We have multiple personalities inside us, which we can access to gain different perspectives, learn and get creative.
John Pinckard helps entrepreneurs access their personalities to unlock creativity. Startups are highly creative, though often not seen as such.
We also talk about asking the right questions, and inspiring others.
Connect with John at https://twitter.com/johnpinckard
Find out more about Superlearning at https://dominiczijlstra.com/superlearning.
Dom: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to another edition of the super learning professionals interview series. Today I'm joined by John Pinckard. John is a two times Tony award winning Broadway producer and after working for 20 years in the business, he is now a creative recovery consultant. Welcome John.
John Pinckard: [00:00:17] Hey, Dominic. It's great to be here. Thank you so much.
Dom: [00:00:20] So John, tell me a bit more about all of these fantastic roles that you had. Cause it's, it's quite a mouthfull.
John Pinckard: [00:00:28] Sure. Yeah, for the last 20 years I lived in New York city and I sort of worked my way up through the theater food chain. I started out as a lighting designer and that was a great experience and still informs a lot of what I do today. And then over time I began producing to create directing opportunities for myself.
Because directing had become my ambition, but over time I quickly realized that producing was really where I was most fulfilled. And so for 15 years I worked as a producer and most of the time on Broadway, which was a really amazing experience. Most people don't understand what a producer does, even in the theater.
People don't know what the job really entails and the way I can describe it explain it most succinctly is when you're putting on a show every creative decision you make has a financial ramifications. And meanwhile, every financial decision that is made, like how to change the budget, for example, has creative ramifications.
And so managing the interplay of the creative and the financial to get the show up and make it successful. Hopefully that's the job of the producer. It's the fusion of art and commerce business and creativity. So I did that for about 15 years and as they say in show business timing is everything.
I sold my stake in my production company two months before the pandemic ended live entertainment for over a year. And I now live in San Francisco where I'm working as a creative recovery consultant, as you said. And the goal of that really is to work with. Put people in the business community, in Silicon valley, startups, entrepreneurs leaders in all kinds of business, and to help them tap into their own creativity and learn how to foster a more creative environment in the workplace so that their teams and colleagues can be more creative as well.
Dom: [00:02:10] Awesome. I guess you must have learned like a lot of things along this journey, so maybe can you share a bit more like how you got started in the creative business, how you pick things up how you basically started from a lighting technician and then learned all the skills you needed to progress up that chain.
John Pinckard: [00:02:26] I actually started out in my undergraduate studies as a physics major that was one of my original interests and still remains a topic of great interest to me. I still pick up a copy of scientific American every once in a while.
I want them in the books. So that was my original goal in life. When I first started university but I had done drama in high school. I had gotten into it as a social activity, a way to make friends and believe it or not, I had been a painfully shy. Court and introverted child and had very few friends kid.
But my carpool mate, yeah, of all people got me into the theater club in high school. And I sort of received a personality transplant overnight and discovered this gregarious and engaged part of myself that I still live in too. And so the theater had become a part of my life. It was always an extracurricular and it wasn't until I was at university where I met other people my age, who were planning to make the theater a career dedicate their lives to it that I even considered that as an option.
And so I did change majors about halfway through my undergrad and design was my area of focus, but. Was interested in all of it. I, I acted on stage. I took some directing classes. I helped out with the technicians backstage. I helped out with w what I at the time I did not realize was producing the business side of like organizing student productions and helping with tickets and, and marketing and publicity and, and contracts and everything.
So. I've just to answer the question. The core of my approach has always been rampant to curiosity. I've always wanted to know everything about everything as much as I could. And so when I got to New York and I was working, I was working as a designer. I was interested in what the other designers were doing.
I was interested in what all the other jobs were doing. And so after a few years of designing work, I wanted to move into the director's chair because the director. Touches all the other pieces of, of, of, of the work. And so it was a way to be involved in more. And then once I had done some directing and of course I produced my own directing opportunities because I wasn't getting a lot of job offers at the time.
I was very young in my career and didn't have a lot of credibility yet. And I realized that producing touched even more parts of the business. And so it was just a way to satisfy my curiosity and My curiosity continues to serve me as I, you know, as, as an executing this latest career pivot.
