building the propellor of a plane using five blocks of duplo.

The post I will look back on in years to come

I have put my first podcast out there to a few more trusted friends. I don't know if it is because I am quite sensitive about putting something new out into a small section of the world, or if its because I'm actually not that good. But I am not getting an overwhelming sense that people are having their socks blown off by my work!

I have a confidence though that I can do this. That I can get really good at interviewing people for a podcast. That I can learn and refine my craft over time.

What I think I need to hear from these first few people is something along these lines:

This is a great first podcast. I love the way you ask questions, and I really found it interesting. It is great that you are incorporating a sense of place into the recording, and you will find a way to get the balance with the right amount of noise. Keep working at it. Keep listening to yourself. And keep backing yourself in what you are creating why you are creating it.

Instead what I am getting (or perhaps what I am hearing) is more like this:

Its hard telling a story through audio alone, isn't it? Perhaps you need to edit it a bit. Perhaps your microphones are not that good. Perhaps a bit more polish would be good.

In years to come I will either look back at this post and think that I was quite delusional - podcasting was something I needed to do, but it was not really my thing. Or I will look back and think that this was the start of a great journey of learning, exploring, and creating.

That first whack to the confidence

Yesterday I received my first piece of feedback on my new podcast. It is not launched yet - I need to complete a few more interviews before I really put it out there. However I asked a friend to listen to it, and he said that there was too much background noise.

This small piece of criticism, meant to help me, knocked me about for a couple of hours. Were my microphones bad? Was I just bad at interviewing? Did I have any chance of people enjoying listening to what I was creating?

I want there to be background noise on my podcast. I want the listener to get a sense of place when they are listening the the person I am interviewing. I do not want them to be annoyed by the background noise though, and switch off because of it. It needs to complement the interviewee and what they are saying.

The reality is the feedback can only be good. As long as I don't let it cripple me. As long as I take in on board and work out what is valid for me and what I want to bring into being.