• 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

  • No Regrets: Have the Courage to Live a Life True to Yourself

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    Lightning Striking Behind the Eiffel Tower, photo by Bertrand Kulik, Paris 2008

     

    I found this article, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, forwarded to me by a Canadian friend, profound, poignant and a call to action!

    The author, Susie Steiner for The Guardian (UK), writes about Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. Ware recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

    Steiner notes, “Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. ‘When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,’ she says, ‘common themes surfaced again and again.’”

    She says her patients’ # 1 regret is,

    I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

    “This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

    The question I’d ask, if you haven’t already done so, is how do we take charge of our lives to live the life we want to lead and not what is expected of us? It takes introspection first and for those of us healthy individuals 60+ it’s not a moment too soon to begin.

    A life examined is not an easy thing but, in today’s market-driven world where nearly everything is outsourced, some of you may be delighted (I was horrified) to learn we even have an opportunity to outsource our lives. The possibilities as noted in this essay, The Outsourced Life, by Arlie Russell Hochschild, a professor emerita of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “The Second Shift” and the forthcoming book “The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times,” are endless.

    Whether you do it yourself or you bring in some outside help, the important thing is that you Do It!

    When I reach the end of my life, I want to be able to say, “I regret nothing.” The French chanteuse, Edith Piaf, also known as “The Little Sparrow,” captures it best in her famous song, “Non, je ne regrette rien.” Even more than her words, study her face – especially her eyes – and listen to the passion in her voice. This is a life lived truly.

  • 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.

  • Do What You Love – Don’t Settle for Second Best

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    Courtesy, webgrrls.com

     

    If you’re 60 years old and just starting a business of your own, this is not the time for you to settle for second best. First, it is not good for your psyche and second, it is not good for your business.

    In this 12 Most Overlooked Essential First Steps For Starting A Business blog post, the first and last steps are all about you.

    The number 1 question is: Ask yourself, “What do I want out of life?”

    And the 12th and final “most overlooked essential” question is: Remind yourself, “Why you are starting this business and what it’s supposed to do for you?”

    You’ve lived and worked a lot of years. Now you’re free to choose what you want to do for the next 20-30 years. Don’t blow the opportunity. Stay focused and don’t compromise.

    Business News Daily had an article, Innovation Begins at Home for Entrepreneurs, that notes one of the best ways to test your entrepreneurial mettle and staying power is to build on something that works for you. It cites a study, released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit group that focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation, which found, “Nearly half of innovative startups are founded by user entrepreneurs. These are firms created by entrepreneurs who developed innovative products or services for their own use and then went on to found firms to commercialize them. They leave an outsize mark on the economy; even though they create only 10.7 percent of startups overall, they account for more than 46 percent of innovative startups that have lasted five years or more.

    For more about the you in entrepreneurship, don’t miss this new book The Big Enough Company by Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams. They explore how to grow your enterprise in a way that sustains your own personal goals and needs, not someone else’s standards. Drawing on the true stories of nearly 100 entrepreneurs, as well as their own experiences, the authors guide readers through the best principles that really matter when you work for yourself. This book empowers entrepreneurs to ignore popular “wisdom” and peer pressure to take charge of their businesses in a way that will help them succeed on their own terms.

    Never Lose Sight of the You in “Starting Your Own Business!”

  • 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.

     

  • How to Avoid the “Over-Qualified” Rejection Blues!

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    Courtesy, Artfulrabbit.com

    You spend your life trying to get experience – then suddenly have too much!

    Employers don’t care about past experience. CEOs care about business outcomes and profitability; they want to know what you can do for them now.

    You need to translate or reframe your experience to demonstrate how you can solve today’s business problems. And be passionate – it is key to your being hired over someone who has the skills or experience but could not care less.

    These are just a few of the points David DeLong discusses in this outstanding video produced by an equally outstanding project called Over50AndOutofWork. David DeLong is a research fellow at the MIT AgeLab, founder of David DeLong & Associates, author of Lost Knowledge:  Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce and co-author of the study Buddy, Can You Spare a Job?. DeLong provides very specific recommendations and strategies for older jobseekers to maximize the success of their job search – and the good news is that he is optimistic about the future for older workers.

    This is a 30-minute video – don’t miss a minute of DeLong’s valuable tips!

    YouTube Preview Image

     

  • Balancing Work and Life: Stories from the Trenches

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    Stone Sculpture, Willard Beach, Maine

    The challenges can be daunting but they need not be insurmountable. As a wise old soul once said, “Nothing is impossible; the impossible just takes a little longer.”

    A key first step is to identify your priorities. Determine what you want to get out of your work and your personal life, and jettison all the things that don’t help you achieve those goals.

    The second key step is to give yourself time. You can’t expect to achieve this balance overnight. Take small steps and build on each success.

    Help, as in interviews with those who have and have not achieved balance, is available at Stanford University’s e-Corner (Entrepreneurship Corner), a project of Stanford Technology Ventures Program. They have published a collection of videos and podcasts of more than 1800 of Silicon Valley’s most practiced entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

    Check out three of their videos with “perspectives on this frequently elusive pursuit” below:

    Video: Life With an Entrepreneur
    Brad Feld, Foundry Group, TechStars
    5 min. 7 sec.

    Living a “life” while being an entrepreneur can have its challenges, according to entrepreneur and investor Brad Feld. Through a candid story from his own marriage, Feld explains how he has successfully found a way to balance his love of work with his love of family.

     

    Video: Work-Life Balance for Driven People
    Dominic Orr, Aruba Networks
    3 min. 28 sec.

    Dominic Orr, CEO of Aruba Networks, wrestles with the definition of work-life balance for people deeply engaged by their work. Orr recognizes it can be difficult to separate work and life, but that we must still make room for relationships that matter to us. According to Orr, this ultimately comes down to carefully allocating our time and energy.

     

    Video: Failure in Work-Life Balance
    Lisa Lambert, Intel Capital
    2 min. 19 sec.

    “Failure is as much about success as success is,” says Lisa Lambert, vice president at Intel Capital. “In fact, it’s probably a more important part.” Lambert reflects on aspects of her career she wishes she could revisit, including work-life balance. Get practiced in the act of saying no, she advises, and accept that your time and money, and other resources only occur in limited quantities.

     

  • 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!!

     

  • Optimizing Failure

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    Courtesy of waltsense.com

    Wile E. Coyote – did you ever know a character more inured to failure? The Critter deserves a medal for resilience, but just think of the havoc he could have wrecked if only he had learned from each disastrous, failed attempt to snag the Road Runner.

    In a recent post, Penelope Trunk, in her blog  “Advice on the Intersection of Life and Work” writes about starting your own business:

    She says, “Feeling stuck? Uninspired? As though your New Year’s resolutions have no spark? Maybe it’s time to start your own business. It’s likely you intuitively know if you’re actually an entrepreneur stuffed in a corporate cubicle. … don’t be stifled by your age or lack of experience. Just make sure you have the right personality for success and the right attitude toward failure.”

    “The right attitude toward failure” – that’s the phrase that struck home with me because it is something you can apply to your career as well as a new business start-up. As she said in an earlier post, “in this day, we have the ability to gather information quickly and move quickly. But why do we only apply this idea to [new] companies? Why not also apply it to our careers? We can constantly gather information, ask questions, and readjust our goals.”

    Trunk recommends we, “Fail quickly and move on. Most business leaders fail once or twice before hitting it big. Think of failure as a necessary career step and move through it quickly and assuredly – recognize when things are going poorly, fail fast, learn, and respond to new information about what really works for each of us.”

     

     

     

     

     

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