Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

Tag: quest2015 (page 1 of 4)

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

Claiming My Story

Another inspiring, insightful, and game changing Tracking Wonder-fueled challenge is winding to its end, which means it’s time to pull together all of the twisted threads and see what the tapestry’s weaving reveals.

#DaretoExcel Challenge #15:

Claim your story and howl-out.

What is the greater-than-you Story? Maybe there’s a word or phrase that helps you start to shape and define what that Story is that you are only a part of but starting to shape and lead.

Don’t shy away from that Story’s magnitude and magnificence. When you lead, you cannot hide behind anyone else. Dare to go toward it. As far as I know, this is it, baby – this one brief creative life. Let’s make the most of it. Together.

Bonus howl-out: Look back again on these past 30 days. How are you being called to think, feel, imagine, create, and act in different ways this year as a result of your daring to excel this month?  How are you engaging and relating if not elevating people differently this year as a result of your daring to excel this month? How are you starting to feel free to be your best again?

That greater-than-me Story has revealed itself through my book in progress Three Threads, and in my burning question:

What if the Story is wrong?

Not this Story, of course, not the greater-than-me Story… I’m talking about the lower-case, small story that taught me that it’s the people with the power that make the difference, that my role is to keep them strong so they can do their important work–no matter what weakness that creates in me.

It’s Time to Rewrite the Story

To prune its twisted, misshapen branches back to its strongest most ancient roots–where its true power resides. To clear away the brambles that choke its growth, and block its sun. That suck up all the most valuable resources–nutrients, water, air–starving it of what it most needs and leaving only poisons behind.

And suddenly I’m no longer talking about some relatively small medieval myth and the half-truths it whispered to me. Suddenly myth meets struggling life and suffering world and all three are blown open.

And with those words as a rallying point, here are my answers to the bonus questions:

  1. How are you being called to think, feel, imagine, create, and act in different ways this year as a result of your daring to excel this month?  With the unexpected discovery of my #OneTrueProject, the avalanche of “wouldn’t-it-be-fun” projects have begun to fall away, and the larger picture has begun to sharpen into focus. I feel like I have finally found the still-point around which everything else revolves. Writing, sewing, poetry, my beloved Apocalypse Garden have revealed themselves as the spokes of a larger wheel, not the wheel themselves. They provide the structure that keeps it strong enough to turn.
  2. How are you engaging and relating if not elevating people differently this year as a result of your daring to excel this month? I have learned during the course of this dare, (probably over and over again), that art cannot be born in a vacuum. That all work is the synthesis of a million tiny pieces, often gathered over a lifetime. That one sentence in a stray conversation with a stranger can be the spark that lights everything up. And so, I have been sharing more and more of other people’s work, especially work that sparks for me, because who knows what it might spark in or for others. I am also opening myself more to collaboration and connection. I’ve always resisted asking for help–preferring to be the one that offers rather than receives. But events of this month have changed my mind. I am learning that we, none of us, can do it alone. That together greater things can be born. Things will fully formed wings and talons to fight off the naysayers. So I have been sharing more. And asking more. And inviting more. And I will work to make all three part of my regular practice.
  3. How are you starting to feel free to be your best again? For the first time, I am beginning to feel like my disparate interests, training, experiences are no longer fighting for my attention. I no longer feel pulled in a thousand different directions, torn apart by shearing forces, or lashed like some Gulliver to a miniature beach with a thousand narrow threads that together are too strong to break through. Instead all the different things that have built me are working together, feeding each other.  I feel whole or closer to whole than I remember ever feeling. And with that, with its related new-found focus, I feel like I can finally bring the best of me to the project, undiluted with distractions, and the ever present lure of each shiny new thing that passes by.

 

DIT beats DIY

One of the most amazing things about the Quest and Dare to Excel challenges have been the people I’ve connected with. People whose words and work inspire and amaze me. People who have expanded my way of thinking and broadened my horizons. But this whole journey has also re-opened my eyes to the likewise impressive people doing great work outside of the current quest.

#DaretoExcel Challenge- 14:

Champion someone else’s work in public. Identify someone whose work you believe in and want to acknowledge specifically and genuinely in public online.

That someone may be a colleague you’ve connected with in our forum. It might be a team member. It might be one of your customers, clients, or participants who has done heroic work in line with what you and your brand Story are all about.

It might even be a perceived competitor – someone who shares members of your audience.

Here are ways you might champion them:

  • In a blog article or LinkedIn article, mention them and link back to their work.
  • Share their work on your Facebook Wall or Twitter feed with a recommendation.

