Trying Not to Try: An Experiment with Effortlessness

Day 3 copyI love to find new tips and tricks from books that I can apply in my own life so I was instantly attracted to the idea of being a ‘literary guinea pig’ for Canongate’s Nudge Your World series.

The first book in the series, Trying Not to Try: The Ancient Art of Effortlessness and the Surprising Power of Spontaneity by Edward Slingerland deals with a pretty complex but appealing concept borne out of ancient Chinese philosophy – that effortlessness and spontaneity can bring you freedom and attract success. I was more than happy to test that hypothesis for a week.

See a shorter version of this article over at the Canongate website, or read on for the full story.

Must Read Round Up – Great North Run Edition

Edinburgh Festival Photos 30I share a lot of great stuff on my various social media profiles that never makes it to the blog, and this irregular round-up post exists to collect some of that together for your reading/watching/listening pleasure, as well as a cheeky reminder of some blog content you may have missed.

The Great North Run

This edition coincides with my second half-marathon of the year, which I will be running on Sunday in aid of Bowel Cancer UK, a charity which is close to my heart as bowel cancer has affected my family.

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Blog Lovin’, Better Habits & Making Space for Your Creative Work

A casual discussion about the freedom of writing and being a blogging warrior turned into a fully-blown podcast about the advantages of multiple offices, the positive domino effect of introducing more positive habits one at a time, including how cutting down on caffeine can help you get up earlier. (But can admittedly be tough if you rely on it to get your work done!)

Yes, I’m talking about the latest Mountain Shores Podcast (episode 7) with Fabian Kruse and myself. You can listen over at the MoSho website or listen/subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.

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I’ve gone into more detail on the topic of making space for your creative work over at medium.com – this is a sneak peek of the long-delayed but ‘definitely coming eventually’ Produce the Goods Micro-Guide (part 4 of the Career Masterplan for Mad Geniuses).

It was also great to see Arran Arctic’s take on the previous MoSho episode including illustrations of Dave Ursillo’s anecdotes re: leaving his job to become a writer, which follows on nicely from the Graphic Recorder’s sketchnotes of episode 5.

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Arran’s posting some great stuff on his ‘Do Give Up the Day Job’ blog so do check it out. Also, does anyone want to take up the baton and do an illustration for the newest episode? We’d love to see how you interpret our meandering discussion!

Batgirl

Life is Like a Sliding Puzzle

Do you have a picture of where you want to be that’s different from where you are now

Any time you want to make changes in life, it rarely happens overnight. Usually, you’re going to have to move the pieces around until what you start with begins to resembles what you want, and you’re probably going to have to be patient and methodical about it.

Just like a sliding puzzle. You know the ones I mean right? You have to move the little squares around until you make a picture, and you can’t just pick one up and put it in the right place.

The batgirl gif above hopefully illustrates what I mean (plus, it’s a batgirl gif, how could I resist?) [If you can’t see it click here to view it on the blog.]

It’s important to note that In a sliding puzzle, there usually needs to be an empty square so there is space to move the pieces around in the first place.

In our lives, we’re usually trying to fit way too many pieces in. Most of us tend to be over-subscribed in one way or another, so at some point we might have to start with removing an existing piece entirely.

Do you have the space available to shift pieces around, or will you have to discard an old, outdated element of your current life to make room for your new vision? 

Digital Reshuffling

Shuffling the deck

Photo by Alan Cleaver

You might have noticed a few small changes to the design and layout to this site. I’m moving things around and trying to simplify my online presence, so it’s definitely in a transition at the moment. The trouble is, every time I change something, it gives me an idea for another change!

One of my main goals is to move this site from just being a blog to a business. I want it to be more of a representation of what I do to make a living, in particular the freelance blogging work I’ve been doing more of lately. Hopefully this will attract clients in the future.

I also had the option of starting an entirely new site for my business, but it felt like an overwhelming task, and I didn’t want to have to run two blogs at the same time. In fact, I want to completely get rid of some of my old sites which are just sitting around cluttering up the internet!

So I’m in the process of considering all the content that I’ve posted across all of my websites and figuring out how to either combine it here in a useful way or get rid of it.

Domestic Reshuffling

My wife and I have also been doing the same thing with our wee flat. We only have one bedroom for the two of us and our cat, plus a small combined kitchen/lounge, and I’m also trying to run a freelance business from home.

