Ease rarely comes naturally. In my experience, it’s the result of lots of up-front effort & energy. And once won, it is beyond worth.
All of my dreams last night underscored the importance of appreciating seeking winning ease in what I do. Ease isn’t necessarily easy. Martha Stewart’s high school yearbook quote was, “I do what I please & I do it with ease.” No one thinks that Martha Stewart is prone to cutting corners, but she finds the best way to do things with the greatest ease & personal enjoyment.
An adage of the business world is that success is based on finding the simplest way to make the most marketable version of your product that’s easy to replicate. Brand Voice Bulletin was a hit because a) the title of the online Prudential Healthcare employee newsletter said what it was; b) each opened with a bulleted list of the topics, so people could see if & where there was info of interest to THEM; and c) the text was pared down to basics, not ruffles or flourishes. It was simple for readers to see if anything in a particular newsletter related to them, easy to read & to apply to their work. Because it was online, which was radical back in the early 1990s at Pru, it could be easily shared across a broad spectrum of “stake holders.” It wasn’t, in my opinion, anything innovative or ground-breaking – – PHCS had a serious problem, I’d been to a multi-day workshop in Chicago on how to write for the Internet, which let me come up with a viable response where others were flummoxed.
Ragan Communications, who gave the workshop, instilled in me dos & don’ts that serve me to this day, almost 25 years later. Keep it simple. Keep information spare & relevant. Don’t gussy things up. Reach for informative rather than clever. Brand Voice Bulletin said exactly what it was – an online bulletin about correctly using & protecting Prudential Healthcare’s brand, which was being misused & abused by associates creating their own marketing materials without thought of the legal consequences. Keep your language as simple as possible. Aim for a sixth grade reader. Make it easy for readers to know if anything in it relates to them or can they delete. Ease ease ease.
Brand Voice Bulletin looked like it took an immense amount of time to put together. Only in the beginning. I quickly learned how to gather current hot issues, where to send them (usually Corporate Legal), never used regional sources because they were getting different information, always got a documented sign off on any answer. It didn’t take long for a system to emerge that made the doing easy.
My days in the Corporate world are proving invaluable in our current work. Take Tuesday’s Creativity Jam for Age Justice. The venue made most of my work a snap. The moment I set eyes on the small white room, which had been redesigned from a storage to a meeting space, it was clearly an ideal setting to show off art work. And Judith Sachs’ sigh of appreciation when she first walked into the adjacent church hall confirmed my sense that it was an ideal performance space.
Experience with our joint art shows, with being The Cupcake Lady of our local farm market, has taught me not to stress out over opening days. I brought that same laid-back approach to the Creativity Jam. Whether it was artists declining or performers canceling, I took it in stride, which contributed to the overall sense of ease. I didn’t fret about how many people would attend, which was good since wild & wooly weather kept all but seven valiant souls at home. I planned as well as I good, followed through as best as I could, let whatever was going to happen happen. That wasn’t being a slouch – it was doing these sort of things enough times that what was once hard & challenging is now predictable & easy to do.
Making ease a priority benefits & blesses everyone. When we did cupcakes at the Bryn Athyn Farm Market, I learned to make it our norm that no matter how pushed & stressed we’d been prepping & packing up, the moment we slid into the front seats, we’d take deep breaths, consciously relax, find our core. Locate our ease.
By the time Tuesday’s Creativity Jam rolled around, aiming for ease & finding our stable core had become our norm. Requested to leave up the art display through Thursday, when there’d be a supper & annual meeting in the hall, we didn’t take it down until Friday. As we were dismantling, someone from the church office strolled in, looked around with keen appreciation & commented, “This must have taken A LOT of work.” She seemed disbelieving when both John & I replied, “Thank you! But it seemed to unfold rather than take effort.” Perhaps she thought we were being modest – not so. It’s the bonus of experience – we’ve found short-cuts, easier ways to do what looks like difficult things, how to simplify & to make maximum use of our time.
Remember what I learned at Prudential – find the simplest way to do something effectively, well & easy to repeat. John & I are old hands at putting on art shows, but what we learned getting here helps us make doing the new & untried easier. Leaving more time than we expect, asking more questions, getting things down in writing, spending time & energy wisely, prioritizing. Learning techniques to keep us from getting in our own way.
There is great power in aiming for ease. It rarely comes easily, but with experience, awareness, appreciation of one’s time & energies. A lot of it is noticing, which some people do & others don’t. When we were packing up to hang the art show, I grabbed all of my black file boxes – covered with white cloth, they were perfect resting places for paintings (we weren’t allowed to hang any on the walls). Maybe achieving ease is as basic as putting proper systems in place to take any load.
Some things are never going to come easily, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do them with ease. It’s in our mindset, our intention, our follow through. Our noticing & sometimes doing all that we can, then letting whatever is going to unfold come forward.
Do what you please & do it with ease!