Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The World Needs Your Passion



The passion fruit is a wonderful fruit. It is small, perfectly formed and leaves you with a rush of sharp sweetness in the mouth. Like sunshine on a Spring morning, it invigorates, wakes you up. This is what passion can do. But before you write off pursuing your own passion as a whimsical self indulgence, consider where this value-judgement came from. You? Or a system that relies on people devaluing their genuine passions to drive it?

Read below an interview with Corrina Gordon Barnes, a refreshing new voice in the world of entrepreneurship, outspoken about the need for your passion in a consumerist system that has - arguably - alienated people from their passionate selves, that tells us 'we are consumers, not contributors'. In a world that is changing at unprecendented rates, you following your true inspiration, your dreams, is more precious than ever before. Whatever that passion is: for the arts, science, health or spirituality - follow your bliss.

Believe it or not, your passion could be a raw ingredient for global transformation ...

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Corrina, why does the world need your passion?

We humans are interdependent. When I hold back my contribution, my community suffers. When you don't act upon your passion, we all miss out.

We've created a society which has made it so easy to forget that we are needed. Cheap oil has created the foundation for industrialized nations which position us as consumers instead of contributors. The truth is: We are each of us precious, finite resources. We only have a brief moment in history in which to fully experience each of our unique gifts. It's not okay to squander the planet's natural resources and nor is it acceptable to waste our own potential.

Among us there are people who can turn old plastics to jewellery, teach children to cook, inspire an MP, design sustainable homes, chair community meetings, give healing massages, forage for wild food, create powerful film documentaries, write songs and make clothes. We need all these gifts. In these transition years, as we explore how to create a truly sustainable society, we need all the obvious environmentally useful skills and we also need people who can tell jokes, organize offices, care for children and counsel relationships. People who know how to clean buildings, paint, spread the word, design websites, campaign for justice.

What are you truly passionate about? When do you feel most alive? What is your unique contribution to society - that thing that only you can do in exactly the way you do it? These are the important questions to ask.

How do you keep connected with yours, Corrina?

I'm continually receiving new information about what I'm passionate about; the details shift from day to day. I stay alert to that - fluid and flexible - rather than feeling stuck in a particular groove.

I was preparing a seminar on social media recently and just wasn't feeling excited by it anymore; I begrudgingly took my plans to London and ended up writing the seminar in the lobby of the Paddington Hilton which felt very different from my home office and it helped me realize that I want to take this work further afield and in to new areas of business.

If I get involved with a project and then find that my enthusiasm wanes, I have a couple of options. I can dig deep and reconnect with what is important about the project - which might be a new motivation from what I felt originally. Or I may need to let it go for a while and see if my enthusiasm remerges.

There's something about trusting that we can let go of projects and they'll either come back to us in a different form OR they weren't really right for us in the first place. That involves trust and it involves a belief that the most important measure with any venture is whether our passion is present. I also connect with what I'm passionate about by surrounding myself with other supportive, inspirational people and by continually putting myself forward to learn new things. I make sure I spend time outdoors where life moves at a different pace from behind my computer, and that I spend regular time in meditation, allowing the still voice within to speak to me and offer guidance.

What 'gift' or piece of advice could you give that will keep women inspired to keep going?

My advice would be: The path of finding and following your passion is a rich journey. It will throw many challenges your way and will also bring you deep joy. As the saying goes, "No-one said it would be easy, they said it would be worth it". Once you've committed to it, know that you will find the resources (both inner and outer) that you need for that journey. Ask for help, remind yourself why you're doing it, make sure you celebrate even the smallest achievements.

In terms of a gift, I offer free subscription to The World Needs Your Passion, my fortnightly newsletter, which delivers inspirational articles straight to your inbox twice a month. Subscribe here: You Inspire Me

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Thursday, 1 April 2010

Happy Easter: Rebirth, Re-Invention and Letting Go ...


Photo by Amelia Mary

Spring, April Fools and Easter is a time long associated with transformation, re-birth, re-invention. It ain't all about the daffodils, chocolate eggs and joking around: before 1752, England's new year even began on 25 March. In Tarot, The Fool signifies making a leap; new life, new adventures. As photographer Amelia Mary who's currently collaborating with me on an exciting re-invention on the Tarot as a glamorous female mythology commented, (she is shrewd): 'human beings are constantly influx in terms of our physical make-up and our mental development'. We are always changing, yet fight change. 'How transient and fragile our existence is'. But this journey of reinvention can happen at anytime, anywhere, to anyone ...

I've recently had to let go of something incredibly precious to me, that was fundamentally flawed. It is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it's painful. But I'm choosing to look at it as a chance to clear dead wood from the decks. As French philosopher Helene Cixous writes, these are "deaths-as-beginnings". It's a chance to let go of what you don't need, and decide what you do. This Easter, I need quiet time, and nice things. I'm filling my house with daffodils. I'm not just eating chocolate bunnies, I'm being given a real one - a tiny dwarf rabbit! I make no apologies for how girly this really is; I have always, always wanted one.

Spring is an excellent time to Spring Clean your life and renew your passions. If your idea needs a boost of inspiration, why not take part in Kick Start Your Venture led by Corrina Gordon-Barnes in Cambridge this April? Pamper yourself, give yourself and your ideas the time you need.

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5 TIPS for Renewal, Rebirth, Reinvention

1. Spring Cleaning is not just about your physical space, it's a holisitic process. Declutter your space, your work, your life of outdated baggage. Sweep your house from top to bottom, and pay special attention to where you work - whether at home or in your own office or studio. Space-clearing is a powerful process.
2. Recycle. Hold a clothes-swap with friends. I'm only just returning clothes swapped with a girlfriend two years ago! Customise clothes rather than just sling them. Remember charity shops can't always take old garmets and often send them to landfill. E Bay can be worth the effort and make you a tidy little windfall. Why not set up your own little online boutique? Hold a bookswap?
3. Reconnect with your core values, your ideas. Make a list of 10 words that crystallise your core values in life. These are the values that shape your work, your daily life. How true to them are you being?
4. Revisualise what you hold dear. Cut out images that illustrate these values, paint or draw them; bling them up with glitter! This is also a powerful branding exercise and works well with a whole dream book full of vibrant images that represent your projects and work. Put the vision-map somewhere you can see it every day. Add to it! Have fun with it!
5. Release your fears. Take a leap. Go somewhere you have never been before. Stretch yourself. Embrace change. Do something brilliant!

As the financial year re-starts and we approach Easter, what regeneration can you bring into your projects? How can you Spring Clean your work and your goals? What can you choose to let go of, that is no longer helpful? Take the time out this weekend to consider who you really, truly want to be. And rest.

Happy Easter!!!

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We find by losing. We hold fast by letting go. We become something new by ceasing to be something old. This seems to be close to the heart of that mystery. I know no more now than I ever did about the far side of death as the last letting-go of all, but now I know that I do not need to know, and that I do not need to be afraid of not knowing. Frederick Buechner

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Hip Girl Interview: Tessa Souter

Here is a story from one of those inspirational artists that you read about who successfully followed her dream later on in life ... and made it! Except that she followed not one but TWO dreams, and made them BOTH happen. Jazz singer, writer and author of Anything I Can Do YOU Can Do Better, Tessa Souter is a woman who is not only an inspiration, but has enough generosity and compassionate belief in others to want to see them do the same.

You can see throughout her story how important friendship and encouragement from others has been to her. Who can you support in your midst? Who are your biggest believers?

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Where did the inspiration for your book, Anything I Can Do, YOU Can Do Better, come from?

A friend who I used to co-coach with nagged me to do it. She thought I would write a good book. I mentioned it to another friend who was an agent and she said, "if you do that book, Tessa, I will agent it." And then she bullied and pushed me into doing a proposal. And then she got Random House to buy it. Then my Random House editor nagged and pushed me throughout what was an incredibly difficult year in my personal life that no one really knew about. So I had encouragement from lots of sources.

What made you first decide at 31, to really try and make a living as a writer?

My brother and I had always wanted to be writers since childhood. I had my first poem published in the Dartington Times when I was 11. It was about the wind! Plus I loved writing stories and epic poems and all my teachers would fall all over my parents about it until about age 12, when I became a rebel at school. Friends used to send me books and say "YOU COULD HAVE WRITTEN THIS!" I studied English Lit at university when I went back to school when my son was 8. My first job after university was editing reports and proposals for a ghastly engineering firm. So I started looking every week in the Guardian media page for jobs. Then one day I got a job at Parents magazine as an editorial assistant. A few weeks into that I got comissioned to write an article about doing adult things with kids, like going to opera or ballet, and picking good operas or ballets for kids. My editor loved it and made me do more. From there it snowballed.

How and why did you then successfully re-invent yourself as a jazz singer?

Ah well that is still a work in progress, the success bit. I played guitar and sang from age 12. I would have been a singer but instead I had my son at 16 and ran away from home (ran away first, then had him). Kind of put the kybosh on that dream as then I had to be a responsible parent. When he was grown up, probably around 21 or 22I sang at a kareoke bar in San Francisco and someone there who heard me called the bar after they'd left and asked me out on a date. We went out every week to hear live music for 6 months and sometimes we would sit in. We both sang. Then we became a couple and he spent years persuading me that I could do it as a job. When he fell out of love with me, it seemed it was a great way to get his positive attention. He still encouraged my singing, even when he was seeing other women. But in the end we broke up and then I really NEEDED singing. It's a fantastic painkiller. And people would hear me at open mic jams and ask where they could come and see me perform. Then a friend had me sit in on his regular Friday gig and I got offered a regular Saturday gig by the restaurant and it all kind of grew from there.

What is the most significant challenge you've had to overcome as a professional artist, and how did you do it?

Still working on that one. I think the biggest challenge is that 90% of the work you do as a professional is nothing to do with ACTUAL singing. The actual singing bit is easy and wonderful and fun and i love it. But that is one hour to about nine of behind the scenes stuff of promoting, getting gigs, getting past the gatekeepers, doing it whatever mood you are in, making sure that people come out because you owe that to the venue, (as well as it being more fun for you). And your body being your instrument means that in spite of doing all that stuff and trying to make a living and all the unbelievable stress of that, you have to remain fit!

What insight into your practice has kept you going the most?

That if you keep putting one foot in front of the other towards your dream, you will see progress. The universe kind of joins in. You might not always see it yourself but then you have your friends around to support you. So even if you don't feel like doing something -- like practicing or learning new material or whatever, you must force yourself. One of the amazing rewards is how much insight you get into yourself when you compose. At the end of some of my songs I think, "Wow! Now I know EXACTLY what that incident/person/thing meant to me."

What priceless tip can you leave as a final 'gift' to aspiring singers and writers to help them accomplish their dreams?

Read Tessa's final gift on Creative Resistance

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Creating Studios, Hubs and Creative Incubators

'Yes, feel free to call me - I've worked with lots of creative hubs before and would be happy to help'. 'I can give you an afternoon to informally advise you'. 'Yes, please call'. 'Try this'. 'Read about this model'.

This week some of the UK's most successful creative spaces, studios and individuals experienced in setting up hubs have been offering their time and expertise to me. I met Vanessa Swan, CEO of Cockpit Arts, whose success story is an inspiration to designer-makers everywhere. We Are Sustain's director, kindly showed me their club, photography studio and exhibition space - and talked me through the pitfalls of managing a warehouse space in Shoreditch. I spoke to countless other spaces, including Wysing Arts, St John's Innovation Centre, and the JUDGE business school, and started to look at other projects similar to Positiveworld Studios elsewhere in the UK. Chichester's Unity Arts Trust, and a warehouse project led by a CIC up in Leeds, and UK Business Incubtaors.

I'm amazed at how willing people are to lend their ideas to help me with trying to create better creative platforms, workspace and and studios in Cambridge. I feel a bit obsessed with studios at the moment, and have renamed my job title Ruthie Studio Geek Collins.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Creative and Social Business Planning

My mentor has sensibly suggested I write a 3 year plan forthe studios. Three years may seem like a long time, but we all know how quickly time slips away. The end of the year is a fabulous time to go review progress and plan direction, so as part of my List of Small Things, I'm making this plan a top priority.

I've just been sent this very helpful resource from my tutor at the School for Social Entrepreneurs http://www.blueprintsforenterprise.com, which cleverly outlines everything you need to do to grow a charity or social enterprise. There's a lot of waffle in it. Lots of jargon. But it's helpful in clarifying the importance of objectives and goals and creating a tangible plan. Positiveworld Studios has a very broad aim 'to inspire positive change in the world through creative culture - providing a hub, network, workspace, support and platform for peoples creative expression'. But what does this actually mean? In real life?

When I promoted clubnights up in Sheffield, our objectives were totally clear - everything we did led up to a huge fundraising party. All roads led to a celebration of underground electronica and art, raising vital funds and awareness for Free Tibet and The Tibet Foundation. To help us get there, we wrote a 6 month plan with felt tips and a massive bit of paper. We didn't fully stick to it, but it helped. That covered the little parties in between, the decor, the fliering, the artist-booking, the meetings, the creation of a student Free Tibet Society, even writing about electronica parties for my student newspaper and interviewing artists and DJs. Everything led to one objective.

