Patience – In Under 11 Seconds

Approximate writing time: four hours. Approximate reading time: less than two minutes.

I spotted someone expressing frustration at having to wait around yesterday, and this got me thinking…

Everyone’s in a hurry, right? Whatever it is, you need it now, if not sooner. I know the feeling. Hate to wait, hate to wait, hate to wait.

I managed to find the time to watch and enjoy the women’s Commonwealth Games 100 metres sprint final on TV a couple of nights ago. The race was won by Blessing Okagbare in a new Commonwealth record of just 10.85 seconds. Blink and you miss it.

In her post race interview, Okagbare was asked how this Commonwealth experience compared to the London 2012 Olympics, when she blew everyone away in the heats, then faded to 8th place in the final. What had she done differently this time? I was not expecting her one word answer.


Patience was the thing she had learned and applied, in order to progress from 8th place in the 2012 final, to 1st place in the 2014 race. Somehow, over 10.85 seconds, Okagbare found the patience to win.

The problem that’s facing you right now, what’s stopping you from progressing it?

Can you identify it?
Can you do anything about it?
Is the rush you are in, stopping you from seeing your goal?

I know you’re in a hurry, you get frustrated when things don’t happen quick enough. Me too. And if, over just 10.85 seconds, Blessing Okagbare can find the patience to win, then surely you and I can find the patience to stop and think about how we make our work better, somewhere in the day? 

Creative Leadership – Essential Reading #3

Reminder: This is a short series of book reviews. The four books in this review series are all about creativity, love, art and leadership (at least that’s what they inspire in me). Separately – each one is a super read. Together – they make up the motherlode. If you are looking for insight and inspiration, I strongly recommend you acquire, and read all four. I’m reviewing the four books in the order they came to me.

Creative Leadership - Essential Reading

First up was 101 Things to Learn in Art School by Kit White – a gift to me from the lovely Carole.

Next came The Year Without Pants – a recommendation to me from the lovely Heather.

Today it’s the turn of Steal Like An Artist – by Austin Kleon.

I met Austin Kleon by chance in an airport bar. We just happened to sit next to one another, two souls travelling in opposite directions, briefly united by bar stools, salty snacks and beer. We talked of our love of all things art, and when the time came to part, he kindly gave me a copy of his wonderful book.

Sadly, I made that up, but it sounds so much nicer than: I’d heard about this book by this guy and so I bought it on Amazon, don’t you think?

Steal Like An Artist is a fabulously doodled, scribbled and sketched list of tips, hints, thoughts and ideas about the world of creativity. It’s a short, accessible book, as easily read from start to finish as it is dipped into at any point, as and when the mood takes you. Rather than walk you through the book, I’m just going to begin at the end, and share two pages titled ‘What Now?’

What Now?

  • Take a walk
  • Start your swipe file
  • Go to the library
  • Buy a notebook and use it
  • Get yourself a calendar
  • Start your logbook
  • Give a copy of this book away
  • Start a blog
  • Take a nap

So – all you need to do now is get hold of a copy of the book and read what goes before this list, then get stuck in. And today, you are in luck. In the previous reviews I mentioned I’ve given away copies of 101 Things and The Year Without Pants. Well I’ve done the same with this book too, and I’m doing it again.

Summer Giveaway

I have three copies to give away in a summer goodie bag. To win the book, and everything else you see in the photo just above these words, simply leave a comment on the blog. Everyone who comments goes into the hat, the draw is next week. Good luck.

A Review of Art For Work’s Sake – Manchester

This post is a review, including some of the learning gained from an Art For Work’s Sake workshop run in Manchester on July 24th 2014. I’m grateful to Paula, Cassie, Alistair and Mark for being open to trying out new ways to think about work, for taking part in the session so enthusiastically, and for agreeing to show their work to you.

The session started with everyone being invited to think quietly about the kind of mood they would like to experience together – and what they might like to get from our time together. We should maybe have tried to doodle these ideas – but hey…there’s always next time.

After we’d noted these things, we discussed them together. We observed that when people meet, we often feel there is no time for quiet contemplation, instead we usually charge straight into our work. We enjoyed this chance to ease into our work.

I often ask people to think about mood, tone and expectations when we start work together – and I would usually invite people to talk about these things together. Based on this experience, I will modify my approach now and make the time for some personal space and thinking time at the start.

We took part in a sketching and reflection exercise similar to the one detailed here. This is a helpful way to get people comfortable with using less familiar tools and materials – and a way of using non judgemental questioning to explore thought processes and ideas for change and improvement. The exercise itself is quite brief (it lasts only around 10 minutes) – the conversation often flows much longer afterwards.

People’s observations about the exercise (which is particularly useful for 1:1 and team coaching) were that it helped:

  • Simplify
  • Focus – identify what is important
  • See how one thing informs another
  • Don’t try to do it all at once
  • Improve quality

Next we decided to visually interpret the questions about mood, tone and expectations. At this point an abundance of materials were introduced. Paints, marker pens, charcoal, different paper, and a set of Stabilo Woody 3 in 1 pencils. Forgive me while I nerd out about these pencils briefly. Stabile Woody’s are chunky, and they have a waxy pigment which blends really well with water. They’re good fun and though I don’t always use them in these workshops – they prove pretty popular when I do. Here is the work people produced (on 12″ x 9″ 300gsm cold pressed water colour paper). I have titled the images – the artists may have other, better names for their work.

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The details of the conversations and the stories about our work will remain with the group, and we agreed the opportunity to record thoughts and ideas in ways other than writing was a stimulating experience.

We then shifted towards a more restricted way of working. One guest drew this card from the Stop Doing Dumb Things deck, and so we gave it a try.

Capture the Essentials

We came up with many different results despite the task feeling quite constraining at first. The subsequent conversations were about interpretation of rules, and making do with less, seeing what you can achieve through scarcity.

Sticking with limitations, we experimented briefly with writing haikus. An haiku is a form of Japanese poetry, comprised of three lines of verse. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven, and the third has five. I’ve introduced poetry into these sessions before now, but in a much gentler, flowing way. Poetry by stealth perhaps. Time was running out on this occasion so we just dived in – and maybe struggled a bit as a result, which is useful learning in itself. Here are two haikus about work which I wrote:

Go to work each day, No one understands my job, Come home kick the cat

Saw a colleague smile, It put a spring in my step, Small things can make change

Finally, we made postcards. I will post these cards back to the artists in a few days as a reminder of our time together.

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We worked together for three and a half hours. The work and conversation flowed well, we didn’t take a break, and we finished without exploring all the possibilities we would have liked. Things we discussed and didn’t experiment with this time included:

  • Photography – capturing mood, values, stories and ideas through a lens (you can use video to help with this too).
  • Cutouts – identifying pieces of our work and having the ability to reposition and reprioritise them.
  • Symbolising – representing our work, values, challenges and opportunities using symbols, drawn and photographed.
  • Cocreated work – I had with me a huge roll of paper onto which we sometimes design a plan. You can see some examples here.

For me – the opportunity to facilitate these workshops is a huge privilege. People’s enthusiasm, and creative ability is there in abundance – despite the fact that work often unwittingly tries to hide it away. I am in the process of asking for feedback from everyone who came along and hope to share that with you too.

Before I headed home, I took some time to wander around Manchester and put together a short (27 seconds) video of what I saw – to act as a reminder of my trip.

I had a lost of interest from people in the Manchester area who said they’d like to come and couldn’t make this date. I will organise another in the late Autumn and keep you posted. For now – this work moves on to Chicago, Ohio, then back to London again in October.