This fall, I have been taking a course called Increasing Personal and Professional Effectiveness: A Introduction to Coaching from my friend Leanne. The purpose of this course is to learn the basics about becoming a life coach. It is helpful in terms of Innovation Engineering, where we coach clients to innovate.
We are learning about metaphors in coaching. So if someone was trying to solve an issue, and they were mentally stuck, you can work with them to identify a metaphor of the issue that is less emotionally charged. In Innovation Engineering we do a similar activity called Analogy.
During a practice session, I role played a client. I described an issue I’m trying to resolve, and I said my current efforts to resolve it felt like a “swirl.” A coach asked, “what is something else in the world that is a swirl?” My first thought was a tornado, but I thought that would be a cliché answer, so my next thought was a fiddlehead.
Fiddleheads, and I mean baby ferns, are one of my favorite things to look at. I love to photograph them, quilt patterns of them, and hook rugs of them. Here is a fiddlehead rug that I made for my friend Megan when she got married:
What can I learn from a fiddlehead in terms of my life?
- It is made of many small pieces that fit together beautifully.
- I love fiddleheads because they represent potential energy, and I love the idea of energy that is fully prepared to transform at any moment.
- The fiddlehead unfurls into a fern when the conditions are right.
- The fiddlehead cannot control when it unfurls.
- I have mixed feelings about when the fiddlehead unfurls. While ferns are beautiful, I think fiddleheads are actually even more beautiful.
I spend a lot of my time preparing materials to make Trashmagination projects. I sort them, cut them up, store them, label them. I spend more time preparing materials than actually making things. It is a loving and zen time, taking care of my materials. It is a safe time because nothing has failed yet. But at some point, I must make things from the materials. At some point, they must become a real vision or it was for nothing to prepare them.
When I was a journalist for CBC Radio, I built an elaborate database of contacts around Ottawa where I worked. I tagged them carefully so I could find them whenever I had breaking news on a topic or when I wanted to explore a topic. I spent hours on it. And then one day, I moved to the United States, and the database was not useful anymore. I was not a journalist anymore.
For most of my life, I have cut pictures or articles from magazines and put them in elaborate filing systems. I did this even when I was a child. My parents gave me an accordion file system because I spent hours doing it. That act of gathering and sorting is very comforting to me.
Some people collect degrees. Some people collect objects. Some people collect friends.
But it is time to use the materials. It is time to unfurl. It is time to ruin some of the materials with projects that don’t work out. It’s time to realize that I do this behavior to comfort myself, but if that is all I do, then I am not growing anymore.
It is okay to gather and sort. It is time to take risks and make things.