Give and Take Reflections

Developing greater comfort and skill with powerless communication requires a change in habits – from talking to listening, self-promoting to advice seeking, and advocating to inquiring. Adam M. Grant, Ph. D. and author of Give And Take

Can I shift communications from answers to questions? Can I challenge myself to listen more and speak less? Can I continue to give for the sake of giving, not because of expectations or reciprocity? Can I always give credit when due? These are all questions I pondered as I dived into the art of giving, which clearly benefits individuals, groups, and organizations.

Reading and exploring the principles that Grant proposes in Give and Take, conjured up emotions I don’t usually experience while reading a business book. I found myself celebrating the likes of President Abraham Lincoln, professor C.J. Skender, and comedian George Meyer of The Simpsons fame. The examples of their lives and other givers helped me truly understand the importance of network, building great relationships, and continuing the giving nature of my soul. And at the turn of a page, I found myself getting angry with architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Jonas Salk, the international hero and inventor of the Polio vaccine. As it turns out Wright and Salk are what is known as takers. Salk gave no credit to the six researchers in his lab who were major contributors to the Polio vaccine – Byron Bennett, Percival Bazeley, L. James Lewis, Julius Youngner, Elsie Ward, and Francis Yurochko and Wright gave no credit to the teams of people who made his great works possible.

From frustration to fascination, I found myself wanting to operate from a giver mind-set in all of my actions. I believe in our ability to create our styles as artists and leaders, that we can also create giver identities and values for increased impact on the lives of both ourselves and our world.


Scratching in NYC at Super Bowl XLVIII and MoMA

Annie_Super_Bowl_XLVIII_editThe camaraderie of entire communities, cities, states, and even countries surrounding team sports intrigues me. Last week I jumped at the opportunity to hop on a plane and watch the Seahawks play live in Super Bowl XLVIII, yet found myself looking forward to “scratching” for three days in New York. Twyla Tharp has an habitual routine to keep her inspired by simply changing her environment known as “scratching.” I embraced the opportunity to be a part of the pulse and energy of the game, yet what I was really looking forward too was the bonus of heading to one of my favorite inspirational places on earth, the Museum of Modern Art, aka MoMA!

Greeted by Isaac Julien’s film installation on nine double-sided screens, I felt immersed in creativity. I was experiencing living art created from tragedy. Julien created Ten Thousand Waves about the 23 Chinese cockle pickers in England who drowned in 2004 on a flooded sandbank off the coast in Northwest England. My mind expanded.

All that matters is what you are doing now and whom you are doing it with. How do you share your art, your message, with your community?

Thoughts are art. How do you create or recreate your thoughts? How do you realize your
imagination? Film is a reflection of consciousness. Can I recreate my images, film, thoughts, and expressions into something with dynamic impact to inspire others?

Annie_Gordon_Elephant_exhibitMoMAAnd I wondered and wandered for more than four hours through white walls filled with imagery, sculptures, paintings and more. I stumbled upon Douglas Gordon’s video installation called Play Dead, Real Time, and found myself inspired standing in a room with two giant elephants. Scottish born Gordon is known for investigating the construction of meaning and the notion of the sublime. I was a part of this moving exhibition. How did he know that two elephants moving in a dark room projected on large screens could be so awe-inspiring and magnificent? I walked between the screens and my silhouette projected under the elephants. I felt connected to the sublime.

And deep within I could feel the connection that others would have to living underwater if I could use screens and images that others could become a part of, the sublime ocean. Gordon left everything to the imagination of the viewer, yet we knew his purpose. Images create lasting impressions, yet when we are submerged and able to feel the pulse of presence, our lives are changed forever. The reason for heading to New York may have been to attend the Super Bowl, but it was being immersed in an exhibit imagining possibilities that kept me scratching and searching my soul. How could we get world-wide attention for the life-source of our planet, our ocean, on a Super Bowl scale? Without blue there is no green. Team Ocean, can you hear Her roar? What would make millions cheer for Her the way they create noise at the level of earthquakes for the Seahawks?

Show Up For Your Life

Show Up For Your Life

Annie lived in a refugee camp for more than 20 years in Burma before receiving asylum here in the United States. Through community, she met Veena Prasad of Project Feast and now works as a chef preparing catered meals. She prepared a meal and shared her story, thanks to Veena Prasad’s vision of Project Feast. As Veena spoke, the following struck a chord deep within my soul:

“It takes a lot of courage just to show up.”

And as I tried to imagine how Annie spent 20 years in a refugee camp, I applauded her for sharing her story. Could she have imagined that 20 years ago she would be at the University of Washington preparing a meal for 75 communication leadership professionals? And of course I tweeted:

Takes a lot of strength just to show up. @projectfeast Veena Prasad #commlead #quotes

And as it happens through our powerful connections I was turned onto Whitney Johnson:

Jessica Esch@jesch30 Jan 25

@AnnieCrawley Scratch a bit with @johnsonwhitney #BIF9 talk: … #HSBARS

I just finished listening to her powerful talk on the importance of showing up. She quotes T.S. Eliot

Do I dare disturb the universe?

Each of us are on a mission of greatness. I truly believe this.

