As soon as we put the lawn mowers on the embankment, they gathered a crowd, people in cars stopped and took photographs, it was really interesting to watch people watching our new lawnmowers. You see our lawnmowers happened to be in the shape of 3 Alpacas and about the same price, although most people think they are Lama’s. Many people would say ‘Why’, people say that a lot to us, but we say ‘Why Not’, you see there’s more than one answer to a problem, and the solution you choose is often related to the risk level you are willing to take.
Risk is always an fascinating topic because many of the great entrepreneurs of the world are risk takers, they have got out of their comfort zone and done something others wouldn’t do. Our logic behind the whole process of getting the Alapaca’s was simple, we had no way to cut the enormous embankment that has appeared over the last two years, part of the flood defence project to protect the houses from the river. So it was a question of get a bad back or get someone who would do it for us.
Many of our neighbours are elderly and we thought how sad it was that they had lost their precious view of the river and now all they see is an 8ft grass embankment, so you can only imagine what they were saying when they saw three beautiful animals appear on the embankment. They are fascinating creatures and how much nicer to look out on rather than grass.
So next time you have to find a solution to a problem, don’t go ordinary, go extraordinary and do something that helps others at the same time as helping you, we may never know but we have probably made a positive difference to someone’s life and that’s what counts.
There’s a big event happening in our household this year in fact two, the first is at Easter and that’s where my step daughter of 13 is moving in with us permanently. Now to many this may seem no big deal because she has spent 2 or 3 days a week for the last 9 years but what’s different is now she’s moving school, friends, and hobbies which is quite a big thing.
Like any parents we want to make the transition easy and it would be the simplest thing in the world to redecorate the room and put some new pictures up and make it a done deal. But many teenagers suffer from lack of ownership, low confidence in conversations and you have to get them involved in their own life. So many times I see young people’s ability to make decisions and solve problems taken away because parents feel they are helping them by doing it for them. You are not, the only thing that happens is they stay dependent on you and the first time a crisis hits, they may go into meltdown and not know how to deal with it.
We needed to make sure she would take ownership from day one so when she mentioned paintings and pictures on her walls, we encouraged her to take her own, with a London theme in mind. This was a young person that hadn’t really done much photography before but she got involved last weekend. With that activity will come the memory of taking them, the fun manipulating them and then getting the photos on the walls.
In a couple of hours she learned to be more creative, had some great fun and could be proud of what she had achieved. The other thing often overlooked is that she now has a conversation piece to talk to her friends about when they come over.
So consider this month and look for opportunities where you can encourage young people, friends, family to create something rather than go out and buy it. The connections to conversations, memories to share and fun will stay with you a lot longer than a trip to Sainsburys.
Most of us can tell a story of an experience as a child when we were told we either couldn’t draw or paint or very quickly we decided that for ourselves. The interesting thinking about drawing is that most of us have huge expectations and when they are not met, we quickly give up because of the lack of trained skill.
Creativity is something we can develop through life, it’s true there may be many people who are natural at it but then isn’t that true of many professions where some people excel and others are mediocre at best.
But drawing is something that is available to everyone and it’s a skill that can be very rewarding and relaxing because it kick start our creative thinking. I once took a friend who hadn’t painted for 30 years to an art club where you could experiment with ideas. She got started and slowly began to relax and create something that a pizza restaurant would be proud of but it didn’t matter, because she had started to unlock her creative side again. But very soon the fact it really did look like a pizza got stronger and she gave up and never came back because she was so unforgiving of her painting, yet most people don’t give up when learning to walk or talk, mainly because we don’t know how to.
We learn to give up and some people get really good at it but if you look back at some of the ancient drawings, they may not qualify for the National Gallery but through them we have been able to listen to an unspoken story of the past and what a tragedy it would be if those people had thrown the towel in.
So in March when the sun starts to shine and we creep out of the dark slumber, get yourself a small sketchbook and start drawing again but think about something specific and that is start drawing the story of your life, in pictures. Drop the judgments because the more you do the better they will become and forget the fact that they may not be hung in the Tate Modern. Start to tell your story for this generation and the next, be remembered for living, you never know where that little sketch book will end up and perhaps it will tell our future generations a story. Imagine in 20 years time sitting down with one of your family, friends or grandchildren and telling them the stories.
You see we all have a creative story teller within us we just need to find them and give them an airing.
I remember the day when I spoke those immortal words to Andy my partner, who has probably been a fisherman well before he could walk! I only went up to Scotland for this weekend for a three day chill out in Scotland, and that included the 11 hour train journey to get there. British Rail should really improve the Spa arrangements on their trains!
