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If I move, will you follow?

>> 23 March 2011

I just wanted to remind you that this blog has moved.

So please join me over HERE
and subscribe to the new RSS feed
or follow me via Networkedblogs.

Create and Connect. Inspire social change through creativity


The end of an era

>> 11 March 2011

Dear creative readers,

Time has come to take you on a journey.
The 'simply blogging for fun' era has come to an end.

I am now taking things seriously :-)
I have moved to a new blog and new website which I let you discover.

This blog will no longer be fueled with creative posts. Therefore, please surf on over to the new blog to make sure you don't miss a thing.

Both Blogger and Mindfulmimi.com will continue to direct to the new blog.

Meet you there for some serious creative business!


Creativity: bring play into every day

>> 9 March 2011

When I spend an afternoon with my children (3 and almost 5) I am always and again amazed at their ability to play.

EVERYTHING is play. Everything they do is for entertainment and learning only.

Some examples of just one afternoon:

  • My 3 year old:
    • spent 15 minutes throwing a balloon into the air shouting 'wheeeee' and catching it (marveling at how it never falls back down the same way or place)
    • then he got a plastic container in which he put the balloon and ran around the house with it going 'yaaaah' (marveling at how the balloon tried to escape)
    • spent 5 minutes drawing with different color pens on his face
    • spent half an hour digging in the gravel outside, filling and emptying buckets
    • spent 5 minutes picking out fluff from between his toes
  • My 5 year old:
    • spent 1 hour drawing on a roll of wallpaper trying out the letters he recently learned and asking what he had written (which was something interesting like LOKRLICCOPAAAMMM)
    • spent 15 minutes listening to the same song and accompanying it with all sorts of kid's musical instruments we have (flute, xylophone, drum, tambourine...)
    • spent half an hour cutting paper and gluing the pieces together with sticky tape
All that without any 'real' purpose.

How often does that happen to you?
How often do you do thing just for fun, just to play and be merry?

What can you do to bring some more play into your daily life?
How about a few of these?
  1. go to a toy store and buy a toy you'd love to play with - take it to the office
  2. do kart-wheels
  3. With your family (or colleagues), spend half an hour without speaking: instead, DRAW everything you want to say
  4. put stickers in your agenda (I do for each time I went running)
  5. order a kid's menu instead of your regular choice
  6. keep at bucket of crayons on your desk
  7. instead of the canteen, take your colleagues on a picnic lunch in the park/woods
  8. pretend to be a superhero for a day (try to think and act like one)
  9. jump up and down (you can do this in the bathroom if you are shy :-)
  10. hang a flip chart page on your wall and every time someone comes to your office, ask them to draw something on it (with the box of crayons you have on your desk)
  11. put your to do list as post it notes on your wall
  12. play with your food at lunch or eat with your fingers
  13. keep some Lego blocks on you desk - or if that is too childish, try Kapla.
  14. Try solving a Rubik's cube
  15. Have a dress up or theme day at work
  16. Have your meeting at the local museum instead of your meeting room
  17. Sit on the ground for meeting


How to protect your creative bubble

>> 6 March 2011

Creativity is killed by:
  • office politics
  • a boss who controls
  • fear
  • the hanging on to 'things have always been done this way'
  • procedures and process
  • etc
So in order to protect your creativity from these viruses, you need to create a protective bubble.

The bubble is an environment filled with things like:
  • self knowledge
  • curiosity
  • faith, safety and trust
  • allowance to make mistakes
  • playfulness
  • friends, like minded people and sounding boards
  • etc
Do you have a bubble?
If not, how can you blow one up slowly?


Your normal is someone else's exotic

>> 2 March 2011

I was listening to an audio book where an American student was describing his Guatemalan roommate as exotic.

Sun on your skin, beaches, mosquitoes, colorful clothing, palm trees and lush green and blue scenery, sing song language.

Exotic, yes. But normal, every day life when you're Guatemalan.

It's the same with creativity.

The things you do in your normal way may look exotic to someone else.

And have you really looked at the normal, routine life you're leading? Is it really that mundane?

There are so many normal ways of being creative that we tend to forget about them.

  • How you cook dinner is creative.
  • How you dress every day is creative.
  • How you solve problems is creative (yes even the problem of how to clean your baby's poo off the couch!)
  • How you write your blog posts is creative.
  • How you bring laughter on someone's face is creative.
  • How you fold laundry is creative (I have never seen two people fold laundry the same way...)
  • How you manage stress is creative.
  • How you entertain guests is creative.
  • How you manage to fit all the garbage in the can every week is creative.
So you don't have to paint a masterpiece, speak a foreign language, or live on an exotic island to be creative.

