How boring life would be if everything were predictable.
In 2014, Pema Chodron gave the commencement address at her granddaughter’s graduation, which was then turned into a beautiful book called Fail Fail Again Fail Better: wise advice for leaning into the unknown. It is based on this quote from Samuel Beckett.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
As a former A++ personality with extremely high (likely unrealistic) expectations and perfectionistic tendencies, I grew up, like many, thinking failure was bad; something to be avoided at all costs. Ever hear the phrase “failure is not an option”? Hmmm in real life, failure is not only an option, it’s a reality and it‘s a good thing if we know what to do with it.
Failing means you tried. Failing means you were courageous and brave enough to risk failure while striving to succeed.
It’s what you do with the failed attempt that matters.
Recently, a launch my business partner and I had planned meticulously failed to attract any customers. My initial response was, “What did we do wrong?” But that only lasted a minute or so and I soon turned the question around and asked myself, “What did we do right?”
Acknowledging what we did right was not just a feel-good exercise. It brought awareness to the things that we can do more of the next time.
Ahhh - the next time. Disappointment, discouragement and that yucky feeling of rejection can feel daunting. It’s what stops a great idea from seeing the light. It’s what results in shelved plans and projects. Lost and unrealized dreams.
Pema Chodron points out that James Joyce replaced failure with mistake. And she re-phrased his words like this:
“… mistakes are the portal to creativity, to learning something new, to having a fresh look on things.”
Creativity is something I understand and can lean into.
Failure is also a time to look at the mistakes, not with shame but curiosity. What’s worked before? What else might work? What was in our control and what was just circumstances beyond our control?
Failure can be a huge energy drain or it can be a learning opportunity. And it’s always our choice. So, I think I’ll don my audacity suit and try again, even if that means making more mistakes.
Of the four foundational blocks of Kaizen (small thoughts, small questions, small steps and small rewards), I think small questions are my favourite. They are instant energy shifters. When I’m feeling stuck or find myself resisting something, a small question can quickly shift me into curiosity mode. I like to ask, what can make this task easier or more enjoyable? Or I will ask myself, what’s worked in the past? And what else could work?
Three things I love about small questions:
1. A small question is a great place to start.
Kaizen is a philosophy and a positive, engaging way of being that creates consecutive success moments - leading to sustainable momentum towards your goals. Any goal or journey starts with a first step, no matter how large or small. What I love about small questions is that they can be a first step. Asking a small question engages my imagination and my brain as it seeks to find answers. This activity sparks energy and excitement to start my project or endeavor.
2. A small question doesn’t need to be answered right away and will produce multiple answers.
Small questions are like brain candy! Ask a question and then let it go. The brain will begin to ponder and percolate away in the background as you go about your day. It will search for an answer and then another and another. Often the first solution isn’t necessarily the best. It might be the most common or the most comfortable, but it’s not always the best. Asking a small question over time will produce multiple responses and shift me into what Benjamin Zander (The Art of Possibility) calls possibility thinking.
3. A small question is always asked in the positive.
Small questions act like mini-mental pep talks because they are always asked in the positive. Wording the question in positive language results in positive solutions. And positive solutions are less likely to raise feelings of pressure and overwhelm. What is one thing I can do, right now, that will move me closer to being finished? What is something that’s worked in the past? How can I make this easier and more enjoyable? These questions give me a little surge of hope and build momentum.
Small questions are a powerful tool. And asking small questions is both an art and a skill that can be improved upon with practice. Small questions are a key part of KMI Master Minds™ and the KMI Master Mind™ Facilitator Certification training.
Comment below and share your experience with small questions. What are your favourite small questions? What do you love about them?
I started blogging for a couple of reasons. First, it was the consensus that if you have an online business you need to blog. Even if no one reads your posts somehow through the magic of metadata you will be promoting your business. Since I haven’t blogged in almost 8 months, I guess that wasn’t motivation enough.
