Being prepared for breakthroughs

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If you ask most people, “What do artists do?” they will say things like, “Paint, sculpt, dance, act, sing, weave”, and so on. 

Those answer “how.”

But what artists do is translate their experience into new forms and share that discovery with others. Artists look at the world with fresh eyes and ears, assuming that rules are to be broken, that mistakes are opportunities for creative solutions that boldly go where no one has gone before. Innovation is the challenge – and the payoff.

The barrier that a lot of people have been confronted with (or imagine) revolves around the technical side of the ‘how’ mentioned above: they think, for instance, to be an artist, or just to be artistic, you have to be able to draw…far from it.

Most anyone can learn to draw or learn the basics of any artistic medium. The differences though between being just mechanically adept and being truly creative include: the dedication to immerse yourself in daily practice;  the ability to then let go of technique and just let yourself see; and being in an environment that supports going beyond the obvious.  Case in point:

Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio was my alma mater.

People either say, “Antioch? Never heard of it,” or, “Oh, you went to Antioch, that explains everything.” Antioch had a well-deserved reputation for attracting and producing liberal, radical, edgy thinkers and doers. The school did everything it could to push us out of our comfort zones and into unexplored territories and to do something new there. Antioch encouraged us to ask, “What else? What if? Why not?”

The school ran a groundbreaking Co-op Program. Every few months, after meeting with advisors and selecting from a wide range of opportunities, students would be plopped down in an unfamiliar, giant city or small town and have to make a life for ourselves: find a place to live, find roommates, get to and from work, pay utilities, share meals…and succeed at our jobs. All the time paying attention to our feelings and experimenting with whether or not we wanted to make this kind of work into a career. We students quickly learned to marshal our resources to not just survive, but thrive and make use of what the area had to offer. No matter the work experience we learned a lot. And what we especially learned both on campus and out in the world was The Power of Yes!

Antioch reinforced the fact that you can do anything, accomplish anything that you want to. Start with a positive attitude. Then ask the right questions of the right people, stay away from nay-sayers, and keep at it! Make “Anything is possible” the theme of your life, and create a world around you that will support your success. Hang with positive people who encourage you to do the crazy things that are popping up in your mind and out of your mouth…people who say, “Sounds great! You can do it! Can I help?”

We also learned to be open to receiving gifts and unexpected offerings. This means that if you are locked into exactly what success means for you, and exactly how to get there, you may miss out on the valuable opportunities made available free of charge from the sidelines. It can be a little offhand comment or suggestion that you overhear that will initiate the AHA! moment that will lead to your goal; or it might be a disappointing turn of events that has an even better outcome. When you are ready to make things happen, those gifts and offerings will come. An example:

A musician friend of mine was at the airport trying to get into an airline Travel Club. He had received a free pass but had left it home. He rehearsed over and over what he would cleverly say to the receptionist so she would certainly let him in.  But without the coupon there was no way they would let him in, “Sorry sir, it’s the rule, and I’d get in trouble…now you can pay the daily fee if you want”.

My friend left mad because his carefully thought out plan failed.  Bummed, he went into the gate area to wait for his flight.  After he sat down, he heard music coming from someplace nearby.  He walked around until he saw a well known musician playing guitar.  Ever prepared with instruments in his back pack, my friend walked over and politely introduced himself and the short of it is that they played together for almost half an hour.  Not only did the two of them have a great time as they realized they knew a lot of the same music, but the crowd around them were treated to a concert…there were unexpected gifts all around.

Had my friend talked his way into the airline club, he would have had a more comfortable chair, but he would have missed out on a new friendship and great music making.

So when you get a, “No”, or “Sorry”, better to bend like a reed and let it wash over you, get quiet and listen; it will probably point the way to something better, and even more fun.

 “Opportunity dances with those who are ready on the dance floor.”  H. Jackson Browne Jr.  Author

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