Posts in ‘Innovation’

Time For a Change #15: Finding Your 80/20 Path

by William Reed on May 18, 2012

The unlikely economist turned philosopher

It seems unlikely that an economist would have an insight that ultimately inspired a philosophy of living, but that is exactly what happened. In 1906 an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population, and that this ratio seemed to recur with regularity even in nature. This observation was picked up by management consultant Joseph M. Juran, who named it the 80-20 Rule, or Pareto Principle. Also know as the law of the vital few, it has become an accepted phenomenon that in business 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.

This was taken up as a core theme by Richard Koch, a successful management consultant, entrepreneur, and author, who wrote a series of books such as Living the 80/20 Way, centering on the law of the vital few as a Way of Life. He provides lots of anecdotal evidence on how the principle occurs and recurs in business, in nature, and in our experience, but also provides practical advice on how to get better results for much less effort.

The promise of his philosophy is a way to work less, worry less, succeed more often, and enjoy life more. It is a practical philosophy, one which focuses on getting results, not through the conventional approach of working harder or more efficiently, but by thoughtfully focussing on the 20% of your ideas, contacts, and activities that will yield 80% of your results. He speaks convincingly to business audiences on how most people work too hard for meager results, when they could accomplish and enjoy more by learning how to find and focus on the vital few.

Avoiding digital distraction

It is hard to fathom the degree to which digital technologies and computers have transformed our world. We can now virtually transcend space and time. New economies of scale bring goods from the world to our doorstep the same day. Computers give us windows on the world and affordable access to information, education, media, and entertainment. Through our smart phones and tablets the digital window points in so many directions, it feels as if we have the world at our fingertips.

For all of its fascination, fun and convenience, we should not forget that the world at our fingertips is actually a world under glass, a virtual reflection of what actually exists elsewhere in analog form. Moreover, since we are not actually there, we can easily go somewhere else. We are always just a click away from zillions of choices! Even if your mind is only preoccupied with 3 or 4 choices, that is already enough to cause you to become digitally distracted and lose your 80/20 bearings, losing sight of the vital few.

Bret Victor wrote A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design, an article which raises questions few people seem to be asking; about what we are giving up when we limit the many dextrous functions of our hands to the simple action of swiping our fingers or tapping on a screen. He believes that our future is in our hands, our ability to feel, manipulate and make things, and not in pictures under glass.

In our digital dreams we should not forget the importance of focus, the analog world of sensory experience, the world of sensory serendipity, the world which to appreciate you have to have been there.

Finding fun in focus

In his book, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success, Carmine Gallo attributes the success of Steve Jobs in part to his ability to “Say no to 1000 things.” Apple’s ability to focus has resulted in game changing innovation, making it one of the most profitable companies in the world today.

For most of us it boils down to the art of time management, which in fact is really the art of self-management. Edwin Bliss is an internationally known consultant on time management, and although his books were written in the 1970s, they as timely today as they were when they first came out. Written in brief chapters with practical advice on everything from managing your schedule to increasing your energy and focus, they are also illustrated with amusing illustrations that depict the dilemmas that we all face in time management. For a wealth of tips on how to manage your time and increase your productivity, is well worth reading his two classic titles on time management, Getting Things Done and Doing it Now.

Your path of least resistance

It is not only digital distraction and poor time management that take us off of the 80/20 Path. One of the most fundamental mistakes that you can make is to spend your precious life energy working hard on something that does not come naturally to you. Sadly, many people find themselves stuck in  a job or career in which they spend years developing an average level of competence, when they could truly excel at something else in a much shorter time if they found the right path.

This is not just the classic dilemma of the would-be artist who works at a detestable day job just to pay the bills and get by. It can apply equally well to anyone in any line of work. It is more a matter of finding your flow, according to Roger J. Hamilton your Wealth Dynamics profile. There is no sense in putting this off. It is one of the most important things you should know about yourself, if you wish to succeed on the 80/20 Path.

One of the hardest lessons to learn is that only a few things matter. How tragic if you look back at the end of your career or life, and feel as if you frittered away your life pursuing things that did not really matter. Take an 80/20 inventory of your life now, and focus on your few true friends, gifts, and goals.

For a visual summary of these ideas and approaches download here the 80/20 MANDALA. Catch up on other articles and Mandala downloads in this series by accessing the Time for a Change file on GOALSCAPE Connect.

“Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue—

to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.”

~Socrates (c. 469 BC – 399 BC)

There is nothing more timely than ancient wisdom. What was true in Socrates time over 2400 years ago, must be even truer today in our age of Internet, Satellite television, Skype, Facebook, smart phones, and talking heads shouting in our ears. Those who seek sanctuary to meditate and quiet the mind find it next to impossible in a world in which constant chatter invades our private space. To avoid drowning in the noise, people talk back in self-defense, until all the world is talking, and very few are actually listening. It is comical to see this happening sometimes in cafes when everyone at the table is talking at once, a mini-drama enacting out the larger drama happening on the world stage.

