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Embrace Community

Lesson 17 from: Design Systems That Fuel Your Creativity

Srinivas Rao

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Lesson Info

17. Embrace Community

Lesson Info

Embrace Community

I think the natural segue from collaboration is to talking about community. And right now we're in a really interesting time because we're more connected than we've ever been and yet we're more isolated than we've ever been. Everybody is connected on Facebook and yet you could go to dinner with somebody and people have their faces buried in screens and Sherry Turkle, professor at MIT basically says we're effectively alone together and I think more than any other time in history community is incredibly important to our ability to thrive in the modern world. So I want to share a brief story from Jon Levy about community. We evolved these communities, we didn't evolve as networkers, the concept of meeting people was a rare occurrence because we lived in these tribal groups for a majority of our early stage as a species so, and what made the community work was that there was joint activity. And so when you look back at the people that you bonded with the fastest is was probably because y...

ou had something to overcome together, that you had to work together for. And so when I try to get people to bond, I try to find a challenge or task they can work on together because that creates a faster bonding. There are two kinds of characteristics around this one is that you know that if I do you a favor you're gonna like me more. The funny thing is that if I do you a favor I'm also going to like, I'm also going to you more. Because anything that I put effort and energy into I begin to value disproportionately. So Jon Levy is the founder of a event called the Influencer Dinners, where he brings together the most influential people in culture for a dinner and he has them cook a meal together. But there's some caveats to this, you're not allowed to talk about what you do, for a living, that's the rule and you make a meal together and the types of people who've showed up at this dinner are people like Isaiah Thomas, people like celebrities, people you would have absolutely heard of. And one of the funniest things was, there was a women who apparently was talking to Isaiah Thomas and they were talking about their college experiences and she was bragging about the fact that she was a college basketball player and D-1 athlete and all this stuff, and when they finally sat down at dinner, they went around and they finally said what they did and he said "My name is Isaiah Thomas and I used to play for the Detroit Pistons." and she just kind of bowed her head but well the thing is that we, we don't have enough of these kinds of experiences and particularly for those of us who are in creative fields. I loved this quote from Heather Havrilesky who wrote a book called "How to be a Person in the World." Which was based on an advice column that she wrote for a website called The Awl but she said "Artists are misfits among misfits." We feel out of place even among the people who are so much like us and yet we need community, we need the types of people who are like us to thrive. So, I wanna talk briefly about the types of communities that exist and how you can tap them, right now this is a perfect example of a community, the fact that we're all doing this together. It's very different than the experience of watching it at home by yourself in isolation. We've shared an experience together and as a result it's much more likely that we're all gonna keep in touch hopefully after this, right? So in person Communities, classes like this one, conferences or a big one, support groups. Not Alcoholics Anonymous type support groups, but those are legit too but it turns out that when Julia Cameron wrote The Artist's Way she effectively fueled this whole idea of support groups. Of people that you can go and discuss your creative work with because of the fact that there are a lot of people who don't do creative work, there are a lot of people who don't have this habit of expressing their creativity on a regular basis so to them you live in this world that is completely foreign and that they can't understand. And when you have support groups and peer groups it makes everything so much easier, it makes it easier to get feedback, it makes it easier to get through times that are inevitably going to be tough when you're doing something creative and you get stuck, support groups can often get you out of that situation. You have dinners, meet ups, creative mornings which is pretty much I think in like 85 cities around the globe. Tina Roth Eisenberg who is @swissmiss on Twitter is a founder of a temporary tattoo company called Tattly and an incredible designer and she saw that conferences were wonderful and the benefits from them were wonderful the problem was that they were expensive and who can go to a conference every day, or every month. So what she decided to do was to bring the conference experience to one city and basically host it every month so creative people would get together and eventually that event ended up being something that is now held in 85 cities around the world and she says it's probably one of things that she's most proud of in her career. You have dinners like the one that Jon Levy talked about, Influencer Dinners. There's a woman named Emily Cavalier near our city who hosts apparently what's a midnight brunch where she gets together all of the artists and creatives in a community and every now and then we actually host dinners where we invite former Unmistakable Creative guests and other friends of ours to a dinner party and it's a fascinating dinner party because some of the world's most interesting people sitting at a dinner table and you're getting them to talk about things that they don't talk about in public so for example one of our dinner parties started with share one confession and one crime that you've committed. Turns out that entrepreneurs