Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Thought Readership #14: Toughening Up On Tighter Writing

by Liz Alexander on October 1, 2012

Call me weird, but I often turn to the last few pages of non-fiction books (although never novels!) before making a decision whether or not to read them; what I find is rarely creative.

Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is one exception. He signs off with a handy chapter-by-chapter summary, and even a discussion guide as they do in the Young Adult novels I’ve begun to devour.

Another is Dr. Jason Selks’s Executive Toughness: The Mental Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance. His conclusion is smartly crafted and, for any aspiring nonfiction author struggling with how best to scope and structure their book, could provide some much-needed inspiration.

There are several parts to Dr. Selk’s concluding chapter. The first poses two questions that help illustrate the characteristics of great people:

  1. What is one thing you have done well in the last 24 hours? (Because the greats “give themselves credit where credit is due.”)
  2. What is one thing you want to improve tomorrow? (They also “relentlessly pursue improvement.”)

Devising questions to ask your readers is one way to narrow down the scope of your book. In Selk’s case, his theme is mental toughness and how those of us who desire to be remarkable need to embrace accountability (doing what needs to be done), focus (prioritizing what’s important), and optimism (overcoming all obstacles). The two questions mentioned above speak directly to those key points, and presumably helped Selk keep his book tight and well organized.

The second part of Selk’s conclusion really drew me in. He offers a chart listing each of his ten “mental toughness fundamentals,” along with a brief explanation. It is here that the author intrigued me sufficiently to want to sit down and read his book cover to cover. He poses questions in those charts that are obviously answered and expanded upon throughout the book, as well as mentioning stories previously referred to that I wanted to know more about. Selk’s reference to acronyms and other terms piqued my curiosity sufficiently to want to check out the relevant, earlier sections: IAS (Ideal Arousal State); RSF (Relentless Solution Focus); and Gable discipline.

The third part of Selk’s concluding chapter summarizes three issues that neatly cover all obstacles to success: Apathy (lack of passion); Laziness (lack of motivation); and Fear (lack of confidence). This is a handy mental checklist to go through whenever you find yourself procrastinating.

Finally, Selk does what any good presenter would do: he encourages his audience to engage personally with the material. He gives the link to a free download work sheet – a clever way to include his web address and drive traffic to his site – and further intrigued me by pointing out that readers would have an opportunity to compare their takeaways with his.

How might such an approach help you write a better book? If you are a speaker, trainer or presenter you’ve learned the importance of summarizing your material in order to highlight for your audience the most important material to remember. Why not use that technique to formulate the scope and structure of your book? In that way you can avoid the mistake many new authors make, in publishing poorly organized material that frequently wanders off into the weeds.

Take a leaf out of Jason Selk’s book and know what you want to leave your readers with – the core takeaways – before you start to write or speak.

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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Time For a Change #22: Putting Time on Your Side!

by William Reed on August 9, 2012

The Game of Go originated 2500 years ago in Ancient China as a strategy game in which players alternately place white and black stones on the cross points of lines on the board, in an effort to encircle and capture both stones and territory. Strategy is a matter of both calculation and intuition. The rules are simple, the strategy not so. The game favors the player who takes the long view, and players places stones strategically far enough apart to build bridges, that later in the game connect groups and surround the opponent’s stones like a net. Less experienced players overbuild to secure small corners and sections, only to choke on their own over-saturation. The term used by Go players is securing breathing space. Time is on the side of the strategic player.

The game can be a metaphor for how you play the stones in your life, how you secure breathing space in your domain. The first thing in playing your resources is to realize how lucky you are to have opportunities to be in the game in the first place. It is staggering to consider the circumstances of all of your ancestors meeting, reproducing, and surviving, each one of them laying the foundations of your birth and existence. And yet here you are! That is worth remembering once in a while when you think about how to best use and leverage your time.

Time for a Change

Reading through inspirational quotes on change, its remarkable how often the emphasis is on taking a chance. Wayne Gretzy said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” Another word that comes up often is courage. Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” Another recurring theme is the importance of getting started! A proverb has it that “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

So what are you waiting for? Opportunity knocks once, not twice. If you want to create change the best time, often the only time to act is now.

Some people say that time flies, but this is partly a reflection on missed opportunity. The chance shoots past before you can catch it. Another perspective is that time flows like a river. It can carry you along or sweep you away, depending on how you navigate it.

