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Creativity Takes Courage

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natalie flight sequence

Repost from the Fusion blog: Creativity Takes Courage

The ‘Creativity takes courage’ quote by Henri Matisse is painted on one of the Fusion office’s windows, along with our call to be brilliant and fearless. But how do we bring ourselves to face our fears?

Gymnasts perform a beam that’s four feet off the ground and four inches wide. They tumble down its 16-foot length. Often backwards.

My daughter, Natalie, is a gymnast. I thought she might have a few insights into fear.

When gymnasts feel fear creeping in, here’s what they do:

1. Change something. Recently, Natalie was afraid to “go” for her Tkachev (a release skill) when she brought it from practice on the high bar alone to between the uneven bars. Tossing a small mat over the low bar was enough of a change to allow her to go for the skill.

We can change something by changing our environment. Even something as simple as taking a minute to straighten up your desk, or turning it in a different direction may help you find a solution or get past resistance. Another option is to break from routine. Start in a different place.

2. Take it back a step. Gymnasts don’t learn a new skill in one go. A series of progressions take them from the basics to performing a difficult skill. If they go back to the step before the one that’s triggering their fear, given a little time, they can go for the full skill again. Sometimes taking it a step back means getting spotted for a skill they may have completed independently for a long time. Gymnasts literally put themselves in someone else’s hands, trusting their coach to help them along. When you’re stuck, or afraid, look to a trusted colleague for help. Ask for a spot.

3. Gymnasts count on muscle memory; in the same way we can rely on our skills without consciously thinking of them. Of course, you have to put in the time to practice your craft to create that muscle memory. Trust yourself to know what to do, take a risk and go for it.

4. Cultivate a cheering section. When stuck, Natalie has found support from teammates more effective than from coaches (or even her mom – gasp!) as they understand what you’re feeling, rather than a coach who wants you to do it but isn’t always the best judge of what you need to hear to make it happen. Invite people with shared experience into your corner.

5. Finish. In competition, even when things have gone haywire, gymnasts always finish their routines. Get back on the beam. Don’t give up.

When asked for advice on painting, Claude Monet told people not to fear mistakes. Errors can lead the way to original ideas, as they introduce new directions for expression. The mistake is outside the intended course of action, and it may present something that we never saw before, something unexpected and contradictory, something that may be put to use.
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What are you afraid of?

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