The first prompt from Tracking Wonder's Dare to Excel Challenge went like this:
What burning question of possibility will influence what & how you create during the next 30 to 90 days?
I asked a lot of questions on my way to “THE” burning question.
In the last ninety minutes I literally had a visceral melt down to rival the melt down and eruption of Mt. Vesuvious. First came the eruption, next life felt like a tornado and then an earthquake and finally calmed into a lake after a heavy rain but wow. I had no idea how much energy I wrap around being smooshed into a box.
It was almost as if the Burning Question itself created the mythical explosion of July 2, 2015.
It happened like this: I am working with a bunch of my friends in a new non-profit adventure. We’ve been working together for about six months and are planning our inaugural beer tasting event. I agreed to be the point person for marketing, with a couple media releases due to be written before I leave for Seattle in two weeks.
My friend and compadre in fundraising told me another friend would be calling at some point to check on my progress which I translated as “to check in with me about the progress I was making on the work I had committed to do.”
The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I felt like I was being smooshed into a box right there. My gut did a flip flop and my spirit fell into my feet.
My knee jerk response - and the trigger of the volcanic explosion was, “By gosh and by golly no one is going to micro manage me, even and especially people I love and admire. Micromanaging will absolutely torch our friendship completely! I cannot, will not, no way be micromanaged!”
A flurry of text messages followed with me even confessing I would quit the board and the cause itself if I had anyone micromanaging me. “I’ll get the job done I said I would get done. I don’t need anyone checking on me, thank you but no.”
The intention was never for me to be micro managed, that is simply how it felt to me. Even the re-frame of “loving support” didn’t help. “If I need support, I will reach out,” I countered. “I would rather be the one doing the reaching.”
I calmed down fairly quickly but as I did, I also realized my source of upset.
Every professional experience I hated involved a micro-manager, “checking lovingly” (or not so much) on my work. In my experience, micro-managers don’t trust their creative employees, they squelch them. I am one of those people who doesn’t like being asked the same thing more than once. If I perceive I am being nagged or not trusted, I will revolt and do nothing. I'll quit. This is how much I abhor micro-managing and one of the reasons I do not have a conventional job anymore.
I want to have space to activate and celebrate my unique genius. For me, this simply means getting it done without distraction.
I realize if people make a request of me when I am in the middle of a creative process I may not hear them and in that case, I give them permission to verify whether or not I “got it.” Even with that, though, notice we collaborated and made an agreement rather than someone randomly asking me what I was up to on my project.
I am the student who got her work done before it was due, who turned in thirty page research papers a week before the rest of the class. I have never pulled an “all-nighter” due to procrastination because I have always been so driven to get things done without ‘undue nagging’.
I considered just getting my work done well before the due date so no “nagging” or “loving support” would be necessary. This explosion of emotion gave birth to my newest burning question to live into:
What if I was able to accept loving support more graciously and in different ways than I have been recently?
That’s a question worth living into, as are these questions I brain stormed as I grew into the final (for now) draft of my burning question.
What if we celebrated our “ooops!” moments as much as our victories?
What if fifth place was the one we tried to attain?
This is for those of us who consider “second” as “loser.” I will always remember what my friend, Mel, who said to a table full of dorm mates after we watched a group of people from another down celebrating their first place victory at Band Frolic. This was an annual musical theater style competition which found our dorm in the lead after the first night of two nights of competition.
I can't remember the guys name, but he wasn't even in the group that performed. He wore wire rimmed glasses in a circle shape. He had straight, brown hair that covered his forehead in motionless bangs. "This table is filled with losers."
Mel responded wisely and calmly. "We didn’t lose, we came in second.”
I thought she was so brilliant in that moment. My nineteen-year-old self immediately felt better. We truly hadn't lost. Mel was (and is) right.
What would change if we accepted pain with grace along the path as a “normal” part of the process, like a deeper shade of green or purple instead of a bad/scary/to be avoided at all costs thing?