Getting back on the same page

We have gotten so distracted that we are not no longer on the same page, we are not even on the same channel. Remote control and easy access to unlimited channels has seduced us into making this easy escape any time we get distracted or bored. This problem is serious in schools, where flitting minds outrun teachers like jackrabbits. The modern attention span is so short, that the average visitor to a website makes the decision to stay or click away in just 3 seconds. That is ten times shorter than the already super-brief 30-second elevator speech.

While it is definitely harder to get and keep people’s attention today, it is even more important in business to connect with the people who matter most, your customers and your collaboration partners. The first thing to do is to get back on the same channel, then at regular intervals to get on the same page and communicate about what you see. The channel might be Skype or your smart phone, but the page is more likely to be a document, a slide presentation, a spreadsheet. The challenge is that information can get so complicated spread across multiple documents, that it is easy to lose track of the big picture. GOALSCAPE Connect is a perfect way to get and stay on the same channel and page with your collaboration partner on any project, and any level of detail. And you can show the Big Picture to others in presentations on a big screen or a tablet, enabling them to join you on the same page.

Beware the memory trap

Memory is fallible. It can even be called ephemeral, because the details fade quickly. We tend to fill them in with different details which we think are right, which we have selected as important, or simply because the wires got crossed. Memory can be a trap.

Memory is deceptive because things seem so clear at the time, we feel so certain we will remember them just as clearly. Hansel and Gretel could teach us a lesson, for he laid breadcrumbs on the path so that he and his sister could find their way back out of the forest, not realizing that the birds had eaten them, every one. Understanding does not equal recall. There is false security in a paper trail, or an e-mail trail, particularly when you try to retrieve it among shifting subject lines. What started out as RE: abc, over time under the same subject line can turn into talk about xyz. More snares for the memory trap.

The Art of Active Listening

One of the best ways to become an active listener, and to improve your memory, is to become a great notetaker. This is an art in itself, but without active listening your notes will suffer from a lack of discoveries, insights, and original observations.

Given that active listening is an essential skill for students to become active learners, Joe Landsberger created a site called Study Guides and Strategies, which contains excellent advice on active listening and other learning skills. His active listener matrix shows four factors that affect the quality of listening, Subject Complexity, Speaker, Environment, and Presentation. The accompanying questions reveal how highly interactive active listening can be. They also show how important face to face conversation is compared to the on screen or text message communication which has become so common today.

Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story, by Peter Guber is a bestseller that has won high praise from people like President Bill Clinton, Daniel Pink, and Muhammed Yunus. Movie producer, sports team owner, and professor at UCLA, Peter Guber shows how story has the power to melt resistance, move hearts, and catalyze business success. Even this master storyteller highlights the importance of active listening in communication saying, “…the more time I spend getting them to do the talking—to tell me their story or, as it may be, their problem—the better able I am to reshape my story to address their specific challenge.”

Now retired University of Maine researcher Dr. Marisue Pickering articulated 10 skills for active listening, skills which a person so intended can learn, practice, and master.

  1. Attending, Acknowledging
  2. Restating, Paraphrasing
  3. Reflecting
  4. Interpreting
  5. Summarizing, synthesizing
  6. Probing
  7. Giving feedback
  8. Supporting
  9. Checking perceptions
  10.  Being quiet

Research on the techniques and attitudes required for active listening show it to be a skill as engaging as playing a sport. This should be good news for people whose mind is so active that they often end up talking more than they listen. It is possible to get better at both.

A New Age for Collaboration

Howard Rheingold, writer, artist and designer, theorist and community builder, delivered a humorous and insightful talk on TED.com called The New Power of Collaboration. A long-time observer of technology and its implications for communities, he will get you thinking about what all of the coming technology might mean for you in terms of collaboration. Particularly appealing is his idea that evolution, or at least our understanding of it, is moving away from competition for domination, and toward cooperation for survival.

You can download an ACTIVE LISTENING MANDALA, summarizing ideas in this article. All of the articles and downloads in the series can be found on Time For a Change GOALSCAPE Connect.

Find a worthy person as a collaboration partner, open your ears, your mind, and your notebook, and see how incredibly much there is to learn.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

According to neuroscientists, vision is central to our senses, and is closely integrated with our other senses in terms of spatial orientation, balance, and other ways in which we navigate our environment. Thomas Politzer, O.D., wrote in an article entitled Vision is Our Dominant Sense,  that “Research estimates that eighty to eighty five percent of our perception, learning, cognition and activities are mediated through vision.”

