Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gun to Your Head...sort of

How do you create under a deadline? No matter what you are doing with art, whether it is part of your job or if you do it as a hobby there will be some situation(s) where you have to create on a deadline. You don't have time to go sit in your little Zen space and let the rain of creativity fall in the misty mountains of get the point. You don't have time.

I actually got some ideas for this from a conference I attended a couple of years ago. The key to being creative on a deadline is continue to fill your creative box. Go with me for a minute.

Imagine a box. In the box are all your creative ideas. To be able to be creative on a deadline we have to have a full box. Here are some notes that I took from the conference.

1. Expand your world - Find a way to experience new things. Read, listen to new music, pursue with a passion to expand your world.

2. Train Your Brain - We have to escape what is known. This includes things like brainstorming, and asking great questions. One interesting idea was called Random Input. Here's how it works.

- Ask the question you are trying to deal with. For example, "How can we make our band better with...?"

- Then have everyone pull something out of their pocket, manpurse, whatever and hand it to the person on their right.

- Take a few minutes and answer the question. "How can we make our band better with (whatever is in your hand)?"

This might not get you to a final answer but it sparks creativity.

3. Invest the Time - You thought there was a way around this didn't you? You have to invest the time to process and capture ideas. You have to invest time to keep the box full.

"If you and I fail to paint the masterpiece no one will."

So when you have a gun to your head and have to come up with a creative idea the best thing you could do is prepare for the moment. Expand your world, invest the time, fill your box. It will always pay off.

*These ideas came from a session entitled "Unlimited Creativity" presented by Mark Miller.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Crying in the Night

I normally don't write about this but I haven't written in a while and it is pretty fresh in my mind.

We have an 11 month old son, Levi, who is teething. He actually has 4 teeth coming in at once. We are also the mean parents that have decided that we are going to let our kids "cry it out" if they wake up in the middle of the night. And cry it out they do.

Last night was really rough. Levi was crying. Screaming. He was in desperation. His teeth are about to explode out of his gums. We knew that there was nothing we could do to stop the pain and he wasn't hungry or anything so we had to let him cry it out.

From his perspective, his cries of desperation were to no avail. He was completely alone. He endured his pain by himself. There was no rescue. No comfort. I can't imagine how it must have been. But I believe it is for his good. (At least that is what many that have gone before me have said)

But something he didn't know was that his parents weren't sleeping. We were in our own anguish sticking to our commitment of what we believe is best for him. He doesn't know that I was standing at the door watching over him to make sure he didn't get hurt, laying in bed listening to his screams and wanting desperately to go and pick him up and bring what comfort I could. While that might have made us all feel a little better in the moment I think it would create more problems in the future.

Going through this process is showing Levi, even at this early age, that he can handle some things himself. It is showing him some realities of life that are not easy. There are going to be things that he goes through alone. It's hard to go through this process but I believe it will pay off in the future.

If you are going through a season where you feel like you are experiencing the pain in isolation or that your cries of desperation are going unheard let me tell you that you are not alone. Someone is letting you go through this because somehow it is for your good and He is standing at the door watching over you. And I guarantee that it hurts Him to watch you go through this as well.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


We've had a bit of a crazy season in June with different parts of our staff on vacation and others making internal transitions. It was finally our turn to take a break and wow did we need it.

I have heard it said often that if you don't plan your work and plan your play both will be disappointing (thanks Pastor Hal!).

I think taking breaks and getting out of the normal routine is one of those things we know we should do but we have so many deadlines and people and things clamoring for our time that we often let that slip away.

Take a break today. It doesn't have to be a trip to a far off land. Take a walk around your office or your neighborhood. Do something.

I'm curious to know if you have found your breaks as satisfying as the one we just had.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Time to Deal

If you are in any kind of leadership role (and you are) you will encounter an issue that you have to deal with that won't be pleasant. You are going to have to say hard things to the people you are leading. In Nehemiah one of these encounters takes place in Chapter 5.

The people are working themselves ragged but the leaders were basically making slaves of their countrymen. They were being forced to mortgage their assets and even their children to their fellow Jews.

Nehemiah deals with this head-on. He gathers the leaders in the room and deals.

"This isn't right." "What are you thinking?" "Make this situation right and do it quickly."

You are going to have to get your people around the table from time to time and deal. Maybe it isn't that your team is making slaves but maybe the team isn't functioning like it should. Maybe the direction is wrong. Maybe there are a couple of people on the team that have been undermining the vision.

It's time to deal. When it's time to deal it has to be in the context of vision and mission not just personal preferences. The goal has to be to get things moving in the right direction not just to have your way but don't shrink back. Is it time to deal?

Doing What You Know

I have been thinking, nay haunted, by this thought over the last few days.

What would my life look like if I did what I knew I should be doing?

If I never learned anything else and just operated my relationships, spirituality, health choices, finances and career based on the information I already have what would it look like?

The problem often isn't getting more information. There's something else missing. There's something missing that keeps all the information idle. And as long as knowledge is idle my life will look exactly like it does.

What would your life look like?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Spirit That Animates the Machine

Creative people have a great advantage and a great problem. The great thing is that they have Spirit. The problem is they tend not to have Machines (systems, processes of delivery, etc.). What you get is a lot of great ideas that never get done. Great art created but never seen. Amazing investments in the soul of a culture that goes unnoticed.

Administrative people have a great advantage and a great problem. They have great Machines. The problem is they tend to not have much Spirit. They miss the reasons why the Machine was created. What you get is great information that doesn't mean anything. A better widget that no one wants to use. The minutia of timelines, deadlines and deliverables that doesn't get anything done that needs to get done.

If you lean towards more Spirit partner with someone that makes Machines. If you are someone that makes Machines partner with someone that has great Spirit.

It's amazing to see what happens when the Spirit animates the Machines.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Take a Little Piece of My Heart

What captures your imagination? Where are you devoting time and more importantly money? What have you bled for? Sacrificed? What distracts you from these great projects?

In Nehemiah the haters have come and their plans have been thwarted but now the project is really dealing with problems. In the project management world it's called "mission creep". Other things are vying for attention. Important things. So much so that the people are working on the wall with one hand and carrying a weapon with the other. The Bible says they didn't take their clothes off at night. They were perpetually in a state of preparedness while doing intense physical labor to complete the wall.

Just a few verses earlier it says that "the people worked with all their heart." My guess is they weren't now. They were still committed to the project. That's obvious by the conditions that they were dealing with. But my guess is there was a piece of that heart being taken and focused on their own well-being and safety, on the distraction caused by the haters and by their own fear.

Mission Creep is dangerous. Life happens and there is no way to avoid every distraction but beware of losing a piece of your heart from the greater vision. Critics are not going away. Distractions are not going away. Challenges are not going away. But you can still build something great if you continue with all of your heart.