Fear Is So Last Year
If you are successfully disrupting the status quo in your workplace, you will absolutely get pushback and pushed down. Sorry. But the truth is that there will always be people, teams, and entire departments that will respond to your courage, creativity, and care with proportionate fear, reluctance, and eye rolling.
And, yeah, it stings for a few seconds, but then, without fail, the sting gives way to a smile: You survived. The more you engage in Creative Trespassing, the more you’ll see pushback as a sign that you are doing exactly what you are meant to be doing: nudging people out of their comfort zones, breathing new life into the company culture, and igniting a creative revolution in the workplace that will ultimately lead to more exciting innovations, more authentic connections, and deeper insights.
Take Permission—’Cause No One Is Gonna Give It to You
Can you think of one thing—or two hundred—that your mother (or father or guardian) used to tell you to NEVER DO? I’m not talking about legit stuff like “don’t push your little brother into oncoming traffic” or “never try to set your hair on fire.” More like things that actually captured the spirit of experimentation but without any casualties. Things like:
Don’t ever become an artist/writer, you’ll never make a living.
Never date a guy in a band.
Never leave the house without makeup.
Never leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight.
Don’t ever, ever act like your father.
Don’t even think about using the F word or I’ll wash your mouth out with soap (on behalf of those of us who were coparented by Palmolive—fuck YOU, Palmolive!).
And for the love of God, don’t EVER let people know that you are happy (it just comes across as arrogant)!
Now choose a couple of things from your list and take permission to DO THEM.
Let Your Freak Flag Fly
Let’s face it, we all have a lil’ goody-two-shoes (or two eyes) inside of us, a little part of ourselves that longs to fit in, insists that change is bad, and kicks our asses if we get out of line. It’s time to show a little compassion for that little bully who has run a tight ship all these years and kept us from letting our freak flag fly. Even though she comes from a place of fear and anger and says annoying stuff like “If you don’t play by the rules you’re going to get fired,” that pocket-sized buzzkill has probably saved our jobs, lives, and dreams more than once. So imagine hugging that surly little nugget. Tighter. Until she loosens up a bit. Until she cracks a smile. Then go back to giving that little goody-two-shoes a hard time.
Close your eyes and picture all of your wonderful flaws, all the stuff that makes you uniquely, awkwardly YOU. Now picture each one of these unique qualities being taken away from you. The way you show up at work (and most dates) with your shirt inside out. How you harbor an unhealthy obsession for the Muppets. Literally salivating when a plate of French fries is within a ten-mile radius. Judging yourself for salivating. Judging yourself for being judgmental. Your untamable instinct to scream whenever you see a bug. The way you tear up when looking at puppy pictures. Your encyclopedic knowledge of fast-food restaurants. What are you left with? To be perfect is to be invisible. Try saying out loud: (I’m)perfect…and so are you!
Unleash Your Inner Rebel
Sometimes the greatest act of resistance is to stand up and fully lean into our dreams. Standing up requires us to cultivate a state of mind, one where we believe that our voice matters. That our ideas matter. That we matter.
As Creative Trespassers, we stand up every time we trust our creative impulses. We stand up when we declare our intentions with clarity and courage. We stand up when we take action in honor of people, ideas, and causes. We stand up when we find connections between our company’s mission statement and our personal one between our job and our work; between art and commerce. We stand up when we trade indifference and inertia for imagination and inspiration.
So think of this as the ultimate throwdown: our fears versus our dreams, our passions versus procrastination, our professional desires versus the desire to check social media just one more time! This is our time to kick the crap out of the stuff that is stopping us from living free.
Level Up Your Listening
As Creative Trespassers, we can learn to inhabit the space in between hearing and listening. Because once we get comfortable with shutting our pie holes and actively listening to the music around us, no space is silent, static, or empty. When we do, that space can be filled with car horns, potholes, or concertgoers coughing—or it can be filled with waves, ideas, and orchestras.
