The Power of Community

In more than a couple of portfolio reviews the folks that I was sat down with have asked me about my community.  Who are the people around you that are able to share in the trials and tribulations of creating work?  The people that can support you when you venture beyond what is safe and encourage you to go further.

What does your community look like?

Hopefully it will be diverse.  You will have the never ending cheerleaders who will support and encourage you regardless of what you’re doing.  You’ll have the people who will pick you up when you’re down.  The ones that know just what to say to penetrate the negative self-talk that many of us can slip into all too easily when we’re way outside of what we think we know is good.  Finally you’ll have the people who will give you straight forward and direct feedback.  Having a good balance of these groups in your life really helps.

As an aside are you like me and hear the whisper of the critic more clearly than the shout of the supporters?  I’m not sure why that is but it does seem to be a pattern repeated time and time again.

Having regular interactions with your community so that you all benefit is what makes communities work. Mostly you need to show up and participate.

I’m also finding that if you are to grow from those interactions you need to ask good questions.  Perhaps this is an obvious to you, but it hasn’t always been to me.  As I’ve grown more sophisticated as a photographer I wish that the questions that I’ve asked have also grown in sophistication but they haven’t.  All too often I look for approval – is this good? do you like it? Does that sound familiar?

Better questions lead to better answers which in turn allow you to move forward.  The simple question ‘Do you like it’? almost demands a simple yes or no answer. A more involved question such as ‘what do you think of when you see this image’ or ‘what could make this stronger’ requires more of the viewer and may well result in more informative feedback.  The associations that people may surprise you and suggest ways in which you can extend the work.

I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on community – how to build community, how to sustain it for the long term and anything else you want to add to the conversation – add them in the comments section.

Defining Your Day

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I was excited to see my copy of Norman Ackroyd‘s book The Stratton Street Series and my day planner arrive from the UK on the same day last week. Always good to get new books of images and tools to help me figure out where I’m going to find time to look at them.

Squeezing everything in is an on-going battle and forgoing sleep is becoming a less and less attractive option given what I’m finding out about sleep deprivation.

Being intentional then about how I spend my time seems like the next best alternative. While I bridle at the thought of having every moment of my day scheduled it’s one way, and really the only way I can think of at the moment, to ensure that I have the time to work on everything that I want to move forward.

I found the Day Ticket planner from Half Three when I was poking around on the Kickstarter website – Lauren and Andy Clark explain why they put this together in the video below.

Half Three – Day Ticket Kickstarter Film from Andy Clark on Vimeo.

Here’s a shot of a page from the planner

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I love paper so I’m all in for notebooks and paper planners. While you obviously don’t need to buy this planner the general thrust behind it is perfect. It provides a framework to help you chunk out your day to schedule all the things you want to get done. This may lead you to the realization that you need to cut out some things like watching TV in the evening or getting up a little earlier being conscious and intentional about these decisions will allow you to get more done in your day.

Try this out and let me know how it goes.

Living on Purpose

“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

While making changes such as losing a substantial amount of weight, stopping smoking, or taking control of your life in someway can have a profound effect on your health and happiness this type of change is only a piece of a bigger pie.

The change can be achieved through a series of questions:

    • What do I want to do
    • When do I want to do it by
    • How will I measure success
    • What resources do I need
    • Who hold me accountable

If we are then to dig a little deeper we might ask:

    • Who will this impact and how will it impact them
    • How will things be different after I’ve made this change

finally:

    • Why do I want to make the change.

I have a number of these change activities underway now, some more advanced than others, and have a collection of ‘whys’ for each of them that I’ve been staring at for a couple of weeks in the hopes that they will integrate into a grand unified why, or a purpose, or at least a mission statement.

Important? I would argue that it is. If you aren’t living with intention then you’ll drift along being taken where ever the current leads and how can you live with intention if you don’t know what’s important to you. What you’re willing to dig in and take a stand for? What are the guiding principals that your actions align around? Perhaps you just intuitively know what’s the right thing to do? Why not write out the reasons for the choice that you made. Are they consistent with the next choice you made and the next? Or are you flip-flopping around more than a politician in election season?

Answering the ‘big why’ question and identifying a purpose that is bigger than you, one that puts you in the service of others, can be tough which is probably the reason that less than 5 % of people have a clear sense of purpose at this level. Fortunately there are lots of ways to get to an answer. Steve Pavlina recommends the following exercise:

1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.

from How to discover your life purpose in about 20 minutes

As an alternate, an approach described in the book Business Model You for uncovering your purpose is to rewrite the following sentence:

“I would like to HELP PEOPLE through these ACTIVITIES.”

replacing HELP with a verb, (e.g. support, encourage, nurture…), PEOPLE with a noun, (e.g. artists, artisans, craftsmen…) and ACTIVITIES with a verb (e.g. photographing, listening, promoting..) then finally rewrite the sentence to have it be a compelling statement of intent.

As an example, the evolved and rewritten sentence could be:

‘I will develop devices that are energy efficient that are able to produce and purify water at large scale to serve the populations in areas where clean, sanitary water is scarce.’

or

‘I will support emerging artists by creating an co-op that provides access to the tools and resources necessary to get a foothold in the business of art’

The Business Model You book is a great career development resource and I’m on the acknowledgments page in my Red Sox hat. See if you can find me! Also check out the business model you website here.

As always comments and thoughts appreciated.

Three Little Words to Guide Your Actions

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The way that I was brought up, this time of the year would be a time to have a handful of New Years Resolutions that would see you through the year. In time these were replaced by goals, and then SMART goals, essentially dressed up New Years Resolutions . Often times these were health related goals – if yours are check out the video below from Equinox

I agree with the sentiment here – goals shouldn’t be set at the beginning of the year and not looked at until the end but reviewed regularly and course corrections made as needed.

But what if there was another way, a way that took the whole goal thing out of the picture? One that gave you a system for living for the year that would allow you to focus on a few essential areas. I think that Chris Brogan’s idea for three words to be touchstones for your year ahead is a brilliant idea. I wasn’t thinking about New Years Resolutions or such like when I saw this mentioned in Chris’s weekly newsletter but I think it’s an interesting idea and one worth trying out. So here goes – my three words are:

Healthy: I’ve had some health issues over the last year, the product of a lifetime of thinking that being fit and exercising regularly doesn’t matter. Wrong! Perhaps it’s too late to reverse the damage but this is to remind me that I should be trying.

Creative: I feel at my best when I’m solving problems and making things. This is to remind me that filing emails isn’t being creative.

Minimalist: Clutter in all it’s forms is an enormous hindrance to creativity. This is to remind me that I need to reduce the clutter.

What are your three words? Feel free to share them below.