Monday, December 6, 2010

Real Artists Ship

I just got into my hotel after my weekly 5-hour deer-dodging drive from VA to NC. The good thing about seeing all the deer chomping grass along the side of the road as I barrel down the highway at 65+MPH is that it keeps me awake. 

I haven't posted anything for a little while because I took a break last week and spent a bunch of time with the kids.  My wife went up to Boston for a wedding, so I was flying solo with our two kids from Wednesday to Saturday.  Man, what fun we had.  Being away from them four nights a week has been manageable, but just hanging for a period of time with the kids was much-needed.  Luckily, we are close to moving down to NC.  The picture below is being submitted into evidence for those at Varrow who have been wondering if we were really coming down:

My daughter, Grace, will be 4 yrs old later this month and she is a drawing, painting, play-dohing, pasting, coloring, tracing, and stickering machine.  The sheer output of product is intense. 

A typical scenario: "Hey Gracie, Auntie Colleen is coming to visit on Wednesday," Mom says.  "Ok, I will make her a picture."  15 minutes later, the picture is done and Gracie is slapping some stickers on it to add a little flair.  Boom.  Done.  "What should we call the picture?"  Dad says.  "Disney Pink."  Ok, got it.  Boom. Done. Next.

She is unencumbered by any internal resistance to creative expression.  She is not looking for any special accolades or recognition, although she enjoys recognition.  She does not fear judgment.  Her heart and soul are in the project at hand - perhaps drawing snakes on an empty paper towel roll that is now a telescope for dad -- and the motivation is the joy of the task and the opportunity to share the end-product with others.  She is producing little gifts every day.

I mention this observation about my daughter because it relates very much to a great book titled, Linchpin, by Seth Godin where he explores the role of Linchpins in organizations. Linchpins are those indispensable go-to folks who find art in their work, whatever their work may be.

This is a form of genius.  Godin contends (and I agree) that we are all able and have at some time in our lives — even if it hasn’t been since toddler-hood-- solved a problem in a way that no one had ever thought of before, done something remarkable (worth remarking about).  This is genius and is practiced frequently by those who are less encumbered by the internal resistance to genius inherent in our brain; psychologists and Godin call it the "lizard brain" - the amygdala. (See the video at the bottom of the blog for more on the "lizard brain" from Godin.)

The amygdala is where fear resides. It is the fight or flight trigger in our head - it appeals to the most base desire for survival.  But how do we respond to this portion of the brain when survival is not at stake?  When fear is unfounded or simply unproductive?  This is when we get in our own way; we impede and tamp down the genius we are capable of producing; we fear judgment and not fitting in; we resist risk and we are wary of the unkown.  We sabotage our own success by being overly critical of our work or over-analyzing it to the point of paralysis.  We don't do.  We don't create.  As Steve Jobs said: "Real artists ship." (source: Linchpin)

My daughter is young and innocent and still relatively unencumbered by many of the fears that come with growing up and, as a result, she is creating -- and shipping on time! -- every day.  She is my little genius. 

Linchpins are very much the same.  They overcome their own resistance associated with fear and they get things done.  They create products, ideas, efficiences, relationships, etc. and they produce results.  They exercise their genius.  They put themselves out there and voice their perspective when the "lizard brain" may be saying to do otherwise.  They don't sit down, and shut up.  They are not TGIFers.  They produce.  And they are indispensable.

More from Godin on the brain (also includes a topical reference to the dangers of deer!):

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