#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.
Compost. That’s the first word that sprang to mind when I read this challenge. Reclaiming the past to feed the future. I’ve done versions of this challenge before, but each time there is something new to learn–not the least of which is just how full of experience, knowledge, and important skills my life really is.
#DareToExcel Challenge – 6:
Cross-training is defined as how working on one project or in one field can complement your endeavors in another field. Cross-training can happen sequentially (e.g., your work in your 20s can help your work in your 40s) or simultaneously (e.g. the thinking required in your work as a lawyer can help you in your book project).
Versatile heritage is defined as the repurposing of previous experience in a current endeavor. For example, you may have previous experience in art or design. This experience can then inform your work in marketing or coaching.
What unique skills and experiences do you already possess that you can bring to your project?
List 1-5 existing skills you have developed from previous experiences and work that you are bringing forward to this project.
First, the meditative sewing portion of the program:
- Sewing & Quilting: I made my first quilt when I was 10, and have completed more than 40 since then, with several more in progress. What that means for this project is that deep attention is no longer required, allowing my mind to rest as I stitch.
- Meditation practice: Although I wouldn’t say I have deep experience with meditation, I have studied both sitting meditation and writing practice with Natalie Goldberg and others, which means I have some experience and the basic skills to build on.
Then onto the book:
- Research: Undergraduate and graduate school, writing for a museum publication and novels, and many years working in the content realm for a variety of tech companies and departments, have helped me develop some seriously kick-ass research skills–both online and in the real world. But beyond that, research is one of my great loves, so even when I’m not doing it for a project, I’m hunting down data, trends, and histories out of personal interest. Research is best when it’s full-immersion–books, movies, music, photos on the walls… I want to be able to slip completely into that other world.
- Writing: Again, academia and my work experience have molded me into a professional writer with a wide variety of skills: I’ve written magazine articles for the Exploratorium Quarterly, crafted editorial experiences for Walmart.com, worked as a tech writer, marketing writer, advertising writer, newsletter (and e-newsletter) writer, social media writer, website copywriter, blogger, content and story editor, and proofreader. I’ve written and published poems and micro-fiction, completed drafts of 5 novels, many short stories, and two screenplays. I’ve also attended multiple writing retreats with author Natalie Goldberg. That’s more than 17 years focused on all aspects of the craft.
- Content Architecture & Strategy: My professional writing career started with newsletter and catalog work–creating categories, writing copy, crafting flow between pages. From there I moved on to website content architecture and navigation–what appears on each page and how you move between them. These skills are essential in any written work, especially those with complex or interlaced story structures, which happen to be my favorite to write. My current project contains three distinct but connected story lines which will require unwavering attention to chronology, points of intersection, flow, and detail. Suffice it to say, there will be color and time-coded story architecture diagrams. Lots of them.
And of course, my whole #onesmallproject is a form of cross-training–sewing as a way to clear physical and mental space for the larger project I need to bring into the world.
But of course I’m going to add one more, in the form of a riddle:
What do gardening, belly dancing, learning to fly an airplane, and writing a book have in common?
They all require mastery of a million tiny nuanced parts, profound courage, and deep faith that one small step can lead to the journey of a lifetime and with it, the opportunity to transport others into a completely different world.
I have a quilt on my board that’s been there for months. Okay, to be honest, I currently have six quilts on my boards in varying states of completion, but this one feels different. I sketched the design and selected the primary fabrics back in February, and cut out the background, backing, and key elements in March, but have made not a stitch of progress since then, and that’s getting to me. And it seems the longer I stare at it, the harder it is for me to figure out how to get it back on track.
One the one hand, it’s already a success. It served as inspiration for my 2013 SAQA donation quilt, Superpower: Flight! (see it and other auction quilts here). Still, though, I can’t seem to let it go, and not just because it’s a key piece in my November show. It begs to be finished. I just haven’t known how. Then, a couple of weeks ago I went with a two friends to the Museum of International Folk Art to see the “Plain Geometry: Amish Quilts” exhibit and while we were there we popped in to see another exhibit of Japanese kites.
I didn’t think too much more about it until a few days ago when I looked up at my board and saw the sad Flight fabric longing to live up to its name and new what had been missing. It didn’t want to be just another static rectangle. It wanted to soar.
Since then I’ve been arguing with myself. Do I really want to redesign it? Do I really want to start from scratch when the fabric is already cut out? Wouldn’t it just be easier to just finish what’s already up there? Yes, it would, but also, no, it wouldn’t. If it was that easy I would have been done in March when I started it. So now it’s back to the drawing board to re-imagine Flight as a kite.