Do It Together. It’s exponentially more fun and effective. And it’s business as unusual

I’ve mentioned many of the names listed below on this blog before. I’ve also shared them on Facebook, both on my timeline and in groups I belong to, and mentioned their work in many conversations. But for those of you who don’t want to dig back through months of posts to find them, here is a handy reference list. My life and work has evolved in a truer direction due in part to their presence in our shared quest to embrace our truest work and walk what could otherwise be a lonely path.

  • Saundra Goldman, whose Creative Mix: Art & Life, Optimally Blended is dedicated to just this idea–elevating the work of creative women with the hope that it will help inspire us to hear and heed our own callings; be sure to check out her Continuous Practice challenge
  • Brenna Layne, whose writing is filled with unique and beautiful images, ideas, and insights, and who also embodies the very essence of this particular dare in her dedicated and vocal championing of others’ work; I would love to live in one of her stories…
  • Marisa Goudy, whose thoughts on entrepreneurship and writing, have inspired me to rethink my own ideas on these topics
  • Tracee Vetting Wolf, whose work doesn’t stop with her art, it dives deep into the realm of creativity itself, and even works to open us up to creative collaboration
  • Vanessa Herald, whose #365 Quote project is chock-full of inspiring words, art, and all-around wonderfulness
  • Lora Jansson, whose brave and wonderful spirit is dedicated to the interconnectedness of all, and to healing our world through shamanic practice; her work with animals is particularly heroic

And of course:

There are, of course, many more, and you will see them, too, as I continue to share the work that inspires me, on this blog, on social media, and in person.

Design to Delight

#DareToExcel Challenge- 13:

We live in an experience economy. Your customers and audiences don’t want products and services. They want experiences. Leaders who live with integrity and artistry build businesses that deliver on delightful experiences – regardless of what product or service they sell.

Define and act upon one way you can design to delight your audience or customers within the next two days.

My book is still in its beginning phase. There is nothing yet to read or see… But, wait, that’s not actually entirely true. In fact, I’ve already shared a piece of story-inspired collage art in my previous post that has already delighted one of my readers. So, inspired by that and by a conversation with fellow quester Brenna Layne, I will create a page on my site featuring this image (and others I create along the way) as well as a reading list, and perhaps other related references, resources, videos, whatever I can find to help keep me and my potential future readers excited about the project. And I already have other extension projects in mind–quilts, poems, maybe even an opening signing at a gallery filled with this related work… so many possibilities!

And while we’re on the topic of delight, I think this year I’ll send holiday cards to the people who have bought my quilts. It doesn’t take grand gestures to create a little delight in the lives of those who support us.

Signature Style

It’s funny, I’ve been thinking a lot about style lately, especially with regards to clothes. What we wear can be one of the most initially impactful ways we have to show people who we are, but for the most part, what I wear these days has little connection to who I feel I am inside. I’ve always wanted “my outside to match my insides”–a phrase I’ve often repeated like some kind of mantra.

But this dare really takes it to the next level. Because, of course, Style isn’t just about what you wear. It’s how you move, how you live, what you love. It’s your voice, your values, your “essence” as Jeffrey Davis puts it. So what’s my signature style of excellence?

#DareToExcel Challenge – 12:

Examine this one small project through the lens of your signature style of excellence. Here are three queries to help you consider one way to make this project – its focus, its execution, its impact – possess your signature imprint.

Make notes about or illustrate and share responses to these queries:

  1. Genius: How can you bring forward your young genius to your audience or customers – the beneficiaries of your project?
  2. Integrity: What core value – something you care deeply about – is coming forward through this project? Does this project reflect how you act and live and what you believe in?
  3. Distinction: What about this project – its scale, its mood, its scope, its depth, its joy – will make this project yours versus someone else in your field?

Genius: I almost couldn’t remember the #YoungGeniusQualities I wrote about. I had to look them up.

