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August 2011 Archives

Stay Young

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Sometimes it becomes easy to get stuck in our modes and just go. Tunnel vision takes over and it becomes a series of crossing off "things to do" on my daily checklist. For a while, I've convinced myself that I don't have the time to stop for a second and take a breather... To stop and think, am I being the most productive I can be? Am I adding value to the WCC by what I'm doing at this particular moment?

This past summer has really got me thinking... No, not because I don't have enough to do (trust me, I don't even remember when summer started), but because of the experiences I have had over the last couple months. From NACMA, which is the epitome of creative juices flowing in one place, to back to the office where I am challenged to come up with new ideas day after day, the theme of this summer has been creativity. Whether that's me pushing myself to the next level or an effect of my environment, it doesn't matter. I've come to realize, more than ever, that it's not just how hard you work. It's how creative you can be that makes your hard work impactful. And so now, the question is...how do we become more creative? How do we bring ourselves to that next level?

Visitacion Valley This past Friday, I got a taste of the answer when our office visited our little friends at the Visitacion Valley Boys & Girls Club. It's so much fun heading out there and spending time with the kids, and it continues to amaze me how good my coworkers are in finding new ways to keep the kids entertained. The project of the day was building paper rollercoasters, and though none of us had ever built one before (including the kids and the Boys & Girls Club staff), we immediately dove right in. No directions. No exact model to copy. All imagination.

From cutting the pieces of multicolored construction paper to taping them to the unstable paper base to molding the pieces to build something that would stand the weight of a marble and still be fun, we were challenged to use our creativity and work with what we had. And at the end of it all, by some miracle, it worked! It stood. It had (what Raven likes to call) its "loopty-loops" and the marble landed safely at the bottom every time.

But what stuck out to me, beyond the success, was how the kids could not get enough of "testing" the rollercoaster. Time after time, they would watch the marble make it down and "ooooohs" and "coooool!" would fill the room. They were in such awe at something so simple and couldn't be more impressed with how they were able to make it work, despite the challenges that faced them.

It was this innocent outlook on "work" and the ability to play, without the fear of failing, that reminded me how important it is to not fear what can't be done. Being able to roll with the punches and celebrate your victories is important to doing not just good work, but great work.

In a world where things are always changing (especially in marketing and social media), it becomes ever more important to enjoy what you do and not get stuck in one mode. Stay young! Use your brain like you did as a child and imagine what things you can do without worrying about the obstacles. Trying is the only way you will know if it will work or not.

Jamie Z., our commish, highly recommended a book for our staff retreat called "The Red Rubber Ball at Work," which is perfect for now and has been subconsciously pushing me to reflect this idea of play on a daily basis. "Play at work" is more than just enjoying who you work with and keeping a lighthearted environment that fosters creativity. It's about being able to "productively play" and using that same mentality the kids at Visitacion Valley had when building those rollercoasters out of mere construction paper.

The author Kevin Carroll quotes Tom Kelley, General Manager of Ideo, saying, "When you're young, you don't know what you 'can't' do. The world is big and open, and you can go try." So try!

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