The first time I learned about the power of creative visualization, I was a freshman in high school; a member of the diving team. I had never been a diver before, but I was a competitive swimmer in my youth and studied dance and acrobatics so it felt like a natural progression. At our school, all diving competitions took place on the 1-meter springboard—that's about 3 feet above the water. I was "the best" on the team my freshman year and started winning meets right away. The competition wasn't that steep, my closest competitor used to bring her sleeping bag into our 6 am practices and sleep on the end of the board so you get the idea. But I was good enough to advance to the conference and regional finals, so the summer after my freshman year, my parents sent me to a diving camp at Ball State University in Indiana.

At diving camp, you're required to dive off of both the 1-meter and the 3-meter springboard (no platforms for me). The 3 meter is about 10 feet off of the water and when you add the "spring," you're about 12 feet in the air before you move into your dive. I'd been jumping off the "high dive" since I was about 3 (mom was very casual about it), but to consider flipping off it was something that terrified me. Even doing the double jump as prep was scary, what if my feet didn't land back on the board? What if I hit my head? Needless to say the first dive I completed off of the 3-meter was a disaster and I hit the water hard on the side of my thigh, which when you hit from that height creates a gnarly black and purple bruise that takes weeks to go away. I was clearly terrified to do it again so the coaches gave me a lecture about visualization. Spending time off of the board and just visualizing yourself doing the dives over and over again before you even come back to the physical experience. I never got back on the 3-meter, diving camp was only 5 days and I couldn't visualize my way to perfection that quickly, but the practice stayed with me into my sophomore year where I ended up adding 1/2's to almost all my dives, which means that I was regularly throwing a back and a half and inward and a half which are two notoriously difficult dives for a beginner. But I now had a new tool at my disposal, creative visualization. Bored during school? I could drift off and visualize my dives. Visualization can have a similar impact on your muscles as actually doing the thing. It is the repetition of the visualization that allows you to make progress even if you can't physically execute it repeatedly


I was reminded of this practice when we saw the Georgia O'Keeffe show at MoMA this winter. This is the largest retrospective of O'Keeffe's work and the first time back at MoMA since her original show in 1946. When the original show was being curated, O'Keeffe told James Johnson Sweeny (MoMA's curator at the time) that she couldn't show in the fall as that was her best working time, so they'd have to make other arrangements for her (#goodboundaries). Though the original show had only two charcoals and one watercolor, that one became the image of the invitation in 1946—Blue Lines. Of that watercolor, the reviewer of the New York Times wrote:

The continuity of her endeavor becomes manifest if you take just one of those lines and follow its course through the adventures of the years. 

This recent retrospective is the chance to do just that, follow her work through the adventures of the years. And though the majority of the 120 works on display were made within just a three-year period, is meant in some ways to highlight her serial practice. Serial practice could be considered a repetition of motifs even if in different mediums. The name of the show comes from a quote that O'Keeffe apparently said:  

To see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.


Time is something I've been thinking a lot about as so many people find themselves in a slowdown of sales. As I wrote last week, it becomes our reality when we attune to stagnation. So many entrepreneurs are looking to fix their business development and sales process only now that they feel the tide is going out, but no matter your timing, time is always on your side. 

The way I teach the business development process has a lot to do with creative visualization because I, like O'Keeffe, know that to see truly takes time. And like O'Keeffe agree that to have a friend takes time, and when we speak of clients and customers, what we are indeed speaking about are relationships, not transactions. If we are in an urgency mindset and seeking to make quick transactions because we are worried about our bottom line, we're entering into the business development process with scarcity.

The reason "to see takes time" in business development is that we have to understand a lot about who we are and who our customer is before we can build momentum with our connections.  Most of us need clarification on our own culture and benefits or who might genuinely connect to those, and we're just trying to connect with anyone anywhere. We rapid-fire cold emails thinking with the most minimal research done.

When I give clients and students a business development exercise, there are 8 columns of information I ask them to consider before even making contact with a person. Most people fill out 2-4 columns and think they have finished the exercise because they have identified the individual's name. It's a painful process to get them to reflect on why they even want to be in touch with this person, what they might have to offer, and how they can be of benefit to that person as well (and this goes for if you're seeking new clients, new trade accounts or new wholesale accounts).

This exercise, like most of the work I offer, is time-consuming. But that time has a purpose: creative visualization. If you cannot creatively visualize having a conversation with someone and being able to answer all of the questions about this individual in the spreadsheet prompts, the likelihood of you getting the meeting and succeeding is minimal. I was reminded of the power of this practice when a client recently told me they had finally landed a meeting with a dream client they had identified three years ago. And this morning, when Tom Ziller, my favorite writer about basketball, attributed the Nuggest sweep of the Lakers to patience and time. 

This is patience in its purest form in the NBA. It doesn’t mean sitting around forever and waiting for conditions to materially change via magic.

Just like if I didn't creatively visualize my dives when I was off the board, I'd never have been able in the small amount of time at practice I had actually to execute on them well. To see takes time; to make a friend takes time. The point of business development exercises is to be intentional about that time and use it as a way to train your muscles to engage "as if" you've made the connection and have a deeper knowing of why that relationship is beneficial. Right now, we confuse beneficial for transactional. 


I was reminded of why there can be a block to this when I attended the Dialogues at the Crossroads (at ICFF) hosted by Untapped Journal's amazeballs Editor in Chief Tiffany Jow. During Sunday's chat, she asked panelists how place (location) informs what they do and don't make, to which amazeballs ceramicist Bari Ziperstein of BZippy answered (paraphrasing) that for her being rooted in her place (LA) allows her to discern between the expectations of what she's supposed to make versus what she wants to make. That "supposed to" made me think so much about what trips us up with business development.

When we are faced with the threat of scarcity, it is easy to slip into the mode of doing what you think you're supposed to do, even if it doesn't align with the culture of who you are or the vision of what you are creating. But with a serial practice, a repetition of curiosity and discovery, it's possible to see the path forward. To see takes time. It will take even more time if you realize you've neglected this aspect of business development by thinking you didn't need it or only doing partial work. Remember that no matter what your business model or revenue streams, commerce is just about relationships, and the more time you take and the genuine curiosity you apply to build those relationships, the more likely your business will continue to thrive. Relating is a serial practice. 


After being cornered🤣 and pressured😝 into resuming book club, it will resume on Tuesday, July 18th at 7PMEST via Zoom. We will be reading Rick Rubin's The Creative Act: A Way of Being. This is a free event, please email me to register. 

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Thank you to everyone who has voted for my mullet! I've heard from many of you that you were unable to vote (it was a bit too much traffic for the site I believe). You can vote all week and if you do I'll send you a personalized biz tip - all instructions here. THANK YOU! 


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