It's all about the STORY!

Posts tagged ‘creativity’

Being a grown up is bad.

Let’s be clear. I love being an adult, but I have no intention of ever growing up. Just in case anyone was confused on that matter (insert short jokes here–I’m 5’2”)…

Being grown up seems to mean settling: settling down, settling for, to settle with… I don’t want to be settled. I am forever disrupted and39thBirthdayParty disruptive, playing in mud, intentionally taking long walks in the rain, exploring, discovering, creating and playing. I want to be with playful, creative, inspired people. Instead of getting exhausted from encountering another barrier, I prefer getting excited about what I can do with it–maybe we can paint it, decorate it and enjoy it. Maybe we can figure out how it works and use its power for our gain–to better the world or at least our inner-world. Maybe we can be its friend and realize it was never a barrier in the first place–it just seemed that way because it was different, and we didn’t understand it.

Nah–I’m not going to grow up. Not ever.

Do you want to travel for free (or at least really cheap)?

I think humans are in deep need of three things. These things are dangerously rare as we concentrate evermore on the everydayness of hectic lives and responsibilities–chaos, confusion and emergencies–chores, deadlines and all sorts of gadgets and media that serve as distractions from feeding our minds, bodies and spirits with all that keeps us craving more and more of the greatness around us and in us.


What are the three endangered things?

  1. Adventure
  2. Imagination
  3. Creating

I challenge you to find one thing a week–or even per month–for you to do alone or with a friend or with your family that offers you a sense of adventure or sparks your imagination or allows you to create something–anything.

This could be as simple as reading a book, visiting a museum, volunteering in an organization, planting a garden or taking an art class. You could travel locally to a neighboring community and be a tourist for a day. Try hiking or yoga or just daydreaming on the beach–maybe a late-night stroll. Skip the high-priced family reunion across the country this year, and instead book a room in a beachside Florida motel and reunite with your own family 1 on 1 (and you get to run home for that camera you forgot to pack).

Go out and explore your own back yard! Follow your cat around the neighborhood, if you can keep up. Invite your friends over for a seasonal fruit and veggie tasting party. Create a comic book using stick figues and a pencil or finger paints. Buy a hammock and daydream or write a short story. There’s so much to see right in front of you, you can be an adventurer for the cost of the mere courage it takes to dare see the world through a fresh set of eyes! You can be an artist with just the thoughts in your head and the skills of a 5-year-old.

Go do something right here. Right now. I dare you.

Thought of the day: Remember to rest… (AKA: Siesta = Power)

It’s foolishly overlooked as a critical strategy. Resting allows the mind to stop spinning in circles over the obsessive conscious, which tends to result in an anxiety-ridden, explosive, reactionary and thoughtless state of being. No, seriously, it’s that bad. Do you think you are immune? Think again–you’re just in denial. Resting, ample amounts of rest in various forms, are required for the brain to act creatively and thoughtfully and to learn.

Sleeping, napping, meditating, dreaming, visualizing… these are all crucial activities that help give your mind needed rest.

So, if you’re having trouble coming up with that pressing solution, if that new concept or artistic idea just isn’t gelling, if you simply can’t learn that lesson or program you’ve been studying, if that issue is just beating you down: rest. Sleep, nap, hike, meditate, dream, visualize… anything to get your mind in a peaceful state. Rest, and you will find it gets better.

Dog at Rest

McGhee the Dog Resting

America’s education system is broken. Here’s how to fix it.

America’s youths are in trouble. They are about to inherit a complete disaster. We not only broke government and our economy; allowed big corporations to go rogue gangsta, encouraging them to eat up every small business in nearly every industry; permitted several whole industries to become federally mandated organized crime (insurance, agriculture, etc.), we’ve disallowed youth to develop the tools–critical and creative thinking/problem-solving–required to fix the broken thing we’re giving them. Likewise, we have denied youth the knowledge, experience and resources needed for America to continue to sustain their position as a world leader in innovation, creativity and cultural capital.

Our current education system kills creativity, and replaces the development of critical thinking skills and applied education with solely valuing standardized testing outcomes. Tests? Test scores are the most valued outcome for today’s youths spanning elementary school through state-run universities. Test scores not ony determine whether youths with graduate from colleges in their field and progress in grade levels from elementary through secondary schools, the combined test scores of students help determine how much money a public school will get to pass on to their students. The better the test scores of the students, the more money the schools get. Supporters of this policy call it capitalism. I call it extortion, racism and classicism.

Even with all of this testing, too many American students are graduating from colleges with poor writing skills, poor math skills, poor knowledge of history, geography and sciences and applied critical thinking skills. Q.E.D. testing alone does not accurately assess the quality of a student’s education. We have many over-educated students entering the workforce who are barely capable of performing the job functions required of entry- to mid-level professional positions. This is inexcusable and a pure abuse and neglect of the collective knowledge our country has regarding best practices in education, differing learning styles and intelligences.

America’s leading minds in education, philosophy, psychology, globalization, communications, sciences, the arts, interdisciplinary studies and futurism have the answers to fixing our broken education system. Collectively, they have the answers that would lead to designing an education system that will produce students who know how to seek out and find success based on their particular skills, interests, talents, composit of intelligences and learning styles.

This will not only lead to cultivating and nurturing students who are uniquely successful in their own brand of “work,” it will revitalize America’s lead in the global community as thought-leaders, innovation designers and culture instigators. Students could have the opportunity to be a product of the best minds today and can help lead the world of tomorrow in a revolution of open-thinking, creativity and collaboration. But only if we teach them how.

If executed without regard to poison spread by special-interests and traditionalists, America may actually develop a generation of thinking, confident, empowered professionals who are as at ease in group development as they are in independent studios. They will have learned the secrets to balancing collaboration with independent thought; leadership minus hierarchy; coaching- and mentoring-figures versus authority; cooperation and celebration of greatness versus cut-throat “win-at-all-costs” competition. They will see the altruistic result in development as the goal, celebrating successes towards the mission and experience authentic shared accountability for any set-backs.

Impossible? As an absolute, certainly. As a general rule, it is quite possible. American businesses have already developed and experienced such successful models and replicated them. Yet, this is still a great minority of business practices for the very reasons mentioned above. What would serve to develop more of these models, and more forward-thinking young people in our culture to lead the way to this type of model?

A brand-new look at interdisciplinary studies is needed, at the core. The arts (visual, performing, literary, new media) are a most effective vessel to introduce youth and adults alike to applied interdisciplinary studies and to help cultivate creative critical thinking and problem-solving skills. There is also the potentiality of immersing wide generalized  and focused specific concepts from limitless disciplines: science, social science, mathematics, engineering, communications, anthropology, technology, etc.

Wake County, NC students practice for Odyssey of the Mind 2010

This is not to say that education should do away with teaching “basics,” but instead it should seek innovative ways to teach the basics by combining it with a mixture of other disciplines.

This allows for immediate applied knowledge, for students to see the inherent links in subjects, how one enhances the other and is interdependent on other subjects. Age is not a deterrent from this type of critical learning. Children learn how to measure and count while cooking–they see an immediate applied link between arithmetic and cooking. Children learn about history while learning to read–instead of having them read about Sam and Ann, have them read stories of historical significance–short, overly simplified, but an introduction to something meaningful such as Henry Ford’s car. Have them learn at a young age how to collaborate in teams and combine this with independent work to increase the overall team project. Help them “get” the concepts of shared accountability, good sportsmanship, team leadership and celebrating team successes over individual competition. The earlier these critical lessons begin, the more natural these concept become to the students as they begin developing their own ideas about leading and teamwork.

Why the arts as a vessel? They are a perfect interdisciplinary medium: Music–mathematics, languages, diction and science; Theatre–literature, history, speech and debate; Painting–mathematics (scale and measurement), social science, anthropology, communications, chemistry and history; Dance–sports, history, anatomy and physiology; Literature–sociology, history, social sciences and communications; New Media–communications, technology, engineering, mathematics and science. <– Just to name a few.

More than this, the arts allow for a creative approach to all of these subjects. They allow students to approach all of these subjects with their own brand of critical thought and experimentation while still guided by teacher-mentor-coaches to ensure that students understand the “basics” as they learn to identify and build on their strengths and weaknesses. Testing in this frame will consist of assisting in identifying personalities, talents, strengths, learning styles and less developed areas. Grading will consist of whether the student applied all of their strengths to the greatest benefit of the projects assigned, whether team or individual, and will take part in a shared portion of a group grade to promote the concept of shared accountability.