I arrived in Forsinard and before I knew it, was whisked off to the Melvich Hotel to find myself having dinner with two English and five Spanish fishermen. The conversations were full of incredible passion about their sport as I listened to the tales of near misses, of triumphs and just darn bad luck, I was enthralled. Within an hour they had me captivated, I knew I shouldn’t have asked questions but I couldn’t help myself and there was no going back. I showed far too much interest and the Spa’s and Shops were fading into the background, being replaced with a fishing rod and a pair of wellies.
The following morning I was kitted out with fishing clothes, apparently high heels are not great for wading in. The clothes were so big I needed a belt to keep them up, looking like a cross between a Hobo and someone from the Australian outback.
Apparently the bright turquoise jacket wasn’t the best choice of colour, which I gather is the reason they wear dark green to blend with nature; they was no blending me in that outfit. On the way to the river Andy gave me some advice, “Be careful you don’t hit the power lines with the rod and don’t fall in the river, the first will kill you and the second gets you soaked”. Classic advice that would serve me well, as I bolted in the opposite direction but I was captured and told not to worry. Then my ghillie (the bloke that knows what to do) also known as Andy, demonstrated how to cast a line out. “Can you give me any advice on how to catch a salmon” I naively asked. “Yes he said “if the hook is in the river, you have a chance of catching a salmon, if it isn’t, you’ve no chance”.
I think his advice was in relation to me treating the rod and line more like a yoyo than a fishing tool. Well it seemed fun flicking the line in and out, apparently that’s called casting. After 20 minutes I felt the line pull and I was positive that I had hooked the otter on the opposite bank, well I didn’t like the way he was scowling at me and I was aiming for him! Then I thought the hook must be stuck on bramble, that was until the end of the fishing line leapt out of the water and on the end of it was a 5lb salmon.
I was speechless as I thrust the rod into Andy’s hand; “Nope” he said “You caught it, you land it”. At this point his friend arrived, Andy’s that is not the salmon’s and they proceeded to have a chat about where to eat later that night. It was reminiscent of the scene in Men in Black when Will Smith gets thrown about by the alien baby in the car whilst Tommy Lee Jones carries on with his conversation. Needless to say the odd word of “tighten the line’ or “let the line go” in between the restaurant discussions reassured me that I was doing ok.
After a few minutes I landed the salmon and Andy unhooked it and made sure it was ok before setting it free to swim off again.
I was dumbstruck by the whole experience, people go fishing for twenty years and never catch a salmon and here was I after 20 minutes.
The real lesson for me was how creative salmon fishing really is, I learnt that day how much emotional creativity is used in the process, and it wasn’t all bravado, which I had anticipated. It was explained to me how to feel at one with a fishing rod and that it was just an extension of me not a piece of wood and metal. It was about clearing your mind and being in nature, and if you were lucky enough to catch a salmon then it was a real bonus but you could still enjoy the whole experience regardless.
I think everyone should have an interest that involves being outdoors; because we spend far too many hours within buildings and it can have such a grounding effect getting back out into nature.
Why not make a promise to yourself this week to get out more and not just to dash about in life but to really experience the beauty that is all around us that we don’t always appreciate until we stop rushing around.
The funny thing is my name will apear in the Trout and Salmon in October, all because I broke one of my own rules, which was not to go fishing.
Will I do it again? Yep I’m hooked!
Well it’s back to school week and many parents will be seeing their young children starting high school for the first time. For some it will be filled with stress, fear and trepidation and for others it will be an exciting start full of new possibilities and ideas and that’s just the parents. The underlying factor running through the next few weeks is that so many people will be experiencing what change really feels like and it is so easy to dwell on the uncomfortable side of change that it sometimes brings with it.
So stop a moment and do this little creative exercise, fold your arms in a comfortable position, tucking one into the other like you might do to keep warm. Take on board what it feels like for a few moments and then unfold them and fold them back together but this time the opposite way, so if you folded your right arm over your left arm then change it to left over right. When you first do it, it will feel awkward and a little bit strange and you’ll be tempted to just change back because it’s more comfortable. The mind likes familiarity, it wants the comfortable feeling we got the first time around.
It’s a good tip if you have kids to introduce them to this simple creative exercise because it helps the mind to make sense of the strange feeling you have when you are faced with change and can remind you to recognise what it really is. It only takes around 21 days for the mind to accept this change and within 3 weeks you could be just as comfortable with your arms folded left over right as you are the other way. This knowledge can help them to understand change.
