Archive for the ‘Originality’ Category

  • What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

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    Courtesy, Elsa Franco - http://recreateyourlifetoday.blogspot.com

     

    It’s been many years since most of us asked, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

    Now, at the grown-up age of 50 and more, it’s time to ask, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”

    It’s much easier this time. Just think of all you’ve experienced: successes, failures, loves, losses, joy and sadness. You’ve learned a lot in those 50+ years that will help you focus on what you’d like to do next. As you ponder, it’s important to remember what John F. Kennedy said about aging: “It’s not just about adding years to life. More importantly, it’s about adding life to those years.”

    Your first question should be: “What would I like to do for an additional 20-30 years?”

    Then, after you’ve pinpointed a few options, you need to determine if your talents match your aspirations.  Inventory your talents. We’re not talking about tuning in to the blitz of bizarre “talent” shows on TV today but, rather, that you consider the parts of your essential make-up:  the gifts, passions, interests and natural aptitudes you were born with and which have been fine-tuned through years of experience and skills development.

    As one of our favorite bloggers, Joanna Maxwell, says, “If you want to find long-term satisfaction and success, it’s helpful to identify your talents (and equally, your non-talents).”

    She recommends: “Start by listing everything that comes easily to you, areas where you just ‘get it’, where you’re a ‘natural’. No matter how big or small, whether work-related or not, all these talents have a place. Maybe you are known for your sense of location, or your ability to read IKEA instructions, or your singing voice. Are you the one with no sense of rhythm, or a talent for saying the wrong thing when meeting with the boss? Are you the one who everyone relies on to soothe a disgruntled client, or organize the Christmas party, or wrestle with a problem til it is solved? Don’t include things at which you’re competent, but have no passion for…  if it’s not something you would do just for the pleasure of it, then leave it off your list!”

    To help get you into the nitty gritty talent analysis, you might, as Maxwell also suggests, look at Howard Gardner’s eight core intelligences, and identify which ones relate to your natural talents and which do not.

    1. Linguistic: words, spoken or written, including foreign languages. Adept at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words along with dates.

    2. Logical-mathematical:  recognizing abstract patterns, reasoning and numbers and critical thinking.

    3. Musical:  this goes beyond core musical talent and includes those who use underlying rhythms to structure a film or a teaching program, a book or a public event.

    4. Spatial:  ability to visualize with the mind’s eye and to use those images to conceptualize actions in the ‘real’ world.

    5. Kinesthetic:  excel in physical activities such as sports or dance; learn best by doing something physically, rather than by reading or hearing about it; good at building and making things; and keen sense of timing.

    6. Naturalist:  skilled in relating information to one’s natural surroundings; recognizing similarities and differences; detecting patterns; making distinctions; and categorizing things.

    7. Interpersonal:  knowledge of and ability to understand, anticipate reactions, work, connect, lead and influence others.

    8. Intrapersonal:  in-depth knowledge of yourself, what makes you unique; being able to identify your own goals, fears, strengths and weaknesses and use them to be effective in your life.

    After identifying your unique talents, you should create a profile, including such Maxwellian nuggets as:

    “I instinctively see the patterns in things, but struggle with too much fine detail. I love being with other people, but not too many at one time; I am good at one-on-one discussions or listening. I love the chance to do creative thinking in my work, preferably alone. I have a real green thumb and a way with dogs (but not cats!). I have a good ear for music, but am hopeless playing an instrument, let alone singing. I make a mean curry but have no hand for pastry, it’s too finickity for me.'”

    Inventory and profile in hand, it’s essential to focus on that key question, “What would I like to do for the rest of my life?” for, as Henry James said, “It’s time to start living the life you imagined!”

  • How to Frame Your Career So Your Resume Does Not Read Like an Obituary

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    Your resume is your story. To bring it to life you must maximize your focus, relevancy, particularity – and, as always, your authenticity. Keep in mind Ernest Hemingway’s wisdom: “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”

    I’ve recently read three unique pieces with key insights for this task.

    The first is NY Times‘ columnist, David Brooks’, The Power of the Particular.” Brooks describes a Bruce Springtseen concert he attended in Spain,

    “The oddest moment came mid-concert when I looked across the football stadium and saw 56,000 enraptured Spaniards, pumping their fists in the air in fervent unison and bellowing at the top of their lungs, ‘I was born in the U.S.A.! I was born in the U.S.A.!'”

