August Brainstorm

Aug 25 2004 by Jurgen Wolff Print This Article

During my break I had a chance to read some terrific books, and in this edition I'll share some insights from them. Here we go:

1: Twyla Suggests a Question
One of the books I enjoyed is "The Creative Habit," by choreographer Twyla Tharp. She writes, "it's vital to establish some rituals - automatic but decisive patterns of behaviour - at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way."

She mentions several artistic examples (yoga, lighting a candle, putting on specific music), but the one that stuck out was very down-to-earth.

It came from an entertainment attorney named Burton Meyer. He said, "Ever since I was a young lawyer, each day I would come back from lunch and I would close my office door, I would sit in my chair, and for one hour I would quietly ruminate on one question. And the question was this: Burt, what's in it for you?"

Tharp notes, "A ritual of asking 'What's in it for me?' might not provide the most open-minded philosophy of life, but it will keep you focused on your goals."

ACTION: The next time you're going to undertake a new project, take an hour to ruminate on what's in it for you. Not only money, but personal satisfaction, enjoyment, etc. You might find there's not enough in it and decide not to proceed, or you might find lots of motivation to move forward.

2: An Idea From Burt
Also in Tharp's book is a story about songwriter Burt Bacharach. He wanted to get producers thinking of him when they were looking for tunes for their recording artists and soundtracks. He made a 4-CD limited edition of all the different singers who have recorded his hits over the years, and sent 1000 of them to music executives and producers around the world. It worked.

ACTION: If there are people you want to make aware of your product or service, what unusual ways can you think of to do that? And who are the people you should target? For example, CDs are very cheap these days, so how about a CD on which you explain what you do, and featuring endorsements from people who love your product or service? Or what about a greeting card on an unusual holiday? Or...(your turn).

3: The Five Questions Trick
Another interesting book is Steve Chandler's "100 Ways to Motivate Yourself." He writes that when he finished presenting a workshop, it was often difficult to get people started asking questions. Now he draws five circles on the board and says after five questions they'll take a break. Because everybody wants the break, they are much quicker to ask questions.

ACTION: You can also use this method when conducting a business meeting. If you want some additional input, say 'Once we have another three ideas about this, we'll take a break.'

4: The Lesson of the Marked Nose
Steve Chandler tells a story in his book about his daughter, Margie, when she was in the fourth grade (so about ten years old). A very shy girl in the class accidentally put a big black mark on her nose with a black marker. The rest of the class pointed at her, started laughing, and soon had the poor girl in tears. Margie picked up the marker, marked her own nose, and then handed the marker to another classmate and said, "I like my nose this way, what about you?" Within a few minutes, the whole class had marks on their noses and the girl who had been crying was laughing.

ACTION: Who do you know who's going through a rough time right now, maybe health-wise, or in their career, or with a relationship? How can you let them know that you're on their side? Warning: don't tell them about the sufferings you've been through yourself, this turns out to be strangely uncomforting! Instead, it could be a card saying 'hang in there,' or a bunch of flowers or a plant, or just having a cup of coffee or a beer together. And if they ask why you're doing it, you can tell them the Margie story.

5: Be a Star
Richard Koch has written several books about the 80/20 principle, that we get 80 percent of our results from 20 percent of our effort. Naturally, the trick is identifying which 20 percent it is! In his book, "Living the 80/20 Way," he identifies the characteristics of 'stars' in various fields--that is, the people reaping 80 percent of the rewards. Here is what he found:

  • Stars are ambitious.
  • Stars love what they do.
  • Stars are lopsided. (That is, they are not all-arounders, they do one thing extraordinarily well and don't worry about the rest.)
  • Stars know a lot about a little.
  • Stars think and communicate clearly, they market themselves concisely.
  • Stars evolve their own success formula (and they don't arrive at it overnight).

ACTION: Consider each of the points above in the context of what you do. Do you love what you do? If not, what would you rather be doing? What's your best talent or skill? Are you putting your focus on that, rather than trying to be good at a lot of things? Have you learned how to communicate clearly your own unique selling proposition? If you haven't yet found your success formula, whose could you adapt or learn from?

6: This Month's Time Tip
Richard Koch points out that most of us assume that more happiness will come from having more and doing more, but in fact sometimes less is more. Here are some of his suggestions:

  • Stop spending time on anything that doesn't bring you happiness and fulfilment, that isn't necessary for your living or the happiness of the people you care about;
  • Don't say yes when people ask you to do things, unless it connects in some way with your purpose;
  • Take items off your list. Less work. Less shopping. Clear closet clutter. Give away things you don't need, or recycle them. Give up feeling angry, close off an old grudge.
  • Edit your life. Cut out unsatisfying meetings, travel, relationships. If something's not going anywhere, stop.

ACTION: Did any of these suggestions have an emotional resonance for you? What's the first thing you're going to edit?

7: And a Quote to Think About...
“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”
– Father Alfred D'Souza

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About The Author

Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. His goal is to help individuals liberate their own creativity through specific techniques that can be used at work as well as at home. His recent books include "Focus: the power of targeted thinking," a W. H. Smith best-seller, and "Your Writing Coach".