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Category: Community

Community Enhances Creativity

Perfectionism loves isolation – Jon Acuff

One of my favourite short films to watch with my kids is the animated movie Burrow. It features a rabbit who has aspirations of creating a modest one room ‘burrow’ home for himself.

When he begins digging he realizes how pedestrian or simple his plans are in comparison to other elaborate homes by other animals. The others offer their assistance in expanding rabbit’s blue prints but he’s so embarrassed by his small, simple idea that he consistently declines.

That’s where the problems start. His zeal to do things on his own and not be open to even the smallest suggestions lead him into a world of trouble, and ultimately put the other animals homes at risk. Once they realize the approaching danger, they ban together to put a stop to it. With the help of the rabbit they’re eventually successful in avoiding disaster.

The film ends with the rabbit finally being open to getting help in creating his new home.

Sharing our ideas can sometimes be tricky but being in a creative community helps in two specific ways: Communities help us expand our ideas in ways we would never think and help us avoid repeating mistakes they’ve already made.

The problem with rabbit’s plans had nothing to do with the simplicity of it. The others in his community just wanted to use their expertise to ensure it was as functional as he needed and wanted it to be.

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We Can Stop Climbing

There’s a reason why it’s called climbing the corporate ladder. If you climb long enough you’ll eventually reach your ‘peak’ or get to the pinnacle of your career.

But there’s a catch. Once you reach that pinnacle the natural progression is to reach for the next level. And the level after that. And so on.

Careers void of any real purpose usually follow this trend. And there’s inherently nothing wrong with that. Accomplishments in higher positions and more compensation are the default pursuits when we haven’t defined a true purpose for our daily work and lives.

That’s the thing about true purpose. It should always involve making the lives of others better. And the best part is there’s no limitation to the opportunities available. There will always be those who are in need of creative solutions to some of the worlds most dire issues – e.g. Flint MI.

The beauty of it is we don’t need to keep ‘climbing’ to make purposeful impact.

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That’s How We Scroll!

On average we scroll through 300 feet (90 meters) of social media content daily. As a business owner or content creator that poses two major problems.

One, how do we go about creating something meaningful that will grab the attention of your target audience enough to make them slow their scroll?

And two, how do we stop ourselves from getting stuck scrolling down the social media content rabbit hole, which ultimately leads to a lack of true productivity and originality in our own work.

The addictive nature of social media makes it an ideal source for marketing to audiences (and an ideal source for wasting time.). But the sheer amount of content consumed in a day is shortening the attention span of that same audience. And more importantly our own.

What’s the answer? Purposeful content.

Purposeful content should lead our audiences and ourselves to do 3 things: Stop, think and eventually take action.We need to create it and we need to consume it. Everything else needs to be discarded.

In the digital age, people spend countless hours throughout the day on social media and at the end of the day have absolutely nothing to show for it.” – Germany Kent

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Inclusion & Diversity = Authenticity

My favourite part from the Disney/Pixar movie Soul is easily the barbershop scene. A few weeks after watching the movie I learned the barbershop scene wasn’t part of the original screenplay.

Yeah, that scene was my idea. It wasn’t even in the film. I said like, “This guy has to pass through authentically Black spaces and there’s no more authentically Black space than a barbershop.”

Kemp Powers, a co-director for Soul who happens to be black , felt the movie was lacking a scene showing an authentic black experience with the characters. Through his own personal experiences he thought adding a barbershop scene to the storyline would fill that void:

Hair falls gently down to the floor. That’s how the scene opens. You hear the clippers buzzing and the hair falls onto Dez’s (the barber) Timberland boots….I just knew that it would be incredible to see the process of a Black haircut up close, in a Pixar film.

The animators took trips to the barbershops, and they sat there, and barbers worked through all of their tools so that everything was done in order. The level of detail that goes into everything; nothing happens in an animated film by accident.(Quotes from interview on State.com)

Having a co-black director in place, Pixar provided opportunities for culturally relevant ideas like adding the barbershop to actually happen. But they didn’t stop there with Soul.

All the key elements of the film were run by the internal culture trust made of Pixar’s Black employees. Areas like character designs, set designs, and more, to ensure the film felt culturally authentic. Additionally Pixar brought in external consultants to assist with lighting black skin to bring an authentic, distinct look to the black characters.

Soul feels the way it does when you watch it because all of these elements were considered ahead of time by Pixar. It’s impossible to create an culturally authentic experience without providing room for equity, inclusion and diversity in the creative decision making process.

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The Unconscious Shortcuts We Make

In the evenings during the week I take time and watch the show Brain Games on Disney+ with my kids. It’s a great informative show about the way our brains work and encourages the viewer to be interactive with the host by playing several fun brain building games along the way.

After watching a dozen episodes, several of them refer to the concept of Heuristics and Cognitive Biases.

Heuristics are mental shortcuts that allow us to problem solve and make choices fast and efficiently. It helps us minimizes time we use to make decisions and allows us to operate without constantly stopping to think about our next move. Heuristics are beneficial in many ways, but they can also result in cognitive biases.

A cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that happens when we process and interpret information in the world around us and affects the decisions and judgments that we make. Cognitive biases are often caused by our brain’s attempt to simplify processing information. Biases often work as ‘rules of thumb’ that help us make sense of the world and reach decisions with relative speed.

