Alan Alda once said: “Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory. Be brave enough to live life creatively.”
The above quote is serving as our inspiration this month and some interesting ground has been covered by various voices.
In all honesty, I have been focused on the first line of the quote and am just now looking at the second line, which I regret because it is a powerful and thought-provoking sentence. Here are my admittedly random thoughts around bravery and creativity.
Be Brave Enough
What does the word brave stir in you, aside from that wonderful Sara Bareilles song? Being brave may mean many things, depending on the context and the person.
For some people, just letting go and sliding down a short distance to the ground is brave, indeed. For others, the feat they accomplish has to be almost superhuman, such as those who climb vertical cliffs with only their hands to keep them safe.
Bravery involves both acts of commission and omission by leaders. Sometimes the leader should say what needs to be said and act when action is needed. At other times, we lead best by what we do not say and what we do not do.
For example, when confronting inappropriate behavior by an employee based on stereotypes or prejudicial beliefs, we must confront that behavior immediately, clearly, and with an eye toward eliminating that behavior.
Yet, as we confront the behavior, we do not say some things we might feel inside, related to the value of the employee or their intentions. We commit to action regarding the behavior, but omit any reference to the reasons or allow the confrontation to taint the employee. We walk a delicate line sometimes.
Live Life Creatively
Okay, the live life part is easy enough. We all live our lives, we just do not do so in the same ways. Some people feel you need to be stimulated continuously physically, psychologically, or both, in order to feel alive. Others feel fully alive while quietly enjoying the gentle summer breeze or staring at a starry universe in the dark of the night.
Don’t be one of those who say “get outside and do something” at every opportunity. We are doing something when we are still and quiet, as our mind reflects on relationships, issues, or just how pleasant the moment is.
Of course, you miss much of the best life has to offer, if you only sit and passively observe. Don’t be one who allows life to go by with minimal engagement. Go for a balance.
As a leader, I believe we have to strike a balance and model different behaviors at different times.
As the Bible says:
“To everything, there is a season, and a purpose under the heaven.”~ Ecclesiastes 3
Sometimes we act and sometimes we observe.
Now About That Creatively Part
What does it mean to live creatively? Creativity is one of those attributes that some think is only the purview of a talented few. The gifted artist or performer who can do things most of us do not even think of doing. That is a kind of creativity.
Another type of creativity is that displayed by the leader who dares to try a new way, to say things that have not been said before, to risk based on an intuitive thought. Anyone who leads effectively is probably pretty creative.
Ever try to figure out a way to tell someone else news which affects them, will not be welcome, and yet must be absorbed and dealt with?
If you have, you are definitely creative, especially if you pay attention to current neuroscience, which appears to be telling us that simply demanding a person do what you want or suffer consequences only speaks to our reptilian brains.
The person you want to do what you ask of them is now busy figuring out how to stay safe in what they experience as a threatening situation. To activate a person’s neo-cortex, you have to get very creative with how you interact with them.
Thinking about unexplored territory, a thought strikes me. Every single minute of every single day of our lives is unexplored territory, until we live it.
In other words, simply living our lives and trying to make the best of things constitutes an act both of ongoing bravery and of continuous creativity.