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8 Ways To Bring Your Creative Passions to Work

8 Ways To Bring Your Creative Passions to Work

    A “creative” person I worked with at a “trucking company” developed a reputation as frustrated  and bitter over her 30-year career. At her retirement, I inquired about her plans, particularly since she was relatively young. Asking if she hoped to create more art since she was now freed from cranking out corporate brochures, she told me, “No.” Instead, she was going to work at a garden center, since she loved plants and being outdoors.

    While her answer was startling, the next time I saw her confirmed the impact this life change made. She was barely recognizable! Her long white hair was cut short and stylishly, she was tanned, and had a huge smile you couldn’t wipe off her face.  All this, a result of finally expressing her creativity as she truly enjoyed.

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    Makes you wonder why, if your creative passions involved the outdoors and plants, you’d sit in a cube for 30 years working on sales collateral while your bitterness festered? Maybe she felt stuck because she didn’t think a garden center job would pay enough. Yet surely, there were other alternatives.

    Many people find themselves in similar situations. You have creative pursuits you enjoy OUTSIDE work, but can’t imagine incorporating them into your day job to make it more enjoyable. If you feel that’s your situation, it doesn’t have to be. Using my “graphic artist in a decidedly non-creative trucking company friend” (let’s call her Betty) as an example, here are 8 ways to incorporate your creative passions into your job:

    1. Don’t complain about your situation. Start figuring out how to adapt it.

    Betty was all about complaining, which stopped people from wanting to work with her in new, creative ways. Instead of griping, invest your energy in thinking strategically about how you could adapt your work to be more creative. What co-workers, customers, situations, projects, programs, products, and critical business needs might be waiting to incorporate the creative skills you’re truly passionate about using?

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    2. Map out how your interests could tie to your job.

    Step back to generalize and innovate on how your creative passion could connect to your current company’s business. This will start creating potential hooks you can use to attach your passion to your job. In Betty’s case, working with plants at a garden center could be generalized to cultivating and growing things, design, customer interaction, outdoor settings, etc. Once you’ve moved from “working in a garden center” to “what happens at a garden center,” you have the seeds (pun intended) to plant in your regular job for new sources of creativity to spring up.

    3. Do some thinking on your own to imagine hidden opportunities.

    After thinking about your outside passion, consider your company and where it might need the same talents, experiences, and results related to your creativity. In the trucking company example, Betty’s list could have included: landscaping around our headquarters, design and planning for field facilities, plants in offices and common areas inside our building, sprucing up corporate meetings and conferences, and employees’ club fund raising projects and events. Any of these (and more) could easily have components tied to gardening and design.

    4. Put your interests into the language of business.

    When trying to introduce creativity, you’ll hit brick walls if you talk in the language of your creative passion. If Betty walked in and announced, “I want to work with flowers here at the trucking company,” her ideas would have been dead on arrival. Instead, consider the language you can use to express your interests. Betty could have used vocabulary related to events and facilities to initiate conversations.

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    5. Find like minded people.

    Ask others about their outside creative interests: “What do you like to do for fun? How do you express yourself creatively?” If the company is of any size and your creative interests are anywhere near the mainstream, you’ll likely discover others who share your passions. Learn what ideas they may have and how they react to your possibilities for bringing your creativity more squarely into the workplace.

    6. Volunteer for smart opportunities even if they’re out of the spotlight.

    Start expending energy to insert yourself into smart opportunities you’ve identified. In Betty’s case, the first stop should have been the company employees’ club since it offered opportunities to help plan a summer get together (being outdoors), coordinate a holiday party (floral design and decoration), sponsor fund raisers (a plant sale), and at one time, send floral arrangements to hospitalized employees (direct interaction w/ florists). While Betty’s is a specific instance, the same concept applies for you. Map out and implement the plan to seize opportunities (even if they’re small ones) and increase your workplace creativity.

    7. Begin doing even more.

    Once you start to get a reputation for contributing successfully in innovative ways, the word will spread, and new opportunities will surface. In our company, we ultimately started sponsoring major events for hundreds of customers – both meetings and NASCAR events. New and enhanced creative approaches were always desirable and could certainly have included floral design as an element. Since no one wanted to work with Betty, however, she was never asked to participate. Being able to realize those first small successes, however, can lead to new opportunities to do even more creatively.

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    8. If it’s not working, don’t stick around and be miserable.

    Betty chose to stay 30 years making herself and those around her miserable. If you try this approach, and for whatever reasons it doesn’t work in your particular company, look for another job rather than fuming. In a similar situation, our neighbor was a nurse who also wanted to work at a garden center. One day, she quit her nursing job and made the switch. The garden center only paid about 1/3 of what nursing did, so after a few years of blissful work at a garden center, she went back into another area of nursing. Not only does she have the memories to sustain her, she still works part-time at the garden place, keeps in touch with friends she made, and always knows she can make the switch again in the future. She’s happy, not miserable, realizing she has options.

    I used these tips in the same not particularly creative company as Betty to uncover ways to introduce my love for art, music, and speaking into my job to make it much more fulfilling. While it wasn’t always exactly how I wanted things to be, it was so much better than never being able to exercise my creative passions. Whether you try just one tip or use them in sequence as a personal success plan, make sure you get started today!

    Image: LastMariner

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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