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How are you growing in your practice?

With spring in the air and shoots emerging from the cold, brown earth, my mind follows suit—I am thinking about growth and change! One of the ever-present areas of interest and practice is in honing my signature style…

What’s your signature style? What has been your journey in developing and refining it?

I think about this question in all areas of my work though I encounter it the most frequently when I am teaching visualization skills. Folks come into the bikablo courses I offer with the initial desire to learn how to do what they have seen in the books and online— literally the drawings and also the methodology which supports the development of their skills. As people progress, they want to make their work a reflection of themselves which to me, is a sign of their growing sophistication. When I’m asked about how they can develop their own style, I reflect on my journey.

What’s your foundation… what supports you? What are you building on?

I began drawing, for use in my training business, with the book, Beyond Words, by Millie Sonneman. As I remember it, she said if you can draw circles, squares, and triangles, you can draw just about anything well enough for people to recognize it. I took her at her word and started drawing on flip chart paper taped to the glass door separating my kitchen from the deck. I loved it—it was fresh, fun, expansive—it opened up another channel of communication for me.

Feeling that my initial work was good yet there was more to be learned, I started poking around online, (back in the late 1990’s) and discovered  Nancy Margulies. I studied how she created her drawings—to learn how she looked at things and started to imitate her style. Her approach was completely different than Millie’s in that she used swatches of color to create her figures. Nancy mentored me briefly and the experience moved me in a different direction—it was fantastic! I searched further and found Christina Merkley, ultimately taking courses with her for over a decade.

In 2016, I attended the IFVP conference and participated in two workshops delivered by the bikablo team of Frank Wesseler and Stefan Böker. I loved the simple approach supported by the structure and methodology—it made it easy to learn and achieve good results fast. Now almost 5 years later, I have become a Bikablo trainer. I’ve also worked hard, OK I have worked and played hard, to develop and use a style that is recognizable as mine in my work outside of teaching the Bikablo method. I have discovered that my digital work/play affords me better practice in sharpening and refining my style because it is so easy to make changes… though that is a double-edged sword because I’ve become more perfectionistic about my work with my Apple Pencil in hand.

How has repetition and persistent, consistent, practice helped you to evolve? In what ways, and in what situations, are you developing your signature style?

Here are a few examples of my own style over the past year or so… as you can see I am still “on the move” incorporating new ways of drawing, using color, experimenting with layouts, and lettering. It’s such fun!

How are you saying, “Yes!” to change and growth in your visualization practice?

If your future visualizing work could be any way you wanted it to be, what would it be? Maybe you’re all set with your signature style of drawing figures, icons, and graphical elements—maybe layout, new uses of color, or lettering are what’s up for you. Or maybe, there’s some other aspect of your work that you want to explore?

How will you be the agent of your own change?

If you’re looking for personalized support along the way, a partner on this journey, let’s have a cuppa coffee (or tea) and conversation over Zoom…

And, if you’re seeking a group coaching environment, to learn from others too, e-xtraklasse starts next week— I’d love to have you join this small coaching program that focuses on deepening your skills. Learn more here, reach out to me with your questions, and register here.

Appreciating Life!

I’ll be honest, last week was a tough one for me, my family and friends, for our nation, and for the world.

How did you cope effectively last week?

What tools do you have at the ready for times of challenge or distress?

Were you able to find glimmers of joy in your days?

I found that I needed to really lean into my Appreciative Inquiry practice. One of my favorite tools from the Appreciative Living Learning Circle I am hosting is the creation and use of “Goodness Glasses.” (I created my very tangible reminder with a pair of extra glasses, a hot glue gun, and beads.)

My glasses remind me and help me to choose where I focus my attention. While I acknowledge what is, I consciously decide to look for the positive or the good that may be well-hidden in the situation, challenge, or feeling that I am experiencing.

I’ve been sure to keep up with my gratitude list too. I devote five to seven minutes each morning to reflecting on the previous day. My list-making and contemplation keep me feeling grounded and fortunate. These are simple, quite easily accomplished, and relatively quick techniques—that is, in part, the charm of them. They buoy me up when things start feeling difficult, heavy or on the verge of overwhelming.

 

What do you do to re-direct your attention to awareness of what is going well for you?

In this new week, I’m doing a lot of visioning work and play. Whether it’s trying to imagine the future of this country and my place in it, the next 18 months of my business or the integration of AI into the lives of the women in the Appreciative Living Learning Circle, as we have our last session this week. The five principles of AI are almost always in my mind. I’ve been inspired to create visuals of each of the principles, to keep them foremost in our minds. Here are a few of those drawings.

Where are you in this moment?

