creativity inc. – book reflections

Disclaimer : This is not a book review, it’s just some reflections. I listen to books (via Audible – get on it!) and I listen to them at 1.5 speed (if the narrator’s pace allows). I can’t highlight or underline and, as I’m usually driving while listening, I don’t get to take notes. I listen for big ideas, not details. I listen for concepts rather than quotes. So here are some reflections on a book I recently finished.

Creativity Inc. Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration.

by Ed Catmull

Ed is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. A computer scientist by training, he initially created software to assist in computer animation but went on to co-found Pixar Animation Studios and create some of our best known and loved animated movies.

This book was fascinating. As a lover of animated movies (particularly Disney & Pixar) I was intrigued to get a behind-the-scenes look at all the processes and decisions that go into the making of the movies whose quotes make up around 50% of my general daily dialogue!

It’s quite a long read but it has so much in it. Beyond the intricate insights into how characters, plots and contexts were researched, created and refined I was intrigued by the leadership lessons learned and shared. And particularly challenged and inspired about how intentionally they focused on creating, communicating and maintaining a vibrant, creative and productive culture.

Some stand out take-aways for me…

Easy is not the goal.

Disney & Pixar exist to make excellent movies. The book references the thousands of decisions that are made, the distractions that need to be avoided, the challenges that need to be overcome and the budgets that need to be managed in order to make an excellent movie … and then to make another one. Every system and process is painstakingly analysed to refine speed and quality of production, staff satisfaction and overall outcomes. But Catmull was keen to point out that in amongst all of that, ‘easy’ must never be the goal. Sure, the easiest way to accomplish a goal is the goal but the goal is never about ease. He warned about how allowing a culture to be shaped around shortcuts, quick fixes and ‘that will do’ is toxic first to excellent outcomes, but ultimately to team morale and momentum. He gave multiple examples of how high calibre workers are motivated by the challenge to create outcomes of significance not mediocrity (however that might be measured in a given field of endeavour). I loved thinking about how that might translate into other leadership and team environments. I resonated profoundly with this idea.

A culture of feedback is essential.

Catmull details the processes of feedback employed at Disney & Pixar and they are elaborate. Organisationally, they continually spend a great deal of resource (man-hours, money, energy) on extracting, collating and responding to feedback on all aspects of their film creation. The level of humility demonstrated by senior leadership sets the tone for this. And the intentionality around establishing and maintaining a culture where feedback is genuinely welcomed and valued is incredibly high.

A loose paraphrase of a quote – “You don’t want to be in an organisation where the level of candour is higher in the corridors than it is in your meetings. In rooms where ideas, policy and best practice are being hashed out you want to only be hearing the truth – the whole truth.” And he goes on to articulate how it is that they monitored and responded to this. He shares not only his repulsion at the idea that people might withhold their honest opinions because they want to appear amiable to their up-lines, but the acknowledgement that they could never be their best or do their best if these honest opinions weren’t being heard. So they went about developing clearly communicated and curated methods for extracting feedback at every level of their organisation.

Sections of this book read as a master class in how to create and nurture a culture of feedback. I suspect I’ll be revisiting it for this purpose. It’s crazy inspiring.

Failure is essential.

Feeding into the value and success of a culture of feedback is communicating (in word and deed) that there is a way for failure to be processed and recovered from – a way back. In fact, Catmull asserts that failure is to be expected because it’s a “necessary consequence of trying something new”. An organisation can’t be hoping for innovation and progress without giving permission to experiment – which innately opens up the potential for failure as risks are taken.

Healthy team culture deals with failure in predictable, articulated and honouring ways so as to re-embolden a team member (and those watching on) for continued creative endeavours.

What TRUST really looks like.

I thoroughly appreciated the repeated references Catmull made to the importance of trust – but also how he defined it. He asserts the necessity of trust for healthy team culture, releasing the creative and innovative, and ultimately for generating best outcomes. Further to his observations on failure, he posits that performance failure can’t be a reason to withdraw trust. “Trust doesn’t depend on a person not messing up – it means that you’ll keep trusting them even when they do mess up!” (paraphrase).

Trust is about trusting the motive and intent of a person – they were thinking this would help and achieve what we were hoping to achieve, it just didn’t work out that way. Rather than assuming the worst of a person – they wasted time and money on a method that was useless and now they can’t be trusted with that level of autonomy or creativity again. If failure is a necessary consequence of trying something new and you want your people to try new things then they can’t be penalised if that attempt wasn’t successful. Trust gives a person confidence to make their best effort and offer their best ideas knowing that you are behind them and for them and will help them find their way back if things go wrong.

Lots of other things.

