Why is it that when business people are taught about creativity, they start to create voraciously?! Writing poems, painting, singing, writing songs? You wouldn’t think that the pinnacle of business excellence is when the person could take some time off and pursue creative endeavors? But maybe that is the pinnacle, and maybe it should be.

Did you read the WSJ cover article last week about Peter Muller, the Morgan Stanley quant trader who took years off to do creative things, including writing songs and playing music in the NYC subway… the WSJ had a quote something along the lines of “if anyone had known that this particular subway musician was worth millions…”

Why is it that Mike Csikszentmihalyi, the creator of the concept and author of the book Flow, says that creativity is important? Is creativity important to flow? Why does creativity become so important along so many lines?

Maybe it’s because of this…

“I do believe it is possible to create, even without ever writing a word or painting a picture, by simply molding one’s inner life. And that too is a deed.”
~ Etty Hillesum

Here is Etty’s quote bio from the Daily quote list:

About Etty Hillesum
Etty Hillesum, less famous than her contemporary, Anne Frank, lived a short life of great courage. She was born in 1914 in the Netherlands to a Dutch father and a Russian mother. She studied law, Slavic languages, and psychology. Hungry for knowledge, she cut down on food in order to buy books. She went voluntarily to the Westerbork camp to help fellow Jews interned by the Nazis. Her letters detail her experiences; her more meditative diary focuses on issues of faith. She died at Auschwitz in 1943.


Where does the term “degugging” come from?

Welcome to Quote Thursdays. Is this below quote familiar to you?

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”
~ Grace Murray Hopper

This is Admiral Grace Murray Hopper,who is described in a quote bio as “the American computer pioneer, was the first woman to become a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society. She was born in 1906 in New York. By age seven, she was taking alarm clocks apart to see how they worked. She worked for the U.S. Navy developing the first compiler, which allowed people to write computer programs in real language rather than machine code. When she found a moth inside a computer, she coined the term “debugging.” She died in 1992.”

I earlier described what I mean by a quote bio here. Wikipedia backs up this history of the origin of “debugging,” although adding that in non-computer circles such as aeronautics the term had had some popularity prior to Hopper.

***
* If you liked this post, you might like the thought about the Ctrl+Z button of your life.
* The above information came to me from a quote bio.


In tenth grade, my English teacher told us the best way to prepare for an English essay-writing exam. He said, “Think of a question that covers many of the books we read this term, such as “What is the role of death in our readings?” and think of a concrete, wonderful answer.”

Then he tricked us. Or he gave us a lowball. Depending how you think of it.

We walk into the exam, and there were three questions – each worth 33%. The last question was, “Write the question you wrote to prepare for the exam (unless it was about the role of death), and write the answer you wrote to prepare.” !!!!!!!!! Exactly!

Sure, I’d prepared, and done as he had suggested, but I could have put more time into that pre-exam!

That’s what today’s game is about. Penelope Trunk writes about media training that she took in preparation for the radio and TV interviews for her book. She excerpts a section of the training manual from Clarity Media Group:

“Don’t try to prepare for every possible question that could arise. Determine the 6-8 topics that are likely to come up during your interview and then:
a. Hone a key message for each topic.
b. Identify anecdotes you can tell that illustrate each message.
c. Prepare specific examples or compelling data to prove your point.
d. Think of clever analogies if appropriate.
Think of these interviews as the equivalent of a good movie trailer, in which your quest is to independently drive to the very best scenes, anecdotes and newsworthy revelations in the book.”

You know when Joan Rivers or Carson Daly have come up to celebrities on the red carpet with the big microphone to ask one pointed question? That’s you – the celebrity! And that’s you – Carson Daly! You’re both the interviewer and the interviewee – you’re on both sides of the mike.

————————————–
When:

* When preparing for a job interview

Goal of the Game:
* To prepare well for a job interview – just like for that English final.

How Long to Play:
* 20 minutes. Play by yourself to prepare, and later potentially run your answers by a friend.

HOW TO PLAY:
1) Prepare 6-8 questions that the interviewer might ask you (“Tell me about yourself,” “What is your greatest professional accomplishment?” …)
2) Prepare stories for each answer.
3) Prepare specific examples or SARI (situation-action-result-interesting thing) answers.
4) Run these by trusted advisors and friends.