Creativity can be found in the ordinary. You just need to see it.

So what's your ordinary this week? Can you see how this may seem creative to someone else?


Why you need to notice the little things to be creative

>> 27 February 2011

Some people are lucky:

  • They find the penny (or even a bill) on the street.
  • They bump into the right people at the right moment.
  • Good things just happen to them all the time.
  • They are seated next to Carl Lewis on the plane (yes yes, I know someone).
  • They get to do the coolest things they love to do.
  • They keep coming up with the best ideas.
Why is that you think? Luck?
And then why don't these things happen to me?

Well, let me ask you a question: Do you notice every 'little thing'?

No, of course not. How can you? You only have one brain. You have a job, kids, stuff to handle, groceries to buy, appointments to get to, emails to respond to while walking down the street to catch the bus.
No time to notice EVERY little thing.

No, of course not. But do you notice ANY little thing?

Is your mind open to luck, to simple things, to stuff that has nothing to do with what your mind is on about right now?

I have just spent two days in Rome and I have noticed the following little things:
  • Otto is eight in Italian and also the name of a guy. It can be written in a very creative, designy way.
  • There is art on pavements (not only in Rome)
  • Italian cab drivers have a nice little plaque with their name inside the cab.
  • There was no room service in my hotel (ok, maybe not such a small thing after all)
  • The contents of my minibar were included in my room charge (too bad they forgot to tell me this beforehand...)
  • They have huge, tall, heavy, wooden, decorated doors. I wonder who makes those.
  • Hardly anyone wears heals (too many cobble stoned streets).
  • Most Italian scooters are no longer of Italian brands.
  • etc etc etc
Now, I admit this is nothing that makes me rich or famous.
But all these little ideas will sit in my head and I just know they will meet some other information there that can be useful.
Or the little things are waiting (simmering, incubating) until I notice some other little thing so that they can mate and create a wonderful little idea.

What are the little things you are noticing this week?

And if you're completely out of practice, I suggest you go for a walk with a toddler of 3 or 4. They do notice EVERY little thing.


5 tips to start the day creatively

>> 23 February 2011

People tell me it's difficult to be creative every day.
Of course it is.

But if you set up a few systems to create a creative routine, you can easily be creative every day.

Being creative does not necessarily mean you have to paint a painting or write a song.

Here are a few ideas on how you can start (or end) your day with something creative:

  1. Buy the book "The Art of Looking Sideways" by Alan Fletcher.
    Put it on your desk at work and open it to a new page every day. You will not only learn some interesting things but also have a daily dose of inspiration.

  2. Brush your teeth with your other hand.
    This will confuse your brain, but it will also teach it to create new neural pathways. And that is good for creativity.

  3. Visit Keri Smith's website for 100 ideas for little, funny, crazy actions.
    Do one every day. I suggest you get her books too.

  4. Do something with your hands first.
    We are so used to working with our brains that we don't know how to work with our hands anymore. So start your day with something manual.
    * take some paper, cut it into pieces, glue it together with glue or tape
    * get some paper flowers and fashion them into a bouquet for your office
    * hand write the agenda of your day
  5. Take a picture a day:
    Bring a disposable camera to work and take a different picture of your office. Rearrange things, add new things. When the roll of film is full, develop the picture and make a mosaic to hang on your wall. Or participate in the art project A Million Little Pictures.


    Creative mortification

    >> 20 February 2011

    As a child, everything you create is great.

    Your parents ooh and aah at the slightest scribble when you're two.
    They continue to praise you when you give your bus 10 square wheels or your princess a crown on her feet.

    Then you go to school and the sun has to be yellow, the sky blue and they tell you that you should not use so much black.

    Your pieces of art are compared to your little friends and for the first time you don't get 100% praise. The girls laugh at your princess, because everyone knows the crown goes on the head. The boys chuckle at your bus because square wheels don't exist.

    And it's the first time you experience a bit of creative mortification.
    You feel shame. Your painting sucks. People don't appreciate it.
    And you recoil into your creative house.

    Beghetto, a professor at the University of Oregon, calls this Creative Mortification.

    Basically, all these little (or big) instances of shame and humiliation, slowly kill your creativity.

    Ken Robinson confirms this by saying that schools kill creativity.

    Over time, the judging, negative feedback, laughs and criticism you receive whenever your creativity tries to speak up, your house of creativity becomes smaller.

    Until one day, it's the size of a snail house.

