Hold The Light

Who is this for? Those looking to improve at their own craft or to learn more from the time spent studying the work of others.

I just had one of the better personal learning experiences in my recent history. For two awkward hours I held an iPhone across my lap in order to provide Mike Rohde with enough light to sketchnote two main stage talks at the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon.

Now, I’ve read Mike’s book on the subject. I’ve watched his videos. I’ve followed his work, and I’ve had him on a podcast to discuss his process. But nothing came close to watching the man work.

The experience did so much to enhance my understanding. I’d heard him share about capturing the essence. It made sense to me when I read it in his book, but the concept came to life when I saw what he captured and what he had to overlook. Reading his encouragements to not worry about mistakes helped, but it paled in comparison to watching the man fearlessly attack his own work. I’d heard about how he would get the bones of a sketchnote down, adding details and additional thoughts to it later, but I didn’t truly appreciate how he approached this until I sat beside him and watched him.

Instead of just enjoying the talk and then seeing his notes, I was able to observe—up close and personal—how they come together. I was fortunate to experience the process, rather than just enjoying the results.

Now I still can’t draw to save my life, but I learned so much from the experience. Observing Mike’s process will inform the way I take in conferences and is causing me to rethink many of the ways I approach my writing. Rather than obsessing over every detail, I want to obsess over the essence. Rather than fearing mistakes, I need to remember that I can always find ways to fix them later. Rather than worrying that I’ve missed a key fact, I’ll look to get my idea down and continue to improve upon it later. None of these ideas are new. I’d heard them all before—in fact I’d heard them directly from Mike—but didn’t fully understand them until I saw him in action.

I’m not certain that there’s a better way to learn from others how to improve our game than by watching as they play their own. All too often we’re obsessed with getting them to tell us their secrets. We want things spelled out and told to us. We want a three step process on how we can do as they do. While there’s a fair amount to be learned from someone sharing their process, those two uncomfortable hours were a great reminder of the power of just sitting back and watching someone with a gift use it.

It was a gift to hold the light. It was a gift to watch him work and to learn, but more than anything I was encouraged to go out and the get the man a better light, so I could get back to doing more of my own. Learning about others is one thing, but the last and most important thing I took away from watching Mike bring a conference to life in the pages of his Moleskine is that nothing helps you improve at your craft quite like doing it.

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