Laugh More

my idea book for our coming-soon cartoon, Chicken Marsala

my idea book for our coming-soon cartoon, Chicken Marsala

There is laughter coming from the next room. Across the way, a woman bursts into tears and a man with a ponytail leads her away from a group. They whisper. He tries to calm her. He makes her laugh. She wipes her eyes and they walk back to the group and all act as if nothing had happened. And, maybe nothing did happen. I am too far away to know the circumstances of her tears. I know the circumstances of her laughter.

Today it rained. I sat at my drafting table and worked on a cartoon strip. Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog sat at my feet. For the first time in over two years I streamed NPR and listened to the day’s news and some other stories. There was a story of a hunger strike in Chicago over the closure of a school. There was a story on public figures and apologies. There was an age-old story of the division in congress. I felt the same way listening to the news as I just felt watching the woman in tears. I am too far away to know the circumstances. I am too far away to know with certainty the truth of any of it. I’ve developed a healthy distrust of news reports. All I know with certainty is that truth is relative, truth is a point of view. I inked my drawings and listened as I might listen to a book-on-tape.

There is more laughter. It is coming from a meeting. I find comfort knowing that a committee in charge of anything can laugh. I hope that they are laughing at themselves.

Ann once told me that they key to success was to find a need and fill it. This world seems to have no shortage of needs. It does seem to have a shortage of laughter.

Recently, David shared with me his thoughts of Plato’s analogy of the cave. Perception as projection. It’s all shadows. Once I watched a Balinese shadow puppet master perform. The performances always take place in the outer ring of the temple and are meant to remind people that what they see in this life is a shadow, a projection merely. One of the messages: we are too far away to know Truth. Another message: our projections are worthy of our laughter and not much else. The puppet master had us rolling on the ground. His characters were mostly tricksters, stooges, and in their over-serious pursuits they were hysterical in their folly. Another message, perhaps the most important: the quickest route to the divine, to the connective tissue, is through laughter.

 

 

 

Answer The Question With A Question

carrying on the tradition (and my heroes): mike and sabrina bartram

carrying on the tradition (and my heroes): mike and sabrina bartram at Changing Faces Theatre Company

Many years ago at the start of my career I bumbled into running a summer theatre company. It would become one of the great gifts of my life. At the time I decided that it would be my laboratory. I’d be able to experiment with directing processes and actor training techniques. What I didn’t realize until much later was that I would also be running an experiment in business and, more importantly, how to create a community mindset of support and empowerment (and, therefore, achievement). I was free to succeed because I gave myself permission to focus on the quality of the process instead of worrying about hard and abstract words like ‘achievement.’ My bottom line was the inner growth of everyone in the company, the inner growth of the community that we served.

When the company was up and running, when it was mature, company members swept the parking lot because they knew it would make the play better (improving the audience experience always impacts the performance). The people running the box office prided themselves on their kind service and efficiency because they knew that it would make the play better. The actors understood that they were in service to the play and not themselves. In fact, everyone in the company was in service to something bigger than themselves. That was the culture of the company. When pushed to articulate the success of what we created together, I’d say, “We’re focusing on the important stuff.”

Yesterday with great intention I sent that phrase (focus on the important stuff) out into the e-stratosphere. I lobbed it in association with the company that Kerri and I are in the process of creating to see what would come back at me. Like the summer theatre company, this new venture is our laboratory. What came back was the question, “What’s the important stuff?”

Sometimes the only way to answer a question is with another question. Take a look around your world. Take a moment to look at the difference between what you say and what you do. What do you see? What do you want to see? Big power comes to people when, like my company members (students) of so long ago, they realize that their “seeing” isn’t passive. The greatest single power any human being has is to choose where they place their focus. The greatest single revelation any human being has is to recognize that what they see impacts everyone around them. No one does this walk alone.

the very first painting in the Yoga series. It was an experiment, a walk of discovery. It's also about being alone

the very first painting in the Yoga series. It was an experiment, a walk of discovery. It’s also about being alone.

