Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

One Last Bit of Quest 2016 Homework

Jeffrey Davis just shared his closing thoughts on Quest 2016 and gave us our final homework assignment–one small project to be completed within the next three months.

To be honest, I have yet to finish a single small project that came out of any of our endeavors: #quest2015, #livethequest, or #daretoexcel, which makes me reluctant to create yet another goal that I won’t meet.

Now part of the problem may have been the projects I chose–at least one of them I picked because I knew the project I was really interested in was too big. But the end result was to drain all the passion from both of them. So this time, I’m going to get a little more vague in the hopes that it will give me enough space to fulfill my desire to experiment wildly with the whole alchemy of integration thing. And so…

Within the next three months I will experiment and play with ways to integrate as many of my core passions as possible–art, writing, personal connections, travel, sanctuary, and healing–into a new form for my art. At the end of that time I will have at least one completed work to share with the group.

I may even share the craziness that happens along the way.

Quest Ending=New Beginning

Quest 2016 has come to its close with the final synthesis of week four and one last question from our gallery of mentors.

The theme for week four was Doing Your Best Work, Not Someone Else’s, and the prompts were:

  • #Amplify–focus on the intersections of key passions
  • #BraveRace–true strength feeds us and others (dare to walk away from that which doesn’t)
  • #2Stories–power, change, hope, connection, art, no more silence

And how will I do my best work, not someone else’s?

  • GROUND (and heal) myself–body, mind, and soul.
  • ALCHEMIZE my art by combining my strongest skills, and deepest passions.
  • (RE)CONNECT with my big life dreams, my tribe, and the earth.

Which pretty much sums up the month for me, and the year to come, but just to recap the most prevalent themes, they were:

  • Minnie MouseArt/Writing
  • Experiment/Play
  • Personal Connections
  • Travel/Adventure
  • Home/Sanctuary/Haven
  • Health/Healing

And even before this new year started, I am already embracing the feel of this new Quest, thanks to a spontaneous road trip to the happiest place on earth (at least for me). Spending a total of 16.5 hours in the car catching up with an old friend. Riding on roller coasters despite a life-long fear. Buying myself a set of Minnie Mouse ears. Seeing new places and meeting new faces. And more than anything else, having so much fun… something that was lacking in my life for most of 2015.

Which brings us to the final question, because this isn’t just about fun, it’s about building a better life.

#Unmistakable

Visionary: Srinivas Rao

What will you do in 2016 to assure you and your best work are unmistakable?

Two things:

  1. In my life, I will focus on strengthening my foundation–mind, body, spirit, and connections to give me a strong base to build upon.
  2. In my work, I will focus on the alchemy of intersections, the places where the things that matter most to me overlap or interconnect–art, writing, the apocalypse, prepping, healing, home/sanctuary/haven, homesteading, travel, connecting with others. Not only will the unique combination of materials, methods, and experiences create something truly unique, it will also allow me to better focus my energy instead of spreading it too thin to make any impact.

In fact, I’ve already begun.

 

Synthesis: Prioritize Your Value

Because of holiday travel and other related events, I seem to have blown right by our synthesis for Quest  week three: Prioritize Your Value.

Quest Week 3 Synthesis

 

The prompts were #payoff, #3qualities, and #serve.

In #payoff, we wrote about what we need to stop doing in order to focus on higher payoff items. And there were plenty things I need to stop, mostly around:

  • Waste (time, money, and other resources)
  • Procrastination (especially around things that are good for me–going to bed at a reasonable hour, cooking healthy food)
  • Clinging (to past, to stuff I don’t need)
  • Overcommitment

In #3qualities, I wrote that between life, work, and compensation I will be focusing on quality of life in the coming year because until I deal with health and home, I won’t be able to give my work the energy it needs and deserves.

In #serve, I wrote that I planned to serve my muse, but I suspect my answer wasn’t 100% on-track, given my answer to the previous two. It’s all well and good to want to serve the muse, the story, the call to path, but first I need to be healthy and focused enough to answer those calls.

So, despite the fact that the Venn diagram doesn’t show much overlap, really all three answers are about creating a solid, stable foundation from which I can produce my best work. And then from there, clearing the decks to do just that.

So, on to Jeffrey’s two questions:

  • What actions can I take today to move in that direction?
  • What actions can I take on January 2, 2016?

Tonight is easy. Instead of driving an hour or more to the city to hang out with friends when I’m fighting a bad cold, I’m opting to stay in and watch movies with my sister’s dogs. After all, it is the everyday small choices repeated over time that make the most difference.

January 2nd will be more of a challenge as I’ll be spending the day traveling back to New Mexico. On the upside, I’ll have plenty of time in airports and on planes to journal and map out my plans for self-care and creation.