    From now on, whenever you are at dinner parties or professional meetings, you laugh off any attempt to bring out your creativity. 'Oh, I am not creative at all.' you say with a 'get away from me' gesture.

    I can think up a few creative mortification instances myself:

    • Church choir: I was told I couldn't sing.
      Turns out they put me with the other girls in the sopranos group although I clearly am an alto!
      I ended up singing gospel and rock songs in church later and sang in a blues band for a while.
    • Writing my first book at age 14 and sending it to publishers just to get rebuffed. Made me stop writing anything of value for a long time.
      I ended up writing the blog you are reading now :-)
    • Drawing: I liked to fill entire pages with one curling line until I was told this was silly.
      I recently did this again and my son loooves it :-)
    Did you experience this kind of creative killings?
    How can you repair those?


    Everything happens FOR you, not TO you

    >> 16 February 2011

    Sometimes life throws you curve balls.

    One day you are full of energy, enthusiasm and creativity to set up a new project, a business, a new piece of art and the next day you are thrown back by something like:
    • creative block: you can't seem to 'find' the next chapter of your book
    • lack of inspiration: you want to paint but have no idea what
    • negative criticism: people judge your work badly which makes you angry and want to stop
    • a change of plan: what you had in mind is not possible for some reason and it puts you to a halt
    This curve ball makes you disappointed and angry.
    You loose your drive (or your pitch). Your dream is shattered. Well, yes, it's like your idea just died.

    Elisabeth Kübler Ross was a Swiss psychiatrist/researcher who did a lot of work on the process of grief for which she identified five stages.

    Although her research was based on dealing with a terminal illness or fatal loss,  there is also a business significance as people seem to go through similar stages when faced with changes in their personal and professional lives.

    1. Denial: "This is not happening!"
    2. Anger: "This is not fair!" "Why me?"
    3. Bargaining: "Just give me more time." "How can I get this to work my way anyway?"
    4. Depression: "What's the point?" "No one likes my idea." "I might as well give up."
    5. Acceptance: "It's not so bad." "I can find a way out of this."
    You can go through all those phases within a short time frame and in simple, everyday situations:
    You have asked your partner to take out the trash last night. The next morning when you get ready to drive to work you notice he/she hasn't.
    1. I can't believe this! This can't be true!
    2. It's always the same. Every time I ask and he doesn't do it. I have to do everything here!
    3. I'm not going to do it either. That will teach him.
    4. There will be garbage piling up if the trash is not taken away today. Why did I ever marry this guy?
    5. Well, it's no big thing really. I can do it now; it won't take long. And I will tell him later that it really bothers me.
     Variations of above scenario happen to us all the time. Small and big curve balls.

    I recently had one thrown at me hard. And I kept alternating between anger, bargaining and depression. I couldn't seem to get beyond that.

    Then I remembered a thing my coach had said to me some years ago:
    "It's happening FOR you . Not TO you."

    I stopped and looked within.
    I had planted a seed and wanted a flower to sprout right away.
    But of course, the first thing that comes up is the dirt. Only then can a little green leaf poke its head above the earth.

    So next time you have a curve ball thrown at you, go within, clear the dirt and grow:
    - write that chapter
    - paint...anything, just paint
    - get some positive feedback to counterbalance but also analyze the negative (there might be something to learn there)
    - change your plan, make it even better, different

    So, what is happening FOR you right now?


    Shaping serendipity

    >> 13 February 2011

    Serendipity is the faculty of finding things we didn't know we were looking for.
    -- Glauco Ortolano

    Serendipity plays quite a big role in creativity, because there is only so much you can actively search for when you are looking for new ideas.

    Creative people tend to increase the probability of serendipitous encounters that may prove both relevant and valuable to them.

    How do they to that?

    You can't really find anything if you don't know what you're looking for.
    But if you know what you're looking for you know where to find it, right?

    Not necessarily.
    Sometimes what you are looking for is just a vague idea. You have a plan about increasing the team spirit at work - but you don't really know how exactly you are going to do that.
    Is it training you need? Or some team building events?

    You need to give the issue some attention. You need to think about it, talk about it with colleagues, do some research. Write the project name on your wall or whiteboard. Have it in front of you even (and especially) when you are not actively thinking about it.

    Your surroundings play a big role in shaping your serendipitous encounters. After all, if you live in a sterile, empty place, you won't bump into anything.

    So look around you. Is your office a standard cubicle? The same furniture as your neighbor?
    Can't decorate because company police does not allow it? Fine, you don't have to turn your feng shui house into a messy, cluttered place.

