October Brainstorm

Oct 22 2004 by Jurgen Wolff Print This Article

A couple of my writing projects have fallen through lately. "Oh good," I thought, "an opportunity to consider failure as merely a learning experience." All right, that wasn't my FIRST thought... but it's a good second or third thought!

Here are a few more thoughts, techniques, and inspirations that have helped me and that I hope will help you, too.

1: An Idea from a Baby

In the "Life's Like That" section of Reader's Digest there was an anecdote submitted by a man named Tony Becker that told how his 14-month-old son was playing with his mother-in-law's house keys. She was distracted by a phone call and when she turned back to the boy, the keys were gone. She couldn't find them anywhere, and of course the child was too young to tell her what he'd done with them.

Then inspiration struck: she gave the child another set of keys, pretended not to look and watched as the little boy wandered off to her bedroom and put the second set of keys under her bed--right next to the original set.

Sometimes when we're confronted with a challenge, we forget that we've been there before. Of course each one has its own characteristics, but often there's a precedent that will lead us right to a solution.

ACTION: What's your biggest challenge at the moment? What kind of similar challenge have you faced before? What worked that time? (Or, if nothing worked that time, given what you know now, what do you think would have worked?). Take a few minutes to brainstorm how the previous situation might lead you to an answer for the current one.

2: Copy this idea: well, actually . . .

A few years ago, designer Paul Smith wrote a book called "You Can Find Inspiration in Everything* (*and if you can't, look again!)". Jonathan Ive, the designer of the i-Mac, designed a polystyrene slipcase so that buyers didn't know which of the 33 limited edition Paul Smith fabrics covered their edition. The package also included a board game, posters, a comic book, and a magnifying glass with which to examine the smallest images in the book.

It's not surprising, then, to hear what Smith told The Bookseller magazine about original thinking: "I loathe copying, and I hate the idea that the world is getting so globalized and so full of similar brands. The book is saying come on, we can be individuals, that's why we've got brains. Why copy another format or style or idea? We're getting so full of communication and high technology that we mustn't forget what's left, which is us."

ACTION: Is there a part of your life, personal or business, in which you have suppressed your individuality? Is it time to consider taking some risks in order to offer a unique aspect of yourself? What might be a first step? (Warning: there is no guarantee that world will embrace what you're offering...but you won't know until you try.)

3: One way to Get Unstuck

In the book, "Unstuck," authors Keith Yamashita and Sandra Spataro look at seven ways you can get stuck. One is being overwhelmed, when you have too much going on and not enough people or time to cope with it.

Their suggestion: be clear about whether you are in the big picture mode, or in the mode of focusing on what works right now. In other words, once you have defined a clear task, it only saps your energy if you go back to thinking about the big picture while trying to do that task. Thinking about how much else needs to be done can make the task at hand seem too small by comparison.

ACTION: By all means, start with the big picture. Then figure out what is most important to do, and in which order it is best done. Then focus on that one task until you have achieved it. My trick: write this task down on an index card or Post-It note that you keep in front of you. Only when that task is done, quickly check the big picture to make sure that the next item on your list is still the correct one to tackle, then focus on that one.

4: Dealing With Negative People

Writing in "Personal & Finance Confidential" newsletter, training expert Dr. Julian Feinstein pointed out that "basically the world can be split into positive people--those who expect to win, and negative people--those who expect to be right."

I thought this was a terrific insight: the people who are negative about anything new or unusual often are not actually interested in the thing being undertaken, they are invested in being right. And, because most new things fail, the best way to be right is to be negative.

Of course the leaders, the visionaries, and the just plain determined are the ones who stick to something until it does work--which is why they are so annoying to the negative people.

Dr. Feinstein's suggestion: "If a colleague, friend, or relative persists in trying to bring you down, listen to their piece, and simply reply, 'Fantastic--that's great!' They'll be reeling for days!"

Another version of this was what writer and broadcaster Alexander Woolcott wrote back to people who took exception to things he said on his radio show: "Dear Sir or Madam, You may be right."

ACTION: The next time you have to deal with a negative person, don't argue. Try the Woolcott or Feinstein response and get on with what needs to be done.

5: A quote about idleness

Our quote this time comes from Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler Magazine, and it's about idleness as a potential virtue:

"Endorsed by everyone from Jesus Christ to Mahatma Gandhi, this is the greatest and most holy of the vices. Idleness means having the courage to do what you want to do.

"Although idlers are opposed to industriousness as a moral precept, they are in fact capable of hard work when the mood strikes. They simply insist on controlling their own time, rather than giving in to the powers that be and becoming their plaything...In other words, the only person who makes the rules is you."

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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".