I hope your year is off to a great start. If not, don't fret - personally, I always findI hope your year is off to a great start. If not, don't fret - personally, I always find it takes a little while to really get going and I do best once Spring is in sight, even if only on the distant horizon. In the meantime, here are some ideas and strategies we can all use:
1: Steps to Breakthrough - and a Myth Debunked
In a recent interview, FedEx founding officer Michael Basch debunked the often-told story that the creator of FedEx, Fred Smith, got a "C" grade for his idea for FedEx at Yale and was told by his professor that the concept would never work.
In fact, the idea that got a bad grade was for something else and Smith said it was a dumb idea and the guy evaluated it properly. What's interesting, though, is that the 'dumb idea' did eventually evolve into the concept of FedEx. And that's Basch's key point: innovation is generally evolutionary, not revolutionary.
In other words, you start with an idea and try it out, and it doesn't really work. But instead of giving up at that point, you refine and revise. And you go through what Basch calls "the dark night of the innovator" - that is, the point at which nobody else believes in the idea, and the problems with it loom larger than ever.
If you have the vision, determination, and guts to stick with the idea (and keep modifying it as necessary), you come out the other end with something that works (and later may indeed be considered revolutionary).
ACTION: Are there any ideas you're sitting on that may be only a few evolutionary steps away from working? If something you're developing isn't working, rather than abandoning it, have an evolution brainstorming session: make a list of all aspects or features of the project. Then consider how changing each one at a time might impact the whole.
2: Why Not be Naked?
A book I have enjoyed recently is "Think Naked - Childlike Brilliance in the Rough Adult World," by Marco Marsan with Peter Lloyd. Here are a couple of tidbits:
"For kids, it's not about being right, it's about getting back to the important stuff - having fun. If you have to apologize to get there, regardless of who's at fault, so be it. Why stay mad when you've got a snowman to build?"
"By always giving more than expected, you're setting yourself up for always getting more...Your friend asks you to help him move, add a zero - show up with a truck, duct tape, two handcarts, a bunch of boxes, and your buddy built like a gorilla... Overdeliver! If two tickets to a James Brown concert are great, then hire a limo, wear a leopardskin cape, and the night becomes historical (make that hysterical)."
ACTION: Is it time to forgive somebody (maybe yourself) and move on? And how can you over-deliver something this week in a way that will delight the other person - and yourself?
3: Time Pressure: Friend or Foe of Creativity?
Teresa Amabile, head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School, has made a long-term study of creativity. One of her findings is that while many people claim they are most creative when under pressure, an analysis of their results shows the opposite.
The key factor seems to be the number of distractions and interruptions that come up with fighting the clock. Creativity can thrive under pressure, but only when you are able to focus your full attention on the task at hand.
ACTION: When you come up against a tight deadline, the best way to proceed may be to separate the task from everything else you also need to do. Do the other things in one session, and then give yourself over entirely and without interruption to the creative task.
4: What Winners Have in Common
Another Harvard Business School professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, interviewed more than 300 people in a variety of fields to try to figure out what winners have in common. Here are 4 factors she discovered:
- They don't panic.
- They are not rigid - they thrive in a relaxed atmosphere.
- They don't fight change or find excuses for problems or failures.
- They celebrate, if only briefly, when things go right
ACTION: Are any of these four weak points for you? What can you do to strengthen them? (PS: for more details, see Kanter's book, "Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin and End.")
5: The Keys to Happiness
Yet another academic is Ruut Veenhoven, Professor of Social Conditions for Human Happiness, collector of the World Database of Happiness, and editor of the Journal of Happiness Studies (I'm not making this up). He's studied happiness for two decades. What are his main findings?
The happiest countries are Denmark, Switzerland, and Malta; the unhappiest are Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Education and income account for only about five per cent of someone's happiness. More important (10 to 15 per cent) are close relationships - spouse or partner, family, and friends. Sheer luck (bad or good) accounts for about 10 percent.
"One of the surprises is that children don't add to happiness," he said in an interview in The Independent recently. What about the people who say having children was the most wonderful thing they ever did? The Prof. says that's only because they don't know how happy they would have been if they hadn't had children...
Alcohol helps, but only one or two glasses per day. Any more or less and you're likely to be less happy. Hobbies are good, too, as is volunteer work.
ACTION: Do your own happiness inventory. What would add to the quality of your life? If it's something you can't afford, what's the value or meaning behind the item or activity?
For example, if you'd love to go around the world but can't afford it, how could you indulge your desire for adventure or new experiences more locally and cheaply? If you want more friends or to find a good relationship, what can you do to make the first move in that direction (maybe sociable hobbies or volunteer work)?
6: And a Quote to Consider
This one seems more important than ever in today's world. Bertrand Russell said it:
"Be isolated, be ignored, be attacked, be in doubt, be frightened, but do not be silenced."