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During a recent, fairly random project, I had so many interesting insights that relate to the business tips we write about on this blog, I decided to write this week’s post about them.
I’ll describe the project I was working on, the process I went through, and then discuss how failure was imperative to my success, and the three key factors I observed for finding flow and experiencing peak performance.
A few weeks ago, I was commissioned out of the blue to do some paintings for a corporate venue. Whilst I’ve made art works for corporate spaces before, this has never been something I’ve really promoted or tried to build a business on. I agreed to do the work, because it seemed like it would be interesting to pick up a paint brush again after so many years, and I figured I needed the time away from my current business concerns and the fresh energy that comes from doing something different.
My task was to paint six canvases in total, with three canvases put together to make a single artwork (a triptych). The paintings are about a meter high and 2.5 meters in length, they were to hang on either side of a walkway in the foyer of a venue that’s rented out for corporate functions.
The interesting thing about this commission was that I was given only three colors to work with, blue, white and black (the latter to be used sparingly). These colors were specifically matched to the colors of the business’ newly painted walls and their logo for their business cards and letterhead. Luckily, this wasn’t in the slightest bit daunting, as the directions I was given was to create something that gave the impression of water, so the minimalist color scheme wasn’t going to be a problem.
This is where it gets messy. As usual when I’m involved in some creative process, the idea I had for how I would execute my idea proved to be a complete dud after I’d done the preliminary work on the first three paintings. As I looked over what should have been an almost complete work, I realized the technique I had in mind wasn’t going to work out at all. I was faced with the impossible to ignore reality that I had to paint over all three canvases again and start from scratch. But really, I wasn’t starting from scratch.
During the creative process, I was given insights into the style and technique that I would need to use to make these paintings turn out well in the end. This is an experience I’m very lucky to be accustomed to when it comes to making artwork, so I didn’t freak out too much at the realization I had to start again. Very rarely does a finished work turn out exactly as I had envisaged in my mind. I have to be open to the suggestions given to me by the materials I’m using and what the art itself requires to express the ideas it’s being made to represent.
After getting over the initial annoyance and resistance to starting again, I ended up flying through the final execution of all six paintings and the finished works were completed with ease in a few short hours.
I observed and learned a lot during this creative process that relates to finding flow and experiencing peak states whilst working. I’ll begin with what I learned from the initial failure.
As I looked upon the first failed result, I knew I had to make the annoying decision to take what I’d learned from the process and begin again in order to be successful in my work. I consider myself lucky to be familiar with this already in the creative process, because I generally make the decision reasonably quickly and get on with it rather than wasting my energy on lamenting the lost time and trying to make a failure work. (It’s never more obvious than art when something isn’t working and no amount of tweaking or covering up will change that.)
In business, people can end up pouring huge resources of time, energy and money into something even though it’s showing no signs of taking off. It’s a bit like a gambler who keeps hanging in there for the big win whilst pouring money down the drain. One of the reasons we do this is we just can’t handle letting something go that we’ve invested so much time, energy and money into it.
I realized that I need to use these same discernment skills in my business. In the same way that my failed artwork gave me clues and guidance on what to do to make it work, your business will do the same. Sometimes failure or dumping a dud idea or project and starting afresh is what’s needed to be successful. If you do have to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch, you will have been given what you need to succeed on the next go.
As I got into a state of flow with the creative process and the paintings literally materialized before me on the canvases like mental mirages coming to life, I realized there were three more massive components to experiencing this peak creative state:
In regard to my previous training and experience, I’ve had a lifetime of both in relation to making artwork. This includes a University education in Visual Art (although I don’t think University degrees are that beneficial for creativity) and plenty of practical experience working on my own pieces and commissioned works. As I found my creative flow and the work happened effortlessly, I realized that a major contributing factor was all my previous training and experience that gave me the technical skill for the task at hand.
In my business and in yours, the training and experience you accumulate and the fine tuning of your skills is vital for you to experience creative flow. The more time and energy you have invested in this, the more easily you will slip into peak states as you work.
I’ve spent the past seven years working on contracts in one of Australia’s premier art galleries. My exposure to some of the greatest art practitioners and their work, both past and present, played a big role in my ability to imagine and determine what kind of image would work and the best techniques to convey the concepts in the project brief.
Peers always say to surround yourself with the leaders in your field. It really does affect your ability to produce higher quality work. When you do this, you create an internal database of extremely high quality information from observing them and their work. Then you are able to draw on this for insights and inspiration in your own work.
Because I’m aware of how my own creative process unfolds and I’ve engaged in it so many times, it allows me to relax into the state of flow needed to experience a peak performance. The more aware you are of how your own creative process unfolds in your business, the more you are able to relax in order to experience peak performance. If you’re stressed about the process or the outcome, the more cut off you are from accessing and expressing your optimum potential.
Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear your comments at the end.
P.S. I’m still in preview mode for my Amazon launch as I’m waiting for it to be available on paperback to kick off launch properly. There is the latest version Kindle up for grabs for anyone who buys a copy of the book and leaves a review.
And I’d love it if you’d hit the FB like button whilst you’re there 🙂
To go in the draw, you need to email me a copy of your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org.