Dom: [00:04:46] Tell me a bit more about that. So basically you learned a lot of things that you would just kind of pick up as you were learning by doing, and now you're trying to help other creators with their creative process. How do you go about that?
John Pinckard: [00:04:58] Sure. Yeah. Yeah. I've, I've always, it's always been on the job training for me.
School was always been a passion. I, I consider myself an academic at heart but all the, the most effective learning that I've had has been a champ has been just here, here, roll with your sleeves and go do this. No, you did it wrong. And here's how you do it correctly. Okay. Now, great nugget, go, go, go.
Repeat what you've just done. So. Moving into consulting is my latest adventure in learning on the job. Because the producer works in the financial world world, as well as the creative world, I've had to learn how to code switch. I've had to learn how to speak art to artists and speak business to professionals.
And when talking about the same thing, but, but frame, framing the same topic in two very different languages because. People want to be spoken to in a way that they, they can feel understood and in, and in a way that they can feel that they understand. And so I'm trying to apply that skill now, too.
Helping bring the mindsets, the insights and the best practices that I have not just developed myself, but also observed in the artists that I've worked with for the past 20 years. And to bring that insight into the world of business and startup culture particular out here in San Francisco Again, using the ability to code, switch that ability to take these insights from a purely creative industry and bring them to a world.
That maybe does not think about itself as primarily creative, but in my perspective, it really is startups are by nature, a creative endeavor. They are a founder's creative solution to a problem they have found in the marketplace. So when I talked to leaders who. Are struggling with keeping creativity, part of their their worldview and part of their their workplace culture.
What I try to do is help them see how creativity is already part of what they do and help them make adjustments to their day-to-day practice. So that, that that mindset can be cultivated and, and flourish amongst their teams. If that makes.
Dom: [00:07:07] Yeah, I love that. I think it was Steven Wilkinson who was together in there on that course, creative fellowship with us, who said an entrepreneur is an artist who has chosen business as their medium of expression.
I think that that matches very well. What you said.
John Pinckard: [00:07:22] Absolutely. One of the things I talk about is that creativity is not art. The art is the result of creativity combined with craft and craft is a skill that you can develop and hone over over thousands of hours of practice art is a result.
But creativity is a practice. It's a process and creativity can express itself in art. But creativity can express itself in any field of interest in any aspect of life. It's a, it's a state of being, it's a mindset. You can be creative in how you. Organize a party. You can be creative in how you manage a team or design a system or a process.
So one of the things that I say often, what are the, the drums that I like to beat is that creativity is not just inherently part of every single person on this world. Is that it, it, it can be part of every facet of your life
Dom: [00:08:14] One concept that applies there, it's probably like transfer learning.
Like you learn it in one domain and then you. In another a lot of people struggle with that. So it seems to have come quite naturally to you, but how do you then teach others too?
John Pinckard: [00:08:26] Good question. That's a process that I developed that I am developing and every time I talk to a client or a colleague I build that experience out a little further.
What I try to do and my conversations with my clients and with my colleagues is help them. Make contact with the parts of themselves that are creative and sort of dialogue with those parts of themselves as though they were individual characters, individual entities or personalities the, with their own worldviews and their own mannerisms and, and talents and character traits.
And. When imagining those parts of yourself as individual characters, then over time, you can find ways to bring those characters with you from one situation to another, it's a very theatrical approach to living. And so if you find a part of yourself that is a very creative creative thinker.
And I find that everybody has that part of themselves somewhere, even if they don't have a lot of access to it at the beginning You learn to access that part of yourself no matter what the situation is. And so, as you begin to develop a more balanced awareness of your talents in a more conscious approach to how you live, then you find that you have more facility to call on those parts of yourselves, regardless of the situation
Dom: [00:09:47] I love that have to be more intentional about which part of yourself you need to in that particular moment. I guess precisely.
John Pinckard: [00:09:53] Yes, absolutely
Dom: [00:09:54] what are some practices that you have found out help would being intentional about which part of myself I want to access, right now
John Pinckard: [00:10:02] sure. So there's actually a practice called voice dialogue that I'm trained in and that my mentor is trained in and that I still work with my mentor and he helps me train clients as well. Where you actually work with a facilitator a third one it's not therapy, although it can be used in therapy.
