Robots, Creativity, & Confidence

“I’m not very creative.”  I cannot possibly count the number of times I have said or thought this statement in my lifetime. When asked on the spot for ideas, I often feel as though I don’t have anything unique enough to bring to the table and thus neglect to share.  I’ve been reflecting on the recent article about the confidence gap between men and women, and how this lack of confidence is detrimental to women’s success.  This particular quote stood out to me:

“Perfectionism is another confidence killer. Study after study confirms that it is largely a female issue, one that extends through women’s entire lives. We don’t answer questions until we are totally sure of the answer, we don’t submit a report until we’ve edited it ad nauseam, and we don’t sign up for that triathlon unless we know we are faster and fitter than is required.”

I have experienced these perfectionist feelings constantly not only in my career, but my personal life as well, going through countless hobbies, DIY projects, even sports – just because I felt like I wasn’t good enough at them to be successful.  I held back on experiences because I wasn’t confident enough in my own abilities.

I’m here to challenge that today.  Since embarking on my DIY journey, I’ve used power tools, learned painting techniques, installed door hardware, hung frames, and more.  Starting a major creative project at home that doesn’t involve student development, service learning, or anything work-related, has made an incredible impact on my confidence in my work, at home or in the office.  As I was contemplating a blog post about this (and an awesome robot puzzle project, which I’ll get to in a second), I stumbled across this article about how being creative outside of work actually makes workers more productive, as well as provides them opportunities to restore and fulfill themselves. Researchers said this, which spoke to me:

“A lot of organizations carve time out where they talk about physical heath and exercise and eating habits, but they can also include in that a discussion of mental health and the importance of recovery and creative activity,” he said.

Physical health and exercise are both important.  However, I feel the need to ask: when do we make time to pursue our hobbies outside of fitness, especially if we spend all our spare time working?  How does this lack of creative work affect us, if these projects are making us more productive and more relaxed?  Shoutout to those writing books or creating art; it’s harder than it looks.  It has taken a lot of time and practice (about six months now) for me to develop confidence in my creative abilities, and this blog has been one of the best places for me to share my love for DIY, as well as express my professional opinions.  I can have a life outside of work, and it’s making me a better professional, a happier person, and an even better gift-giver. Let’s time travel to the moment I realized how important my creative outlet is to me.

About a week ago, I was shopping for a birthday present for a colleague of mine at Michaels.  I recognize that when shopping for a 26-year-old’s birthday gift, a craft store is not normally the first choice, but it’s my go-to for awesome finds.  I stumbled across this beauty for $1.20: a robot, alien, and superhero puzzle.

Puzzle2

While I picked it up, I thought, “this is awesome – and cheap”, but I put it back on the shelf.  After a few minutes of perusing, a creative lightbulb turned on, and I thought about how great this would look in a frame mounted on my friend’s wall.  He has a love for superheroes and comics, and I have a love for personalized DIY projects, so this was a win-win.  A brief conversation with the custom framing staff taught me that it would be way too expensive and time consuming to wait for the perfect frame.  So, I scooped up a shadowbox, some Elmer’s glue, and went home to finish the job.

Puzzle3

I was so proud to frame this puzzle and give it as a gift to someone who truly deserved to be the beneficiary of my creative process.  The next time I think to myself, “I’m not that creative”, I’m going to think of this puzzle and how robots gave me confidence (aww, I’m such a cheesy nerd).

Puzzle6

What are your creative activities outside of work? I’d love to hear about them and how they’ve impacted you as a person or as a professional.

 

 

 

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What Tina Fey Taught Me

I’m three years late to the party, but on a long road trip to Baltimore this weekend, Dan (my husband) and I listened to Tina Fey’s Bossypants audiobook.  It was my first audiobook experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending six hours with Tina (especially because Dan was there with me) as she spoke about the challenges facing a professional woman in today’s society.  At times, I imagined that it was me reading my own stories out loud (Tina, I just love squirrels that eat food with their hands! I also have no idea how to decide when to have kids and when to focus on my career! I’ve been asked that exact same question while stuffing my face with cake!).  Other times, I just listened and soaked in what Tina Fey taught me.

