Take us away.
Feel it. Let it go.
Why are you here?
Be the first to stand.
Be infectious with your energy. Your laugh.
Laugh louder. Clap bigger.
Go deep within yourself.
Go deep in your heart and soul.
What are we changing?
Feel it in your body.
Feel the change. Visceral.
Tension. Balanced with tranquility.
What does it mean to go deep?
Remove the cataracts.
So you can see. Vision.
What picture is he painting?
Vibration. Chapel bells.
Vibration is disruption.
Disruption is the journey. Waterfalls.
Water rushing. Tears. Calm.
Water rushing. Feel the tears.
Tears. Breathe. Exhale.
~ Sally Witzky.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Note: I had drafted these words while listening to Andy Stefanovich introduce Elew, and while Elew was playing an interesting mix of classical rockjazz at the piano, or in the piano (ha), at the #TEDxRVA event. I wanted to write a blog post from the words but it didn’t feel right. The idea came to me this week to write the words, pretty much as I sketched them in my notebook, into a poem. Maybe I’ll do something with them later. Or maybe I’ll just let them be. I’ve never written a poem before but my grandmother and my uncle enjoyed writing poetry so maybe it’s family infused.
Helayne Spivak, Director, VCU Brandcenter
Friday, April 19, 2013: VCU Friday Forum with Jim Ferguson… Jim had advised students to be careful about doing work / generating ideas for free. He said to ensure you always get paid, even if it is only $1. I am always challenged by this, as I often witness people who do not want to pay others for their ideas and strategic advice.
At TEDxRVA, young VCU students Rob Gibsun & Eric Stanley performed a mashup of poetry and violin, called Untitled Visions. While I had a tough time understanding all the words (my age, I’m sure) and therefore the full impact of the inspirational story Rob was conveying, I enjoyed the artistic side of the joint performance.
And I loved the story behind them, both talented young men who grew up near each other, attending the same church - and then ended up rooming next door to each other at VCU. They then collaborated to create something unique, and so often that’s what creativity is all about. It was very cool to experience.
After they finished performing on the TEDxRVA stage, Andy Stefanovich chatted with them for a minute or two. Andy asked them, “What is the ‘amazingness’ between you - what is the special sauce?” I remember Eric answering that question, telling the audience that…
“Rob always pushed me to keep going so I started to branch out. He changed my life.”
Andy reminded the audience that both Rob and Eric were great examples that it is possible. “I believe in engineered serendipity,” Andy said.
Serendipity is an interesting subject. One of the books I’m reading right now is called “The Power of Pull: How small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion.” There’s a chapter on Shaping Serendipity that is based on thoughtful research and certainly confirms that serendipity doesn’t just happen on its own - we might actually have to work for it (see Yossi Vardi quote from the book).
But I also love Eric’s response to Andy’s question. He said his friend, Rob, pushed him to keep going. And I think that is so important. That we each have one or more close friends or confidants who push us to take that next step. In Eric’s case, that friendly “pushing” caused him to branch out. Even as young as Eric is, he feels that Rob has helped him to change his life for the better.
I’m reminded of a verse from Proverbs 27:17,
“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
Two friends working together yet challenging each other to go the distance. To stay sharp. To believe it’s possible.
It reminds me to ask of myself… who are those people who surround me who keep me sharp? Who continue to challenge me? Who push me to take the next step so that I can branch out? Who are those people who will help me change my life for the better?
Who challenges you?
n. pl. pro·fun·di·ties
1. Great depth.
2. Depth of intellect, feeling, or meaning.
3. Something profound or abstruse.
I was intrigued.
Ed Ayers, current University of Richmond president and American historian, delivered a thoughtful talk at TEDxRVA on March 22nd. A little while later, Bill Martin of the Valentine Richmond History Museum delivered a similar talk.
Thinking about the correlation between the history of Richmond and the current-day creative juices flowing around our city was simply an interesting juxtaposition that I hadn’t spent too much time considering. But it worked. And I think we’re just scratching the surface of what this could mean.
It seemed to be a combination of wanting a deeper understanding of history and asking better questions. Pushing harder on both to see what we could create today.
Reviewing my sketchpad, I noted that Ed Ayers said that the American Indians were originally referred to as The Naturals. Yes, I know, it sounds like a Robert Redford film. But it made me wonder how our thoughts might be shaped differently if we referred to today’s creative class in Richmond as just that - the naturals. Would we think more organically about creativity?
He also reminded us that Shockoe meant The Rock. So what if Shockoe became thought of as our Richmond’s rock center or foundation of creativity. If I remember correctly, the good book reminds us always to build our house on the rock, not the sand. With a quick Google search, I find that is in Luke chapter 6 verse 48 - it was like a man who dug deep to build his house on the rock and when the floods came and the water vehemently beat on the house, the house withstood because it was built on a rock. I began to think that Richmond’s history could lay a terrific foundation for creativity in so many ways.
Not sure where this came in the context of his talk, but I have notes in my sketchbook where he said to trust your gut. Your intuition. Make your own decisions because you’re probably right, even if others don’t think so. He talked then about regrets. He said that creativity is not just about the future. At one time, Richmond was invented. And reinvented. And we can reinvent #RVA again. There’s a lot about Richmond’s history that is really good. Yet it also has a dark history. He said there’s no way around history - you have to go through it. So as we reflect back, we learn that we can reinvent #RVA in a way that is on purpose, connecting to our past like a river that ebbs and flows. Maybe there’s a reason we have a river running through our city - it can provide the context for making connections, building bridges and understanding fluidity.
I circled another note I wrote when Mr. Ayers was talking. He said creativity is like finding one another. It’s about redemption, too - redeeming this city - building from the rich history that we’ve all shared. How do we think about our place in history? In my notes, I also wrote that he referred to the Golden Age of this city. I don’t know if he was referring to then or now. Perhaps it could be both — our history and what we’re creating right now as we make history. He said that you can’t create what we now have - meaning we can’t create today the history we have. Of course, not. Yet if we could, would we change it I wondered?
He said we can make some natural connections which are so full of possibilities for us in order to both overcome and to fully leverage our past. He said our history gives us the hope we need because we understand life’s hardships due to what we’ve been through. I thought, well, here we are whether we like or dislike our city’s history and then I thought about the fact that there isn’t a “dislike” button on Facebook. Some things just are and we have to choose to accept and learn, or ignore.
A few other speakers took the TEDxRVA stage before Bill Martin of the Valentine Richmond History Museum spoke. But I couldn’t help connecting these two speakers within this post, even if it means this post becomes longer than, well, a post.
The Valentine is a touch of innovation, Bill said. Creativity can’t be about the thing that has always been before. But how do we create this new sense of place? How do we reinvent? How do you reinvent yourself? As he began to tell the full history of our city in 50 objects while photos flashed on the big screen behind him, he stressed that it wasn’t about the stories we know but about the stories we don’t know. He encouraged us to find the untold stories because it is then, in pushing to discover, that we find ourselves.
What do we value as a community, he asked. It was an interesting question he posed and then followed with a reminder that we have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I remember smiling as I was sitting there listening to him deliver that last line. I remember because he paused, ever so slightly, for the audience to take that in. I smiled because a month or so before I had rewritten my company’s core value statements and had wanted to work that line in. Exactly that line - we are comfortable with being uncomfortable as we learn and grow. It was a first draft and the ensuing discussion was rather funny - people didn’t like the word uncomfortable and we ended up with a rewrite that seemed to work better for our purposes. Ok, I got off track a bit.
Bill once again stressed the importance of the untold stories. We’re finally acknowledging (I circled that word in my notes) that tension between what we know and what we think we know about our past, he said. The tension is where real creativity occurs. It’s about finding what we can do from what we’ve always been. It’s about mixing it up and finding something special, he said.
Here’s what seemed most interesting… When he began his TEDx talk, Bill referred to the fact that he had been at the Valentine for 18 years and he said that at some point it becomes about transforming yourself and not believing you were told everything. I loved that perspective. Then he told of his personal story about having a discussion with his mother not long ago. He told us that he was 60 and his mom was 90, and it was then that she decided to tell him that he has (or had) a brother. So there’s a personal belief behind his story that unless you know more - unless you push to know more - unless you push back against the story… Be bold, he says, because there’s one thing you don’t know - find the one thing that you don’t know because that one thing might be just the thing that make a difference. A huge difference. In your life. In solving a problem. In finding the creative solutions that just work. Naturally.
What is it that we know about Richmond’s history that can lead us to co-create a place in time - now - which future generations will reflect back (like we are) as an inspiring time in history? What is it that we don’t know about our city - or ourselves - that could be the one thing that makes a huge difference - impact at full throttle - that changes our course in such a way that redeems our past and creates an infinitely better place?
I am intrigued. I hope this conversation continues.
Getting ready to head out to Uptown Alley for the RMA Connect@ networking event. 5-7pm tonight. We expect 80+ people! You can register at the door if you’d like to attend - $15.