It can also be used in, in the theatrical acting process. It's also used in coaching in lots of consulting environments as well, myriads of myriad applications, but you really just practice speaking as different parts of yourself. And it may sound a little I don't know, theatrical or performative it.
And what's amazing about the process to me at least is how organic it is. Is that it just, it it's one of those things that once the experience is laid out for you and then you are walked through it by a facilitator, it just happens. It's something you really can experience with the effort. And so Engaging in that voice dialogue process over time, you begin to find that the parts of yourself that are your dominant parts, your we call themselves your dominant selves in this system of thought that that, that group of.
Prominent primary cells is sort of referred to as your operating ego. Most people just think about that as my personality, that's who I am. And what voice dialogue enables you to discover is that those are your primary parts, but there are so many other parts of you that you don't work with very well.
And so it's just a question of practice of getting to know these other parts of yourselves in the voice dialogue process. And then once you've done that, what we find is that you, once you establish access to those parts of yourself, then you have access to those parts of yourself as you continue to live your life.
And so it's a question of consciousness raising actually. I talk about people. Having access to the various parts of themselves, the way a symphony conductor plays an orchestra. And while there are dozens and dozens of instruments out there, most people are only playing with a string quartet. And one of the goals of this process is to make you aware of the other instruments out there and give you facility in, reaching out to them and calling on them.
And so. Where’s most people just react without consciousness from these primary selves people who have done this work begin to have the ability to choose how to react based on calling on parts of these cells in varying degrees. And so when you apply that to creativity, you find that you can access parts of yourself that are creative.
You can access parts of yourself. That for example Can facilitate a collaborative process, a collaborative conversation. You are more able to set priorities. You are more able to balance conflict and, and diffuse difficult situations because you're not reacting. You're not triggered. You're just making conscious choices from moment to moment,
to tie that back a bit into the learning process, so those different. Characters that we can play with and that we have inside of us. Are those static or do they evolve and learn over time
we find that they're pretty static actually I don't want to say they're frozen in time necessarily cause that, that, that implies a sort of status or that I, I, I don't mean to imply, but They these very selves as we call them again, come into being at, at various points in our lives, mostly in our, early in our childhood and early adulthood.
And they, they happen they, they emerge as a protective measure because the original. Part of ourselves. We come into this world as a vulnerable child, and so that vulnerable child needs protection. And so these cells emerge to protect it. And so but they stay with us. They never go away. But they are created in these moments of need.
And so they continue to protect us from versions of that moment of need. And so that's why they can be problematic at times because they'll react to new situations that remind them of the situation that created them. That may not be, what's actually recalled for this new situation may actually be different, even though it feels like an old situation.
This is what people mean when they talk about being triggered self is reacting to something that it remembers. And so. You don't try to change these parts of yourself. You don't try to get rid of them. You don't say to a particular part of yourself. Well, this is no longer serving me. So I have to get rid of that.
I have to banish it, but it's actually a recipe for disaster because when you try and get rid of something, when you try and disowned a part of yourself, when you exile it from your conscious. It just starts to get upset and it starts to build in power. It's like when you hold a an inflated ball underwater, like yeah, the, the further down you try and push it, the more aggressively it tries to come back up.
Parts of yourself are very much the same way. And so what this work is about is. Acknowledging and coming to awareness that these parts of you exist and they have a purpose. And even if what they're even if they're trying to accomplish protection, if they're doing it in an unhelpful way, your ability to be a conscious person and say, this feels like an old thing, but it's a new thing and I'm not going to react to it the way I used to react to this old thing, I'm not going to be true.
That is a huge part of the work. And so, again, applying this to creativity, it, you begin to see moments for the totality of what they are and. In context of the story that you bring to them, you can experience what's going on in your life in real time and be informed by the things that it reminds you of.
It can be informed by your experiences and your knowledge and your insight, but still come to it. New, still come to with a, with a sense of curiosity and interest so that you can meet them on where it is, and also continue to grow as a person.
Dom: [00:16:15] That's really interesting. You mentioned a few things, which I found interesting like mentoring facilitation, and then like those different personalities and how they are created. So how do those elements help you learn new skills and basically follow your curiosity as you described?
John Pinckard: [00:16:30] What a great question.
