The Fine Art of Finessing

This morning I woke up with a start, having finally figured out what was missing from my mission statement. Okay, actually it was some telephone solicitor calling way too early that woke me up and Maia’s latest email and one of my course-mate’s posts that helped me see the light. Aside from the nagging thought that I expressed yesterday about what exactly was my passion (probably not illumination), I was missing two key pieces of information:

  1. What type of people I hoped to serve
  2. What need of theirs my work would fulfill

So with that in mind, I’m going back to the drawing board. Lucky for me, I already have a pretty solid foundation to build on.

What is my passion? I know I’m stuck on a word here. I love the word Illuminate, but is that passion or action? I feel like I was much more direct with the form I filled out on the Franklin Covey site (RIP Franklin) — to create and inspire. Actually what I said was “be creative and help people” — which one is it, help or inspire?

How will I do this (and make money)? By creating inspiring works of art and literature and by providing tools and possibly platforms. Some possible tools include: quizzes, assessments, articles, videos, reviews, coaching programs, ebooks, ecourses, and, of course, compelling content, including examples and how-tos.

Who will I do this for / what need will it fill? People who aspire to be creative, who aspire to better health (emotional, physical, spiritual, personal, community, global), who aspire to be more involved, more prepared, more connected, more liberated, ready to face a changing world head-on, more informed, more empowered… empowered, yes, I like that.

Not all of us are built for the standard social action of standing on street corners or getting arrested. Not all of us want to make calls or write letters. Not all of us want to campaign for a candidate. Some of us are built to walk the back streets of foreign cities search for answers in our histories. Some of us are built to use a pen or a brush or a needle as a spotlight. Some of us are built to raise a voice for the silenced. Some of us are built to hand others a pen and a flashlight. And some of us can only do our work from a place of safety and sanctuary. But sometimes we have to build that first… but I digress… allow me to return to my general mission.

  1. My passion is to create art and stories that illuminate the issues that matter to me.
  2. My goal is a) to get that work out into the world where it can inspire others to speak and act, b) to provide tools that empower them to do it, and c) to build a community that amplifies and projects what emerges.
  3. My audience is anyone who has something to say that has been still or stifled but who longs to find their voice again, or who has been longing to act but is afraid or doesn’t know what to do or how to do it.

Or, to put it a slightly different way, for those who are afraid to speak or act, my work will show them it can be done, my tools will help them learn (or remember) how, and the community and I will give them the support they need to do it.

And if you’re still wondering what those issues are that matter to me, they appear to cluster primarily around the word Resilience, but there is also an important component of remembering our history, both the bits we can use, and the bits we need to learn from so we don’t have to keep repeating them over and over again.

Let’s Break It Down

Clearly this whole mission-writing thing is going to be an iterative process, so let’s start where we left off yesterday, with the statement:

My mission is to illuminate the causes that matter most to me by creating art, stories, and tools that inspire people to connect to themselves, the world, and others and to act on their behalf. 

Here on day two of this process, we are focusing on the second section of the statement: the how. So let’s break it down and see what we’ve got.

  1. What: illuminate the causes that matter most to me
  2. How: creating art, stories, and tools
  3. For whom and why: inspire people to connect and act

Hmmm… looking at this again with fresh eyes, I can’t help but ask myself a truckload of questions:

  • What causes? Whatever strikes my fancy at the moment, or is there a single, overriding cause that I can identify and describe?
  • Is my passion really illumination or is illumination really a how? Perhaps my passion is really creation.
  • Are art, stories, and tools enough? Or do I also want to create a platform for sharing these things?
  • Where will the money come from? Do I even need to get that specific? Is selling these things implied?
  • What people?
  • How will they connect?
  • How do I want them to act?

What do you think? Am I right about the weak points or am I just over thinking things?

Here are a few more points to consider (or something like that — I’m just making this up as I go along):

  • Cause-wise, the word that keeps surfacing for me is Resilience — it applies to health, the environment, communities, skills, relationships, and personal, cultural, societal, and planetary survival; it even accounts for my obsession with apocalypse and holocaust stories and why, whenever my teacher asks what I will remember from a specific, often horrific book she’s assigned to us, my answer is always the part where someone stood up and tried to change things
  • I like the idea of a platform, but it may not be essential except as a delivery mechanism; still, it is something I am already considering
  • It doesn’t matter which people, it will be whichever people respond to my unique message formats
  • How they connect and their choice of action is also not my responsibility, but I may have a few ideas (which I will dig deeper into tomorrow when we are scheduled to tackle that third part)
The truth is, I have an idea. A cool, fun, crazy idea. Something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. And it is making me rethink my mission. But it shouldn’t. I can see now that different projects could require their own missions. Related to the personal mission, of course, but with a few tweaks for the specific implementation. So have I gotten anywhere with this little exercise? Not really, but that’s mostly because the more I think about it, the more I think the current version holds.