There’s just not enough room, and at the moment it doesn’t make financial sense for us to move, so we have to do the best we can. Every now and again we have a rethink and a declutter to try and improve things.

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The old desk

Getting rid of the old to make way for the new can be a painful process, sometimes surprisingly so.

I recently got rid of my old wooden desk, which was massive and had loads of storage space because it was built for a big old PC with a tower and monitor rather than a nice laptop.

I should have got rid of that outdated monstrosity years ago, but something was stopping me. I realised that I had tied a lot of memories to the desk and the old computer, especially of when I used to make music. It somehow felt difficult to completely say goodbye to that era of my life.

I had a weird emotional attachment to it because of those related memories.

But I got out the screwdriver and wrench, and took it apart. It was much easier than I expected. We drove to the dump/recycling centre and threw the bits and pieces into the relevant skip. I felt like I had exorcised some ghosts.

Paint Only - By Milo McLaughlin (taken at the dump!)

Paint Only – By Milo McLaughlin (taken at the dump!)

When we got home there was a big space where the desk used to be – now, at least we could get a proper wardrobe. And then, maybe, we could convert the cupboard we’re currently using as a wardrobe into a Tiny Office where I can write uninterrupted.

Each piece of the puzzle takes time to move, and to find a new space for, or to discard as no longer a necessary or useful part of the bigger picture. For a while, it’s more cluttered than ever (like right now because we’re still in the middle of it). But eventually, with some luck and a lot of perseverance, the pieces will fall into place.

The important thing is to make a decision to move towards the new vision, and take the first step.

Let me know what you think in the comments. Is this how you go about making changes in your life  too?

New Year “What Ifs” Part 3 – The World Domination Edition

The “What Ifs” I’m asking you to consider in this third and final part of the series were mostly inspired by my trip to Portland for the 2012 World Domination Summit (aka WDS2012), which was definitely up there as one of the most life-changing events of 2012 for me.

Whilst I went there expecting to maybe get a few tips about running a freelance business, I got something entirely unexpected instead; a whole new way of looking at the world.

What if.. “no-one else belongs here more than you”?

Portland Firefighters

That was one of my favourite quotes from Brene Brown’s talk at WDS2012 in Portland, Oregon.

It’s a good reminder that you are just as worthy as anyone on this planet, or in any particular, unfamiliar, out-of-your-comfort-zone place you should find yourself. It was such a welcoming, empowering message to hear when I was away in a strange city on my own for the first time in years.

Ultimately though, and mostly because of the people I met there, Portland felt like a home from home.

Not only was it gloriously sunny the entire time I was there, not only did I get to enjoy healthy food, karaoke, the 4th of July celebrations with new friends, a blues festival, and bonding with beautiful people in the Japanese and Chinese Gardens, but I also got to explore the city. I particularly loved Powell’s Bookstore which is so big you need a map (or smartphone app) to get around it, and which has a cafe that’s open until 11pm and sells liquorice tea (my favourite).

Here are some of the photos I took during my time there:

Portland/WDS pics on Flickr: Part One Part Two Part Three

And please also check out the stunning photos from my WDS friend ‘Olasis’ who is one of several very talented photographers I met there.

Another favourite of the WDS community is Gregory Berg’s Radio Enso. He’s interviewed quite a few of the speakers at WDS as well as many other interesting folk and it’s well worth a listen.

What if.. someone told you they believe in you?

Chris Guillebeau gave everyone at WDS2012 $100 to invest how we saw fit. It felt like an extremely generous and meaningful gift but one which came with a fair amount of responsibility. In my case, I couldn’t decide on one thing, so I ended up investing in quite a few different things, including myself!

It’s hard to explain what this gift meant.. a lot of people said that they felt that the real gift was that they got the message that someone believed in them.

Here are a couple of great projects started by other WDS attendees using their $100:

Natalie Sisson’s $100 Change e-course

Dave Ursillo’s The Literati writer’s group

What if.. you told someone you believed in them?

If it wasn’t for the support of my primary school teacher Mrs Bliss, I might never have believed in myself as a writer. I might never have come back to it after a long hiatus during college.

Not enough creative people get this kind of support, and frankly, we deserve better. I now see it as part of my mission in life to support creative people in their endeavours at the same time that I work towards becoming a creative professional myself.