Motivational genius Les Brown is one of my mentors and I have listened to his talks over and over again on “Showing Up For Your Life.” Yet I realize that showing up for our lives takes commitment. Just as we are being asked to explore and cultivate both the artist and leader within, we also must cultivate how we show up.

We can be awake and walk through the doings of life, yet can we commit to showing up in all of our magnificent greatness?

And I reflect on what I ask others to do. What my company stands for. Am I willing to dive into my own imagination, dream, and show up? Most people do not fail in life, most people’s dreams are too small and they succeed.

It really does not matter what has happened in any 20 year section of our lives as Burmese Chef Annie can attest to that, what matters is how we learn, grow, and share ourselves with our community and our world each and every day as we show up for our lives.

Creating Moments of Connection

In order to be a leader, you must have a team to lead. In order to create a team, the first steps are connecting your team and committing to the larger picture.

Whether I am the facilitator, a student attending a conference, running a company or leading a team, I’m always focused on finding engagement strategies. When I read the following passage in Redesigning Leadership by John Maeda with Becky Bermont,

“She opened the meeting by throwing it [an orange] to a participant while asking the question, “Tell us all why you are here in one sentence.”…The orange went back and forth around the room…They were all connecting with each other.”

I highlighted it and made a note to self to always carry an orange to toss. This is a great icebreaker and one I will use in the future, yet the more important question it raised for me was why are you here?

I am working through the Communication Leadership program to learn the tools necessary to take a vision of the future, leverage storytelling, multi-media, and technology to engage and build a community to create connections and change.

Inspiration lifted off every page Maeda scribed, not only from a leadership perspective, but as an artist as well. I found myself unleashing my imagination, visualizing creations of art to connect in a different way to the communities I serve. Maeda has taken chances throughout his life and shared them with honesty, humility, and lessons leading up to his Presidency at the Rhode Island Institute of Design, RISD, to his new endeavor in with design and venture capitalism. He embodies a phrase embedded upon my soul:

“It is important to have an end to journey toward, but remember it is the journey that matters in the end.” –Ursula Leguin

When I consider what we are exploring during the next ten weeks, I cannot help but consider how to make sure that I continue to look for stories of engagement, inspiration, and leadership everyday. I like what the power of imagination unleashes and to know when to walk away and create a new moment of connection in a new venture.

Creativity and the Digital Age

Reflections Inspired by Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit

“The artist is a receptacle for the emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spiders web.” – Pablo Picasso

Twyla Tharp walks into a white room to begin her process of art; I’m face to face with a keyboard and white space of the chapter of a new book I’ll create in 2014. Anxiety sets in. The first time I read Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit was back in 2004. My brother Ron and I like to share meaningful and inspirational books, he shared her inspiration with me. We write our thoughts in the margins with different colored ink pens, pass it onto the other to read and make comments, then pass back. Receiving the reading list, I instantly downloaded the iPad® eBook version, yet I couldn’t get past page eleven on my electronic copy. It felt so cold and uninviting because it was missing the color and creative typography of the original printed copy. My muscle memory kept triggering my mind. I wanted to know what we each thought was important nearly a decade ago and discover how things may have changed. Did I learn it and use it for life?

As I consider that question, I realize the irony of what is happening. As soon as technology caught up with my imagination of being able to add photo galleries and videos to books, I became a publisher on the iBookstore®. It’s the eve of another release of one of my eBooks and I still find myself torn between the paper of yesterday and the technology of the future. The Texas bookless library made international news. Yet in the end, I realize no matter your preference, the story remains the same, the creative life must combine passion and skill. This is a great reminder from Twyla and whether book or eBook, chapter 9 has been bookmarked!

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
― Harold Whitman

Return on Engagement

During the past ten weeks, there is not one item of content that moved me, yet a series of connections highlighting the importance of mobile marketing, storytelling, accountability through data, and the need for return on engagement. In real time, I find myself turning towards my mobile phone and iPad for communication, rather than my computers and have become a two to three screen viewer. As was announced by Coca-Cola earlier this month the corporate website is dead, I find myself redefining the message I want to share through my websites and the importance of developing the strategy while crafting stories people want to hear. Less than 2 years ago people were building content with 1500 words because of what our search engines needed, now it’s proven people shy away from sites that have more than 600 words per page. For years I have heard the importance of ROI, yet during the past ten weeks I believe ROE or return on engagement has forced its way to the forefront. Creating a return on engagement can be just as important, if not more for a brand.

Big Data = Visual Connection

“Technology could change lives and we could change the world by harnessing it,” said bohemian turned data humanist guru Adriana Gil Miner. Sharing her story and Artefact’s beliefsI understood the power of pairing an incredible talent together with a company’s culture. As our day progressed and we were introduced to the intricacies, complications, and sheer challenges of dealing with the abundance of data, I knew this was only the beginning of my love affair with data.

For the past two days I have been submerged in the Seattle Interactive Conference seeking out speakers sharing how they harness data and share it visually. Our brains process visual information 90% faster than text. If you are remembering something, chances are you are taking in visual association. We use 20% less cognitive energy reading visuals than text. I have been awakened to the importance of taking big data and telling the facts through visual graphics, video, and image associations.