Learning

This week has been interesting. Following my confession on Tuesday that I'm not good at everything (shock horror!), and that I've been struggling to come to terms with this, I've been overwhelmed by the support I've received from all the wonderful people around me.Some really interested points were raised in response to a confession from David Hood, another person I admire and respect, that he too was stretched. David and I do similar kind of work  - centred on engagement, education and collaboration for good. Though his work is mainly focused in the broader social change space, and mine in specifically in the fashion sector, I see a lot of cross over. Hence much of the discussion really resonated with me. Here's are some extracts:

 

>>> On the risks of this kind of work:

"We know the benefits of operating in open, collaborative, networked and real-time ways - are these the negative impacts? A reminder to be mindful... and create space." - David Hood

and

"I came to realise was that my greatest strength...the ability to remain open and see so many connections and opportunities that others couldnt even recognise, was also my greatest nemesis." - Annalie Killian

and also

"When the majority of what you do is live event-based I think the risk of burnout is especially high." - Tom Dawkins

These comments particularly rang true for me with the kind of work that I do. Like Annalie, one of my greatest strengths is my ability to see connections and opportunities, and also like Annalie, I find it almost impossible to leave this alone and to turn it off. As someone who is interested in everything, I'm forever coming up with new projects/collaborations/endeavours. And I have trouble reconciling the idea that they don't all need to be realised, and certainly not all right now. As David says, when we are all connected and accessible all the time, it is so difficult to know when to stop. As Tom notes too, working in live events, to concrete deadlines (where the culmination of your work is often realised in person and measured by the level of social engagement) is extremely exhausting.

>>> On personal sustainability:

"What is really useful [is] to translate the principles of sustainability on the personal eco-system." - Anni Roolf

I've written before about balance. And while I stand by my statement that it isn't the be all and end all, this comment prompted some kind of small personal epiphany in me. The idea of personal sustainability has been raised frequently in the past couple of years. But this comment from Anni prompted me to think about it as I would triple bottom line reporting for an organisation. Similar to the recommendations I would make to any fashion business looking at "sustainability", I've been thinking about this in terms of people/profit/planet. To me, this translates as mental (social and intellectual stimulation), financial (business and bank balance), and health (physical and emotional). Ideally, these things should be mirrored in the community you're a part of too - ie, you should also work on the sustainability of those around you in tandem with yourself. Give and take between these three pillars for you as an individual and in your community is not only necessary, but vital for the best outcome. I guess I am really talking about balance here, but I prefer to allow plenty of room for ebb and flow, understanding that all pillars will rarely be in perfect alignment, and in fact that is the point!

As with in the sustainable fashion world, what has become increasingly evident, is the importance of  transparency - or in this sense, honesty. This seems to really go against the grain for many, as vulnerability is not popular where personal branding exists. It is risky, from a professional standpoint. But for me, it is because it is unpopular and because it is perceived as risky that it is powerful. The very clever Kirk Bennitten has been doing some thinking along these lines...

 

>>> On limitations:

"You're loved, you're supported and you're freakin' awesome; you're also a frail, weak and limited human being and you need to come to terms with the reality of your own constraints." - Cameron Burgess

I've spent a considerable amount of time with Cameron in the last little while in his capacity as my business mentor, and board member of Sustainable Fashion Australia. Additionally, he is a profoundly intuitive person, and I learned a great deal from him beyond business strategy! His comment here is so, so valid. We are all limited, we can't achieve everything all on our own. We can only work to our strengths, be supported by others and achieve what we can.

 

>>> On being ahead of the curve:

"I've come to accept that the life of a frontrunner is a hard one, that he will suffer more injuries than most men and that many of these injuries will not be accidental." - a quote from Pele via Jennifer Sertl

and also

"Your work is not to drag the world kicking and screaming into a new awareness. Your job is to simply do your work - sacredly, secretly and silently - and those with 'eyes to see and ears to hear' will respond." - Viv McWaters

I've been having many discussions about this in recent months. There is no doubt that it is easier to follow the established path through life, rather than walk the road less travelled. There are inherent risks involved in doing things differently, but for me, like any gambler knows, with greater risk comes greater potential rewards.

 

>>> And finally, a comment on creativity:

‎"Creativity and solitude are inextricably linked." a quote from Robert Hughes via Tony Hollingsworth

I've always loved Steven Johnson's philosophy "chance favours the connected mind" which he espouses in his "Where Good Ideas Come From" talk which you can see here on TED.com (which links back to Annalie's comments earlier), but perhaps I've forgotten the vital next step when it comes to actually creating something. As Robert Hughes alludes to here, the processes of creation requires sustained focus, concentration, and drive and solitude is a great friend to these principles. All too often I'm too busy having good ideas, collaborating and sharing, to actually sit with them and work to see them realised. Reflection, analysis and recalibration have been underrated in my life to this point, but this is about to change.

 

I don't have all the answers. I haven't learned all the secrets in the past week. But Anni Roolf did offer some fantastic suggestions to work on which I've paraphrased below:

> Create areas in your life that have nothing to do with your work :: doing nothing, doing beautiful things with no aims. > Develop a personal, healthy time structure / rhythm :: we personally and also the whole (connected & global) society needs new rituals, structures, rules, borders, habits, routines to stay sane. The old ones are no longer suitable, so it's our task to create new ones. > Challenge the dominant ideology of borderless networks. > Physical exercise and nutrition. > Let go of fast :: best to let things go -- huge psychological effect. > Review your own attitude to performance. Review your life and work goals :: Why I don't respect my own borders? Why I don't respect myself? Which is my real motive to perform? Is it a good one? > Be conscious of inputs of all kinds: music, people, media usage (virtual, TV, radio), books, leisure activities. (Less is more.) > Enjoy all kind of nature experiences as often as possible / walk for hours in the nature. (Slow types of movement.)