However, the topic of blogging came up again today in a group discussion. This time it was combined with the topic of how to share your passions in your authentic voice. This can be an especially hard thing to do for an INFJ that truly values her privacy. This brings me to the second reason, and full circle back to my initial post in which I wrote: “… to release my voice within to join others around the world who are sharing their inner voices.”
A blog, even one that no one reads, can be a place to share my thoughts and ideas, my passions and pondering in my authentic voice. I am releasing the need for it to be profound, polished and even professional. I am ok with letting this blog be a place for my personal expression of things that are important to me and, hopefully, hold value for others.
What will I blog about? I’m passionate about ideas and creative thinking. About the tools that help to shift thought patterns and find new ways to look at familiar things. Some of the ways I find new possibilities are through master minds and immersing myself in the creative process. And I use my training in Kaizen and Kaizen-Creative NLP to coach myself and others.
As I write this I realize that these are areas where my personal and professional passions merge. I have just discovered the power of this intersection in sharing my authentic voice. It’s the perfect place to park my soapbox.
What makes it easier for you to share your passions and pursuits, personal or professional, in your authentic voice?
My father, WJ McDowall, was an amazing teacher. He was a high school teacher by profession, but he was also someone who knew how to teach. He taught his students how to learn, not what to learn. I know this because I was lucky enough to have him as a teacher in my last two years of high school.
At the beginning of each year he shared his ideas on marks and marking. He told our class that he
I'm literally seeing with new eyes thanks to my new eye glasses. About a month ago I was really struggling with my eyesight. Prone to worrying, I thought I might be getting age related cataracts. An eye exam revealed that my eyes are in great health but that somehow I had missed an eye exam and my prescription was four years old. New lens were required and why not get new purple frames too.
Seeing with new eyes though is an old concept. Sometimes referred to as beginners' eyes, it is the ability that we all have to look at something familiar as if for the first time. To see it with wonder and curiosity, delight and discernment. This is a great skill to practice. Not only can it be fun and add freshness to your day, it helps to crank up your awareness level. When you are dialled into awareness ... that's when the magic begins.
Several weeks ago, I took a look at the topic of awareness in the context of some serious social issues—sexism and racism.
This led me to thinking about awareness in my everyday life.
About 15 years ago, my husband and I were thinking of moving. We spent a lot of Saturdays and Sundays visiting realtors’ open houses. (This was before the days of expansive virtual tours; what we knew in advance consisted of square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and a photo or two in a newspaper ad.)
These homes were ‘staged’ to show off each house to its best advantage. Surfaces were clean and clear, walls were freshly painted, faucets and fittings were brightly polished, and accessories and paintings were artfully scattered about. We’d grab an information sheet, stroll through the rooms, and try to imagine ourselves living in that space.
After these open house visits, it was always a faint surprise to come home. We would look at our own surfaces, walls, faucets, fittings, and accessories. And our own kitchen, floors, and artwork.
It was a time of both appreciation and mild horror. In all of our open house visits, I never found a kitchen, coved ceilings, or hardwood floors—indeed, a house in general—that I liked better than my own. However, I also saw, with newly critical eyes, the shortcomings in our home—chipped paint, smudges on the cabinets, and cluttered drawers and countertops. After looking with dispassionate eyes at all of those houses for sale, I wondered what someone walking through my house would think.
It can be a challenge for me to back up and look at my own home with objectivity, especially when it comes to my possessions. To address that issue, this spring, my business colleague, Mary McDowall, and I created and facilitated a clutter clearing mastermind. It’s based on the unique KMI model, which combines personalized attention with the Kaizen philosophy of small steps to big changes.
That mastermind experience has gradually shifted the way I deal with my stuff. The tools, resources, and group interaction the mastermind provided gave me the push I needed. It was a gentle nudge towards creating an environment that suits me. And as a co-facilitator, my issues weren’t even directly addressed! Such is the power (and collective benefit) of this process.
If clutter is an issue for you, I invite you to explore our KMI Mastermind, Creative Clutter Clearing: 10 C’s to Move You from Chaos to Calm.