It's such a great question that I'm not sure I have a great answer for it. Curiosity is, is one of my primary selves. It's, it's something that it's always been part of my day-to-day experience. And so I think what I, the best thing I can say to that is that, you know, a key part of my work has been as you say, facilitating other people's processes I learned.
Early in my life that one of the, the talents that I am lucky enough to have been given is the ability to ask questions that are useful and that are helpful. And I approach most situations from a question standpoint, either for myself in terms of my curiosity, what is this? What is this about?
But also when working with somebody else, when talking to you. An artist, for example a big part of a producer's job is developing new work with authors and you can't, I mean, you can, but it's not useful. W when you're working with an author, the least productive way to, to, to collaborate with that author is to tell them what they need to do.
The. I have found the most effective thing to do is to ask them questions that lead them, to realizing what they need to do. Framing is such an important topic in the world in terms of how you frame a question, how you frame a situation, the same situation can be read a dozen different ways, depending on what frame of reference you bring to it.
It's actually something you learned in physics. You know when you know, you're on a speeding train and you look out the window at the countryside from your frame of reference, the countrysides moving that way. But from the countrysides perspective, frame of reference, the trains moving back. Both are true, but they seem like they contradict each other.
It's just a question of frame of reference. And similarly with the creative process, with a personal growth process, developing and bringing to mind a productive and expansive and useful frame of reference is a critical issue. And so. I like to approach any situation from the perspective of asking questions to first determine what the other person's frame of reference is, and then perhaps offer them questions that will lead them to making changes in their frame of reference that will give them more insight, bigger perspective, more and more ability to, you know, make decisions.
That will lead them where they want to go. What would be that more creative success different, you know, workplace culture, you know, pick your application.
Dom: [00:19:07] I love that you mentioned asking questions, just that such an underrated, invaluable skill. So what have you learned about asking questions or what process have you established to ask better?
John Pinckard: [00:19:20] Oh, gosh. I mean, I feel like that's an everyday process. Like, I feel like I'm getting better at asking questions every day. And I, one of the real joys of my life and it picks up particularly in recent years, is that I've recently become very good friends with a few people who. who are some of the best question askers I've ever met.
And so I have some best friends who really level up my game there. And I have to say joining the Twitter community has in the past year has been a huge help for that as well, just to the dialogue and the conversation that happens in. The versions of Twitter that I frequent, which is, you know, not just Silicon valley and venture capital, but also productivity, Twitter creativity, Twitter, you know, life hacking, Twitter just the restless about how to make life better for yourself.
And for people around you is really inspiring. For me, I think that the rubric I try to use when. Trying to decide what questions to ask are, you know, it does this well, first of all, I have to check myself on my own frame of mind and frame of reference and make sure that if I am asking a leading question that I'm doing so on purpose I want to be very conscious and selective about when I share my point of view.
And when I share my frame of reference with. My client, my colleague, my artist, whatever. I try to initially frame questions that helped me understand where they're coming from. Not where I want them to go. I may eventually get to asking questions that try to lead them in a particular direction, but I don't feel that you can do that effectively until you really understand.
Where the other person is, you have to meet them where they are. And so if you don't take the time to find out where they are, then you're already two steps behind and you're playing with one hand tied up tied behind your back. So I like to ask questions in a collaborative process. You know an example of, one of my favorite opening questions is how do we define success for this conversation?
What is your goal for this dialogue? How will we know that at the end of this conversation, We have succeeded in what we set out to do and something, as basic as that, I find. Be a completely game changing conversation in an in and of itself. The number of conversations that I have been a party to where I was not able to, to facilitate the process.
And we've just meandered in circles for what felt like hours because no one set established goals, no one set their intentions for what the. For what the conversation want it to be. And, and that's a big word for me as well. Intention, I, I, I talk a lot about living with intention. I talk about setting intentions for a process for for a space, for an event.
People have general ideas of what they want a lot of times, and. In my experience at least. And I find that having conversations about specifying specifying your goals, specifying your wants, specifying details in your process, specifying choices. People live tend to, to live in a very generalized sort of ambient mood sort of head space.
And. One of the great benefits of asking the right kinds of questions to people is that they'll get specific. If you just give them a little, a little nudge to get there. And once they've gotten specific, there is so much more you can do in the world because now, you know what you're trying to do, you know, you know, what you need and what you don't have, what you, and what you do have and all that sort of stuff.
