"Lab You"

"While you are experimenting, do not remain content with the surface of things" - Ivan Pavlov

Photo courtesy of JD Hancock via Compfight
I have always felt that none of us should ever be willing to settle or allow the little kid in us to completely grow up. We should be willing to try new things and jump out of the box that we have placed ourselves in. For some, it may take several baby steps. For others, jumping out is a regular event. Be open and always willing to experiment in the many facets of your life. Experiment on YOU!

I love trying new things and opening up my mind to new possibilities. It's keeps my brain wires twirling and prevents boredom. I particularly love trying novel things out in my garden. I've had a lot of fails and each one gives me a different perspective, chance to recalibrate, and ideas as to how to change my methods. My experiment a few years back  with Windmill Palm trees outside for a Michigan winter didn't end so well.They were too much work because I had to wrap and protect them. The season end crispness on the fronds just wasn't a selling point to keep them. On the other hand, my cactus garden thrives and I continue to experiment with new varieties. You win some and lose some (literally in my case).

Experimenting is how we grow and become better humans. Failing enables us to learn and make new discoveries. This past weekend I decided to set up a little outdoor lab of sorts. I want to have a specific area in my yard where I can try out new plants or techniques, but have some more control over the environment. We have a septic drain field in our lawn where I can't plant anything. The dirt is fairly sandy so the grass bakes quite well in the sun and it produces great colonies of grubs for the moles. My "lab" consists of 3 large metal fire rings in an area over the drain field filled with rich soil. It will be a perfect spot for growing new species from seed or as a "nursery" for young plants. The raised beds will allow earlier planting, reduce weeds, and the moles will have a tough time tunneling in my plants. Adorned with annuals around it, I know that it will become an art piece in the yard.

This weekend I was very excited when my "lab" was born and I already have plans for next Spring. It will be fun to try unusual plants, learn new things, and challenge my existing ways of gardening. To top it all off, the area offers an aesthetic look to my garden rather than just plopping some plants in an area of ground. It will be fun to grow and stretch my personal limits.

"I'm still experimenting" - Stevie Wonder

Are you experimenting with ways to enlighten yourself or tap your toes out testing new waters? Have you set up a "Lab You" to help yourself grow and challenge who you are? Do you tend to try new ways of working or leading others? What goals have you set for yourself to try something new or work on one of your weaknesses? Are you open to experimenting? Growing? Perhaps it's time! Time to set up "your" lab to grow and experiment on "you".

Setting up your "Lab You":

  • Take a class in an area that you never thought of - Art? Coding? Dance?
  • Learn a new language - use it with your bilingual folks and ask for their help.
  • Pick a new habit and stick with it for 21 days. No excuses to stop. Perhaps just waking up 15 minutes early and trying yoga every day.
  • Emulate one trait of a leader that you admire for 3 months. See what happens!
  • Ask your team for ideas on one way that you can be a better leader. Try what they chirp up with even if it's uncomfortable.
  • Job shadow one of your people to learn what their day is like- Let them in on what you are doing!
  • Look at your past reviews. Pick out one key painful weakness that you have ignored and experiment o improve.
  • Read at least one book every week that you would never have picked up before. Guys? Try a romance novel. Ladies? How about some Sci Fi or a Western?
  •  Stop planning so much or letting others schedule you. Experiment.
  • Take a brain training seminar, there are so many new options out there.
  • Pick the one thing that scares you and just do it! I don't enjoy networking, but I have been forcing myself and actually enjoy it more.
  • Be patient - embrace failure. It's healthy for you.
  • Crap happens. Take it in, spit it out, and move on.

There is only one "you" and you have but one crack at life. You need to be president of  YOU and only you can take control of personal growth. This may indeed require a bit of experimentation. 

 When will you set up your own "Lab You" and what will be your first steps? I would love to hear from you! Good luck and happy experimenting!

Next Spring this lab will be lush with growth and surrounded with annuals

Leaders Are The Best Artists Around!

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free" - Michaelangelo

Photo courtesy of JD Hancock via Compfight

We gardeners are a quirky group. As soon as we can spring outside after a long cold winter we begin cleaning up everything dead and well, get distracted.  We start to trim garden beds and we pull a shrub or two out on a whim. We sprinkle wood chips and end up expanding garden areas. We begin to see what can be, not what is in front of us. We look for nonperforming plants to pull out and envision the new cultivars that can replace them. Everything is a blank slate in the spring, even after plants are bursting with lush, wild, growth. It's taken me years to admit it but, an obsessed gardener IS an artist!

I've never considered myself an artist. I can be fairly creative, yet I like order and am a planner. I don't understand a lot of the "art" out there and am fairly certain my kids can create incredible works compared to what I've seen in some art galleries.  Some people are born with artistic  talent, others have to work at it by practicing, learning techniques, and  practicing. The same is true with any hobby or skill. I was born with a love for gardening, yet I wasn't always a natural. It's taken years of practicing, learning new stuff, trial and error, and patience to become the gardener I am today. Any gift boils down to creating confidence in yourself, motivation, a willingness to step out of your comfort zone, and persistence. You too can be an "artist" of any hobby or skill that you love.

"All gardening is landscape painting" - Alexander Pope

Gardens really are blank canvases from which we can imagine, create, plant, grow and bask in the final picture. There are so many options and combinations out there to play with. There's cottage gardens, tropical, conceptual, cactus, modern, traditional, herb gardens - the list goes on and on. There are so many ways to go about bringing a vision to life. As a gardener, you unconsciously look at  the whole picture and see what can be. You think about how to reach your vision. What will it take? Who can help you reach your artistic vision? You work with what you have (resources) to create something that will benefit and wow others.
 If you still doubt that you are an "artist" Consider some of the top traits of a successful artist (below along with a few of my own): Top 10 qualities of a great artist

  • Awareness of audience: Who are you reaching out to (other than yourself)?
  • Eye for design
  • Creativity
  • Humility
  • Knowledge of materials
  • Passion
  • Vision
  • Inner motivation
  • Have a plan
  • Don't give up!

Do these traits sound a bit familiar? They should. No matter what your purpose in life or your current focus -

You are an artist. These traits are ingrained within you. Guess what? Is leadership any different? Are leaders not artists as well? Don't leaders look at a canvas and imagine what can be and how to get there? You bet!

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere" - Albert Einstein

Photo Courtesy of Moises Rivera via Compfight

Like gardeners and artists, leaders unwittingly use artistic skills every day. We should treat our role like a fragile work of art. We look at the "canvas" before us as a new venture. We imagine and plan how to make the canvas come to life. How to make all the "elements" work together to empower others and further team success. What are the best materials to use (our people) and how can we help them make a difference on our canvas?

 Leaders strive to bring out the best in our people. We can be instrumental in molding them into masterpieces that contribute to the "piece" of art (vision) that we have before us. Leaders bring out the passion in others, we are visionary, not afraid to try something new. We are alive, engaged, curious, and aware. We bring that to our "art" and include our people in the end result. We share our canvas and want everyone to be a successful part of our overall masterpiece - our team.

No matter what kind of leader you are, you ARE an artist! You CAN help create something vibrant with impact. You HAVE the ability to pick up a "canvas" and LEAD through your art. Get out there and lead today. Sculpt something that will make a difference in the lives of others.

YOU ARE AN ARTIST....What will you do starting  right now?