I’ve done it in the past through writing for local magazines about music, film and books, and of course more recently through this blog. I also buy records from local musicians when I can, and support people online who are doing good things.

Kickstarter and other fundraising sites are a great way to support other people’s creative endeavours, and I helped to fund quite a few projects this year from people I admire. 2012 was also the year that Kickstarter finally allowed people from the UK to get involved.

One project I was keen to support with my $100 was this one which Chris Guillebeau tweeted about which aims to create portable solar power:

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What if.. you believed in yourself?

But I also invested $100 in myself and booked a session with confidence coach Steve Errey, who I met on one of my last days in Portland. After speaking to him for an hour I had the insight that I not only had a lot to compassion to offer other people, but that I also needed to treat myself with some. This has made a big difference already in my approach to how I treat myself on a daily basis and the way in which I’m going forward.

What if… you used your knowledge or skills to help others?

After I got back from Portland I volunteered at a couple of social media workshops organised by the North Edinburgh News, and also helped the organisers film a couple of videos to promote the sessions. This was really rewarding, especially when I was able to help people to publish their first blog post or understand how to make simple videos for the web. Was it entirely unselfish of me? No – because one of the side effects was that it also helped me boost my own confidence – plus it was really good fun. So much so, that I’ve now volunteered to help out at the Edinburgh Social Media Surgeries which return later this month.

What if.. you honoured your heart’s desires instead of chasing meaningless goals?

Desire12

I attended a talk by Danielle La Porte at WDS2012 which was very inspiring. I was very impressed by her calm but confident poise and the intensity with which she shared her wisdom and experience.

Although her book The Firestarter Sessions had just come out, at the time she hinted that she had a new project in the works, which turned out to be the book and multimedia extravaganza that is The Desire Map. She suggests that we set goals without fully understanding why – in fact, what we are seeking is how those goals will make us feel, rather than the goal itself.

In a recent video, Danielle says “your feelings are like road signs – they always point back to your soul”.

Get the Desire Map here (this is an affiliate link which means you will be supporting the Clear-Minded Creative if you make a purchase).

What if.. it’s ok to be the quiet one?

One of the best books I read last year was Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts (yes, she also talked at WDS, in conversation with Jonathan Fields). Now that I’m a teetotaller (temporarily, at least), I’ve realised that drinking has long been a way for me to become more extroverted and dealing with big social occasions, although it could be said it often took me too far the other way!

Being sober, I’m coming to terms more and more with being an introvert – someone who needs alone time to recharge – instead of feeling bad, or conflicted about it. Of course the book explores the concept much more deeply, and is well worth reading for both introverts and extroverts. It ultimately made me feel much more accepting of my natural inclination to be “the quiet one” and to see that the world needs introverts (who tend to be more creative) and extroverts equally.

You can find out more about the book by watching Susan’s TED Talk below:

Phew. I think that’s enough “what ifs” for one week. I hope these have provoked a few new possibilities for you. Do you have any suggestions to add, life-changing experiences, or thought-provoking books to recommend? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

New Year “What Ifs” Part 2

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This is the second post in a three part series where I suggest various “what ifs” for the new year instead of typical advice about making resolutions.

Read Part 1

Part 2 contains some bigger, more challenging ideas about what you could possibly do during 2013 – and it just so happens that the first three are things which I did during 2012, so this is partly an annual review for me also.

What if.. you ditched the day job?

I’ve now been self-employed for 11 months. Honestly, I still feel a bit like I’m driving on a unfamiliar country road at night with only headlights to show the way (an analogy I read recently but can’t remember where!), but I do feel like I’m getting gradually closer to my goal of getting paid to do meaningful work that I’m passionate about.

I’m so grateful that I received enough redundancy/severance pay to keep me going whilst I tried out various ways of making cash as a freelancer. I’m not sure I would have lasted this long otherwise.

If you’re thinking of doing the same, please be prepared, be ready and don’t expect it to be easy. Was it worth it? Yes. But don’t expect miracles in the first year unless you have a very good client base and business plan. Allow time for emotional and physical recovery, especially if you’ve had a tough time of it at your job or been unhappy in your work for several years. And allow time for celebration and enjoyment too!

Below is a summary of Season 1 of the Ditch the Day Job Diaries, in case you missed it. To access all 14 episodes, you can subscribe to the newsletter.

