TED Global starts today in our own backyard. One of the best Ted lectures in the world that I just came across last month is Phil Lansen’s “Embrace the Shake” (thanks Isley). Quite a lot excerpted below, but frankly one of the best failure embracing TED lectures of all time…

  • Death of Dreams – “When I was in art school, I developed a shake in my hand, and this was the straightest line I could draw. Now in hindsight, it was actually good for some things, like mixing a can of paint or shaking a Polaroid, but at the time this was really doomsday. This was the destruction of my dream of becoming an artist….
  • Embracing Limited Ability – I decided to go to a neurologist about the shake and discovered I had permanent nerve damage. And he actually took one look at my squiggly line, and said, "Well, why don’t you just embrace the shake?" So I did. I went home, I grabbed a pencil, and I just started letting my hand shake and shake. I was making all these scribble pictures. And even though it wasn’t the kind of art that I was ultimately passionate about, it felt great. And more importantly, once I embraced the shake, I realized I could still make art. I just had to find a different approach to making the art that I wanted…I discovered that, if I worked on a larger scale and with bigger materials, my hand really wouldn’t hurt, and after having gone from a single approach to art, I ended up having an approach to creativity that completely changed my artistic horizons. This was the first time I’d encountered this idea that embracing a limitation could actually drive creativity
  • Embracing Limited Resources – So I got out of school, I got a job, I got a paycheck, I got myself to the art store, and I just went nuts buying supplies. … And I was in a dark place for a long time, unable to create. And it didn’t make any sense, because I was finally able to support my art, and yet I was creatively blank. But as I searched around in the darkness, I realized I was actually paralyzed by all of the choices that I never had before. And it was then that I thought back to my jittery hands. Embrace the shake. And I realized, if I ever wanted my creativity back, I had to quit trying so hard to think outside of the box and get back into it. I wondered, could you become more creative, then, by looking for limitations? What if I could only create with a dollar’s worth of supplies? …I took this approach of thinking inside the box to my canvas, and wondered what if, instead of painting on a canvas, I could only paint on my chest?…Or, what if instead of relying on myself, I had to rely on other people to create the content for the art?
  • Embracing Destruction – Or what if instead of making art to display, I had to destroy it? This seemed like the ultimate limitation, being an artist without art. This destruction idea turned into a yearlong project that I called Goodbye Art, where each and every piece of art had to be destroyed after its creation. In the beginning of Goodbye Art, I focused on forced destruction, like this image of Jimi Hendrix, made with over 7,000 matches. Then I opened it up to creating art that was destroyed naturally. I looked for temporary materials, like spitting out food sidewalk chalk and even frozen wine. … As I destroyed each project, I was learning to let go, let go of outcomes, let go of failures, and let go of imperfections. And in return, I found a process of creating art that’s perpetual and unencumbered by results. I found myself in a state of constant creation, thinking only of what’s next and coming up with more ideas than ever.
  • Summary – When I think back to my three years away from art, away from my dream, just going through the motions, instead of trying to find a different way to continue that dream, I just quit, I gave up. And what if I didn’t embrace the shake? Because embracing the shake for me wasn’t just about art and having art skills. It turned out to be about life, and having life skills. Because ultimately, most of what we do takes place here, inside the box, with limited resources. Learning to be creative within the confines of our limitations is the best hope we have to transform ourselves and, collectively, transform our world.”

Leaders think outside the box, Managers get back in it. Both together inspire artistic creativity.

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