Do You Say ‘No’ Enough?

image1

When you’re asked to do something that prevents you from doing your best work, how often do you say “No, I’m sorry, but I won’t do that because…”?

I went to see the exhibition of Danish fashion designers Viktor & Rolf at the NGV a few days ago and was particularly interested in the stance they controversially took against the fashion industry and its crazy fast pace. They just wanted to do their best work.

“We love fashion, but it’s going so fast. We wanted to say ‘No’ this season.” said the designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren to a  group of devoted fans and curious reporters. Their statement was expressed on the runway with a model wearing a grey trench-coat with ‘No’ incorporated into the design of the garment.

What would happen if you said ‘No’ more often when being asked to do things that prevent you from doing your best work?

You may lose a fan, project or client, perhaps shake things up a little within your industry, but are you throwing your souls to the wind if you don’t? The people that respect what you do will stand by you, find you and encourage you. They’re the ones that matter.

You can either focus on doing your best work, becoming known and respected for this, or do whatever is thrown your way, get lost in the crowd and be discontent in your work.

There’s always a choice.  Where will ‘No’ take you?

Something Wonderful

IMG_5679.JPG

The amble back from the post office today was like no other hugging this beauty.

Oh Seth, you’ve done it again. Shipped something wonderful. A waft of fresh ink, a weight of wise words (all 17 pounds), an abundance of powerful visuals, a heart thumping with delight… I shall begin to devour this magnificent titan of a book.

Thank you Seth Godin.

What Was Different About Tuesday?

img_5570

Imagine spending eight hours mingling with an eclectic bunch of pioneering speakers, coffee-buzzed wisdom seekers, immersed in ‘thoughtful provocations’, ‘dancing with paradox’, debating life’s big questions and how to ‘pioneer meaningful progress’… while sipping craft whisky, absorbing live jazz and pondering what’s next for humans on earth, and Mars.

Welcome to The Cleverness and Percolate: A Precursor to Progress.

“A space to harness our unwillingness to settle” for “pioneers and the quietly dissatisfied”.

Hallelujah!… a space (Fitzroy Social) with air, light, art, music, buzz, booze, nibbles, chit-chat, curious people, questions, and more questions than answers. A thoroughly thought-provoking ‘event-full’ experience, delivering beyond expectation. You don’t get to say that too often do you?

And here I am gathering my scribbles and highlights to spread the goodness of a well curated Tuesday afternoon that flowed into an evening of exceptional taste and unedited banter.

Everything was done a little differently at Percolate. The speakers were unusually framed by the audience (seated on four sides, not framed as in ‘set-up’). You actually got to see other people’s faces and expressions. Imagine… other humans! The ‘gift envelopes’ had tasteful, meaningful content (newly launched magazine The Cleverness Biannual Issue O) and even the bathrooms featured ‘thoughtful provocations’ for pondering while you pee. Everything was considered, crafted and conversational. And not wishing to overdo the ‘c’ words here, but the theme and trail of messages throughout was both creative and consistent, even down to the branded whisky glasses and custom branded The Cleverness/Moleskine notebook.

Okay, enough of the gushing flattery, so what of this unconventional event? I believe in thoughtful sharing of people doing good things, so I’ve put thought to gathering some snippets for those ‘quietly dissatisfied’ people curious enough to want to discover more (my brain clearly likes ‘c’ words today, yesterday it was ‘i’ words).

img_5569

Enter the inimitable Host, Dr Jason Fox (Head of The Cleverness), charming, engaging and provocative, questioning and conversational, poses a thoughtful opener “What will be different for you in 2017?”. The audience is encouraged to think and exchange thoughts with their neighbour – yep, really meaningful conversations with other humans, imagine! And then, another provocative question comes flying “What is the most popular misconception people have of you?”. There’s no dancing around the matter here, we’re already in deep thought exploring pretty serious questions with strangers. Only slightly awkward.

The first speaker, Oscar Trimboli (Executive Coach & Author), silenced the audience with every carefully chosen, calmly spoken word, and the breathing space in between. The topic was ‘Deeper Listening’. This one particularly struck a chord for me… “Listen to silence as deeply as any word”. Indeed, we often desperately scramble to plug the awkward gaps. “Silence is a gift”. There’s so much beauty and meaning in silence, stillness and space – and it’s so valuable for encouraging creativity (my space of specialty). Another thought provoking line was “Explore the unsaid”. Which could morph into separate conversation on the mystery and delights of the subconscious and its significant value to creative thinking. For another time.