So it's, it's it's a critical thing to start with in my opinion.
Dom: [00:23:08] That's so hard, right? You have some general goals and then actually becoming specific and mapping those to your day-to-day actions. that's a very hard process.
John, you're a very energetic person with a lot of energy.
So how do you use that to inspire other people around you to also learn and be.
John Pinckard: [00:23:27] I don't know that I have a lot of consciousness around that, to be honest. Apparently my energy is infectious. I try to take advantage of having that, that, that gift when I can. What I find is that, again, going back to specificity, if I can share with somebody, my point of entry into a topic, my pointed engagement, the way that I found it, the way that I first found it to be exciting and interesting.
Then that's a great place to start with getting them interested as well. They may not have the same point of entry, but then they at least know where I'm coming from. And so that's a beginning point for the conversation. And then from there, if they don't want to engage the topic from the same way that I do, then at least we know that and we can look for other points of entry, a shared commonality in terms of interest.
I enjoy what I do. I enjoy the things that I talk about and it's rare that I am called on luckily to teach people something that's not interesting, or to share with people, a topic that I don't have interest in. And so yeah, just being authentically engaged yourself. People respond to that.
People react to that. The, the parts of you that are dynamic and engaged and interested when you bring them to the four that we'll call on the parts of your, of your clients, the parts of your colleagues that are also excited and interesting and engaged. And they'll meet you where you are, if you allow them to.
So again, setting an intention. This is a place of interest. This is a place of excitement and engagement. And then bringing that consciously into the conversation. It's very difficult for someone to not at least begin to meet you halfway there. So intentionality and consciousness, again are the they're the answer to pretty much every question, but particularly in this case.
Dom: [00:25:16] Yeah, people will start to mirror you. If you have this authentic curiosity and excitement.
John Pinckard: [00:25:22] Yeah and there's science behind that too, of mirror, mirror neurons and all that stuff.
Dom: [00:25:27] Definitely so John this very long journey of yours, what has been your biggest learning challenge?
John Pinckard: [00:25:34] Oh gosh. How much time do you have? I will say the following
my. Enthusiasm for things is one of my greatest gifts. I'm lucky to say it can also be, and has also been one of my greatest weaknesses in the sense that my passion for something can become so consuming that I have ignored warning signs or problems. Or I've rationalized away w red flags one of the hardest lessons that I've learned in my journey as a producer, and over time, I've come to understand that this is a hard lesson to learn just as a human being.
Is that a producer falls in love with what a thing is going to be by what, by what I mean, what I mean by that is I'll read a script on the page. And in my head visualize an $8 million stage production with lights sounds, costumes, acting music, the whole nine yards and marketing and the marquee and everything.
I have to be able to visualize all of that with the help of a massive team, don't get me wrong. But but I have to take these typed words on a page from all the way through the process to an opening night. So the producer must see what a thing can. And what I see it can be is not always what it's creator sees.
It can be, and that's, that's not a good or bad. That's just, that's just a thing that happens to be true. And there's a whole school of dialectic conversation about the death of the author and how much agency the author has and what a a work means. That's beyond the scope of this conversation. But.
If I see a production in my head based on a script, the author has to want that production too. And what I have, what I have learned, and I say this to younger producers all the time. You can't want it for them. If the author doesn't want to make the changes to the script, to get it ready for opening night, then you can't make them do that.
And you want that for them. So, yeah. And I have made that mistake many times in, in, in the past, I have wanted it so badly that I have convinced myself that it's working when it's not. And so some of my greatest failures have been when I did not remember this and I wanted it too badly. And similarly in life you can't really.
A thing more than the other person wants. You can't want a relationship more than your partner wants the relationship. You can't want a result more than your team wants it. You've got to find people who will meet you, where you are. You've got to find a way to meet your team where they are, and again, make that connection of enthusiasm of interest and intention so that your intention is shared.
And then the goal can be accomplished together. But if you're wanting it for them, the wheels will come off the wagon. It is only a question of when and how badly you'll be hurt when it does happen
Dom: [00:28:42] I can imagine how that can be a blessing, but also of course at times,
John Pinckard: [00:28:48] yes. Too much of a good thing.