 

Two Stories

Today we are wrapping up week 4 of #Quest2016, Do Your Best Work, Not Someone Else’s.

Two Stories

Visionary: Jen Louden

What’s the story you most desire to bring to life in 2016?   

What’s the story your just-right client most desires to bring to life in 2016? 

Where do your two stories overlap? #2Stories

The story that I most desire to bring to life in 2016 is this:

I am powerful.

I have the power to make a difference–
in my life and in this world.

I am an agent of change.

I can change the trajectory of my story–
our story–through small daily actions,
repeated consistently over time.

I am a beacon of light and hope.

Through my work, my actions, my life–
I can remind others that a better world is possible
–possibly only a breath away.

I am stronger with others beside me.

Whatever I believe I can do on my own,
it can increase exponentially when collaborating
with others who share my passion.

Art matters.

I can speak my truth more loudly,
more clearly, with art and story
than with a picket sign, a megaphone, or by strapping my blast-ready body to a coal plant.

Silence is no longer an option.

The time has come to take a stand
for my own life, for the lives of those I love
for this Earth that feeds us, holds us, supports us.

 And the story my just-right client desires to bring  to life in 2016?

That they, too have the power…

  • To create change
  • To maintain hope, to shed light in the midst of great darkness
  • To stand up and speak or draw or write or strum or drum their truth in whichever way or language they have available
  • To work together for a better, more loving, more green and beautiful world

That we all do.

We share the same story, the same fears, the same hopes, and the same power–to own our strengths and weaknesses, to transform ourselves in service of transforming the world.

My Brave Race

Quest prompt 11:

Your Brave Race

Visionary: Todd Henry of Accidental Creative

It takes bravery to know your strengths and operate diligently within them. Are you running your race, or someone else’s?

Definitely my own, which can be rough…inconsistent income,  sometimes unclear direction, no one to motivate me but me, having to find time and energy between paying projects to work on what’s most important…

And though I agree that knowing my strengths is important, it has become clear over the last few years that it’s just as important to know my weaknesses. Things like keeping up my physical stamina, making and sticking to schedules, staying on track with my priorities.

It’s also important to be able to walk away from things I may be very, very good at that drain me instead of feed me. Because I believe that our true strengths aren’t just the things we’re good at, they are the things that feed us, giving us the strength to feed others.

Best Work

I’ve gotten a bit behind on Quest with all the holiday preparations going on, but with all he presents wrapped I finally have some time to catch up. So, without further delay, here is the prompt from day 10:

Amplify Your Best Work

Visionary: Charlie Gilkey

Which element of your best work do you most want to amplify this year?

Instead of considering simply doing more work, take the time to consider which elements of your work would most light you up to amplify. What’s holding you back from amplifying it? Is it that obscure little thing no one will care about? Or is it that if they see it, they’ll care too much and call the Imposter or Weirdo Police?

There won’t be a time in the future where it’ll be easier to amplify that part of your work.
p.s. You can’t stand out and fit in at the same time.

What I want to amplify in the coming year is the intersection of my key passions: Sewing, writing, apocalypse, healing the planet. I’d also like to start working on collaboration. In fact, I’ve already spoken to several photographers about a project I will be working on beginning January 1st once I’m back home in New Mexico–something I’m really excited about.

The other thing I need to amplify is my focus. To that end, I’m also narrowing my attention to two key projects: One book (the novel I started working on earlier this year) and the art project alluded to above.

#amplify

Serve?

I have been mulling Saturday’s Quest prompt since I read it Friday night, but when all was said and done, my first instinct is what I have to go with.

Whom Do You Serve?

Visionary: Chris Brogan

How will you better clarify whom you serve and what you do for them in 2016?

I don’t need to clarify whom I will serve. I already know: my Muse. I will do that by fearlessly and consistently, dedicating my non-work time to making art and writing story.

Prioritizing Qualities

Yesterday’s Quest prompt, #qualities, knocked me back to my undergraduate days.

1 of 3 Qualities

Visionary: Sally Hogshead of How the World Sees You fame

Of these 3 options, which one is most important in your work right now:

  • Quality of life
  • Quality of work
  • Quality of compensation

The first thing I thought of when I saw this question was Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

And how, in my life right now, that pyramid is pretty much upside-down in terms of the energy I give it. And how that inversion is a big part of what twisted this past year so out of whack.

Focusing on actualization while denying my body’s physical needs (whether intentional or not) is like asking someone who spends most of their time on a couch or at their desk to stand on their toes on one leg while juggling with one hand and spinning plates with the other. It won’t be long before the whole act comes crashing down.

It doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself that if I don’t “feed” my body, I’m also starving my work. And if my work suffers, my compensation suffers. It’s simple math. Simple geometry.

Which is really a long way of saying that my answer is a no brainer:

I choose life.