in their history have lots of crimes that they've committed. I have a few which shall remain nameless but I might fraction an occasional lie to myself I'm guessing you guys have too, I hope so anyways. But the thing is that instantly what happens is you've shared a secret with somebody, you've shared something vulnerable and the bond becomes a lot stronger. And that's not the same as sharing a Facebook status update with somebody so I'm gonna tell you a story about my Dad, my Dad was a young PhD student he'd just finished his PhD in Australia, came to Canada to do post-doctor work. Landed in Edmonton, Alberta which don't ask me why he went to Edmonton because brown people and cold weather are an unnatural combo, and Edmonton is bone chillingly cold. Landed in Edmonton, my Mum and I were in India, she was six months, she was about eight months pregnant with my sister, my sister was about to be born so he was there by himself. Didn't know anybody, this was in the early eighties and he picked up the phonebook, literally opened the phonebook, looked for somebody who had a last name that sounded Telugu, which is the, what we call people who are from the state of Andhra Pradesh in India from the state my parents are from, literally just looked up somebody who sounded Telugu, picked up the phone and called them. And said I'm new here, and I was wondering if you know anybody or how I would meet somebody. Now, the funny thing is that that would be so much easier to do, now, okay. And people would think it was absolutely insane if you did that. And I'll tell you another story of when I was a kid, when I was in seventh grade I started prank calling this Indian woman in College Station actually, because there are a lot of Indian immigrants who are grad students at Texas A&M. And so I called her every week pretending to be an Indian grad student when I was in seventh grade telling her I was gonna invite myself over to her house for dinner all this stuff, this is a minor diversion but, it turns out that that call my dad made led to a thriving community of hundreds of people that my parents are still friends with, to this day. And all of the years that we lived in Canada I can't think of more than two weekends where we didn't have a party to go to, or somebody's house to go to. And many of those people are still in my parent's lives today. Because effectively you're starting something from scratch, when you are an immigrant you are creating, in a lot of ways you're creating a life from scratch and finding other people who are having a like minded experience, in this case Indian people who are tolerating bone chilling weather they don't know what's like, makes it a lot more bearable. So, the other type of community I want to talk about is virtual communities which is really kind of our most common community type these days. So Facebook groups being the most obvious one, some of them are good, some of them are awful, some of them are useless. Slack has become a really popular one I think that what is interesting about tools like Slack is the fact that you're taking your community away from Facebook where you're competing with everybody else and you have a community specifically for one purpose. And it's only for that purpose and you can discuss things so, we've thought about at times doing a listener community for our Mistakenly Creative that exists entirely in Slack so people can talk about episodes, people can talk to each other, they can share their content because, when you're on Facebook you're effectively competing with all this other noise. Then you have niche groups so in the early days, of Yelp believe it or not they had something called Yelp Elite. And what a lot of people don't know is that Yelp was one of the pioneers of making it less creepy to meet people that you only knew on the internet, because in the Myspace days, if you told somebody you were gonna go meet somebody you met on Myspace people would say "Well I think you're gonna get murdered." It was really creepy, it just wasn't normal, well Yelp was really smart in that they took out the whole dating and relationship context of it out of it, and said "You know what we're just gonna make it completely social and the whole purpose of this is to get together at places that you're already going to, for drinks and restaurants." One of my old roommates, the girl you saw in the Bollywood music video actually that's one of the reasons we stayed such good friends was because of Yelp. The person that I'm living with right now I met because he was the first graphic designer at Yelp. And what's interesting is that we had started of, in a lot of ways getting to this point where we were using technology to communicate, to connect and meet in real life, and what's happened is the opposite of that, we've become more and more connected and yet we don't meet in real life as often as we should. And I hope that what I'm convincing you of here is the virtues of doing that more often I mean you already now all have each other but, you don't have to wait for somebody to take initiative to do this, you could be the person who curates a group of people and says "You know what I want to get together at my house every Saturday or once a month to discuss creativity or once a month to have dinner." Doesn't really matter, or book club, whatever it is, mainly because this is really important we were not meant to spend all this time in isolation biologically, we need to communicate with other people and we need to connect with them and we need to feel their touch, it's just the way we're wired. So, I wanna turn it over to you guys and wanna ask about your experiences with communities, which ones have been beneficial to you, how do you think about it now after hearing some of what I've told you, and what would you change, based on your experiences? Let's start with you Melissa. I run an online community for women that's all about creativity and I call it a lab for women's leadership through creative expression. And I host an annual creativity retreat and I've