John Cleese on the “How” of creativity.

I am a huge fan of Mr. John Cleese. Yes, I was one of those irritating teenagers who could repeat the Argument Sketch (A brilliant Monty Python bit) ad nasuem. I love Cleese’s work. Its funny, absurd and wickedly smart. A few years ago he did a talk on creativity. He talked about what creative people have to do to have an effective process. The “How” of creativity if you will. Most people don’t really believe that the HOW of creativity exists. They think that we (those who create) just blunder about until some great (or not great) idea falls from the firmament and then we write it, sculpt it, draw it, or deliver it in whatever discipline we choose. Cleese doesn’t agree with that. He feels we need SPACE to create. Here’s the video here…

He believes (as does another hero of mine, some unkown named “Stephen King”) that inspiration does show up but that it will show up much more often if we are present, ready and waiting for it. We have to keep our appointment with creativity in order for things to happen. Like a lot of appointments though, sometimes we have to wait for the other party to show up. Sometimes we have to twiddle our thumbs and wait.

I honestly think that most people can’t handle the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen next. Sometimes when we are making something we have to sit there for long periods of time waiting for something to happen. OK maybe its not that long, but it FEELS like a long time.

I have done some creative work in my time. A couple of books, a bunch of live comedy, a CD with a very good friend of mine, and in the process of ALL of them there was some time spent just wondering what the heck to do next, but if we stick with it and stay in that uncomfortable space for a while, an idea will magically bubble up from somewhere. Call it the collective unconscious, call it the depths of your psyche, call it Harold, but whatever you call it, something, some idea or inspiration will arrive.
 
Keith Richards, another remarkable artist who I have a tremendous amount of respect for was asked how he writes. He said “You don’t really write, you transmit.” When we are writing, improvising or whatever, we sometimes lose yourself in the process and feel a kind of beautiful “Lift Off”. The thing we are working on creates itself in an almost effortless fashion. That is a wonderful feeling, but we have to force ourselves to show up and do our art in order for that to happen. So what’s the big deal here? I think that as creative folks we have to embrace what most people do not. We have to come to terms with not knowing how its going to turn out. We have to hang out in the “uncomfortableness” of being unfinished and trust that somewhere out there or somewhere in here, there is an answer and it will arrive.

If we keep showing up, it will.

The Power Of Laughter Rocks!

FullSizeRender (3)It was my absolute honour to present A Spoonful of Laughter to the L’Chaim Cancer Support Group for Jewish Women last night. From the moment I walked in people were telling me jokes. “Oh, You’re the comedian? I’ve got a joke for you! A postman and a raccoon were walking down the street and…” And so it went. I was in stitches.

Taking a group of people who have had very little to no experience doing Improv through a workshop can be an adventure but these ladies went for it with incredible trust and enthusiasm. We talked about the medical benefits of laughter and how laughter can be such a powerful and positive tool for healing in our lives. As always at about the 20 minute mark the energy in the room shifts in a palpable way. We transformed from a bunch of individuals concerned about how we look in front of others to a unified group that is ready to share and take risks. Frankly, I love it. I’ve seen this happen again and again with groups of 15 to crowds of well over 100. When that happens it sets the stage for very good things to happen. We could see bits of this last night when by the end of our evening people were sharing their stories about the cancer journey, laughing at each other’s jokes and generally having a blast. Who knew a cancer support group could  be such a good time?

A Spoonful of Laughter for L’Chaim Cancer Support Group for Jewish Women

I am thrilled to be presenting my workshop “A Spoonful of Laughter” for the L’Chaim Cancer Support Group for Jewish Women on March 10th. (That’s tonight. So, I’m having a coffee no to get ready.) This incredible group comes together to support each other on their journeys with cancer. Talk about community service. I am honoured to be a part of the evening! Thanks very much.

Barf it Out! One of the keys to Creativity

Boy-on-High-DiveHave you ever had a bunch of ideas for a project and stood at the precipice only to stop dead in your tracks? Sure you have! Sometimes it feels as if we’re teetering on a high diving board before we begin something. We’ve done our preparation, we have our materials, we have told ourselves we HAVE to do this thing and we are ready to go. So we stand with our toes over the edge of our creative project staring down into the abyss at what looks like cold water below us. (Holy Metaphor Batman!) Worse yet, that water might have rocks underneath it! We might be killed when we jump off this cliff, and we’re only wearing a small bathing suit that covers the bare minimum of our intimate creative bits! (Ok, now my metaphor has lost its mind).

If you make stuff on a regular basis (and by stuff, I mean media or art of any kind) you have probably faced this many times. Writers refer to this as fear of the blank page, actors and improvisers get stymied by stage fright. Painters get, well I don’t know what painters get, but I’m sure they get something.

