With human beings hardwired for connection, and creative people renowned for ‘connecting the dots’, the art of keeping connected during these challenging times is more important than ever.
As Steve Jobs famously said, ‘Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.’
This alchemy of ‘seeing something’ often requires the need for us as a creative tribe to come together to share our knowledge, ideas and skills and to connect in order to create.
Below are some tips for how to create and maintain connection with a particular emphasis on ways that it can presently be done online.
Become the indispensable linchpin
When the Titanic was sinking it was famously the women and children prioritised for the lifeboats. There were however another little known group on board these first boats: the pilots, those with indispensable skills that were necessary for everyone else’s survival. While this is a somewhat dramatic comparison, the point is that you will always be given preferential treatment if you have a skill set that is valued by the rest of the group.
In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin: Are you indispensable? he uses this term for the people who are essential to keep the show on the road. Make yourself a linchpin and you’ll never want for work. If you currently have spare capacity then how could you be up skilling on your linchpin skill?
Start a scratch file to house those ‘connect the dot’ moments and thoughts
Creativity is often seen as the ability to ‘connect the dots’ and think ‘outside the box’. We need a way to formalise and consolidate these moments or insights and a ‘scratch file’ is the perfect place to house these ideas.
Start a file on your desktop or phone called ‘Connection 2022’ and every time a suggestion or idea comes to mind document it here. Regular reviewing of this list will provide a source of inspiration and motivation along with a repository for actionable tasks.
Make a daily habit out of connecting via active engagement
A great daily habit is to set time aside to actively engage with your creative community. There are so many active online groups. Beware of aimless scrolling as a procrastination strategy and create discipline around when and for how long you interact. Keep your comments positive and be generous with sharing relevant information and insights in order to stand out.
Read creative career newsletters! You’ll be amazed by what happens next
Our creative community is filled with regular newsletters, blogs, podcasts and articles brimming with information, tips, advice and ways to strategise your next career move.
But subscribing is not enough. Treat these as the precious and free treasure maps for your career that they are. Dedicate time to ‘Network scanning’ to read the content and use your Scratch file to jot down ideas that come up, people to contact, newly financed projects that may need crew etc.
Use your lunch break or morning coffee moment to ‘stack this habit’ as James Clear calls it in his book Atomic Habits. For example, when I take a coffee break, rather than aimlessly scrolling, I read my newsletters and other relevant industry feeds.
Then, next time you’re at an industry event, you’re armed with plenty of material for conversation starters.
Reach out unconditionally to mentors and peers
Potency is often the bedfellow of simplicity and this tip is no exception. Make a rule that the first email or social media DM that you send will be one to a fellow peer, mentor or perhaps even someone that you barely know in our industry. Acknowledge something that they’ve recently achieved, or congratulate them on their recent show.
The secret to this mode of connection is to keep it truly unconditional.
Don’t just say, ‘Well done’, but rather personalise the message with how it inspires you and why. Importantly don’t conclude with a ‘I’d love to catch up for a coffee soon’ sentiment. The secret to this mode of connection is to keep it truly unconditional. The win-win is that you start your day feeling generous and grateful, and they start their day with an unexpected ping of positivity in their in-tray.
The key career question to ask yourself in 2022
With the year stretching out ahead of us, January is always a great moment for reflection and intention setting. A key question to ask yourself is this:
How connected am I really to the people and part of the industry that I most actively want to associate with? And what are some specific actions that I could undertake right now to increase this engagement?