If that be the case, it makes enormous sense that we integrate more visual elements into our note taking and communications. Visual communication has far more bandwidth than text, and is the fast lane to better memory, enhanced emotion, and greater influence.

Image training is an integral part of goal achievement and enhanced performance in sports, music, and business. Ask any golfer, violinist, or entrepreneur if they use visualization in practice and performance. Better yet, ask them if they could even perform at all without it!

GOALSCAPE software is designed to improve focus, accelerate action, and achieve goals. Would you like to know how to increase its power by many orders of magnitude?

Enhance your Goalscapes with images!

There are nine basic graphical elements that you can add to a Goalscape file by using the attachment function under the paperclip icon tab in the Notes view.

I have created a Chart called Visually Dynamic Goalscapes on GOALSCAPE Connect, which includes each of the following elements. First read what they are, then click on the link below to go inside the chart to see what they look like, and how they relate to the text in the Notes view.

  • Video. Clicking on the center of the Goalscape, Visually Dynamic Goalscapes, opens the Notes view that contains links to my 33 minute Video interview of Guy Kawasaki.
  • Photo. Clicking on the section of the Goalscape called Photos opens the Notes view with a brief description of the man and the interview. Under the Paperclip tab you can find a Photo taken during that SKYPE interview.
  • Sketch. Clicking on the section of the Goalscape called Sketches opens the Notes view with a description of one of the scenes from the interview, for which I drew a Sketch of Guy Kawasaki that you can find under the Paperclip tab.
  • Mind Map. The interview got me thinking about style and originality, so I created a Mind Map exploring how you can go about generating original ideas to give your presentations more style and originality, which you can view or download as a PNG or PDF file under the Paperclip tab.
  • Matrix Chart. In this section are further thoughts on how our personality type gives us our natural strengths and talents, and how this is depicted in the Wealth Dynamics Square Matrix Chart, which you view under the Paperclip tab.
  • 3D Timeline. Even time can be depicted in a graphic way. Under this section, I posted a Beedocs 3D Timeline of my own life path in developing original ideas, which you can view under the Paperclip tab.
  • Numbers Graph. The experience of Flow is essential in developing original ideas, as well as in enjoying life! Under Numbers Graph section you can find a brief description, and under the Paperclip tab a 3D Graph of the Flow experience working for another company vs being self-employed.
  • Flow Chart. In this section I posted a description of how to create a Life Map using the visual elements described in a Flow Chart, posted under the Paperclip tab.
  • Mandala Chart. And we return to the Mother of all Matrices, the Mandala Chart, which is briefly described as a summary of this article, and posted for downloading under the Paperclip tab of this section.

To fully appreciate the power of uploading visual content to your Goalscape, I encourage you to take the mini-tour and experience the potential of telling your story with visual elements.

You can view and download the contents for this article on GOALSCAPE Connect by clicking on Visually Dynamic Goalscapes.

[NOTE: this file can only be viewed with a Flash enabled browser, so you will not yet be able to view it on an iPhone or iPad, but you can on a Mac or PC browser]

Download the VISUALLY DYNAMIC GOALSCAPE MANDALA to get an overview of the various types of graphics and images which you can attach to Goalscape for viewing or sharing.

Don’t STOP there!

It is one thing to appreciate the potential of visual thinking and Goalscape by looking at an example. It is another, and far more valuable thing to experience the process for yourself. Moreover, you can do so by downloading a trial version of the GOALSCAPE software with full functionality. Try creating and uploading some images of your own. It is best to create your own, but if the file is for your own private use you can easily find images on the Internet. Try to connect them to telling a story, making a point, or helping you to visualize and reach a goal. Taking that action may be all the catalyst you need to set your project in motion.

Time For a Change #12: Get More Done in Less Time

by William Reed on April 26, 2012

Rethinking Time

The characters in Japanese for the word time (時間 jikan) literally mean time-interval, or space of time. This is an interesting perspective, because it joins two concepts that in English are treated as separate things. Einstein spoke of space-time in the context of the Principle of Relativity, but that branch of Physics is still beyond the average person’s comprehension. For most people, time is something more closely associated with the clock and the calendar.

Consequently, when people think about how to get more done in less time, they usually focus on how to work faster or more efficiently, as if productivity against the clock was the ultimate objective measure. The production line mentality still holds sway over the way many people experience time. It is high time that we rethink that proposition.

From one perspective, time matters a lot. You may have noticed that time seems to fly faster as you get older. I remember commenting to a friend on my 16th birthday that the year seemed to have gone by quickly. My friend’s father, who must have been in his 50s, overheard me say that and said to us, “Boys, when you get to be my age, the decades just fly by.” The usual explanation for this is that one year is a smaller fraction of the whole for a 50 year old than for a 5 year old. Nevertheless, as time goes by you tend to appreciate how much it matters. Whether or not time is on your side depends a lot on how well you appreciate and use time. If you look back on what has gone well in your life, you realize that timing is everything.

