Lessons from a Life: Creativity

Lesson #9: Play with Possibilities

I have dabbled in many creative pursuits over the years. I started dance and gymnastic classes at 3, cooking at 5 (scrambled eggs), singing in choirs at 10, starting businesses at 12, writing awful romantic poetry at 14, and creating amazing events and parties at 15.  My mother created an environment of playing with possibilities and developing creativity that was extraordinary and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

In adulthood,  I still pursue new versions of these things, except the poetry,  and tried a few more including pottery and painting but the “art” I am most proficient at is creating learning curriculum. It is disappointing that my natural talent will never be on display at MOMA.  I get giddy when I think about teaching a great class or, even more satisfying, training coaches and teachers to facilitate my inventions.

I realized I had a talent for this when I was invited to teach two courses at NYU when I was 29.  I walked home from teaching my first class up Fifth Avenue to my apartment on 14th street, thinking “this is it, this is what I could be really good at” and I was right. Since then, I have created classes for academic institutions, two leadership universities for successful companies, career and personal growth retreats and workshops for adults, and career prep classes for kids, tweens and teens.

At Bright Livelihoods, I have created a 12 part step-by-step process that is the foundation of all the work we do with clients of all ages. I started working on the model in 1998 when I was attending graduate school, by sketching out ideas in classes when I was bored.  By then, I had become certified in other people’s methodologies including Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits, Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. In addition, in my pursuit of how to help people find and follow a calling, I took classes with career and creativity thought leaders including Dick Bolles, Julia Cameron, Geneen Roth, Gregg Levoy and Rick Jarrow. I also dissected literature related to yoga and 12 step programs since I had a deep personal experience of change through both paths and thought they might have something to offer.

In the end, all experiences and research was helpful but the most influential experiences I had in creating and honing our method came out of two things:

1. Interviewing people around the world who love and hate their work and noting the differences

2. Experiencing a Native American Vision Quest myself where my vision for helping people find and follow a calling was confirmed and strengthened

Between 1998 and 2004 there were many iterations of the model that were piloted and honed with clients. It started with 5 simple parts, then 7, then 9 and finally we landed with 12 which has worked well for all types of audiences including, teens, professional adults and incarcerated men at Rikers Island. A deep longing to clarify ones’ passions and purpose is universal and our work is helpful no matter your age, location, economic circumstances or  personal talents. My “art” works and I am happy I had the patience (and passion)  to stay with the process and playing with possibilities until is was complete and helpful as a tool fro clients and teachers:

On your journey to work you love and finding your “art” it is critical to employ this lesson. Here are three tips to consider:

1) Creativity is messy and nonlinear so give yourself permission to explore many work and job options BEFORE you choose a path.

2) Think about things you use to love to do when you were younger and explore bringing them back into your life. For example, I stopped cooking for many years and find now that I have reintegrated it back into my life, my creativity in other areas is more accessible.

3) Go to a lecture or conference that HAS NOTHING TO DO with your line of work and see what happens. I took that advice many years ago and went to a conference about sustainability and global warming. It changed my world view and opened me up to new ideas, interests and conversations.

Laurel Donnellan

CEO and Founder, Bright Livelihoods

Laurel’s mission is to help people find their home in the world of work. She has 30 years of experience as a leader, educator and coach and has degrees from Cornell and Columbia.  To request a private half-hour coaching session with Laurel, e-mail us at info@brightlivelihoods.com.

 

 

 

 

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