    “My best theory,” Brooks says, “is this: When we are children, we invent these detailed imaginary worlds that the child psychologists call ‘paracosms.’ These landscapes, sometimes complete with imaginary beasts, heroes and laws, help us orient ourselves in reality. They are structured mental communities that help us understand the wider world.”

    “We carry this need for paracosms into adulthood. It’s a paradox that the artists who have the widest global purchase are also the ones who have created the most local and distinctive story landscapes. Millions of people around the world are ferociously attached to Tupac Shakur’s version of Compton or J.K. Rowling’s version of a British boarding school or Downton Abbey’s or Brideshead Revisited’s version of an Edwardian estate… Millions of people know the contours of these remote landscapes, their typical characters, story lines, corruptions and challenges. If you build a passionate and highly localized moral landscape, people will come.”

    “It makes you appreciate the tremendous power of particularity. If your identity is formed by hard boundaries, if you come from a specific place, if you embody a distinct musical tradition, if your concerns are expressed through a specific paracosm, you are going to have more depth and definition than you are if you grew up in the far-flung networks of pluralism and eclecticism, surfing from one spot to the next, sampling one style then the next, your identity formed by soft boundaries, or none at all.”

    ***************************************************************

    “Shall I compare thee to a newscast spot?”

    This workshop on how to create one minute radio spots by Phyllis Fletcher and Robert Smith from New Public Radio helps us fine tune other aspects of our storytelling to achieve high impact particularity. You can tell a lot about yourself over a great deal of time, but if you need to capture someone’s attention quickly, you need to capture what counts in a minute.

    Their tips to achieve compelling brevity are:

    • Focus on one subject [in this case it’s you].
    • Use vivid language and concrete examples.
    • And if you can get away with it, make sure there’s a turn in the piece. (Poets call it the volta, a little shift in tone. A question is answered. A problem is solved. Perfect for news [of what you can do as demonstrated by what you have done].

    Now we know that particularity and brevity are important, but they are meaningless without authenticity and relevance.

    ***************************************************************

    Martin Zwilling writes in Forbes about John B. Montgomery’s new book, “Great From the Start,” which highlights Mark Zawacki’s  five rules of relevancy.  Zawacki’s rules, while focused on business startups are equally apt for the startup of your new life:

    1. A startup needs to be relevant and stay relevant.
    2. A startup needs to find a voice relevant to its ecosystem.
    3. A startup must gain traction.
    4. A startup must form partnerships and alliances within its ecosystem. 
    5. A startup must maintain a laser focus.

     

    You’re not ready for a tombstone yet, so chuck that old resume and create a dynamic and vital new blueprint for the next stage of your life.

     

     

  • The More You Live, The More You Have To Express

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    Courtesy, www.gutenberg.org

    As I was driving out of Washington this afternoon, I was listening to an interview with the marvelous Trinidad-born, jazz musician, Etienne Charles, who is scheduled to perform at the DC Jazz Fest this month.

    His rich music is, as described on his website, “at least four generations deep: his great-grandfather, Clement Monlouis, emigrated to Trinidad from the overseas French department of Martinique bringing his folk music to the village of Mayaro; the young trumpeter’s grandfather, Ralph Charles’ distinct cuatro style can be heard on the classic folk and calypso recordings of the Growling Tiger; and, Etienne’s father, Francis Charles, was a member of Phase II Pan Groove, one of Trinidad’s most progressive steel bands and one that Etienne himself would later join. Immersed in his father’s vast record collection, and suffused with the sounds of calypso, steel pan, and African Shango drumming, Etienne imbibed many of the influences that presently constitute the diverse colors of his harmonic palette.”

    But, impressive as his musical heritage is, I was most struck when he commented on that heritage, saying,  “The More You Live The More You Have To Express.”

    How poignant, especially on this day when Queen Elizabeth, age 86, is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee. Not too long ago, we noted in this blog just how much you and the Queen have in common.

    Then, too, look at the stars participating in the Queen’s concert this evening: Sir Elton John, age 65; Sir Paul McCartney, age 70; and Dame Shirley Bassey, age 75, among many other “golden oldies.” Their performances, imbued with experience gleaned from the decades they have lived, were some of the most moving of their careers.

    May we all live – and express our lives – as well!

  • Advanced Style: A Sight for Sore Eyes

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    More than a sight, Ari Seth Cohen’s new book, Advanced Style, is a testament to the art of being oneself – forever!

    In his introduction, Cohen writes, “I have never considered ‘old’ a bad word. To be old is to be experienced, wise and advanced. The ladies [in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 100’s] I photograph challenge stereotypical views on age and aging. They are youthful in mind and spirit and express themselves through personal style and individual creativity. The soul of Advanced Style is not bound to age or even style, but rather to the celebration of life.”

    Ari Seth Cohen and Mimi Weddell

    In this blog we have often addressed originality and the important ways in which that originality or style is our unique brand and our selling point as we seek to remain active in the work force or re-invent ourselves. Most recently, we noted in our ode to Edith Piaf, No Regrets: Have the Courage to Live a Life True to Yourself.

    Creativity can and should be pro-active for, as George Eliot said,  “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”

    The Grande Dames photographed by Cohen share their own nuggets of wisdom:

    “Elegance is refined with age.”

    “Style is above all, the right attitude.”

    “Fashion says ‘me too,’ while style says ‘only me.'”

    “If you try to imitate too much, you will look like nothing. Never compare, you are you!”

    “We must dress every day for the theatre of our lives.”

    In her forward to Advanced Style, Maira Kalman, a fashionista in her own right , as well as an illustrator, author, artist, and designer, says, “Ari Cohen has done something very important. He has looked at our grand population and singled out the people that, in a way, are most invisible and have the most to offer.”

    “We are lucky,” Kalman continues, “when any older person crosses our path. Our lives are enriched just by proximity. The wisdom. The spirit. The saying exactly what they think. The dispensing of advice. The courage. The humor. The crankiness. The kindness. Or the iconoclasm. All of these come from people who have lived a long life.”

    i have enough

    Ahhhh…. that “buy a hat” is also key for Mimi Weddell, one of Cohen’s many elegant ladies (pictured in the photo with Cohen, above), who said of her life, “I can’t imagine going without a hat. The only romantic thing left in life is a hat.”

    My grandmother always wore a hat and I adored her. My great Aunt Dell wore her hat at a saucy angle as she fearlessly maneuvered her ambulance across the battlefields of France in WW I. Here’s to all the Grand Dames in our lives!

     

     

  • Behind the Curtain: Three Walt Disneys in the Magic Kingdom

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    Image courtesy, wallpaperden.com

    Joanna Maxwell,  provided a peak behind the curtain to reveal the real magic in Walt Disney’s creative process.  Maxwell’s Work In Colour blog is always a virtual cornucopia of  “creative thinking tools for individuals and businesses to switch from black & white to colour.”

    Last week she introduced us to three key mindsets behind Disney’s creative genius: “Disney set up three rooms, one for each mode of thinking. The first was for the Dreamer for thinking big, for creating visions and imagining possibilities without boundaries. The second was for the Realist to determine what is practical, how can we make this happen in the world, what actions are required? The third was for the Critic where you play devil’s advocate – test the plan for flaws, imagine what could go wrong.”

    Maxwell offers some questions to help us navigate each mindset to mine our own creativity:

    Dreamer

    1. What’s your vision, your ultimate fantasy for the project?
    2. If you had unlimited resources and ability, what would it look like?
    3. What’s most exciting about it?

    Realist

    1. How will you make this happen? What do you need?
    2. What’s the plan? (Details, please!)
    3. What might get in the way and how will you get around it?

    Critic

    1. What if my customers don’t like it?
    2. What are the competition doing in this space?
    3. What if the plans go wrong? What’s the worst case scenario?

     

    “The order,” she cautions, “is important – especially, don’t jump to the Critic before the Dreamer has had a thorough go.”

    In past posts, Maxwell has noted how difficult it is to step outside ourselves to interrupt our patterns and realistically assess our dreams. One particularly poignant suggestion (vis a vis this Disney post) that she had to help us was “to seek out aliens.” Not green creatures from another planet, but rather people with entirely different perspectives to shed new light on our ideas. “Children,” she says, “with their own unique insights and fresh approach are ideal.”

    When I read that I couldn’t help but think how much Disney – who created so many “colourful” magic kingdoms for children – would have loved that.

    Courtesy, houserphotography.net

  • Competition, the Blues and Salamander Pink Suits

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    I was struck by the parallels between two outrageously different articles this week. Each is unique, compelling and passionate in its tribute to the value of creativity and individuality.

    The first, “The Creative Monopoly,” by David Brooks is a fascinating analysis of a course Peter Thiel, PayPal founder, teaches in Stanford University’s Computer Science Department. Thiel believes we “tend to think that whoever competes best comes out ahead. In the race to be more competitive, we sometimes confuse what is hard with what is valuable.”

    With dazzling insight Thiel raises “a provocative possibility: that the competitive spirit capitalism engenders can sometimes inhibit the creativity it requires.  Think about the traits that creative people possess. Creative people don’t follow the crowds; they seek out the blank spots on the map. Creative people wander through faraway and forgotten traditions and then integrate marginal perspectives back to the mainstream. Instead of being fastest around the tracks everybody knows, creative people move adaptively through wildernesses nobody knows.”

    Brooks acknowledges how we “live in a culture that nurtures competitive skills. And they are necessary: discipline, rigor and reliability. But it’s probably a good idea to try to supplement them with the skills of the creative monopolist: alertness, independence and the ability to reclaim forgotten traditions.”

    Brooks’ last words, “reclaim forgotten traditions,” resonate in so many ways, especially for me when I found Whitney Boyd’s beautiful photo essay, “A Right to Sing the Blues.”

    Boyd describes how photographer, Jimmy Williams, traveled throughout the South and photographed artists like Boo Hanks, 84, a singer and guitar player, James “Bubba” Norwood, 70, a drummer who played with Ike and Tina Turner, and Whistlin’ Britches, the blues singer known for clicking his tongue. When he met Bishop Dready Manning and his wife, Marie, at their church in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., they were wearing matching salamander pink suits. Talk about photogenic!

    “These blues musicians,” Williams said, “are the very threads of American music.”

    Don’t miss a single photo.

  • Orchestrating Innovation – Old and New

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    Courtesy, Harvard Business Review

     

    This weekend, as I read a preview of Walter Isaacson’s article, “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” the April cover story in the Harvard Business Review, I was struck by the parallels between the culture of creativity Jobs fostered at Apple and that of Mervin Kelly, “the man most responsible for the culture of creativity” at Bell Labs fifty years earlier.

    Jon Gertner, author of the forthcoming “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation,” published an ode to the “Bell Labs’ Miracle” in the NY Times last month. Just for starters, read and compare how these four key lessons of Jobs – “Focus; Simplify; Take Responsibility; and Combine the Humanities with the Sciences” were integral to the Bell Labs’ creative ecosystem.

    Echo, the first communications satellite, in 1960. Courtesy of Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc. and the AT&T Archives and History Center

     

    As Gertner notes: “His [Kelly’s] fundamental belief was that an ‘institute of creative technology’ like his own needed a ‘critical mass’ of talented people to foster a busy exchange of ideas. But innovation required much more than that. Mr. Kelly was convinced that physical proximity was everything; phone calls alone wouldn’t do. Quite intentionally, Bell Labs housed thinkers and doers under one roof. Purposefully mixed together on the transistor project were physicists, metallurgists and electrical engineers; side by side were specialists in theory, experimentation and manufacturing. Like an able concert hall conductor, he sought a harmony, and sometimes a tension, between scientific disciplines; between researchers and developers; and between soloists and groups.”

    Indeed, it will take all of us – artists, scientists, politicians, teachers, navigators, cooks, athletes, geeks, oboe players and more – to address the world’s seemingly intractable problems today.  And, once we truly understand this, we need to identify another innovator cut from the same cloth as Jobs and Kelly to lead our orchestra.

     

  • The Power of “Power Posing”

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    Nicole Wallace writing for the Chronicle of Philanthropy described a rather unique presentation at the Pop Tech conference last fall.

    Wallace writes: “With strains of the ‘Wonder Woman’ theme song opening her talk, Amy J.C. Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School, discussed her research on body language and how it can change the way people feel about their status—something that could come in handy for the people nonprofits train to get jobs, and many other purposes. She and a colleague found that holding ‘power poses’ —open, expansive body postures that convey confidence and power (imagine a corporate titan with his feet propped on a desk or an Olympic runner raising her arms in victory)—for as little as two minutes changes people’s levels of testosterone and cortisol (hormones associated with leadership), increases their appetite for risk and helps them cope with stressful situations.”

    Watch the video of Professor Cuddy’s conference presentation: The Power of “Power Posing”

    Do you need a power pose to ask the right questions and nail your next job interview? Or, imagine how a power pose might impact your presentation to a bank, micro-finance institution or venture capitalist to secure funding for launching your own business.

    The applications are unlimited. I remember, for example. when my son’s traditionally reticent, somewhat elderly, first grade teacher dressed as Wonder Woman and assumed that icon’s power pose on an float in our small town’s Independence Day parade. Parents lining the parade route were stunned and children were awestruck.  And I can say with confidence that woman never had a discipline problem in her classroom again.

    “Power Posing” could that be just another way of saying –  take charge of your life???

  • Buttermilk Biscuits and Super Start-Ups – A Delight to the Cents and Senses!

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    Courtesy, Gourmet Live

    The latest issue of Gourmet Live magazine celebrates America’s top food entrepreneurs – and what a feast it is.

    Gourmet writes, “There’s no question that the food and beverage industry is tough. Profit margins are small and failure rates are high—roughly 80 percent of restaurants, for example, don’t make it to their second birthday. But it can also be an incredibly rewarding business for those plucky and lucky enough to find success—the Entrepreneurs issue of Gourmet Live salutes those who have already made it and those on their way.”

    They begin their tour of “the upstarts and start-ups driving change in the culinary world” top 25 American food entrepreneurs of the past 25 years. Kate Sekules pays tribute to major players such as Mario Batali, Annie Chun, and Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, who have not only made their fortunes but also “shifted the axis of American taste.”

    “If you have a quit-your-day-job dream simmering, you’ll be inspired by three more tales of passion and perseverance in this issue: St. John Frizell’s firsthand account of launching his Brooklyn bar/café, Fort Defiance; a visit by Jean Anderson to Saxapahaw General Store, the North Carolina haute eatery that gives the term filling station a whole new meaning; and an ode to the makers of Kate’s Real Buttermilk, who turned a butter by-product into liquid gold, penned by Gourmet Live’s Kemp Minifie.”

    Edible entrepreneurship indeed!!

     

  • In Memory of a Friend and Master Photographer, Eve Arnold

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    Eve Arnold on the set of "Becket," 1963, photographed by Robert Penn

    The renown photojournalist died peacefully at age 99 last Wednesday.

    When I first met Eve Arnold, she was an elegant, feisty yet unassuming woman of 80, still capturing astounding moments in her photographs. Though her London apartment building had an elevator, she preferred to vault up to her 3rd floor flat under her own steam – which is the way in which she had lived her life for decades.

    Eve never labeled herself a feminist, but she believed that women saw the world through a different lens. She was the first woman to become a full member of the Magnum Photos cooperative. She was a major star in what is considered the golden age of news photography, when magazines like Life and Look disseminated news through big, arresting pictures captured on-the-scene (in war and peace) by adventurous photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gordon Parks, Robert Capa and Margaret Bourke-White.

    She learned the trade at the New School in New York City where she studied under Alexey Brodovitch, the art director for Harper’s Bazaar magazine. One day, when he assigned his students to photograph a fashion story, Eve remembered hearing from her babysitter that fashion shows were held in Harlem — in churches, bars and other untraditional places.  The fashion photos she took in Harlem became her first portfolio and she continued to follow unconventional paths throughout her lifetime.

    During the 1970s, after waiting 10 years, she visited China twice, becoming one of the first westerners to be granted a rare visa after America and China established diplomatic relations. Traveling 40,000 miles, she photographed Communist officials, Mongolian horsemen and children at work. The trip was chronicled in a book, one of dozens she wrote and photographed.  Though she became even more famous for her intimate photographs of such celebrities as Marilyn Monroe and world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth, In China, which won the National Book Award is my favorite book of Eve’s. This is not only because of her stunning photographs, but also because I had just returned from a photo journey of Tibet when Eve and I first met in London.

    Eve was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Magazine Photographers in 1980. In 1995 she was made a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and was elected “Master Photographer” – the world’s most prestigious photographic honor – awarded by New York’s International Center of Photography.

    When asked what kept her working with such insight and skill over the decades, Eve answered, “Curiosity.”

    It’s there – in her eyes – and now in in the images she captured: her legacy.

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