“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote speaks to the need to be original in your life, explore new directions, and make your own way.
Both Emerson and Thoreau wrote often about this notion of making new paths (it is very apparent in Thoreau’s writings about Walden Pond). I think this approach leads us to new discoveries, new actions, and new opportunities for learning.
The last part of the quote highlights to need to remind oneself about the journeys taken, as well as to share knowledge – to share one’s experiences for others by leaving behind a trail.
I think it is important to note that creating new pathways in life is not exclusive to certain moments or circumstances. Sometimes we think trying new approaches is reserved for new things or big things or big ideas. But the concept of a path is a simple one, and as such, should serve as a reminder that life is filled with moments where we can go in new and unique directions.
Think about it as taking action that breaks your routine.
Maybe it is the first time you have volunteered at a soup kitchen, donated money to someone in need, or made a positive comment to a stranger. Or it could be driving a different way home from work.
The point is – life is better with discovery.
“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We sometimes forget just how unique we are, because we are taught from such an early age – and all throughout our schooling – to conform to rigid standards. Passing a standard is considered a measurement of success, whereas failing to meet it is considered failure.
Rarely do we get many opportunities as we grow up (and even after we have grown) to truly experiment and to fail in a way that is acceptable to others, least of all ourselves.
Experimentation and failure are not negatives. All of our life is an experiment. Embrace that reality, and you will live a more complete life filled with a wide range of experiences and perspectives.
This is one of my favorite quotes from Henry David Thoreau. I often refer to it when I am struggling or in need of inspiration or motivation.
Imagination allows us to form images in our minds. We can recreate moments in time, adapt or modify those moments, or create new ones. We also can do the same thing with objects around us. We can form things that do not exist and simulate how they would function. Or we can replay what we have seen or change the way current things are used or function.
When Thoreau talks about the world being a canvas to our imagination, he is saying that we can take our dreams and bring them into the real world – make them tangible so others can see, hear or touch them.
In many ways, the world around is a canvas.
And like a painter, we each possess the tools to shape it.
Every move we make through the world is a brush stroke that shapes the landscape around us.
Time To Brainstorm Designed To Help Generate Ideas And Solutions For Businesses, Agencies And Entrepreneurs
Brainstorming is a process for generating ideas and solutions.
While there are many different ways to be successful at brainstorming, I was surprised to learn that many organizations, agencies, and people go about it the wrong way. They run sessions that encourage adoption of the first ideas mentioned, or only tap into a small number of people on a team – leaving the others to just follow along. The ending result is not true brainstorming, but an exercise with limited results. The process never lives up to its full potential, because it gets taken over by group-thinking, or people rallying around ideas shared by people who are popular in the office, or ideas they think management will approve of.
I’ve always been someone who loves to create. Whether it is alone, in a small group, or a large forum, I tend to see things around me and wonder if there is a better way.
In my marketing work, I have always looked at how a tactic or type of technology can deliver a better result.
As this year evolved, I started thinking more about how I could go beyond marketing, and use my interest in creating new ideas or new solutions to help businesses, organizations and people achieve better results.
This led me to studying how habits are formed, and how ideas are created.
A few months later, after extensive research, I realized just how powerful and valuable a well-done brainstorming session can be.
And now… A Time To Brainstorm has been born.
Brainstorming works best with total participation
At the core of brainstorming is the notion that each person participating generates their own ideas. Later, through a process that includes anonymous idea sharing and group discussion, ideas are expanded on in a group setting.
The goal of A Time To Brainstorm is to focus on creating the best possible environment for people to generate ideas that can be used to advance their business, agency, or organization, or even their own personal goals.
In each session, my team and I will strive to reduce roadblocks to contributions, stimulate everyone to encourage broad participation, and work to generate a large outflow of divergent thinking – so every stone is upturned, and all ideas are on the table. After all, the craziest sounding ideas are sometimes the best.
What we can do to help your organization or team
Think of what we can do in a simple process:
Preparing a group for a brainstorming session requires a comfortable meeting environment. Sometimes, getting out of the office can be a real positive step. We can work with you to determine how much information and pre-session preparation your needs to have. Individual research or smaller team meetings can help get the juices flowing, but we want to make sure we do not create roadblocks to idea creation. We also will help identify the right people to attend the session (the right balance of diverse perspectives and backgrounds is important). When the brainstorming session is ready to take place, we make sure everyone is warmed-up and ready to get going. And as the session progresses, we assign non-contributors to capture all ideas, and make them constantly visible to everyone.
We will discuss your goals, the personalities on your team, your target customer audience, and competition (if relevant) to help create the best structure for your brainstorming session. However, one of the most important aspects of a brainstorming session is what takes place before the session – the research and individual preparation. We have a system to prevent group-think and anchoring – where one or a few ideas get discussed and no creative expression takes place. Our team will create a detailed plan that provides all the steps your employees / team-members need to follow to ensure total participation, and idea sharing. The structure we create will go a long way to ensuring you get the most value from brainstorming.
