February Brainstorm

2002

1. It worked for Einstein, it can work for you
Einstein once said, "It is not that I am so smart, it is just that I stay with the problems longer." He may have been excessively modest, but there is probably more than a grain of truth in the statement as well. One thing Einstein did when stumped by a problem was to approach it from several different angles. We lesser thinkers tend to use the same approach over and over again, yet are surprised when we come up with the same answer (or no answer) each time.

Tip: The next time you face a problem, try devoting five minutes to answering each of the following questions:

  • How would the person I most admire approach this problem?
  • How will things be different when this problem is solved?
  • What could bring about each of the differences?
  • What advice would I give a friend who was trying to solve this problem?

2. Create your own inspiring teacher
Did you have one: a teacher who saw your potential, encouraged you, and provided a wonderful example for your learning? Most of us did, but when we set out to learn something new as adults, generally that kind of teacher is lacking. It would be great if we had this kind of teacher again, and we can, at least in a virtual version:

Tip: When setting out to learn something new, remember that inspiring teacher (Hello, Mrs. Drake, wherever you are!). Your imagination can create a virtual teacher or mentor. If you get stuck or discouraged, imagine how that teacher would have encouraged or inspired you.

3. Distract yourself!
Sports psychology studies have shown that in many cases athletes sabotage themselves by recalling some error they have made in a recent contest. Dwelling on their negative performance distracts them from what they need to do in the moment. One strategy for overcoming this is counter-distraction. In other words, distracting them from the distraction. Paul Morgan, a sports psychologist at Newcastle College, gave Focus Magazine an example: he told a rugby player to concentrate on whether the ball was spinning clockwise or anti-clockwise when he was preparing to take a high catch -in order to get him not to dwell on memories of a soft catch he had dropped earlier in the season.

Tip: If there is a time when you find yourself distracted by a recent bad performance (e.g., when making a presentation), find something harmless to concentrate on instead (e.g., notice how many people in the audience nod in agreement with your statement, or how many people are wearing red items of clothing). The best choices are those that add something to your performance. In this example, looking around to notice nods or clothing also helps you to maintain eye contact with the audience.

4. Relax - here’s how!
It’s hard to be creative when the phone is ringing, deadlines are looming, and fourteen people want you to do fifteen things—right now! Here’s a good physical way to re-gain your calmness in the middle of the madness. It is based on an exercise suggested by Janet Wright in an issue of Health and Fitness magazine:

Stand up straight and breathe in through your nose as you stretch your arms up, palms together, as high as you can. Then turn your palms around and breathe out as you slowly bring down your hands, out to your sides. Continue lowering them until they touch your thighs. As you lower your hands, also imagine your stress level going down. Added suggestion: when your hands are at the top, imagine that as "10" - the high level of stress you are feeling. As you slowly lower them, mentally count down so that when your hands touch your thighs, you’ve counted down to zero (some people equate zero with being asleep and prefer to go down only to one or two).

5. Creative business: information exchange is king
Futurologist Watts Wacker points out that in the past decade the publishers of airline flight guides have made more money from air travel than airlines. Of course it is not news that people will pay you to give them information—but even more amazing, these days you can make money from having people give you information - in the recent U.K. "Pop Idol" television talent contest (coming soon to America as "American Idol"), millions of people happily paid 10 pence (15 cents) per call to vote for their favourite!

Question: What do you know so much about that people might pay you for information about it? This could this be an additional income stream for you, via books, booklets, workshops, or consulting work. In many cases, you do not need to be a world expert - when I first started teaching scriptwriting workshops, one of the plus points was the fact that I had only recently broken into that business and thus was very much in touch with the feelings and needs of aspiring writers. (If you do not think you have any new knowledge, can you think of a different way to package or to deliver the "old" information, or to make it more useful or appealing?)

Question two: Can you think of any way that you can get people to pay you for giving you information?

6. And last but not least…find one…and be one
Poet Diane Ackerman told Writers Digest magazine: "People who study resilience in children have found that all a child needs is one adult who believes in the child, who conveys a sense of encouragement and faith, for the child to prevail. And I think that is probably true for artists as well…I think that at some point you do need to be encouraged -told that it is OK to be creating and that what you are creating is worthwhile." I believe we all need that, young and old, artist or not. If you do not have such a person, find one. And also find a person in your life who needs encouragement, and give it. There is no greater gift.

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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".

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