This month, some thoughts about questions and how they affect our mood, the importance of interacting with other people, the nature of creativity and how even the most unlikely and poorly-received idea can still prove to be a winner.
1: What questions are you asking?
I've written about this once before, but in light of the dark economic times it may be a good idea to remind ourselves that our reality is shaped by the questions we ask. If the questions are negative ("Why did this happen to me?" "Why are things so difficult?") our answers will be, too.
Better: stick with "how" questions and make them positive. For example, in the context of work:
- How can I reconnect with previous clients or customers and see if they need my help now?
- How can I expand my skills?
- How can I make sure that my products or services are in tune with what people want and need in these circumstances?
ACTION: Try thinking of five positive "how" questions and focus on those for the next week. Notice what difference it makes to how you feel and what you achieve.
2: Don't forget about...people
In an interview, one of my favorite illustrator/authors, Shaun Tan ("Tales from Outer Suburbia," "The Arrival") talked about creative people and solitude:
"It's always this thing where people have got good ideas and people are great artists, but it takes a certain kind of personality to be able to sit still for that long. People often overlook that when they talk about creativity. Skill is one aspect, but the other aspect is sheer doggedness and ability to work through the tedium...This sort of work can be quite introverted and you can spiral into it...That's one thing that's bad about the job sometimes - the lack of interaction with people. I think humans are designed to interact with other people on a regular basis."
ACTION: If, like me, you sometimes tend to get a bit too isolated, schedule some days out interacting with people.
3: Creativity is not a one-step process
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, discussed the nature of creativity and why Pixar has been able to do well where many others have failed:
"People tend to think of creativity as a mysterious solo act, and they typically reduce products to a single idea: This is a movie about toys, or dinosaurs, or love, they'll say. However, in filmmaking and many other kinds of complex product development, creativity involves a large number of people from different disciplines working effectively together to solve a great many problems...the initial idea...the "high concept"...is merely one step in a long, arduous process..."
ACTION: Even when you are working alone, don't limit your brainstorming to coming up with the initial idea. At each stage of your project take time to brainstorm how that stage could be better, more innovative, and more satisfying to the end user.
4: Even poo can make you rich!
Werner Holzwarth wrote a children's book called "The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of his Business." It's about a little mole and...er, poo. In an interview with the Goethe Institute he explained, "Until then the topic of 'pooey' was - quite inexplicably - an absolute taboo topic although we know how very important the anal phase is in a child's development."
He was inspired by his three-year-old son's fascination with the topic. He says, "For two years at the Frankfurt Book Fair I tried to get a publisher interested in my idea. All the big firms in the trade turned me down. Reason: 'Nobody would buy that, perhaps just a few authoritarian parents.' 'We'd never get that into the bookshops,' and so on."
Eventually a publisher did take a chance. The book has been translated into 27 languages and had a print run of 2.2 million worldwide.
ACTION: Are you holding back doing something because 'everybody' says it won't work? Maybe you should tell them that's bull...poo.
5: Six Steps to Success
In a recent issue of Entrepreneur magazine, Bill Bartmann, CEO of BillionaireU.com, shared six keys to building a successful business. It seems to me they apply equally well to any kind of endeavour:
- Think big
- Do the unconventional
- Believe in yourself and your idea
- Share your vision - some people will want to help
- Focus - do one thing extremely well
- Never give up
They may sound like clichés, but each of them can be turned into useful actions.
ACTION: Which of the above do you do best? How can you do more of that one? Which do you do least well? How can you delegate that one? Try it for one week: amp up your strongest activity, delegate your weakest - and notice the results.
6: And a quote to consider:
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr Seuss).