A long time ago, when I was a novice coach, I had a download hit about how to show up in a ‘sales’ conversation. I had been struggling with how to ‘sell’ my services. But I had the dynamic wrong. It was not about me at all. It was not about me forcing myself on people. It was about the support of the person I was engaging with. I needed to get out of my own way, and be in full service to the other. This is the very core DNA of coaching. If I am concerned about what you think of me, I will not be a great coach for you. Or, for that matter, a great friend. “Me” will get in the way of “we”.
Now that is not to say that I allow myself to be walked over. Quite the contrary. When I step into the coaching dynamic, it becomes about service to other. I maintain my clear boundaries as an I, but in my engagement with you, the client, it is about you.
This very profound shift in how I show up in any conversation of service has also informed the way I parent any creative process.
Any one who has spent time with young children will know that each child is born with their own personality. Personality is not something that arrives one day, or is crafted by the parent. The intrinsic ‘who’ of a child is present from birth. Yes it matures and shapes itself through life experience, but the core DNA was present from day one. Our role as parent is to not inflict the child with our own stuff, but to craft an environment where the child’s unique and present ‘who’ is allowed to flourish. We can take a seed that is to become an oak tree, and tamper with it, (genetic engineering), and know that the end product is not the oak that started in the seed, but something else. This is acceptable if that is what is desired. A variation of an oak tree. But if we wish to stay true to the integrity of the original seed, then our role is not to tamper, it is to shepherd, to parent.
An idea is akin to the seed. It has its own DNA. Its own implicate order. Like a child, it might be birthed from my mind, but it is not ‘mine’. It is a total of my life experience to date, shaped by the interactions of many people, alive and dead. Our desire to have it be ‘mine’ is informed by our models steeped in scarcity. Just as you belong to no one person, an idea belongs to no one person. I can be the parent, the one that provides the nourishment, opportunity, environmental conditions for the full manifestation of that idea, I can be in a deep and profound relationship with the idea, but it was never mine. I can invest in the flourishing of the idea, and be a recipient of the fruits of the idea. And because it was birthed from me, the idea will carry aspects of my DNA, but only so it can transcend me through inclusion.
When an idea is birthed, if we are to really honour the integrity of the idea, then we seek to learn from it what it needs from us in order for it to flourish. We bring wisdom and maturity to the shepherding of the idea into its full expression. We may invite others to participate in this. However, rather than impose our will on the idea, we respect that the core DNA of the idea will provide us with the wisdom to support its fullest expression.
Some ideas have a long life, others a short life. Some captivate our love and attention for years, other ideas inspire us for only a moment. Great ideas are lost because we fail to give them the attention and nourishment they need. Or because we fail to take any action, to ship it, as Seth Godin would say. Or because we have no discipline around our ideas. Or because we do some heavy duty tampering.
If we do choose to tamper with the original idea, its DNA will change. Constantly tampering with the idea DNA will probably create such a hybrid mishmash, that it may never become a vital atrefact.
When a design team is working on an idea, there are many competing elements seeking to tamper with the idea. The core integrity of the idea is easily lost in this kind of process, to the degree that no one really knows what they are working on creating. The question is, can anyone take a stand for the idea that is wanting to be birthed, and really hold the integrity of that, transcending their own ego impulse to inflict themselves on the idea?
What to do with an idea? Just as we would ensure a seed was planted in the right kind of soil, in the right environment (heat, cold, moisture, nutrition), we need to place our idea in the right environment. Who needs to be present? How do we nourish the idea? What is the core DNA of the idea? What is its integrity? When does it need attention, and how regularly? Where does it need to be birthed, what its its best environment? Does this idea really need to be birthed? Is it calling so loudly to us that to not respond to it would be a tragedy? Or is the idea just a fleeting thought that really doesn’t seek to build deep, strong roots in our soul?
By placing the idea in the centre, having our focus be on supporting its healthy animation, and removing the focus from our egoic self, the idea has a very good chance to mature into its fullest expression, whether that be life cycle or a day, or decades. We are the servants of the idea, not the masters.
When we approach any creative act in this way, we truly honour the sacredness of creation. Not in a religious sense, but in the sense of bringing a deep and abiding respect to the idea and its implicate order. Any idea held in this space is art. It has the ability to move people, inspire people, attract people… because the energetic impulse that was the original idea has been made manifest.
Great art speaks to us because its integrity is honoured. For those of us who seek to be stewards and parents to an idea, the process is a joyous adventure, where the hardest task is to keep our grubby little ego directed fingers off the creation.