Creating & Cultivating a Fluid & Flowing Container of Creativity

There’s something I’ve been reflecting upon the last day or so and I’m trying to makes sense of it. It relates to patterns I’ve experienced in the past of having major breakthroughs but then also stretches of drought, where I feel completely detached from my work.

The keyword that keeps appearing relating to this is immersion.

In effect, within vertical development, to level up one needs to step outside of the worldview they are immersed with, so that they can understand its hold upon them and how it can limit them. I’ve describe this as turning around and stepping back from your life (and perhaps up out of it), so as to be able to reflect upon it and your sense of self from an objective distance.

But to level up, one needs to explore, navigate, and storylive a new worldview, of which the final act is to fully immerse oneself within it and thus live and embody it.

If you think about Dave Gray’s work within Liminal Thinking, including his illustrations relating to our “bubbles of beliefs”, it’s almost the exact opposite of what he’s showing. In effect, he shows a person standing on a tiered pedestal with a bubble of belief encompassing them at the top of the pedestal. To transform themselves, the person steps out of the bubble and down the tiered pedestal into the unknown. But eventually they step back up another tiered pedestal, perhaps with a broader worldview as a larger bubble of belief.

What I’m saying here though is that your worldview is paradoxically like the water you’re swimming within. It’s like the water that’s around you, like the water in a goldfish bowl which represents your bubble of belief. And similar to water in a container, it creates a lens which distorts one’s perspective of the world, just like our bubbles of belief do.

And transforming oneself and one’s worldview is like stepping up out of one container of belief and stepping into another (via a series of tiered steps). It’s a completely disorientating experience that seems completely unnatural, even though it’s a natural process of change and growth itself.

But getting back to the focus of this post though. Why I think I’m experiencing obstacles in my work and development is that I’m not fully immersing myself within it on a daily basis to fully complete the process of my transition and transformation. What I mean by fully immersing myself is filling my mind with work that has a deep emotional connection to me, thus sparking this bigger picture of it which I can then fully step into.

For some reason, this reminds me of something I read about creative work, perhaps from The Marginalian, whereby highly creative people don’t wait for inspiration, they create it. In effect, they create and cultivate an environment that emotionally stimulates them and creates a creative work flow for their work.

Whoa, wait a minute. While this relates to creating a conducive, physical work space at home, this also touches upon my digital workspace online. In effect, this is perhaps what I’ve been struggling to try to create with my work. That being a digital space as a website that I can return to daily that will help me to quickly immerse myself not just within my work but within the worldview it’s trying to create as well.


Different Roles at Different Levels of Change

I was reflecting on the people within Dave Gray’s School of the Possible and how it reminded me of something Deborah Frieze said in her TED Talk on how change happens within a living system and how there are different roles to be fulfilled in this process (i.e. illuminator, hospice workers, protectors).

But what I just realized as well is that you can actually have multiple people working in the same role, yet they can be achieving it differently from others, as they’re approaching the role from their own disciplinary perspective as well. For example, you could have one person who helps people transition using creativity and another person helping people making the transition using the Hero’s Journey. But both of these people are doing the same thing because the Hero’s Journey embodies the creative process itself (the transitioning between different stages of development and levels of consciousness).

Yet what I realized here, based upon my vertical development knowledge, is that there are different levels of transition going on here as well, as everyone needs to level up where they are at. In effect, employees before would follow and do what they’re told by leaders but now they need to level up to effectively take leadership over their own lives and manage themselves, become a new type of follower. And leaders as well need to level up and become a new type of leader, something paradoxically different from a conventional leader.

What I’m getting at with all of this though is that it’s making me realize there are a myriad of roles to be filled in this web of change that people can fulfill. So just like Deborah said in terms of asking yourself which role are you fulfilling, it also asking yourself at well level are you assisting people make the change as well.

For myself though, it’s evident that my life’s work is not focused in just working in one specific role but instead showing people the web of roles available at different levels in the larger process overall.


