Trust your creative like you do your mechanic

Keeping the Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech running all these years requires tender care by mechanics.  The car has been rebuilt completely a couples times. 

If we worked with creative the way we get our cars fixed we probably would be more successful. The key is to find a great mechanic and when you do, you most likely will do everything to keep them–they are hard to find.

You have a problem with your car and you articulate your problem to the service person.  They listen and write down the symptoms and let you know they will check on it.  How many times do they come back and the problem is caused by something that surprised you?

You may think your transmission needs to be replaced because the gears are just slipping out.  They look at it and for about $50 they replace a sensor.  Other times you think it is something simple and they find a major problem.

To win races the car has to be pushing all the limits possible. To make this happen a mechanic must know more than the minimum, they must know enough to help think of possibilities to get the most out of the performance of the car.

What often are missing in the creative process are two steps I see every time I have my car serviced.  First, I articulate what I think is the problem. Second, they take the car without me over their shoulder and pop the hood and get a good look with computers hooked up to the car for diagnosis and much more sophisticated analysis than I can do.

If we did car repairs like we handle many creative projects we would just tell the mechanic to switch out those spark plugs and then just before they are finished we may say can you go ahead and give me a valve job.

We seldom have that first conversation where we are articulating our problem that needs solving.

We need more people calling us wanting our services. Then the creative knows they need to make the phone ring.  However, this often is stated as I want a brochure or I need a website.

After the client and the creative person have the sit down meeting to go over all the issues they need addressed the creative should have time to go away from the client, without distractions and come up with some solutions.

At this point the client can do just like they do with the repair shop.  Still get whatever they want, but now they have had the expert give them some of their advice.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Guest Conductor Arild Remmereit and Sergei Krylov, guest violin soloist, answer the questions from middle school orchestra students after the concert. The students are listening to the creative experts and want to learn.

You have probably had someone ask you for something and it is much easier just to give it to them.  However, if you ask some questions like what are you trying to accomplish this can help both of you get better results.

The earlier you bring a creative person in on a project the more information they are privy to and this can increase the quality and improve the impact of accomplishing your goal.

“Photos Keep the Memories Alive”

Just some photos from this past weekend capturing the moments of Nelson Lalli, my step-son, graduating from the Citadel.

“Photos keep the memories alive,” is what I heard one of the Citadel seniors during graduation. My son’s friends came up to me over and over this weekend thanking me for the past four years of taking pictures of them at the Citadel and sharing them with them.

Parents came up and told me often they couldn’t be at an event and really appreciated the photos we would post for them to see.

What I had reaffirmed this past weekend is that photos help make emotional connections and keep them alive.

My son was ambivalent about graduating. He was thankful he had accomplished his goal and done so with honors in so many ways. He was sad that next fall he will not be joining his friends for another year at the Citadel.  I hope that as the years go by the photos I made will help him remember and stay connected to his friends from school.

Nelson, my son, and his graduating senior friends from Bravo Company
John Ogle and Nelson Lalli goofing around like close friends do.

Students have access to superstars

Sergej Krylov and Arild Remmereit talk to the students from Elkins Point Middle School orchestra and band. Next to Sergej is his Stradivari “Scotland University” (1734) from the Sau-Wing Lam Collection, courtesy of “Fondazione A. Stradivari” in Cremona. (photo by: Stanley Leary)

Having kids give us a great excuse, if we need one, to take them places we want to go. Parents of kids get to enjoy children’s movies that they may feel awkward going to alone. We get to go to places like Disney World.

Sometimes kids have advantages to give us access to adult subject matter.  This is what happened last Friday night with our daughter.

Seth Gamba is my daughter’s orchestra teacher who organized group ticket sale for the students and parents to see the Atlanta Symphony.  Friday night was special because of guest violin soloist Sergej Krylov and last minute bonus of guest conductor Arild Remmereit.

Students, parents and teachers from Elkins Middle School enjoy listening to the artists answer their questions. (photo by: Stanley Leary)

At first you might think the “discounted ticket” was what excited me, but really it was what happened after the concert.

Seth Gamba had asked if the soloist violinist and the conductor would talk to the students after the concert.  They graciously stayed after the event and the students sat on the first 2 rows of the symphony hall for question and answer time.