We then heard from Helen Souness (Managing Director of Etsy Australia & Asia) who stated that Our purpose in life is to fulfil our potential” and posed the question “How can you enrich the lives of others?”. Helen also encouraged us to consider exploring a “multi-dimensional life” rather than seeking the ‘one calling’ that we spend years trying to discover. This note transitioned smoothly onto the next speaker, Natasha Pincus (Director & Filmmaker) with the big question “What is genius?”, a theme inspired by her own creative productions. Natasha believes that “Your genius comes from within you” and is “The practice of being who you are”.  An visually engaging talk, concluded with Natasha’s parting belief that “The genius is inspired”, and “curious”, “a productionist”, and “empathetic”. All of this was delivered with a stream of visual whit and boundless energy, definitely not your average keynote, thankfully.

img_5574

Up next, Rohan Gunatillake (Creator of Buddhify & Author) encouraged us to “Be aware of what’s happening while it’s happening” which really got me thinking. We’re often so fixated on the future and ‘what’s next’ for us, while the good happenings of today pass by unnoticed. Rohan talked about the concept of “Relaxation as identification” (not taking your work too personally) and stated that “The more personally you take your work, the more you’ll have difficulty”. This provoked some interesting conversations during and after the talk, especially from those of us who head their own businesses. Another useful tip “Don’t mortgage your whole being on a metric you have no control over” and another “Indulge yourself at the level of feeling”. Rohan’s secrets to mindfulness were: A Loving Letting Go; Neutral Observation; You Are On Your Side. Which will need a little more explanation beyond this post. A great parting thought and one that I’m still reflecting on was “Get interested in the difficult”. Ooh… that’s a corker.

One big challenge we all face as humans is complexity, which was the theme for Dr Sean Fabri (Improvisor & Doctor), who discussed the shift in medicine from complex to complicated and the insightful differences between the two. Some stimulating thoughts were “The world is complex, people are complex” with an intriguing conversation around “Grappling with complexity and why this is such a struggle” and the provocative statement “It’s our responsibility to understand the complexity we face”. Dr Sean shared his perspective on the importance of complex understanding in creating pathways to outcomes. Another thought provoker was “The closer your mental model is to the real world, the better it will work”. I often see people and companies creating things that are so far removed from reality and what’s really needed, it’s quite astonishing. But we also need to challenge the real world. Blimey, there’s so much work to do! Here’s another one of my favourites “When you imagine others complexly, you humanise them” flowing into “When you acknowledge this, it comes across as kindness”. Without question we need more understanding and kindness in the world, more walking in the shoes of others, demonstrating human compassion. Dr Sean Fabri concluded by sharing some tools for reaching deeper into complexity through the themes of doubt, disagreement and failure. He writes about this more in his newsletter if you’re curious.

The coffee buzz was provided by Proud Mary and the whisky buzz by Starward, both companies with knowledgable representatives sharing some wonderful insights… “It’s more than coffee… every time you have a coffee there’s a family, person and process behind it” and “Indulge in the feeling” and a whole conversation around overcoming “The irrational obstacles”. Thanks to both for providing great tasting fuel for lively conversations.

We are in “A new era of co-creation” claimed Josi Heyerdahl (Partnerships Manager, World Wildlife Fund) who talked about complex systems, the actions of the whole and the challenge we’re facing as the more connected we become the more complex things become…“We face complex problems with no simple solutions” Jodi stated. And then shared some hard facts from The Living Planet Report relating to the growing population, the demand this places on food resources and the impact this has on the planet. As a subject close to my heart, this talk left me with a big ‘to-do’ list. One statement that I will be exploring further is that we need to “Work with the industry to make the changes we want to see”. The WWF have a tagline “Together Possible” which clearly communicates that they’re embracing this already. Jodi talked about the value of “Unlikely Collaborators” and believes this is where the magic happens. We were left with the thought provoking question “Who would be your unlikely collaborator?”. I have a few of those.

And finally, enter ‘The Wild Card’ Will Dayble (Founder of Squareweave & Fitzroy Academy) who shocked us into disbelief when he shared a life-changing choice he faced with his wife “Do we have children or go to Mars?”. Image that conversation over morning coffee! I don’t think I was in the minority in wondering if this guy was for real. But yes, he was. And refreshingly so. It was fascinating, confronting and a little uncomfortable to wrap my head around this ‘choice’ and the conversations that he was having with himself, his wife, family and friends. I can’t imagine. But this is the reality we are facing now. People will be going to Mars soon. The evolution of human existence has transitioned from no people on the planet, to people on the planet, and now people on Mars. What will be next? Will playfully and provocatively reflected deeply on what this means for him and how we exist as humans. He describes this life adventure as a “Once in a civilisation opportunity” and “the most exciting thing that has happened to humans ever”. Plenty of polarising views around this one, which ended with a question I’ve never heard before. Something for everyone to consider when producing things… “Will this work on Mars?”. That’s the reality of the future.

Time to Percolate and conclude, as the panel rotated to answer questions with questions in a lively banter of provocations like “Do you gain wisdom from experiences or do you have to do something else” and “How will you bring what’s next” and “What are the rare conversations we have as humans” and a great line “Great questions will always outlive the answers”. I was too engaged in the pace to capture everything here and didn’t want to miss the moment and opportunity to participate.