A Fusion of The Marginalian & Zen Soup

So I’ve got in my mind what I want my initial website to be for my life’s work and I’m in the process of creating it.

I effectively want it to be something like The Marginalian whereby it focuses on using quotes by notably authors and explains the deeper meaning of what those quotes mean (which effectively relates to vertical development as well).

However instead of creating posts to show the relationship and meaning of similar quotes of meaning by different authors, each post will be a separate quote by a separate author with a category keyword attached to it. Then when the user clicks on the category keyword, it will list all the related quotes to that keyword and explain the deeper meaning of it at the beginning of the category list.

An example of what this would look like is what is done within the book Zen Soup by Laurence G Boldt.

The idea again is to create something that lets me post smaller bite sized posts, yet they cluster and aggregate a deeper meaning over time that I can then build upon later, perhaps create a page from those posts that aggregates the deeper meaning of them as a whole (i.e, Levels = Levels of Consciousness).

Then later, I would take these pages and then show how the meaning of their keywords relate to one another, forming a larger narrative overall.


Embodying the Newer Knowledge I’m Creating

The last 24 hours have been a kaleidoscope of thoughts, feelings, and newer pressures placed upon my life that have made me realize that I need to start effectively making my work a real reality that I can actually economically sustain myself with or I’m going to have to put it on the back burner and seek full time conventional work to help make ends meet but which means it will dramatically reduce the time for my life’s work.

With this in mind, I’ve giving myself until the end of October to actually begin embodying the knowledge I’m creating and if I’m unable to do this, then I’m going to give myself November and December to find conventional work, even if it means taking something menial to do so (which I’ve actually enjoyed in the past because the physicality of the work keeps me in shape).

To get started in embodying my own knowledge that I’ve been creating though, I see two primary areas, potentially even three, that I can add to my website.


Quests for a new explorer often initially revolve around questioning the assumptions and beliefs of their conventional worldview. As a somewhat veteran explorer though, I’ve gone beyond that and I’m quest(ion)ing what is required for this new worldview, based upon what I’m understanding and making sense of it. So I’ve explored this new world(view) and made sense of it (mapping its edges) but now I’m navigating a way to make it a reality now (so that I can actually step into it).

So you could think of these quests like Richard Feynman’s 12 favourite problems as questions you continually keep in the back of your mind. More on why this is important below.

Character Sheet / Levels

A Character Sheet is effectively my name for something that goes beyond a resume. It is something more complex that communicates a person in a deeper and broader way.

One of the number one ways I’ve seen to do this is by communicating the “level” the person is at. This is achieved using the values related to the level of consciousness the person is at, as it relates to values-based leadership within the context of vertical development.

For example, in terms of myself, I realize I’m nearing completion of one level, where I’m striving to attain an internal sense of cohesion with myself by fully communicating my passion and purpose in a meaningful, creative, and authentic way that truly embodies who I am. Yet at the same time, I’m beginning a new stage of development which will help me to level up and begin to make a difference in helping others than just myself, thus beginning to partner, alliance, and mentor with others.

BTW the reason why this is so important and why it goes beyond a resume is that most job-based work often doesn’t include the cultural environment that the work is contextually immersed within. In other words, it doesn’t take into account the culture and values of the leadership that defines the environment of that company which is often the very thing that makes or breaks a work experience within a company. In other words, a person may love their work but actually hate the environment it’s within.

So by defining the level of consciousness a person is at, you’re effectively not only defining the similar values they are seeking but often the similar questions they are undertaking as well. By doing so, these questions become like quests that bring a “company“ of people together, all adventuring in the same direction and seeking the same things of value that they treasure.

Heroic Company / Adventurers

And the most amazing thing of all is that all of these explorers as adventurers don’t even need to be collaborating synchronously, as they are often working asynchronously without even realizing it.

