Sunday, November 10, 2013

Creative Community

   I'm on a Southwest flight, LA bound, and flipping through the in-flight magazine, found two quotes from entrepreneurs that begin to sum up why this week's layoffs hit me to the core:   
   "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." - Jim Rohn
   "Surround yourself with people who are doing interesting things, who are thinking interesting thoughts, who challenge you to be better, and who come from a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences. That, combined with appropriate moments of 'me' time, provides the perfect breeding ground for great ideas." - Alexis Ohanian
   These speak to me because I've had the pleasure and privilege of being surrounded by an incredible variety of types and talent in my sixteen-and-a-half years in Kansas City, and most notably those with whom I work. And because great opportunities have existed for me to move between departments, I've spent quality time with a great number of creative geniuses, and been impacted by all. Rohn said we are the average of the five closest people; I'd argue (perhaps because I'm an extrovert?) that we are the average of ALL whom we meaningfully encounter.
   When I think about my Kansas City tenure, I've been blessed to be a part of many different circles: artists, music lovers, pet rescuers, and an array of athletics and hobbies (scuba, hiking, kayaking, yoga, running, snowboarding, rock climbing, etc.). Everyone in those circles are amazing and important influencers on me, but my artist friends stand out...
   One of my greatest joys is getting to know others well. The caliber of creatives at Hallmark is, quite frankly, what my Alaskan buddy, Greg, would call "an embarrassment of riches." My fellow artists, writers, and directors amaze me every day with their work and their thinking. But beyond that, they amaze me with their unique brilliance and talents outside of their 9 to 5.
   Among them there are elite athletes, animal crusaders, people who care for others on a level I'd have previously thought unattainable; artists who write, writers who draw, and many that seem to do absolutely everything well; they lead ethnic festivals, make handcrafted musical instruments, make films, make the cutest babies imaginable, travel, cook, speak many languages, and are infinite wells of wit and wisdom. I've never encountered one who was reticent to share their gifts--in fact, they all relish it, and we ALL benefit.
   Because of this community, my job hardly feels like work. Okay, there are deadlines. There's plenty of stress. But what a joy to be in this company. I started at Hallmark when I was twenty-two, and might have moved on long ago if not for my friends who are family. I believe this is why we all stay.
   Our Hallmark family became 250 people smaller this week. I've spent the last nine and a half years in leadership; I get it. Results aren't good enough to sustain the expenses of such a large staff, and I don't fault those who had to make heart wrenching decisions (there's no torture like laying off a great, loyal employee--NO ONE wants to do it--and my heart goes out to the leaders who did).
   I can't imagine how difficult it was to hear that you were being dismissed. I really can't. But as someone who is staying, I can tell you that we are grieving the loss of these people from our almost-daily lives: unexpectedly running into them on the stairs; an impromptu lunch; a brainstorm; a project; a tutorial. Sharing our stories or just a hug or a smile; reminiscing about past assignments; and especially hatching new ideas together.
   The thing about working in a creative capacity is that what you bring to your job is who you are. You can't extricate your identity as a creative from the work you create; if you did, it wouldn't have heart. This is what makes us good at what we do. And it will always be tough to lose a member of this community of sharing and caring, regardless of the reason.
   I have complete faith and confidence that everyone will chart a new course and succeed. I mourn the loss of how we might continue to influence one another at work. It may be selfish... But I so love, value, and appreciate the gifts I've been given by my coworkers. I surely wouldn't be the person I am today if not for them.
   Case in point, Mark Cook is a longtime cartoonist and animator for Hallmark, & retired last week. He busted out this incredible painting. My friends and coworkers never cease to amaze me with the depth & variety of their talents! I'd bet he has never explored this side of himself at work, in his 20+ year career. How exciting for him to do so now—can't wait to see what he does next!
   Endings are also new beginnings...