Ask The Gorilla [on DR Thursday]

I’m not the first person to use a gorilla as the teacher in a story. This gorilla, in this story, is teaching the little girl the difference between playing-to-win and playing-to-become-a-better-player. The story begins when the girl asks the gorilla, “Do you want to play?” and the gorilla responds, “Well, it depends. What do you mean by ‘play’?”

It’s not a flippant question. It speaks directly to the “why” of what you do. The reason. Simon Sinek put this question at the center of his golden circle. James Carse wrote his philosophical masterpiece, Finite and Infinite Games, about this simple distinction.

Yesterday I had a conversation about success. A conversation about the difference between internal and external motivation. External motivators, like winning-as-your-why, are necessarily grounded in fear. What if you lose? Who are you if you fail? Winning at all cost will eventually lead to quagmires not unlike where the Republican party now finds itself. Obstruct. Lie. Gerrymander. Fix the vote. Fix the game. Any and all deeper value or ethic is sacrificed. There is always a cost when the “why” is as superficial as “to win.” The body seizes-up, loses its freedom of movement when fear of losing is the central driver of action. The nation-body, too.

The path to mastery cannot run through a win-lose “why.” Failure is an essential on a master’s path. Throw many pots, the metaphor from Art & Fear, is a mantra not only for artistic freedom, but for honing skills. Getting better and better at playing. See what happens. Playing to play, to become a better player, transcends and finally removes the word ‘failure.’ The body gains more and more freedom of movement when every action is a learning experience.

I wrote and illustrated this book back in my dark ages when I was facilitating diversity and inclusion trainings. Some companies hired us because they feared being sued. They feared losing money and had no real interest in diversity, inclusion, equality, fair play, betterment for their employees. They feared losing their privilege. Diversity initiatives ask that we stop rigging the game.

Other companies hired us because they truly desired to address the inequities in their organization. They wanted to step into their blind spots and see. They wanted to become better and better players in their communities. Early on we learned to distinguish between the fear-clients and those that were sincere. We became better players by choosing to work with organizations that were honest and sincere about their “why.” Players of infinite games.

I never attempted to publish Play-to-Play, my little illustrated meditation. Over the years I’ve given away some of the illustrations. It is one of the many stones I’ve stacked, pots I’ve thrown, the many projects and paintings that are literally stacked in my studio. It seems more relevant now than ever before. Yesterday, looking again at the illustrations, I told Kerri, “I should draw this again. I’m better now.”

She asked, “Why?”

I said, “Exactly.”

read Kerri’s blog post about STACKING STONES

play to play ©️ 2005 david robinson

Finish The Race [on DR Thursday]

We are nearing the anniversary of SHAYNE. As heart projects go, high atop the list of projects that mattered, sits SHAYNE.

One night, Kerri’s mom, Beaky, called in tears. Nearing the end of her life, she wondered what she’d achieved. A brilliant woman born in the early part of the 20th century, many roads open to a man were utterly inaccessible to her. She wondered, as Kerri said, “What comes after the comma behind her name.”

Decades earlier, Beaky had written manuscripts for three children’s books based on the family’s dog, Shayne. She’d submitted them without success to a publisher. Kerri searched the earth and found the manuscripts. In a matter of days, we illustrated and published the first in the series. We constructed a website, set up and publicized an author’s reading. Over 70 people came, complete with the press and photographers, to hear Beatrice Arnson read and sign her new children’s book. Her first sale was in The Netherlands so I teased her that she was an international author.

Beaky passed away 18 days after the event. The word, “author” followed the comma after her name. She saw the cover art for the second and third books in the series but never saw them published. In fact, we published the second book posthumously but have yet to publish the third. It’s been too hard.

And, each year, on the anniversary of the book signing, we revisit publishing the third book. We simply need to a take a week, lay it out (the illustrations are complete), and publish it. The anniversary we approach is not only about the publication of the first book. It is the closure, the lingering necessity, of publishing the final book and complete the race that we started more than 6 years ago.

Resolution. Conclusion. Completion. More than just words. A symbolic mountain that is very difficult to climb.