What if.. you gave up drinking?

As regular readers will know, I gave up drinking on 1st October 2012 in order to raise money for Charity:Water and to experience a ‘Year of Clarity’. I was delighted to raise more than double my original target thanks to some extremely generous friends, family and readers of this blog. A massive thank you again if you were one of the people who contributed!

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy a drink, getting drunk is great fun, but for me it was beginning to have more downsides than upsides, and I wanted to see how things would be without it.

It’s now been 3 months, and whilst my social life has been pretty quiet because I’ve felt less inclined to go out,  I’m enjoying the novelty of being sober. I won’t pretend I feel great every day, but it has meant I’ve done more exercise and been a little more organised (though I still have a long way to go!). New Year’s Eve was the only time I’ve really missed having a wee drink.

What if.. you took up meditation?

I’ve now done 48 days of meditation using the Headspace programme and I’m really seeing the benefits in terms of how much more ‘clear-minded’ and generally better it makes me feel – I highly recommend it. This is something I don’t think I could have done if I was still drinking regularly.

What if.. you gave yourself until February to put your New Year’s goals into action?

December is a busy month, and the New Year can creep up on us, meaning we barely have time to catch a breath before the 1st of January, never mind deciding how we’re going to live for the next 12 months. During this podcast I recorded with Fabian Kruse of the Friendly Anarchist, he suggests waiting until the beginning of February before even trying to start a new schedule.

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That suits me this year especially, because I left my job at the beginning of February 2012, so my first year of freelancing isn’t strictly over for another month. That buys me some time to catch up.

Our mutual friend Michael Nobbs over at Sustainably Creative has also decided to take this approach, and is inviting people to join him in ‘a month of reflection and planning’ during January.

Giving yourself some space and time for planning is a great way of taking the pressure off. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed right now, I’d advise you to try it, and I guarantee you will feel a sense of relief at not having to change your entire life all at once!

And you might even find, by taking the pressure off, you actually achieve more of what’s really important.

I’ll be back with the final part of this series tomorrow, in the meantime, I’d love it if you shared your achievements during 2012 in the comments.

What are you most proud of from the last 12 months and do you have any major goals for 2013?

New Year “What Ifs” – Part 1

What if.. you made 2013 a “Year of Non-Doing”?

IMG_5222We grabbed our backpacks from the car and ran as fast as we could, just making the last boat by the skin of our teeth. We were heading to the remote Scottish isle of Eigg, for this summer’s Fence Away Game.

It’s an intimate music festival which many of our friends would be attending (and some playing). Once we squeezed onto the tiny boat, we found the last two seats besides three merry Welshmen.

One of them was a bloke called Ceri, who as well as having excellent music taste, is a psychiatrist and one of a long line of foragers.

Ceri and I have exchanged a few emails since the festival, and he told me that he’s decided to pursue a ‘Year of Non-Doing’ which will mean “no new projects (other than my job!) Cut down on web time and looking out for stuff.”

I thought that sounded like a great idea. Ceri was inspired by a conversation between Tim Ferriss and Leo Babauta which you can see below.

Maybe like me, you have things you want to do, but you also need to make a ‘to-don’t list’ in order to create some time and space for them?

What if.. you went on an information diet?

I decided to take a very short break from email and social media over the holiday period. Email was a blissful but all too short 3 days, although thankfully my inbox has been pretty quiet over the whole week.

I also managed to stay away from all social media for seven days, including reading blogs (in fact I barely used the internet at all apart from a few Google searches and checking the track-listing of my friend Sean’s Best Songs of 2012 list).

I deleted all of the social media apps from my iPhone and iPad and blocked them on my Mac just to make sure I didn’t open any of the sites out of sheer habit, and as a result I barely looked at my phone at all.

It felt great to be out of the loop, and we got quite a lot of things done around the house including finally getting our bathroom painted. Now I think I will try to limit my intake of information throughout the year and cut back on some of the noise, as suggested by the book ‘The Information Diet’.

What if.. you don’t make any promises you can’t keep?

This is one of my intentions for 2013. It’s so easy to casually suggest meeting up with someone in person or via Skype but then never get round to it, or to promise to you that I will do something on the blog and never get round to it.

