Is This It?

Lead with what you love now, as there may not be a tomorrow.

It’s November 2018. A big company wants to experiment with communities of practice and other community aspects of learning and development. A good friend and I have just been asked to help out on the project. Initial signs are positive. Lots of enthusiasm, some clear, seemingly manageable deadlines, and an openness to new ideas. We agree to initial requests for us to respond quickly, and develop and propose a cocreated consultative approach to the work. The quick turnaround is noted by the client, who, upon receiving the proposal on 27 November 2018, promises to ‘revert this morning with any questions.’ Since then – despite several gentle reminders from us, we’ve heard nothing. It also took 70 days to get paid for the initial work we did.

It’s November 2018. An associate and I have just been booked to cocreate some art work and visual minutes at a conference in March 2019. We subsequently exchange regular correspondence with the client about the event. On 30 January 2019, the client changes their mind, apologises for messing us around, and says they no longer want us to do the work. There is currently a reluctance to pay our cancellation fee.

Time and effort has been spent securing this work, planning, helping to deliver, and managing our part in it. The unceremonious way in which work sometimes unravels, is depressing. I wasted time at the start of February 2019 worrying about the effects of such evaporation, and wondering if there are ways to get these things back on track.

It’s 11 February 2019. I run an art class for a group of older people. It’s a satisfying challenge, we have fun together, talking and trying out new things.

It’s 12 February 2019. I sell some art, and I facilitate an evening art workshop in a local pub. The work is full of enthusiasm, experimentation, and joy.

It’s 13 February 2019. I’m at Martin Couzins’s Bar Camp, and I’m live painting. I’m meeting good people, stretching my creative muscles, making art, and more.

It’s 14 February 2019. I’m volunteering at a careers fair, talking to school kids about why art matters, about doing things differently, and what it feels like to run your own business. Unbeknownst to me at the time, news is reaching people of the death of our good friend Cate. I meet a friend for lunch, we share an excellent conversation and he buys some art from me.

It’s 15 February 2019. Fridays start with counselling, a fabulous unhurried opportunity to talk. I prepare this week’s free art drop, a tribute to Cate.

It’s 18 February 2019. I sell some art, and prepare some art for shipping to an exhibition in Germany. I have a commission enquiry to deal with.

It’s 19 February 2019. I meet with someone who runs an interesting community space. We talk about art, and how it makes us think and feel, and reach an in principle agreement to pilot some community art sessions.

I am reflecting on recent events, and it is dawning on me that in recent days I invested time and effort in work that brings joy to me and others. I also learned of Cate’s death, sudden and unexpected. These things ground us. Too often I chase the seductive enthusiasm for new ideas in corporate land, only to find that enthusiasm is rarely followed by action. Perhaps Cate is teaching me that I need to lead with the art now, as there may not be a tomorrow.

Is this it?

 

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As If To Fly

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

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