Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Art of Intent

Below is an excerpt from a book which was published at Fast Company Magazine. 

The name of the book is Every Leader is an Artist by Michael O'Malley and William F. Baker.

Although it's supposed to be about leadership in business, the way the author approaches the topic is through art. The first things I thought of when reading this review was martial arts and yi.

An excerpt from that article is below. The full article may be read here.

For Claude Monet, a fascination with visual perception prompted a lifelong ambition to “paint the air”: to study and represent how light breaks up on objects and how it scatters on water.
Monet imagined the intangible and made it palpable--through thick brushstrokes and dabs of electrifying color. The result of his extraordinary grasp of color and light was impressionism, one of the most dazzling and innovative movements in art history.

His intent was to capture the fleeting conditions that surrounded and encapsulated objects, the subtle poetry of rural light mainly found on his Giverny estate and in neighboring fields.
Too often the production of vision statements is a stand-alone exercise with no forward thrust: meaningful strings of words with no impetus behind them. On the other hand, intent is the immediate precursor to action. Intentions keep us focused on what is most important to us and guide our behaviors accordingly. In addition, unlike vision, intent situates responsibility. When the author of an idea states what he or she is trying to do, there is no question who is supposed to do it.
Intent, perhaps, finds its nearest expression in a company’s mission statement, but again, we think intent has advantages for its:
  • Intuitive, compact simplicity
  • Clarity and specificity--as opposed to nebulous wishful thinking
  • Usability throughout the organizational hierarchy
  • Unambiguous link to action and accountability
Indeed, vision and mission have become the products of ritualistic corporate exercises that rest inertly on walls or in corporate promotional materials as camouflage for the real business of making money. If the mission were so important, then presumably you would know what yours is. Do you?
You should prepare yourself for a lengthy and trying exercise.

One of the most notable aspects of Monet’s work is that he devoted himself to his self-imposed problem for decades. He was consumed by getting it right. While he could have been resting peaceably on his estate in his later years, he continued his rigorous exploration of light and color. Once started, a journey of this magnitude is never entirely satisfactorily concluded. There is always more to do and to perfect.


walt said...

"...a stand-alone exercise with no forward thrust..."

You wrote in a recent post about the lay practitioner mixing practice with ordinary life. How many times have I found myself going through the motions (literally) but without Shen (spirit), without "forward thrust"! Then it just becomes calisthenics with an Asian twist.

It's been the hardest struggle for me to truly real-ize that I must supply the "umph", not only the mode but the mood of practice. When I ran a business it was like that too: every day I had to "bring something," and without that active intent things so often would go any old ways.

We are blessed in that, like the artist seeking light and color, our disciplines are far-ranging, vast, buoyant, and can be mastered but never exhausted.

Fast Company, as a publication, is way too fast for me, but they have produced interesting pieces. Thanks!

Rick Matz said...

I'm guilty sometimes too. An "empty" repetition is a wasted opportunity.

I'm not a huge fan of Fast Company either, but I agree that they do produce some interesting articles from time to time.

walt said...

Not to get too arty-farty re: the post's subject, but this too seemed related (it's from Catching the Light, by Arthur Zajonc):

Cezanne wrote to Emile Bernard, "Get to the heart of what is before you .... In order to make progress, there is only nature, and the eye is trained through contact with her. It becomes concentric through looking and working."

The eye becomes concentric, aligned with nature, through the artist's ceaseless action of looking and working, of struggling to see clearly a single gesture of nature's infinitely varied repertoire, and then to paint it. In the end, one "gets to the heart of what is before us." Like the alchemist, whose outer actions were but an image of an inner transformation, the artist, in creating outwardly, simultaneously accomplishes an equally precious inner work -- clearsight.

Rick Matz said...

Excellent, Walt! Thanks.

Paul said...

When we have identified ourselves with, or at one with, whatever endeavors we happen to choose, there is no more endeavors and no more hard-work or struggle to accomplish whatever is at hand, there is only me to be perfected and not any art form to be perfected. And by definition, life itself can always be perfected (or for that matter can become deteriorated, 'cause nothing can be stagnant).

In this regard, we can all become a true artist or as great as Monet, assuming that fame is not what we are seeking....:):)

Rick Matz said...

Well said, Paul.