>lessons learned along the way

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so, today i turned 34. and really, it wasn’t as painful as i thought it was gonna be.

i didn’t wither away into nothing, and i awoke to hardly any aches and pains. well, except for my foot (broken many, many times, and the cold weather makes it ache). I didn’t require any special assistance to either get out of bed, or into the shower, and i was able to chew, not gum, my own food. i couldn’t find any new gray hair this morning. i couldn’t find any new wrinkles either.

i woke up and didn’t require any special medication for any health issues, and, while maybe i should, i didn’t have to be specific about the type of food i ate. i woke up warm, and sheltered, with a 4 year old rockstar nuzzling next to me, snoring ever so lightly as she sucked her thumb. i woke to the sounds of my boys fighting over who was gonna be what team on some Madden 2015 football video game. i woke to my mother, who’s visiting, teaching my 7 year old how to make grits ‘the right way’ ( i guess i don’t do it the right way, so ok). i woke to my oldest still snoozing soundly in that teenage way of never having enough sleep.

i woke to being uproariously greeted via text, Tweet and Facebook with a multitude of Happy Birthday wishes. i woke to knowing that a dear friend is treating the Herd and I to lunch (long distance), and that another sent loving wishes in a favorite book. i woke to find that another dear friend is treating me to a concert this week, and knowing that i get to hear all about Finland, wrestling, and just catching up with other dear friends tonight.

i woke knowing that no matter how much of a hard time my mother and i have with each other, she’s here, and she made me the most freaking incredible birthday cake ever (3 layer vegan carrot cake with cream cheese frosting – made from my favorite cookbook ever – The Grit).

these are things i’ve learned…

life, is good

life, is short.

life, is what you make of it.

you get out of it what you put into it. (and this applies across the board)

live well.

money matters, but not that much. (i’ve never been more (cash) poor, but i’m happier and richer in spirit than i’ve ever been).

real friends are rare.

take the time to speak your truth. always.

don’t be ashamed of who you are. there’s never been anyone else just like you.

beauty happens in unexpected places.

worthwhile things are worth the fight and effort.

don’t waste your chances. you may never get another.

sometimes love isn’t enough.

the value of compromise is unique to each person.

when it’s right, you’ll know it.

never, ever, ever doubt yourself.

love your children deeply and wisely. they are not a reflection of you, they are their own light. guide them, teach them, and let them be.

never judge anyone. you never truly know what anyone else is going through, or what led them to where they are at that moment.

there’s a time for compassion, and conversely, a time to withhold it.

value yourself.

i’m gonna cheat a little here and just list two other lists that i regularly read and re-read. they just make sense.

‘All i ever really needed to know, i learned in kindergarten’

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

[Source: “ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN” by Robert Fulghum. http://www.robertfulghum.com/ ]

‘An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth’ (some of these sound to be strictly written for business, but really, if you take a step back, they apply just to life).

  1. Allow events to change you.You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
  2. Forget about good.Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.
  3. Process is more important than outcome.When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
  4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child).Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
  5. Go deep.The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
  6. Capture accidents.The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
  7. Study.A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.
  8. Drift.Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.
  9. Begin anywhere.John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
  10. Everyone is a leader.Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.
  11. Harvest ideas.Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.
  12. Keep moving.The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.
  13. Slow down.Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.
  14. Don’t be cool.Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
  15. Ask stupid questions.Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
  16. Collaborate.The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
  17. ____________________.Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.
  18. Stay up late.Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
  19. Work the metaphor.Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.
  20. Be careful to take risks.Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.
  21. Repeat yourself.If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.
  22. Make your own tools.Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
  23. Stand on someone’s shoulders.You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.
  24. Avoid software.The problem with software is that everyone has it.
  25. Don’t clean your desk.You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.
  26. Don’t enter awards competitions.Just don’t. It’s not good for you.
  27. Read only left-hand pages.Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”
  28. Make new words.Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.
  29. Think with your mind.Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
  30. Organization = Liberty.Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a ‘charming artifact of the past.’
  31. Don’t borrow money.Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.
  32. Listen carefully.Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
  33. Take field trips.The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.
  34. Make mistakes faster.This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.
  35. Imitate.Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.
  36. Scat.When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.
  37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.
  38. Explore the other edge.Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.
  39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms.Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.
  40. Avoid fields.Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.
  41. Laugh.People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.
  42. Remember.Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.
  43. Power to the people.Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.
  44. (Source: Bruce Mau Design – http://www.brucemaudesign.com/incomplete_manifesto.html)

right.. i’m off to drool over my cake!

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