Donna is a, IIHA-Certified Hand Analyst, Certified FranklinCovey, ARTbundance and Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach, KMI Master Mind Facilitator and Creative Clutter Clearer. You can learn more about Donna on her website www.printsonpurpose.com.
I have to admit that a few years ago the first thing I thought of was the logic game Mastermind by Parker. I'm actually pretty good at it. Then my geeky side would bring to mind, pun intended, the talent of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock and his mind-meld technique.
But before the game and before the science fictional talent, a man named Napoleon Hill coined the term master mind (two words) in reference to "The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony." The concept grew and caught on and today people all around the world meet in master minds. Some are large groups, while others are small and exclusive. Today people meet not only in person but also through online groups and with video conferencing.
For some, the term master mind brings forth images of men in business suits, high power and high pressure. For others, what comes to mind are informal groups or circles of people with similar interests and pursuits looking to share information and receive support.
I've had the opportunity to participate in both large and small with varying degrees of formality. And I always felt that something was missing. Something that I couldn't put my finger on. Something that would make the difference in how I could best participate and benefit.
Then at the beginning of 2015, I connected with another Master Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach™, Kathy Kane. Little did we know then where that collaboration of minds would lead. We met to discuss master minds and how to design one that better supported creative people and the non-linear creative process. That meeting of the minds turned into something greater than we could have imagined. And we both have big imaginations!
The result was a master mind like no other. A KMI Master Mind.
First, we looked at all the things we liked about master minds (connection, community, idea development, accountability). Then we removed the things that didn't feel right. High pressure from unrealistic expectations and a self-imposed sense of feeling overwhelmed by the need to keep up with the Jones.
Next we added in creativity -oodles of it - in the form of creativity tools, idea generation and elevation. We included creativity in the setting and structure with opening and closing rituals that included guided relaxations. We embraced the Kaizen approach of getting things done through small questions and small continuous steps. We found this way to be fun and filled with self-compassion. We found ourselves enjoying the process more and focusing less on a rigid end result. We began to build a steady momentum towards our goals, one that was easy to maintain and sustain.
But that's not all. We wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment during the master mind itself and not leave it with an even longer to do list. So we added Parallel Universe Time™, a tool created by Jill Badonsky, founder of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching™. In each master mind session there is time dedicated to taking action - to taking a small step or two or three. We wrapped all this goodness up in a flexible structure which follows a set agenda but leaves room for creative and intuitive detours.
And there is so much more ... Click here for the juicy details about our upcoming Your Creative Edge: a KMI Master Mind.
Sometimes the voice inside my head is strong and clear. Ideas flow like the purple ink in my fountain pen onto the page. There is no hesitation. The words take on a life of their own, sharing their story. I marvel as they appear effortlessly before my eyes.
Other times, writing is a chore - a task that demands attention, irrespective of creative inspiration or convenient timing.
Today as I write this blog post I’m reminded that writing is a creative process. Being in the creative process can feel fluid and magical like the first example. It’s also perfectly normal, depending on where I am in the process, for it to feel hesitant, reluctant and painfully like a bandage slowly being removed.
One thing that I’ve found that helps me to be and to stay in the creative process – the smooth flowing part of the creative process – is connection and community. The energy held and generated by a circle is simply wonderful. It helps to maintain my focus, clarify my intention and increase my productivity.
In geometry a circle is sacred. It represents “the one” from which all other geometric shapes are derived. Its design lets it expand or contract and still maintain its shape. It is the perfect shape for meeting as it allows all participants to be seen and heard. A circle creates a container for collaboration, communication, connection, confidence and confidentiality. It’s like a cauldron overflowing with creative energy that is accessible to all.
The circle is one of my favourite ways to be in connection with others.
That’s why the 4Rs Circle at The Purple Ink Café is organized this way. The 4Rs: Relax, Read, Review and Research is about coming together to create time and space in your busy day or week to relax and finally tackle that stack of books or backlog of blogs you want to read. It’s about refreshing a topic or skill by reviewing courses and resources you already have on hand. And if you have a presentation, a project or a personal passion that needs some research, this circle is for you too.
