The Art of Winging It

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This image is of Paul Gauguin playing the harmonium in Alphonse Mucha’s studio. As you can see, he’s forgotten his trousers. No idea what’s really going on here, but it’s always struck me as an excellent visual representation of the Art of Winging It.

I vividly remember a conversation I had with my Dad when I was about 17. Neither of my parents had been to university but with my brother halfway through his Computer Science degree, it was just a given that’s something I’d do. A degree in Costume Design at Wimbledon had caught my eye and this is where the conversation with Dad began:

“I really want to do this course” (pointing to the prospectus)



“Well… what I’d like, really, is for you to go to a good university. I don’t care what subject you do as long as you learn the art of bullshit”


“And then if you still want to do Costume Design after that, I’ll support you.

And there it was. Amazing offer of support, right? Also, I felt he had a point. So a year or so later, I headed off to Bristol to do a degree in drama. I never did go back to costume design, but I did him proud. I learnt the art of bullshit and I ignited a lifelong relationship with the Art of Winging It.

This conversation came back to me this week where, with one lovely project, I feel we really are flying by the seat of our pants.

Through lockdown, I developed Splash Back in collaboration with designer James Johnson. It’s about Scotland’s history of swimming in the sea or lidos and how our recent times have reconnected us to the summers of years past.

We got the opportunity to write a guest blog for Historic Environment Scotland which was published last week.

We know how we want the project to develop, but we don’t currently have the finance in place to make it happen. So the dilemma on writing this was, should we plunge right in explain the dream as though its going to happen or should we more tentatively dip a toe?

With the spirit of “sod it, I’m going in” we decided on the former. We jumped right in and told the story of how our Marvellous Bathing Machine will trundle over the beaches of Scotland next summer, delighting bathers with our stories of swimming past and gathering ideas for future paddles.

There’s been quite a lot of interest in it from the press, including this lovely article in the Herald. When speaking to various journalists, I 'fessed up that we hadn’t secured the funding yet and no one seemed bothered: they liked the idea and thought it should happen, so they wrote about it.

Usually on a project, we’ll toil for months, secure the funding and get someone to do some PR which invariably is published too late to make an impact on ticket sales. With our winging it approach to Splash Back the buzz is in place before we’ve even written our names on a funding application.

Is this cheeky?

Does it dance along an ethical boundary?

I’ve spent the week soul searching and my answer is a resounding NO.

It’s optimistic.

And blimey do we ever need a good dose of optimism to see us through right now.

If it never happens it effects no one. If it does happen it would be a blooming brilliant thing. How exciting!

This week in coaching, I’ve used the Future Pacing technique with a couple of clients. They pick a time in the future and we really visualise what that looks, sounds and feels like for them, in detail. We then move back in time to set actions: what needs to happen to be able to achieve that vision.

When you’ve expressed your ideal future out loud you, believe more strongly that it can happen. When you take steps back through time and plan your actions, it becomes even more real. When you launch a project without the funding and it gets a good reception, you know you will make it happen, one way or another.

So I’m not going to stop. I’m going to hone and refine my Art of Winging It further. I’m a Master Winger and my dad is dead proud of me. If you think I might be able to help you shed some of the barriers to making dreams become reality, get in touch for a chat.

The Art of Winging It is waiting for you!

August 2020