The unapologetic, raw, unedited interpretation of living life. Each of us is the artist of our own life, constantly remolding, reworking, and roughing out the details and applying what we've learned to the changing canvas. There are no do-overs, no take backs...just rough cuts that release what lies inside us.

I saw the angel in stone and I carved until I set him free. - Michelangelo

Friday, May 6, 2011

Additive: A Slow and Steady Process

The word "additive" is the process of material being steadily and patiently built up upon to create the final structure.  How appropriate to discuss this in the context of life and leadership.  The agony of building one layer upon another of material, experience, and life combined with the disappointment when a layer is not quite right or needs to be reworked.  Let's not forget the pain and complete anguish when it just won't adhere or it falls off!  It is a struggle and it is a long painstaking process to build and create.

My senior year of high school could have been summed up with a Batik project assigned to me.  The concept of this project was to create a picture on a piece of muslin using bees wax, broken crayons, and cotton swabs.  The beez wax is heated and mixed with the crayon colors and applied to the muslin with small dots made with the swab.  Once the wax hardens it can then be cracked, dyed, and then finally laundered to create a final piece.  Because the dye will not touch the areas that contain the wax, once dry and ironed the fabric looks cracked and is full of rich color and texture. Once I finaly decided on a concept, I began the many hours of mixing color (did I mention I was doing a portrait? Skin color is probably one of the hardest) and then spending lunch periods, study halls, and class time applying the wax. 

I would  love to tell you that it all worked out and I ended up with this amazing portrait on fabric to frame, but we all know that stories of leadership and life don't always have blissful endings, they are more likely to teach us something about is wonderful in that sense.  After the lengthy process, I received my project and was ready to iron it flat when I noticed that the gorgeous deep blue I had chosen now covered 90% of the muslin.  Apparently in all of my diligence, I had applied too much pressure to the cotton swab, leaving exposed muslin in the center of each one of those tiny meticulous dots!  I now know that on that day I realized the power of layers, of a strong foundation and building upon it. 

Leaders, particularly the artistic leader, understands the "additive process".  Each layer is carefully applied, with just the right amount of intensity to get the job done, the right amount of application so adjustment can be made quickly, and just enough commitment to ensure each layer of experience, knowledge, and lessons becomes part of the developing person.  They know this for themselves and they demontrate it in their ability to apply layers to those they lead.  Some layers are painful, some we enjoy incorporating.  Releasing what lies within cannot happen overnight. It takes vision, diligence, and the ability to transform an ounce at a time.   

As a result of my naive and in experienced application, the project was titled "The Blue Peasent"  -it worked, what I discovered was that the finished piece and I both reflected a need for layers and the process of additive in my life.  I was about to head to college and was about to fully understand what dealing with the layers would truly mean.  What in your life are you rushing through?  Could you make changes quickly - what would that look like?  Have some layers fallen off or maybe one is not sticking so well, what will you do to maintain the integrity of your foundation?

If you are a leader, what is your role in applying steady, patient layers to develop the strength of your followers and create leaders for tomorrow?

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