It is remarkable how people are able to find time for that which is important to them. This is called making time, as opposed to killing or wasting time. The point is that no matter how busy you are, you do have time on your hands. Twenty-four hours of it, every day of your life.

Perspectives on Timing and Timelines

It is helpful to gain a flexible perspective on time, rather than just attempting to schedule it in the conventional way. The Japanese characters for 呼吸 (kokyū) have the meaning of both breathing and timing. This probably originates in the way in which people coordinate their efforts to lift a heavy object, or use their breathing to coordinate body movements in sport or dance.

Timing is a matter of rhythm too. It is easier to move with the beat in music than against it. Rhythm creates its own energy. Soldiers are taught to break step crossing a wooden bridge, so that the rhythm of marching doesn’t set up a dangerous sway that can cause the bridge to collapse.

Synchronicity is the simultaneous occurrence of seemingly related events that have no apparent causal relation, a coincidence in time. Things are more deeply connected than we may realize. The Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that, “Hidden connections are stronger than obvious ones.”

Whereas timing, rhythm, and synchronicity relate more to occurrences in the present, it can also be useful to look at past events on a timeline. Beedocs is brilliant software for the Mac OS X which enables you to plot events in your life, or in history on a 3D timeline. Even if you don’t have a Mac, it is worth watching the tutorials and videos on the site showing how events look plotted in 3D on a diagonal wall.

It is interesting to look at historical timelines, although they only provide a thin slice of linear events of a particular type, like a musical score for one instrument. Timelines showing parallel or simultaneous events in different areas are more interesting, like an orchestral musical score for many instruments.

Time Out

Our lives are so ruled by calendars and clocks that we may feel lost without them! They are useful and necessary for conducting life in a society that depends on coordinating schedules. However, be sure to take time out in your personal life to take breaks, cat naps to refresh and reset, and time away from your desk or computer to mingle with people or enjoy nature. The cost of not doing this is finding yourself out of time and off track, wondering where it all went.

The Power of Ritual

If you want to get results over time, there is power in perseverance, and in the repetition of ritual. Albert Einstein said that,“The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” This is an analogy for the way in which results magnify through repetition. Our days are marked by the repeating cycles of the sun and moon, and what a difference when this is reinforced with the repetition of rituals.

I explored The Power of Ritual in a series of blog posts at www.entrepreneurscreativeedge.com/power-of-ritual/. Here you can read about the power of Wax On Wax Off, Master Miyagi’s ritual for Daniel in The Karate Kid, as well as the power of perseverance in achieving mastery in music and the martial arts.

Download a PDF summary of this article in a TIMES MANDALA, and use it to review and refresh your view of time as force which is on your side, a multiplier of your resources, and a fascinating phenomenon in life.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Time For a Change #20: Memes Can Drive You to a Goal

by William Reed on July 13, 2012

According to Wikipedia, a Meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” The word was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene (1976). It is based on the Greek word mimeme, the root of the word mimic, and is a play on the word gene, reflecting the process by which ideas spread and reproduce. In French the word mȇme has similar meanings ranging from same to even so.

The concept that ideas spread within a culture is nothing new, but the biological comparison has taken hold and captured the imagination of people in fields from social science to marketing. Once a meme takes hold, it has the power to motivate as well as duplicate. It is the infectious viral quality of memes that gives them such a powerful influence over people.

Another evolutionary biologist and prominent philosopher is Dan Dennett, who spoke about Dangerous Memes at a TED Conference. His talk begins with an ant which has been infected by a parasitic fluke that commandeers its brain, leading it to senseless and suicidal behavior. He says that memes can commandeer the human brain and also produce behavior that makes no sense from the perspective of biological survival. Religious and political memes can be so powerful that to the believer, they are worth dying for. Many people have laid down their lives in the service of an idea.

Urban legends are also memes. Originating as macabre jokes or fabricated tales, they often suggest dire things that can happen without proper precaution. Tourists are drugged and anesthetized, only to wake up with one kidney removed. Stories about contaminated foods or tampering with the water supply seem to contain an element of plausibility, and even though the rumors lack any detail for verification, they spread like wildfire. The Internet makes the spread of ideas easier than ever before.