After a few more drinks cheerfully babbling away with some interesting folk, I sloped out the door and into the streets of Fitzroy with my head bursting with questions, things to do, the sound of jazz and maybe one too many whisky’s.

There’s so much work to do in the world! If this was helpful, please share thoughtfully. I hope this gets you thinking today, more than you were yesterday, and as much as I was on Tuesday, and the days thereafter.

Big thank you to Dr Jason Fox, Kim Lam and The Cleverness. See you at “Rituals”.

Bye for now…

Rochelle Martyn

rochellemartyn.com @RoxMartyn

2013 Make a Difference – Projects not Resolutions

We begin the new year making lists of guilt ridden resolutions, but what if you challenged yourself to make a real difference through meaningful projects?

Eat better, drink less, exercise more… yawn… these are all things we should be doing to look after ourselves anyway. The decisions that involve making a real difference are often those that take us out of our comfort zone and involve risk taking. The fear ridden thought of “this may not work” is often linked to the things most worth doing, yet they paralyze and prevent us from making positive changes. It’s up to you to design your own future (starting with the year ahead). If you don’t step forward onto a different path and begin to navigate your way forward, how will you ever know where, and how far, you can go?

Monocle-Do It Yourself

A recent Monocle article “Do It Yourself” showcases five stories of entrepreneurs who “…went against the tide of conformity and followed their instinct to stick their necks out and try something different”. Interviews cover how to build a thriving community from scratch; how to inject life into a city centre; how to start your own cottage industry and grow it into a business; how to build a retail brand and how to package a product that sings on shelf. They aren’t stories of following spreadsheets or design by committee “…but rather common sense, skill, hard work and responding to human behavior”. They highlight the reward of risk taking and pursuing ambitions.

‘Resolutions’ should turn into ‘projects’ so that we shift our mindset from the dull and inevitable annual repeats, to more inspiring and meaningful experiences that will challenge us to take risks, learn, grow and design a better future.

“I Created This”

How many times have you reached the end of a project and proudly announced “I Created This”? Of course, if it was a collective effort, “We Created This” would be more appropriate.

There are so many missed creative opportunities due to a numbing fear of doing something different and putting yourself ‘out there’. Yet if you anticipate the finish line and subsequent pride in saying “I Created This”, your creativity will undoubtedly shift gears from the outset, and along the way, as you persist and challenge yourself to create your best. Be brave and own your path to creative glory.Being brave with creativity can be scary, but it’s supposed to be. Aren’t brave ideas the more interesting challenge (and most talked about), versus playing it safe and doing yet more of the expected (blending in with the others) ? We need more brave creative thinkers to disrupt mediocrity, to surprise and entertain us, to rise to the challenge and lead change.

The next time you’re faced with a creative challenge, if you were to create something that represents you at your very best, with freedom to explore new possibilities… think ahead about the moment when you’re standing tall and proudly telling the world “I Created This” before you put pencil to paper. Then go create it. The more you hesitate, or the more excuses you find, the less creative you’ll be, and that’s just a waste of talent.

Follow or Lead?

Today’s mass market mentality is limiting creativity. Where’s the emotional connection or distinctive personality in a mass of sameness? Everyone wants to appeal to everyone and as a result we’re experiencing a repetitive shower of mediocrity.

Hugh MacLeod has recently launched four new prints (below) based on Linchpin the top selling book by Seth Godin that focuses on releasing the potential of individuals to make a huge difference. Neither of these guys appeal to everyone, but they’re brilliant for ploughing emotion into their work and standing up for their beliefs – and their fans can’t get enough.

Image

Encouraging creativity and leadership that makes a difference requires removing the constraints of conformity and breaking free from comfort and familiarity. Often people are so obsessed with looking sideways at the competition they block themselves from seeing the value of disruptive creative possibilities. It’s this prevailing human preference for comfort rather than accepting responsibility for the unknown that’s limiting the power of true creativity.

Which way do you want to go? Would you rather be comfortable and blend in with the crowd or take a few risks to make a difference and lead the way? I vote for more “Linchpins” and encouraging more of the latter.

The Art of Creative Connectivity

It’s pointless creating something that doesn’t connect with people, but creativity that connects, with impact, isn’t easy. It’s an art.

Those that push beyond the ‘comfort zone’ and the ‘competitive landscape’ will create the future through ideas that connect with people. Uncertainty is good for creating connectivity. It means what you’re doing is worth creating, because it requires leaning into the unfamiliar and beyond mediocrity. Look forward, rather than sideways, and enjoy the journey from creating the expected to the extraordinary.

We’re surrounded by so much visual noise and the world is changing at lightening speed. Putting bold creativity into the world may seem scary but the fearless will be the ones to make a difference in a way that connects and matters to people. Would you rather be noticed and loved or average and ignored?