We're racing toward summer, the halfway point of the year. A good time to take stock and get some fresh inspiration:
1: Who's on your Dream Team?
Researchers at Northwestern University studied two very disparate Groups - the people behind successful Broadway shows and those behind successful science projects - to determine what makes up an ideal team.
They found that it boiled down to making sure that you include some newcomers with a team of established people who are best in your field.
Just hiring friends is a danger. If the mix is right, the newcomers bring totally fresh thinking to the enterprise, and are nourished and supported by the longer-established members of the team.
Action: If you put together teams, be sure to include at least one person who will bring a new perspective, and go for the best people, whether or not you have worked with them before.
For the solo artist or entrepreneur, it may be worthwhile simulating a team effort like this. In other words, from time to time, pretend that you are coming to the project totally fresh and dare to challenge all the assumptions behind it.
Jot down every thought and question that occurs to you, without censorship or regard for how thing have always been done. Then see whether any of these offer new and useful insights.
2: Bust Your Gremlins!
Coach and trainer Marilyn Atkinson helps people to move beyond their Gremlins; she quotes Dr. Sally Jenkins as defining the Gremlin as "the inner voice that abhors change and keeps you from moving forward and getting what you want in life."
She mentions four gremlins, one of which is System Identification. This means assuming that things must be done a certain way and you have no hope of breaking out of that system. If you ever feel caught up in that, she suggests asking the following questions:
(1) Is it true?
(2) Am I absolutely certain it is true?
(3) Is there an old agenda when I think that thought?
(4) Who might I be without that thought?
Action: The next time you feel that a system is limiting you, try asking these four questions. You may find that you have greater freedom than you thought.
3: Turn 180 Degrees to Learn
Marketing guru Sean D' Souza suggests that brave companies and individuals try the 180-degree exercise. That is, instead of asking "How could I build up my business (or relationship, or health, or anything else)", try asking "How could I destroy it?"
For a business, this could mean, "How can I drive customers away?", for a relationship it could mean, "How can I drive this person away?" Make a list.
For a company, the list might include, "make people spend endless time on hold," "have the first contact with our company be with an unfriendly or untrained person," and "make sure people have no easy way to contact you if they're unhappy."
For a relationship, it might be, "remember to criticize, but forget to praise," "have time for everything but this person," and "never tell the person how much they mean to you."
The shock comes when people realize that they are actually doing many of the things on their list!
Action: If you're feeling brave, try doing the 180-degree exercise for any areas of your life in which you think you might like to make improvements. These could relate to career, finances ("how could I make sure not to have money when I retire?"), relationships, health, or anything else. See which of the steps you're actually taking. Then figure out their opposites and start doing those instead.
4: Make Good News Exciting, Too
The media often are criticized for reporting mainly negative news. In an article in The Futurist magazine, Lane Jennings suggests, "Besides reporting murders and muggings every night, why not devote a little time to covering non-violent conflict resolutions among enemies or showcasing achievements by inspiring individuals who deserve to be more widely known and imitated?"
Good advice, but what I realized upon reflection is that we, as individuals, tend to do the same thing.
Coming back from a recent enjoyable holiday, I found myself talking more about some of the negative events (delayed flights, annoying people at the airport, etc.) because they're easier to make entertaining.
Action: Monitor the stories you're telling. What's the balance between negative and positive? Might it be worthwhile to put a little more effort into noticing and talking about the positive stuff? (If you're not convinced, see the Yiddish folk tale below.)
5: Jack Welch's Imagination
In Fortune magazine, tech exec Vivek Paul shared an important lesson he learned from super-exec Jack Welch: "He was commenting that every time he lands in New York (from a trip abroad) he imagines that he's just been appointed chairman and this is his first day in the role, and the guy before him was a real dud.
"He said, 'Every time, I think, What would I do that was different than the guy before? What big changes would I make?' I took that seriously. You should always think, 'How can I regenerate myself?'"
Action: When you wake up tomorrow, imagine that you have just been made CEO of your own life. Maybe the guy or woman before you was a dud in how they handled some aspects of your life. Now it's your turn: what do you want to do differently? How will you start?
6: And that Yiddish Folk Tale...
An old man sat outside the walls of a great city.
When travellers approached, they would ask the old man, "What kind of people live in this city?"
And the old man would answer, "What kind of people live in the place where you came from?"
If the travellers answered, "Only bad people live in the place where we came from," the old man would reply, "Continue on; you will find only bad people here."
But if the travellers answered, "Good people live in the place where we came from," then the old man would say, "Enter, for here, too, you will find only good people."