Body-Mind-Spirit - Inspiration for Writers, Dreamers, and Seekers of Health & Happiness
I took this photo at the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens on a walkway in the new Chinese garden. I love that each stone is unique and has its place, but is part of the whole. The stones are connected in a mysterious, intricate weave. And so are we.
I could not do what I do without the support of a diverse group of people. During my recent book launch, my publicist, Fauzia Burke, founder of FSB Associates, asked how I approach collaboration, reminding me how much collaboration is an essential life skill, especially for writers and authors.
Instead of answering her question, I inadvertently deflected it by acknowledging a couple of the people I’d collaborated with to create and launch my book. While this may have appeared like a generous gesture on my part, in truth, it felt natural to dole out appreciation for my fabulous team, and reiterated how valuable collaboration is to me. Now that I’ve had a couple weeks to consider the question more deeply, I have a more comprehensive answer to that original question she posed, of how I approach collaboration.
Of course, there are no hard and fast rules, but I’ve found the following approaches useful:
1. Know Who You Are. Check in with your values. Ask yourself, What’s important to me? What am I trying to accomplish? What are my strengths and weaknesses? Where do I feel vulnerable? Where could I use help or support? Exploring these questions will bring clarity and help you decide who to reach out to, and why.
2. Be Curious. Seek out people who can bring to the table what you’re looking for. Take the time to see what they do and how they do it. If possible, intuit whether their values mesh with your own. To get a clear read on this, listen to their podcasts, watch their talks, read their books or magazine articles. In other words, familiarize yourself with their work and with their ideas. Do your homework. It may be helpful to prepare a list of questions to help keep you focused when you reach out to potential collaborators.
3. Reach Out: Find ways to connect. This may be as easy as sending a text or email, or picking up the telephone if you already know the person. If you haven’t met personally, try reaching out on social media. At the risk of stating the obvious, be courteous. Don’t make demands on people. We are all busy. Offer a kind word. Be supportive. Let the person know you’re familiar with their work and you’re reaching out to them specifically. Be mindful and respectful in your interactions with people online and in-person. Also, find out if the person you’d like to collaborate with has a preferred way of being contacted.
4. Decide with Your Heart and Gut. Believe it or not, your body can be a more reliable source of good decision-making than your head. Drop down into your body and see how you feel physically when you speak with this person. Emotions often translate into visceral sensations, such as an accelerated heartbeat, sweaty palms, tense muscles, and more. Is your body saying this person makes me uncomfortable? Do you feel judged by this person? Do you believe what they tell you? Trust what you feel. You may not be able to explain or even understand all your feelings, and that’s okay. This approach may come in handy when you reach out to someone who comes highly recommended, or if you’ve done a ton of research on the person and they seem particularly impressive. Remember, just because this person may have been a great collaborator with others doesn’t mean working with them will be a slam-dunk for you. Like any relationship, chemistry plays a role. Some people have synergy and others don’t.
5. Let People Shine. Trust the people you choose to work with. Let them do their job, which is different from yours. Appreciate their efforts and contributions. Be prepared to learn from them. Lean on their expertise. Thank them regularly and often. Let them know you appreciate what they’re doing for you. Acknowledge their gifts. We all shine brighter when we feel seen, heard, and appreciated.
6. Expand Your Generosity. Keep your generosity going. Look for ways to give. Ask what you can do for the people who help you. That’ll make their job easier. Deliver on your promises. Respond promptly to their emails. Help them help you. Sometimes a kind word is needed. On special occasions, send a handwritten note, or flowers, or another gift to show your appreciation. Pay people for their services as soon as possible. Respect invoice dates.
Ultimately, meaningful collaboration requires trust, appreciation, and celebration. The road to being able to trust, appreciate, and celebrate others is to trust, appreciate, and celebrate yourself. It starts with you. It’s an inside-out paradigm. Collaborate with your inner wisdom. Learn how to work with your own less-than-helpful inner voices. We’re either healing ourselves or projecting unresolved issues onto others. Take responsibility for your collaborations. You may find that you’re more than 50 percent of the equation. If you’re happy in your work and life, the chances of having happy collaborations goes up exponentially. Bring your best self to your work with others and they are likely to bring their best selves to you and your project.
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