We come to work, every day, with our exquisitely imperfect bodies; bodies that have endured indignities, injuries, maybe even severe injuries—and yet they are all poised and powerful in their own ways. Those of us who perform using our bodies—actors, dancers, performance artists, athletes—understand that our body is our “instrument.” And the sooner we become aware of all the unique ways in which our body works, the sooner we can be in harmony with it. This is why performers and athletes train, rehearse, practice: so that when the pressure is on, our instincts kick in and our muscle memory does the rest. Like a soccer goalie instinctively blocking the ball from whooshing into the net, when our bodies, minds, and intentions are totally aligned, we are able to respond with clarity and lightning speed to any challenge, situation, or opportunity that comes our way.
In the chaos and noise that often underscore our lives, it becomes essential for us to breathe, stay present, and listen to our bodies. How will you listen to your instrument today? Even if the only dancing you’re doing is tapping your toes to smooth jazz as you ascend in the elevator to your office on the eighteenth floor, listening to your body will help find the mental calm, focus, and space for creativity to flourish. It will let you know when you need more sleep, more exercise, more fresh air to be fully energized and engaged in work, in play, and in the world.
Reframe the Blame
The quote “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce.” comes from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Peace Is Every Step, and he continues by saying: “You look for reasons it is not doing well…Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce.”
How many times (a day) do we blame the lettuce? A colleague, a friend, a spouse, the guy on line in front of us at a coffeehouse whose half-caf upside-down caramel drizzle latte took seven minutes to prepare and made us late and grumpy?
But the truth is that blaming has literally no positive or productive outcomes, whereas understanding and connecting bring us opportunities to learn and grow. So, instead of blaming your teammate for tanking his part of the presentation, try asking what he’s got on his plate in order to understand why he wasn’t better prepared. Instead of blaming your best friend for forgetting your birthday, try asking her if there’s a reason she’s been so distracted. Instead of walking through your life and office blaming everyone and everything when you fall short of excelling (You suck, stapler, it’s all your fault we didn’t get the account!), try asking yourself this: Do I want to cultivate more connections, understanding, and growth—or a rotten head of lettuce? Go to the source, find out what’s going on, and let understanding set you free.
If All Else Fails…Keep Rehearsing
We’ve all heard the rallying cry of entrepreneurs, the mantra of start-ups, and, increasingly, well-established corporations that goes something like: FAIL! Fail often. Fail fast. Fail faster. Fail better. Fail more. Turns out, the business world borrowed this mantra from theater, more specifically from the playwright Samuel Beckett, who wrote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Whether we receive a standing ovation, forget our lines, are booed off the stage, or have a drunk person pass out on the lip of the stage during our performance (not that this happened to me; I’m just saying), the minute we take the risk to get up onstage…we already succeeded. Success is the act of trying in the face of failure.
Of course, this isn’t just true for theater and other strictly “creative” fields. We all fear failure to some degree, no matter what it is we do for work. Sometimes your résumé will kick ass but you won’t get an interview. Sometimes you’ll pitch your heart out and won’t get the account. Sometimes your super brilliant idea for a business will be too early or too late.
But don’t despair, anyone can adopt theater thinking, which goes something like this: If no one shows up to your show…it’s a rehearsal! In other words, treat each “failure” as an opportunity to learn and improve. Comedians call this rewriting. Athletes, lawyers, doctors, and artists call it practice. Software developers call it beta testing. It doesn’t matter what you call it—as long as you show up and risk being creative at work in the face of obstacles, resistance, and rules, it’s impossible to truly fail.
Remember the first rule of Creative Trespassing: Champion calamities, flaws, and profoundly awkward moments, knowing that these are where the best art, ideas, innovations, and life live! Only when we begin to see our flaws, our mistakes, and our failures as opportunities to learn do we begin to take bolder risks, attack tougher challenges, and inspire those around us to do the same.