    All you need is a box really. A magic box full of STUFF: wrapping paper, yarn, buttons, crayons, playdoh, post-it notes, wooden blocks, stones, shells, broken pieces of things etc. Fill your box with very diverse things. And whenever you are looking for an idea, open the box and wait for the magic to jump out.

    When you are working on a specific project, you need to start with an new, empty box.
    Give your attention to the project and everything that is related to it.

    And whatever you come across that even slightly reminds you of your project - even though you have no idea why and can't explain what you're going to do with it - put it in the box. A video you like, a rotten piece of bark that has a great shape and texture, a picture in a magazine that is only slightly related to your idea.

    You are preparing your project.

    Whenever you are working on your project, open the box, spread out the contents. Let yourself be inspired by it.

    Be prepared for luck. People who don't expect to find money on the street, will never even notice the penny on the sidewalk. Expect the penny. Expect luck.

    Practice serendipity by exposing yourself to many surfaces: attend conferences that have nothing to do with your subject, connect with people that are the opposite of those you work with (i.e. if you are a ballet choreographer, go talk to computer programmers or soup kitchen volunteers). You never know what comes out of that.

    Reciprocity and sharing
    Creative people don't hide ideas. They talk about them. All the time. To A LOT of people.
    The don't hoard ideas. They give them away.

    Both reciprocity and sharing are good indicators of shaping your luck environment.

    The people you talk to might give you some advice, or tell you a story that sparks an idea, or connect you with someone who does something similar.

    When you give something (advice, help, your art etc), something you're good at, something that is of value, the receiver is most likely going to reciprocate. This is not the same as 'I give you this and I expect something in return from you'. Creative and lucky people give freely without any strings attached. Try it. It does a world of good.


    There is a time for everything

    >> 9 February 2011

    When you create, when you work on a project, when you organize an event, when you raise your kids, when you write a song, when you start a business, when you do anything in life really, there is a time for everything.

    That everything can be anything: the inspiration, the vision, the next step, the right supplier, the ideal milestone, the perfect school, that amazing riff, that excellent accountant...

    That everything can only come when all elements are ready for it.

    What elements are needed for it to arrive?

    1. Clarity:
      what is is that you want? how do you want it? how should it look? It's the big picture. Paint it. Put it on a vision board. Visualize it often (hang it up on your bathroom mirror). Change it as you go along. Come back to it when things change along the way.
    2. Intention:
      how bad do you want it? why do you want it? how do you want to make it happen? what would you need to do about it? who could you talk to?

    3. Decision:
      it's intention with legs: what ARE you going to do about it? what do you need to do to make it happen? when? how often? for how long? with whom?
      This is often the stage when the Universe throws you a curve ball and puts you right back to the first or second stage: what did you want? really? and HOW BAD do you want it? really? This is usually when 'shit happens' just to see how serious you are (as in: you don't need an accountant...you haven't even set up your business yet)

    4. Concretisation:
      You were clear on it, you intended it the right way and decided how to get there.
      And then the accountant shows up on your doorstep.
      Well, sometimes. But most of the times it takes a little more than that. Often enough we expect things to materialize before the time is actually right for it. Sometimes we might have met him and didn't even notice... We get frustrated and procrastinate on our project or even give up.
      Instead we should ask ourselves why we haven't found the perfect number cruncher yet. Are we still clear on our project? Is the intention a bit off maybe? Or have we take a few wrong decisions that need to be aligned. Are our expectations in line with reality.
      When the time is right, he will show up and you will notice him.
    Just know that YOU are the one who has the dials of the clock in your hands.

    And if you follow above steps you will start noticing a difference. You learn to read the signs, be patient and recognize when the Universe talks to you :-)


    2 free creative ideas for a business

    >> 6 February 2011

    I recently went to see my Tuina therapist.
    She has set up a program to offer her services to businesses.
    She had me look at her proposal and asked for my advice.

    I told her that it was not clear to me who she was pitching to.

    Human Resources, the CEO, employees directly?
    The all speak a different language, have a different interest and different needs to fulfill. What may seem a benefit to one, is probably just a 'nice to have' for the other.

    And what kind of businesses were her customers? Hotels, banks, shops,... What environment do people work in? That largely defines what their health problems might be that she has to address.

    She told me that it is difficult for her to get an insider's view of how companies work, who decides what and what their needs are that she could address.

    So in the lines of A wish is a niche, it made me think about a few business ideas that would cover her need and even take it a step further.

