Go back to the box

Go back to the box

Published 06/25/2016
Thinking outside the box

Phil Hansen and myself have never met each other. This limiting truth didn’t stop him to change my life. Yes, this is a man who is largely responsible for the fact that you are now reading these lines.

In his brilliant TED talk,  Phil shared his story with the world. He went to art school and practiced pointillism when his hands began to shake. Unable to hold a pencil and very desperate because of it, he firstly left his studies and then the art itself.

After few years, when the situation was already unbearable, he went to see a neurologist. The doctor explained that he has permanent nerve damage. In addition, he asked a simple question:

“Why don’t you embrace the shake?”

Luckily, Phil took his advice. If you’re patient and look at those 10 minutes of speech, you’ll realize how much magic is hidden in seemingly hopeless situations.

From painting with feet and karate moves, to creating pictures of candles and frozen wine – this artist dedicated himself to look into his limits. Instead of preaching that we must exceed them, he decided to investigate multitude of possibilities that lie within them, which we are usually not aware of.

He found me while I was hesitating to start my blog. And something in that destruction of created finally triggered my creative process. Everything is so much easier when you’re not trying to do something extraordinary, lasting and yet unseen, but just let yourself to the flow.

I started deliberately to smash my perfectionistic ideas and fears. So, here you have the blog. I can immediately list you ten things on it that are not good or, at least, can be better.

Had I waited for a moment in which I will be completely satisfied – you still wouldn’t know that I exist, nor how much learning, as a phenomenon, is important for me. Maybe you still wouldn’t know about Phil, and he’s really moving inspiration, worth knowing.

It is not a shame when your work is criticized, misunderstood or even destroyed. It is a shame when it stay to rot in you. It’s not healthy – neither for you, nor for the art.

Here’s a liberating idea:

Take a pen and paper and write down everything that’s bothering you, inhibiting you and stopping you from going further. Give yourself a break. Imagine that by tearing this paper, you can tear everything that is stated on it.

Finally you’ll be able to get rid of this burden and start with a life you deserve. Before you do so, take another look at those limitations of yours. Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Are those things actually limitations? Do you need a sea to be a sailor, a canvas to be a painter? Who says so?
  2. If you are still sure that these things are limitations, what can be done within them? Can they be used to grab them, rely on them and push yourself to climb further?

Forget now about revolutionary results and thinking “outside of the box”. I prepared few tips for you to return to the box and create miracles in it:

Destruction moves. If today I just stare at white paper, in fear that story won’t be good – I’ll stay without one. If I write something, anything – I can try to improve it and develop from there. Only blank paper can’t be improved. Create something “just” yours and tell it:

 „I made you, so I can also destroy you!“

(Any similarity with the parental statements  is unintentional)

If you’re stuck and you can’t go on, try to go back. Be creative and do something just for the sake of destroying it. Be creative – spend some time doodling, cutting, shortening and deleting.

Do it simply to show yourself what’s going to happen. Probably, nothing will. You’ll make something new of the remaining fragments and debris. The new white paper will be waiting for you, as the previous one.

Make a venture from your mistakes. Do things in a way you don’t want, in a way you know it’s not the right one. Meaning, do exactly what you’re scared of. Paint only using winding lines, like Phil.

This is especially useful if you’re trying to master a skill, like public speaking or talking a foreign language. Destroy your idea of how your performance should look like. Embarrass yourself, on purpose.

I wrote already about my struggle to speak German. I am currently working with a colleague who is German and who has decided to speed up the process a bit. One day he simply “forgot” English.

I tried to explain him in panic that we have no time for these tricks and that we have work to do, but he just looked at me blankly. And so it began.

I made mistakes, I was missing some words and everything went much more slowly than in English. And it was great! It was better than all the tests in class and filled exercise books – it was real. It reminded me of my goal – I am learning the language for communication, rather than for diploma in school of foreign languages.

It is much better to really do something imperfectly, than to imagine how it will look when you achieve perfection. You will never achieve it, now start practicing.

What you have in mind is not the only way. In the beginning, every attempt of mine to write for the blog was futile. I couldn’t make a progress, not for one syllable. At the same time, I had no problem with writing master thesis, stories and keeping my diary.

So the problem is not in writing, I was just afraid to expose my work in the form of a blog. Then I decided to approach the problem from the other side.

What is my goal?

To motivate people to learn and develop themselves.

Is the blog only way to do it?

It’s not.

I started to search for jobs and interesting courses for friends. I talked with colleagues about the employees development and read about the topic. I was looking for role models and mentors all around. Then I wrote about all of it – through social networks, emails, project proposals.

Without a pressure that I will ever published this in the form that I imagined, I used all familiar channels to express myself. After a while, I stopped being afraid and got rid of these helping tools, like when you remove the training wheels from bicycle. Sometimes you have to trick yourself to do the right thing.

The right question is worth more than a hundred answers. Few years ago, I was complaining to my friend that I couldn’t find a solution for a problem. Of course, all of her proposals for action – were greeted with my explanations why I can’t do that. After who knows how many any excuses, she asked me:

“Why are you so scared to get what you want?“

That question totally sobered me. It gave me a hand to climb a step up and perceive the wider picture. It negated the option that I cannot solve that problem. Excuses were coming from fear, so my new starting point became a struggle with that fear.

The same thing happened to Phil. While he pondered how to live on without painting, due to his condition – doctor wondered why would he, at all, give up on what he does. Sometimes it is easier for outsiders to grasp these things and ask the right questions, than for ourselves, since we are involved in the problem.

Draw more limits for yourself. This should show you that the problem is not in. If you think you don’t have enough space/money/material – try to function with less of it.

Better yet – find in your surroundings people who are, in any way, less privileged than you. How they cope with these limitations? Is there anyone among them to have accomplished more than you did?

Firstly, the existence of such a person is proof that what you are striving for is possible. Secondly – if you feel something as a burden and restriction, chances are good that there’s more of us with the same torment. There’s an inspiration!

Try to overcome more than your problems with your work. Make the life easier for an entire group of people by thinking of a solution to this specific situation. Beside motivation, this approach can easily give you a new idea for some paper or business.

I hope that this beautiful speech and what I learned from it, will help you to accept your limits and take advantage of them for the great deeds. To use the time, resources, and conditions that have been given to us and bringing the best out of them – is an art itself.

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