Bossypants

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”

Tina shared a story about how she casually joked in an informal dinner with a reporter friend that she would “leave Earth” if John McCain and Sarah Palin were elected to the White House.  It was interpreted seriously and blown out of proportion by the media, but Tina didn’t leave it out of her autobiography – she owned it.  Maybe she shouldn’t have said it out loud, maybe she shouldn’t have trusted her friend, but really: she did her thing, regardless of what anyone else thought.  It made me think instantly about times when I “humble bragged” on Facebook and some acquaintances rolled their eyes, or times when I tweeted something that was perceived as too emotional for my professional persona.  Maybe these behaviors were interpreted in a negative way, but that’s me: sometimes too proud, and sometimes too vulnerable for my own good.  I am owning it.

“This is what I tell young women who ask me for career advice. People are going to try to trick you. To make you feel that you are in competition with one another. “You’re up for a promotion. If they go for a woman, it’ll be between you and Barbara.” Don’t be fooled. You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone.”

I found Bossypants extremely valuable for the way that Tina addressed serious social issues through storytelling.  Rather than sharing statistics about gender equality, she used her life experiences to address the challenges that women face on a daily basis when it comes to being in a competitive career with men.  I particularly loved her perspective on body image and how women are constantly told to use what limited minutes they have in the day to look/act/be perfect.  In the spirit of dealing head on with societal pressures, I’m going to ‘fess up and admit that I actually Photoshopped my own Linked In profile picture (embarrassing, but true).  Thanks to Tina, now I’m questioning why I felt the need to do that in the first place.

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.”

This quote is perfect: visual, meaningful, and also pretty relevant to anyone who spent summers at a water park.  It brings me back to my one word resolution: do.  I can’t be waiting my turn on the slide any longer.  This goes for my personal life (DIY projects, blogging, health/fitness goals) and professional life (finding the next step in my career, developing supervisory skills, spearheading programs).  I’m going to go down the chute.  Something embarrassing could happen on the way down, I could get a few elbow burns, and the chute might take me down some dark and scary tunnels.  But if Tina can go down the slide, so can I.

That’s what Tina Fey taught me.

Hands On

For me, personal is the new professional.  Since participating in the fantastic Big Ideas in Higher Education conference almost two years ago, my outlook on professional development has completely changed.  I rarely benchmark my programs (moreso on Twitter than anywhere else!), I yawn through “best practices” workshops at conferences, and to be honest, I often don’t find professional development articles to be that interesting either.  Not to devalue any of these examples, but I truly learn the most from the personal: blogs, stories, TED talks, and most recently, looking inward and creating personal challenges for myself.  In the past month, I’ve embarked on multiple personal challenges that may or may not be considered professional, including #52in52 (reading 52 books in one year) and #100happydays (posting 100 pictures of things that bring me happiness for 100 days in a row).

That brings me to the title of this post, Hands On.  Of all the things that have brought me joy in the past six months since my wedding, the one that has benefited me the most, personally AND professionally, is my very first hobby: DIY.

DIY

I know what you’re thinking. Really?  You found your first hobby at age 27?  Sad, but true.  I’ve always been so focused on tasks, goal-setting, and my career, that I’ve actually never embarked on a hobby that was purely for my own enjoyment.  When the wedding dust settled and reality came crashing down around me, I knew it was time to get creative.

Embarking on my first DIY project helped me keep my hands (and mind!) busy while also creating a final, tangible product.  It’s enabled me to stretch my comfort zone by utilizing new tools and developing new skills.  In the past six months, I’ve changed door hardware, wallpapered a bookshelf, and arranged frame walls.  I’ve also become familiar with a screwdriver, learned painting techniques, and repurposed a windowframe from an old house into a piece of art.  That’s just scraping the surface.

Windowframe

What does this have to do with my personal or professional development?  Finding inspiration from others, creating visions for projects, and seeing them through from start to finish is relevant to any profession – whether it’s an event layout, social media strategy, or training program.  In addition, I’ve found that I am more skilled in balancing multiple projects, more confident in my creative abilities, and just generally happier when engaging in hands-on work in my spare time.

I can’t say enough about how much joy I have discovered through this hobby, especially in the spirit of “do” it yourself (there’s my pesky one word resolution again).  Even the simplest project has helped change my perspective.  I’m looking forward to sharing more of what I create on this blog, but I am already sharing through Twitter and Instagram, so you can see it for yourself in real time!