The Secret Art of Business
This blog was written by Catherine Lang-Cline of Portfolio Creative for the Small Giants Community blog. To learn more about Portfolio Creative, a staffing and recruiting company specializing in marketing talent, click here.
People thought I was a bit crazy to give up a great marketing career to start a staffing company. Still, as a lifelong creative person, corporate designer, and occasional freelancer, I could do more as an advocate for people like me. What I discovered later was that my mission was even more significant. I stumbled upon a secret other business leaders also use to live a more fulfilled life. A life that is less stressful, more joyful, and allows them to lead lives they want. The secret is reengaging with the passion you had before somebody told you to get a job.
My story starts like many others, but specifically, as a child, I did a lot of right-brained activities. We all did. We did imaginary play. We rode bikes. We played board games. We got into the dirt. But I remained an art kid, got a marketing degree, and even had a 15-year career in marketing and design. Fast forward a few decades, and I have a multi-million dollar business that serves my community. This made me pause and ask, how does a small-town girl with a degree in the fine arts get to this level in her career? Maybe it was the art?
Most people were instructed from a young age that math, science, tech, etc., were the keys to success. Invest all of your time in your left brain. Meanwhile, the right side strengths of art, innovation, and creativity were viewed as things associated with hobbies. Because I was acknowledged as an artist at a young age, I always kept my brain’s left and right sides firing and embraced any opportunity to do something “artsy.” I discovered that many admired entrepreneurs and business leaders have been doing the same. This gave me the following theory. What if everything you want in life comes from the equal use of both sides of your brain?
Is what we were taught entirely wrong?
Society puts a lot of weight on having left-brain strength as a key to success, and right-brained activities are seen as a luxury. What if we equaled the playing field? What if we allowed both sides of our brain to lead us to the life we want? Getting up from a chair is much easier if we use both legs, so why not both sides of our brain?
Let’s start by refreshing ourselves on what each side of our brain offers. The brain is more complicated than illustrated here. Still, for the most part, the left side of our brain specializes in things like analysis, logic, and essentially STEM (science, tech, engineering, and math) activities. It is where our drive is and all of the facts that we know about ourselves. The right side is mainly known for its creativity, the maker of things, and imagination. Simplifying it helps us quickly see where most of us spend most of our time. We are told that those left skills are the ones that can get us paid and help us survive, while using our imagination or making something with our hands is a less valuable skill set.
People living their best lives use almost equal amounts of creativity and logic. They are the storytellers, the creative problem solvers, and the experience creators. Think about some of the Visionaries constantly innovating and imaginative in problem-solving. They are the ones that have bold careers and businesses, and the formula for you to do the same is to re-ignite your creativity. Don’t feel like you are creative? Nonsense. You have a right side to your brain, but you probably were not encouraged to use it for business. You can change that.
The best ideas happen when we are not working.
Have you ever had a brilliant idea while showering or walking? This is the simplest form of the right side taking over and being allowed to speak. You are not working or calculating but feeling the water or air and having a quiet mind. What if we lean more into that concept? On my podcast, The Secret Art of Business®, I ask every person, “What did you do as a child that was fun before someone told you that you had to get serious and get to work?” Ask yourself the same question without any judgment. This is your passion, creative outlet, or moments of freedom. It could be playing games or riding bikes. Think of one or two or more of those things and figure out how to incorporate ten minutes of doing that into your day. It won’t be the exact thing; relatively, the concept of doing something with your hands, making something, creating something, visualizing an entire life, or feeling free. The goal is to get that part of you working on full power again so you can start simple. Once you recapture your guilt-free power, you can apply creative thinking to your business.
Let’s change up your day. What if you stopped working in the middle of the day or at the end of the day and went for a bike ride? What if you hopped on a swing, arranged flowers, cooked a meal from scratch, colored a picture, or explored your backyard? How would that feel? Doing activities like these are more important than we have been allowed to think that they are. Our brains crave this, and you might notice that you have been trying to fulfill this by binge-watching, shopping, drinking, or other activities that activate feelings. The craving is so real that in 2022, a study by a team at the University of Michigan published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the more hours a person works at a stressful job each week, the more their risk of depression increases. We are working hard, and we are desperate. Working long hours does not deliver what we want. Thinking differently does. Here are some examples of how entrepreneurs and business leaders have evolved their childhood passions into something valuable as an adult:
- Barbies and tea parties have turned into building experiences for customers.
