The Evolution of My Blogging Adventures

January 7, 2016
One of my favorite Instagram photos shows the downtown skyline of Kansas City. You can find more of my pictures and follow me at https://www.instagram.com/duanehallock/

One of my favorite Instagram photos shows the downtown skyline of Kansas City. You can find more of my pictures and follow me at https://www.instagram.com/duanehallock/

After five years of blogging, I took an extended break from posting on this site. It was not a deliberate decision. It just happened.

During this time I still blogged, but I shifted from a verbal to a visual format, migrating from this WordPress platform to Instagram.

Upon reflection, I’ve identified reasons why I found myself sharing my pictures rather than my words. Those reasons include:

  1. Better engagement. When I began blogging, I thought this would be a good way to connect and converse with others. Perhaps it was my writing style, but I found myself posting monologues rather than engaging in conversations. In retrospect, I realize that most people are like me – they are more naturally drawn to colorful pictures than to columns of gray type.
  2. Too snarky. I realized my blog posts were starting to have an edge of cynicism and sarcasm. At work, I was enduring wave after wave of reorganizations that left most of us confused and disoriented. Many of my unpublished posts were written during this time of chaos. Those unshared writings were my attempt to make sense of what was happening. While they were cathartic, they were best left confined to the pages of my private journal rather than being shared publicly in a blog.
  3. Creative expression. The seemingly-endless corporate restructuring slowly sapped much of my creative energy. In this world, we each have a unique voice that gives us something to share with others. On a personal level, I felt compelled to expand my options for doing that. Photography provided a creative outlet that gave me renewed energy and purpose. Instagram provided a much-needed platform for my creative expression.
  4. Positive optimism. As my Instagram adventure progressed, I found myself focusing on the beauty in the world surrounding me. I discovered that within the ordinary I could always find something extraordinary. I’ve long believed that whatever one focuses on will expand. I chose to focus on the beauty surrounding me, and the more I looked for it, the more of it I found.
  5. Connecting, not dividing. Photography transcends the barriers of language, geography, politics, religion and other divisive elements in our world. Words are too easily used as weapons to divide and destroy. For me, sharing photos provided a way to unite and to build bridges where fences had once been erected.

Writing and photography are not mutually exclusive. I will keep writing, and I also will keep snapping pictures. In the weeks and months ahead, I anticipate finding the appropriate balance between both.

The renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Besson once said, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” If a picture is worth a thousand words, then, by my math, I believe that my first 10 million words will be my worst. I’ll keep plodding along, though.

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Every Act of Creation Is First an Act of Destruction

October 1, 2014

Creating something new usually requires us to let go of something old. As Pablo Picasso said, “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”

Transitions are painful because they destroy the status quo, pushing us beyond our comfort zones. Times of change are most excruciating for those most deeply vested in the old way of doing things.

New Growth

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” – Pablo Picasso

Like many companies, my employer (the American Red Cross) is undergoing yet another major, national reorganization. The details have yet to be finalized, but one this is certain: Things will change. Dramatically!

We are in that phase of the creative process focusing on “destruction” (to use Picasso’s word). Within a few weeks, however, we should learn the details of the “act of creation.”

Uncertainty abounds. The winds of change continue to howl around us. Though I’m uncertain of many things, of this I am certain: Those who thrive in the new reality will be those who embrace Picasso’s wisdom. They will understand that something is being destroyed so something new can be created.

Not everything makes sense, but I’ll sort through the confusion and figure out how to succeed in this new reality. As I move forward, I’ll keep reminding myself of what Henry Miller, the American author, once said: “Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.”

The futurist Alvin Toffler paralleled Picasso’s sentiment when he said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

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I Took a Sabbatical

September 30, 2014

I took a sabbatical from blogging. Actually, I never quit writing. I just quit posting.

My Journal

“We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” – Cecil Day Lewis

When I began blogging more than half a decade ago, I gave myself permission to post when I had something to share, and to refrain when I did not. That has worked well for me. Now that I’ve returned to blogging, I’ll still adhere to that rule.

I often write my unedited thoughts in a private journal where they can incubate. Journaling helps me to sort things out, especially during times of transition and confusion. At least ninety percent of my writing is done only for me. I write to understand, and therefore I’m usually the exclusive audience. Although I am a professional communicator, only a small fraction of my writing is shared with others.

In a noisy, cluttered world, we sometimes need to be comfortable with our own solitude and silence. In a fast-paced society that demands immediate results and constant production, we sometimes need to stop and catch our breath.

We need sabbaticals to replenish our energy. We need downtime to incubate ideas. We need periods of silence to nourish creativity that would otherwise wither in the arid atmosphere that permeates where we live and work.

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How to Edit Your Own Writing

November 25, 2013

Every good writer needs a good editor. The skills required for each are usually contradictory, though. Writing requires creativity whereas editing demands critiquing what has already been created.

Sometimes it works well for a writer to also serve as his or her own editor, though it’s nearly impossible to do both simultaneously.

