Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin on failure, fear and the rewards of taking risks.
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.
Mistakes in gymnastics are generally bad news. Either someone gets hurt or ends up with a terrible score. Creative work is a bit more forgiving.
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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“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” – Steven Pressfield
I was first exposed to the work and genius of Antoni Gaudí during the art history portion of an art class in high school and was reminded of his work from a recent segment on 60 minutes.
I was most drawn and inspired by his work during his naturalist period, namely, the Casa Milà and Sagrada Familía. The design of both buildings is based on the use of fluid lines and shapes found in nature - totally organic - and oh, so beautiful.
Gaudí's vision of an organic structure, engineering genius, and divine inspiration come together in the Sagrada Familía. The Sagrada Familía is a Roman Catholic Church in Barcelona, Spain. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and consecrated as a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. Construction for the church began 131 years ago in 1882 and is expected to be completed in 2026-2028. In total, some 146 years later, Gaudí's grand vision will be a reality.
This is a perfect example of how passion and dedication to a creative vision can surpass all challenges that may come to be. The construction of the Sagrada Familía has prevailed over a century of changes - through the Spanish Civil War and even the death of Gaudí in 1926. Some of those that carry on Gaudí's creative vision have worked on the church for over three decades - they have dedicated their life's work to another man's dream.
I have yet to visit the Sagrada Familía, but I know I will.
We are a lucky bunch over here at Fusion. I truly believe that we are blessed with working with many of Winnipeg’s best clients. The agency/client relationship is a unique relationship, it’s a people-based relationship, not a transactional-based one, emotions, egos and subjectivity come into play. Like any good relationship, for it to last it takes work and needs to build on a solid foundation.
So why do I think we have the best clients?
For starters, there’s a high level of trust with our clients. We’re able to do amazing work, because our clients place high trust in our insights and expertise, knowing that we’re always working in their best interest. Our clients are open to our ideas, even when they push the boundaries.
Our clients see us as partners, not suppliers, working with them, not for them. As partners, our great clients share their visions, dreams, plans, expectations, opinions and goals. They indulge important information, confide in us and consistently keep us in the loop, knowing that this relationship helps them achieve their vision. We collaborate together and share ideas because there’s mutual respect and trust.
The backbone of any strong relationship is communication. Our clients are clear in their expectations, are fair, and ensure we can succeed together. They work through briefs with us, ensuring we’re all on page with agreed upon strategy before the creative process begins. And hey, when the going gets tough, honest conversations happen and only serve to strengthen the product and the relationship.
And finally, our clients rely on us to do our jobs, get the job done, and get it done right. We love being trusted to make sure everything is perfect from start to finish.
The success of the work ultimately depends on the strength of the relationship. And because of the faith and trust our great clients place in us we give the love right back with enthusiasm, passion, creativity, motivation and dedication in our work each and every day.
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