You could see the faces of the students paying close attention to these superstars.  The parents I think were just as excited and also asked questions.

Arild Remmereit talks about his journey from the time of the student’s age to now. The students got to hear how his path was different than of Sergej Krylov’s. Arild’s mother made him take piano, which he wasn’t fond of at that time and had to practice 5 minutes a day.  Sergej took from his parents and practiced for 6 hours a day as a young 5 year old. (photo by: Stanley Leary)

The lesson is simple—as a student you have access that is difficult later in life to get. Professionals are very excited about talking about their work and answering questions to students.

If you have children be sure you are aware of the opportunities that the community has for them that give them access to “superstars” and go with them.  If you don’t have children—volunteer to help youth programs and by doing so you will not just get an opportunity to tag along to meet superstars you are one for giving of your time.

I seized the opportunity to thank Seth Gamba by offering to photograph him with the conductor and violinist. Follow the lead of Seth Gamba and organize an outing for the students you know to get access to professionals and artists–you will be glad you did. (photo by: Stanley Leary)

Active Listening

Vince Stanton attempts Troublemaker during the Professional Bull Riders Atlanta Classic at the Georgia Dome.
From Wikipedia
Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what (s)he hears. The ability to listen actively can improve personal relationships through reducing conflicts, strengthening cooperation, and fostering understanding.

When interacting, people often are not listening attentively. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements). Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others, focusing attention on the speaker. Suspending one’s own frame of reference, suspending judgment and avoiding other internal mental activities are important to fully attend to the speaker.

“The Most Dangerous Eight Seconds in Sports,” is how, National Geographic writer, Zoltan Istvan describes bull riding.  Death is a real possibility to the bull rider.  The bulls are 15 times the size of the rider.  Imagine a defensive lineman in football being 15 times the size of the quarterback.

One of my photography friends is also a bull riding coach.  His name is Maxy Pinson.  When you meet Maxey you see a well-dressed and groomed elderly gentleman.  He is from Oklahoma and in his earlier career was a scientist for the oil industry. 
Reuben Geleynse hangs on to Long John during the PBR Atlanta Classic at the Georgia Dome.

I was fascinated with Maxy’s career and really interested in what a coach does to help a cowboy ride a bull.  I think what he teaches these bull riders parallels what we need to know about being a good listener.

Maxy teaches the bull rider to focus his “full attention” on the bull’s head.  “The bulls head will let you know what the bull is doing and going to do,” says Maxy.  You cannot take your eye off it.  You have to stay focused for 8 seconds to ride the bull.

Active listening requires you to make eye contact and listen so as to understand the message and not just hear the words.

You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counter arguments that you’ll make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.

You also need to communicate to the person you are listening.  Sometimes just an “uh-huh” or nod will let them know you are listening.  This isn’t saying you are agreeing, but communicates you are listening.

An occasional question or comment to recap what they are saying not only helps them know you are interested but will remind you to stay interested.

Let them finish their thought before interrupting.  This can be very distracting to them and irritating as well.  If you find what they are saying getting you emotional, this is a good time to say something and to clarify what you are hearing.  “I may be misunderstanding what you are saying and find myself taking this personally, is this what you are saying ________?”

10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we hear and see
70% of what we discuss with others
80% of what we personally experience
95% of what we teach others
–Edgar Dale

For me the first step to becoming a better listener was acknowledging that my personal style of communicating has been less than stellar.  While I was getting better at getting my ideas across as I matured, my relationships were not getting better with people.  I had to stop and evaluate my communication style.  It needed an overhaul.

I can see that the successes I have had in life have usually been when I practiced “active listening.”  There are still many relationships where I need to do a better job implementing these skills. 

What I have discovered is Edgar Dale is right, I remember more of what I need to do to be more successful by writing and sharing what I have discovered on this blog. 

While you might get something out of the blog, just the very nature of writing these posts has helped me improve in so many ways.
Bart Jackson attempts to ride Smokin Joe during the PBR Atlanta Classic at the Georgia Dome. 
You will go down just like the bull rider if you don’t actively listen to those who need your attention.