A few weeks ago I was introduced to the concept of Strategic Renewal, which focuses on optimizing our energy (which is a renewable resource) rather than our time (which is not a renewable resource). Our culture tends to focus on time — spending time, wasting time, optimizing time, scheduling time, etc. We often think that the more time we spend on something the more efficient and productive we will be. The idea of strategic renewal suggests that is the wrong perspective. Our time is not a renewal resource. Every minute spent on something is a minute that can never be recovered. It’s gone. Additionally, when we approach our work with the perspective that more time equals more productivity, we begin to burn out, lose focus, and ultimately accomplish less.
Like many artists, I like my freedom. I value the freedom to do what I want, when I want. And there are certainly perks to that kind of freedom. However, in reality that “freedom”, which was really just a lack of structure and direction, wasn’t all that freeing, as I’ve talked about the past few weeks. The “freedom”, combined with a lack of clarity about my values and priorities, left me in a position in which I wasn’t accomplishing all that much. That defeated the purpose.
It wasn’t that long ago that I would wake up every day feeling a bit overwhelmed by the all the tasks that needed to be done, or at least that I thought needed to be done. I wasn’t even immune to it during the weekends. I would wake up Saturday and Sundays wondering how I could accomplish work in between “down” time with my family. Every day I would start tackling items on my to-do list, never really sure what was most important to accomplish, and what was ultimately a distraction. Also, as I mentioned last week, when moving from one task to the next, I often felt paralyzed by the decision of what I should do next. I would end up stalling the decision by checking my email or social media, and when I would make a decision it was often a task that was “low hanging fruit”, I.e. It was an easy, mindless task that allowed me to avoid the bigger, more important tasks. At the end of every day I was tired, frustrated by what I didn’t accomplish, and distracted by other unfinished tasks. I was paying a heavy price for the ways in which I was approaching my schedule. Not only that, but my family was paying a price as well since I was often distracted by what felt like important, unfinished work.
Lately I've been learning a lot about my personal capacity, or lack thereof, in my daily life. My life is busy. I have a family. I work as a photographer to help with the bills. I work as a web developer to help with more bills (I do live in San Francisco after all). I am building a new organization/community called ASH that invites companies and individuals to come together around shared stories and experiences. I have personal creative projects I am working on. I regularly meet with and mentor artists around the Bay Area. I have a lot on my plate.
California is in the midst of a severe drought. The water is running out, the rain is absent, and the lawns are brown. Looking for lush, green grass? You’ll have to look elsewhere. Does your life ever feel this way? Your current life situation—community, relationships, art, culture—does it feel like it’s drying up? Perhaps you should look on the other side of the fence because, you know, the grass is always greener over there. Just look. It’s so inviting, so beautiful. It has everything that this old, dry side doesn’t have. Find a gate, climb over the fence, or just knock down that fence. Whatever it takes to get to the other side, where you can roll around in the grass, giggle like a little schoolgirl and experience the best that life has to offer.
Last week I watched a PBS special called Art & Copy, an excellent documentary that provides a deeper look at the advertising industry and the visionaries who radically changed the course of advertising over the past 50 years. "Think Different", "Got Milk", "I Want My MTV", "Think Small", "Just Do It" — familiar with these phrases? They were created by individuals such as George Lois, Mary Wells, Jeff Goodby, Dan Wieden and David Kennedy. I was impressed by the amazingly creative people who exercise so much influence in American culture.
I recently attended, at a local church, a gathering of artists that come together monthly to encourage one another and discuss art. The topic for this particular gathering was "Sacred Space." I am interested in the intersection of art and religion, and I looked forward to hearing the speaker and engaging the topic. It was a valuable discussion and encouraged me to continue thinking about what sacred space looks like in my life.
At the end of 2010, after further considering some of my goals for 2011, I realized that I had developed a number of action items without having a strong sense of the values and motivations behind them. It was easy to say I wanted to read one book per week, write one blog post per week, complete one photo shoot per month for my personal portfolio, etc. Why? Why do I want to accomplish these tasks/projects? What is my motivation? I decided to take a step back and consider some of my values that were driving my goals for the new year. In that process I developed a number of themes that will guide my goals, tasks, projects, and the kind of jobs that I am willing to take on. Here is the quick list: Generosity, Collaboration, Relationship, Courage, Remarkability, Non-Conformance.
2011 is off to a great start, and I am off and running with new (renewed) vision, goals, and projects for the upcoming year! I'm not normally one to pursue new years resolutions, but I do appreciate the changing of the years as opportunities to refocus and grow on the previous year's work, both personal and professional.
I am honored to be a guest blogger on my husband's blog as I share what it looks like from my view to have Shun-Luoi begin to travel more extensively to pursue cultural and humanitarian photography.