In general, I’m a thinker, not a doer. I’m one of those people who take capital-P Planning to a beautiful, spreadsheeted, colour-coded new level.
So of course I got sucked into all the 2016, It’s A New Year, Set your Business Intentions, Resolutions & Goals Now Blog Posts. I read them, watched the videos, printed off the worksheets and cracked open a new 2016 Inspirational Notebook, calendar, spreadsheet, file and Trello Board. (I like a multi-media approach.)
But this January, I wasn’t really feeling it. Over the holidays our community lost a dad/neighbour/beloved teacher to an life-long illness. I didn’t know – of course – that this fun-loving, gentle, always helpful man was fighting hard for his life. But you never know, do you, what’s going on inside other people’s heads and homes. So anyway, our Happy New Year wasn’t that happy, and I couldn’t find the inspiration to choose financial targets and bulk up my mailing list.
What I wanted to do was reach out. In a way that was sincere and meaningful. That’s when my Planning super-power transferred over and kicked in. Maybe I could set up a site, or a community, or a process to coordinate meals and carpooling and childcare for the family. There are loads of kickstarter fundraising apps – surely there’s an app to facilitate varied volunteer services? I could schedule a season’s-worth of meals, lifts and playdates on behalf of the entire community. I could colour-code day parts, set up a system and rally the neighbours. And, aye – there’s the rub.
It’s not actually my job to schedule my entire community. Everyone wants to help, but they need to help in their own way, and not be told how, when and where. Suddenly, my Planning brain dissolved, and my Presence brain kicked in. Let everyone feel what they need to, help how they need to, say what they need to and turn up in a way that they feel…is real.
So what does this have to do with running a business? My January 6 epiphany was, There are times to Plan, and then there are times just to Connect. I’ve been working so hard to nail down my process, simplify my systems, automate my outputs, that I forgot for a moment I have living, laughing clients riding their own business roller coasters. Every project starts with them, and everything I write is powered by their energy. As much as it would be nice, neat, columned and colour-coded to control my creative process, I can’t and don’t want to control theirs. In all my decades of working, I’ve never seen the Perfect Creative Brief. Because we all express complex ideas in wonderfully unique ways. I’ve had clients talk to me, write to me, paint to me, pin to me and playlist to me. And it all works in the end. Whatever it takes to get me inside their head, meet their people and hear their voice, that’s what we do.
I guess Creativity is a lot like Connection. When it’s real, it defies control. What works for one client doesn’t work for the next. What worked yesterday might not work today. For my fellow super-power Planners: I think it’s okay. You can set your goals and imagine your process, but you’re not going to be able to automate genuine feeling and honest connection. Take a moment to appreciate that crazy, can’t-be-fenced-in, timelines-be-damned style of your client or neighbor or friend. Respect their process. Step out of their way. Then show up with your highlighters and invent a brand new way to help them do their thing.
(PS – this is not the Tips Topic I had scheduled for this week. Go figure.)