“As has come before; many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…Please bear with us as we traverse the abstract canals of audio musings.” -Designing Sound
Two days ago, a teammate got sick in the final days of a micro-project they were working on. It’s generally my job to make sure tech projects go smoothly around here, so I needed to jump in and figure out how to finish this one in about 24 hours. I recruited a couple folks, drew up a burn down list, and hustled over to the building where the project was being built. Needless to say, I was a little concerned we wouldn’t be able to pull it off, and a tad grumpy about the prospect of working into the wee hours with little warning. But the minute I showed up to the workspace, the person leading fabrication and art for the project looked up from his various containers of sculpting goo, jumped to his feet, grinned, and yelled, “Charlie! So glad you’re here! Thanks for your help!” My day immediately turned around, we got to work, we had some laughs, and we finished the project about 30 seconds before we needed to show it.
I’ve had many moments like this here at Meow Wolf–where an otherwise stressful situation turns into a fun time because someone refuses to let the stress affect their attitude. And I’ve seen many folks over the years who seem to have a knack for cheerleading, and it nearly always results in better work from everyone they interact with. Those people are also usually highly sought-after as collaborators, consultants, and employees. I know it may seem obvious that the more we’re able to keep a positive, playful outlook, the more likely we are to do good work and make people want to work with us, but it’s an uncommon thing in my experience. So how do we train ourselves to do it? And how do we end up keeping ourselves from doing it?
In my personal experience, I’m best able to keep in the “playful zone” when I’m vigilant about coming up for air. When I’m deep in a coding or writing session, I often block out what’s going on around me, and that includes my awareness of all the cool things people are doing on my team. But the moment I take a break, look around the room, and ask someone else about their day, I’m immediately less stressed and more open. There’s a light and flexible feeling that comes with it–similar to how I feel when I get done with meditation practice.
Conversely, I often have these big, long-term goals I’m working toward. If I stay focused on those for too long, I often shut down and dismiss anything that doesn’t get me to that goal. That includes other people’s ideas and work. Too much of that, and other people begin looking like obstacles or even enemies, and that’s not healthy or fun. So it’s incredibly important to keep that constant effort toward finding out what exciting things are happening with the people around me. It’s good for the team, and it’s good for me.
And of course, the first person to come to mind when I think of positivity and its effect on communities is our good friend, Damian Kastbauer. He was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on the matter. Regarding keeping the positivity flowing, he recommends, “subverting the routine ever-so-slightly in a way that acknowledges other team members in the moment. Some folks choose donuts to shake up the routine, but I think it can be as easy as taking the time to nurture another person’s struggles and simply insert yourself into a position of listening to someone air their experiences outside of the formulated schedule (i.e. not at lunch, meetings, or at expected intervals). The randomness of interaction and acknowledgement can help work feel fresh and not routine.” And as a result you get, “a renewed focus from the expression of words and feelings between people.” To put a fine point on it, he adds, “At the end of the day, it’s about the people. Invest in those relationships and let the positivity flow.”
Do you have any tips for staying positive and inspiring others to do the same? Who’s your biggest inspiration? Let us know in the comments!
Update 11/5/17 1:14PM – Added some thoughts from Damian Kastbauer