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Taking the Tarot to Work

This article was written by Mark McElroy
posted under Tarot

Answering the Tough Questions
Authors get asked all kinds of questions. Just last month, in fact, a woman stopped me at a trade show and asked, “Who does your hair color?”

Since I don’t color my hair, I told the truth: “My mom made it for me!”

Fortunately, most of the questions I’m asked are far less personal—and far more practical.

Readers of Putting the Tarot to Work, the first book on Tarot-based brainstorming for business, tend to be creative types: artists, business owners, corporate trainers, marketing people, Tarot enthusiasts, and writers. As people who live by their wits, they ask great questions. Over the past four months, I’ve been asked one important question over and over again:

How can I introduce Tarot-based brainstorming to the people in my office?

Since my personal mission involves getting Tarot into the hands of people we don’t normally think of as “Tarot people,” questions like this one are near and dear to my heart! Here, then, are some simple, straightforward answers that address this question in very practical ways.

Getting the Deck in the Door
When the economy sags, our jobs—always important to us—become even more valuable. We want to look professional. We want our employers to recognize our contributions. We want to succeed. As a result, we’re understandably reluctant to whip out our Tarot decks at the office.

Thanks to both Hollywood and Sister Doololly’s Single-Wide Miracle Palmistry Emporium out on the edge of town, misconceptions about Tarot abound. What if people think we’re a kook—or even more of a kook than they suspected us of being before? Will they call you a fortuneteller? Are you bringing you religion into the workplace? Will someone accuse you of being in league with the Devil? Or worse—will the boss think you’re playing cards on company time?

To avoid having to do a reading on “How can I get my fellow employees to rolling their eyes every time they see me with a Tarot deck?” keep the following four guidelines in mind.

  1. Begin by brainstorming with yourself. I talk with a lot of beginning brainstormers, most of whom are eager to share the power of Tarot-based brainstorming with their co-workers and friends. Sometimes, their enthusiasm prompts them to share their work with the cards before they, themselves, are entirely comfortable with the techniques.

    Tarot-based brainstorming is easy—but it does take getting used to. My advice? Before sharing Tarot-based applications with others, practice, practice, practice. Once you’re feeling confident, practice some more. Sharing the techniques with others is a bit like performing magic tricks on stage—and, like any good Magician, you want the magic to go as smoothly as possible.

    That means becoming a confident brainstormer yourself—which takes a little time. The more accomplished you are, the more polished your delivery will be. When your co-workers witness your apparently effortless performance, they’ll focus more on the benefits of brainstorming—and less on any concerns with the cards.


  2. Next, bring in basic visual brainstorming. Even the most accomplished Tarot-based brainstormers can be bashful about bringing their decks to work. The good news: you can introduce many of the techniques in Putting the Tarot to Work without ever touching a Tarot deck at all!

    At the heart of all techniques covered in the book are the principles of visual brainstorming—allowing random images to inspire ideas. You can use all kinds of images for brainstorming fodder: ads from magazines, family photos, even pictures pulled from websites.

    Personally? I like to type random words into Google’s image search feature and see what comes up. Be sure to turn on the family-friendly filter, though, especially when Googling images at the office. You might be surprised what pictures pop up in association with seemingly innocent phrases, such as “smiling woman” or “men at work!”

    In addition to printing these images on ink-jet index cards, you could also paste them into PowerPoint slides, or use a program like The Orphalese Tarot to transform your photos into a virtual deck of cards. At your next small-group strategy session, you can produce your homemade idea deck and very casually say, “I’ve been reading a book on brainstorming that claims people like us can generate twenty answers to any problem in less than twenty minutes. Let’s give it a try!”

    Remember, you can get people interested in the visual brainstorming process using any images at all! Tarot cards, with their dense symbolic content and underlying structure, will always be the superior grade of brainstorming fuel … but they aren’t your only option.


  3. Let benefits open the door for more. Once people get excited about the remarkable results they achieve when brainstorming with random images, you’ll be well-positioned to introduce Tarot-based brainstorming.

    When introducing the cards, you might bring in one of the more non-threatening decks—like Llewellyn’s Enchantments (formerly the Nigel Jackson Tarot) or the World Spirit Tarot. During those first few sessions, consider removing cards others could find frightening (like the Devil) or objectionable (usually due to nudity, on cards such as The Lovers or The Star).

    If people question the use of Tarot cards as brainstorming fuel, you can respond with a long list of benefits:
    • Tarot cards are more portable. A library of random images has to be stuffed into folders or loaded on laptops. That adds a lot to your luggage! By contrast, you can pop a deck of Tarot cards in your pocket or purse and be good to go.
    • Tarot cards are less expensive. Raiding glossy magazines for images? Subscriptions cost money. Printing out images from the Web? You can spend a fortune on color ink and copy paper. A fresh deck of Tarot cards lasts for ages—and often costs less than fifteen bucks.
    • Tarot cards are more convenient. Just try shuffling a stack of odd-sized magazine pages, and you’ll immediately see one of the primary advantages of Tarot cards! Worse, if you lose your collection of images, you’ll invest hours of work recreating your brainstorming library. Lose your Tarot cards, though, and you’ll be able to replace them with one quick trip to the local bookstore.
    • Tarot cards work better by design. It’s true—the pictures on Tarot cards are deliberately designed to prompt ideas and associations. The symbolic depth of the illustrations virtually guarantees a profitable brainstorming session. Plus, when you get right down to it, Tarot cards are just more fun, and when people have more fun, they generate more ideas in less time.


  4. Always honor the feelings of others. You and I know brainstorming with Tarot doesn’t require any focus on hocus pocus. Still, due to religious beliefs or deeply ingrained superstitions, some people will never be comfortable brainstorming with Tarot cards. It’s just a fact of life.

    People who object to Tarot on religious grounds aren’t generally interested in debating the issue. When this is the case—especially in the workplace, where everyone should feel affirmed and valued—you have the obligation to honor their feelings on the subject.

    What to do in cases like these? You can always introduce basic visual brainstorming, of course, which shouldn’t conflict with anyone’s religion. Even better, you can make the Tarot your personal secret creative weapon. Used in the privacy of your home or office, the Tarot can still provide you with an unlimited flow of options, ideas, and answers.

    Just be prepared: when you start solving problems and proposing solutions at lightning speed, folks are going to want to know what you’re up to. With that in mind, you might start your first super-secret personal brainstorming session with this question:

    When people start asking where all my great ideas are coming from, what’s my cover story going to be?


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