Are you searching for more joy in your life, realizing that we find what we look for… and maybe there’s something to be learned about that seeking process? If so, I hope you will join the next circle I am hosting, beginning December 7th.

Here are the comments from participants in one of the circles…

I had no idea what to expect from the Appreciative Living Learning Circle, but I certainly wasn’t anticipating a material impact on my well-being so quickly. In just a few short weeks I find myself far better equipped (and likely) to access the power of gratitude even in challenging moments. It’s a game-changer!      L. Clark

These Appreciative Living learning circles have been delightful. It’s almost magical how this simple process illuminates the many moments of joy that otherwise easily go unnoticed. I realize now that I’ve generally thought of joy and happiness as something to achieve – a destination to reach – rather than a state of mind/body feeling that is genuinely accessible in almost any moment of my day. Thank you, Jill, for facilitating this transformative experience for us!       S. Steigerwaldt

You can find details about the circle on my calendar. And please, reach out to me with your questions about Appreciative Living, the circles, and the AI coaching that I offer.

The Double-Edged Sword of Our Strengths

Ahhhh, It’s happened again! My strength of creativity* had wreaked a wee bit of havoc in my schedule… because it’s also my weakness.

As I am seeking to continuously enhance and add value to how I deliver my bikablo trainings, I decided to explore some new mobile elements. We use that term for items that can be added, moved, and removed when creating charts for graphic recording, graphic facilitating, and training. The elements might be sticky notes that are rather ordinary, such as squares or circles, or cute, such as thought bubbles or punctuation marks, or that might be handcrafted.

What’s your process for augmenting or refining your existing processes or materials?

In all transparency, when I made a color error choice on my mobile elements explanatory chart, making the giant hands yellow instead of creamy beige. (Note to self, pay close attention to colors when working at night.) I felt compelled to fix my chart rather than begin again as I LOVED the hands I had drawn. So the hands were transformed from lemon yellow to Hulk green. In my defense, it IS almost Halloween…

What do you do when you’ve made a significant error? Does it depend on the project and/or the error? Or do you have a general way of responding to a challenge?

The next morning, just a few hours before the training, I looked at my chart and decided that it lacked a certain “something”… I wandered down another path. I started thinking of witches and spider webs, bats, and broomsticks. I wondered about what other mobile elements I could create quickly and easily. I began thinking of the bikablo icons that I teach all the time and got down to work! Ultimately my chart gained a spiderweb and a third hand—a little creepy, no? I did have visions of creating a witch on a broomstick but I never got there because I got sidetracked again!The creativity bug had bitten me once more and I was thinking, “Oh I love what I’ve seen a few other people within the bikablo community, and Brandy Agerback do with mobile elements/collateral. And, that’s something that I can create quickly and easily. My deadline for the class was looming!

My mind went back to the 2017 IFVP conference in Decatur, Georgia, when Greg Whicker taught me how to make giant structures with foam core, a hot knife, and tape. We had so much fun! I dug out some foam core, then started thinking, well, while this will be fun, it’s going to take more time than if I could use a different backing material for my large hand-drawn icons. I started thinking of posterboard or cardstock , and of course, found some easily in my stash of paper supplies. I thought a little further, using my creativity and logical skills together, as I watched the clock tick, and realized that I didn’t need to make exactly the same forms of the backing material but I could use something smaller and faster.

How do you assess the value of the changes you make—whether that’s starting from scratch again or finding ways to work with the mistakes made?

I am totally delighted with the goodies and I have created and I can’t wait to make more. They bring me joy just looking at them! They are so fun and easily express what I want to get across.

So as you can imagine, I used these new darlings in class and shared short stories of when and how I had seen others use these tools, such as my colleague, Iulian Olariu from bikablo. He uses simple file cards to write and draw messages, and then shows them to people during online trainings. They’re fresh, encouraging, and really boost the energy.

How do you make time to reflect on the entire process you have used (whether actively chosen or fallen into)?

While I felt pressure to complete my task in time for the session, the steps of imagining, designing, developing, and delivering were exhilarating. The fact that I could step back long enough to alter my design and shorten the development process was unusual for me—I usually dive into pursuing my first idea. This experience felt like a step forward in my own development. I created time and mental space to pause so that I could reconsider and adjust—when the deadline was quickly approaching. I will remember this experience and consciously work to replicate it!

It was so much FUN and very effective!

What do you know about your strengths and how they show up in your life?

If you’re interested in exploring your strengths and learning more about how to use them to make your life easier, contact me. As a graduate of Dr. Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness Coaching Program, I LOVE to work with people to leverage their strengths to meet their needs, desires, and challenges.

* (as revealed by the Brief Strengths test at www.authentichappiness.com). It’s one of my favorite resources!

Practice makes perfect… I think not!

What do you think?

I’m no fan of that phrase or thinking.

  • What kind of practice?
  • Why do I need to make it perfect?

Perhaps a little context is needed here… I’m not a heart surgeon or a rocket scientist for NASA. If I were in either of those fields or a variety of others, then perfectionism might be a worthy trait… not so much in my work as a visual practitioner. Let me tell you how this plays out for me and then I hope you’ll let me know what you think.

I create visuals to teach people how to draw, capture course content (as a learner), make templates for my books and participants, and record presentations of conference speakers. Sharpening my skills through learning new techniques or taking a deeper dive into my existing technique is exciting to me. I always strive to do my best work, and for me, that means,

Persistent, consistent, and conscious practice makes progress

For me, being consistent and aware in my practice — looking at each time I take a stroke or make my favorite figure or create a layout, this is what leads to improving the quality of my work, increasing my speed.

In our bikablo training there’s a particular stroke for making two types of shadows that takes a good deal of practice for folks. And while I suggest that my students repeat the stroke A LOT—while in meetings or on hold on the phone or at other opportunities, I remind them to make each stroke consciously and learn from it.

What worked well? What needs work?

What are the elements to the experience and what needs to be fine-tuned—is it the position of the pen, the beginning, middle, and/or end of the stroke, the way they are holding their wrist?

How do you plan for improving/strengthening your technique and your work? What conscious practices do you consistently embrace to hone your craft? I have a colleague who is FABULOUS at blending pastels… Just below is an example of my playing/experimenting with pastels and learning the technique that gives me the results that I seek.

I find that placing myself in a learning context for improvement is the biggest boost I can give my skills. And while I can’t take classes every week, I can choose wisely from the existing opportunities, so that I continue to grow.

What does your professional development plan include? What courses, books, study groups, 1:1 coaching or other means are you using to continue your journey?

 

For those of you who have taken a bikablo class and are seeking to deepen your skills, the E-xtraklasse, a ten-session Small group coaching journey offers … The journey begins in September… you can learn more about it here or get In touch with me.

If 1:1 coaching for a project or a series of sessions is more your appetite, let’s have a conversation!

Whatever options you choose to level up your performance, I say,

 

Be persistent, consistent, and conscious in your practice!

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Paste, glue, rubber cement…. Making learning stick!

In what ways do you lock in your learning and have ready access to it all the time?

I’ve been pondering this critical question of late—for me and for the participants in my bikablo training programs.

The most urgent concerns I hear from participants at the end of the bikablo Basics training courses is about assimilating the new skills into their everyday lives. Participants wonder about how to consistently and consciously practice their visual thinking skills. My answer is always the same… first I say,

Use your skills every day in every way!

  • Goal setting—for yourself and/or with others
  • Planning for a meeting or a piece you are writing
  • Capturing ideas, questions, decisions, plans in a meeting
  • Creating templates for training, facilitation experiences, and coaching sessions
  • Reflecting on a meeting, strategy session
  • Drawing in your journal instead of writing
  • Buddy up! Get clear on what you want to learn/do/apply and find a companion for that journey

Reflecting & drawing about how to use my visualizing skills in my work.

Clearly, this part of my answer is task-oriented/tactical—making it easier to get their arms around it… the second part of the answer is more strategic and gets at how we do what we do in our lives.

My friend & colleague, Julia Curtis and I are working our way through Making Comics, by Lynda Barry.

Make time and space in your everyday routines to draw!

While it sounds simple—the suggestion is deceptively complex. It requires changing ingrained habits… those things that become like barnacles on our minds!

We have conversations about ways to enhance their existing habits and create behavior change. I suggest The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg… and yet, weeks later, in an email, at our  North America Alumni Graphic Jam, or in passing at a virtual conference, I hear the longing from alumni to better leverage their skills.

 

 

Meeting participants’ needs and my own desires in one fell swoop!

Last week I completed the Train-the-Trainer course new bikablo training, e-xtraklasse, because I want to take folks deeper into their own learning, beyond the basics, AND I want them to integrate it into their everyday lives. 

A shot of my micro-teaching during the e-xtraklasse

In wanting to support my participants in consistently accessing their skills, I have turned to offering bikablo’s e-xtraklasse and “1:1” coaching. The former is a deep dive into strengthening their skills, learning from others, and being tasked with homework during the 10 session program. E-xtraklasse is the right fit for those wanting a small group coaching environment, and, for those desiring one to one attention and or needing/wanting confidentiality around a project.

You can learn more about these new offerings on my site, here.