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Category Archives: Stories

Draw to See and Think

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Winston Churchill had passion for painting. Corporate leaders doodle on paper while listening at meetings. Someone tells you to sketch out your ideas to prepare for a presentation. What is the link?

I recently visited Venice. A friend told me before I departed for Italy,

Take a sketch book and draw what you see to understand what you see.

What did he mean?

Jonah Lehrer relates a story about the connection between drawing and seeing and thinking in Imagine, How Creativity Works. Lehrer met up and spoke with Milton Glaser, the American graphic designer of the I ♥ NY logo. Glaser tells a story about his realization that his sketch of his mother showed her as she really looked, not as he remembered her in his mind’s eye.

 But as Glaser stared at her face and then compared what he saw to the black marks on the paper, her appearance slowly came into view. He was able to draw her as she was, and not as he expected her to be. “That sketch taught me something interesting about the mind,” he says. “We’re always looking, but we never really see.” Although Glaser had looked at his mother ever single day of his life, he didn’t see her until he tried to draw her. “When you draw an object, the mind becomes deeply, intensely attentive,” Glaser says. “And it’s that act of attention that allows you to really grasp something, to become fully conscious of it. That’s what I learned from my mother’s face, that drawing is really a kind of thinking.”

Churchill painted to escape from his political turmoils into the countrysides and oceanscapes that were the subjects of his paintings. Corporate leaders doodle to connect dots and make transitions into new way of thinking and doing. I drew Venice to see what captured my attention and interests.

Take time to draw and doodle. They are your visual language connecting you to the world. As Sunni Brow says visual language helps us to understand information and solve problems.  Use a pen and paper and learn what you really see and think.

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The Way of the Actor: a path to knowledge and power by Brian Bates

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Can Actors Teach Us?

Charlton Heston's Major Dundee

Scholar Brian Bates likes to write about his associations with actors and actors’ associations with us. Moving past his fixations on stars, Bates recounts memorable stories actors told him.

Transcending Time and Experience

Charlton Heston, for whom Bates has great admiration, describes the end of a day’s shoot on the remote Mexican desert site of Sam Peckinpah’s Major Dundee. Heston and his fellow actors in full battle dress galloped through a desolate village on the way home for the evening. He saw people peering out from the windows of their homes at his troopers and realized their presence and dress transported the villagers back into the mind of their ancestors.

Christ, here they come again,” Heston imagined them thinking.

Actors and acting can transcend time and personal experience.

Two Interpretations of Acting with Authenticity

Jack Nicholson explains the actor’s method to Bates. Does the actor learn the lines, study the emotions, and then deliver both in a professional performance? Or, does the actor “drop in” character to express the emotions from personal experience?  Nicholson says neither and gives Bates an example.

His character should be sad. So, does Nicholson draw on his understanding of and experience with being sad. No! He translates the lines and situation into action.

I think about what he wants, what’s the environment. Think about the problem facing the character and from that comes feeling and action necessary to achieve the ends, the emotions the audience sees.

An excellent description of acting that mimics authenticity.

Simon Callow follows the British acting methods, which arrives at authenticity by another approach. 

Show what you want and you will show the vulnerability that audiences see as authenticity.

If you’d like to read a review of Bate’s Way of the Actor, you can begin by reading this review by An Opinionated Heathen.

Sway, the Irrational Pull of Irrational Behavior

Join the Tea Party

Ori & Rom Brafman write in “Sway, the Irrational Pull of Irrational Behavior” that we fear the hold irrational behavior plays in our decisions to the point of blocking decisions or making bad decisions. Ori and Rom advise you recognize irrational behaviors, acknowledge them, and use them to make better decisions. These are my notes from their excellent book.

Fear of Risk and Loss: Aversion and Overcompensation Behaviors

  • Overreaction to avoid loss – the more on the line, the more susceptible to taking a dangerous risk.
  • Force of commitment to take a risk – when the cost of delaying is thought to be high but the chance of success is thought to be small.
  • Value attribution – believing labels of good and bad determine the outcome.
  • Focusing on future predictions and past reconstructions rather than the facts of present performance.
  • Psychological chameleons – being seduced by the characteristics that we and others ascribe to us
  • Believing that procedural fairness is more important than outcome fairness.

Politeness and well-mannered become more important than the decisions.

Opportunity to have a voice is more important than the outcome.

The product or project doesn’t speak for itself, so keeping  customers and employees informed is more important than their participation.

  • Ill-conceived reward (extra compensation) is separated from the common goal and risk to achieve the common goal is avoided.
  • Initiator or Blocker? – know how to separate outcome positive behavior from outcome detrimental behavior, a dissenting voice can seem annoying, but those opinions are essential in keeping the group in balance and the plane safely flying.

Stories and Questions to Ask

  • Letting go of the past

Andy Groves of Intel from Only the Paranoid Survive:

Intel in 1985 was losing money making its signature product – memory chips. Asking his cofounder Gordon Moore, “if we were fired, what would a new CEO do?,” Moore replied, “Get out of memories.” Groves said, “Why don’t we do that ourselves?”

If unsure whether to continue, think “If I were just arriving on the scene and were given the choice to either jump into this project as it is or pass on it, would I chose to jump in?”

  • Value attribution

Elizabeth Gibson and Rufino Tamayo’s Tres Personajes story:

Walking in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, she saw a painting with a cheap frame wedged between two trashcans. She looked at the painting, liked it, but hesitated to take it. Years later she learned the thieves discarded the stolen masterpiece for the garbage collectors.

Observe things for what they are, not just for what they appear to be.

  • Judgments about ideas and others – the sway of bias.

Personal Construct Theory – Keep evaluations open-ended, practice being comfortable with the complex and contradictory information, and take time to consider other information before making a diagnostic a judgment – think about adopting a “waiting period.”

  • Not being swayed by emotional reactions – when gripped by emotions, ask, “Would I rather achieve my goals or teach someone a lesson?”


Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins

Fill Your World with Stories

Politicians struggle to control the nation’s narrative, and you want people to believe your line of business. How is it done? With stories.

Annette Simmons in “Whoever Tells The Best Story Wins” writes that stories validate you and the people around you, so collect and deliver stories that define what is winning and what is good, because subjective is your way to deliver the objective – a paradox.

The six types of story:

  • Who I am – why do I have the right to influence you.
  • Why I am here – beyond costing money, time, or resources, why are you there, and if for money own up to it.
  • Teaching – tell a story that creates a shared experience.
  • Vision – shrink obstacles with vision, however don’t promise more than can be delivered.
  • Value in action – a demonstration of values without preaching.
  • I know what you are thinking – first validate then dispel objections without sounding defensive.

Four Themes for Stories:

A time you shined

Theme: Communicate a value about doing the right thing, you were tested and came through.

A time you blew it

Theme: Something bad happened and it was your fault; you go first in the trust exchange with your audience

A mentor

Theme: Sharing a valuable lesson while showing gratitude and humility keys to leadership and association with your mentor

A book, movie, or current event

Theme: Creating a story from another’s experience.

Keep a journal, storybook, or notebook and fill it with your stories.