Last weekend, I departed on a trip that combined work with play, although the use of the word “work” is a stretch. I was returning to my alma mater, the University of Virginia, to deliver two lectures, so I guess I was working, but I take so much pleasure in talking with students about the importance of art in their lives that I feel a little like Steve Martin asking himself, “do I really get paid for doing this?”
As the slider on this site for speaking states, I see speaking as an opportunity to touch my audience emotionally, and therefore as a performance more than a chance to appeal to their logic and deliver knowledge. Both are worthwhile goals, and I am not judging their relative values. I do believe that I have the ability to harness creativity in a persuasive way, and on this trip, I presented that idea formally for the first time to a class of students in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. I talked about leadership, and how creative persuasion is an important, underutilized leadership competency that has served me well throughout my career. I demonstrated this by performing one of the songs I’ve written about the problems in the American Health Care System, which seemed to me to touch on public policy a bit.
Judging by the looks I received from most of the class, I got their attention, and attention is the price of entry if you’re trying to persuade someone. Comments from a few students indicated that I made a few of them think, and two students took the time to communicate directly with me and declare that my presentation had reminded them of their own connection to creativity, and rekindled an interest in exploring its use in their work.
I also visited with my extended family, saw friends, went fly-fishing in a snowstorm (caught lots of fish and slipped and fell in for the first time), ate a sloppy breakfast at The White Spot, and enjoyed the chilly but beautiful April landscape around the grounds of my beloved University. Couple that with the opportunity to change the way a few bright students think, and you’ve got a pretty good week.