How does regression lead to forward progress? When should you say no? And how can stirring the pot stimulate change?
Learn how making space (like when we take some R&R over the summer) must then be protected and filled with your passion.
Read on for blog three from my recent interview with Kiki Chansamone, an entrepreneur, illustrator, writer, editor, and Chief Marketing Officer of a women’s beauty brand, Christine. See below for his secrets to leading and living creatively, for success in business and beyond.
Jess: Many entrepreneurs and innovators I’ve spoken with have shared how important it is not to suppress your innate creativity. You recently spoke about the importance of following your passion. How have you learned to follow your passion and not suppress your creativity?
Kiki: Following my own passions is a new mindset for me- most of my life I’ve suppressed pursuing my own interests. I’m not casting blame but when you’re a kid in an Asian culture, you are groomed to think you need to be a lawyer or a doctor. That’s top priority. Being creative falls somewhere in the low 100s on an Asian parents’ priority list.
But over the last 5 years I’ve given myself some room to really explore my passions and been putting a little more energy behind some of my little ideas that were put away because I had a business to run and didn’t need distractions. It’s a beautiful thing to finally embrace it- like coming face to face with the real me. And it all started when a project I was helping on started taking over my life. Originally the idea was for me to be mostly support. At the time, all I wanted to do was simplify my life so I could help during the day and work on my own projects at night. Suddenly, out of nowhere I had all these responsibilities that were not me but I refused to back down from the challenge. I spent all of my waking hours trying to troubleshoot and fix problems as they arose. Meanwhile, I put aside my own dreams- something big/new that I thought the world could really use. It was crushing my soul to push it down for what seemed like the millionth time.
Finally there came a moment when I realized I was burdened by responsibility. (see Part 1 of this interview in the blog “Is Your Creativity Cloaked by Responsibility?” for more on uncovering innovation).
It was a conflict between my need to do good by everyone and my need to fulfill my own promise to myself. I came to the conclusion that I had to make a change.
Jess: It seems this saying no and being unattached is important. There is an element of destruction, letting go of old things, saying no, in order to create something new. Attachment is considered an obstacle to reaching our highest potential, according to yoga philosophy. “Attachment is that which follows identification with pleasurable experiences” Yoga Sutra 2.7 as translated by Satchidinanda
Kiki: Once you let go of the attachment and fear, and say no, you create space. New things will come in. Don’t get seduced by the challenge. Of course you CAN do certain things, but that doesn’t mean you should…be protective of your space and time and when you create space by saying no or dialing back, be very careful with what enters that space.
Jess: So I hear you saying that sometimes we’re seduced by a challenge instead of our passion – because a challenge is about proving something (external) and our passion is about creating something (internal).
Kiki: It’s a danger, my attraction to challenge – I can build this, but is this what I really want? Aptitude is different than joy/motivation.
Jess: So is your passion art, client collaboration, business, or the creative process?
Kiki: I’m an agitator, Jess. I like things that tweak people. Not in a bad way. In my art everything has a message that at first glance is innocent, but as you dive deeper it’s meant to make you think a bit.
Jess: In chemistry there is a tool called an agitator -- I’m taking you back to my days as a chemical engineer in the lab at Iowa State! The agitator actually stimulates the catalyst. So it sounds like Kiki you stimulate change. You aren’t agitating to cause trouble, you’re agitating for a purpose, to get people to think and change their approach.
Jess: Speaking of making changes, tell me when you realized you had to change the packaging for Christine hair care products.
Kiki: I’m an easy-going guy on the outside, but I’m actually very particular on the inside. Imperfections make me crazy and I am always calculating how to improve things- like the notion of chiseling away the fat of a project and making it run better. But I also try to surround myself with folks that are smarter than me to help guide the process.
So for the Christine brand a creative team was brought on to craft the brand identity and messaging. When I first saw their designs, I had some serious questions but I didn’t express them because I was new to hair care and felt uncomfortable that my experience in making and directing commercials might not translate. But it always gnawed away at me.
Later on, we had a meeting with a major premium retailer. They verbalized that Christine was the best shampoo and conditioner they’d used but that the packaging didn’t match the premium quality of the products. They didn’t have to say anymore than that to me. In my heart I was in 100% agreement.
Jess: How long does someone hone their craft? How long does it take after planting a creative seed, so to speak, before it blooms?
Kiki: I’ve made the classic mistake of waiting for a perfect time to release something. So you build it, finesse it- I mean I’ve done a bunch of projects that have sat in my shed for 20 years waiting for its “moment”.
You should not expect a perfect union of time and resources and synchronicity. Sometimes you do terrible work and you do more terrible work and suddenly you do something great. But that great work only happens because the other terrible work teaches you.
Kids nowadays are fearless and don’t care about making mistakes. They are producing all kinds of content and if they make something that goes viral they stick with it.
So there is no waiting…maybe you just weed through your insecurities and keep putting your work out there.
How do you calm the ego mind and weed through insecurities? “False identity (ego) results when we regard mental activity as the very source of perception.” Yoga Sutra 2.6 as translated by Desikachar
A consistent meditation practice can help you distinguish between the changing (thoughts, emotions, circumstances) and the changeless (our highest Self). Check out our tools such as the Earth Meditation here, or pick up a copy of the yoga sutras, the seminal text on yoga philosophy, to assist you on your creative path. Plus, stay tuned for the launch of The Creative Executive: How to Get Innovative and Go with the Flow, available on Amazon October 26th.