    My Company Insider
    A place where employees sign up to propose their insider knowledge. Not confidential knowledge that could interest a trader, but just simple things like:
    • who in your company do I need to contact for X, Y, Z?
    • what would be the best way to sell my product in your company?
    • how does your company get rid of old computers and is there a way to recuperate them? 
    • who is the decision maker for this?
    It would avoid an overloaded company webmaster.
    It would avoid many unanswered emails.
    It would create interesting connections that could be useful.
    It would connect the company to a community of people that are interested in them (on many different levels).

    Competency market (for startups or non-profits)

    We all have very diversified skills. We might even use all of them at work.
    Most often we only use a select few. Because our job requires a certain set of skills and not another.
    William Bridges says that it is a 19th-century contingency to “package the work that needed doing in the growing factories and bureaucracies of the industrialised nations”.
    Today's job market tries to fit the best people into given jobs.

    What if we explored the option of aligning what people can offer – their competencies – against the demands of companies, the community and other individuals?
    Let's say you are good at building simple websites and want to start your own business. You 'advertise' your service and each time you 'sell' it to someone, you earn a certain number of points (depending on the level of service rendered).
    Some weeks later, you need someone to look at your business plan. You find the person offering this service and pay with the points you earned.

    Such barter sites already exists (although not so much in Europe) but they offer too many things at once.
    It would be nice to have a site that deals with selected partners to offer all services needed for startups or non profits. I found one site that goes into this direction.
    Lately I have encountered many wishes from non profits and startups for certain services, so a barter service geared towards them would surely be a success.


    How to tame your inner critic

    >> 2 February 2011

    I am participating in a group over at Coach Creative Space about taking tiny creative steps boldly.

    We were talking about our Inner Critic and how powerful this little creature in our head can be.

    Some describe it as a physical little being like a goblin or even a witch. Others describe more of a voice that is angry, scared, frustrated, unsure.

    Here are a few tips for banning its destructive methods or just simply putting it to sleep.

    1. Befriend it:
      Don't fight your inner critic. It is not there to harm you. It is part of you.
      It's like having the hiccups: the more you try to get rid of them, the longer they last. Accept it.

    2. Learn from it:
      Listen to it. Get to know it by what it is telling you. The better you know someone, the more you learn how to deal with it.
      Note down what it is telling you. What kind of messages does it give you? Are they spelling fear? Or frustration? Or are they belittling and trying to make you unsure? In what kind of situations does it speak up?
    3. Use it:
      Usually the inner critic goblin shows up when you are approaching the limits of your comfort zone. And that can be very useful. It teaches you about yourself and the boundaries that you have set yourself or that were set by your education.
      Use the stop signs your inner critic provides to think twice about your project or action. Are his questions justified? Why? Why not?
    4. Answer it:
      Now that you know whether your goblin is more of an angry little sucker or just a fearful little soul, you can answer him. Ask him 'what is the worst that can happen?'.
      If he throws the likes of 'people will laugh at you' or 'you will get fired' at you, ask him Why? Why will people laugh at me? Because my idea is stupid or because only part of it is a bit laughable? Why will I get fired? Because I have shown initiative and creativity by introducing a new idea? Really?
      Keep asking why until you really get to the crux of it.
      You'd be surprised how awfully silly the real reason for your inner critic is.
      And if you know how to answer your inner critic, you are prepared to answer the outer critics as well.
    When the above steps don't work, I personally like to take my little goblin with me when I go jogging. We have our discussion about the pros and cons, the fears, the judgment and all that surrounds stepping out of your comfort zone. We ping-pong our way through the subject at hand as I struggle my way uphill through the woods.

    When I get out of the woods and onto the clearing, my goblin has often decided to stay in the woods for a little while longer :-)


    The right color for creativity

    >> 30 January 2011

    I recently did a search on what color represents creativity.

    Blue, yellow, purple, green....

    Noone seems to agree even though blue and yellow seem to be most prominent.

    Sciencedaily says it depends on the task.

    What they all agree on though, is that color is important, influences us, our perceptions and our moods.

    Now, if you want to increase creativity, you probably can't go ahead and paint your office like a Swedish flag (unless you work for Ikea).

    But how can you surround yourself with color that inspires you?
    • put a blue screen saver on your pc
    • hang up a poster of van Gogh's Starry Night
    • order blue (or green or...) binders (instead of gray or white ones)
    • get colored post-it notes
    • put some removable colorful stickers on your wall or window
    • go for a walk under the blue sky
    • Cover your walls in ideapaint and doodle away

    How do you put color in your life?