Recently I was creating a workshop and I had a ton of ideas on what I wanted to say and how it was going to happen, but I couldn’t get myself to begin. I had elements all picked out, I knew what my main message was but I couldn’t get myself to start. Why? I realized that I was terrified that it was going to suck!

I know that’s incredibly obvious but I think that’s what it comes down to for many of us. We might ask ourselves “Gosh, what if it’s terrible?  What if we’re not as good as we think we are? What if this one piece of work reveals to the world that we have no place even pretending to be a creative person?”

So, we often find reasons to not begin. Common reasons include…

1: Hey, I’m a bit hungry and nobody else is going to eat that pork chop.

2: I should really re-watch season 2 of Game Of Thrones. (perhaps while eating a pork chop)

3: I haven’t dusted my light bulbs in a while and the neighbors are starting to talk.

We would rather do ANYTHING but start the creative process because it feels risky and vulnerable.

However, a person far wiser than me once said “The Best Way Out is Through”. My rough interpretation of that would be Barf it Out. Yep. Hike up your pants, square your jaw, look fear in the eye and just start.

Bring whatever it is to life in its ugly first draft stage. Let it be terrible. Make the worst first attempt that anyone has ever made. Why? Because then it will exist. Once you have that first try, then (Halleluiah!)  you have something to work with. The best part is, the work is usually pretty darn good!  

So barf it out in all its glory! Whether it’s a talk or a book or a blog or a drawing or a recipe for brussel sprouts. Once it exists you can congratulate yourself for having something, and then the rest of the process can start. In my own example of the talk for Waterloo, it actually went really well. The participants loved it and we had a blast.

Have you ever “barfed out a project” and actually found out it was better than you thought?

 

On Being A Positive Sh!T Disturber

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese people are Positive Sh!t-Disturbers

Are you a positive shit disturber? If you are, I’d love to buy you a coffee. Positive Sh!t Disturbers can be seen throughout the world disturbing the status quo and making a difference. In fact, I think that most positive change comes from those who disrupt in a thoughtful way and use as much positive energy as they can to improve our world.  Essentially these brave folks recognize that something needs to be changed and see themselves as the vehicle for making that happen.

We all know the names of people who have changed thousands of lives for the better like Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa. But there are some other folks who are doing incredible work right now to make the world a better place. Want some examples? Sure you do. Ever hear of Jessica Jackley and Matt Flannery? No? Well they started a little organization called Kiva which gives people a chance to loan money to entrepreneurs in the third world. This bringing together of lender and borrower known as “micro-lending” has changed the lives of thousands of people in places like Vietnam, Cambodia and Bolivia to name a few.  People have been able to start businesses and increase the level of prosperity for their families and the positive ripple effects for the community are huge.

The benefits of being a lender (and yes, I am looking at you) are really something also. When you lend money on Kiva, you read a person’s story and feel part of their entrepreneurial journey. It’s amazing to get an update that says “Maya has purchased noodles, sugar and other supplies to restock her store and can’t wait to get started” or “Miguel has purchased construction supplies for his new business and has begun his first project”.  It has been my pleasure to lend to Kiva for a while now, and I still get a ton of satisfaction from seeing people do such great stuff. You might want to check out their site here Be warned though, once you get started on lending to people it can be highly addictive.

Check out Kiva here…

Kiva!

What the heck is the “Wisdom in the Room?”

wisdom-green-sign

The Wisdom In The Room

Have a group of people? Sure you do.

Got a problem? Got a situation? Need to figure something out? I don’t have the answer, but you do!

What the heck am I talking about? Well, I believe in the power of collaboration, I believe that a group of people thinking about the same issue or facing the same challenge are infinitely more powerful than one person trying to hammer out a solution. It seems to me that as individuals we often don’t have the entire solution to a problem. We might have a piece of it that we are pretty proud of, but the whole thing? That’s pretty rare. However, our piece of the puzzle might be pretty significant, and somebody across the room might have a great piece of the puzzle as well. Heck, somebody might have even defined the question in an interesting way that takes the discussion in an entirely new direction. When people come together and commit to “The Wisdom in The Room” process very good things happen. This has been explored with Cancer Patients, Health Care Professionals and Social Media Experts. Its fun, stimulating, challenging and a ton of fun.

Recently I had the honour of exploring The Wisdom In the Room with a group of talented people for The Ontario Hospital Association. It was an absolute blast.  We weren’t messing around either. We were doing hard core work on how to increase patient engagement through social media. After about 15 minutes ideas were flying. People were sharing their strategies on how to improve the experience of patients across the province. I am struck by the idea that many times we actually have the resources we need to do what we want to do. We just have to be brave enough and generous enough to share our ideas with a like minded group of people and then the magic happens.