As Paul Szymkowiak noted, "self-help" frameworks are sometimes at risk of becoming yet another thing we must do (part of the reason why I've never managed to establish a meditation routine), which entirely defeats their purpose. For me, it is more important to be aware of these things, apply them when they serve you, but don't work yourself up about it if they're not in your best interests. So that's what I plan to do. Although I've added a couple of my own:

> Read more. > Write more. > Do nothing more.

 

When all's said and done, a few things have become extremely clear to me this week.

1 > My experiences are not at all uncommon. Many very smart, very special people in my sphere are experiencing similar challenges. People I admire very much are also owning up to the fact that life isn't as rosy as they might like it to be. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if you're not experiencing this on occasion, then you're not pushing yourself. But the key is to push yourself just the right amount so that you're reaching (rather than surpassing) your limits.

2 > I am extremely lucky. I am so fortunate to be in a position to pursue the things I love. I am supported by my nearest and dearest more than I could wish. I am given every opportunity to pursue my dreams. I have always known this, but this week has served as a handy reminder.

Thanks to my gorgeous friend Dani Sirotic for her support this week and for bringing my attention to the discussion started by David.

The Elusive Balance

I read a post by the very lovely Kimberley Smith (aka @Miss_Kimberlina) over on her blog Dream.Delight.Inspire yesterday.Kim discussed balance and how to work toward it in your life. She suggested writing a list of the key elements in your life and rating how you feel about where you're at with each. I really like this idea, but for me it has its shortfalls.

Now, don't get me wrong. I really love Kim. I love her blog, I respect her views a great deal and I find her approach to life extremely inspiring. Plus she is a lovely girl.

But I've been thinking more about this. I have previously gone through the process that Kim outlined in her post, rating where I feel I'm at with each important area of my life. And I like doing this because I really like goal setting. I find the process really cathartic. I like planning, I like order, I like aiming for things - even if they're entirely unrealistic and even if I rarely stick to them. I find it absolutely delightful to sit and plot where I'm going.

The thing I realised though, is that what I'm striving for the most is control. And though control is a nice feeling I think there is a place for powerlessness too. There is value in losing control and having to ride the wave in order to regain control.
Being out of control can be a horrible feeling, but the reality is, sometimes we can't manage every element of our lives. Sometimes unexpected things happen, things that are completely beyond our power to change. And sometimes you need to let this happen and be ok with it. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow.
For me, there is no such thing as perfect balance. The pursuit of balance is entirely the point. But it is so important to remember that there will be moments (hours, days or months) when things are out of control. And that's ok too. It is these moment when you're completely beyond your comfort zone that you can learn a great deal about yourself, about others and about what you and the world are truly capable of.

Perhaps this next thought is a stretch but to build on this... I think the constant pursuit of control is perhaps symptomatic of the way our lives are now. The idea that we can completely determine the path of our lives by our own actions far preferable than conceding that there are sometimes thing beyond our control. In my mind, this is particularly effective for selling products, as marketers tell us that by taking action (ie, making a purchase) we can create for ourselves exactly the lives we want.

I love to think that this is the case - that what we achieve in life is directly related to our actions and our effort. To believe that life is what we make it. But this only goes so far. Sometimes circumstances interfere with our grand plans and lead us to new ones...

2011>2012

2011 was an interesting one. Equal parts challenging (and sometimes frustrating) as inspiring and fulfilling. I had some amazing experiences, and loved seeing my friends and family go from strength to strength in their own ventures.At the end of the year and the beginning of the next one, I think it is important to reflect on what I’ve achieved in the past 12 months, however large or small, and acknowledge how far I’ve come.

So in 2011 I’m celebrating:

Becoming engaged to the love of my life! Selling my first apartment. Losing 10 kgs. Buying Curracloe Holdings - a small farm with my fiance. Selling my car and buying my bike - I wish I’d done it years ago! Holding my first discussion event on sustainability in fashion at LMFF. Curating a 3 day seminar series at Fashion Exposed with the help of the TFIA. Forming and amicably dissolving a business partnership and learning plenty. Completing CSL and RMIT SEEDs fellowships. My first successful Melbourne Tweed Ride event. Getting to the bottom of my food allergies.

Like many others, at this time of year I also set my sights on the things I’m striving for in 2012. I do have a tendency to aim high, but I find even goals that seem to be out of reach give me something to aspire to and help focus my attention. For me, the most important part of goal setting is just as likely to be the process as the end point.

That said, in 2012 my goals are to:

Get married. Lose another 10 kgs. Formally launch Sustainable Fashion Australia in earnest. Run a marathon.

I’m also planning to:

Take on my new role as host of The Clothing Exchange in Melbourne. Grow the Melbourne Tweed Ride community. Renew my focus on Wardrobe Wonderland. Dedicate more time to thinking and writing. Launch some other projects I’ve been incubating for a while - news to come. Work out how to balance my work and study. Learn to keep my own accounts! Take on the first of several employees. Stop eating wheat. Write Thank You cards. Take classes in sewing, permaculture, guitar, photography and spanish.

So there you have it! Some ambitious - and not so ambitious - goals for 2012. I know I’m not the only one who feels there is some serious change on the horizon. Here’s hoping its a good one!

What are you planning for 2012?