One of the most uncomfortable business functions that many business people hate to do is cold calling, telephoning prospective clients and engaging in conversation to start a business relationship with them. The gap between Familiarity and Change can be bridged with Discomfort and this is the awkwardness we feel when we have to step out of complacency to reach new clients. We find many ‘What if’ scenarios racing through our mind giving us good reasons not to make a call, what if they reject us, what if they don’t like what we do. The mind can find a hundred good reasons not to do something much easier than doing it.
So my tip for September which to me is the month of change is do something that sparks you out of that familiarity zone, telephone that potential client up and suggest a meeting with them. If they say yes, enjoy the success, if they say no then phone another one until you get a yes.
So get disturbing the comfortable and when you do achieve success treat yourself to a reward to comfort the disturbance.
I’m not an artist for a living but I’ve just dropped off my first publically viewed painting at an art exhibition and the proudest moment was when the organiser said to me ‘what a fabulous painting, how much is it, I could see that on my wall’. I was dumfounded, my first venture into the big wide world of Art. I actually didn’t care if I didn’t sell it, that recognition was firmly captured in my self esteem bank.
When I was younger I used to love to paint and draw and in fact anything creative, as do many children but by the time I was 20 and ensconced in Art College, the doubts had started to set in. I absorbed comments from Teachers such as ’You’ll never make a painter’ and sure enough I never got much better, hanging on to the belief that it was all too difficult and out of reach. My self-belief reinforced the fact that I can’t paint so therefore I didn’t, but after twenty five years of ‘not being able to paint’ when I wrote my book ‘Walk On The Grass’ to encourage everyone to get more creative, I decided I was going to break the mould and started to play. The thing about any art is the more you play the better you become at it and the more fun you have doing it; the less anyones opinion actually matters.
So my simple tip for this month is to get creative again but before you do clear out some of the clutter in your mind first.
Expressive creativity for me is about communication, perhaps it’s painting or sculpting but it can shake up your solution based creativity which is what you need when you are looking for answers to issues or problems at work or at home. So wade in and have a go, the only thing you have to lose is the self-belief that keeps you where you are now.
I’m going to the Art Exhibition tonight to see my painting hung on a wall and it will be such a proud moment for me, it’s not about selling it, it is about recognising how easy it is to change your beliefs and how many people are still stuck with such a common belief that they can’t paint.
Remember you did paint at one time in your life so when did you forget?
The hotel chain, Crown Plaza’s launched an initiative for one week only to install real grass in three of their meeting rooms to improve the creativity of their guests. With all the press coverage of the last few days I think the biggest surprise to me has been the total lack of awareness and negativity by some of the so called ‘Creative’ experts.
If someone is really in touch with their creative intelligence and has a high level of emotional intelligence then negativity has no place in the equation. Perhaps we should question some of the ethics of the creative salesmen on the internet who are selling their wares on creativity, yet they take the first opportunity they can to slam the innovative thinking of Crowne Plaza’s initiative.
It intrigued me even more when one of our leading lights on creativity, was asked who inspired him, he replied “No-one”. That raises a question to me “Is it time to reflect within and set the computer to reboot” because clearly if you have lost the ability to be inspired by anyone in life then in my opinion you are on the decline in your own creative awareness.
Sure it’s not conventional what Crowne Plaza have undertaken but if we all followed what we should do rather than what we can do, we’d still be in caves and the wheel would be a distance dream. Creative people who are in touch with their emotional intelligence will embrace change and whether the initiative succeeds or fails in inspiring the organisations who use the rooms, no lives have been lost in the process so I would encourage the creative critics to lighten up and come down from their ivory towers. Life is there to be enjoyed, to be experienced, to be lived, not to spend it pummeling ideas that may actually make all the difference.
I spent last weekend supporting a friend’s art exhibition locally and was actually even more convinced of our creative decline when I went out into the streets asking people how creative they were. It gives me firsthand experience of how out of touch we really are with our creativity, people between 25 and 65 years old were shocked at the thought of being creative and went immediately into denial telling me they weren’t creative in the slightest.
The only person out of dozens that I asked admitted she was very creative and then went on to thank me for acknowledging her presence in the world because no-one had done that all week. A sad reflection of our times that shows we could do with spending unproductive time helping others to just enjoy life more.
I would say to the people who spend their time looking for what doesn’t work rather than what does, to go out and create something worthwhile, after all if the last thing you created was mayhem, it’s not a good impression to leave.
We are truly driven by rules we set ourselves or are imposed on us by others so maybe the time is right to walk on the grass; the fresh air would be good to blow out some of the self indulgent hot air that some of our so called creatives are full of.
You can read some of the coverage here: