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Creating a Scenius

I’m tossing down a few notes for my friend Andrew Watt. On his recent blog post, he laments the ‘death of the web’ by the lack of adding links to posts.

I began writing this as a comment on his blog, but realized this post could be meta by writing and link to my article in his comments.

We hand out business cards for connection, with the web, links to our work are our new ‘calling card’  The links create a web, a trail of bread crumbs to find what you’re sharing.

This web of deliberate connection creates a digital “Scenius” a concept highlighted by Austin Kleon in his book “Show Your Work”.

There’s a healthier way of thinking about creativity that the musician Brian Eno refers to as “scenius.” Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals—artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers—who make up an “ecology of talent.” If you look back closely at history, many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of “a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas.” Scenius doesn’t take away from the achievements of those great individuals: it just acknowledges that good work isn’t created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.

What I love about the idea of scenius is that it makes room in the story of creativity for the rest of us: the people who don’t consider ourselves geniuses. Being a valuable part of a scenius is not necessarily about how smart or talented you are, but about what you have to contribute—the ideas you share, the quality of the connections you make, and the conversations you start. If we forget about genius and think more about how we can nurture and contribute to a scenius, we can adjust our own expectations and the expectations of the worlds we want to accept us. We can stop asking what others can do for us, and start asking what we can do for others.

How does this tie together? Links create trails. If we are deliberate with our time, we can translate our links from little bread crumbs to become Thoroughbred Crumbs, or ‘Bred Crumbs. (Hat Tip to my buddy Tim Bland who owns

Trying to wrap up, what I’m calling for a improvement to digital literacy/etiquette.  I will write more on the topic.

Find a Scenius



Portland to Portlandia

It’s very exciting to travel from Middletown/Portland Connecticut to be part of xoxofest in Portland, Oregon. I wrote a list of things I’m hoping to experience, and here are my predictions:

  • Meet a lot of nice people.
  • Connect with old friends.
  • Discover new old friends
  • Listen, learn and share

Portland has been very welcoming and all is weird so far. I came here to learn, engage and get less sleep.

Feel free to follow my Twitter feed @topherpolack to keep up. Twitter culture is very different here than in Connecticut, so I hope I can keep up with local thumb jockeys.*


*I was going write ‘big kids’, or ‘smart folks’, but ‘thumb jockey’ seems neutral. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be a thumb jockey?

Blog Media

Hartford Hot Several visits New York

Back in 2015, the Hartford Hot Several were invited by our bandleader Josh Michtom to performing in New York.


Day 7: What are you taking with you from this Challenge?

I learned that my life is lived away from the computer. Attempting to schedule writing time was like riding a carousel, constantly passing the brass ring. Solitarily staring a hunk of metal and glass, seeking validation from how many likes the posts receive, was not how I was living when I had other things to ship.

In the little time I had in front of the screen, I read a few of the other Your Turn Challenge posts. Many first day posts featured mimicry, people writing in the style of their favorite blogger. That, I truly respect. Many posts read like kids trying on grown-up clothes, and I mean that positively. I know the amount of ‘math’ going on behind my writing. I respect those who shipped seven posts.

I’m proud of my 5 posts. The challenge topics lined up mostly with thoughts I’ve been ruminating on.


I’m also happy about the work I completed on my website. I am teaching myself WordPress and web publishing. It has been baby steps of progress.

I didn’t ship Saturday. The Day 6 topic “Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself.” stymied me. I learned that a jumble of incoherent handwriting does not make a readable post. Like I wrote, “Some things don’t fit on the Internet.”

Currently, the posts fell upon deaf ears. I’ve posted, shared and gotten no responses. I could speculate why, but why?

I tried to keep up with the emerging #YourTurn community. There was a noontime chat room the first day but that dissolved for unknown to me reasons. By chance, I found a Facebook #YourTurn group.

The one thing I was hoping to get from the challenge was a community. Often, I feel way out from the crowd. I was hoping to find others who rally along with the writings of Seth Godin and readers of Your Turn. I will endeavor to persist, connect and ship more ideas and projects. This post will be my homing beacon to find you, to find me.


Nothing lasts forever. Forever nothing lasts…


Here’s my advice for getting unstuck:

“Nothing Lasts forever,
forever nothing lasts.”

Whatever state you’re in – writer’s block, traffic, etc, it can’t continue. SO, the trick is to divert our attention, moment to moment.

When I learned how to bike up hill, my brother taught me to zig-zag, so, as I went up the hill, the incline was less steep. The small leaps add up if you KEEP LEAPING.

I’m not trying to write a blog post, I’m working on this sentence. Whatever BIG BLOCK you perceive in your way, break it down into small bits.

Want to write a book – start with a short story. Want to make a movie – start taking pictures. Write your own list of examples! Find ways to make that big project into smaller ones. Create small successes!

My inspiration for this post – Here’s Judith Owen singing “Nothing Lasts Forever“.

Answer to Day 5: What advice would you give for getting unstuck?
The Your Turn Challenge was concocted by Winnie Kao.


Some things don’t fit on the internet


I don’t teach with words.

Sure, I talk to covey meaning but that’s not what I teach.

I teach connection. I endeavor to be aware, spark passion and awareness in myself and others.

You give me dots, I’ll connect them. Give me a suggestion, I’ll incorporate it. People, places and things? I’ll find a way to get it all connected.

The act of connecting, the motion, I don’t think I can convey that with words. There are better writers doing that.

(There was a body language study that reported that 8% of what we convey are the *actual words coming out of our mouths*. I don’t think i can squeeze what I do into 8 percent orange juice concentrate text for you. Some things don’t fit on the internet.)

Often, you’ll find me in a space, it has been either a board room, coffeehouse, ballroom or club. The people are smiling, laughing, eyes lit up. I feel immodest to say I*lead* the group. I ‘Facilitated’, yeah, that feels better. I can’t see taking credit when what I do wouldn’t happen if others weren’t willing to connect. Nothing of what I can teach matters without the talented and caring people I’m surrounded by. Some I’ve known for years, most I only meet once.

But, I’m there again and again, helping make connections, showing what’s possible.

That’s what I teach.

Answer to Day 4: “Teach us something that you do well.”
The Your Turn Challenge was concocted by Winnie Kao.


Let’s curate curiosity

Thirty days of making: pencil case
Photo of handmade pencil case by Andrew Watt.

My friend Andrew Watt teaches a design thinking course for middle schoolers in New England. Last year, he taught the students the skills of sewing.

Andrew’s students built upon their skills. First, tying knots, then to knitting and basic hand sewing and finally using sewing machines.(Read the full story by Andrew Watt.)

Talking to Andrew, I recall he noticed some of the students perspectives changing.

The kids brought in pictures of outfits and clothes from ads and magazines. When they began the course, none of the student envisioned obtaining these garments. If they did, it would before a heavy $$ price.

But now, with their new skills, a few of the students attempted to create their own clothes from those pictures. While their designs were not off-the-shelf perfect, the students empowered themselves, seeing beyond the item with the big price tag, discovering by creating what made that design and creating it themselves.

It’s the passion for seeing and discovering our world that needs to be improved, stoked and maintained.

Answer to Day 3: Tell us about something that you think should be improved.”

The Your Turn Challenge was concocted by Winnie Kao. 


Cat Toy or Tree Ornament?


Our cats think all these things are all toys. They bat at the shiny glass balls that have been in her family for generations.

This got myself thinking about what’s important to me. I think awareness and literacy are most valuable. One needs to be present to witness details that are significant and be able to express that importance.

What’s something that holds value to you? How do you share that value with others?

The Your Turn Challenge was concocted by Winnie Kao. 


This Might Not Work

I am taking on the Your Turn Challenge to create community. It is challenging to live as an artist, working on your project, knowing ‘this might not work’. It’s lonely in our world of typing on a pieces of plastic, metal and glass. I am here to connect and contribute to a scenius of people that shares its struggle, and yet, ships their projects, delivers results and honors its word.

I am here because I believe that the dots I connect, the perspectives I share, had and continue have worth to people. As a producer/performer I somehow consistently create the fuzzy outcome of applause and laughter. As a teacher and facilitator, I’ve been credited for inspiring action, passion, creativity and possibility. People improve after their experience.

Yet, the results of my work feels ethereal in the world of metal and glass. I’m taking part in this challenge to prove to myself that these characters I string together will be viewed and considered, and maybe, responded to. I want to create a trail of projects and failures for others to find so they can learn, laugh and celebrate. I want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs so others can find their way, to eventually create their own path.

I am taking this challenge to serve others by providing audience, attention and support knowing that this might not work. And having fun along the way.

The Your Turn Challenged was concocted by Winnie Kao who works on special projects for Seth Godin. Seth recently published a book “What To Do When It’s Your Turn {and it’s always your turn)“.