Why join a circle? It’s a bit like doing yoga or writing or meditation or any solo activity. You can do all of these on your own, but the structure of a class often makes it easier to show up and the company can make it fun. Even more, it’s the energy of the group that helps to sustain our focus, to hold a pose a little longer, strengthen our writing muscle or push through a block that may have been holding us back.
I invite you to check out the 4Rs Circle. There is a free kick off event Thursday August 18 at 11 am ET on Zoom. Come and experience the energy of the circle.
I’m not a researcher. But Research seems to go along with Read and Review. And if I have to research something, I enjoy it a lot more if I’m Relaxed.
Research isn’t just for academics. When you need to make a major purchase, decide where to take your vacation, even the decision to join the 4R Circle, you will probably want to do a little research before finalizing your decision.
Perhaps you are researching a topic for a presentation you are giving. Or developing a program or product that requires a deeper knowledge base from which to draw? Research is also what can elevate an idea or an inspiration into a passion and, for some, is just a pleasurable pursuit.
Regardless of the reason, your research requires resources and information. It needs your time and focus. And depending on the level of detail or the size and scope of your research you may need a system for capturing and organizing your research for easy and flexible recall.
Along with the need for research may also come resistance. Resistance to get started or even to finish. Kaizen small steps can help by breaking down the task at hand into ridiculously small increments. So small that any feelings of overwhelm, procrastination or self doubt (aka that lovely inner critic we all have) don’t get triggered.
Having structure, a regular time and place to complete your research is also helpful. The 4Rs Circle can provide the time and the place for you to focus in on your research. Being in community with others in the circle offers gentle accountability and support. In the 4R Circle I’ll also be sharing some capture tools with which you can explore and experiment.
A no-cost kick off event is being held on Thursday, August 18 at 11am ET. We will meet at The Purple Ink Cafe via the magic of Zoom. CLICK HERE to RSVP. I hope to see you there.
The third R in the 4Rs Circle stands for review.
Now this might not be the sexiest R word in the dictionary. There were actually a few other Rs that auditioned really well to be one of the 4. Review edged them out and this is why.
When you first read the word review did it trigger anything for you? For me, I thought of reviewing notes for tests and exams. And then work proposals or other people’s work. To be honest, neither of these thoughts, although practical and necessary actions, really grabbed my attention. Well at least not in the jump-up-and-down-I-can-hardly-wait-to-dive-right-in kind of way.
Part of the pull review had was how it relates back to the ‘open loops’ I mention in the blog post R is for Read. So many times I’ve signed up to take yet another course only to lose interest, motivation or run out of time to finish it. The result is a pile of unfinished courses and a basket full of open loops. These unfinished courses often leave me feeling disappointed in myself and let down by whatever promise “said course” was to deliver.
So why did I feel compelled to take all these courses? Some were of interest but were about topics that I wanted to feel more competent, in control and confident about. What a course does is provide structure and an easy way to access the material, which in many cases is often available for free in libraries and on the internet. Courses often come along with a time table, exercises and assignments, audio recordings and or videos to watch. When presented all nicely formatted they appear organized and very doable. But when I try to fit them into life, they can send me into overwhelm.
Why review is important is because I probably don’t need to take another course. I need to review the materials that I already have. I get to refresh my knowledge of the information I’ve already read. I even get to review what is still current and of interest and release the rest.
The 4Rs Circle isn’t another course. It is a way to add flexible structure and gentle accountability so you can begin to close your open loops. It provides a platform that makes it easy to show up for yourself and your work. There is also a connection to creative and communal energy when you are part of a circle that can be channeled into focused action.
If you would like to experience a 4R Circle, please join me for a no-cost kick off event on Thursday, August 18 at 11 am ET. CLICK HERE to RSVP.
I write about master minds, creativity, productivity, and the Kaizen philosophy as it relates to creative living.