fulfilment from creativity

fulfilment from creativity

February 11, 2011  |  knowledge, life, main blog, motivation, philosophy  |  1 Comment

A friend asked me recently to nominate the things that had given me most fulfilment in life. I asked him for some time to reflect on the question and reverted the next day.

My list went something like this, “Creating a family with my wife; building a house together;   establishing lupins as a new crop with a team at Rutherglen; being part of a team that transformed Corinna from a ghost town into an eco-tourism destination; and the pleasure derived from photography over many years.”

 It wasn’t until I had articulated these experiences that I realised the glue, the common theme, running though each of them. They aren’t about achievements at work or winning competitions. They all involve creativity, and each of them about creating something that has personal interest and meaning.

Greg Barber’s interesting blog suggests that creativity can be related to the newer western principle of making products, building things for a purpose, or the expression of scientific or technological innovation.  Whereas in older cultures, there’s always been an undertone of creativity playing a role in personal fulfilment, private goal setting, and taking an inner journey. My own list involves both aspects.

Creativity in either context often involves a heightened state of consciousness. Things appear to be more vibrant, more alive; colours are vivid, sounds more pure. I love Alan Alda’s quote, “The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”

Add meaning and understanding to creativity – in your own eyes and through those of others – and it is possible to achieve deep fulfilment. In my own case, the meaning in the five nominated experiences is, in part, related to the fact that people, products and experiences have been created that are likely to outlast my short time on this planet. They were also achieved through co-operation with other people. What has fulfilled you most in your life?

Featured image is one of the refurbished original miner’s cottages at Corinna Wilderness Experience in Tasmania

the dignity of man

It is a while since I blogged and I understand the need for regularity – so please accept my apologies. Here is the first in an eclectic series for 2011.

Occasionally, we intersect with special people in our lives. I had the privilege of working on the Board of one of the few remaining Australian manufacturing companies with such a person for four years. He has a wonderful human touch that seems to accompany respectful people who have that precious ability to listen.

There is no need for this man to be humble, but like many great leaders he is.  He ran Mitsubishi in Australia for seven years and knows more about lean manufacturing than anyone outside Japan. He received the Centenary of Federation Medal for services to the automobile industry. He also ran GNB Batteries and Pacific Dunlop in the USA and mixed it with people like Hilary Clinton and Sam Walton. Some of his stories about Sam are both instructive and amusing.

His name is Graham Spurling – a giant of a man with a unique ability to give “tough love” in the work environment and gentle love in the personal sphere. Graham was a champion of environmental and community responsibility long before they sat on board checklists. As we walked the factory floor, Graham taught us the principles of eliminating hard work, of the dignity of men (and women) in factories and the importance of evaluating change programs through the eyes of the worker. He is the only Director I have ever seen put on a pair of gloves and lift a piece of steel to check how much the workers were being asked to lift. Graham, I salute you, just as many others did when you were a respected Major in the Australian Army Reserve.

Graham, like many good scientists, engineers and leaders, showed us the value of a planned approach and of rigorous analysis to solve problems. His creativity and lateral thinking also surfaced, as they did in his recent proposal to the Government to have one car manufacturing plant in Australia. The logic was compelling (and still is), but the challenge was too hard politically, going the same way as many other value adding  mid to long term projects at State and Commonwealth level. Populism and opportunism prevail!

Today, Graham chairs the prospective junior miner, Phoenix Copper. He is also a much admired figure in his home town of Adelaide where he is tireless in making contributions to society as a mentor, visionary and philanthropist. If you are travelling in the southern Flinders Ranges near Melrose, you might find Graham at his North Star Hotel or at his Bundaleer winery, extolling the virtues of his sparkling shiraz, or discussing an issue of the day with one of the customers. Ask him about the car industry or about the dignity of man. You might get a twenty first century version of the famous fifteenth century Pico della Mirandola oration.

happiness - a journey not a destination

happiness – a journey not a destination

September 2, 2010  |  knowledge, life, main blog, motivation, philosophy  |  6 Comments

I’ve been in two minds about writing a blog on the complex subject of happiness – and couldn’t contain myself any longer. Happiness has become such an industry – over 300 million Google references, c0mplete sections in bookstores and a happiness or well-being conference accessible every couple of months. However, in the relentless pursuit of happiness, many people are making the mistake of treating it as a destination rather than a journey.