There’s more. You might want to read it yourself. If you’re keen on learning more about developing great organisational culture – this book could be for you. If you’re particularly fond of Buzz & Woody and all their other mates, then you’ll love it too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

my year as a professional Single 


I’m Single. No, like, REALLY Single! Oh, you’re Single too? Bet you’re not as Single as me!

I’m SO Single I wrote a book about it! (Truly! You can get a copy of it here!)

I’m SO Single I get invited to speak to groups about how to BE Single and how to care for Singles. (For real! You can book me here!)

I am, essentially, a professional Single. 

See, I am more Single than you. 

A year ago I was preparing for my first book related speaking gig. Steeling myself to step into the place of being “that Single girl” (read the blog about it here). 

While dealing with a familiar wave of self-doubt and insecurity over my abilities – I was also battling a stronger wave of resistance to stepping into that emerging role. The ‘professional Single’. 

I don’t want to be Single. I don’t want to be the expert on it. I don’t want to be known as that Single girl. I didn’t then. And I still don’t now. 

But here we are, 12 months into the journey, and I am so incredibly humbled by all I’ve got to be a part of in that time. The fabulous people I’ve met and communities I’ve been welcomed into. The champion leaders who’ve humbled themselves to learn and understand, the many who have read the book and been shifted in their attitudes and actions. That Dad of Single adult children, the Single-again parent, the leadership team, the young adult Single, the church community – multiple unique and moving stories of how God has used the message of the book or hearing me at an event or listening to me via a radio broadcast to encourage them or strengthen their understanding, empathy and ultimately, their relationships. 

It is my ongoing wrestle. So convicted of God’s call and sure in His anointing and yet so deeply desiring to be writing a different story – to be living a different kind of life. 

I said this a year ago and I affirm it again today. 

“So I will be “that Single girl” …and anything else He would ask me to be … trusting His timing, being confident in His calling. Even if I’d have chosen something else, I know He has chosen me for this and this for me.”

It has hurt and it has been hard – some of my loneliest moments have come on the back of these ministry opportunities – but the fruit is evident and the joy of partnering with Him in His greater work fuels me to ongoing obedience and surrender. 

Even if sometimes it’s through gritted teeth and clenched hands. 

I keep stepping out and moving forward. 

I am a professional, after all! 🙂

happy birthday, book

  
One year ago this God-dream was finally birthed (the “finally” was about me finally cooperating more than any delay on God’s part)!

This book has made it into the hands – and its message into the hearts – of Singles, marrieds, leaders, parents, mentors, friends, Pastors and interested persons across the country and the world. 

My greatest hope has always been that it would encourage a conversation and spur people on to deeper understanding of the unique needs of Singles and grow us all in the greater cause of embracing and connecting with one another. 

I have been continually encouraged by the feedback I’ve received, the opportunities it has facilitated and the people who have shared their stories with me in return. 

What a year it has been! It’s so great to pause and reflect on all that has passed. But it’s not done yet, I’m sure. 

Every good birthday needs presents – so here’s mine to you. For the next 7 days postage is FREE!! That’s right, FREE! So if you haven’t got your own copy yet or had been thinking to send one as a gift now is the perfect time. Simply go to THIS PAGE and choose the “collection” PayPal option. (Ends midnight Mar 27)

Even though this book was finalised in print, the story is still being written. Thanks for being part of it!!! 

the wrestle

  I spent today at one of my favourite places on the planet. 

Hillary’s Boat Harbour is located north of Perth on the beautiful coast of Western Australia. Ever since friends from Melbourne relocated back here 10 years ago I’ve been a regular visitor to see them and always included some time at Hill’s (as I like to call her). The pool, the beach, the array of restaurants, cafes, shops and pamper spots all ably supported by Perth’s magnificent weather. It’s an annual highlight. 

Today, though, there were a few tears as I remembered last year’s visit here. 

I came for 2 days in March 2015 and they coincided with the last two days before the  printing deadline for my book (check it out HERE). I was quite literally in the final throes of labouring to birth a project that had been 3 months in the production, 8 years in the procrastination and 12 years in the living of the message – all preparing for this one moment of hitting “send” and authorising it to go to print. 

Tonight I sat at the same restaurant where I had sat to write the blurb for the back cover. I remembered spending more time on those few sentences than in any other portion of the book. It took me hours and hours and the longer it took the harder it got. 

I was absolutely smashed by insecurity, self doubt, overwhelming fear; paralysing intimidation. Who would read it anyway? Who am I writing this for? (Not just the blurb – the entire book.) Had I been kidding myself through the whole process? Who am I to think that this might be something God was calling me to do? Have I wasted this time and money on a futile project?

I remember indiscriminately sending messages to so many people asking for help – something I’d not done through the entire project. I got increasingly distressed as I processed their replies – some conflicted with what I had been previously thinking; others conflicted with each other. My panic escalated further still. 