Dom: [00:28:50] Exactly John, I'm looking for ward what's needed for you to to transfer this learning that you've got it in your life successfully onto a whole generation of creators and entrepreneurs, even what's your vision for this?
John Pinckard: [00:29:03] Right now, I'm focused on a, as we say, building my audience.
I certainly have a community from the theater world. And I have the community for my investment world, the financees that I've worked with over the past 15 years to you know, tobacco my shows. So getting the word out about this pivot in my career and th the, that I have hung out a new and also, you know my approach to creativity.
And to into business I I'm finding seems to be a little unique, you know, the, the voice dialogue oriented approach to improving business situations and to unleashing creativity into fostering and we're creative work environment it's not an approach. Many people are talking.
And so I feel like I've got a pretty good opportunity to differentiate myself and establish a niche in the, in the market. It's just a question of doing that about tweeting every day. And I'm looking forward to starting my blog and my newsletter very soon. The on-deck course creator experience was phenomenal in every possible way.
But as we all said to each other, it was drinking from a fire hose for nine weeks straight. And you know, this being our first week after the program, I'm just catching up on things I didn't watch during the first nine weeks. So I'm still playing catch up from school. So getting out of that learning mindset at least for a moment.
So yeah. Pull that energy and put it into the making mindset. Because of my curiosity, because of my interest I, one of my, again, too much of a good thing, one of my challenges personally, is I can stay in research mode forever. It's just so interesting. There's so much to learn and that's great, but I also need to start making, I need to start getting the content out there.
I need to start getting my message out there so that The people that I want to reach. I know that I'm here. So that's where I'm at right now is expanding my audience and establish my credibility. You know, I'm lucky to have spent so much time working in the American theater, you know, at the Broadway level.
You really, you know, the Broadway really is the best of Broadway really is the best of American yeah. Theater. I do believe that. So. It's been a phenomenal experience. And now, as we say in show business, it's just about marketing the show. So I've got to get the word out. And I, I, you know, that's why part of why I'm so delighted to be here today.
I'm excited to, to share my message with, with your audience and see what comes to that.
Dom: [00:31:13] Yeah, definitely we were all in the same boat, right? like we got all this information and now it's up to us to get out and do it
now for the doing here we go
yeah. I love that. Thank you. Thanks John so much for the interview. So one question I always ask is who would you like to see next on this interview series?
John Pinckard: [00:31:32] Oh gosh. What a great question. Paralyzed by options. On, on super learning which is your topic. Oh gosh. I will give you the name, I'm a professor at the university of central Florida.
Her name is Sibyl St. Claire, and she teaches a class. Well, she teaches classes in the theater department but she also teaches classes in the honors college for theater for social change. So activists. And she's developing a course right now called thrive the how of happiness. And it is a, an experiential based course on the science and best practices for how to live a more fulfilled life.
She is one of the most gifted, insightful, warm funny, and just truly profoundly transformatively, amazing educators and human beings I've ever heard. We've been friends and collaborators for over 20 years. And I think that the work that she's doing with thrive is some of the most exciting stuff that I'm aware of out there.
We're actually talking about working together so that we can. Deliver thrive through my company to business audiences as well. These speak that clearly. She's a great guest. She's hilarious. And she's doing really important work. And so that's who I'll send you to, and if you want an introduction, I'm happy to make it.
Dom: [00:32:51] Yeah, I'm really looking forward to that that exciting
John Pinckard: [00:32:53] She's phenomenal. and you'll have a great time with her. She's way more fun than I am.
Dom: [00:32:57] Oh, that's, that's hard to believe all right. So John, thank you for the interview. And if people want to find more about you and the consulting, and course you're working on how can I do that?
John Pinckard: [00:33:10] Oh, fantastic this has been amazing. I'm so grateful to have been here and this was just a blast. So thank you again to find more about me.
My website is John pinker.com. It's J O H N P I N C K a R d.com. You can also find me on Twitter @johnpinckard. Those are the two best ways.
Dom: [00:33:28] Excellent. Yeah, I'll put at the end a description as well. So thank you, John
John Pinckard: [00:33:31] dominic, thanks so much. I, this was just the best. I really appreciate it.
Dom: [00:33:35] Yeah, it was great. Let's see.
John Pinckard: [00:33:37] All right, we'll see you later