Although memes have a viral quality in the way that ideas are spread, now even the idea of the meme has taken hold as a meme, and this has spawned meme generating software, which falls somewhere between low grade advertising and digital graffiti. Most of these artificial memes are meaningless, and therefore not likely to go viral unless force-fed by spam mail. Memes are used in marketing, but there are so many competing memes for products and services, that it takes more than a catch phrase to change people’s behavior

Making memes work for you

One book which makes the process very clear is Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It shows the essential ingredients that ensure that an idea will survive and thrive, and why urban legends and bogus schemes often spread effortlessly, while people with worthwhile ideas often struggle to even get the word out. Their acronym for these ingredients is SUCCES: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories. These ingredients are what give ideas virility and the power to motivate people.

Once you understand this you can actually begin to create and cultivate your own memes. Start with your notes and sketches related to your GOALS, and watch your motivation rise and your memes gain power as you communicate them to others.

Memes are usually a combination of verbal and visual elements. The more meaningful they are to other people, the easier they are to remember to to share, the faster they will spread.

Verbal memes can be found in slogans and catch phrases, powerful statements and quotes, parables and stories. Strong memes survive centuries, and get translated into many languages. Weak memes fade in the morning sun.

Visual memes can be found in photos with captions, videos and movies, and duplicatable demonstrations. A wonder source of memes is the site TED.com Ideas Worth Spreading—

Riveting Talks by Remarkable People. Great books can shape your life. Can you name 5 to 10 books which have truly changed your life, without having read you would not be the same person you are today? Great people can have an even more powerful transformational effect, and they are often connected the great books you have read.

Memes are hypnotic, and hence are a powerful way to commandeer the mind for a cause. Not all memes are in your best interest. For that reason it can be useful to know also how to break the spell of a meme. Understanding how memes work can help build your immunity. An excellent book on the power of semantics to create our reality is, Language in Thought and Action, by S.I. Hayakawa and Alan Hayakawa. A book which will help you see how even numbers and graphs can misrepresent reality is, How to Lie with Statistics, by Darrell Huff. Propaganda propagates because people succumb to memes without understanding them. Awareness and reflection can make you more conscious of memes before they command your consciousness.

An excellent way to examine a meme is to view it through a Mandala Lens, by analyzing its elements in at least 8 frames rather than just one. A good place to start would be to download the MEME MANDALA summary of this article, and then start looking for ways to use memes to motivate you toward goals and causes of your conscious choice.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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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.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Growing into Interdependence

In the Flexible Focus Series we looked at the first principle of the Mandala Chart, Interdependence. That article looked at the 3 stages of growth, from dependence, to independence, to interdependence, and six steps to continuous improvement which can facilitate this growth process.

Once you begin to grow through Interdependence, a whole new set of factors come into play which enable you to cultivate and strengthen your relationships with other people, and with the universe itself.

To a small child the world revives around the self in a state of dependence. The baby cries when unhappy, and like magic mother takes care of all needs. This is a natural and healthy way for a baby to grow. However, in some people although the physical growth process continues, psychologically they remain needy and dependent, creating all kinds of problems for themselves and others.

At some stage before or after the age of 20, we come to seek independence. This is an important stage of growth, and essential to survival. However, it is also possible to become stuck in the appealing misconception that everything that happens depends on you. This is the world of the lone wolf entrepreneur, the rebel, the self-made man, and the independent woman. It can wear you down and end in a state of total exhaustion. Like Atlas trying to carry the entire world on his shoulders, in the end the burden is to great to bear.

Ultimately, and according to Carl Jung usually before or after the age of 50, you grow to seek interdependence. This is a more mature state, but unlike the two previous stages, there is no limit or limitation to the degree of connectivity you can have to the universe you live in. It is as limitless and inexhaustible as the universe itself.

That being said, the challenge is how you go about proactively and creatively cultivating this connectivity.

The Interface Connection

The character for 縁 (en) means interface, connection, and karma. It is often used to express a lucky meeting of people, an auspicious mingling of minds that produces blessings and benefits for those who become connected. It is often considered to be serendipitous, unsought but extremely lucky, and somehow meant to happen. You can have this connection with people, ideas, and places. It is a wonderful thing to experience, and one of the great mysteries of life.