It’s easy to place a focus on an obstacle. It’s very easy to fix a gaze on the problems. It’s easy because, left alone, believing we are alone, that’s where most people default. Place yourself in a community that knows there is something bigger, something more important to see and serve, and the field of possibilities becomes easy. My company members of so long ago didn’t know what they couldn’t do so they did everything they imagined. That was only possible because they imagined it together. So, answering a question with a question, to you, what’s the important stuff?

 

Focus On The Important Stuff

an offer from TwoArtistMakingStuffForHumans

an offer from TwoArtistMakingStuffForHumans

A note from the temporary site of TwoArtistsMakingStuffForHumans:

The waxing moon was muted with fog. It made the air shimmer. Avalon was near. Although it seemed too soon, there was a hint of autumn in the air. We sat next to a chiminea talking to friends. Monica told us of her daughter working in villages in South America. She told Monica that, by our standards, the people there have nothing. They are possession poor. But, they were happy, genuinely happy. They didn’t have much money or stuff but they had the essential thing that many of us lack: peace of mind. They focus on different, more important stuff.

It brought to mind my experiences in Bali. When I arrived all I could see was the poverty. By the time I left several weeks later, I’d have given everything I own or will ever own to have what they have: presence. Ease of mind. They weren’t looking for fulfillment, status, or living for retirement. They were living. Life was fulfillment. In a world where all things are sacred, status is gained by the quality of your giving and not by the size of your piece of the limited pie. It is a different focus.

There is a hidden cost to what dominates our focus, the things that take our attention…as opposed to the things we pay attention to.

As artists, both Kerri and I believe the work of our lives has been, one way or another, to help people focus on the important stuff, to see the extraordinary in the ordinary moment, to find inside what people seek outside. We’ve both worked across the boundaries of business, art, and the fine art of living everyday, there is no lack of necessity to refocus the eye, mind, and heart.

In a few weeks we will be launching our business (details to follow). All the many aspects of our work – if you can call art a product and performing a service – are intended to support, exercise and pay forward a focus on the important stuff, the important moments…sometimes the teeniest things that in the chaos pass unnoticed.

We want to do for others what we do for each other. Check out our pre-launch coaching offer. Take us up on it! Or, if you know someone who might benefit from working with us, pass it on, pay it forward.

Be An Avid Catcher Of Your Thoughts

TODAY’S FEATURED IDEA FOR HUMANS

Be an avid catcher of your thoughts

This notion is the heart of change. It is the practice of self-awareness. Listen to the story you tell yourself about your self.  It is ripe with ideas, dreams, and yearnings. It is also ripe with fears, doubts, and comparisons. Capture the ideas. Listen to the dreams. Follow the yearnings. It’s a muscle. Develop a focus for the creative. Capture what’s useful and let the other jabber go.

Screen Shot Avid Catcher

TO GET TODAY’S FEATURED IDEA FOR HUMANS, GO HERE

Reverse The Direction Of The Pull

TODAY’S FEATURED IDEA FOR HUMANS

Reverse The Direction

FOR TODAY’S FEATURED IDEA FOR HUMANS, GO HERE.

Bring Your Boon

This painting is called Icarus.

This painting is called Icarus.

During my call with Skip I used the word, “boon.” He scribbled a note saying, “You’ve not used that word before.” The word came up because he’s been overrun by well meaning advice-givers that think he needs to know about the hero’s cycle. Skip said, (and it’s true) that he’s forgotten more about the hero’s cycle than most people will ever know. “I’m a business guy so they think I can’t possibly know about it!” he exclaimed. “If another person tells me about the hero’s cycle I’m going to explode.”

