Saturday, January 30, 2010

Raising the Horizon Line

For the last few years I have been teaching a capstone course for our upper division music majors includes a focus on career development and related life skills. In the last year I uncovered a fascinating phenomenon as I listen to my students talk about their intended career paths and their individual aspirations. These kids could not bring themselves to the place where they could say in an audible voice, “I am a musician.” They would describe themselves as music students, or use their chosen degree program as an identification badge, but they struggled to use the word “musician” to label themselves professionally. When I first discovered this, I went apoplectic, blurting out things like--“How can you hope to have anyone else take you seriously if you can’t even say the words yourself.”

After I regained both consciousness and a modicum of sanity, I recognized that my students are following the same pattern that I have lived out myself over and over again. In life there is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance. And when our own talents are concerned, there is an even finer line between who we are and what we do. Our culture teaches us to fit in, to conform and to not stick out from the crowd. To make matters worse, that same culture has concluded that being a musician, or any other kind of creative artist, is just not normal. This week I have been listening to several presentations and interviews by Seth Godin as he talks about this phenomenon that he has called the “Lizard Brain.” The basic premise is that to be artists, which he loosely defines as anyone doing cool stuff that matters, we need to turn off and deny that part of our brain that resists innovation, growth and other related risky behaviors.

In my teaching I have seen this as a process that I call “raising the horizon line,” by which I mean we have to consciously cultivate bigger possibilities than we have allowed ourselves to think about before. Until now I have not understood how important this element of suppressing our internal resistance is if we are to move forward with our visions and deliver positive changes in our world. It may help to know that the Lizard Brain is really just trying to preserve the status quo to keep us safe. Still, this resistance doesn’t get us to where we want to go or inspire us to be who we want to be.

A video of a talk Seth gave in 2009 called “Quieting the Lizard Brain” is here.

Some other aspects of this notion are developed in an interview with Seth Godin by Merlin Mann on 43 Folders is here.

Seth Godin’s latest book the The Lynchpin can be found here.

Posted via web from pkpiano's posterous

No comments: