I was honored to present the keynote session at FYM 2015, a work life conference in Chicago last week.
My friend Molly Connolly introduced me with an image of a painting I’d finished this year–coincidentally, also of a moose: I’d started that piece in 2003. The ochre is iodine. The rest is oil, pencil, separated house paint, etching ink, the casings from grease pencils, and beeswax. (Those swirls are burns from dragging a hot plate over it.)
Very early, when it was just iodine and wax, and you could barely see it on the off-white bed sheet, it was really beautiful; I think most of the work since was trying to get it back there. I’m happy with how it turned out and kind of bemused that it was used as the intro for a talk about “doing less“.
I’ll be interested to hear a recording of the session as I’m not quite sure what I said–I tend to rehearse a lot, but when the material is really personal I find that what I end up saying wanders a good bit from what I’ve planned. I do remember this, though: I was encouraging folks to block off time for their most important work, and then, once they can do that, to block off time for nothing. For just sitting with their subject. And I think I remember saying
Block off time for nothing and maybe you’ll do nothing. Maybe you’ll clean the house. Maybe you’ll sit in front of the painting unable to see what’s next. Maybe you’ll go out for coffee–because the people reading the business pages at 10am in the cafe shouldn’t just be retired folks–it should include people still IN business.
Not quite sure where that came from (I do like my mornings at Sunlight Cafe) but the part about sitting in front of the painting is real. Sitting there, unable to get to work, seems to be part of the process. Maybe it’s just making sure you hold on to the thread of what you’re working on every day so that “getting back to work” doesn’t mean both finding the thread AND getting to work on it. I’m not sure, but I know that sitting with your subject works–it’s how you most clearly see the differences between what you’re trying to do and what you’re doing.[devider size=”small” thickness=”2px” ]
The conference was very cool. Highlights for me included Jonathan Stark‘s talk on positioning (details) and Craig Motlong‘s session on branding-as-story-telling and how they’re changing their story at Williams Helde. Notably, Craig said that while it can be hard to tell when your story is resonating, their changes are showing up in recruiting: candidates are telling their story back to them as part of why they want to work at Williams. That’s got to feel good.