Rockin’ the house at Waterloo!

waterloo enginerring

 

The skills of creativity and collaboration never go out of style. It was an absolute blast to present my workshop Fast Track To Collaboration for The University of Waterloo Engineering Department on Monday. Together, 60 students and myself dove into the skills of creating as a group. Technical skills are amazing and many of our best callings in life require a great deal of technical knowledge. However, being able to contribute in a meaningful way to a collaborative effort can be the difference between mediocrity and excellence for an organization. A highly motivated and committed group of students explored this concept with me in a hardcore two hour workshop on one of the coldest days of the year.

We learned the essential elements of teamwork. We demonstrated the skills of accepting ideas and then adding to them in a meaningful way. We learned how to create trust in a team and increase the level of contribution of each individual. We also saw how creating in a group can leverage our skills.

All of this and we laughed like crazy. You see, I have a theory that when we are having a great time, we learn in an easier and much more enjoyable way.  I was completely impressed by how willing everyone was to try exercises that may have stretched them a bit. Everyone dug in hard, learned, and supported each other.My thanks to everyone at Waterloo Engineering for giving their all during Fast Track to Collaboration.

Hope to see you folks again soon.

 

Well here’s a fine helping of Patient Engagement.

So, I’ve been talking a lot about the Ontario Hospital Association‘s conference on Social Media. One of the great examples of patient engagement came from the Niagara Health System. They have created an online community for patients who are doing dialysis.  When folks are at the hospital and doing the procedure, they are given the opportunity to log in to  “Google hangouts” (yes! you can click on that link!) and chat with each other while the process is going on. This helps them feel a sense of community and they can compare notes/give each other support while they are getting treatment. Response has been terrific.

Cool eh? I did a brief interview with Anna Cobian from The Niagara Health System. Check it out. Oh, and the link to the Niagara Health System is here. Who’s the dorky looking guy in the preview? Oh, that’s me.

Hey Niagara Health System!

On behalf of patients everywhere,  please accept this virtual cappuccino as a virtual pat on the back.  Thanks for making a difference.

 

coffee-shops-stockholm

Love Gilda! An interview with Lisa D’Apolito about her new film

So, Gilda Radner was all kinds of awesome. She was a brilliant, brave and very funny comedian who did pioneering work at The Second City and Saturday Night Live. She also had cancer, wrote a book about the experience and a great organization called Gilda’s Club was created in her memory. Gilda’s Club does tremendous work helping people going through cancer right now. Seriously. These places are awesome.

 

My friend Lisa D’Apolito is doing a film about Gilda called Love Gilda!

She took the time to do an interview with me here at roberthawke.com

Check it out!

To help bring this film to life please go to http://igg.me/at/lovegilda

How is an OHA conference like driving a red convertible?

OHA OnstagePeople are doing amazing things across the province!

It was thrilling to be a part of The Ontario Hospital Association’s Conference on Social Media. Social Media Professionals and Health Experts from across Ontario gathered together to explore how we could have more positive impact through patient engagement. I was crazy about the fact that patients were being included in the process.

It was my honour to facilitate our segment, which featured  a panel of patients advocates (Natrice Rese, Deb Maskens, Kathy Kastner, Annette McKinnon, and Zal Press) collaborating with social media experts and healthcare professionals. Questions we asked the group included “What are examples of positive patient engagement?” “How can we encourage more patient engagement?” “What innovative techniques are being used to increase patient engagement with social media right now?”

All the patients agreed that one of the main ingredients they want in their interactions with health care institutions is authenticity! It was amazing to be in an environment where patients and people working in healthcare had meaningful and honest dialogue. This isn’t always an easy process. Some of the issues we talked about do not have simple solutions, but there is tremendous value in addressing what the patient experience is really like and expressing ideas across the different silos in healthcare.

Leading a group in a collaborative discussion like this can be a bit like driving a red convertible down a road you don’t know. It’s exciting, fun, and you never really know what’s around the next turn. Also, you occasionally get bugs in your teeth.*

Quite frankly, I find it quite thrilling to be with a group of over a hundred smart people who are determined to collaborate. We made some great discoveries as we went and heard some examples of how people are making a difference right now.

 All this and they gave us butter-tarts.

Big shout outs to Toronto East General, Niagara Health Centre, and Kingston General Hospital for sharing their terrific innovations with the group.

I’m going to do a blog on the specific innovations that are happening now. When we share these advances, good things happen and everybody wins. I’m looking at you Niagara Health Centre.

 * O.K. I was exaggerating about the bugs.

To learn more about what these incredible people are doing please click on the links below…

Deb Maskens CanCertainty

Zal Press Patient Commando

Kathy Kastner Bestendings.com

Annette McKinnon @anetto

Natrice Rese @NatriceR

Also a shout out to #hcsmca . An amazing community on twitter. Check out their twitter chats on Wednesdays at 1 pm ET.