The books are more than just books. The illustrations are more than just drawings and paint. They are a dream come true. A gift from daughter-to-mother and mother-to-daughter; the best kind of love-loop. They are a word that follows the comma after a name.

read Kerri’s blog post about SHAYNE

Point Your Nose Toward The Moon [on Two Artists Tuesday]

moon for wix copy

This moon called us. We were leaving rehearsal, pulled out of the parking lot and were hit in the face by an enormous orange moon. “We have to go to it,” Kerri whispered. We drove to the shore and sat with the moon for a while.

Staring out of the truck (it was a very cold night and with broken wrists it was easier to keep Kerri buckled in), my energy running low, this super moon reminded me of a long-ago-book, LUCY AND THE WATERFOX. The last few illustrations feature a beckoning moon. This is the Waterfox’s lesson for Lucy and, as it turns out, the Waterfox had a few words for me, too, on this moon-full night:

“The Sky is where you belong! Fulfill your heart’s longing and let the pack think what they think! Everyone knows that most foxes don’t swim and most foxes don’t fly, it’s not that they can’t, it’s because they don’t try. A fox whose heart soars like yours needs to dance in the air. Remember: words are like magic, misused they are tragic and belief is a great and most powerful word!” With that he gave her a wink, tipped his big hat and swam out of sight.

And so, while the other foxes nestled deeper into sleep, Lucy pointed her nose toward the moon. She took to the sky repeating his words so she’d never forget: words are like magic, misused they are tragic and belief is a great and most powerful word.”

 

Illustration 25

from my children’s book, Lucy & The Waterfox

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the SUPER MOON

 

 

moon website box copy

Complete The Trilogy [on DR Thursday]

square shayne for melange 21 copy

 

Just before she passed away, Kerri and I rushed to illustrate and publish a trilogy of children’s books that Beaky had written years earlier. Beaky saw the first of her books published, Shayne. We held a release party and author reading of the first book. She was a rock star. Her first sale was to someone in The Netherlands and I teased her about being an international author. Beaky was both thrilled and ever humble.  She died 18 days later while we were racing to lay out the pages of the second book in the trilogy.  We published it, Shayne & The Yellow Dragon, soon after, for what would have been her 94th birthday.

photo-5

the author

It’s been three years. Today would have been Beaky’s 97th birthday and we are certain she is tapping her foot wondering what is taking so long. So, we decided that it was time to complete the trilogy. The illustrations and scans are back on the table. In short order, someday very soon, we look forward to announcing the publication of Beaky’s third book, Shayne & The New Baby.

frontcoverscreenshot

read Kerri’s blog post on Shayne

 

photo

the creative team

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

shayne/shayne & the yellow dragon ©️ 2015 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

Treasure Your Treasure

661. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

The process of moving has afforded me two recognitions. First, I’ve found two outlines for books that I meant to write a few years ago, the completed text for a children’s book that only needs the illustrations and another that I only need draw final drafts of illustrations. I found two plays, poorly written, that are waiting patiently for me to revise and reconstruct into health. Who knew that I had so much unfinished work in the file! I am an out-of-sight-out-of-mind kind of guy. Filing cabinets are mausoleums for my projects. If I file them, they might as well not exist. I feel like I just opened a pyramid and a long lost friend was sitting inside and said, “Hey, it’s about time!”

The second recognition is that I have too much stuff. I am an odd duck in that I expect myself to move lightly through this world. It’s not that I have a house full of furniture, I don’t, but I have more books, more files, more paintings, more…stuff, than I want. So, moving has provided the opportunity to lighten up. It has been interesting to see what things I invest in, what carries meaning for me, and what does not. My friend John made me a small box a few years ago and I treasure it. Sam gave me a signed a copy of his book of poetry – I would grab it first if the house was burning down. Tamara made me a glass sun to help me through the winter and I will hold it close until I die, not to mention a growing catalogue of songs that she’s written and recorded that warms me inside. Teru made a quilt for me that is beautiful beyond belief; it evokes gratitude every time I look at it or sleep beneath it. I have DeMarcus Brown’s notes about theatrical design written in a notebook that he made himself almost a century ago. His daughter gave it to me after Marc passed away, saying, “This belongs to you.” I cherish it. My niece Tori sewed for me a purple bear that I have named Mulberry and there is nothing more valuable to me on this earth.

I’ve realized that my treasures are my friendships and the deep love I hold for so many people. I step as a gypsy into this New Year walking into many unknowns and double uncertainties and I’ve just reaffirmed how rich I am in projects, ideas, creative fire and made more wealthy by the vibrant, generous people accompanying me through this life.