- Writing in a journal or diary has built their storytelling skills.
- Sports of all sorts fine-tune their team-building and strategy skills.
- The kids who rode bikes around the neighborhood were the best at networking.
Do any of those activities resonate with you? What did you do as a child that you can refashion as a business skill?
Self-care is different for all of us.
We are constantly told to relax and put time into self-care. The idea of meditating, yoga, walks, etc., may work for some people, but self-care and relaxation could also be something you stopped doing long ago and bringing it back will not only be more powerful, but you will find joy in doing so. You will be consistent because you love doing it. The hardest part is breaking old habits and beliefs. This exercise will illustrate very simply how our brains communicate with us, assuming that each part of our brains is indeed in charge of certain activities.
Bullies, besties, and how they are in all of us.
Let’s start with the fact that we all have been told that if we want success, we must work hard. The best way to dispel this discipline is by giving a voice to this behavior, and this voice resides on the left side of our brains. That left side has two parts: a thinking and an emotional part. Our right side has a thinking and emotional side, too, but has less opportunity to speak freely if the left is louder with its discipline.
As you read these following two bullets, think of a person these characteristics could represent. It could be a real or fictional person: a coach or family member. I’ll share mine to illustrate the exercise.
- Left thinking is driven, detailed, judgemental, analytical, and knows every scenario taken in our past and future. For me, this is Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones. I am where I am today with her drive and responsibility. Who is this person for you?
- Left emotional is fear-based, cautious, doubts, and manipulates. Sue Sylvester from Glee represents my inner voice here. Maybe for you, it is a friend or parent?
This side, these two, wakes us up, gets us working, slays daily, and keeps us out of trouble. But sometimes, all that noise can also build fear in us to grow, keep us in our comfort zone, or keep us stuck in the grind.
Now read these two bullets and do the same thing: think of the people they represent to you.
- Right thinking is visual, compassionate, and open to possibilities. Phoebe from Friends fits this role for me best.
- Right emotions are honesty, fearlessness, gratitude, and creativity. Dolly Parton represents this for me. Who is your big-hearted, creative person who is constantly reinventing?
Photo credit to Wikipedia
This is where we think bigger, create new ideas and things, and handle all our creative problem-solving.
Imagine all those characters you assigned to these traits sitting together and running your life. Who is talking the most? Who is sitting quietly? Who is giving you imposter syndrome? Who has been wanting to speak for a while? To be fulfilled in business and life, you must change the conversation and have everyone contribute. And I am willing to bet that parts of you have been waiting since childhood to speak up again.
We can grow fully when we give less time to our driven or fearful characteristics. Our minds can process new ideas and solutions. It is not thinking about how to work harder, and it is not thinking about how something is impossible. It is being free to create and find a path. Leaning into this strengthens your whole brain, a more natural activity, making you feel more significant. Getting more practice with your creative side will allow you to expand into your branding, marketing, storytelling, and creativity. Will this make you the next Picasso? No. At least not right away. It will help you see yourself more clearly and rediscover your skills or purpose. The goal is to re-ignite that right side so you can visualize, think bigger, and grow out of where you are now. Are you already in a creative field? You, too, need to step out of the day-to-day and think about what inspires you. For example, this was the first time I had held a paintbrush in years that was not connected to a house painting project. But I challenged myself and finally painted the koi fish painting I’ve wanted to do for years. Can I monetize this skill? Sure. But mostly, it allowed me the opportunity to go deep into my creativity as well as the space to problem-solve something in my business.
Grant yourself the time. It is how we are built.
You will notice that the more you couple the right and left sides of your brain, the more you see change. You may figure out a better way to do a task in your job. You may strategize on how to get to the next level in what you are doing. You can write out your purpose and figure out how to get there. Or you could build an outlet to escape your workload and recharge.