In this world of instant gratification, people want to find the answers. A bit like one of our children at high school…”Dad, I don’t want to know how to do the maths, I just want the answer”. The happiness answers can be complex and elusive. People suggest that the best starting point is picking the right parents. Possibly true – but unable to be altered.  It’s a state of mind, say some. Don’t worry – be happy! Some quotes on happiness that resonate with me include:

  • “A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.” — Helen Keller
  • “Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It means you have decided to look beyond the imperfections.” –Unknown
  • “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”– Frederick Keonig

The last quote causes me to reflect on a trend I see around me. My generalization is that beyond a threshold level of income to meet living requirements, there is an inverse correlation between happiness and further wealth accumulation. Why? I guess because people run out of things to have, buy, use and as their lives have been focused on doing just that, become lost and unfulfilled.

From all I have read, there seem to be two things that seem to appear on every list as precursors for happiness. They are connectedness and generosity. Connectedness – played out through family, friends, organisations, netball teams, men’s sheds and so on, that engenders a sense of belonging. Generosity – that taps into that basic human need to give and care for others. Of course love embraces both connectedness and generosity.

On the next rung of common happiness precursors we find – being active (walking, running, dancing and being vital); taking notice (being aware of the beautiful, curious and unusual and relishing every moment); learning (challenging yourself to gain knowledge and mentally stretch); and gratitude. Joseph Krutch said, with perspicacity, “Happiness is itself a kind of gratitude”.

The Positive Psychology movement, pioneered by the eminent Martin Seligman, has much to offer around happiness. The movement is changing the emphasis of the profession from pathology and mental illness to positive emotion, virtue and strength. If you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of Seligman’s best seller “Authentic Happiness” Random House 2002. He argues that positive emotions generate strengths and that authentic happiness comes from identifying and cultivating your most fundamental strengths. It’s a powerful, potentially life changing book, one that has caused many to take the next step and enroll in Seligman’s  Master of Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

An alternative, useful for amateurs like me, is to ponder the messages in Positive Psychology Daily News – a free on-line service full of applications for daily life. On the subject of applications, from a sea of happiness apps for i phone, there are two that stand above the pack. One is Live Happy ($1.19) and the other a free app called Gratitude Journal. Both worth down loading from i tunes.

Anyway, the subject is interesting and exploring it makes me happy!

 Finally, a marvellous quote from Nataniel Hawthorne, ““Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you”.

what is your purpose in life?

 Discussing new opportunities over a coffee recently, my colleague surprised me by posing the question, “What is your purpose?” I hesitated and offered a few words about helping others, and then realised that I needed to give this some more thought.  I’ve often thought that it would be quite powerful to have a defined purpose – like a form guide in the back pocket. It was also interesting to read Lenore Taylor in the SMH claiming that the Government’s main problem in the election was a coherent sense of purpose.

This wise colleague who shared the coffee hinted that life’s real purpose was more than about goals and objectives – which are often the means rather than the end, or the things that disguise the real journey. He then shared a challenge he gives some of his mentees, asking them to write a poem about where they are from.  I noted the comment and at the time categorised it as a coaching gimmick. Being a person who likes to tick the box and move on, I went home and penned this:

“My purpose in life is to help people and organisations realise their potential”

Felt a bit chuffed about that – that’s exactly what I do, and enjoy doing it….boards, mentoring, businesses, family, friends….yes, that’s my purpose. I also reflected on how that purpose has evolved over time. Yet, for some reason I kept coming back to this as unfinished business, unable to dismiss the question “where are you from”. As I searched the web for inspiration (and manoeuvred past the religious zealots and their self-righteous offerings of purpose), I discovered the difference between an outer purpose (what you do, your talents, values and preferences) and the inner purpose (where you are from, where you are heading, what brings happiness and sadness).

Realising that my purpose was really an outer purpose, I set to work on the suggested poem, “I  AM FROM” – a very personal and raw offering , one which I did not write to publish, but one which I am prepared to share in this context:

I am from convict stock, from the sunburnt Mallee and Gippsland’s green.I am from the house of love,

built by special parents with shining ideals.

 

I am from genes conferring forward momentum,

giving intelligence and stupidity, played out in different ways.

I am from the school of glass half full

where possibility and hope outweigh doubt and fear,

where first we seek to understand – and then,

take courage to confront, create, change and renew.

 

I am from the world, the experiences, the pain and joy

that come with high expectation.

I come from raucous laughter, of mates and sporting contests

from bush tracks, gardens, beaches and layered urban life,

learning to be authentic in a world that is mostly not,

striving to contribute – for family, friends and beyond.

 

I am of a nature that yearns to be connected, yet

relishes the contrast of escape – where solitude prevails.

I am from the house of love

which cherishes family young and old,

where compassion, generosity and encouragement

nourish and inspire.