I really, really hate letting people down, and so I will be playing catch up at the beginning of 2013 on all those things I said I’d do during 2012. Hopefully, I won’t add to the backlog by making more poorly considered commitments which I won’t be able to stick to!

Happy 2013! I’ll be back with part 2 tomorrow.

Have you already made any resolutions for the New Year or are you attracted to the idea of “non-doing” or an “information diet”, or simply making less commitments in the first place? Let me know in the comments!

Headspace

It’s a No-Brainer: Headspace is the Easiest Way to Start Meditating

Headspace

Meditation. What does that word mean to you?

To some it will be a bit too airy fairy, and only something for hippies or weirdos. Or you might have heard a lot about it, but are unsure how to even go about getting started.

Well if you’re willing to look past your preconceptions or fears around meditation, you might want to try Headspace’s free Take Ten programme, which offers ten guided meditations lasting ten minutes.

Headspace takes a very modern approach, using great web and mobile design to help people establish a daily meditation habit. Each day you are guided through the process by Andy Puddicombe. Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk, so he knows his stuff!

Update: I’ve now completed the full Headspace program. I speak a little bit more about it, and the differences between mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation in this podcast:

Why is Meditation Useful for Creative People?

I’m sure a lot of people reading this are attracted to the idea of taking some time out of their day in order to calm their mind. After all, with all the ideas and thoughts floating around our minds, us creative types probably need it more than most.

In fact, given the title of this blog, it’s perhaps surprising that I haven’t discussed meditation in depth before now.

The fact is that both anecdotal and scientific evidence have shown that there are widespread benefits to meditating regularly. I’m already feeling the benefits! The Headspace site has loads more info on this.

Why now?

You might want to try it now in order to help calm your mind at a busy and often stressful time of year. Or you may want to start doing it in the New Year. Thankfully, 10 minutes a day for 10 days is very manageable.

The truth is that whilst I’ve tried different meditation techniques in the past, I’ve never made it a regular habit.

And having given up drinking alcohol for what I’m calling ‘a Year of Clarity’ it made sense to try and establish a new, positive habit of meditating to take advantage of those mornings without a hangover.

Here are some of the positives and a few drawbacks of the Headspace approach. Bear in mind that the main Headspace programme takes a full year and there is a charge for it, so this free programme is obviously designed to get you to sign up to the full programme. However whilst you need to sign up with an email address, there is no charge for Take Ten itself.

Headspace phonePositives

  • Beautiful and useful design of both the website and mobile apps.
  • Very well designed apps for both iPhone and Android mean if you have a smartphone, you can access the Take Ten programme for free anywhere with a 3G connection.
  • The Take Ten programme is an extremely simple ‘taster’. Each meditation is guided so you can’t really go wrong.
  • It’s free!
  • You can set up reminders in the app so that you don’t forget to take part
  • There are videos which help you to approach the meditation including the best way to sit, and the best time to do the practice. Puddecombe suggests first thing in the morning, and I’ve found that repeating it a second time each day works really well.
I only found a few, very minor niggles about the Headspace system. Nothing’s perfect, after all and I’m sure these are things they could improve in future.

Negatives

  • You need to give your email address and you will be sent about 3 emails prompting you to sign up to the full programme. I would have preferred to only receive one email at the end, but perhaps the repetition helps people remember and you do get offered a decent discount on the normal annual fee which helps. The ‘from’ field in the email also says ‘lapsed’ which was a bit off-putting.
  • On one of the days there was some downtime on the Headspace server, meaning I couldn’t access the meditation recording on the phone app. However this does seem to be a rare occurrence as I have now signed up to the full year and done 10 more days without any problems.
  • There are videos in the app, but annoyingly they can’t be watched in landscape mode on my iPhone so they are very small. Apart from this, the app is very well designed, but this does irritate me every time a video pops up (some of the recordings have an additional video intro from Andy).

If you do sign up for the full year, you’ll get guided meditations for every single day of that year, which go through a number of different themes. The first programme once you sign up is Take Fifteen. Things do gradually become a little more complex as the days go by, but it’s manageable so far. Also by the end of the year you will have received guidance on how to meditate on your own.

Of course you could just as easily learn how to meditate from someone you know who is already doing it, or from a book, but I love the Headspace approach because it is making establishing a daily habit extremely easy and pleasurable. As the title of this review suggests, as far as I’m concerned, signing up was a no-brainer.

