I just watched a charming film, “Outsourced,” about an American call center manager who is sent to India to train his successor. One of the scenes has the protagonist caught in the middle of a spring festival called “Holi.” I would LIKE this festival. It is paintball, Indian-style. For one day, everyone in the community grabs colored powder and throws it into the air and at each other. The air is filled with red, blue, orange, green, gold… People’s faces and clothes become crazy kaleidoscopes of color.
People of all ages and classes are caught up and brought together in the exuberant celebrations. So, in this holiday, there is color, celebration, unity -- “let the colors shower joy.” It doesn’t matter your age or your station in life, you are part of the fun.
I haven’t experienced Holi, but I have been part of groups coming together to celebrate and have fun. One memory: when I was twelve years old, our family was sitting in the kitchen, and one by one we pulled pots and pans out of the cupboards and wooden spoons out of the drawers and ended up with an impromptu jam session. It was fun and it brought us together.
As a ten-year-old, I had no fashion sense. I would thrust my arm into the closet and put on whatever resulted, pretty much. Stripes, plaid, polka-dots, red, taupe, chartreuse, it all worked. I remember my "boyfriend" coming over to our house. We had some plans for the afternoon. He insisted on choosing my wardrobe first, it was that bad.
So I was delighted to find at least one source of help when in the 1980s "Color Me Beautiful" became popular. The consultant seated me in front of a big sunny window, and one by one she draped fabric samples across my front. White or cream? Bright blue or navy? Which fit best? And I was able to see that some colors blended with my coloring and seemed to make me look younger, brighter, prettier! Others made me look drab, old, tired. It turned out I was a "spring." I left with a sample of fabric swatches that I still own today.
I was born with this coloring, and if I am smart and want to look younger, brighter and prettier I'll follow along and choose shades that work with it. Similarly, I was born -- and so were you -- with particular passions and talents. If I am smart, and want to live in full color, I will let these guide me as I choose where to invest my time, energy and creativity. How about you?
Watching the Olympics, I was so impressed with the determination and passion of the athletes. It was obvious how much they loved what they were doing, and how committed they were to achieving their best performance. Many of them had been learning their sports since they could walk -- enduring passion.
Even if I could ski more than the bunny slopes, you wouldn't catch me hurling myself off a ski jump. But it does focus the mind to think, "If not that, what? What do I love?"
Ideally, what we love is made visible by what we do -- where we choose to put our energy, effort and time. So here's an example from my house. Last Saturday, I joined a wonderful small group to explore in greater detail two ways of understanding people and their differences: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator -- and the theory that surrounds it -- and the Enneagram. Great day, learned lots about myself and others, particularly about the "shadow side." (More on that in a future post.) I love this stuff.
In another example, this morning, with the thermomenter reading 50 degrees, my husband put on layers of clothes and rode his Honda Shadow motorcycle to Daytona to take in Bike Week. This is a 3-1/2 hour trip each way. He has done this several times already. I cannot imagine spending 7 hours on the highway on a motorcycle, let alone frozen. Yet, he is passionate about riding and he can't wait to get going.
Different people, different passions.
So, three questions:
1. What is your passion?
2. Are you doing it?
3. If not, what small step could you take to include your passion in your life?
Creativity is absolutely one of the components of full color living. This includes the obviously creative activities such as painting or writing, AND all the helpful, beautiful and innovative ways people can put things together.
However, this example does concern writing. I recently started reading a book that has had a lot of buzz -- and success: Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was buried in my reading pile, and finally made it to the top. Wow. She is my new favorite author. Gilbert writes with such touching honesty and evocative descriptions. Periodically, I have to stop to admire how she puts words together. Here's a few lines about her joyful consumption of pizza in Naples, Italy: "On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance, much the same way one shimmering movie star in the middle of a party brings a contact high of glamour to everyone around her. It's technically impossible to eat this thing, of course. You try to take a bite off your slice and the gummy crust folds, and the hot cheese runs away like topsoil in a landslide, makes a mess of you and your surroundings, but just deal with it."
This novel is a memoir about a transformative period in Gilbert's life. Her voice is authentic. She has mastered her craft, and her personality shines through. Reading this book, I am first struck with the thought (accompanied by some measure of jealousy), "How does she do this???!!" and then I am able to acknowledge that this is her gift, and she is expressing, beautifully, her own unique creativity.
If 2010 is the year to include more creativity in your life, besides this book, I recommend the lecture she gave on the topic at a TED conference. You will be inspired, encouraged and touched.
I am a fan of TED.com, a resource of brief and powerful presentations by leading lights in a wide variety of fields. I ran across this presentation by Israeli conductor Itay Talgam. Talgam is talking about leadership and in so doing he reviews the approaches of half a dozen different conductors. He covers topics such as power and control, discipline, connection, listening, and ultimately what it takes to bring out the best in an orchestra. A brilliant piece, and the final video with Leonard Bernstein makes his point without a single word. Enjoy! (...and share with your teams!)
One of the keys to Full Color Living is the practice of presence -- being fully aware in the moment. Giving one's full attention to life, really. In the busyness of life it can be a challenge to be present. We make things worse by multi-tasking. I've noticed especially in my kids' generation, 20-somethings, that they prefer to do three, four, five things at once (...cell phone, TV and emailing, for example. Or worse, driving, listening to the radio and texting.)
Researchers have been looking at this, and a recent New York Times article just reported on a Stanford study of college students. They found, says the article quoting study author Clifford Nass, "The more likely you are to multitask, the worse you are at it... The high multitaskers overly focus on the irrelevant, keep their memory very sloppy, and they're very bad at switching from one task to another."
I've heard it said that multitasking is simply interrupting yourself over and over again. Looks like that's the case. So today's challenge: do one thing at a time, focus on it until it is done, and enjoy the satisfaction and success of being present.