So a few weeks back, maybe a month ago now, I started practicing graphic recording tools and techniques in order to bone up for bringing graphic facilitation to my corporate and organizational workshops.
I even made a special Pinterest board, just for my Visual Practice stuff.
Now, my gremlins are pretty loud and nasty, so they didn’t hold back telling me all the ways that my “flip chart sketch notes” fell short of what I wanted them to be.
And because I’ve been following all sorts of masters of the field of graphic recording and graphic facilitation, my standards are pretty high, I admit.
So it came as a huge surprise when people started giving me all sorts of positive feedback on what felt to me like pretty feeble efforts.
But hey, it also felt really validating!
Then an interesting thing happened. Not only did I get positive feedback in the form of likes and comments, but some people actually asked if I could make sketchnotes for their business/podcast/whatever, and how much I’d charge.
This really threw me for a loop!
My first reaction was a knee-jerk “No way! I’m not ready! I’m not good enough!”
But then I realized that this was my own fear talking. And if they think my work is good enough to hand over a credit card, then it sure as shootin’ is good enough, no matter what I or my gremlins might think about it.
After all, value is in the eye of the holder of the wallet.
But what was really fascinating was how the mere prospect of doing the same activity for someone else started to change my relationship to the activity.
Commerce has a way of doing that. I’m not saying it has to, but in my experience, money changes things.
In my case, I noticed myself starting to feel rebellious. I didn’t want to pick up my markers so much anymore.
This thing I’d been super excited about, that I couldn’t wait to do each day, was starting to feel like a chore. And I didn’t even have a real client yet!
Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation
This reminds me of my conversation with Paul McCarthy last week, when we briefly touched on the topic of extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation.
In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (aff link – or click here for a non-aff link), Daniel Pink does a deep dive on this subject (it’s well worth a read — super interesting stuff!)
One of the stories I remember about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation is a study I first learned about in college, that actually happened in the early 1970s at the Bing Nursery School, the lab school at Stanford University (where my mom was a Head Teacher for over 25 years).
Dr. Mark R. Lepper, Chairman of Stanford’s Psychology Department, designed a series of studies to explore “Intrinsic Motivation, Extrinsic Motivation, and the Process of Learning.”
Here’s an excerpt from bingschool.stanford.edu: (from https://bingschool.stanford.edu/news/mark-lepper-intrinsic-motivation-extrinsic-motivation-and-process-learning):
…Over a three-week period, during the first hour of each class, the teachers put out on one particular table in front of the one-way observation mirrors a new activity—magic markers and drawing paper. Each day, when the children arrived during free play time, this was one of the many choices they had.
From behind the one-way mirror, the researchers could measure how much time during these free play periods each of the children chose to spend with this activity as opposed to others. The participants selected for the study were only those children who showed a high level of interest in the activity—in other words, children who were already intrinsically motivated. [Emphasis mine.]
Then, each of those children was taken into one of the game rooms, where they were asked to engage in the same activity under three different conditions. Under one condition, a reward was offered; the child saw in advance the “Good Player” Award with its line for their name and agreed to draw with the magic markers in order to get it. Under another condition, when the child finished their drawing, they were unexpectedly given a reward. In the third group, children neither expected nor received any tangible reward, but did receive the same feedback on their work as the other children.
Two weeks later, the teachers again put out the magic markers in the classroom. From behind the one-way mirrors, the experimenters observed how much time the children chose to spend with the activity, when there was no longer any tangible reward available.
What happened? The children who had contracted to receive the “Good Player” award showed significantly less interest — in fact, half as much — as they had before the study. So, contracting for a reward to do this initially interesting and attractive activity subsequently had a negative effect on their interest. The misuse of rewards or the use of superfluous awards undermined intrinsic interests, turning an attractive activity into something the child would only want to do if there was a payoff. [Emphasis mine.]
Later studies varied conditions and rewards, but, the same basic effect was always noted — children expecting the reward during the experimental session showed less subsequent interest in the classroom and less interest than they had initially. In a related group of studies, the same effect was found when children had to complete activities under tight time deadlines. And in yet another related study, children’s art teachers were asked to rate the creativity, quality, and interest value of the paintings done during the experiments and found that children who were expecting the reward drew more pictures but of lower average quality. [Emphasis mine.]
This is exactly what I feel happening with me!
And it is exactly what happened with me 20+ years ago, after I fell in love with the art of calligraphy, and then turned it into my business.
Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Have To, Or Should
A couple of weeks ago, I was on a weekly call with my WAM buddies (WAM stands for Weekly Accountability Meeting). We have been meeting regularly for close to a year now, and these two ladies have been a godsend, helping encourage me onward when I’m feeling low, give me reality checks, and provide much-needed external accountability to get me to follow through on commitments I would otherwise probably let slide, if I were only on the hook to myself.
(I am what Gretchen Rubin would call an Obliger, as shown in these Visual Shownotes™ from the Jordan Harbinger show: like most of the population, I tend to meet outer expectations, but resist inner expectations, so external accountability works really well for me.)
When I shared my Visual Shownotes™ with my WAM buddies, their enthusiasm was infectious! They had all sorts of ideas for how these graphic creations could be great for my business.
All great ideas.
But what I’ve come to understand in the days since then, as I’ve sadly found myself less and less interested in getting to my flip charts, is that just because I’m hypothetically capable of doing something — or even good at it — doesn’t mean I have to do something.
And here’s the rub: just because I’m hypothetically capable of doing something — or even good at it — doesn’t mean I should do something.
It may seem like a good idea, but is it, really?
The answer to that question is more complicated than it may appear on first reflection.
I’m in another accountability partnership with a friend from my LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® community, and when we met on Skype last Sunday and I told her about my Visual Shownotes™, she very wisely asked me for three Whys: WHY do Visual Shownotes™? What does doing these Visual Notes™ give me and my business? Here’s what I said:
- They energize me
- They help people process and remember information
- They are a differentiator: they help people differentiate me from competitors
Such a great question! Answering it helped me clarify that doing Visual Shownotes™ for pay, as its own, separate business offering (as opposed to doing them for my own practice, to help me build the skills to bring graphic facilitation into the workshops and trainings I offer through my consultancy), is not going to lead me where I want to go.
It won’t continue to energize me (I’ve already established that doing it for pay, rather than energizing me, is likely to de-motivate me and generate a rebellious response!)
It will help people process and remember information… but only if I can get myself to meet a deadline! And in the meantime, it would eat up my time, and demotivate me.
Better for me to continue to focus on building my skills to add to my facilitators’ toolkit. THAT feels energizing, rather than draining.
Clarity, clarity, clarity.
See how easy it is to get sideswiped, and not understand what the heck is going on?
Back in the late 90s when I started doing calligraphy, being paid to make art seemed like such a dream! It was the Holy Grail to make a living as an artist!
But what you think you want and what you get in reality aren’t always in sync. So it pays to do some deep questioning before going after that dream in earnest.
Me, I tend to dive head-first in the deep end, without testing the water, or even checking to see if the pool has been filled.
This time, though, I’m doing it differently. I’ve learned from past experiences, and as they say, once burned, twice shy.
I don’t want to lose this enthusiastic joyful passion I’ve just discovered. I don’t want to burn out again. So I’m taking things very, very carefully.
I hope my story helps you with whatever you’re working on.
Roasted Cocoa Nibs from Trader Joe’s. $1.99 at a TJs near you. That comes down to $7.96 per pound, which is a pretty good price. From what I’ve read, they’re not the best in terms of flavor or texture, but they’re cheap, and they add a chocolatey crunch that’s free from any sugar or additives — great for topping cereal, yogurt, or what have you.
Want a creative kick start?
Check out my book!
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Hear ye, hear ye! This is to serve as official notice that all links to anything for sale, be it books or courses, are likely to be affiliate links. What this means is that if you click through said links and make a purchase, although it won’t affect the price that you pay, a few coins will jangle into my coffers, enabling me to buy a packet of hard gluten-free biscuits to feed myself and my husband for another day, or perhaps a pen with which to create some artwork. Or perhaps they will contribute toward paying a fraction of my web hosting bill, so that this blog and podcast can continue to exist. Thank you kindly for your attention.
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