Here’s a good intro video if you want to find out a bit more.

Sign up here: www.getsomeheadspace.com

Let me know in the comments if you are going to try the Take Ten programme. Or, if you already meditate, let us know what benefits you’ve experienced from your practice.

If you found this post useful, you might also enjoy my free ebook ‘Refresh Your Mindset’ which is available free when you subscribe. (You can read an extract here).

A Year of Clarity Update: We Did It! 20 People Will Get Clean Water

Wow! I’m blown away by people’s generosity. Not only did we reach the target I set for my birthday campaign, we doubled it – meaning instead of 10 people in Rwanda getting access to clean drinking water, now approximately 20 people will.

You can see the results over at the Charity: Water site:

http://mycharitywater.org/year-of-clarity

It’s been very humbling and inspiring to see so many people rallying to the cause, and being so supportive and generous.

Of course my challenge – to give up alcohol for a year – is only just beginning. I said I would do it if we met the target, and now that we doubled it, I am doubly committed to making sure not a drop of alcohol passes my lips until 1st October 2013.

Thankfully, and believe it or not, I’m not the first to commit to such an undertaking. Here’s an interesting article written by Edinburgh Personal Trainer Tracy Griffen about the difficulties and benefits of giving up alcohol for a year:

http://www.leithermagazine.com/2012/07/22/abstaining-from-alcohol-for-a-year.html

And an inspiring video about the same topic from a site called ‘Hello Sunday Morning’. It was posted on Facebook by my friend Paul who is giving up booze for 6 months:

 Of course I’ll keep you posted here about how it all goes!

p.s. the Charity: Water campaign runs for another 87 days. Whilst I won’t be actively promoting the campaign during that time, if you want to sign up to a Creative Clarity & Strategy Session, I’ll keep the offer open for a while longer. The next available times will be during November and December.

Refresh Your Mindset – a Free Micro-Guide

You know what it’s like – you get up, shuffle reluctantly to work, survive the day on a combination of strong coffee and illicit internet surfing, only to arrive home an exhausted shell of your former self and be faced with a list of tedious but necessary chores.

You then go on to complete these in a zombie-like trance before collapsing on the sofa to watch the latest mindless dross that passes for entertainment in the modern age, obliterating your increasing feelings of existential panic by eating an entire chocolate cake and polishing off a bottle of red wine by yourself.

Before you know it you’re lying in bed staring at that unsightly crack on the ceiling wondering where the time went and why you just wasted another 24 hour period of this precious existence we all have only one shot at.

Well the solution is here!

Ok, perhaps not, but at least you can find momentary relief in the brand new

Refresh Your Mindset Micro-Guide

Which is the first of 6 steps as outlined in the Career Masterplan for Mad Geniuses.

Sign up to the newsletter to get it for free right now.

WDS

Vulnerability, Creativity and Redemption – WDS2012 Dispatch #3

Lovin’ It – Photo by Armosa Studios

This is my third dispatch from the World Domination Summit 2012. These are the themes which hit home for me the most from the event.

Read Dispatch #1: Change Your Life, Change the World

Read Dispatch #2: Beautiful People

Brene Brown – Photo by Armosa Studios

Vulnerability

WDS2012 was put together with an amazing amount of thoughtfulness and professionalism. It ran like clockwork, and was truly world class. Even the scheduling of each talk seemed to be perfectly planned.

Brené Brown, whose work I wasn’t familiar with previously, did the opening talk, which pulled the rug from under my feet.

She told us that our experience in any situation “cannot exceed your willingness to be vulnerable”. As she says in her TEDx talk which I’ve embedded below, vulnerability is “the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love”.

The Creativity Slump

According to Brown, “unused creativity is not benign. It turns into grief and rage”. She talked about how children, though naturally creative, were hitting a ‘creativity slump’ at around 4th and 5th grade (9-11 years old). At this age, children start to feel shame, and the criticism of teachers, parents and peers only makes this worse. But as Brown says, and I wholeheartedly agree, that no-one has the right to tell a child at that age that they’re not creative.

