This month, some thought about our reality and how to make it more colourful, the dark secret that the success gurus never mention, the most important factor in achieving real productivity and how changing the size of the problem can help you get out of a rut.
1: If your reality as good as your app?
Have you noticed how many apps there are to make your photos look more like stills from a movie? One click of a button and your world looks old, psychedelic, heightened, dramatically lit, or distorted. Maybe we post these or email them to friends hoping that they will think we live in a more interesting reality than other people, or maybe it makes us think so ourselves.
Here's a thought: could we be trying to figure out how the make reality more interesting for us rather than just the photos?
ACTION: Is there a part of your life that you'd like to have be more colorful or interesting? What's one thing you could do to move in that direction?
2: The part about risk and failure they don't mention
Here's what people say about taking risks: "I admire anybody who risks failure..."
Here's what they don't say: "...as long as they turn into a big success later."
Sure, we honor the entrepreneurs who failed their first time out, their second time out, even their third time out...from the perspective of their later success. In our hearts, we know that for every Richard Branson there's a dozen whose airlines never got off the ground, for every Edison there's a hundred whose light bulb never did light up.
That's the bit the success gurus never talk about.
The only answer I can come up with is that the search for the success has to be satisfying enough and the approval of risk-admirers incidental. Then it can be worth it regardless of the outcome.
ACTION: Are you able to spend much of your time on things you enjoy doing so much that you'd do them regardless of whether or not they become a success in the usual definition of the word? If not, how can you bring more of those things into your life?
3: The first law of productivity
On the 99u.com site I found a post about ten laws of productivity, compiled by the Behance Team. These are habits they found common to many exceptionally productive creative people. Here's what they say about the one that may be most important:
"Break the seal of hesitation. A bias toward action is the most common trait we've found across the hundreds of creative professionals and entrepreneurs we've interviewed. While preparing properly as you start a new project is certainly valuable, it's also easy to lose yourself in planning (and dreaming) indefinitely. We must challenge ourselves to take action sooner rather than later. The minute that you start acting (e.g. building a physical prototype, sharing a nascent concept with your community), you start getting valuable feedback that will help refine your original idea – and move forward with a more informed perspective."
I can relate to that. Planning is so much more fun than execution, but it can become a form of procrastination. I'm sure you never do that...
ACTION: If you've been planning more than doing, what's the first action step you could take? When will you take it? (How about today?)
4: Stuck? Try changing the size of the problem
One problem-solving and brainstorming method I've been playing with is changing the size of the problem. For instance, let's say the problem is that you have written a novel but can't find a publisher. First, let's make the problem larger:
- I can't find a UK or US publisher for my writing.
- I can't find a publisher anywhere in the world.
- I can't find a publisher anywhere in the universe.
- I can't find a publisher anywhere on the time-space continuum.
Now let's make it smaller. (I think it's important to do both of these before you start seeing if they bring up anything useful--otherwise the voice of Judgment comes in too soon!)
- I can't find a publisher for my full-length novel.
- I can't find a publisher for my novella.
- I can't find a publisher of my short story.
- I can't find a publisher for my article.
- I can't find a publisher for my leaflet.
- I can't find a publisher for my postage stamp.
OK, that's the silly part done. Now let's go back and see whether this brings up anything useful.
Publisher anywhere in the world -- investigate whether a foreign publisher might acquire the book (do they do this, or do they only acquire translation rights once a book has been published in English? I don't know, but worth checking.)
Publisher anywhere in the universe -- investigate possibility of publishing on the web first.
Publisher anywhere in the time-space continuum -- can the book somehow be tied into an upcoming major event? (next Olympics, elections, impending destruction of planet by meteor?)
Publisher for short story or novella -- is there a literary magazine that might take part of it to get some exposure?
Publisher for article -- would it help to get a factual article related to the main topic published? Or a non-fiction book? Could it be possible to pioneer a new format - the factual book & the novel packed together in one volume? Could work for a book that takes place in a major city - half the book is a guidebook, half is the novel. Might be easier in ebook format...you read the novel while you're on the plane... As you can see, I'm getting away from the 'article' idea but the point of all this is just to get your thinking flowing.
Publisher for a leaflet / postage stamp: Would it make sense as a graphic novel (the postage stamp suggests an image)?
ACTION: If you're stuck on anything, try making it bigger and smaller to generate fresh ideas.
5: The next time you think you're too busy, too stressed, or have too many problems...
The next time you think you're just too busy or overburdened to get to work on your novel or screenplay or other dream project, take a minute to consider Susan Spencer-Wendel.
She wrote a book called Until I Say Good-bye. She was 44 years old in 2011 when she was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). She decided to do lots of things on her bucket list, one of which was writing a book that might inspire others and would remind her family and friends of her when she is gone.
The book is 89,000 words long.
She wrote it on her iPhone.
She did it using only her right thumb.
I know hearing about somebody else's difficulties doesn't make yours any less troublesome, but what her story demonstrates is that it's all about priorities.
Susan Spencer-Wendel really wanted to write that book, so she did.
If you really want to write your book or your screenplay or paint your painting or whatever else you think of as your dream project, you will.
ACTION: If this inspires you to get creating, it'll be proof that Susan Spencer-Wendel achieved what she set out to do.
6: And a quote to consider:
"When the wind blows, some people build walls and others build windmills." - Chinese proverb