  • Vibrant
  • Resilient
  • Free

When I wrote them down I was surprised by my answer because they hadn’t been very present in my life in a long time. But actually, that’s not true. I can think of a very specific and recent time that they were not only present, they were taking the lead. That time began in April 2013, when I fell in love. He was the first person I completely trusted with all of my heart and ours was the first relationship, possibly the first anything, where I allowed myself to be all-in. It was intoxicating, invigorating, liberating. Until a couple of months ago when we split up, and suddenly those three qualities become the hardest to things to imagine could ever apply to me. Except that here’s the thing. It was the loss of that relationship, and the facing of patterns that I have repeated since I was four years old and lost the first great love of my life, my grandfather, that delivered the story to me. And if I’m going to deliver it to others, I am going to need to be all-in, the way I was while in love. But I’m also going to need what I learned, what I re-learn every time, after that first big loss:

  • To turn inward
  • To return to my roots
  • To reclaim and own my power and my responsibility for myself and to the world
  • To rebuild

Integrity: So what is the core value that this story reveals? Resilience. And not just the resilience of strength and youth. The resilience of someone who has experienced deep and even crippling loss and has continued to get back up, to love, and perhaps even trust again. The resilience of someone who has learned over and over again that shutting down is not the answer, because even though it stops the pain in the short term, it always catches up with you, and when it does, it’s much, much stronger and harder to overcome. The resilience of someone whose mantra in the face of loss, death, trauma, grief, is “I have to do something.” Even better if that something can help more than just me.

GrailDistinction: The main through-line of my book will be a story from medieval legend that has shaped my life and the way I see my role in the world. A story that I now believe is wrong. What I bring to this project:

  • My history with this story and the destructive relationship patterns bred by it that I now recognize in my own life
  • My desire to reveal this story’s untold perspective–that of the “absent” woman
  • My personal process of rewriting the story
  • The interwoven paths of memory, history, mythology, and social action that make up my quest to reclaim a potent feminine symbol and use it to help heal myself, ourselves, and our world

Competitive Collaboration Redux

There are certain parts of this process that trip me up every time. This challenge is one we’ve talked about before and my answer is pretty much the same.

#DareToExcel Challenge – 11:

Reach out to a collaborator. Define at least one such person.

Draft notes about the following and share: What will you ask of that person? How can you frame your ask in a way that the person recognizes what is of value to her or him? How can you frame the ask in a way that will resonate with a meaningful ideal that transcends both of your self-interest? Hint: Go back to your burning question, and go back to who it’s for.

Bonus points if you actually ask the person within the next two days! Dare you!

Back in February, my answer was this:

This is a great question and one I think about often. In fact, I do have a list of people and ideas. But for now, that’s where this whole discussion needs to stay, for two reasons:

  1. I have given up dealing with the Big Picture for Lent. Obsessing over what I might do some day has been preventing me from taking the small daily steps that I need to take to get me there. So far, it has made a huge difference in my mindset, if not yet my actual productivity. And I need the productivity to catch up. Come the end of Lent, it may be time to reclaim my relationship with the Big Picture, but from where I sit today, I’m pretty sure it won’t.
  2. I’m not ready. Not in a “I need everything to be perfect kind of way,” in a “I need to solidify my own foundation before even considering collaborating with others,” kind of way.

I need to find my stride, build my own voice and vision, become who I need to be in my own right BEFORE inviting anyone else in. Until I do, this week’s more detailed questions have no place in my process. Until I do, I will continue to focus on doing my own physical work, and occasionally, as lightning strikes, adding a name to my list.

My Big Picture challenge for Lent is over, so that is no longer a stumbling block, but the rest continues to hold true. My life has changed dramatically since this post. Very important relationships have ended, leaving a hole that has resisted healing. My financial and work situations have changed–not all for the better. The stress resulting from these changes has triggered health issues that need attention and, in some cases, intervention.

BUT… out of the resulting maelstrom has come a new focus–one that better encompasses the most important values and ideas from the last 8 months of introspection beginning with the #Quest challenge in December. So while I still have a list of people and ideas, I find myself needing once again to solidify, if not completely rebuild, my own foundation.

As I noted on the last day of last year, I chose the word CULTIVATE to guide my work in 2015. Seven months later, with everything going on, that word no longer quite fits what I need. Cultivate is about tilling, planting, growing, encouraging. I need a word that represents gathering of all of my lost, damaged, and disparate loves, ideas, and pieces of myself, bringing them all together to mix and steep, and meld into something that can feed not only me, but the world. This time has become a time of reclaiming, healing, reflecting. Yes, the time for connecting, collaborating, building will come. But that time is not now. Now is the time of COMPOST–of allowing the alchemy of time and space and chemistry to transform what no longer seems edible, viable, useful into the elixir from which everything grows.

Revenue and Reach

#DareToExcel Challenge – 10:

Define one specific experiment for growth and change for this month in revenue or reach.

This experiment can be related to the one small project. But this time I ask you to frame the experiment in these terms, If I did X, then would Y result? 

For instance:
If I wrote and published relevant content every week, would I feel better and reach # more people?

