CL4: November 2013: Generosity/Gratitude/Grub

It was November. Visions of turkey legs danced in our heads. Visions of shopping lists kept us awake in our beds. We were writing blogs that rhymed. ‘Twas the season for generosity, gratitude, and grub. How fitting, for that was the theme of our next Creativity Lab.

Generosity: The Call to Action

To explore generosity, we went to the movies, popcorn bags in hand.

Here’s what we noticed: Generosity starts with paying attention. So does creativity. Among all the pedestrians, one woman paid attention to the beggar. One woman saw the path to generosity.

So, if the goal is generosity, and the path to that goal is paying attention, then the big question for us became: How do we get better at paying attention? Our video woman lead the way to some tools we’d acquired in previous Creativity Labs:

  • Story: especially story that engages our empathy, which triggers our generosity. Most of the pedestrians noticed a very short story (assuming they noticed any story at all): “There’s a blind beggar.” But what if they’d built on that story? The improv technique of “yes, and” can pull out a richer story. Yes, there’s a blind beggar, and his back must hurt from that hard pavement, and he could use a warmer coat, and… (Can you hear the coins clicking?)
  • Place: where we find everything we need to be generous. Opportunity: a blind man. Resources: a piece of cardboard, a Sharpie, and a way with words.
  • Senses: which help us notice the abundance, not scarcity, of our resources. Here’s what’s cool about our senses: When we start paying attention to ours, other people start paying more attention to theirs. One woman used her senses to observe, “It’s a beautiful day.” Soon other pedestrians heard the sensory wake-up call. And the result was generosity.

It seemed so simple: a piece of scrap cardboard, a Sharpie, and a woman who paid attention turned a beggar’s day around. But so much of life—even the creative life—is spent on auto pilot. All of our focus is on just getting the next thing done. Who can afford to pay attention? Or maybe the question for generous creatives is, Who can afford not to pay attention?

To amp up our attentiveness, we received two symbolic gifts:

  • Reading glasses: to help us read the world around us
  • Sharpies: to help us respond creatively to what we read

We were equipped to go forth and be generously creative. And we did—immediately. Some of us trekked to the studio to create a light sculpture. Others of us popped into the kitchen to make good things happen with weird ingredients. Would generous collaboration prevail or would egos get in the way?

Gratitude: The Response

Gratitude is a form of wonder. And wonder is what we felt when our colleague Chris unveiled his commissioned painting called Gratitude. He drew upon memories of his grandmother and  themes of connectedness, nature, and spirituality, all of which feed his own gratitude. For our small tribe of creatives, it felt like a mini-retreat: a momentary escape from the responsibilities we carried to focus on the goodness we had received.

Grub: The Celebration

With grateful hearts and hearty appetites, we gathered for the main event: food! What happened when we put two spirited chefs and a pile of unusual ingredients (including goat meat and rock fish!) in one small kitchen? Generosity happened. Opinions received respect. Chef secrets were shared, not hoarded. Each person helped the other improve their craft. And our noisy tribe was silent, overcome by gratitude for the feast before us (and too busy eating to talk!).


Now You

Think about it: Where can you be generous and grateful with your creativity?



Ken writes on topics like creativity, work, and productivity. Learn from his discoveries…and his mistakes.




Get clarity on your life purpose, honor your values, and make a bigger impact. With Ken you go farther faster.




Ken and Mike co-host a podcast called WorkWise: The Growth Mindset for Wisdom at Work. Listen in.


Creativity Labs