The Art of Adversity

“Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.”
~ William Ellery Channing

As a young boy with a severe learning disability, Chuck Close was told not to even think about college. Nevertheless, he went on to get his MFA from Yale and became a world renowned artist.  Even though he has a condition called face blindness and can’t recognize faces in three dimensions, Chuck Close is known for his portraits and his unique technique of painting on a grid.

Artist Janet Echelman goes to India to exhibit her works and discovers that her paints went missing in route from the U.S. to India.  This experience forces her to learn a new art material.  Now, she makes monumental, fluidly moving sculpture for urban airspace that responds to the environmental forces of wind, water, and sunlight.

Dale Chihuly is a glass sculptor and entrepreneur.   His story is described in the book “Iconoclast:  A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently,” by Gregory Berns.   In 1976, while Chihuly was in England, he was involved in a head-on car accident during which he flew through the windshield. He was blinded in his left eye and has been wearing a black patch over the injured eye since then.  The loss of depth perception forced him to look at the traditional art of glassblowing differently.  Ultimately, he departed from the traditional symmetry standard, experimenting with asymmetric sculptures he is now known for.   A few years after the accident, Chihuly dislocated his arm while surfing.  Unable to blow glass himself, he hired a team of artists to work in the hotshop he supervised.  This change in the work process led to large-scale operations and his commercial success.

We often hear that we need to think outside the box to be creative.  Adversity can lead to innovation in art and life because it destroys the proverbial “box.” Adversity forces people to perceive the world differently.  Some get lost without the “box.”  Adversity can unleash a whirlwind of emotions and sweep people off their feet into the dark tunnel of fear, denial, blame, shame, surrender.   Some, however, are capable of emerging on the other side stronger, more resourceful, and more creative than before.  They go on to construct a new “box” – their new reality where they continue to develop, probe, and fine-tune their new identity and understanding of the world.  The brain needs the “box” as a mental pattern and a symbol of control over our environment.   The brain is a prediction machine and the “box” makes things predictable.  Sometimes, the act of building such a “box” out of a new fabric of beliefs, in a new place, with new tools, among new people becomes a creative process in itself.

By | 2011-06-22T15:41:27+00:00 June 22nd, 2011|Books, Change, Creativity, Perception|0 Comments

Fascinate your way through conflicts

“Fascinate?” you may wonder. In conflicts, people argue, fight, yell, accuse, threaten, push each other’s buttons…but fascinate? That doesn’t seem to fit into our typical paradigm of conflict behaviors.

Perhaps, it’s time for a mind shift. Triggers are not just those pesky things that we become all worked up about and that send our brains into the fight-or-flight response. According to Sally Hogshead, the author of “Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation,” triggers can be fascinating. The triggers that Sally Hogshead identifies can help you grab attention and be more persuasive. They are:

  • Power
  • Trust
  • Mystique
  • Prestige
  • Alarm
  • Rebellion
  • Passion

Watch this TEDxAtlanta video in which Sally Hogshead explains how the seven triggers of fascination can help you get others to fall in love with your ideas.

We all have our preferred triggers of fascination that influence our relationships. You can take the F-score test to find out yours at http://sallyhogshead.com/fscoreq1/.

My primary trigger happens to be passion, characterized by “a warm and open style of interaction,” intuitive approach to information and decisions, and probably “a strong creative streak” among other things.  “Even when you mask your emotions, you feel passionately about your opinions.”  Now I know why I was inspired to write about “Boosting creativity through passion, novelty and pleasure.”

My secondary trigger is rebellion: “A personal sense of freedom is near and dear to your heart; anyone who tries to force you to play by the rules might just end up losing you.”

I wonder how the triggers of fascination play out in conflicts, or more specifically, how we can make a better use of the triggers of fascination to move beyond the predicable sequence of arguing into the state of creative dissonance where we can effectively leverage our differences and open our minds to creative solutions.

Will the passion trigger make me supersensitive and defensive in conflict or will it allow me to show the warmth and empathy needed to break through the impasse? Will my rebellious nature make me less compromising or more resourceful? What makes conflicts fascinating? What do you think?

By | 2011-06-01T18:31:51+00:00 June 1st, 2011|Books, Communication, Conflict Management|1 Comment