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And then there was the second day of the McColl Center Innovation Institute Think Like an Artist program. If you haven’t yet read about Day 1 head there first.

Part of my Day 2 homework assignment was to find an object that represents my most difficult struggle. I had been pondering what the biggest bottleneck in my creative flow might be. The thing that keeps me stuck. And then I had it.

At ten thirty that night I was out in the front yard with a flashlight looking for the perfect… acorn. I had lots to choose from because we have a massive oak tree and it is going to be a long cold winter.

I picked an acorn because that tiny little representation of my struggles has the potential to become a tree. It contains everything it needs to succeed – unless it gets eaten by a squirrel first, or squashed underfoot, which is a metaphor for another day.

Like the acorn, I know that I have everything in me to succeed, and I have experienced tremendous growth. But sometimes I have to remember where I started, how far I’ve come, and to be the tree. To learn from the past but to not let it hold me back from the future. To succeed and fail boldly. And that I don’t always have to be right. (Yikes.)

So as we circled up to share on Friday morning, the Kleenex box got kicked around the ring quite a bit. There were tears, and laughter, and sharing at a personal level that was surprising among a group of beautiful strangers who had barely known each other for 24 hours. But it was worth it to be all in, because it set the tone for the rest of the day.

The second day had many themes. Recognition. A little disruption again. Letting go. Reconciliation. Healing. Reinvention.

The challenges were a test of courage. To dive into to that messy, dark place where I shove all the stuff down that I don’t want to deal with. The place where flames would be welcome.

Ellen Kochansky facilitated our creative endeavors on Day 2. She is a fiber artist who is has mastered reinvention. And she was able to guide us along our own abbreviated journeys in that direction.

Our first assignment was to create two representations of ourselves – in words and pictures. We were encouraged to avoid the literal. Think like an artist. Courage is not a lion. Courage is where we enter the dark places. The confusing ones. Courage is where we engage.

And then the unthinkable. We shared them… and we put them through a paper shredder. A chance to symbolically disrupt and release the struggles, and the pain and the things that maybe just don’t work for us anymore. Along with the things that we assume do.

We took our shreds and had a chance to use them along with a whimsical assortment of found objects to create something new. We cut and glued and traded and ultimately shared our art and what inspired us.

Who could have known that over the course of the next week the world would be shaken to the core, literally and figuratively, with devastating earthquakes, terrorism and violence. As I started writing this blog I felt almost foolish for a moment that I had the opportunity to explore and embrace my creative process in a safe space while other people in our world are hungry, and threatened, and dying. And afraid. I was also afraid.

And then today it dawned on me that this process is transforming me into a more effective me. A me that can come up with better solutions independently and in collaborations that can help solve problems, facilitate community, and bring about change.

And somehow, for this moment anyway I am not afraid, I am… hopeful.

Our final assignment was to create a personal icon and make it into a stamp. It needed to be simple. And I knew what mine would be.

A dragonfly. The dragonfly represents change, self-realization, discovery. Transformation. It is my Yes. Maybe the Innovation Institute can help you find yours too.