Making things easier doesn’t make people happier-The Lodge

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Last week a noteworthy message nudged me—twice. First I bumped into that beautiful commencement speech by Bhanu Kapil (sent to you all) given to MFA grads at Goddard College. (http://thewriterintheworld.com/bhanu-kapils-goddard-college-mfaw-commencement-speech/ ) Her story is of failure, hers and her fathers, and how failure itself can be inspiration. Two days later a Creative Mornings talk left me with the temporary tattoo pictured above. The message: “Fail Harder”.

What I have observed over many years painting and teaching painting is that the “failure” of even one wrong mark, one garish color or one awkward gesture, or the failure to see a proper angle, or a possibility is so uncomfortable that giving up becomes an option. Once you cross that threshold, if only briefly, the likelihood of success, however one defines it, is perhaps lost.

At the Wieden and Kennedy office the director of the creative team called “The Lodge” introduced “Needybot” to the crowd. (http://www.needybot.io/) The advertising agency uses this adorable robot for research of how humans interact with technology.

But for me, I saw the Needybot as a metaphor for the muse or the creative impulse. That impulse often does not respond to the conscious mind and its lists of tasks. It’s very existence is one of need. (Ever see the movie, “The Muse”?)

The Needybot is a heat-seeking robot about the size of R2-D2 with a fuzzy coat and one large eye. As the busy folks hurriedly move through the halls of Wieden and Kennedy, Needybot stalks them. Stands in their way. Impedes their supposed progress. It makes them reconsider, requires their consideration. By having their prescribed paths interrupted they are forced to pay attention and perhaps become more interested in possibility. Needybot keeps them off-balance and empathetic—empathetic to the needs of the of this soft-spoken, little, furry creature that perhaps stands in for one’s own creative voice.

It creates conflict—shall I get this thing “done” that I am planning or in the process of? Or shall I listen? Remember R2-D2? It was stuck on the same incomplete sentence. Over and over. “Help me Obi Wan Kanobi, you’re my only hope.” Persistent empathy generated by that little voice had the ability to guide and inspire the Rebels to something that seemed unattainable.

That’s why we do exercises to keep you off-balance—uncomfortable—require paying attention. It may feel like failing, but….

Failure is essential for success. By embracing it and enduring you may, in the words of Ms. Kapil: “shine as brightly as when you first begun”.

May the force be with you.

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