Tag Archives: persistence

The Art of Persistence : Not Giving Up

Persistence : Part One

Back in February 2016, the Art for Work’s Sake project was a finalist in the Learning and Performance Institute’s annual awards, innovation category. The entry fell at the final hurdle, and though I was up against some much bigger hitters, at the time I was disappointed to remain a finalist, not a winner. The LPI gave me a piece of glassware to acknowledge the journey – and after putting it back in its box on the evening of the awards, it has remained there. Until today. Today it’s on display in my office.

I realise I let my disappointment cloud how I feel about my work, and for a while, I backed away from the excitement, challenge, and everything which makes me and my work what it is. I guess I lost some confidence, retreated to safer territories. The trouble is I don’t like safe. In my line of work it’s boring, it’s waiting to be told what to do instead of figuring it out, it’s coercive not coactive, and it’s overcrowded. David Henry once shared with me an excellent Tom Fishburne cartoon which sums things up nicely.

With a little help from some friends, I’ve been working my way back out of the herd again. Running workshops, giving short talks at conferences, piloting new ways of working with clients. Each piece of work, building on the last, a blend of care, preparation and the all important improvisation. The willingness to say ‘yes, and…’. The excitement of having a basic script, and being completely open to tearing it up. To go with the flow, to the uncharted territory where the really interesting and useful stuff lies.

This adventure is back on track, and very soon I’ll share details of the first phase of The Art of Innovation, a collaborative and practical adventure blending organisational development, the employee experience, and art. It all kicks off in London and Berlin this summer.

Persistence : Part Two

IMG_3629The middle of March 2017 marked the 50th consecutive week of my free art project. This milestone was celebrated with a joint free art drop made by Chloe Ray and me. Chloe released her latest EP the same week as the art project turned 50, and I made a painting to reflect a song on the EP titled ‘Not Giving Up’. The canvas is 80cm x 30cm and this is the first time I’ve painted at this scale. I’ve been wanting to scale up my work for some time, and having done so once, within 24 hours of painting this piece I did it again.

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This time I painted an abstract of the view over London from the 34th floor of the BT Tower. It’s taken me years to find the confidence to paint and show my work at this scale, I’ve persisted with my work – clearly the time is now right.

Persistence : Part Three

A few weeks ago I was encouraged to apply to Arts Network Sutton for some grant funding to enable me to carry out some workshops, an exhibition, and other free art related activity in the coming year. I’ve just found out the application has been successful. This application wouldn’t have succeeded if I hadn’t stopped thinking about free art, and started making it, all those weeks ago. Looking back – I can see threads of the free art project in my work which snake back way before I started painting and giving art away. I have shifted from persistence of thought, to persistence of action.

I’m good at coming up with ideas, and I used to think I was rubbish at bringing these ideas to fruition. This clearly is not the case. Maybe all I’ve been doing for the past 51 years, is searching for the things which really excite and drive me in the service of myself and others, the ideas which matter, which resonate deeply.

Persistence : Part Four

For too long, I’ve been searching for the next big thing, when the signs are right in front of me. This artistic approach to work is where I am most alive, and where I can be of best use to myself and to you. I think I am the primary audience for this post, so if you’ve read this far, thank you and well done!

More to follow, soon.

Overcoming Doubt : Not Giving Up

Running bore alert!

After Dad’s death in 2012, my body reacted in a profoundly painful way. The doctors diagnosed some kind of arthritis and told me I had to stop running. Like most stupid men I ignored the advice and tried to carry on. The subsequent pain, akin to having a hot knife wiggled around under your kneecaps, forced my hand, and I stopped. I convinced myself I’d never run again.

Over time, the pain abated, I stopped taking prescribed pain relief, and since introducing regular walks at the start of 2015, I’ve slowly felt stronger, and simultaneously tried to accept that these walks take the place of the more vigorous activity which I previously enjoyed. My Fitbit slave ring joyfully announced that I’ve walked over 4,000 miles since the beginning of 2015. I enjoy my walks very much. Somedays walking helps me think, others days I just empty my head and stroll, and sometimes I look for the beauty in the every day things I encounter. There is much to enjoy in walking, and yet as my 51 year old girth continues its slow expansion, I feel I need to do more.

This month, I snuck back into running courtesy of a borrowed pair of Carole’s running shoes. I’m assured that off road is gentler on the knees, so I’ve been running at Roundshaw Downs, an up and down grass course. After finishing the first week I could barely move – no arthritic pain, but instead, a profusion of muscle aches the like of which I’d not previously experienced. Since then, I’m remembering to stretch out the tightness immediately after a run, and I feel much better as a result.

I’ve now completed three parkruns and taken just over two and a half minutes off my times since I started.

Whoop de doo and all that. This is all very well, but what really struck me today as I pushed (puffed!) for the finish line, is the realisation that I’m here, doing it. I’m running again. I had written off the prospect of putting on running shoes ever again, and I was wrong. I could now spend time worrying about how much sooner this return may have occurred had I not been so full of doubt, but instead, I’ll give thanks to the volunteers at Parkrun who make the weekly events possible, and I’ll remember not to be so quick and certain to write myself off in future.

Art for Work’s Sake : Belief

Belief: I’m fascinated by our ability to talk ourselves into and out of stuff. We all know from experience that finding the courage to have a go at something different can be tough, and we see good things happening to others and without even trying ourselves, we believe ‘that will never happen to me’.

I’m no different to anyone else in this respect, so when in conversation with a friend earlier this year about how to continue my development of Art for Work’s Sake, initially I failed to take the idea of seeking some formal recognition for the work seriously. ‘Why don’t you submit your work to the 2016 Learning Awards?’ In the moments after the suggestion was made, I came up with a bundle of perfectly convincing reasons why this should not happen. ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘It’s not ready yet’, are just two of the things I often hear from others when first we explore the chance to think, feel and do our work differently, and there I sat offering up the same excuses to myself.

I reflected, and decided I would get over myself and develop this idea. In the coming weeks I drafted and redrafted an awards submission. It was a painful process, trying to distill over four years work into a few hundred words which simultaneously told the story of the journey and met the award criteria. I nearly gave up several times: ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘It’s not ready yet’. I persisted, and with some excellent contributions and support from Carole, particularly in the reviewing and editing stages, a piece of work emerged that felt….good enough. I submitted the entry and waited. And waited. There were so many entries that the initial judging assessment window was extended, and without any good reason, I convinced myself this announcement delay did not bode well for me.

I put out a request for some good vibes last week, and several people kindly responded. Thefinalists were confirmed last Friday, October 23rd, my late Father’s birthday. Art for Work’s Sake has been shortlisted in the Innovation in Learning category. Perfect timing. #FistBump #HighFives #ThankYou. A brief pause to enjoy the moment, then onwards and upwards, I’ve much work to do.

Belief: noun. What you get when you combine persistence, resilience and encouragement. Belief can appear fragile, easily broken, and as such doesn’t get taken out of its box and played with very often. Paradoxically, it turns out that the more you play with it, the more resilient it gets. Learning all the time.

Art for Work's Sake