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Monday, October 31, 2016

Anwar el Sadat - Fear

Many years ago I read these words in In Search of An Identity, the autobiography of Anwar el Sadat, President of Egypt from 1970 to 1981, and since then I have been sharing his words with my audiences in my motivational speeches on leadership.

Fear is a powerful tool for destroying the soul of a person and the spirit of a creative artist. Rulers have used it for centuries and so have parents. "You better behave or the bogeyman will get you."

Ask yourself what you are afraid of? What fears control your actions? What fears are holding you back? Are you afraid of snakes? Heights? Success? Math? A blank piece of paper? Silence? A blank canvas? The neighbor's dog?

In 1972 I was traveling through the western United States and decided to visit a mentor from my childhood who was living in British Columbia, Canada at the time. Ernie was a lumberjack turned minister and missionary.  He had been the camp director of a Bible camp that I had attended every summer from the age of ten until high school.  He was physically a very strong man.  He could grab a pole with both hands and raise his legs in the air until they were parallel with the floor much like a flag.

I spent a couple of weeks with him in the Canadian Rockies.  One time he took a group of us on a two-day canoe ride on a large lake.  I saw from a distance a grizzly bear fishing for salmon.  On our way home we encountered fog and lost our way.  After going in a circle a couple of times, Ernie stopped the canoes and asked us to bow our heads in prayer.  Despite his strength, Ernie knew that he could not let fear conquer him so he turned to God, the one source of strength that he knew.  

Creative leaders must learn to shake off the chains of fear. Fear can prevent us from taking risks, trying new ideas, exploring new ways of thinking. Each of us must find the courage to do what we desire to do despite our fears.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Robert Henri — Education

I believe that each of us is in charge of our own education. We choose what we want to learn and what we don't want to learn. Even in the best of schools, students fail because they don't apply themselves. And in the worst of schools, students still graduate and go on to accomplish great things. Yes, a teacher can inspire you and mentor you, but in the end you are responsible for your own education.

And I believe learning is a life-long process. When a person stops learning, he stops living. What are you doing to further your education in your chosen field? What are you exploring outside your field of expertise? When was the last time your read a new book? Or talked to a stranger? Or developed a new habit?

This past June I attended a 3 day workshop on the art of Zentangle in Providence, Rhode Island.  I had been studying Zentangle by reading books since 2012.  The workshop increased my understanding of the unique art form in ways I am only beginning to understand.  Books sometimes can take you only so far.  You need to experience and explore the subject in other ways.  
Zentangle #221

A few years ago,  I met a minister who had lived for fifteen years in Japan. I learned about his life as a minister and living in Japan. He shared how he had witnessed the cremation of a dead person. The Japanese custom is to wash the body and then have it cremated. The family gathers at the crematory to witness the burning of the body. Then the family is given a portion of the ashes and bones in a small box and the remainder are buried in the ground. I learned something new by listening and asking questions.

Creative leaders need to be constantly learning new things. What have you learned recently that you can incorporate into your writing or painting or acting?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Marquis de Vauvenargues — Great Thoughts

The heart is powerful, intelligent and intuitive. Most of us have been taught that our intelligence resides in our brain, but this is only partially true. Logical and analytical thinking occurs in the brain. Intuitive, sensitive and compassionate thinking occurs in the heart. 

 Often, though, we let our brain override our heart. We need to learn to listen to voice of our heart as it reveals a deeper truth. Reason may dominate our thinking, but compassion should govern our actions. While the brain is busy analyzing the options, the heart knows intuitively what road to take.

Years of experience have taught me that my heart knows the answer often before the brain has finished its analysis. I have learned that it is better to trust the small voice inside my heart then the loud voice inside my head. Do you trust your intuition? Are you listening to the voice within your heart?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Walter Inglis Anderson — Risk

Life is about taking chances. Risk is a key part of success. And, I think, most creative leaders understand this. The very nature of creativity is risk taking. In order to create something new, we have to break down old patterns and rebuild in a different way. But if we are being honest with ourselves, we must admit that we do not take risks in every area of our lives. 

I, for one, will not risk my financial stability and security. I am an intellectual risk taker. I will explore new ideas and new ways of thinking. I will question my beliefs and those of others, but I am not an entrepreneur. I will not gamble the financial security of my family and myself. I will take risks with my writing and my art, but I won't risk my relationships with my family and friends.

Where do you draw the line? What are you not willing to risk? I am not willing to risk my money. If I gamble at a casino, I am only willing to lose five dollars. I work too hard for my money to throw it way.

Anderson is right. The most difficult risk is being honest with ourselves, admitting our failures and our weaknesses. What are your blind spots? What are you not willing to admit to yourself or to others? What do you want to keep hidden from the world? It takes courage to be honest with yourself. To face your fears and failures and honestly assess your weaknesses.

Monday, October 3, 2016

George Washington Carver — How far will you go

One of challenges we all face is accepting people who are different than ourselves. And I am not talking here about race or culture or religion or nationality. I'm talking about the little things that separate people. Is there someone in your life who talks too much or too little? Are there people whom you perceive to be stuck-up or arrogant? Do you dislike fat people or sloppy people? Is there someone in your life who is too organized or too thin? Do you think all poets and artists are crazy and should get a job that pays a salary? Do you not like the way someone combs his hair or the clothes he wears?

As George Washington Carver points out, we are all human. We have all been young and if we live long enough we will all grow old. What people who complain about growing old don't realize is that the alternative is dying young. Now the interesting idea in this quote is that we need to be tolerant of both the strong and the weak. And it is easy to see the importance of being tolerant of the weak, but why the strong? I think the reason we need to be tolerant of the strong is because they also make mistakes. We have a tendency to put people on a pedestal and then knock them off. We don't like it when our heroes are too perfect. We prefer them to have clay feet so we can knock them down.

As writers, artists and actors, we sometimes put other actors, writers and artists on a pedestal and become disappointed when they don't live up to our expectations. We need to become more accepting and tolerant of our peers, mentors and teachers. We are all human and we all make mistakes. The message is simple: judge not others.