    The color wheel: from primary over monochromatic to neutral - all in one place
    Color matters: extensive site all about color


    How a 4 year old solves the dead birds mystery

    >> 26 January 2011

    Do you remember the dead birds that fell from the skies in the US and Europe recently?

    We never really heard what exactly the reason was for them falling from the sky all together at the same time, did we?

    Well, my 4 year old has a few solutions for you:

    1. The wind blew them onto the ground.
      Makes sense. Was my first kind of rational thought too. Big storm, birds get caught and whisked back to earth.
    2. It was raining so hard, it rained them on the ground.
      Yeah, not bad. In the same line of bad weather phenomena. Plus rain makes their wings wet and heavy. In this case it was not raining cats and dogs, but birds...
    3. The flew against a tree. No no, a signpost.
      Right. I had come up with the odd obstacle as well like airplanes and such. Must have been a lot of signposts around that area in Arkansas!
    4. It rained and they opened their mouths -birds have beaks dear- ...beaks, drank too much rain and got sick.
      Mmmh. Now we're getting creative! Acid rain. I guess that could kill a bird or two.

    Now acid rain is more of a deposition than rain really. So I guess they must have flown in that rain for a very long time to be affected in a way to make them drop to earth.

    However, the principal natural phenomena that contribute acid-producing gases to the atmosphere are emissions from volcanoes.

    So maybe those birds have been hovering too long above Eyjafjallajökull recently. And here is how my son solved that problem.

    In the same series:
    How a 4 year old solves the Greek debt crisis


    How switching off the TV makes you more creative

    >> 23 January 2011

    How much time do you spend in front of the TV?

    Honestly. Give me a number if you can...
    One movie a night?
    That's 1,5-2 hours times 7...

    Not that bad you say.

    Well, statistics say that if you live in the US or the UK, you spend 28 hours per week in front of the screen.

    You're doing a little better if you live elsewhere.

    28 HOURS!

    That's more than 3 whole work days!

    Wow! Just think about what you get DONE in 3 work days! And that's at WORK!

    This is your free time we're talking about!

    You're giving it away willingly to the most mind-killing medium that exists.

    • TV gives you emotionally charged images
    • TV presents over simplified solutions
    • TV chews thoughts for you
    • TV is dulling
    And dull is the end of creativity.

    I am not saying all TV is bad - there are some good educational and informative documentaries, and I like a good movie from time to time. But every night?


    Skip television one evening per week. If that's hard, pick the day of the week where you always complain that nothing is on...

    Make a list of (fun, creative) things you can do instead (i.e. don't put 'ironing' on there):
    • Write a letter to a friend (not a Facebook message or an email, a real handwritten letter)
    • Go for a walk instead (you'll be amazed at how the world looks when it's dark and empty)
    • Talk to your partner: pick a theme a week (and it can't be topics like the groceries or the kids)
    • Learn something new: take a class or pick a new word in the dictionary and find uses for it
    • Start a blog
    • Make a dinner plan for the week
    • Meditate
    • Be bored: lie on your couch and do nothing. Think, look around you, listen.
    • Got to bed early. Very healthy!
    Can you come up with more?

    See how you're doing after 2 weeks.

    Increase to 2 nights a week of television freeness!


    11 ways to get the best out of your coach

    >> 19 January 2011

    Have you ever had a coach?

    • the trainer you had in high school
    • the consultant they paid when you were laid off
    • the fitness coach you decided to hire to loose those pounds
    • the life coach you felt you needed to get through mid life
    We have all had a coach in our life at some point.
    Sometimes we chose them, sometimes they were thrust upon us... for better or for worse. Often for worse.

    Here are a few tips to make your next coaching experience a success:
    • it goes without saying that the points outlined below need to be agreed and provided by BOTH you and your coach!
    • For easier writing, I have used a female coach in my points below. Please feel free to replace by male attributes.
    1. Commitment:
      You need to be committed to the goals that you have defined together.  So before you get a coach, try to get some clarity on what it is that you want. This will avoid loosing anyone's time. When you're ready to go, make sure you check out your coach through website, testimonials, etc.
    2. Time:
      Being coached takes time. Depending on the goal(s) you set, you need to set aside a certain amount of time that you need to dedicate to work on them. No use in setting up a coaching session every 6 months so that you have time to work on the items.
      Once a month is probably a minimum, sometimes more frequent is necessary to keep momentum going. Usually sessions should be about 1-1,5 hours.
    3. Availability:
      Make sure you are 100% available during set meetings/phonecalls. No multitasking, no rattling on about your dog, your shitty job etc (unless that is part of your goal).
    4. Preparation:
      Prepare! Do the actions that were given to you in the last session. Do them thoroughly. If you have questions along the way, don't hesitate to ask your coach.
    5. Honesty:
      Don't pretend or lie with your coach. Be YOU. If you do, you might as well quit immediately. it is the foundation of your success. A coach cannot guide you if you give her wrong information. If along the way something feels wrong or uncomfortable, say it, immediately. Don't wait for things to grow.
    6. Open mind:
      It is important to be open to questions, criticism, challenges. It may not always be comfortable . Change never is at the beginning. If you have an open mind and can suspend your judgment or disbelief and let the coach guide you, try out some new ideas or steps for you, you will see where this is going after a while.
    7. Partnership:
      A coach is not an enemy. Yes, you pay her to help you. But it is in her interest as well that you succeed and are satisfied with her services.
    8. Change:
      Be ready for change. Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone. Scary is good! And because you're being coached the scary is controlled. The coach is not going to make you do anything you're not prepared to do. But if you want to achieve your goals, you need to change.
      As my coach says 'If you continue to do what you've always done, you get what you always got'. So do something different. Your coach will make sure it turns into achieving your goals.
    9. Advancement:
      If you received some action items during your first session, you should be seeing at least some kind of advancement already. If only in your attitude, your level of excitement. If not, tell her and change whatever needs changing (goal, direction, intensity, number of actions etc).
    10. Investment:
      Coaching is an investment in yourself. Treat it like you treat your investment in your house or car. No, treat it better! Honor your payments. Get what you need in order of importance (foundations, walls, roof, insulation, furniture, paint, decoration etc - i.e. don't start with the decoration...)
    11. Fun!
      Being coached is fun and exciting. If it's not, get a better coach. One that fits your needs.


    Why you need to fail early and fail often

    >> 16 January 2011

    Whenever we have an idea, we would like to run it by some people to get validation.
    We want to hear that our idea is great.

    We don't want to fail. So we want others to tell us that we won't.
    We want to make it foolproof.

    Then again, we don't want others to think we (or our ideas) are stupid.
    And we often lack confidence in our own ability to come up with brilliance.

    So often enough, we keep our idea to ourselves.
    We work away on it, trying to perfect it.

    And when we think it's ready for the outside world, we often fall flat on our face.

    We have invested time, often even money to come this far.

    What went wrong?

    Failing early, when your ideas are still small (as opposed to when you're in front of the management committee or the board) allows you to:

    • get honest feedback (as no budget, responsibilities or egos are involved yet)
    • change things that don't work quickly (as they don't cost anything or very little)
    • see whether the idea has potential
    • get new ideas (people love to give their opinion, for free!)
    So in order to fail early, fail often. Here is how:

    1. Make a short pitch about your initial idea
      - answering the 5W1H questions
      - try to present it like a story (with a statement, an unexpected turn etc)
    2. Make a list of 3-5 people who you can test the pitch and idea on
      - people who would have to be involved if the project flies
      - people with special capabilities (creativity, business development, mentoring etc)
    3. Rework the pitch and start thinking about a sponsor
      - ideally someone influential, known or important (but not a decision maker for this idea)
    4. Prototype your idea - or run a pilot project
      - it's the only way to test for success and get rid of glitches or faults
    5. Launch or abandon
      - by the time you're launching or presenting to management you have gained insight, experience, and feedback and basically know what your talking about and have gotten rid of first hick-ups
      - if you decide to abandon you will have learned a lot and gained information for a next project; and you will have shown those around you that you can ship your ideas

    So, fail early, fail often.

    But don't fail small! Don't leave out the good, special, weird, compelling stuff because it's safer to fail small.

    That makes you settle for Good Enough...

    And 'good enough' doesn't fly in business, in love or on your way to the moon,

    For more insight:

    Seth Godin: Random rules for ideas worth spreading


    What Oprah could do better

    >> 12 January 2011

    I like Oprah. I have for years. And I am not ashamed to say it ;-)

    I think she is creative, lives with intention, does what she needs to do, is not afraid to admit mistakes and she knows how to market herself.

    Being a reader, I especially like her O Magazine.

    Living in Luxembourg however, does not allow me to purchase it in a local store. I have to subscribe to it. Which is pretty costly I have to admit.