A brainstorming or ideation session needs both a guide, as well as managers who are NOT part of the idea creation process to help the discussion be a success. The last thing you want is someone on your team who you need as a contributor to not participate because they had to manage the room, or record results. We not only keep a highly detailed record of all discussion and interaction, but we connect everything together in a final report that can be used by your organization and its leadership to act on all ideas that your team-members come up with.
Lastly, we take all the information we have collected, and create an actionable report that includes all the ideas, as well as recommendations for the next steps.
If this sounds like something that would be of interest to you and/or your organization, let me know at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few years ago, I wrote a popular blog post entitled “15 Ways To Get Your Mojo Back.”
While that post has generated over 30,000 unique views on the Social Web Tactics website, and thousands more on LinkedIn and other websites, and has been a great resource for me and others to turn to, I want to write more about motivation and the general theme of how we can find that inner energy that propels us forward, and encourages us to do more and be more.
I have entitled this post “How To Get Motivated and Restore Your Energy and Enthusiasm, Part 1,” because I plan on writing other segments on this same topic, as well as more specific posts.
In fact, over the coming weeks, I will write more about how to become more motivated, as well as how to break bad habits and form good ones, how to ideate or brainstorm ideas, and the notion of how we all can seize each day for greater success.
I am doing this for a few different reasons. For starters, the research necessary to write about these topics is going to open new techniques and knowledge for me, so that I can grow. I also believe that by researching, and creating a written road-map, I will reinforce new principles and be more likely to make them part of my life. And lastly, by putting new skills out there – and sharing them – it will give you and other people the opportunity to learn and grow as well.
So, how can we get motivated?
AWARENESS OF HOW YOU ARE THINKING
One of the biggest obstacles to motivation and personal energy is the feeling of being overwhelmed, or thinking that you have too many things to do, and not enough time to accomplish everything. Many of us have a tendency to over complicate things in our lives, which can be a self-defeating mindset. By thinking that things are not possible, we start down a path of building negative energy in our minds.
Some people will say there is nothing wrong with being “realistic” or “practical” or “keeping your feet on the ground.” All of which is true.
But lost in the maze of the buzzwords and phrases is the fact that success can be practical and realistic, and there is nothing practical about thinking that there is too much work, or thinking things won’t get accomplished on-time or at all.
George Carlin, the late, great comedian, shared a wonderful bit of insight during one of his HBO stand-up performances that has stuck with me for many years. He said that we think in terms of language. And the quality of our thoughts is only as good as the quality of our language.
So, when we use negative words to describe situations, we change from positive to negative thoughts. Once our thinking becomes more negative, our mood and energy immediately goes from positive and high, to down and low.
What this comes down to is having awareness of you are of how you are thinking.
Bruce Schneider, who wrote the book “Energy Leadership,” defines consciousness as “your level of self-awareness,” as it relates to your true self. It sounds philosophical to talk about “awareness”, but put simply, Schneider’s belief is that everyone has the ability to achieve anything they want to achieve. However, problems arise and we become limited when we accept limiting views or definitions of ourselves. He writes that our level of self-awareness, the quality of how we think about ourselves and the world around us determines the energy we have and what we are able to accomplish. The more we believe we are not capable, the lower our energy, and the less we will get done.
Makes sense, right?
So, how does this translate into a motivational tip?
MAKE SUCCESS LESS COMPLEX
As I wrote above, we often look at tasks we must accomplish or our lives in general, and over-complicate the moment. We think there is too much work. Or we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by work, family, friends, and life as a whole. As a result, we immediately start to lose our positive energy, and our motivation to move forward.
I called this a mindset, because that is all it really is – a way of thinking; a perspective. And since it is only a thought in your mind, it can be changed.
Start by making success less complex.
Get out some paper, and make a list of some small, and very specific goals.
And by small, I mean it can be very small.
- At work, write down 3 simple things you want to get done. But keep them very simple. You want the task to be something you can complete in a few seconds. Stay away from things that you can over-complicate, such as writing an email. Focus instead on things that will have some positive impact: Get a glass of water, file 3 documents, and find inspiring motivational quotes.
- At home or working remotely, do the same thing – write down 3 simple things you want to get done. You can do the same things listed above, or you can do something else, such as: quickly wash a glass or dish, empty your trash, or clean your glasses.
You may think of this as “setting the bar low.” Others use the expression “KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid” (or Keep It Smart and Simple). I would recommend you avoid those phrases or characterizations, because they are going to be counter-productive to raising your energy level and restoring your motivation.
I prefer to think of it as the first step in energy restoration.
When you think about it – which would you prefer to do? “Lower The Bar” or “Restore My Energy” or “Get My Mojo Back”?
Remember, this about taking positive steps to change our mindset, restore energy, and get motivated, so you can tackle bigger and more important tasks.
The next step is to cross off the three things you have done, and add three more things. They can be at the same level, too. In fact, when you were going to get a glass of water, you may have thought of something else that is simple that you need to do. Maybe you need to print a document? Or return a document to someone? Maybe you need to ask someone a question? Or maybe there is a person you have been meaning to say “hello” to or something similar? All of those things can go on a list, and be accomplished quickly. After you have done this a few times, you could have potentially accomplished a dozen or more tasks in 15 or 20 minutes. Then you are ready to increase the complexity of your tasks.