For example, a lot of my own life’s work is built upon other people’s work who helped me to articulate in words what I was intuitively seeing but often couldn’t put into words. So I see all of these people as other adventurers that I am in heroic company with, even though I haven’t directly worked or even chatted with most of them. So creating a list of these adventurers that I’m in heroic company with is something I’d like to do (perhaps highlighting how their work resonates with mine as well).

And I don’t use that word “heroic” lightly because many of these people have overcome their own fears ( just as I am struggling to do so) and in doing so, they have levelled up in their own lives and are showing us a way forward into a new world(view), just as I am striving to do.

To be clear, this isn’t about learning in the form of sharing existing new knowledge; it’s about learning in the form of creating new knowledge. Every context is unique and every context is evolving at an accelerating pace. To truly understand our contexts, we need to pull ourselves out of the classroom and immerse ourselves in the context, take action based on growing understanding of the context, and then learn even more as we reflect on the impact that we’ve achieved.

John Hagel, Navigating From the Industrial Age to the Contextual Age
Site Design

Categorizing My Metaphorical, Emotional Heart, Rather Than My Logical Head

Ok, this is interesting. You’ll notice in my recent posts that I’m creating smaller bite-sized pieces of content, as I mentioned I wanted to do.

What I’m also noticing with this though is that the post content is the logical “head” of what I want to share (using the heart, head, and hands approach) and the category at the top is the visionary “heart” (well, not this post, as it just about site design).

What’s interesting about this approach is that I could then effectively write out a simple visionary “heart” narrative (which in this case embodies the narrative mechanics of a roleplaying game) using these category keywords and then by clicking on the hyperlinked words in the narrative, the reader could see the deeper meaning of the words and what they embody.

This in turn helps me achieve an emergence with my work by seeing the patterns, seeing their relationship, and their larger identity overall. So by defining these patterns as categories, I’m able to cluster them and see the deeper meaning from the cluster. This in turn will hopefully help me to browse through the cluster and make better sense of it as a whole and in turn articulate it better as a whole but in a very simple small pieces, loosely joined way.

Finally what’s interesting about this is that I tried to do this in the past but failed. In reflecting back on my previous category keywords, it appears I failed because my categories were logical “head” based rather than the visionary “heart” based. While this might not seem like a big deal, it was for me because these visionary “heart” based keywords I’ve kept seeing over the last couple of decades provide the deepest emotional connection and clarity for me, almost as though they are an intuitive cipher that is helping me to unlock some deeper wisdom that is emerging from within me.

Oh, one more interesting observation though. It appears that this method will only work if I break down what I’m reading into these metaphoric keyword categories and create one post per category. An example of this is a recent article I read by John Hagel which I found too difficult to write as a single comprehensive post because there was just too many aspects of it to talk about, so it became overwhelming to try to articulate it as a whole. In other words, it feels like I’m in the middle of a tornado and the different aspects of what I’m trying to write about are spinning too fast around me to grasp and make sense of. Thus picking one aspect and focusing on it is easier.


Passionate People Ask Questions

In an institutional environment of scalable efficiency, we’re taught that the key to success is just to read the process manual, follow the instructions and deliver the anticipated results reliably and efficiently. Passion is viewed as deeply suspect. Passionate people ask too many questions, they take risks and they deviate from the script.

John Hagel, Passion of the Explorer

Creating Environments That Help Us Move Beyond Fear to Passion

But I’ve also come to believe that we’ll be much more successful in this quest if we live in environments that encourage and nurture the passion of the explorer, rather than seeking to crush it. Unfortunately, most of the environments we live and work in today are driven to crush this passion. It’s one of the reasons that, based on a survey I did of the US workforce, only 14% of US workers have this form of passion in their work.

In an institutional environment of scalable efficiency, we’re taught that the key to success is just to read the process manual, follow the instructions and deliver the anticipated results reliably and efficiently. Passion is viewed as deeply suspect. Passionate people ask too many questions, they take risks and they deviate from the script.