My thought for him was to pay attention to why so many people are coming up with the same response when they hear about his work. What’s evoking the common response: have you heard about the hero’s cycle? I always pay attention when a book title repeatedly drops into my world (I get the book) or when a place or a metaphor seems to pop up everywhere. What’s there that I may be overlooking? What is hammering Skip that he may not see? That’s what sparked the word, “boon.”

When the hero (and we are all heroes in our personal story) emerges from the ordeal of change, when they escape the belly of the whale, they are transformed. They know something that they didn’t before understand. This is the boon. They have a new gift or insight that will, in turn transform the community. Personal change is communal change. They are one and the same thing.

There is a small catch when dealing with boons: communities (like individuals) talk a lot about the need for change but mostly resist it. When you are the bringer of the gift, the carrier of the insight, often you are not welcome when you share it. New insights are dangerous to the status quo. History is resplendent with visionaries banished for sharing the boon of their transformation or bringing to the community the gold that they need but are incapable of recognizing.

Skip has arrived back to the world with a boon. He sailed to the edge and has returned with strange knowledge and a unique perspective. His insight contradicts common models of business. His boon describes motion, a flow, which is hard to see when the landscape is dominated by bottom lines and outcomes. His community mistakenly thinks he needs to go on a hero’s journey when, in fact, he is just returning. His hands are full of gold that they cannot see.

The best we can do is share what we hold. How it is received is out of our hands. If it is received at all is not in our control. Vincent Van Gogh died having sold one single painting – and that to his brother. The glory of his life – and the lives of all visionaries – is that he kept painting regardless of whether the world might someday see the boon, or not. It didn’t (and doesn’t) matter. Bringing the boon home is all that is required.

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Pick Up Your Ordinary

From Kerri and my travels: a photo essay about what our feet have seen

From Kerri and my travels: a photo essay about what our feet have seen

I continue to process all of the amazing events and experiences from the past few weeks working abroad. They have jiggled loose an old thought-bubble and I’ve been pondering it since it bobbed to the surface.

The old thought-bubble is a tenet that comes from improvisational theatre: put down your clever and pick up your ordinary. I’ve used this tenet in any number of facilitations and coaching relationships. The basic idea is this: any attempt at being clever actually diminishes personal power and inhibits the capacity to be present. Trying to be clever focuses the eye inside and robs a performer or presenter of the only thing that really matters: relationship in the moment.

Dig a bit deeper and the real wealth of the tenet shows itself. We rarely recognize our true gift because we think everyone possesses it. We miss our unique gift because we think it’s ordinary. We mistake our gift for something common and therefore not of great value. In truth, what we brand as ordinary (how we see the world) is our most unique, most potent and powerful gift. So, to put down your clever and pick up your ordinary is to value your unique point of view. It is to honor yourself and how you see the world and also affords you the capacity to be seen as you are, not as you think you need to be seen. To pick up your ordinary is to become accessible.

Trying to be clever is actually an attempt at trying to be something we are not – or someone we are not. It is to hide, put on a mask, or pretend.

Ordinary reveals; clever obscures. Ordinary facilitates flow. Clever needs to control. Attempts at being clever are manufactured moments. Experts need to be clever, they need to whip up a straw man and call it substance. Clever is always an ego need – in fact, clever is nothing more than a plea for approval. It is a thirst for adulation. Clever needs center stage. Ordinary shares the stage. Clever needs to claim territory. Ordinary expands horizons. Ordinary is accessible. Clever is protected, aloof, and closed.

All of this is old news. It was in the old thought-bubble. Just behind it came a few new little trailer bubbles. Clever is oriented on what it gets (adoration, attention, acclamation). Ordinary is oriented according to what it brings: a unique point of view in service to a relationship. Ordinary is a form of potlatch: give what you have; give away your wealth as the road to increase. Clever comes from a universe of lack. Ordinary comes from an abundant life. It is a paradox. Unique is found in the ordinary. New vision comes when we cease trying to say something new and simply offer our unique, one-of-a-kind perspective. The beauty is in what we see.

title_pageGo here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

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