In other words, our view of the world and how we respond to it could be coming from a place of limited understanding and we don’t realize it. Whether it’s political, spiritual, social, economical, our brain daily pushes us to make short cuts in information processing and will continue to do so unless we push back.

So the question is, how do we push back?

For starters have a solid foundational understanding of the issue before making a decision and be aware of potential biases that could be tainting your thinking process.

For example from a political standpoint why do you support the party you choose to support? Is it just because that particular party on the surface lines up with the values of the faith you practice? Or do you have a thorough understanding of the foundational policies and principles that party holds and its affect on the community where you live?

In a fast-paced world where time is of the essence in every area of our lives, slowing down and taking time to really understand before we move is a skill we all need to be conscious of developing.

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Listen & Learn

When we start something new – like a career, business, creative hobby, or even a relationship – we’re often satisfied with the knowledge we currently have. Which was more likely obtained and collected in preparation for the new journey.

We convince ourselves we’re ready for the ‘new’ from the information we collected from books, websites and even Netflix documentaries. Probably a few other forms of mediums we won’t want to admit.

Excitement for the new tends to blur the obvious opportunities to learn from others around us. The additional learning that happens when we take time for deeper conversations. We don’t pursue these conversations because we’re convinced we won’t learn anything new.

We couldn’t be more wrong.

No two marriages are the same. No two business success stories were guided by the same principles. The best opportunities for unique learning come from those around us. We need to be bold enough to initiate these conversations in order to take advantage of the missteps they made so we don’t venture into the same when we start our journey towards the ‘new’.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

My father is happiest 66 year old alive because 3 times a week he gets to help people in need.

He could be telling me about his life as an entrepreneur, which he was been for well over 30 years. But he chooses to share with me all the interesting people and their stores he comes across while giving out food working for a charity on the side.

He never forgets to tell me it’s hard work. Picking up food from major donors, unloading trucks, packing and preparing food for those in need. But he knows it’s also purposeful work. And purposeful work is the most fulfilling work.

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2021 Metamorphosis

2020 has changed many things.

It’s changed how we shop. How we connect with others. How we do our daily professional work. Even how we practice our faith.

Live concerts have shifted to parking lots with attendees sitting in their cars. Schools have found ways to administer education remotely and continue to make improvements in the area of connecting kids with teachers.

Everything I’ve said above is not surprising and is a result of the Covid-19 restrictions set in place across our countries.

The IOC announcing that breakdancing will be an official Olympic competition in the Paris 2024 summer games is a change we didn’t see coming. But it’s indicative of the way of the world is turning currently.

The point is what we all thought we knew to be true is being challenged. The world as we know it is going through a metamorphosis. Change is taking place with the likely and the unlikely. The expected and unexpected.

The question is, what do we do about? What happens next will continue to shape society going forward. Which means our actions can no longer remain in a vacuum.

The most significant change that will need to take place is within us. 2021 will give us that opportunity.

Happy New Year!

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Social Responsibility

The desire for self improvement can lead us in an endless pursuit of acquiring personal excellence and greater levels of achievement.

Doing better for ourselves can never be wrong but in the absence of social responsibility as part of our journey, we cheat ourselves and the world around us the best parts of ourselves.

“Again the greatest use of a human was to be useful. Not to consume, not to watch, but to do something for someone else that improved their life, even for a few minutes.” – Dave Eggers

When we open our smart phone calendars, locate a day and find those few minutes a month to improve the life of someone else, we’ll begin to realize it’s a necessary component of our own goals for self improvement.

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What Real Hero Work Looks Like

We love superhero movies. There’s something about them that we can relate to. Good overcoming evil. The afflicted getting the justice they deserve. Peace being restored. All narratives that resonate with us. There’s no better example of this than last year’s box office hit Avengers Endgame.

Released in Spring 2019 to much fanfare, Endgame went on to shatter box office records becoming the highest-grossing movie in history on July 21, 2019, after 89 days of release. It was the climatic ending we all have been wait for after a decade of Marvel films building the anticipation.

One of my favourite scenes in the film comes near the end. Steve Rogers aka Captain America stands alone in the battle field as thousands of enemy soldiers, aircrafts and beasts begin to approach him. Looking at the overwhelming task in front of him, Captain America, in true Cap form, grits his teeth and tightens his iconic battle shield strap preparing to seemingly die honourably in battle.

We can sometimes allow the fantasy of superhero life clash with our reality and influence how we approach issues on a global scale. To clarify, we all have a small inherent desire to be ‘superheroes’ to save the world and the problems it’s currently facing.

At first glance this idea doesn’t seem problematic. Having a desire to do good is the essence of humanity. The problem lies in the area of how we scale what real effective problem solving looks like. One against a thousand is a romantic idea, but is often not practical or provides meaningful impact. As well the idea that the only means of achieving something significant is to approach large scale issues head on can lead to missing more optimal opportunities for progress.

If personal circumstances won’t allow you to participate in a march for racial inequality, donating to organizations that have been in this fight for sometime may prove to be more beneficial. Signing petitions, sharing legitimate information on social media and participating in progressive conversations aren’t massive undertakings but can lead to positive change.

Don’t be fooled by society’s perception of what real ‘hero’ work looks like. Simple, unassuming actions done consistently over a period of time build a stronger foundation to the ultimate goal. Recognition will be hard to come by, but is that the real reason we desire the hero status?

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