“I can’t do it” never yet accomplished anything; “I will try” has performed wonders. -George P. Burnham
Last week I went to a conference called West Coast Green in San Francisco. The focus on the conference is green innovation for the built environment (homes, suburbs, cities, etc.) I came away totally inspired by the speakers. Not just what they said, but the way they were thinking through really big and scary challenges in front of them.
It also brought me to a realization about myself: I have become a lazy thinker. There are many situations – politics, math, technology (especially when it is not working right) where I try to avoid engagement, I hide behind something like “I am an artist, I am not supposed to know/care about this”. I started out the conference thinking, as an artist, I am not sure what I can bring to the discussions on greening our cities. What impressed me about the conference was the diversity of backgrounds of the speakers, who were engaging in solving big questions, that required knowledge of -or at least engagement with – a host of disciplines. A theme that came up in the conference was how we can learn from the diversity found in nature. Diversity of thought given to a problem can strengthen the solution. It’s easy to sit off to one side as say, what does this have to do with me? I can’t do this. That shuts off all opportunity of growth in the community, as well as personal growth. “I will try…” Wow, the door is open.
I always felt like I did not get a strong basic education. I question whether this story is true, or if I adopted it because I was afraid I was not very smart and needed a good excuse. My husband can do mental math like nobody’s business, something I never learned. It makes me jealous. The good news is, now with my children in 1st and 3rd grade, I am enjoying getting a second education vicariously, through their homework. I am really impressed with how they teach math these days. Both my children have about two pages of math worksheets each night, with maybe 10 problems. They introduce a new concept, and then quiz them on their understanding of that concept in 5 or 6 different ways. Visually (draw a picture), by estimating, with a word problem, with algebra (rewriting the problem in a new way, with the unknown in a different position), and by presenting the same concept in different formats. I think it is brilliant! I can imagine that as they grow up, they won’t be thrown off by the form of the question, they will have so much experience with seeing ideas expressed a variety of ways.
Two books I have enjoyed recently on learning: Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin and Mindset by Carol Dweck. Both these books point to the importance of embracing challenge. They have both inspired me to spend more time in the uncomfortable space of not knowing, but being willing to take on the challenge.
During the West Coast Green Conference, once I resolved to begin thinking of my business and life plans from a bigger lens, I had all sorts of new ideas. I am in the middle of sprucing up my garden, and I realized I wanted to go with all native plants, so I can see caterpillars and butterflies, birds and bees play in my yard. I decided that rather than just reproducing my art on “green” wallpaper, I could take it a step further, and put wildflower seeds in the paper so you could mulch and plant the artwork when it’s life as wall art was done. I am inspired to focus my custom mural business on large scale nature scenes, first of all because that is what I love to paint most, and it is also a great way to celebrate and nurture a love of nature in urban settings. My new target: To be the Wyland of the terrestrial world.
Who knows, maybe next time my computer throws me an error screen, I will try to fix it myself instead of throwing up my hands and moving to something else until my husband can fix it. I think my husband would concur: that would be a welcomed miracle!
Here is my latest painting: