Category Archives: Creativity

U2 and Sticking with Unconventional Ideas You Believe In

Artwork from U2's "Joshua Tree" album. Source and copyright: U2.

I’m a big U2 fan and enjoyed watching “Classic Albums: U2, The Joshua Tree.” This one hour documentary from 1999 has interviews with the band members as they join their producers in listening to tracks from the album and reliving their creative process. It’s a pretty amazing thing to watch as Bono, The Edge and others re-live classic tracks and tell the stories around how they were created.

I particularly like the part where Bono talks about “Still haven’t found what I’m looking for” and “With or without you” and how unconventional the songs were at the time to perform. They were really new sounds and out of step with everything else that was around. Very unconventional and ecstatic music that was alive in a new kind of way.  Now, of course, we’ve all heard the songs a million times and they sounds like they totally just “fit,” but when they were being created this was not the case.

It struck me how so many new ideas at first seem foreign but later seem familiar. It takes confidence to stick with new ideas that you believe in, even if they at fist don’t seem to fit. I’m glad U2 did.

Category: Creativity, People

Do Something New

Why do the same old stuff this holiday weekend? Try something new..it might just be fun!

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Unlocking Creativity

A poster hanging up in my building at work. Good advice!

Humans are innately creative. The problem is that most people do not discover the context in which they are creative.

If you spent a lifetime as an accountant you might not discover a deep talent for the guitar and music unless you stumbled upon it at a young age and kept at it.

Our current education systems do not make it easy to explore the full range of one’s abilities and interests…and find that place where creativity runs deep. Perhaps this is why some of the most successful people I have ever met didn’t do particularly well at school, they were bored and sought to apply there energy elsewhere. Many businesses are even worse.

It’s also incredibly easy to be “typed” early in your career.

If you are seen as a financial or “numbers” type, it can be very difficult to re-brand yourself as a “creative” type. Some teams and companies are good about moving people into different functions and giving people varied projects (I think Microsoft excels at this).  This is not normal though.

The onus really is on the individual to explore with purpose and try new things. Take up new sports regularly. Learn new skills. Take advantage of electives at school and really take them seriously. Try different projects at work….and occasionally make a job change on purpose.

You never know where you might strike a creative vein.

One Powerful Technique to Get Things Done

I watched a recent talk by Getting Things Done (GTD) author David Allen. A ton of folks in the technology community like the approach, possibly because it appeals to highly structure folks and those that love to create systems and use technology in new and interesting ways. I have no doubt that the GTD system could work well for people. I tried it for a week, but honestly didn’t give it a full go. It seems like overkill to me. Too much process. There are some good things about it, like the notion of writing things doing vs keeping lots of things floating around in your head makes sense. Writing things down is a cathartic activity. That is to say it makes it feel like things are under control and less overwhelming, especially when there is a lot going on.

However, I think the GTD system can easily fall into the trap of being too much of a system. I have friends that get so caught up in the process of tracking their to-do‘s that they have far too little time and energy left to actually make progress on the to-do’s! There must be a better way. In fact, I know that there is.

I do something that is different from most people I know, but I think it is highly effective. I just the effectiveness of my “system” strictly based my response to the following questions on a daily basis:

  • Am I confident with my direction in life?
  • Am I contributing to the world in a positive way?

I feel like a good a good amount of stuff done. I generally do not feel stressed (maybe the yoga has something to do with that!) and don’t consider myself a work-aholic either. My technique is the anti-thesis of massive never-ending list keeping, prioritization and long to-do’s. I am a fan of occasional list-making, but that is not the super powerful technique.

Instead, my technique is simple. It just requires the accomplishment of ONE THING EVERY DAY.

That’s it: ONE THING.

The trick is, this ONE THING must be the one thing that makes you answer yes to both of the questions mentioned above at the end of the day. The first thing I do when I get into work every morning (well, after getting my coffee or tea!) is take out a post-it note or index card, and write down the ONE THING I want to accomplish during the day.

I write it out by hand, and stick the card in my pocket. I carry it around all day, and occasionally take it out and look at it. Come hell or high water, I will get that thing done. It doesn’t matter what happens. The sky could fall and I will still get the thing done. There could be 10 meetings in the day and I will get it done. There could be a blizzard and traffic hell (like the past few days) and I will get it done.

My ONE THING could be finishing a paper or presentation, reviewing a project and providing feedback, having a tough conversation with a team member, etc. The one thing I write down is usually something that requires a good degree of effort – in terms of focus, courage or creativity.

My "ONE THING" from a few days ago...finishing Joshua Slocum's book "Sailing Alone Around the World"

On weekends, I do the same thing….only instead of being a work-related thing, it is usually personal. My ONE THING on a weekend might be “finish a long run of over 3 hours with a smile on your face”. Or it might be “talk to Mom and Dad”. Or it might be “Finish reading that book!” Something like that.

The biggest trick is to not try to list out more than one thing. This is the trap….it’s easy to write down 10 things that must be done and accomplish none of them. Instead just write down the one thing you want to do, the one thing you will be PROUD OF DOING….and make sure you get it done. NO MATTER WHAT.

Think about it this way, if you do one big thing every day…over the course of the week you will have accomplished 7 noteworthy things, after a month you’ll have 30, and after a year you will have done a whopping 365 amazing things that required some degree of effort, courage, creativity, etc.

I have found in my own life that when do this every day, you end up by default accomplishing far more than just the one thing. Having the single point of focus is what makes it possible….your brain will start hunting out things and get the done…the trick here is focus. There is a saying that “how you do anything is how you do everything.” It is absolutely true. If you can accomplish ONE MEANINGFUL THING A DAY you can accomplish a lot more, but it must start with just one.

So there you have it, the most powerful technique for getting things done.

A CHALLENGE FOR YOU! Try it for yourself for the NEXT 10 DAYS. Every morning, write down on an index card the one thing you want to accomplish during the day. Make sure you get that thing done no matter what! At the end of the day, cross it off and be happy that you did something worthwhile. Keep the card visible on your desk and repeat for 10 days. After this challenge….look back on the 10 days and laugh at how much you were able to do, and how easy it was.

Give it a shot, leave a comment and let me know how it went!

Unleash your creativity

Creativity defined means the creation of something new that is of value. I’ll boil it down to two words, NEW and VALUABLE.

Spending time reading books, blogs and videos in an effort to stay up to date and informed is one method to spark inspiration and creativity. In my own experience however, my most creative (i.e. new and valuable) thoughts come not from the outside but from the inside. The things I am most proud of creating during my life were most often the result of a sudden stroke of insight or slow emergence from nothing at all. Not from a deluge of information.

When I spent days meditating alone in that cabin, my creative fire was stoked bright and hot. When I am running or hiking in the wilderness I have more ideas than I know what to do with.

It’s easy to get “hung-over” from trying to keep up with several newspapers, a dozen magazines and the fire-hose of information from Twitter and all the techno-blogs (especially for those of us in the tech industry!). It’s therefore quite comforting to know that the way to unleash creativity is NOT by drowning in information, but in taking away extraneous information so you can begin to tap into the creative this is latent within you.

Category: Creativity | Tags:

Funny Cartoon

I can’t tell you how many times this cartoon has played out in real life for me.

You’ve really got to try hard, even as a Vegan, to become protein deficient.

Thanks to my friend Darrick for pointing this one out!

Category: Creativity
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