I sat in the restaurant no longer able to maintain my composure or conceal my tears, getting sympathetic looks from fellow diners and passers by, as I did the wrestle

You may be familiar with the wrestle. That moment of conflict where the choice has to be made to dig in and fight or to give up and run away. 

That moment where your resolve is weakened by doubt and your confidence is smashed by fear and the initial courage and boldness that fuelled the start of the venture seems to have dried up. The wrestle. 

Those moments where truth is primed to fall as a casualty to the voices of negativity and self-bullying. Where you start to question everything …like, actually everything …set adrift from the anchor that was empowering you to press on and do difficult things; to believe for something extraordinary. 

The wrestle. 

The prayers and encouragement of my support crew; a stubborn resolve to not have another thing go unfinished or unrealised; that undeniable sense of call and purpose that had been confirmed and reconfirmed, all converged to see the finish line crossed. There were more tears – of relief, pride, exhaustion, gratitude, humility – as the final document was emailed by the designated time. 

Since it was published, the book has been purchased by hundreds of people across Australia & different parts of the world. The message has been heard by thousands. The moment of holding the finished product in my hand was overwhelmingly fulfilling. I know in the deepest part of my know-er that the wrestle was worth it!

Today, as I sat at that restaurant again I was so grateful that I did the wrestle. I thanked God for the grace and power to push through in those final hours. I would do it again. I would. It was worth it. 

But then I wondered about the times when I may have avoided the wrestle or given up short of the reward that was waiting on the other side. I feel the sting of regret. 

And then I thought of the areas that feel like wrestles now. Those circumstances that are feeling hard to push through. Those situations that are overwhelming in their intensity, unrelenting in their attack on my heart and my energy and seemingly beyond my ability to withstand. And I let this moment whisper its encouragement – keep wrestling, don’t give up, press in and press on, hold fast … it’s worth it. 


that single girl

On Sunday I will officially become something I’ve been trying to avoid for many years -“that Single girl”. 

It was over 8 years ago that God first spoke to me (prophetically through a ministry friend) about writing a book on Singleness and God’s family. For the first year or two after that the idea was spoken about as a bit of a joke – “when you write that book …” or “that’s a story for your book!”

Alongside my general propensity for procrastination, one of the reasons the project didn’t happen for so long is that I didn’t want to be “that Single girl”. I didn’t want my “life’s message” to be about singleness. I didn’t want to be some sort of singleness expert. Even as my experiences accumulated and my understanding of the Single life (mine and other’s) deepened and even as I saw (from both positive and negative examples) the significance of the interactions between Singles and the Church family – I didn’t want to be the one to champion or steward the message. If I’m going to be the “voice” of something couldn’t it be marriage or parenting or … or … underwater basket weaving!?!?! Anything but singleness!

Last year, God’s long-suffering and gentle prodding shifted gears and He came at me with a multi-fronted attack – “Write the book already!! Just do it!!” So, while I may be good at procrastinating and excuse-making, when it comes to wilful disobedience I’m no dummy! In fact, another friend prophetically declared it my “book of obedience” and as I followed God into the project He opened all the doors and His provision was generous and sure. 

The book was published in March and has been seeping out to various individuals, leaders and churches since then. (Order your copy HERE) I am so encouraged by the feedback it’s received. God is using it to bless, encourage and challenge His family. I love that God works that way – He takes our humble offerings and breathes His Spirit of grace and truth into them and they bear fruit in the lives of His children and for His Kingdom purposes. And we get to participate with Him! It’s been such an exciting project to be part of. 

But now, as I prepare for my first book-related speaking opportunity, I find myself needing to process a fresh wave of …well, I’m not exactly sure what it is. Grief? Disappointment? Resistance? I have to step on the platform and be “that Single girl”. You know, the one who is so Single she’s written a book about it!? While there are some potential positives to such a public declaration of singleness (my mum has long hoped for me to make my status part of my introduction anytime I’m speaking to a new audience) there’s a work to be done to sort through the “stuff” to get to a place of greater celebration and expectation. 

I’ve rarely been as sure of God calling me to a specific assignment than I have been with this book. I am thoroughly convinced of the Church’s need to hear and respond to the message it contains. I am 100% committed to seeing this book reach the full intent for which God commissioned me to write it. But the reality is there’s a cost. There’s a surrendering required. There’s a setting aside of my own agenda, pride, embarrassment, or disappointment in order to free my hands to embrace all that these opportunities will no doubt contain. 

So I will be “that Single girl” …and anything else He would ask me to be … trusting His timing, being confident in His calling. Even if I’d have chosen something else, I know He has chosen me for this and this for me.