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Making Art Into Making A Living

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It’s not everyday that you hear of people who decide to pursue a hobby – like doodling – as a career, especially when it’s not an obvious need. Have you ever even stopped to wonder why we do things the way we do them? For example, why do we read line by line instead of word by word? Why do we take notes the way we do? Why is there an outline feature on every single word processor but not a sketchnote feature?


Nora Herting and Heather Willems always knew they wanted to pursue art-related careers, but they also knew that it would be hard to make a living. Willems soon found herself waitressing to supplement being a fine artist. “As a waitress, I would entertain myself between shifts by eavesdropping on customers and jotting their conversations on napkins," she says. Willems eventually found herself with enough napkins to make an entire “large-scale mural consisting of the text as image,” which she did, inviting her customers to the corresponding art exhibition.

As it turns out, the customers were less interested in the art and more interested in the artist; and Willemswas offered a position turning meeting notes into graphics. Willems quickly joined the company's Chicago division, while her friend Nora Herting went to the New York division. Herting and Willems continued to work independently until an agency hired them to tandem-scribe (to work together). Not long after, ImageThink LLC was born.”

Clients, including advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, toymaker LEGO and computer services giant IBM” hired the team at ImageThink to create business-inspired art by “[listening] carefully and objectively to what’s being said, then [capturing] the highlights via bullet points, notes and sketches.” Technically ImageThink is a graphic facilitation firm, which surprisingly wasn't a fully novel idea. Graphic facilitation, also known as graphic recording, started in the 1970's, when a network of consultants based on the West Coast, decided to take an approach inspired by designers and architects to empower businesses.

What makes ImageThink different from its competitors, however, is that the firm was started by two women who wanted to use their knowledge and passions to empower others.

Their newly published workbook, Draw Your Big Idea, includes over 150 drawing exercises to provide readers with the tools to hone their own graphic facilitation skills. Herting and Willems realized that graphic facilitation can – and should – be used anywhere, especially outside the boardroom.

According to the book, “graphic facilitation, sketchnoting, doodling or whatever you want to call synthesizing concepts into visuals, have value beyond the boardroom and SXSW.”

“As a waitress, I would entertain myself between shifts by eavesdropping on customers and jotting their conversations on napkins"

-Heather Willems

The pair are aware of the universal cognitive benefits provided by their business. “Drawing out concepts provides access all 4 learning modalities, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile," says Willems.

"When you have fun with the sketches, or make a visual note of a joke, you are adding emotion into the mix and are even more likely to remember the experience of capturing the information long after the conversation wraps" says Willems.

Some may be quick to doubt the benefits of visual note-taking. Arguments about the process being a distraction, or a barrier for the brain have been made. According to Willems, while at first, it may be a kind of distraction, it will soon normalize in the brain “Clients often ask us if the graphic recording will be distracting," says Willems. "I usually respond, ‘Yes, it will be… at first but it is a healthy distraction.’” Once the novelty of it wears down, and it becomes part of the usual landscape, it’s no longer a distraction. “Sketching the ideas in your notebook for yourself while someone is graphic facilitating (drawing out ideas for a team to build upon) is a quick way to learn new information and it stimulates cross-cognitive processing," says Willems.

What’s most interesting about visual note-taking is the freedom it brings. The participant doesn't necessarily have to know what he or she is doing while doing it. “Even if I didn’t necessarily understand all of the content that was transpiring, I was good at listening for the key points and capturing them with words and pictures," says Herting. And, after all, isn’t that the point of taking notes?

Photo Credit: www.entrepreneur.com

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2020 is Around the Corner: Here's How To Design Your Next Decade

Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!

You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!


Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.

Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.

One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:

What worked? What were my successes?

Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?

Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.

If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?

Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?

Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?

Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.

While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.

Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!