Moreover, students need to learn how to use web-based systems as communication tools–social sites and freeware: Wiggio, Project Pier, Basecamp, Mind42,, MINDOMO and Prezi, for example. This is the future–using freeware and web-based solutions in creative ways to communicate and to cultivate and share knowledge. Brining teams to the forefront of thought-sharing and mining collective intelligence for problem identification and innovative solutions. Can America dare to take a risk to think about education differently? The world has changed immeasurably over the past few decades, but what we teach, how we teach and what we expect from students has not changed at all to meet the vastly different demands of our culture. Will America dare to change? Will America dare to be great?


Note: You will notice that I have not cited my sources here to back up my claims. This is an opinion article, but the facts do exist. What I am asking for, however, is not for you to merely fact-check my claims. Frankly, I can produce “facts” that would support nearly any claim I might like to make in any direction on any topic. Instead, I’m challenging readers to judge this writing based on their logic and their own knowledge, a thought experiment. And I invite you to conduct your own research; come to your own conclusions and present your own ideas. Utopia needs your thoughts, my thoughts, our passion–not merely regurgitating thoughts and opinions of others with greater titles who may or may not agree with us.

Innovative leadership needed in the era of the Creative Class (AKA: What’s a Master Class?)

To be a great leader or manager it requires you to learn how to lead and coach. And things have changed–or have they?

Coming from a performance background, master classes are unique events, which publicly illustrate the best in coaching, when done well. In a master class, a master artist works with performers on their instrument in front of an audience of their peers. Several participants/attendees have an oppotunity to work one-on-one with a master performer, and likewise all attendees watch this master teacher work one-on-one with certain performers. It is a remarkable learning experience, charged with energy, opportunity and countless ah-ha! moments.

Unfortunately, it’s unique to the performing arts. But, can we take the concept outside of the arts and apply it to traditional business? It’s far more than role-playing or lecturing or even workshopping. It’s a then-and-there charged experience of performance, exploration and discovery of your craft alongside a master mentor with peers looking on and learning from your experience.

Violinist Maxim Vengerov shows the best in coaching in this video. What can you learn from his style?…hgG 

Great leadership requires extraordinary communication coaching and identifying and tapping into unique teaching opportunities.  Regardless of your craft, talent or business, we have a responsibility to continue to explore new ways of connecting with, coaching and mentoring new leaders: artists, thought leaders, the creative class. 

What can we learn from the arts and the concept of a master class? How can a similar experience be duplicated to help cultivate and nurture thought leaders and emerging thought leaders in our culture? Regardless of your particular brand of art, the best is always the best. Only model the best.

A word on Ken Robinson’s TED Talk: Schools kill creativity.

American education is foul. There’s no doubt. We value things that don’t matter, promote things that are harmful and measure things that are worthless. In spite of this, as a nation, we tend to be a little bright and quite creative.

This is an accident and only because we are a rebellious lot. If we did as we were taught, however, we would be merely mindless drones spitting out disconnected facts, laced with convenient inaccuracies and fearful of developing anything that could be categorized as innovative or cutting-edge. Schools would have deemed this all dangerous anarchy. Well, if progress and questioning the validity and effectiveness of all that’s preached to us is anarchy, all hail anarchists!

Does school kill creativity and therefore progress, innovation and forward-thinking? Yep. It does.

Look, it’s true. But it’s not the whole story. I grew up in the folds of the fine and performing arts, and I was exposed to powerful fine and performing arts education. However, I know that my story is unfortunately unusual, and even with this environment, it was still difficult placing a high value on the arts while surrounded by traditional school values–I didn’t fit in there. I was still a bit of an outcast and fantastically misunderstood.

Radical change is needed if we have enough insight to recognize the critical need to nurture and effectively educate the creative class and creative capital in our culture. It is the creative mind that will solve problems, believe that change is possible and throw convention and barriers away to make the impossible reality.

Watch this from Ken Robinson who says that schools kill creativity. He’s right! What do you think?

Sir Ken Robinson

Daydreaming for a living: a writer’s perspective

Daydreaming for a living: a writer’s perspective


At its best, writing is a perpetual daydream for the author. This is when you stare at the clouds in the sky, and they drift along, morphing into the creation of the most delightful and intriguing characters you’d ever hope to know, and you know them well. The scenery is as vivid as any bright spring day you’ve ever seen while the plot, motivations and story all come to life as if you were living it then and there. And it all springs forth on the page.

 This is true for most types of writing, anything that requires masterful storytelling to engage your readers: from fiction or nonfiction literature, articles, blogs and feature stories, to grants and press releases. Daydreaming can be a fulltime job… with a lot of very hard work, talent and skill, that is

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