conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation


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Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

January 28, 2015 at 9:34 am

We’re All In Construction

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We build every day with actions and words

Sometimes our work is purposeful.

Sometimes we build walls with ice.

Sometimes we build walls with ice.

Sometimes we joke that our habits and actions and speech patterns amount to nothing. But that is false: if nothing else, what we do and say affects us. And there is no telling the power of example and well-placed words in the circles we travel.

Don’t think for a second you are not building.




Image credits: Kirk Livingston

Lift and Separate (Copywriting Tip #12)

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An idea is a new combination of old elements

This part comes after.

After the interviews and after reading the transcripts, after absorbing the journal articles and revisiting the notes from discussions with various experts. After taking in as much as you can, there is the sitting-back and ordering of facts and impressions.

Maybe you use an outline. Maybe you use index cards. Maybe you use a mind map or a white-board. Maybe you draw figures or icons on the back of corporate memos. But this is an essential creative exercise: sorting through and lifting up what keeps coming to the top. This creative exercise is about identifying and corralling the really important stuff. The stuff that simply must be transmitted.


Take steps to see more.


A shortcut to this essential phase is a conversation. If a colleague interrupts you with “What’s that project about?” The first three things out of your mouth—those things worth remarking on aloud—those three things need to find their way into the copy. Often they become the main topics.

Sometimes I’ll just start writing to see what I say. Give yourself 10 minutes to answer “What is this about?” and you will come close to producing an outline for the piece.

Or you can write a letter to a smart ten-year-old. Molding an idea into a simplified (but not simplistic) presentation has a clarifying effect.

The point is that your mind needs to find a grapple with myriad  facts and figures and impressions and data—to sort minor from major and to begin to find the story that makes sense to you and to your target audience.

I like the wide-open blank page aspect of this exercise. I also like that brand new stuff presents itself during the exercise:

…an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.

–James W. Young, A Technique for Producing Ideas (NY: Thinking Ink Media, 2011)



Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

January 26, 2015 at 9:06 am

For Some, The Past is Still Present

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One Wall in North America’s Only Walled City



This art wall reminds me of Wendell Berry’s The Memory of Old Jack.


Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

January 23, 2015 at 9:22 am

“6 things I learned after drawing 319 drawings in 4 months and 13 days”

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Especially #6. Buy Why Does #2 Work?

I follow One Drawing Daily in my attempts to produce my own Dumb Sketch Daily. But whether you’ve made it a point to draw or paint or sketch or shoot photos (or write essays or verse or reflections) there are some curious things about developing and sharing daily habits.


Read One Drawing Daily’s whole post (please!) but I’m particularly interested in #6: “Draw whatever you feel like.” Much of art—like much of life—seems to be about absorbing the sensibilities of the taste-makers among us. Critics, media, famous artists. Famous people who are famous for being famous. There is a subtle pressure to like what they like and do what they do. But uniformity is not the great thing about the human condition. One of the great things about the human condition is that we all have a slightly different take on things. I love seeing different people’s perspectives. And developing your own perspective takes time and attention. But out of the habit of time and attention come a point of view.

And #2 still enthralls me: “Share everything you do!” How is it that the simple act of sharing something can have so much impact? It’s true with writing, true with making dumb sketches. It’s true with our ordinary conversations and when we confess some secret to someone else. It’s true with my clients: as they come to understand the power of sharing expertise and passion, all sorts of things start to happen in their business. It’s still shrouded in mystery for me, this sharing thing, but I’m pretty sure it triggers something in us that simultaneously wakes us up and fine-tunes consciousness.

What habits are you building?


Image credit: One Drawing Daily

Written by kirkistan

January 22, 2015 at 8:47 am

Here’s the Story of a Man Named Quady

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Who was living with three alloys of his own

Yesterday I met Quady* for coffee. I was impressed all over again by the executive function of his brain: how he seems to effortlessly order complicated systems and businesses and talented people and even his own life. Quady** told me how he was weaving consulting with business acumen with creativity. I could not help but be impressed with the forward motion the guy exuded.

…and here’s the dumb sketch you ordered.

…and here’s the dumb sketch you ordered.

In fact, it was about ten years ago I met Quady at (yet) another Dunn Brothers on another side of Minneapolis to talk about how he grew the business he was running at that time. He was president of a firm that placed creative people in creative positions and his firm was on fire (that is, busy). At the time he gave me some solid advice which I resisted for years until embracing it fully: make a daily/weekly habit of reaching out to make contact with varieties of people.

And listen to them.

These days Quady is weaving together a consulting life that draws on his outsized executive function and his creativity plus a desire to walk alongside people. He’s a kind of CEO-for-hire and he’s currently working some high-level gigs. It’s the melding of these three threads that seems to open doors for him: the organizing gene plus the creative gene plus the people-smarts gene. Because he understands the moving parts of business, he can give solid, real-world advice to people. He gives the kind of advice that encourages from some deep place: the sort of advice like,

“Look. You’ve got this. It’s a stretch, but you can do it.”

And who doesn’t want to hear that?


Dumb sketch: Kirkistan

*Not his real name.

**His real name was Markothy.


What hope looks like.

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Maybe something like this.


Minnesota friends–think back–can you recall “Spring”?


Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

January 20, 2015 at 7:43 am


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