My daughter is a strong communicator and often edits my blog posts. Recently she suggested this topic, and she even emailed me the following tips on how to edit your own writing:

  1. Give yourself time to write and then revisit it later. With fresh eyes and a new perspective, it’s usually easier to reword or rewrite the rough draft of your earlier writing.
  2. Read and then reread. Skim the draft to get your overall reaction to the coherence and flow of the writing. Once it reads the way you want, then go back and edit for spelling and grammar.
  3. Read your writing aloud. Words sound different when read out loud. Make sure your writing has a certain rhythm and melody.
  4. Read your writing from the reader’s perspective. When read through the lens of your target audience, does your idea make sense? Is it relevant? In a world full of distractions, is it even interesting?
  5. Have someone else edit your work. Two minds can collaborate and create something that neither can do as effectively on his or her own.

That’s what my daughter and I did on this post. We both wrote and we both edited. Thanks, Jennifer.

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How To Be Intellectually Curious

November 13, 2011

Last week I participated in a lively, invigorating conversation with a roomful of university students. I was privileged to be the guest speaker in a class studying administration in nonprofit organizations.

The instructor gave me a heads-up that the class was highly motivated so I’d better “bring my A game.” She promised I’d be impressed with the students’ intellectual curiosity.

Intellectual curiosity? Coming from a teacher, that’s a pretty high compliment. I was eager to find out what she meant.

Sure enough, the students electrified the classroom with their galvanizing intellectual curiosity. For more than an hour we talked and learned from each other. I even made written notes on things they taught me.

In the days afterward, I kept asking myself how one becomes intellectually curious. What are the characteristics? To answer that question, I mentally stepped back into the classroom to remind myself what transpired there. Here are three things I observed:

  1. They asked good questions. The students were genuinely curious. They asked probing, insightful questions to explore and illuminate the world around them. Though they were mature young men and women, they retained a magical, childlike curiosity. If moving into adulthood means they will someday have more answers than questions, then I hope those students never grow up. Read the rest of this entry »

Six Traits of People I Like Working With

May 13, 2011

Any success I might claim as a marketing and communications professional would necessarily include a lengthy and sincere list of acknowledgements. The English poet John Donne observed, “No man is an island.” In other words, we are all interdependent. Other people always contribute to our success.

In my work, I am most productive when I am surrounded by people who are:

  1. Grateful. They are glad to be alive and they find things to be thankful for. With an abundance mindset, they focus on what they have rather than obsessing on their deficits.
  2. Strategic. They think before they act. Before succumbing to the gravitational pull of tactics, they think things through in a purposeful way. They wrestle with questions that begin with the word why?
  3. Competent. Once they see the big picture and understand why something is important, they know what to do and how to do it.
  4. Curious. Curiosity never killed anyone. I love interacting with those who think with a beginner’s mind. They are the antithesis of so-called experts who already know the right (and only) way to do something.
  5. Creative. With a curious mind, creative people look at things differently. They see patterns that others miss. They are able to juxtapose existing ideas in a way that creates something new.
  6. Innovative. The Harvard professor Theodore Levitt put it this way:  “Creativity thinks up new things.  Innovation does new things. There is really no shortage of creativity or of creative people in business.  The shortage is of innovators.  The major problem is that so called “creative” people often pass on to others the responsibility for getting down to brass tacks.  They have plenty of ideas but little business-like follow-through.  They themselves are the bottleneck.  They make none of the right kind of effort to help their ideas get a hearing and a try.”

On the other hand…

Occasionally I encounter individuals who drain my energy and erode my effectiveness. They are:

  1. Victims. When something goes wrong, it’s never their fault. Someone else is to blame. They’ve had bad luck and were the unfortunate victims of circumstances. They feel powerless, living their lives in a reactive rather than a proactive mode.
  2. Dinosaurs. They remember the good old days when things were much better. (I really think they just have very selective memories.) The world changes too fast to accommodate those who cling to the status quo, refusing to adapt to the climate changes.
  3. Devil’s Advocates. They don’t move conversations forward, though they try to appear intelligent with their searing questions. They hinder progress. They are usually part of the problem, not the solution.
So, that’s my list. What’s on yours?

Quotes I Love

September 29, 2010

Quotations inspire me. They focus me. They motivate me.

I like the way an eloquent quote can elegantly reflect the light of resplendent wisdom. To me, each quotation has special value.

I collect quotes as a gem collector might gather precious stones. Like gemstones, quotes were never meant to be hoarded and stored in a dark, out-of-sight vault. Rather, they are most appreciated when shared and displayed for the enrichment of all.

If you also appreciate quotes, I invite you to meander through this collection of my favorites, categorized by these topics:

  1. Being Creative
  2. Planning and Goal Setting
  3. Being a Leader
  4. Learning, Teaching and Being Well Educated
  5. Understanding Life’s Transitions
  6. Marketing Effectively
  7. Achieving Success
  8. Creating a Compelling Vision
  9. Overcoming Adversity
  10. Chuckling with Yogi

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