Whittling down creative ideals to objectives can be tough. But if you want to get anything done - it's essential. To help us do this I'm talking with all our artists to gain feedback on the project, and to help decide where we should go next. It's the artists, after all, that make the project. I'm talking with people who have done similar things, who run successful art spaces and studios, and am inspired by how willing they are to give their time. It's a really rewarding thing to do.

For resources to help you as creative entrepreneurs write a business plan check The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonora Beam, and also The Right Brain Business Plan (my fave) http://www.rightbrainbusinessplan.com/category/art-visioning by Jennifer Lee.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Fairy Godmothers and Helping Hands

While studying at the London School for Social Entrepreneurs I've been given a mentor to help me grow Positiveworld Studios. My mentor is lovely. She is a fan of contemporary art, a whizz at tax, and organisational change. She's humorous. Nice. Just talking things through with her has helped enormously. She's helping me on the structural side of things, and the slightly more business-focused side of the studios through simply talking with me once or twice a month on the issues my project is facing.

Then I have another mentor, coaching me on leadership - an uncle, who (lucky for me) works as a coach and trainer with clients such as Google, and used to be a Chief Exec at Ghetty Images. Apart from being my uncle, he's warm-hearted, insightful and empathetic. And really supportive.

I am looking for more - to help with the different areas of the project. I know from my own experiences coaching people what spending just a few hours a month can do for people. Having a mentor can shine a light on tricky situations, provide business acumen, technical expertise and knowledge that would otherwise cost thousands.

I'll never forget the mentoring I received from Lynne Franks' SEED network - the first ever female entrepreneur to give me one to one support for my work. Or the award winning entrepreneur from the Princes Trust, who told me (aged 25, living on a boat with erratic running water, no fridge and a dribbling shower) that my business plan was the best he had ever seen.

Not all mentors have to be illustrious celebrity-types - when choosing a mentor think about the people in your community you already know, who could help you. These are often the people who could know your project best, by already working with the people you want to reach out to, or help.

Fairy godmothering is always magical. As good as it is to receive help, it's also good to help in return. How can you support those in your community? Are their people you know you could help? Are you an expert in something that you could share?

Check http://www.inc.com/guides/growth/24509.html for more resources on mentoring.

The Joy of Small Things

2009 has been a truly busy year for me. I decided to focus energy on Positiveworld Studios while studying at the School for Social Entrepreneurs in London - the reason I became an 'entrepreneur' in the first place, so have spent less time working on my Hip Girl's Guide to Being an Entrepreneur. This means have taken part in, or organised nearly 15 art exhibitions and creative events this year. That's a lot. A hell of a lot. But it's been worth it.

Balancing private creative practice with more social, shared work - like putting on shows, teaching or serving your community is a juggling act most creative entrepreneurs, writers and artists face. But I cannot stress more, just how gratifying it has been seeing our Positiveworld Studios grow from what was simply an idea, a couple of artists, a few empty rooms in a building, and a clutch of ideas for shows - to what is now a working creative hub with members as far away as Peuorto Rico.

What is exciting and rewarding is seeing the creatives we nurture flourish. We as artists or creatives often work in isolation - but as one of our artists commented to me: 'what is art without the people? It's the people that bring it to life'.

I interviewed Yoko Ono for a show we did for Peace One Day in Septemeber this year. Can art really change the world? I asked her. Yes! Yoko replied. Yes. Art can change the world - in sometimes small ways. Personal transformations, moments and private inspirations are the stuff that much larger 'art revolutions' are built upon. Our first major group show - Transforming Space, helped us create another creative space for the community in Cambridge. Our artists also sold around £1500 worth of work to the public. But it would never have happened without all the small things people did to help.

It's important to share in each others' successes. It's also important to stop and work on the small things that lead to bigger things. Dreaming of big things and doing small things every day is a discipline. Keeping your head down and paying attention to detail is an art. I'm spending the rest of this year doing exactly that - enjoying the small things that make projects work. Thinking of the future.

On the wall in Positiveworld Studios are two lists: A List of Small Things, which spans 3 sides of A4, and A List of Even Smaller Things. It has two things on it. One of those things is organising a Christmas get together at Positiveworld Studios. There will be a Christmas tree. That's one small thing I am sure of. And mince pies: small bundles of joy ...