I Failed And I'd Do It Again.

What do I love so much that if I failed, I would do it anyway? 

It’s a question that has been following me around lately.  It’s become helpful in all sorts of unexpected and compelling ways.  It has taken mental and soul weights off of me, if you want to know the truth.

You see the question used to be “What would I do if I knew I could not fail?” 

The answer was always the same:   I would live authentically.  I would love myself and others well.   I would make things and share with others.  I would pursue a life well lived.


But I found that question seemed to have the opposite effect on me.

Instead of taking weights off and finding freedom to pursue a good life, I felt elevated pressure and anxiety.  The question was unrealistic, because failure is always part the picture of being human.  It is unavoidable.  So the question of ‘not failing’ never gave me peace of mind.

“I should not be worried about failing.”  I’d say to myself in quiet moments.  Then worry that I was not living up to being a loving wife, or mother, or artist.  That I was not being authentic enough.

Recently I’ve begun to ask myself a new question: 

What do I love so much that if I failed I would continue on?  What is so important that failure, when it happens, loses its power?  

When I started asking this question, immediately, my heart got lighter.  I felt a new shift in perspective.  It was as if I had been walking around with large weights tied to my feet, and I was able to take them off.

Because failure is part of living fully.  Living fully is what I wanted all along.

In spite of the certainty of failure, imperfection and life’s inevitable setbacks, I continue on with resolve and resilience.   My heart knows heaviness, but it also knows lightness…and lightness is winning.



Story To Spill: Three Unexpected Ways to Stay a Creative Adult

In 1968, George Land conducted a research survey to test the creativity of 1,600 children.  His results were astounding.  Here are his test results:  Children age 5, 98%, age 10, 30%, age 15, 12%.  That same test given to 280,000 Adults: 2%. "What we concluded," wrote Land," is that non-creative behavior is learned."  

I believe we are wired to be engaged and connected to our world.  You can stifle it, you can even deny it and shut it down for awhile, but we are meant for it.  In this blog series, Story to Spill, I am connecting us to people who are pursuing the fullest expression of themselves through the work they do.  Just to be clear, this does not necessarily mean the job they do to make a living and pay the bills.  But it is true work just the same.  So what are some unexpected ways to stay connected to creativity? Here are a few I find effective, but they are not as obvious as you might think.

1.  Know your identity is not in what you make or do, it's how you make or do.  Here's what I mean:  When somebody asks me what it is I do, I no longer say, "I'm an artist."  I say this:  I have found that some people find it difficult to stay connected to their creative selves and to find meaning in their work.  So I have a process that helps people to be more authentic and connected in their daily lives."  I find this a much more accurate statement of my work.  I've also seen this description lead to stronger and deeper conversations allowing me to elaborate further.

2.  Find the place where your deepest curiosity connects with the world's greatest need.  Doing creative work is about service.  When you pay attention to what really brings you to life and begin to pursue it, you'll find that you will naturally want to spill that talent into the lives of others.  I love the Howard Thurman quote," Don't ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that.  What the world needs is people who have come alive."

3.  How do you know what your deepest curiosity is?  Find the thing that you would do no matter what, even if money was not as issue, and pursue that.  I would never say not to take care of your family, or to not provide stability and opportunity for the ones you love.  Never.  I will say the moment you can introduce into your life work that makes you curious and connects with others, head toward it.  Because the longer you stay in an environment and work that you are not curious about, the more ordinary you will become.  Start small, start with 20 minutes a week if that's all you have.  But start.

Stay tuned, in the next few weeks we will be meeting some individuals who will inspire us further.  How about you?  Are there unexpected ways you have found to stay a creative adult?  Just curious...

Story to Spill: A Blog Series Dedicated to Being Fully Alive Through Work.

I have found myself endlessly curious about what it means to be fully alive.  

I have begun to be compelled to tackle this mystery.  You see, I chose to go into art as a way of being in this world--of being present in the moment, as a way to connect with others, and as a way of being fully alive.  But I found that making paintings in a studio was not the definition of fulfillment that I thought it would be. Now you can imagine making paintings is hard enough, but couple that with a motivation that started to go away, and you get frustration.   What you get is the death of a dream.  I started to feel vocationally homeless, wondering why I didn't quite fit in at art school.  What I had worked so hard for began to feel barren and lifeless, like ashes left over from an enormous fire.

Which started to remind me of my old college professor, Mr. Bippes.  This wise and endlessly voracious art professor with a red beard and a limp, who who had once extended everything he knew about drawing and life to me as a student took the time to read one of my essays.  He found me later, and as he so often did, seemed to have the gift of prophecy.  Liz...(he is one of the few people who I allowed to call me Liz).  "Liz, you're a writer.  You're really a writer."  That was it.  He turned around, walked out of the classroom, and was gone.  He left me to stand there wondering how I was supposed to finish my undergraduate thesis exhibiton with THAT particular bit of teaching. Not helpful, Mr. Bippes.  

Except that it actually was the thing that I needed to hear.   It's a testiment to my strong will or ignorance that it has taken me an additional 20 or so years to act on what I knew:  that he was right.   

I'd like to invite you to a journey with me.  Because what I know for sure is this:  what we all are looking for is to find something that makes us come alive.  That makes our hearts beat just a little bit faster.  That is compelling enough that we would do that thing no matter what.  Something that latches on to a larger idea in the evolution of humankind:  that engages us in the larger story and invites others along.

But how?  That's the hard thing.  Because your work can and often is different from your vocation.  Because we have families, and health insurance, and lists of the next 'right' thing to do.  But what I am starting to see is a pattern.  People I am meeting who are actually living this 'aliveness' for themselves seem to be following a different way.  I'd like to introduce you to a few of them.  Together, maybe we can learn and start to establish unexpected patterns in our lives.  A new way of being in the world.  Maybe even something that looks like being fully alive.

On Creativity: Confessions of a College Art Educator

I remember the first time I stepped into an art classroom.  Way before Seth Godin introduced us to the idea of finding a tribe, or before social media became the platform for connection it is today, I remember entering into this space of creativity and of making things and feeling like I had found my home.  The second feeling I had, almost immediately after that,  was that I was an impostor.   I was nowhere near as cool, or smart, or as talented as all the other 'real' art students in that classroom.  I became afraid.

That was a long time ago.  Now I am the art teacher in the classroom.   If I am honest, I still feel the fear of not being enough:  smart enough, cool enough, talented enough.  Not much has changed, except that I have learned that what I do is not grounded in "enough," but in something deeper than anyone's opinion of it, including my own.  

What I know for sure is that creativity is for everyone.  It is something we are all born with.  There is no such thing as creative people and non-creative people.  The only way I know to feel like I am not just skimming through the top layer of my life is to be creative.  I define creativity in the words of Sir Ken Robinson, as using your mind to make something that is original and has value.  It takes on many forms, but it always elevates us into our truest, most whole selves.  

I am still learning, failing, and getting back up and trying again.  It is worth it, though.  There is nothing more powerful than speaking from an undiluted and authentic voice.  I would love to know, how do you dig deep into creativity?  What helps you to connect with your truest voice, and what is its worth to you?