If I reached out to 3 people this month for possible connection or collaboration, would one of them lead to an exciting new venture? 

If my business focused less on _____ and more on ______, would this lead to more customers? 

If I wrote poetry with no imagery for a month, would I discover another way to write poems? (Okay, that last one was not related to reach or revenue, but I include its ilk as an option.)

My answer:

If I worked on one unfinished quilt daily, would I be able to give myself a little more financial breathing room by selling the finished quilts?

Quilting PandemonionAlthough my time this month has run too short to actually implement this experiment, I will begin next month:

  • Stitching daily
  • Posting finished quilts for sale to Facebook and this site
  • Anything that doesn’t sell will be held for sale at one or more of our local holiday craft fairs

Ideally I will make enough to skim a little money to spend on needles and thread.

Prototype

I have to admit, I find my book project a bit daunting. It’s larger and more complex than any book I’ve written before, and when someone I respect asked if I thought it might be over ambitious, I had to ask myself whether he might be right. But then again, I have to do it anyway.

Today’s challenge provides one way to test whether the story has legs without having to struggle through the whole 90,000 (or more) complicated words of it. Without entangling myself too much before I even start.

#DareToExcel Challenge #9:

Sometimes big ideas daunt us because of their big-ness.  Instead of trying to “publish” your project in full form, how could you test it out on a smaller audience? Maybe even behind-the-scenes?

  • Define the prototype–what you actually will create at a significantly reduced scale; allow for messiness, allow for mistakes and imperfections
  • Define what you’re testing for
  • Invite a few people behind the scenes
  • Invite feedback

In the words of Lean Start-up author Eric Riess, then decide whether to move forward and persevere to publish the big project or to pivot toward a different project

I’ve actually done a little bit of this already, sharing the story and structure of the book with a few select people. I’ve gotten very positive responses and some important questions to ponder. I’ve learned that the story is important and needs telling, not just for me, but for its audience as well. I’ve learned that just because the protagonist and her struggle is based on me, doesn’t mean she is me, which means I can fictionalize it, freeing me from a lot of anxiety around how to map my life to the story without making it feel forced. But I have more to learn. To that end, I will:

  1. Create a short treatment of the book–either a plot summary, concept teaser, or short story
  2. Test for proof of theme and concept, whether people find it valuable, and if the complex structure works
  3. Share it with a select 3 to 5 individuals to start (I already have 3 people in mind)
  4. Where possible, follow up with a phone call to gather and discuss feedback; where phone doesn’t work, I’ll use online chat

I’d like to have the prototype complete by the end of July, but with everything I have going on right now, it will more likely be mid August.

Regardless of the results, I know this story must be told, but how it gets written and what form it takes are still in flux. Who knows, it could turn into a screenplay, a series of quilts with associated poems, a blog series, a travelog, an online self-help workshop… perhaps even more than one of these over time.

In this world of endless possibilities it can be easy to get lost. This prototype idea seems like a great way to define one small concrete part–an anchor to still the drift, a cornerstone, perhaps, upon which the rest can be built.

 

Celebrate Each Tiny Step

#DareToExcel Challenge – 8:

Take time during the next two days to look back on the past two weeks and acknowledge any positive changes you have noticed during the past two weeks in terms of how you feel, how you are paying attention more to what matters (challenges and all), any new relationships you’re striking up.

Write down and share what you are celebrating. When you celebrate in public, others get to celebrate with you. Your celebrations are not self-centered. They are uplifting to your peers and to your audiences and customers. So what are you waiting for? Howl out and lift us up!

Halfway through July’s #DareToExcel and it’s time to celebrate our accomplishments. Why is that always so much harder than it sounds? Probably because what’s left to do seems so much bigger than what’s already done. But it’s precisely that illusion that makes this challenge so important.

So what positive changes have I made so far?