 

He was right! The exercise awakened the inner purpose, just as Steve Pavlina does with his worthwhile life purpose in 20 minutes exercise. Steve suggests that you take a piece of paper and keep writing your purpose, clearing your head, writing it again, until you cry. Then you have nailed it. It’s worth a look.  Another exercise used by top coach Margie Hartley at Channel is to ask “When are you at your best and most energised?” What happens then? What are you doing, feeling thinking? The answers give a clue to the direction of your purpose statements.

I ran the exercises and my purpose now is:

“With love, compassion and courage, to add richness to the lives of those around me”

The process of articulating the purpose will probably be an ongoing one, however I am lifted by the thought that this particular purpose will provide fulfilment and growth to me and hopefully add value to others. It’s important to say that there is no right or wrong in this pursuit – it’s a single private measure that adds meaning to life.

What is your purpose?

to blog or not to blog?

to blog or not to blog?

July 28, 2010  |  knowledge, leadership, life, main blog, philosophy  |  1 Comment

 “Be very careful sticking your head up and writing a blog”, came the wise counsel of one of my conservative friends. He understands that I am a professional director and was being supportive and protective in his known world of risk management. The very next day, another colleague who had read my blog phoned to explore the possibilities of forming an alliance of influential people to work on sustainable futures. Obviously this wouldn’t have opened up without the blog.

These contrasting experiences set me thinking about the pros and cons of writing a blog – a concept that has been around for over a decade, but is still alive and well. Some bloggers have migrated to social media and some are now using social media to support their blogs.

Why should I write a blog?

  • We have migrated from a world where “knowledge is power” to one where “sharing knowledge is power”. By sharing, the blog becomes a conduit for additional knowledge and networking. It is the perfect place for focussed attention for an interested community. Network learning is the way of the future.
  • A regular blog stimulates thinking around subjects and requires a disciplined approach to developing that thinking. As such, it can become a powerful learning vehicle – a bit like doing your homework! It often adds to thought leadership.
  • Blogs are permanent and can be grouped in a way that stimulates ongoing discovery and interaction
  • Being a professional is also about contributing as well as consuming
  • You own your work in a self-hosted blog and remain in total control of its content and submitted comments
  • By putting your “head on the block” and because content is public, open to scrutiny and has an infinite life, authenticity and openness is demanded and more likely to be delivered through a blog

Why shouldn’t I write a blog?

  • Blogs can be addictive and a drain on time
  • Some people have a perception that writing a blog is self-indulgent and tend to categorize bloggers as ego trippers
  • There is a risk of offending someone who is in a position to influence your desired outcomes in life or career
  • The challenge to keep the material interesting, regular, original and relevant can be daunting
  • There is an underlying assumption that people will be interested in what you post

So it looks like the ayes have it! Now what will that next blog be about? Perish the thought of blogophobia!

life advice from the pointy end

life advice from the pointy end

 When I used to fly up the pointy end of the plane, there was nothing like a glass of Krug and freedom from electronic invasion, to stimulate the brain. I did some of my most creative work in the air. The following list of “life advice” given to my daughters in 2001, flowed from the beautiful bead at ten thousand metres……

  • Learn Spanish and visit as many places where it is spoken that you can
  • Take risks but be sharp when you do
  • Find a partner who will cherish you and who has soul, depth, passion and strength
  • Drink less and better
  • Share stunning experiences with your parents as they grow older
  • Be slow to judge, quick to relate and balanced in your conclusion
  • Respect, reputation and credibility are hard earned and easily lost – value these attributes
  • Mostly travel off the beaten track
  • Let passion and positivity reign over cynicism and mediocrity
  • Develop self-esteem to match your talent and most barriers to fulfilment will be removed
  • Be humble because we are lucky to be who and where we are
  • Place your trust in others wisely – they are not all like you
  • Have fun but understand when to knuckle down – hard work generally precedes success
  • Lust after knowledge
  • Understand the power of subtlety in todays “in your face” world
  • Those who respect you for being strong and independent will be your best friends
  • Be either switched on or switched off – never be caught half way
  • Embrace dancing for fitness, romance and fun
  • Do what you can to save the earth – we are losing the battle
  • Mentor/sponsor/support someone younger
  • Ask of yourself what you ask of others
  • See how much more you hear when you listen without judgement
  • When something goes wrong, seek to learn, not to blame
  • Understand and appreciate music – the international language
  • Look at the big picture – love is always there
  • Extensively use the best stress beaters – laughter and exercise
  • Allow the high of life to transcend over artificially induced highs
  • Whatever you pay attention to will grow stronger in your life.
  • Show empathy most to those who annoy you most
  • Ask questions instead of making statements

It’s easy to give advice – particularly when sipping Krug – and much harder to accept it or do anything about it, even if it hits the target. I was chuffed to discover recently that these beautiful women still carry a copy.