“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.  🙂