From another perspective, time doesn’t matter much at all. It isn’t the quantity of time that you spend with people so much as the quality that you remember. The way we experience time is a lot more relative than the way it is measured in minutes and hours. If you are having fun and deeply engaged then 8 hours can pass very quickly, whereas if you are stuck in a boring job the minutes seem like hours.

Synchronicity is the phenomenon in which things occur simultaneously that cannot be explained with any apparent connection. A person suddenly mentions a thing that you were just thinking about. A friend calls you just as you pick up the phone to call them. A discovery or invention is made by two people at the same time living in different countries, despite having no apparent connection or communication between them. We are connected in mysterious ways that are  not bound by time and space.

The art of getting things done

If you want to get more done in less time, a good strategy is actually to do less, but to focus on doing the things that matter most. This is the thinking behind the 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your activities. Manage the things that make a difference, and you will see that small efforts can produce big results.

If you focus too much on perfection your work will never be done. Better to focus on the process, leaving yourself room to breathe. It is not worth sacrificing your days for the sake of filling up all of the time you have with work.

The oriental game of Go has a fascinating strategy that can apply to life as well. Black and white stones are placed on the intersections of vertical and horizontal lines on the Go board, the purpose being to surround territory by surrounding and capturing the opponent’s stones, while maintaining breathing space for your own stones. Go strategy involves playing the whole board and connecting your stone groups across the board. If you play too tightly by concentrating on one of the corners, you end up missing the big picture and losing the game. The connections are not obvious until the mid-game, except to the experienced eye, which sees time in terms of space, not in local logical steps.

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell refers to the “10,000 hour rule,” which applies in many endeavors from sports to music, whereby world class success seems to depend in part on quantity, not years of practice but the number of hours of deep practice, focused, intentional, quality practice time. Such people not only practice, but also perform more consistently in a Flow state, described in Flow Psychology as a state of full immersion and joy in the task. One of the characteristics of being in Flow is a distortion of the sense of time. Hours can pass like minutes, making you wonder where did the time go? Time can also slow down, in sports when the ball seems to travel in slow motion. It is accompanied by a feeling of spontaneous joy, and freedom from the clock. People in the Flow state are also more likely to be successful, and get better results.

Common sense

Voltaire said that “Common sense is not so common.” It is therefore worth reviewing a few common sense approaches when it comes to getting more done in less time.

  • Eliminate. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Shorten your To Do List, and just focus on those things that matter most. Don’t get caught up in trying to do a task more efficiently, without first asking if it is the right task. Free your mind by striving first to be more effective.
  • Outsource. Trying to do everything yourself is not only futile, it is downright foolish. Just because you can is not always the best reason that you should do something yourself. Look for ways to free up your time by paying or training someone else to do the task for you. Instead of yielding to the seductive lure of routine, look for shortcuts that can save you time.
  • Right Tools. A good craftsperson is very particular about their tools. One of the most effective ways to get more done in less time is to select the right tools, and leverage them to accomplish more. Whatever your trade, tools save you time.

No regrets

A Catholic Priest once commented that of the many last rites he had performed for dying people, most of them expressed far more regret for what they did not do in life, than what they had done. Their primary regret was for a life not fully lived, dreams left unattended, words left unsaid.

If you want to live life with no regrets, it is important to attend to your dreams and work on your chosen goals. Your dream calls to you constantly, if you can just free yourself from the illusions of time which pull you away from it. When you are selecting your tools, be sure to consider GOALSCAPE as the tool of tools, because it helps you gain perspective and focus on those things which matter most.

Download a TIME MANDALA as a reminder of the attitudes and approaches that can help you get more done in less time.

The Curse of Linear Thinking

Goal directed thinking is useful, but can cause problems when pursued in a linear fashion. Linear thinking is easier because it ignores complexity and chaos. The future is seen as a simple extension from the past through the present in the same direction. This is behind our ideas of progress, our system of step by step education ending in graduation, and climbing the ladder of success.

The problem is that life is rarely so simple, people are seldom so cooperative, and even nature itself seems averse to straight lines. Chinese tradition held that demons traveled in straight lines. Curved rooftops were designed to ward off evil, Chinese laborers wildly resisted the laying of railway tracks in straight lines.

A new perspective makes us consider that the shortest distance between two points may in fact not be a straight line.

Big promises and hidden agendas

Have you ever taken on a job or a project that was promised to be a certain way, but turned out to be quite different, and in fact significantly harder or less pleasant than promised? Things promised in a straight line fashion often end up seriously misrepresenting the reality of the situation. Look out for the hidden agenda.

Whether you are choosing a college major, making a career decision, or enrolling in professional training, these programs are often delivered with a promise of a predictable path. Think carefully before you commit to such a path. What assumptions are they making? Do they clearly show where they are taking you? You can get a better idea if you ask what kind of changes they anticipate. Awareness of change ahead implies flexibility in steering. Ignorance of change reveals a one track mind.

Have an exit strategy

It the job does turn out to be other than promised, instead of Career Promised Land, you may find yourself in Career Purgatory, or worse. You may have started out on the straight track, but somewhere along the line someone pulled a railroad switch, and you ended up on a track traveling in another direction altogether. This has happened to me, and perhaps to you as well.

Rather than wasting energy assigning blame, better to have a plan for getting out or moving on. Do you have a safety net and a clear idea of where you want to go? If not, you may find yourself jumping out of the frying pan and right into the fire.

In planning your exit strategy it can be helpful to speak to the veterans who have been there, as well as to those who may have already left. Of course their experience is not the same as yours, but it can help you see the situation more clearly.

Stairway to…?

Beware the lure of linear thinking. Success is not a ladder to climb, but rather finding happiness in the pursuit of goals that really matter to you. It is easy to become persuaded that you need to take intermediate steps first to eventually reach your goal. However, these steps may not lead you where you want to go, but instead on a detour toward something else.

From where you stand now, you may not be able to see very well what is ahead. Rather than gazing hard in one direction, you may find more clarity by getting into in a new environment altogether. A walk in the woods, a conversation in a cafe, a getaway vacation, a change in your routine can give you a different vantage point from which to view your current situation.

Get a fresh perspective

The best cure for linear thinking is 360-degree awareness, taking in the whole rather than looking in a single direction. The character 観 (kan) means vision or perspective. It depicts a stork standing in a state of awareness, not staring but seeing with great clarity. It is this commanding view that gives you a better vantage, an advantage.

This viewing point can take the form of stories, even parallel situations from another time and place. Keep alert and you can learn lessons without getting lost in linear thinking, or ending up on someone else’s track.

An excellent way to step out of linear thinking but remain goal focused is to use GOALSCAPE software, which helps you visualize, track, and achieve your goals with 360-degree awareness.

Download a PERSPECTIVE MANDALA to review these ideas, and free yourself from the trap of linear thinking as you pursue your goals in life.

Editor’s Note: Self-Portrait and Calligraphy by William Reed. 観 (kan) means vision or perspective.

Fountains have long been a feature of human habitation, and are a central feature in gardens in many cultures. The sight and sound of flowing water is refreshing and inspiring. Water features are an important element in Feng Shui as a means of enhancing energy flow. Ever and yet never the same, water is a symbol of the Way of the Universe in Taoism.

We bathe in water, and drink it to sustain our life. Perhaps water calls to our oceanic origins, or simply resonates well with the senses and the body, itself being 60% water. With the brain being composed of 70% water, and the blood more than 80% water, it is no wonder that we speak of the water of life.

Flowing water both enhances and entrances us. The sound of water rings like chimes in the wind, and is perhaps nature’s finest music. We return to water to feel renewal in the quality of flow. We can also look for active ways to participate in the flow, particularly in enhancing the flow of ideas.

Thoughts in flow

Deepak Chopra, MD and author of books on spirituality and mind-body medicine, says that while scientists claim that we have around 65,000 thoughts a day, 98% of them are the same thoughts that we had yesterday. While repetitious thoughts may be necessary for repetitive tasks and routines, it also suggests that our thinking is almost completely caught in a closed loop.

Assuming that there is at least some room for improvement, and that for the sake of our well-being it is worth exploring new mental territory, what can we do to break the cycle of sameness and stimulate a fresh flow of ideas? A constant flow of ideas can help you tap into new fountains of thought, wisdom, and youth.

Here are a eight things you can do get your thoughts in flow. They are inexpensive and accessible, and will keep your thoughts flowing like water, rather than frozen in stone.

  1. Water. Engage with water every day. Bathe in it, drink it, and enjoy the sight and sound of its flow. While this may seem to be something that you already do, chances are you can do it with greater mindfulness and appreciation. Don’t dry out before your time.
  2. Music. We are blessed with greater access to music than ever before, higher fidelity recordings, and portability, and even opportunities to learn and produce music ourselves. Music can refresh and stimulate your brain. Don’t let it slip by unnoticed.
  3. Walking. To get your blood moving, exercise your whole body, give you a change in perspective, and wake up your brain, there is almost no finer way than walking. If your ideas are not flowing, trying getting off your seat and onto your feet.
  4. Writing. Put your thoughts into words on paper, where they can be read and shared with others. Whether you write at a keyboard or in a notebook is not as important as whether or not you write at all. Many people avoid writing because of negative associations picked up at school. However, it is still one of the best ways to get your thoughts moving and your head clear.
  5. Reading. Books are food for your brain, and can nourish it if you read selectively. It isn’t the number of books you read, or how fast you read them, but rather the degree to which you interact with them intelligently. Read thoughtfully, take notes, and vary your reading speed according to content and purpose.
  6. Questioning. Children ask hundreds of questions a day, adults ask few. Questions are fine food for thought and good conversation starters. Keep a written list of questions and don’t let it gather any dust.
  7. Sketching. Many children draw daily, while most adults do not draw at all. Sketching and doodling stimulate the brain, helping you to visualize and remember abstract things. Don’t worry if you lack artistic skill. Drawing icons and sketching stick figures can be even more effective at stimulating ideas than making detailed realistic drawings.
  8. Laughing. Not only is laughter the best medicine, it is the shortest path between ideas. Laughter is the body’s way of processing things which don’t easily fit in one part of the brain or another. When unlikely things suddenly come together in a surprising or entertaining way, that makes us laugh. This leads to sudden insights and fresh perspectives.

You can download a Mandala Chart here with self-coaching questions to help you get your THOUGHTS IN FLOW.

Why more ideas?

F. Scott Fitzgerald said that, “the true test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time.” The way this is done is not by holding them at all, but rather by juggling them in a balanced pattern that keeps the ideas in flow. Ideas move people and catalyze change. New ideas are not always welcome, particularly when change is perceived as a threat to the status quo. The only dangerous idea is the idea that all other ideas are dangerous.

If you want to change yourself, you need to change your thoughts. If you want to change others, you need to influence their thinking. If you want to change your environment, you need to find new ways of engaging with it. Change starts when your thoughts and ideas get into flow, and it comes about when that flow is powerful enough to get other things and people moving. Time for a change? Prime your mind for a constant flow of ideas.

Time For a Change #3: The Trap of Tunnel Vision

by William Reed on February 23, 2012

A common trap in thinking about goals is tunnel vision, or single-minded pursuit of a goal. It is defined as “recklessly determined to do something at any cost,” or hell bent, which should give you an idea of its destination.

While this may be the only way out for a cornered rat, it is no way to live your life. And yet we see it over and over again with consequences such as burn out, chronic fatigue, and high-speed collisions along the career path. Tunnel vision is like being in a rut and on steroids. The destination is fixed, and everything else is sacrificed in its achievement.

Horse-drawn carriages usually featured blinders to keep the horses from being distracted by things to the sides of the road. While it would feel strange for a person to walk around with blinders on, many people walk through life with mental blinders.

This shows when the eyes have a very narrow field of vision. Such a person will pass you by on the street without noticing you, entirely caught up in their own world. In extreme cases you see it in the eyes of the terrorist, fixed in one direction and to one purpose. You can get a sense for a person’s field of vision by looking at a photograph of the face. Hold the picture in front of your face, and move it slowly to the side. You can sense the moment that you leave their field of vision. Do the same thing with a portrait painting or photograph mounted on the wall. In works of genius, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the eyes seem to see you wherever you stand, a testimony to the Master’s all encompassing field of vision.

Loosen the tension around your eyes, particularly when you think about your goal. You may discover an easier way to achieve it, and a gentler way to approach it.

Recover your rhythm

Have you ever worked in a fixed posture for hours without break? If you work like this at a computer, work with your hands in small area, or even driving a car, your nerves and muscles become fixed to the task, and you experience a physical form of tunnel vision. If you do this too often then the tension itself can become chronic. Physical activity can help, but unless you change your mindset the tension will quickly return.

The first thing in recovering your rhythm is to increase your awareness. There are four elements you can check in your mindset, which are summarized in a Mandala Chart that you can download here entitled Recover Your Rhythm.

  • Check Yourself. Part of the tunnel vision trap is being so focused on your goal that you become blinded to your own tension and behavior. Becoming aware of tension in and around your eyes is the first step to releasing it. Single minded goal pursuit also reveals itself in conversation, being fixated on a single topic. Keep an eye on how you spend your time, so that your days are not dominated by a single activity.
  • Check Others. We can learn about ourselves by observing others, and the influence that they may be having on us. Seek out the company of broad minded people. Encourage other people to talk about their goals and it will help you find perspective on your own. Maintain a flexible perspective to avoid picking up the tension of single minded people around you.
  • Check Your Goal. The goals which are not written down are the ones which tend to trap us, because lack of clarity increases anxiety. The better your understanding of your goal, the more ways you find of achieving it, and the more you will enjoy the journey without the pressure of tunnel vision. Divide your goal into manageable sub-goals that you can work towards in a tangible time frame.
  • Check Your Results. Regardless of how relaxed you might feel, you still want to achieve your goal, and that requires focusing on results. Review and rewrite your goal statement to keep it fresh. Talking about your goal with others can help you monitor your progress and celebrate your success. If you want to achieve accelerated action, then give GOALSCAPE™software a try. It can help you define, track, and reach your goals with less stress.

The Recover Your Rhythm Mandala Chart also contains strategies to help you overcome or avoid the trap of tunnel vision such as, make a wish list to free your imagination, get help from others to lighten your load, take five to get your nose off the grindstone, and forgive and forget to take a more light-hearted approach.

Ask a group of people if they know somebody with tunnel vision, and most of the hands will go up. Ask for a show of hands if you yourself have tunnel vision, and most of the hands will go down. The truth is that we all have it to some degree. Fortunately, we also have the capacity to recognize the trap before we fall into it. Ultimately the cause and the cure are in your mindset.

Soften your focus

The Japanese word for Mind is 心 (kokoro), suggesting an entity that is constantly changing (korokoro kawaru) and one that tends to tighten up (koru). Like clay, the mind needs softening with water to prevent it from hardening into a fixed shape. The mind tends to tighten up when you succumb to tunnel vision. It often afflicts people who work too hard, like a bow which kept strung until it breaks. The best thing for such a person is to recover the rhythm of pressure and release.

It is fine to be firm with yourself in pursuit of an important goal, because without self-discipline it is unlikely to be accomplished. But balance firmness with forgiveness. It is when you loosen up and unstring the bow that you are able to recover your perspective, and free yourself from tunnel vision.

Time For a Change #2: Lighting Your Fire

by William Reed on February 17, 2012

Make no mistake about it. Goals start and end with Passion, the essential ingredient in motivation. Passion is the energy that feeds the flame, without which your project is doomed to falter.

The quintessential question is how can you light this fire in yourself brightly enough to inspire others to help you achieve your goals? You cannot do it alone, and people need more than just a reason to help you, they need to share your passion.

The quintessential challenge is finding intrinsic motivation, love of the thing itself, which is the only kind of motivation strong enough to overcome obstacles and sustain your energy to achieve your goal. Many people get trapped in the pursuit of a goal which may not even be their own, agreeing to exchange their time and life energy for money or rewards of convenience.

As Daniel Pink points out in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, motivation is an evolutionary process. It started out with what he calls Motivation 1.0, the survival instinct which drives us to escape danger and protect ourselves. It evolved into Motivation 2.0, the carrot and the stick, the elaborate system of reward and punishment by which most people live and most companies manage. However, there is a far more powerful and sustainable force which he calls Motivation 3.0, that of intrinsic motivation, the passion that drives you regardless of rewards or restrictions.

RSA Animate created a remarkable 10-minute animated video presentation of Daniel Pink’s Drive, which he calls whiteboard magic, illustrating part of a talk he did for TED.com. This is the science and persuasion behind Motivation 3.0. That is fine for those lucky enough to have figured out and committed themselves to their true passion in life.

What is needed is something to help light the fire for those who haven’t. Some suggest starting with a blank sheet of paper to write out your ideas, but when your mind is blank, then blank paper looks…blank! It is easier by far to start with a template to assist and seed your thoughts. To help you find and focus your passion you can start with a Mandala Chart that you can download here: Lighting Your Fire.

This Mandala Chart contains questions that will help you frame the East, West, South, and North of your Passion, the WHAT, WHY, WHO, and HOW that help you position where you are and where you want to be. It doesn’t matter if you are not able to answer the questions in detail. At the beginning, asking the question is more important than answering it.

You may find yourself in a job or career that doesn’t feel right for you, even though it is how you earn your living. Don’t simply quit or change jobs without deeply considering where you are and what you want. You may find in your new job that some things are better, some things are worse, but overall you are worse off than before due to acting without clarity.

Once you find your Passion, even if only in a hobby or volunteer project, then you naturally gain more energy to pursue it, more solutions to implement, and meet more like-minded people who can help you. The ring of fire is a virtuous circle of success. It is only when that flame dies that you find yourself in a vicious circle of defeat.

4 Rs to reach your goals

As important as Passion is, it requires focus to get results. You can be long on enthusiasm and short on results. There are many factors that come into play in making things happen, but if you take care of four fundamentals, then you will have a start. These are also included in the Lighting Your Fire Mandala Chart.

  1. Rewards. The key thing to determine here is whether you are motivated by passion, or by promises and threats. It may take you ten years to figure out how to live by passion rather than compromise. However long it takes, it must be better than wondering at the end why you wasted the years of your life. At the same time, there is no need to be a perfectionist in your pursuit of your passion. Enjoy the journey as much as the destination, the process as much as the product.
  2. Restrictions. Most people can come up with more reasons why they cannot pursue their passion than why they should. They have got it backwards, because the largest obstacles are those which you cannot see, those formed by your own assumptions and lack of knowledge. One reason why education leads to achievement is that it broadens horizons and opens up opportunities for new ways of looking at and doing things. Even if the obstacles seem obvious, write them down and take a closer look. You may find with Pogo that, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
  3. Rituals. Repetition is the key to reinforcement, and ritual is the means to repetition. Your rituals are your habits, the things that you perform regularly without effort, and that you return to, to remember and reinforce your passion. Rituals may be formal or informal, but should not be an empty routine. When you train in a martial arts dojo, you are performing a ritual to take you deeper on the Path. Top athletes have rituals that they create and perform to get into their zone of top performance. All cultures create rituals for the survival and continuity of the culture. Be flexible in how you think about and perform rituals, but include them to keep your Passion burning strong.
  4. Resources. Assuming that there is a gap between your present state and where you want to be, you will need resources to help you realize your Passion. It is worthwhile to take an inventory of what you may already have, and ask yourself if you are putting it to the most effective use. As you meet people with like-minded passions, you will be able to share and contribute resources. One plus one in the right combination equals far more than two. If you want to achieve something great, then you will need a great strategy and superior tools to match.

Before you get too deep into planning and implementation, make sure that you are working in the service of your Passion. Trade your time for money if you must, but reinvest your time and money in the things that will make your life worth living, and your legacy worth loving. All of the efficiency in the world will not light your fire if you are missing the quintessential flame of Passion.

When Bob Dylan released his third studio album in 1964, The Times They Are a Changin’, the powerful message spoke to the times. But this message was hardly anything new. The ancient Greek Philosopher Heraclitus (535~475 BC) was a philosopher of change, famous for the saying that, “You never step into the same river twice.” And well before that the ancient Chinese compiled the I Ching, or Book of Changes, dating back to the 2nd and 3rd Millennium BC.

It is almost redundant to say that it is Time for a Change, except that this is a universal and timeless theme, always true, and always relevant to you. Nevertheless, the tools and means of change vary with the times. It is never too late to review who and where you are as the world changes.

Even change itself is changing, through the process of Accelerating Change. Futurologists from Buckminster Fuller (Geodesic Dome) to Alvin Tofler (Future Shock) and John Naisbitt (Megatrends) have delineated the process and the paradigm shifts in technology, social, and cultural change. Change is no longer in the domain of specialists, because we all experience it deeply in our own lives.

Ask yourself what you were doing 5 years ago, or 10 years ago, and chances are you have experienced major changes in your career or personal life, many of which you had no idea were coming. It is fair to predict that the same thing will be true 5 to 10 years hence. The purpose of this new column is to provide perspective on change, and introduce innovative ways in which we can navigate and benefit from it.

Following the structure of my previous column Flexible Focus, this weekly column will also cover topics in 8 major categories:

  • Goals and Flexible Focus
  • Problems in Goal Pursuit
  • Creative Ideas and Focussed Action
  • Presenting Goals to Others
  • Secrets of Collaboration Success
  • Templates for Problem Solving
  • Goals in the 8 Fields of Life
  • 8 Principles of Mandala Thinking

Many people think that they need to get ready for change, or even try to prevent it. Yet once you recognize that change is inevitable it makes sense to shift your thinking and find ways to be ready, to welcome and initiate change.

Think of it as a paradigm shift from being passive to staying proactive.

Our constant companion in this process is Time. We will look at ways in which to measure, manage, and manipulate time through your attitude and the use of powerful tools for Goal planning and implementation.

We do not travel alone. We will look at the importance of communication and partnership in achieving great things that you could not on your own.

Learning from experience is not always the best way to leverage your success. We will look at guiding principles, tools, and templates that can reduce the long journey of our predecessors to a shorter path for our ourselves that those who follow us.

While change can be wrenching and hard, it can also be invigorating and inspiring. So much depends on how we view and engage with it. Join us in this journey, and let us join you in yours.

We, at Active Garage had run this promotion for the free eBook earlier in the year and we are running this again, now. If you find yourself wondering that if the eBook has been available for free download since then, why are we saying we are “running the promotion again”? Valid point.

Here’s why.

The author of the eBook, Mark McGuinness, is opening doors to folks interested in Creative Success, once again, for his amazingly valuable course “The Creative Entrepreneur Roadmap”, for a limited period and seats are limited.

Before you go ahead with making a decision of if this course if for you or not, I would suggest reviewing the blog I had written in January about what being Creative means and who this book (and subsequently, the course) is for (yes, it is not for everyone… ).

There are some great success stories form real folks who have taken this course and produced magical results by directly applying what they have learnt from the course. For instance, there is:

Since the course is now open for only a limited time, you could also directly go to the opt-in page to check it out and register.

To your Continued Success…