So, let’s recap:
- Be aware of how you are thinking and feeling. You can accomplish great things, but if you are feeling down – acknowledge how you are feeling, and recognize that you need a boost.
- Stay away from negative phrases or characterizations about your circumstances or the moment. They are only going to fuel your bad feelings, and make you feel worse.
- Take steps to making the moment less complex by listing very simple tasks to accomplish. Call this the time to restore your energy or get your mojo back.
- Reward yourself or celebrate accomplishing the simple tasks.
- Identify the next level of tasks you need to complete, and repeat the process.
In marketing departments and elsewhere in companies, internal communication, collaboration and creativity are important, but often handled poorly.
One of the most frequent complaints I hear from professional colleagues and friends is that there is very little insight from senior management at their organizations into overall project objectives, or what senior management is planning – short term and long term. What’s more, I often hear questions about just how much real collaboration is taking place among senior management (as well as from managers with their employees), as well as questions around the overall creativity of senior managers and whether or not they have a strong set of core business objectives.
Much of this aligns to surveys I’ve seen over the years where employees often rate their managers and executives as poor communicators, and in some cases – a danger to the overall business objectives of the organization.
Interestingly enough, I read this morning (courtesy of Baseline Briefings) that the American Management Association conducted a skills survey of over 750 managers and executives in December of 2012 about the importance of: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
Managers and executives in this survey reported that most of their employees were “average” in all four categories (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) and that compared to data from 2 years ago the number of people who are “below average” in those skills increased.
Another data point in the survey that I found of interest was that managers and executives “believe” it is easier to “develop these skills in students and recent graduates (59.1%) than it is to develop them in experienced workers (27.1%).” The rationale is that younger workers have not developed their work habits. The study further reveals that one-on-one coaching is the preferred method to improve skills.
What Does This All Mean To Your Company?
There are a number of points a company can take from these two perspectives and the American Management Association survey. Here are some of mine:
1) Never assume you are communicating, collaborating, or harnessing creativity and critical thinking well at any level of your organization. One way to learn where you stand is to use direct communication, anonymous surveys and frequent team meetings. But do not make everything top-down. Allow your employees to receive anonymous survey results from senior managers and executives. Implementing an environment of near total transparency will enhance your business, improve working relationships and open up everyone’s eyes to what skills need to be improved.
2) Ask yourself, “What training do I have at changing work habits?” This applies to yourself and changing the habits of other people. Habit formation and modification is not something taught in college or in corporate America. But it’s also not something people as a whole are very good it. Millions of people try to eat better, exercise more, stay in contact with friends and family – all to see their bad habits resurface and take back control. And yet – modifying habits is an essential skill for success in business and in life. One of the reasons why managers are ineffective is that they do not know how to help their employees (or themselves) learn new habits to be successful. If you can improve this facet of your business, you will have a very positive impact on productivity, morale and retention.
Lastly, believe it or not, this is something at Colliding With The Social Web we can help with. While we do not have all the answers, we can help you build a better working environment. If you are interested, reach out to us today and we can discuss it in more detail.
When are the times you are most creative? Is it a particular day? A particular time of day?
Everyone should set aside time for creative exploration. But while it is important to do that, you also need to accept that there are many moments during your day (and night) when creativity strikes and you’re not prepared to receive it.
To capture the moment so it is not lost and you can recount it later, use what you have around you. Record a voice memo on your phone or use your phone to send yourself a note. Also, don’t be afraid on how it will look if you ask to borrow a pen or scribble your thoughts down on a napkin.
Creativity is an important thing to harness. And like many good things in life, it often does not appear on schedule.
As a child of the 1980s, my first computer was the CoCo3 (Tandy’s Color Computer 3). That was followed by an Apple IIe. And later, a loud box-shaped Mac that graced my dorm room desk at Andover.
The innovation in computing and in technology that followed in the years since I was a wide-eyed high school student who loved computers and technology is nothing short of staggering.
In the early 1980s, my CoCo was a 512K dream box. Today, our dreams are processed in terabytes, geolocation technology, and mobile apps and devices.
Today, through technology, we can instantly communicate with the world, experience any culture, learn anything, and stretch our productivity to new limits.
Thickly layered our post-industrial, technological epoch was Steve Jobs.
The man who pioneered computers and technology, took his dream to enrich the lives of people, died yesterday. Steve Jobs was 56 years old.
And while many over the coming days will salute his career, it was his philosophy of making things that were at “the intersection of art and technology” and the concept to “think different” that really gets to the heart of what the life of Steve Jobs can teach us.
In business and in government, we need to ask ourselves, “How are we moving to create things that truly intersect with art and technology? How are we thinking differently than we have before? How are we enriching the lives of the people around us?”
Steve Jobs was undoubtedly an iconic figure. But his dreams, surrounded by successes and failures, had two common elements: ideas and decisions. Ideas around delivering technology that enhanced our lives, and decisions to think broadly and differently, and to turn those ideas into reality no matter what.
In the end, there is nothing iconic about that. It is within each of us to dream, and it is within each of us to do.