started just Sunday actually I did my first one started doing the day camp version of that. Because just like you said the in person is just it's different and it's so powerful and thank goodness that we have the online, because it allows us to connect in ways that we, we wouldn't have without it right? Yeah. But if all we have is the online then we're really missing something and the in person is just, it's just so powerful. Yeah I think the thing that has become disconcerting for me is that we've started to see the internet and online connections as a substitute for real human contact, and the result of that is, a lot of things that we would never experience in real life life a decrease in empathy, it's funny I don't know if you've noticed, I've noticed that my friends in general have become far less responsive at text messages, they're just unresponsive in general the expectation is that it might take a day for you to get a response back from a text message, mainly because of the fact that they're so driven to this sort of instant communication medium like the internet and it doesn't, nobody thinks about things in terms of "Oh, well how does this gonna make this person feel if I just-" Unfortunately what happens is that you have a sort of abstraction because you start to just view people as avatars. And when you view people as avatars it's really easy to have insensitive behavior towards them. Yeah. So I found coworking space, it takes a little while to find the right blend but the one that I have now is such a supportive community because I can sort of beta test things like workshops so like I do creativity workshops too but I can try it there for free and get people to come and do it and they love to do it and then they'll give me real feedback. Yeah. And also I find that it's a place where people have so many different jobs or doing so many different things that I would never have exposure to, that a coffee date can be enlightening. About things that I didn't really even know anything about, you know? That's, yeah exactly and the funny thing is that that really is an example of everything we've talked about in this module, that's deliberate consumption. Right? Because you're being exposed to information, that's connection and community because of the fact that you're dealing with other people. I had a friend recently who had been raving about Crossfit and he said "This has been helping me with sleep issues and depression issues." So I thought okay you know what I'll give this a try. And I realized that he was spot on, the physical exercise was actually just one component of it, what I realized was "Wow, there is a social outlet to this, and a connection that is very different than a gym and it's well worth whatever I pay for it." And I've done it for three and a half weeks and I'm sold on it, I'm sold on it's virtues specifically because it satisfies this need for community which we're often deprived of in the world that we live in today. Yeah. Facebook groups for me, I'm in a couple of travel groups and just niche ones, one that I'm in is non-profit leadership lab and there was a thread in there where they put anyone who had an art organization and I found someone who had pretty much a similar organization to me but she was in Florida and after one phone call we talked and I was on the plane out to Florida and the whole time we were thinking "This could go completely wrong." But we got along really well and it worked out fabulous and now we're collaborating and doing lots of stuff together. One of the things I'm proud of, I'm not sure if it has anything to do with creativity but, one guy in 2008, you know how you could filter your searches in Myspace back then he searched on Myspace "Alright who's interested in Arsenal in Los Angeles." So at first there were eight of us who showed up, we started watching, soccer matches at a pub and now we're 200 strong. And- There you go. We have life long friends out of it. That's a perfect example of community and those kinds of communities can lead to all sorts of things it's, and they don't just have to be about fueling creativity, just having that can make you creative in other aspects of your life. Just because of the fact that you're satisfying a very deep human need that is in a lot of ways going unmet in the culture that we're in today.

Ratings and Reviews

Melissa Dinwiddie

What a fabulous class! Srini covered one actionable idea after another that can be implemented immediately to fuel creativity right out of the gate. And the beautiful thing is that each tactic builds on all the others, so every little step you take will improve your overall systems. I loved the stories from his podcast and the guest speakers, too. My only complaint was that some of the slides had a lot of text on them -- too much to read. Other than that, it was well-organized, thoughtful, and super useful. I've already recommended it to several people in passing.

Kathryn Kilner

This is a great course for anyone pursuing creative work. It is easy to get distracted in the modern world and Srinivas provides practical insights and tested systems for empowering creatives to focus and get more done. Although I've read a lot about how to optimize my habits, I was challenged in this course to think differently about how I structure my time and my work space. The changes I've made have helped me be more productive.

a Creativelive Student

I've watched many CreativeLive courses. While I find many interesting, there are only a handful that capture my attention from beginning to end. This was one of those. The speaker mentioned countless gems that were applicable not only to creativity and productivity, but to how one lives daily life. There were multiple "deep thoughts" and several practical ways to alter one's environments (including physical and mental) in order to enhance productivity and general well-being. I've already implemented a few suggestions, and am anxious to revisit my notes on this course repeatedly.

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