What Drives Me

I got a massive insight that this is actually a big part of what drives me to write this blog. As someone who lost my faith in my own creativity for several years, and then rediscovered it, I want to help adults recover from the pain of the creativity slump and believe in themselves as creative people. I met some fantastic people at the conference who want to address the problem at the source and stop it from happening to children at all – which I would love to support also. But for me, it’s helping adults who have relapsed creatively or have doubts about their own creative abilities that drives me as I feel their pain!

Contribution and the Power of Uncool

Brown emphasised the importance of contribution over criticism and cynicism. She said that she will only respond to feedback if it’s from someone who’s also in the arena, getting their ass kicked. To everyone else she just says, “suck it”.

She talked about the power of being uncool and used a quote from the film Almost Famous: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”

She got us to laugh, dance and sing, and then to do our coolest poses, to demonstrate that the former involved movement, and the latter stillness. She said that being cool involves control, disengagement and self protection, and being uncool involves movement, activity and engagement.

Brown spoke of the importance of wholeheartedness, and the need to belong instead of just fitting in. She said “who you are will always trump who you think people will want you to be”. We all got up and sang ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. The Glee version. Talk about uncool.

Chris and Brene’s duet of uncoolness Photo by Armosa Studios

Brown is an incredible speaker, and her talk moved me deeply. I felt a shift in myself. Instead of worrying about networking with as many people as possible, I relaxed. I opened myself up to serendipity. I went with the flow. I allowed myself to be comfortable with being quiet. I sensed the same shift in the other people there. We were open to deep connections and conversation. Brown’s talk set the tone for the entire experience from then on.

Scott Harrison, photo by Armosa Studios

Redemption

And now that I was open, and vulnerable, Scott Harrison stepped onto the stage and told a story of heartbreak, of losing your soul and regaining it again. Of unbelievable hardship, and of hope and love. As a child, he watched his mother, a passionate journalist, become an invalid due to carbon monoxide poisoning. He then spent 10 years as a nightclub promoter in New York and addict to every vice imaginable. He hit rock bottom and came face to face with his own spiritual bankruptcy. Harrison knew he needed to make a change, so he joined the Mercy Corps. There, incidentally, he met a kindred soul, Chris Guillebeau.

Chris & Scott, photo by Armosa Studios

As official photojournalist he had to take photographs of people with the most horrible facial disfigurements, who had walked for days and weeks for the chance of treatment by the visiting, volunteer doctors. He watched as they were successfully treated. He learned that the common denominator that led to the spread of these diseases was a lack of access to clean water. He discovered that one billion people don’t have access to clean water.

And he decided that he would solve the problem, one well (or whatever solution works) at a time. Not only that but he would completely reinvent how charity is done. He would ensure 100% of all donations went directly to providing water for the people who needed it. He ensured that every one who donated would be informed of exactly what their money provided thanks to GPS technology. And he used his promotional prowess to create a modern, sophisticated brand.

By the end of Scott’s talk, all 1000 attendees had pledged to give up their birthdays to help bring clean water to those that need it most. During his talk, I cried. The double whammy of these two opening talks had an immense effect. Again, something has shifted within me. I don’t want to be selfish any more, or guarded, or half-hearted. It feels like redemption is possible, within reach.

Personal Transformation

JD Roth talked honestly and movingly about personal transformation, and how by improving himself he has begun to help others. He pointed out that we who were present are extraordinarily fortunate. Unlike the majority of the world’s population we have the opportunity to be independent, to learn, and take risks and chances, and make a difference.

Spirituality and a desire to give service to others are aspects of myself that I’ve repressed. Because I was scared, embarrassed, lazy. I was not being wholehearted. That will change now. I will change now.

Chris on stage, photo by  Armosa Studios

What Drives Chris Guillebeau?

I was curious about what drives Chris Guillebeau before. Whilst I chose to believe he was a positive person, I didn’t know how much of what he did was a cleverly crafted public persona.

Now I strongly believe Chris Guillebeau is deeply driven to change the world for the better. He strongly believes that this is the most important thing that we can do, and more importantly he believes that it is possible.

He has surrounded himself with people who believe the same. He has gathered 1000 people with shared values together in the beautiful city of Portland.

$100 envelope – photo by Armosa Studios

On the Sunday evening Chris walked out onto the stage. He talked slowly and purposefully, with a massive grin on his face. We knew something very (un) cool was about to happen (by the way, Chris has an unexpectedly great stage presence – and he is very funny).