I spent some time free writing on this one. Lots of juice for us to play with when we look at colors that have a neutral charge, even those that aren’t your favorite.
What if our mistakes got as many accolades as our victories? On that note, what if our mistakes counted ASvictories?
What if we made hashmarks for each mini-goal we accomplished every day and then made a big flag of hashmarks to decorate our windows and porches?
I took a women’s history class at our local college as an adult, not because I needed to take a class, but because I wanted to have a place to “show up.” One of the requirements was class participation. It would shock many of you to know when I was in college I didn’t raise my hand for discussion. I was too afraid of getting the answer wrong or perhaps what I might say would sound stupid. I listened, nodded and prayed my high test scores and research papers and the occasional presentation would earn me a coveted A.
So - in this college class that mattered zero in the rest of my life I challenged myself to create two hashmarks on my note paper every class session with each hashmark representing my voice being heard in class.
I never left a class session without two hashmarks. Maybe it wasn’t just my age that had the other students look to me for leadership, perhaps it was the sound of my voice continually rising up.
What if we chose to stop letting the thought-and-belief gnats to get under our skin?
What if we stopped being afraid of how great we really are?
What if we enjoyed our strength fully? What if we took our recognition of our weakness as one of our greatest strengths? How about leveraging those weaknesses via collaborations with our friends who undoubtedly have practice and preferences slightly different than our own?
What if we made playful experimentation as important as memorization of facts and/or rote learning?
I know educators are trying to do this now. I am glad to know this. Last week I taught art students at the local college about writing about art but more than that we learned about intellectual curiosity and asking questions without worrying about the answers being right or wrong or even if we know the answers. To see those faces light up as they simply got to be curious about works of art teetered on the edge of miraculous. Hockney, Cassat, Picasso and a woman I had never heard of until I stitched together my power point presentation. Idell Weber, brought collaborative learning to a new level for me.
We were all playfully experimenting. It was marvelous.
What if we were given permission to laugh as loud (or cry as loud) or as softly as we wanted to without needing to worry about other people laughing and pointing in ridicule?
I am a person who laughs loudly. After my daughter was stillborn, I learned to be a person who cries openly in public. I haven’t done it much lately, but in the past I would cry big tears, rivers down my face, and dare people to ask me to stop. Most recently I sobbed during a movie so loudly I was afraid one of the other movie-goers might get angry. I couldn’t stop though once I got going. Turns out I did upset a fellow movie goer, but it wasn’t about my crying. That story will be told another time. Back to our questions.
What if there weren’t a wrong or right for our life-work, business and art tasks, just sweet containers in a variety of shapes and sizes to support what we are up to?
With this I offer homage to Adam, my therapist. Shifting relationships to structure and holding - I am doing that and living my way into this right now.
What if “that is so you!” was the greatest compliment one could receive?
I remember when Katherine first said to me, “Oh, Mommy, that is so you!” I can’t remember what I had just done, but she was thrilled by it. “This is a good thing, honey?” I asked her. “Yes, ofcourse it is, Mommy!”
My children are remarkable teachers. I am a blessed Mommy. Some people might not see their children as teachers, they only see themselves as teachers.
Well, to them I would ask our burning question:
What if we stop trying to smoosh into a tiny box of what other people tell us is the “right way” and instead celebrate and activate our own unique genius?
This post came as a result of a prompt from the Dare to Excel Challenge from Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder. Throughout July, we will be engaging with an assortment of prompts in a variety of forms. One question Jeffrey asks on his website introducing the challenge is this: "What if you could feel free to dare to excel?"
To experience the challenge with me and a community of remarkable people, visit Tracking Wonder at this link.
Julie Jordan Scott inspires people to experience artistic rebirth via her programs, playshops, books, performances and simply being herself out in the world. She is a writer, creative life coach, speaker, performance poet, Mommy-extraordinaire and mixed-media artist whose Writing Camps and Writing Playgrounds permanently transform people's creative lives. Watch for the announcement of new programs coming in September 2015 and beyond.
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