And our school systems are explicitly designed to prepare us for work in those institutional environments. As young people, we’re told that if you have a passion, pursue it on the playground or at home, but don’t bring it into the classroom. We’re also told to focus on finding a career that pays well and has high status, not something that we’re passionate about. Many parents also echo this message with the well-intentioned desire that their children do well in life.

If we’re all going to achieve more of our potential and have impact that’s meaningful to us, we need to come together to evolve our environments in ways that encourage and nurture the passion of the explorer for everyone. My book helps us to understand what those environments will need to look like.

But we can’t just wait until our environments evolve. We need to get started now so that we can overcome our fear sooner rather than later and find a more fulfilling life.

In my book, I outline the role that our personal narrative plays in shaping our emotions and our lives. We need to make our personal narratives explicit (they are implicit for most of us) and then find ways to evolve our personal narratives so that they begin to focus on opportunities that are truly exciting to us. As I indicated in my previous blog post and in my book, I have a very different definition of narrative than most people do, so that’s key to understand.

And sooner rather than later, we need to find a small group of people (not more than 15 in total) who share our desire to move beyond fear and who will both support us in our efforts as well as challenge us to have even more impact.

The key is to move beyond conversation and focus on action that will help us to connect with the opportunity that excites us the most and learn more as we go.

As we begin to focus on the opportunity that excites us the most, we also need to take steps wherever possible to evolve our personal and work environments so that they support us in our quest to address the exciting opportunity.

John Hagel, Passion of the Explorer

Catalyzing Impact Groups

Rather than motivating people with fear, explorers seek to draw out the passion of the explorer in others, so that more and more people are excited about venturing out into new territories and addressing emerging opportunities. Explorers create work environments that support exploration and accelerate learning by drawing people together and focusing them on emerging opportunities. Rather than organizing into hierarchical command and control structures, explorers focus on becoming a catalyst for bringing people together into small impact groups that are focused on action and impact and then expanding impact by organizing larger and larger networks of impact groups.

John Hagel, From Expert to Explorer

Going Beyond Knowledge to Becoming Our True Selves

The implications of integrating a Community of Practice approach with a Community of Inquiry would place less emphasis on the instructional aspects of the teaching role and instead see them focusing on the importance of modeling desired behaviour such as critically reflecting on their own experiences. Labels for individuals such as teacher and student would diminish in significance as all community members adopted different roles according to their knowledge, experience and changing identity. Individuals membership of different online and f2f communities would allow for the opportunity of cross pollination of ideas and experiences.

The description could be developed further, but in such a model, the single most important identifier of success, would be who are the community members becoming rather than what do they know about X or Y.

Stephen Powell, Online Community of Inquiry – Online Community of Practice
Personal Knowledge Management

Building Smaller & Easier Blocks of Thought

In trying to articulate and write about something the last couple of days, I’ve realized that my main problem is often the “ramp up” to what I’m going to talk about. What I mean by this is that I often want to write a post about a topic that relates to my work but before I can talk about that topic, I need to lay a foundation which can lay the groundwork that I discuss the topic upon.

What happens though is that I end up realizing that I have to spend so much time discussing the foundational groundwork that I end up just giving up on discussing the topic because it requires too much time and energy to lay the groundwork first.

What this in turn is making me realize is that I need to communicate my work in smaller bite-sized pieces that are digestible and not so overwhelming all at once. This in turn means communicating smaller aspects of my work that can scaffold and build upon each other, piece by piece (i.e. small pieces, loosely joined).

In fact, in thinking about this, another thing I’ve noticed is that in linking back to older pieces that I’m using as a groundwork to write a newer piece, I often notice that I’m often referring to just a part of the previous post because I have three or four different topics in the one post. So the person, referring to the previous post, may have to wade through the other topics before they find the one I’m actually referring to.

So again, too many topics in one post. Instead I should be writing small posts on each topic and then write another smaller post that weaves the different topics together (via linking) into a larger one that builds upon the previous topics.

Actually the closest example of this type of format would be Andy Matuschak’s Evergreen Notes system.