He reminded us of the Parable of the Talents – in which a man distributes his wealth to three people before setting off on his travels, with varying results.

Chris Guillebeau said that what always interested him was the motivations of the man who gave the money. Maybe he was just curious to see what might happen.

He explained how, after losing a lot of money last year, this year’s event made a modest profit and also received an anonymous donation. It turned out that this amount was enough to give $100 dollars back to all 1000 paying attendees. That’s $100,000.

As we left the theatre, we each received an envelope with a $100 bill inside.

When we registered on Friday, we were all given a copy of Chris’s book – the $100 Start Up. Chris gave us each a gift, and a challenge. He left us with no excuses.

As I typed these words, sitting in a Portland coffee shop (I’ve since returned home), I feel that this has been a life changing experience. Of course, action speaks louder than words.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Competition Time!

Could You Change the World with $100?

I’m giving away one copy of Chris Guillebeau’s new book The $100 Start Up (read my review here) and one copy of his first book, The Art of Non-Conformity to whoever gives the best answer to this question:

 How would you use $100 to change the world for the better?

Post your idea on the Clear-Minded Creative Facebook page or in the comments below and I’ll pick the one I like best in a week’s time – at which point I’ll request a postal address from that person.

I’ll send the books to anywhere in the world, but be aware that it might take a while for them to arrive if you live outside the UK. Also please note that my choice will be entirely subjective so please don’t get upset if yours doesn’t get chosen – I’m really interested in seeing any responses that come in.

Change Your Life, Change the World – WDS2012 Dispatch #1

I just got back from an amazing trip to Portland, Oregon, where I attended the second annual World Domination Summit.

It’s a provocative name for an event. A number of times whilst walking around the city we were asked by locals what was happening and what the name tags we were wearing were for. The term ‘World Domination’ raised some eyebrows.

I was quick to point out that the name was tongue-in-cheek, and that in fact the event has an extremely positive purpose. I mentioned the fact that a number of speakers had also done TED or TEDx talks. The locals seemed relieved.

Still though, it’s tricky to explain exactly what WDS is all about, and to get across just how positive an experience it was.

The theme of the conference was ‘how do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?’. Within that theme, Chris Guillebeau also highlighted some shared values of those attending; community, adventure and service. Speaking about personal transformation, co-organiser JD Roth summed it up as ‘if you change yourself, you can change the world’. Here’s how a few other people described it:

 WDS is Woodstock for World Changers – Jonathan Fields

The WDS experience is so amazingly out of this world that its kinda like being abducted by aliens, only difference is you go willingly. You remember everything but still not sure what the hell happened. You want to tell everyone you know but unfortunately not everyone will believe you and some may even think you are nuts. Only those that have shared this experience with you can truly understand how you feel and how you life will be forever changed! – Hung Pham, Photographer

WDS is about taking over the world for good – because people with good hearts should have more power – Jason Digges, Jaybird Productions

More Than I Bargained For

When I decided to attend WDS2012 I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. I followed the work of a number of the speakers, such as Jonathan Fields, Pam Slim and Danielle La Porte; and of course Chris Guillebeau himself. I also knew some of the bloggers attending.

I had been a part of this loose and diverse community for a while, via social media. I thought it would be interesting to be there in person, to be in the thick of it. I was curious to see what my favourite bloggers and authors were like in person, on stage and off.

I wanted to challenge myself. To see if I could come out of my shell enough to make some meaningful connections.

I thought I might get some inspiration on where to take my freelance business and blog, and how I could maybe bring them together and ensure that they were aligned with what I care about.

I got something completely different than I expected, and 100 times better.

I’ll be posting updates about the conference over the next few days so stay tuned!

Competition Time!

Could You Change the World with $100?

I’m giving away one copy of Chris Guillebeau’s new book The $100 Start Up (read my review here) and one copy of his first book, The Art of Non-Conformity to whoever gives the best answer to this question:

 How would you use $100 to change the world for the better?

Post your idea on the Clear-Minded Creative Facebook page or in the comments below and I’ll pick the one I like best in a week’s time – at which point I’ll request a postal address from that person.

I’ll send the books to anywhere in the world, but be aware that it might take a while for them to arrive if you live outside the UK. Also please note that my choice will be entirely subjective so please don’t get upset if yours doesn’t get chosen – I’m really interested in seeing any responses that come in.