  • I accepted the challenge in an effort to pull me out of the morass I’d been stuck in since the end of March
  • I wrote down my two most burning questions: “what if I focus on making instead of mulling?”, and “what if the story is wrong?” (which really leads to the more important question: “what if we changed the story?”)
  • I committed to one small project (Hands in Motion, Mind at Rest) to help clear mental, emotional, and physical space for my one big project, the book referred to as 3T
  • I have been practicing Hands in Motion, Mind at Rest, if not every day, at least most, and am now just 3 long seams away from finishing a quilt started more than three years ago, making me feel lighter, more focused, and like I’m actually getting stuff done; I can’t wait to finish it and move on to the next
  • I identified three young genius traits that I want to reintegrate into my life and work: Vibrancy, Resilience, and Freedom
  • I identified my audience for the book–something I’ve always been reluctant to do–and in doing so gave myself a renewed sense of purpose
  • I identified a skill that I need to cultivate in order to improve my chances of completing my small and large projects, and while I called it “saying no” it’s actually about discernment, which also includes attention to what I need to say yes to, in some cases making tradeoffs–saying yes to one thing in order to release something else
  • I identified my cross-training and versatile heritage skills–sewing, mindfulness, writing, research, and content architecture, but realize now that there are others that are less obvious and in some ways more powerful: creating a backyard homestead garden, learning belly dance and performing on stage, writing several NaNoWriMo novels, and learning how to fly a plane, all of which taught me about focus, dedication, dealing with uncertainty and obstacles, and facing some of my most long-held and agonizing fears
  • I took a look at my relationship with time and realized much of the drowning churn was of my own making
  • I continued to take my #365 daily photos, getting myself out of the house and into the world, all the while staying focused on the concrete world around me, and the beauty there, even in things that don’t at first seem beautiful
  • And perhaps most importantly, I have begun talking about collaborations and getting more involved with other people’s projects–sharing my immune disorder story with Tracee Vetting Wolf for her project, discussing a possible short story collection with Brenna Layne, and attending Jeffrey Davis‘ Tracking Wonder event in Albuquerque where I met some great people and got some great advice about my book from the man himself

Seeing the list written down like this makes me realize how much I’ve accomplished in only two short weeks. Yes I still have a long way to go, but if I can maintain this level of progress for the second two weeks of the challenge and beyond, there’s no telling what I can accomplish.

Saying No

Yesterday when the new dare arrived in my inbox I took one look at it then closed it again. Part of it was the overwhelm at trying to figure out how to add one more thing to my already over-full plate. The other part was overwhelm at how could I possibly choose just one skill from an infinite number of possibly necessary skills that might make a critical difference for my project and my life. Luckily, with a little distance I discovered the answer to the challenge hidden in that second overwhelm–though upon reflection, it wasn’t hidden at all. In fact, it was pretty much grabbing me by the shirt collar and trying to shake me awake.

#DareToExcel Challenge – 5:

To live your question, what new #skillset do you need and want to develop this month and beyond to execute your one project exceptionally well? What existing skill set do you need and want to hone and sharpen? How can you do so more intentionally? Define it, claim it, share it.

Don’t over-do it here. One skill or skill set suffices for now for you to define.

Use the bottom half of your My Project Brief Sheet to help you define a habit skill set, one field-related skill, or one craft-related skill you want to claim and dare to excel in.

~ SAY NO ~

The need for this particular skill isn’t just project-related–it’s systemic to my whole life. I have always had trouble focusing on one thing, being able to figure out what is most important, and saying “no”–or at least, “not now”–to everything else. The proof is in my original project brief. Not because of the desire to hold space for the book to grow as I do other things which is a wonderful, valuable goal, but because that good goal disguises the truth–that I want those unfinished quilts finished and out of my life so badly that I made them more important than the book. And in doing so, I’ve created a situation where the drudgery of the sewing I don’t want to do bleeds over into the work I most want to do. Instead of feeding the book, it has drained my energy. And because two of the quilt projects are for other people, they have the added stress of deadlines and an ever expanding feeling of trying to create within a very small box which has been stifling my creativity across the board. The fact that, although two of my quilting projects are already overdue, I started with a donation quilt that no one is waiting for and has been sitting in a bin for more than three years, only underscores my deep need for increasing my discernment skills ASAP.

So, what does that mean? Starting this moment I need to:

  1. Deal with the two overdue sewing projects this weekend before I do anything else–that means spending Sunday at the computer creating the design comps to send to the clients, because it is too late to hand them off to someone else. Ideally at the office so I won’t be distracted by everything that needs doing here at home.
  2. Adjust my perception of the remaining quilts from chores I need to plow through, to mindfulness practice.
  3. Get back to relaxed nightly book research, letting the stories absorb slowly into my psyche.
  4. Remember what’s most important, which for some reason sounds like the voices of Haymitch and Finnick in my head, and say “no” to everything else:Katniss
  5. Revisit my project brief.

And once I’ve done that, I can begin methodically building my discernment skills so I can make better prioritization decisions earlier in the process and not find myself trying to extract myself from a bind as deadlines loom. This great resource from wonder tracker and our intrepid guide in this challenge Jeffrey Davis, is a good place to start.

 

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