Here’s an interesting interview with an unusual creative type – Mike Davenport has been a teacher for over 30 years, and it doesn’t seem to have dampened his humour as you’ll see by his answers (hint: doughnuts feature heavily).
Mike’s one of those rare people who practice what they preach, as seen by his wise advice on clarity over at stickfiguresimple.com and his ability to express complex ideas through his deceptively simple stick figure drawings. He’s also an active member of the Third Tribe marketing forum, run by Copyblogger Media.
Let’s hear what he’s got to say. I’ll give him a moment to prepare himself first.
Mike? Are you in the zone yet?
Okay, I’m ready. Bring on the toughest questions you got. Fire ’em up.
If you insist! Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?
Starting easy on me, are ya? Okay.
I’m actually two people—not physically, but mentally. A part of me works with actual humans for my day job, coaching and teach. The other part dabbles here on the net—working with humans (at least I hope they are) virtually and digitally. I draw stick figure images and use simple drawings in an attempt to help readers find clarity and better engage their audience.
Some days I remind myself of this fellow who’s eating a dozen doughnuts by himself. But he’s drinking water because he is conscious about his weight. Kinda schizo, a nice guy, but ya gotta wonder what he’s thinking.
About doughnuts, I guess? Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?
I’ve always known that I wanted to teach—and I’ve been lucky enough to do that for over 30 years.
But the tricky part has been WHAT do I want to teach. And I’ve been all over the place on that. I’ve taught courses ranging from cross-country skiing to courses on failure and wisdom. Now I’m teaching on the web about clarity. Man, that’s a wide spectrum of stuff. Keeps me young and attentive . . . er . . . what were we talking about??
Clarity, I believe. Speaking of which, how do you define success?
Oh . . . questions getting tougher, I see. How about four versions then.
Short version: success = living
Long version: success = living a long, prosperous, engaging, and compassionate life.
Heavy version: success = the split-second before you die you do a quick review of your life and you realize that you made a difference.
Even heavier version: success = getting the last doughnut.
Ah, the doughnuts again, I notice a recurring theme!
In a possibly futile attempt to distract you from circular sugary foodstuffs, what in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?
Jeez, I should have studied harder. Okay . . . hm . .
There is this wicked cool part to technology and that is how fast new things can appear, almost out of nowhere. Like smart phones. Within the last two years the market has exploded with users and with the ability of the phone and access to services.
Yet there is a negative of side to technology—and it is often very significant. And that is how your work can now be seen by an enormous audience, and very quickly. (As I write this one of our political leaders has just resigned due to the fact he was sending explicit images of himself to women over his smart phone. I don’t think he realized that that material could (and was) easily shared with others.)
See, people struggle with the power of new technology sometimes, like this poor chap did.
So what? Well, I draw simple stick figure images. Those have been around for thousands of years. And back then a guy probably put the image up on the cave wall to impress a gal or his family. But technology, such as smart phones, now makes it so anyone in the world that has one can see my images in a second.
That can freak a guy out sometimes. Really.
Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?
I do both. I collaborate usually until I annoy the heck out of someone then I end up working alone. Hm . . that should be telling me something.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere! Seriously though, is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?
Community is where it is happening—both real and web-real. To me, stories are critical to what I do and if I’m just telling stories to myself, well, that’s weird and kinda scary. I get stoked by an active and vibrant community. Bored by my lonesome.
Hm . . this is almost like a therapy session. Do I need to pay you an hourly rate?
No, but maybe therapy is the way forward for me. At least that’s what my wife tells me…
In fact here’s one of my recurring issues: I’ve always found consistency difficult in terms of learning a craft and then practicing it regularly. Is this something you’ve mastered and do you have any advice on how to maintain this?
Y’know, I’ve entered this mid-life point—fifties actually. And I can hang my hat (and I do wear hats) on two things that I have been trying to master.
Be authentic, and be honest.
Both have been hard for me to get a handle on, and I still struggle, but in terms of what I do and how I do it, those are the most critical parts.
Brilliant, thanks very much Mike, for taking my quite serious questions not at all seriously and thus reminding me to take myself less seriously too – a good lesson indeed. And of course for the illustrations which he drew especially for this interview. Don’t forget to check out his stuff over at stickfiguresimple.com.