    So here is my marketing point of view of what Oprah could do better to sell me (or, come to think of it, anyone else) her magazine:
    1. Make overseas delivery more affordable.
    2. Tell me when my subscription starts and when it ends (this is not clear when you subscribe).
    3. Send me a renewal reminder before the end of my subscription (funny enough, this is not the case!)
    4. Make a European version of O (many articles are very US focused, all special deals are US only)
    I guess if I were not such a paper fan, I could just subscribe to the new Ipad version of her magazine.

    And maybe I will, whenever I find myself a few months without her magazine and realize that the subscription has stopped :-)


        How doing nothing can help creativity

        >> 9 January 2011

        Do Nothing is a technique described by Brian Clegg in his book Crash Course in Creativity.

        1. How often have you been in a meeting where a problem is being discussed and you think it's not really that important?
        2. How often do we spend working on something and afterward feel like we could have spent this time more efficiently?
        3. How often has someone rushed into your office with an urgent 'needs to be done immediately or else...' issue?

        We often assume that something needs to be done about a problem.

        What would happen if we did NOTHING?

        Think about it for a while.

        What would have happened to the issue listed in number 1?
        What could we have achieved if we had spent our time more efficiently?
        What would have happened had you done absolutely nothing?

        Doing nothing usually leads to one of three possible outcomes:
        1. The problem doesn't need to be solved
        2. You will have a better idea of the benefits of solving the problem
        3. You will have generated some alternative problems to solve 
        So next time, stop and imagine what would happen if you did nothing. Isn't that a nice feeling for a change?


        Additional tips against clutter

        >> 5 January 2011

        In my last post, I wrote about different kinds of clutter and how to get rid of them.

        Today it's time for a little reminder...

        How is that list coming along?

        Did you do 2 things from one list?

        If not, please read below tips to spur you on:

        1. ALL items in your house should be USEFUL and BEAUTIFUL.
          “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.”
          -William Morris

        2. ALL items in your house should have a PLACE.
          If the don't have one, create one. If you can't create one, toss it.

        3. Ask yourself: what is my MOTIVATION for keeping this?
          • Guilt (it costs so much; it's from my dead grandmother)?
          • Fear (if I fail in my business, I will be glad to have kept this)
          • The image it gives (if I have this, people will think I'm successful)
          • Souvenir (it's from when I was a little girl)
          Don't link your items to past or future things. Especially not if they are draining your energy. You want to get rid of negativity. Trust your feelings, your instinct when you pick it up. If you don't feel good about it, throw it out.

        4. Baby steps:
          Stick to the plan of doing a few things per week. Otherwise you get overwhelmed and will just stop the whole process.

        5. Create a system:
          Avoid having to think about making appointments. Next time you're at the garage/hairdresser/dentist etc schedule your next appointment(s). That way they are in the calendar and you can stop thinking about them.

        6. Get committed:
          Put aside the time to do this.
          Get your partner involved.

        7. Intention:
          And this should probably be up on the top of this article...
          It all starts with your intention. What is it that you WANT? Write it down, clearly.
          Everything you do should be in line with your intention:
          • your actions (is this in line with my goal? if not, why am I doing it? Do I have to do it?)
          • your language (no more 'I kind of, sort of, maybe want to do this')
          • your space (is a messy living/working space in line with the successful business woman you intend to be?)
          • your people (are you surrounded by supporters or energy draining whiners?)


        Creativity tip: go to the hairdresser

        >> 2 January 2011

        This week I went to the hairdresser.

        There is not much you can do while someone washes, cuts, tweaks and blow dries your hair...

        I realized that a few stepping stones of creativity were reunited here:

        So I started looking around. And here is what I wrote down on my Trigger list.

        1. They had a TV high up on the wall so that people getting their washed could watch Fashion TV.
        2. They kept asking me whether the water was at the right temperature.
        3. They were all dressed in white. It looked clean.
        4. There were only women clients.
        5. They put a number tag on my handbag when they put away my coat.
        And such a list is precisely there to trigger some new ideas, whether immediately or in two weeks.

        Here's a few immediate triggers I got:
        1. Could they have put something more creative up than a tv? (Interactive) art maybe?
        2. Why hasn't someone come up with a tap that automatically puts the water at the right temperature (whatever that is)?
        3. Where else could people dress in white to make the place look spic and span? The garbage people? -maybe too extreme.
        4. Did they have a special 'woman's day'? Where else (unusual) could you introduce such a day? The gym for example?

        5. Instead of giving you a number to identify your coat, they could have lend me a cuddly bear, a colored scarf around my waist etc. Where else would we prefer not to be a number?
        So next time you go to the hairdresser, make sure you use it to be creative and record your observations and ideas.


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