On a related note, I just visited the Franklin Covey website and used their mission statement creator just to see what came out and here it is:

I am at my best when creating and inspiring others.
I will try to prevent times when i feel trapped, uninspired, or bored.
I will enjoy my work by finding employment where I can solve problems.
I will find enjoyment in my personal life through making things, writing, reading, and research.
I will find opportunities to use my natural talents and gifts such as art, writing, empathizing.
I can do anything I set my mind to. I will make quilts, write novels, travel, and spend time with friends.
My life’s journey is to lead by example to inspire others to live healthier, more fulfilled lives.
I will be authentic.
My most important future contribution to others will be supporting and loving them, and encouraging their dreams.
I will stop procrastinating and start working on:

  • Being more socially active in the causes that matter to me
  • Sharing what i’ve learned about health, wellness, creativity, and happiness
  • Spending more time creating and finishing projects

I will strive to incorporate the following attributes into my life:

  • Fearlessness
  • Focus
  • Ground-breaking creativity

I will constantly renew myself by focusing on the four dimensions of my life:

  • Eating and sleeping
  • Being quiet
  • Reading
  • Connecting with others

There’s some great stuff in there, especially that first line, but still pretty sure mine is better.

A Girl with a Mission

Candles - Earth HourWe are just past the halfway mark of Fall in Love with Your Work, and I have already learned an amazing amount — about myself, about what matters to me, about my skills, my options, about how other people see me. But today’s lessons is where it really started coming together. Where all the work I’ve been doing for so long has finally started to crystalize. Today is the day we started writing our personal mission statements.

To be honest, this is not the first time I’ve tried to construct one. I’ve worked on missions statements for corporations, for teams, for individuals, and, yes, for myself, and let me tell you, it is always hardest to do for myself. So hard, in fact, that I have never gotten even remotely close. Until today. Thanks to a combination of three sets of words.

  1. Four words that came to me as I woke up the morning of day 3: to educate and inspire
  2. A list of verbs Maia provided for our consideration: bridge, brighten, communicate, connect, create, discover, embrace, encourage, give, heal, integrate, lead, learn, love, mentor, open, organize, relate, remember, restore, teach
  3. My own list of verbs inspired by her list: act, educate, excavate, illuminate, inspire, unearth

I marked the ones that resonated the most strongly (italic for strong, bold for strongest) and got to work.

First, I replaced the word educate which felt didactic, judgmental, and heavy-handed with the word illuminate. Illuminate is one of my favorite words not just because it means to shed a light on something, or because that spotlight reveals but does not dictate what any person should do with that revelation, but because I am, among other things, a medievalist whose primary focus was church carvings and illuminated manuscripts. And those drawings were not just decoration, they were illustration, they were revelation, and they were unbelievably, stunningly beautiful — even when what they showed was suffering. And that is it for me. That’s what I aspire to do with every form of creative expression I undertake, be it fiction, poetry, quilts, photography… to show the world in all its happiness and pain. In all its glory and suffering. In all its joy and sorrow. In all its scarcity and abundance. To show that all of those things, all that humanity and majesty and misery is exquisitely beautiful. Awe inspiring. A miracle. And that all of those things, all of these people, are intertwined. Intimately connected. And to help other people see and feel that, too. And to remind us all that with that connection comes a responsibility to each other, because if one domino falls, we each fall in succession.

So with that in mind, and despite the fact that we still have two more days of working on our mission statements, moving from what we hope to do, to how we plan to do it, to who we are doing it for and why, here is my full missions statement, still a work in progress, but closer than I’ve every been to that shining star that will help guide and focus me on this path I am walking.

My mission is to illuminate the causes that matter most to me by creating art, stories, and tools that inspire people to connect to themselves, the world, and others and to act on their behalf. 

It still need a little tweaking, but I’m getting there. And I know I’m close, because when I look at the writing I’ve done already, the stories and art I most want to create in the future, it all fits perfectly and all the other things, those driven by other people’s agendas, or my own internal “shoulds” begin to fall away, making space for what really matters.

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” Chinese Proverb