While it happens through seemingly coincidental events, in fact synchronicity is deeply connected below the surface of awareness, and is not as accidental as it appears. It is possible to facilitate this process of positive change through mindful living, and paying attention to eight important factors in the interface connection.

  • Attitude. Our experience and even what we see or do not see is conditioned to a large degree by what how we look at things. This has been proved in psychology experiments such as the Invisible Gorilla Experiment, which shows how people not only overlook the obvious, but even completely miss the totally outrageous when it stares them in the face. It is also well known that a positive disposition will make you happy, whereas a gloomy outlook casts a pall over everything and everyone. You find what you look for, so it only makes sense to cultivate a positive attitude.
  • Gratitude.  When you become aware of interdependence there is a dawning awareness that all of the things that you have, all the things that you have become, depend in some important way on the help you received from other people. You didn’t do it all by yourself, and therefore it is only natural to appreciate and show your gratitude, not only in your heart by in your words and deeds. Find deeper ways to show your appreciation, and you will deepen your connection to other people.
  • Association.  Of all of the people who can help you grow and increase your connectivity, it is the great teachers in your life who can create the most change. You most likely will not find them in school, though there are lucky exceptions. One reason why you are more likely to find a great teacher outside of school is that you have to seek them out, and the awareness and desire to fill the gap in your knowledge and skills is also an important part of interdependence. Choose carefully the people that you spend your time with, as they can either buoy you up or drag you down. Energy is what guides the relationship, so keep your energy positive and alive.
  • Communication.  Many self-proclaimed great communicators are in fact poor listeners. So anxious to convey their own message, they forget to find out whether or in what way the other person might care. It is important to catch the atmosphere and mood of the people you are with, whether it is a small group or a large audience. A good way to gauge this is to ask great questions. Not only will you learn more, but good questions will open up hearts and minds. Once the flow of communication is there, you can enhance it wonderfully with the art of telling a story. This is what keeps people there, and makes them want to come back for more.
  • Collaboration.  The notion of accumulating resources is based on the independent mentality, storing up for the future so that you will have enough for yourself. The interdependent mentality thinks differently. Rather than adding resources, it jumps to a new level by multiplying resources, matching your own resources with those of another through collaboration. However, it is vitally important to choose the right collaboration partner. If you have something good, many people will be attracted to it, but not all of them have the best intentions. If you have money, beware the gold diggers. If you have talent, beware the agents and producers. Work with people whose resources complement but do not compete with yours. The real test of a good collaboration is that all parties are essential to the partnership. Otherwise they will suck out of you what they can, and then leave the relationship which never existed in the first place, no matter how friendly the early approach may have been.
  • Spaces.  Pay attention to ambience, the power of the place and the way it influences the people in it. Of course the place itself can be transformed by the energy of the people present. Ambience is enhanced through the five senses, plus the sixth sense of intuition. A space is like a stage, which can be set with lighting, color, and furniture, and enhanced through music, food, plants, even pets. It is a small universe that responds and creates response. A highly enjoyable way to increase your connectivity. Develop your own sense of presence so that you can be the master of the space wherever you travel.
  • Words.  The power of words is magic. Words can captivate, entrance, enrage, or engage. The power of the Word is recognized in all religions, and is the driving force of culture. Choose your words and phrases in such a way to enhance and reinforce your relationships, as well as remember your experiences. Words can be expressed in multiple dimensions. The tone and quality of the voice carries words when spoken or sung. There is the power of the written word in literature, and the transformational effect of brush calligraphy in art. Words are a wonderful bridge to the world.
  • Anchors.  We anchor our experiences in various ways, through imagery, metaphors, anecdotes, emotions. Those which are well anchored can be triggered through the smallest of reminders, a scent, a melody, a phrase. When you are centered you have more impact in your communication. It is as if you words have more weight, more substance, greater power to spread and take root. Anchors can be reinforced by going back to relive, revive, and remember your experiences. This is the power of a diary, and one of the driving forces behind social media.

You can download a CONNECTION MANDALA which summarizes these ideas as a reminder and a gauge of your level of connectivity through Interdependence.

Editor’s Note: The image (provided by www.toyouke.co.jp) depicts character for 縁 (en, connection), painted by William Reed on a charcoal egg.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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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.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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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.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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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.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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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.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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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…

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
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