Because until I right my pyramid, until I stabilize its base, it doesn’t matter how much I want to focus on the other two, how much work I do. Nothing I create will be solid enough to have any lasting impact on anyone else. And if it doesn’t, really, what’s the point?

This Quest group is truly inspiring. Check out some of these posts from fellow questers:

Define Payoff

So here we are more than halfway into the quest and I’ve finally caught the week’s theme before the week is over:  “Prioritize Your Value”. Starting with this prompt:

Payoff

Visionary: John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

What can you stop doing in 2016 such that it would allow you to focus on higher payoff activities?

The stop part of this list is easy:

  • Stop wasting so much time on TV and Internet
  • Stop wasting money (even pennies), food, and other resources
  • Stop avoiding or procrastinating chores and healthy habits, like going to bed at a decent hour
  • Stop clinging to the past
  • Stop clinging to stuff
  • Stop overcommitting to things that don’t inspire or improve me/my life/the lives of others (actually, stop over committing, period)

Now, I’ve written probably a hundred or more versions of the stop list before, and the same things keep showing up. Probably because I haven’t given myself a compelling enough reason to actually stop.

That’s where things start getting a little harder–identifying what those higher payoff activities might be, especially since there doesn’t seem to be a high correlation between value and money in my life right now. If payoff is measured in dollars I should just pack up my toys and return to corporate tech work, but I think most of us know how well that particular career path worked out for me. And since this week is all about prioritizing our value (values?), I’m going to leave money out of it for the moment. Luckily, I think that last stop item gives a pretty clear picture of what I value–inspiring and/or improving myself, my life, and the lives of others:

  • Making ART
  • WRITING ( actual projects, not just in the journal)
  • TRAVEL
  • CONNECTING with others
  • Finding/creating SANCTUARY (in my home, community, and body)

And here is where the money will hopefully start coming in:

  • Crafting my RIGHT LIVELIHOOD from the building blocks listed above

And that exploration is time much better spent than on any of the items in that first list.

 

 

Synthesis: Imagine Your Future

Last night it snowed–somewhere around 7 inches. When I fell asleep the ground was bare. This morning tall walls of snow balanced on narrow branches, and our tiny patio table was piled into a white dome.

Winter Wonderland

Jeffrey Davis, creator of Tracking Wonder and leader of our Quest, just challenged us to look back on our week. To find the common themes between our future selves’ advice, our daydreams, and our review of who would miss us.

Looking just at words, I came up with three themes:

  • Make art
  • Connect–or more aptly, reconnect
  • Heal myself–in part by letting go and in part by reclaiming parts of me that I’ve misplaced

Travel and Home came up again and this time there was also a heavy dose of Play (Experiment’s more lighthearted little sister). And yes, we are beginning to see a pretty clear pattern here.

And then Jeffrey asked us to find a horizon and to sit in front of it for five minutes and let our discoveries steep for a bit.

Now it’s still pretty cold out and I had already had a good bracing walk earlier today to capture an image for my 365 photo project. During that walk I did what I always do when I head toward the river. I stood at the center of the footbridge and let my eyes rest in a south-westerly direction. I even snapped a picture.

Santa Fe River, looking south

 

So instead of heading back out into the cold, I looked at this. Really looked at it. And here’s what I saw:

  • A river that rarely sees or holds any water, except during heavy rains when it transforms into a torrent
  • Growing things that struggle to stay alive during times of drought and times of flood
  • A sky so wide and so blue that it is sometimes hard to notice anything else
  • And yet… I glimpsed tracks in the snow–two people walking next to each other, one person walking alone

Despite the walls of the river bank and the houses that line them just out of view, this vista feels, at least to me, hollow and alone. Sure there is water just below the surface, otherwise there would be no trees–especially not cottonwood and willow. But that water is hidden, protected, squirreled away for emergencies. There is life, and there is LIFE.

And I see myself as that river, as that empty basin that longs to be filled, to nourish, to be reborn. And I see in the brittle winter bones of trees a deep rootedness and will to survive, just waiting for abundance to be reborn.

And then I turned around and looked north…

Sangre De Cristo Mountains

And saw the Sangre de Cristo Mountains rising from the clouds, guarding the back of Santa Fe–the city of the Holy Spirit.  And there, in the distance, the white crown of Mount Baldy, covered in snow. Snow that come spring might just help our river run again. And I remembered that the river may not always be able to feed herself, but, whether behind or besides her, there is that strong presence watching over her. Taking care of her. And beneath us is a vast aquifer–one we can tap into if we just send our roots deep enough.

Those who will miss us are the mountains. We are the river. And whether we see them or not, we are never alone. And knowing that, we are free to keep our eyes on that transfixing blue sky, as long as we keep our roots in the ground.

 

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