Notes For Creators

cross fit for the creative soul

8. Daily kaizen: Your next step calls to you

Have you been stymied by too muchness? 

Recent pressing issues knocked me off my stride. Our business suffered a slowdown in sales for a couple of months during our selling season — enough to provoke fear and remembrance, of the desperate crash years a decade ago.

Simultaneously my creative side career — writing bookitos — reared its own ugly challenge. The Work flowed — the writing itself — it was my inability to squeeze in marketing outreach that plagued me.

There’s a weird kind of paralysis that stems from hyperactivity. Too many threads tendriling off in different directions, not twisting together into a unified whole, makes for a breathless but unsatisfactory pace.

 It’s like you’re running through stretch wrap.

Worse, it’s anxiety inducing. You swing for the fences, you throw effort in multiple directions, but ultimately you feel like a chimpanzee flinging feces at imaginary enemies.

Each day felt maddeningly ineffective.

I remember reading about a man who went to his rabbi when work projects overwhelmed him, seeking advice. The workload jacked up and the man was falling behind.

 The rabbi listened carefully, and said:

 “Work harder.”

That is decidedly not my answer.

It used to be. Working harder used to be my primary directive and my fallback option.

Then I noticed the ones I admired, the most effective ones, seemed to work less than other people!

Many call this working smarter. And it is, I guess. In my own application I’ve found a more apt phrase would be working in harmony.

Working in harmony with my keenest aims.

Working in harmony with my most heartfelt desires.

Working in harmony with the actual environment I’m in. Taking note of the rhythms, the intrusions, the personalities, the capabilities — and then figuring out the glide path between them all.

So I took a bath — an hour-long bath — the type where you’re shivering at the end because the water’s gone cold. I’d like to say I cleaved straight to the heart of the matter, pithily dissecting the issues and cutting through all the gristle to arrive at the solution.

Instead I sunk into a stupor. My befogged brain ruminated on the mess. It was dispiriting.

Until it wasn’t.

Maybe you’ve felt this too. An impending answer. You don’t yet know the answer but you feel its imminent arrival.

That’s what I felt by the end of the bath. As I examined the issues — lower sales at the gallery + lack of marketing and outreach for my creative projects — I felt something pop.

Again, not an answer, but a clarity. I could feel exactly what the problems entailed.

Later in meditation an answer came — surprisingly, it was something I was already doing! —  but in other areas.

If you’ve read the numbered posts from the last few months you’ve seen that I’ve embarked on a Year of Micro Experiments.

This was my solution!

Big dreams, the smallest of steps.

Of course! An old mantra, dusted off and reinvigorated through the prism of these weekly micro challenges I was setting for myself.

The Japanese word kaizen immediately came to mind, simultaneous with its meaning: small continuous change.

The meaning was immediately clear — I needed to cast forth a grandiose vision (profitable gallery, successful creative marketing) and then immediately forget them and go small. Into the smallest possible shifts that could be made each day in service to these goals.

Daily kaizen. Nano efforts applied daily, consistently.

For the gallery I broke this down into three areas:

1. Personal client contact (who could we follow up with today)

2. Display (edit the art on display ruthlessly, what was working, what was not)

3. Marketing (quickening the pace of our newsletters during our high sales season, plus a signage issue)

For my creative outreach — I’m still working on that! Looking for the smallest pockets of time to squeeze in effort before the late afternoon when it all goes slack — my system, my mind, my abilities.

A few weeks in, it’s working. Daily kaizen. Looking for the inflection points and applying the smallest possible pressure changes your trajectory.

. . . . . . .

Sanaya Roman:

In everyone’s mind there is a whisper of the next step. It may be simple, such as making a phone call or reading a book. It may be a very concrete, mundane step to take that may not even seem connected with your higher vision. Know that you are always being shown the next step; it is always something that comes to your mind as obvious, simple, and a joyful thing to do.

From Creating Money: Attracting Abundance by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer

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