“If we think about it, the magic will come.”

This profound statement was handed to me by my 4-year-old yesterday.

We were sitting on the living room floor playing with Legos, talking about what we could build. Then, as our creation took shape, we started figuring out what else it looked like or what else it could be used for.  The boat turned on end and blasted off into outer space. The house became a telephone.  What else could it be?

“If we think about it, the magic will come.”

He’s so right. But as adults, we forget that. We forget what incredible powers of creativity we have, the ability to connect completely unrelated things in innovative ways.  And everyone has it buried in there somewhere – but somewhere in the growing up process we lose that belief in ourselves. We forget how to suspend reality for a while and let our imagination take the reins. As adults we negate the possibility of thinking about things in ways other than what we’re told is appropriate.

An empty paper towel roll isn’t really a telescope or a megaphone.

An empty tissue box isn’t really a shoe.

A shirt stuck on your head isn’t really a cascade of long hair.

Heavens, no! Just imagine where those kinds of thoughts might lead someone!  But that’s my point – imagine where those kinds of thoughts might lead someone…

This very short yet very wise person has helped me open myself back up to the “magic.” To let myself think about things in unconventional ways, and to come up with solutions that go against the rules. To let go of the self-censoring for a while and imagine possibilities rather than focusing so much on why it couldn’t possibly work.

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin argues that  our society has been structured to churn out “mediocre;” there are set parameters that we must stay within for the factory system to maintain its privilege, and we’re taught from a very young age to stay within them to be accepted, to get a job, to live the “American Dream.” Except that system isn’t working anymore, and those that can think beyond those walls are the ones that have the upper hand now. (I won’t spoil it for you – if you want to find out more you can read the book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? [affiliate link] for yourself.)

My young one will learn soon enough that the outside world is a little uncomfortable with playful thinking, so I’m going to encourage him to keep it going on the home front – as much for my sake as his. Don’t be surprised at anything you see when you walk in our front door. With any luck, we’ll all be pleasantly surprised by what comes out of it.

So go think about it. The magic will come.

The First Step to Achieving Escape Velocity (in 6 easy steps)

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  – Albert Einstein

Acheiving “escape velocity” is something that’s being talked about a lot lately. Mostly it’s in the entrepreneurial sense; strategies for gaining enough support, cash flow and general oomph that allows you to break free from your current situation  and launch you onto your new career path of choice. Even Chris Brogan talked about it recently on his blog, which you can read here.  With escape velocity as anything else, you’ve got to start somewhere, and I think that’s part of the conversation that’s being missed.  How exactly do you start?  Well, you could learn more about your chosen path, talk to some people who have already gone that direction, start scouting out funding sources — all very valid suggestions.  But where do you really start?

One of the most important first steps — no wait, THE MOST IMPORTANT first step — in the process is changing your own mindset.  It doesn’t matter if you’re changing careers or just trying to break a bad habit, this is where it all starts. You need to stop thinking like a “_____” to stop being one.  Now I’m not talking about the overly generalized “think like a winner, be a winner” motivational pep-talk stuff, I’m talking about really taking a critical soul-searching look at yourself and where you want to go, and then creating an action plan for change. It takes time and it takes effort, but it is doable.

The first step to achieving escape velocity (in 6 easy steps)

  1. Create an avatar. Make up a fictional character, the embodiment of someone who has achieved “escape velocity” as you define it.  No, really — I’m serious! See this person in your mind in glorious detail.  Give him or her a name. Draw a picture of them if you have to, but make them as real as possible for you.
  2. Make a list of your Avatar’s traits and behaviors. Write down anything and everything you can to really flesh out a description of who this person is and how they act. Is your avatar happy and outgoing? Willing to help others? Well-read? Disciplined? Willing to take risks? How big of a risk? What kinds of questions does he ask? What kinds of people does he hang out with?  What does he do in a crisis? How does he act in particular situations? What time does he like to eat dinner? What does his diet consist of? How many hours of sleep does he need?  No detail is too small or bizarre to include at this point.  (Just keep in mind that we want this person to be awesome but still human – leave “ability to fly” and “can bend steel with power of thought” off the list.)
  3. Now make a list of your traits and behaviors. Do they match up to your avatar’s?  Of course not — if you were already that awesome you’d already be living your dream life. But don’t despair, because here’s where we start to connect the dots.
  4. Create a plan for change. Line up your traits one-for-one against those of your Avatar; you now have a working list of “disconnects” between the current you and the person you want to be. Now you have a concrete list of things that need to be tweaked or changed to move you from Point A to Point B.  Don’t be put off by the length of the list; we’ll get to that next.
  5. Slice your plan into actionable steps. Rank your list from quickest and easiest to those that will be the hardest for you. Also make note of those that will be most time/resource consuming.
  6. Blast Off! Start with the easy stuff — accomplishing a few changes and being able to check them off your list will help build your confidence and keep you motivated for more.  Also pick one moderately hard thing to start working on now; working your way through the challenge will give you a real sense of accomplishment.

As you work your way through the list, remember that change can be hard, and sometimes really uncomfortable. That’s okay — the more you practice the easier it will become.  The more you succeed, the more you’ll want to try. The goal is to get you unstuck and moving on that path towards the person you want to be. Don’t stay so focused on the end point that you miss the fun of the journey; no matter how fast or slow you progress just keep moving forward and you’ll get there.  🙂

An Act of Good Karma

My actions are my only true belongings.  I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.  My actions are the ground upon which I stand.  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Yesterday I realized that I had this modest, yet extremely eclectic, group of people in my personal network that I’ve collected over the years but have largely done nothing with.  Everything from performance artists to computer geeks. Writers. Designers. Accountants. Professors. All of them have something important to give. And more importantly, all of them probably have something valuable to give to other members of my network, but they just don’t know each other.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the value of social networking and how we can use it for the greater good, as well as my own place in the social and professional world. And then it occurred to me… perhaps some of the best immediate good I can do is to help my friends and colleagues by actively hooking them up with others I know that they could help in some way, or that could help them. And so the Good Karma Project was born.  I am offering up my network to everyone, and trying to find ways to connect people in beneficial ways. There’s nothing in this for me, other than the good feeling of affecting even a small bit of positive change for someone else.  Some I won’t be able to help out very much; some won’t respond to my requests; a good handful will think that I’ve completely lost my mind.  But a few will be happy to help or be helped.  Those are the ones I’m counting on.

Wish me luck.  And if you are looking for a particular skill/service or have one you can share with others, let me know.  I’ll widen the circle to bring you in.

Newton’s Law of Employment

An old colleague asked me the other day, what would be my perfect employment scenario?  Good thing he asked me via email, because I’m afraid if he asked me in person I would have blurted out, “Anything, anywhere, as long as it’s not HERE!!”  Very unprofessional, I know — but also not very far from the truth.

Over the last couple of days I’ve really been thinking about this.  What IS my dream job?  If the Employment Fairy flitted down right now and told me I could go forth and do anything my little heart desired, what would that be? Truth is, I don’t really have a good answer. (At least not yet, but I’m working on it.)  I’ve been “stuck” (in quotes because it’s my own fault) here for almost a decade, and I now realize that I’ve wasted far too much energy railing against the negative changes in this company that I can do nothing about, instead of funneling that energy into initiating positive change for myself.  In this case, finding another job. One that I like.  I mean REALLY like, not just tolerate in exchange for a paycheck.

Why do we let ourselves get stuck in these dead ends? Part of it is that it’s just easier.  It’s always easier to complain than to initiate change.  It’s easier to stay here where you are than face the uncertainties of going elsewhere.  It’s the law of inertia – a body at rest stays at rest.  This isn’t working for me anymore. I need to get restless.

So back to my “dream job.”  I don’t have a specific title or position in mind, but I’m pretty sure that I want to stay in design and marketing.  I like the creativity and the challenge, especially when I’m allowed to be creative and take on challenges. I want to be part of something big, even if it’s on a small scale.  I want to be part of a positive driving force that can make something bigger, better, faster or more; for the world, or the country, or the consumer, or the local retirement home. I want to take pride in what I do, and be able to take ownership of my work;  to wholeheartedly celebrate the successes of the company, as well as dig out from the failed attempts, shoulder to shoulder with others that share a common vision. I want to help shape that vision, help map out the route for our collective forward progress, and help build the roads we need to get us there if none already exist.

A body at rest stays at rest.  A body in motion stays in motion. Looks like my colleague gave me that one mental push I needed to start moving on. Where will I go? What will I do?  Not sure yet, but I’m really looking forward to the journey.  Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Give something of yourself today. Donate a few dollars to a local charity; take a few minutes to listen to someone who is largely ignored; teach a kid to tie his shoes.  Then go convince someone else to do the same.  It’s good karma.