ROCK ON!


This game is about being in-the-moment. Being in-the-moment produces positive emotions. Positive emotions during savoring “create an upward spiral in our experiences, emotions, relationships, mental capacities, etc.,” according to Mirium Ufberg in this article.

Most, Best, First!Have you ever been around a person for whom so many things feel like a new experience? “This is the first time I’ve seen a flower that color!” Have you ever been around a person who tastes an apple pie with you at a restaurant, and says, “This is the best apple pie I’ve had in the past year!” And doesn’t that somehow feel good? Just that experience that you are with that person when she is tasting the best apple pie of the year. That’s a small example, but suppose someone says to you not only, “you made my day,” but “that’s the most wonderful thing I’ve heard all year.” Or what if you’re speaking with a colleague and he says, “Hey Senia, that’s the first time I’ve ever thought about this work situation that way!”

Being around people when they experience their MOST, BEST, FIRST is envigorating. It’s alive. And as Czsikszentmihalyi says, the question he would most want to ask all the people in the world is, “To what degree do you feel alive?”

—–
The Most, Best, First GAME

When: At any time – home or work.

How Long to Play: 10 seconds.

Players: Alone, with one person, or with many.

Materials Needed: None.

Goal of the Game: To savor and find those items that are the “most, best, first” experiences for you. Aim for one per day.

Examples:

  • “Last week in Milan, I had the most delicious gelato I had ever tasted – caramel flavor!”
  • “Today was the first switch-tables-for-each-course dinner networking meeting I’ve ever been to!”
  • This is the best book I’ve read all year!”
  • You can even just think it to yourself: “This might be best business advice I’ve ever heard on NPR!”

Recognize when you are with someone (or by yourself) and are experiencing a “most, best, first” moment – say it out loudly, celebrate it. Invite that person to realize how incredible it is for you in that moment. You and that person are making history this day, as Seth Godin describes it. You will look back on this day and say, “Remember when I tried pomegranate tea for the first time?”


Did you ever read The Most Dangerous Game? (Here it is if you want a fun 10-minute action-packed story).

Well, today, we’re all about the MOST MOTIVATING QUESTION. What question will get you excited, get you moving, and get you pumped?

In fact, if we want to look at it cynically, we can ask, “What is a question that well-polished motivational speakers ask the audience in order to get audience members convinced to follow the motivational speaker’s system?” I.e., this is an effective question because it can change the mood, expectations, and actions of the listener.

Let’s look at the components of such a mysterious question:
1) It will fill you with positive emotions such as happiness, awe, engagement – which is important because when you’re on an emotional high, you are more open to looking at broader solutions, according to research by Barbara Fredrickson.
2) It will energize you – important because then you can turn the question into action. “People who are persuaded verbally that they possess the capabilities to master given activities are likely to mobilize greater effort and sustain it than if they harbor self-doubts and dwell on personal deficiencies when problems arise,” says Albert Bandura.
3) It will make you feel confident – important because confidence is just about a mix of self-esteem and personal control, and these are two of four inner traits of happy people according to Ed Diener and David Myers.

So…. what is such a question?
—–

The Most Motivating Question GAME

When: When you want to motivate a person or people.

  • At the start of a meeting
  • In setting up a healthy mindset for a close friend or family to take action on his/her issue
  • In starting to work with colleagues on a project

The Players: You and one or more people.

The Rules: Ask the question in a warm, open tone. If everyone if is a rush, preface the question with, “Before we figure out this particular solution, let’s see…”

The Question Itself:

WHAT ARE WE ALREADY DOING RIGHT?

Variations: “What are we doing right so far in this project?”
“Before we figure out this particular solution,
let’s see what we’re already doing right.”

You don’t want to lose what you’re already doing right when you move to do something else. Additionally, this creates:
1) a positive tone and gets everyone to think about the situation as a team,
2) energy because something something is already not-broken, and
3) confidence because without any didactic explanation, you’ve shown the team that they have already done things right before.

It’s that simple. What are we doing right already?
See Doug Turner’s article on using this question to open meetings.

This question leads to productive discussions:

  • “You want to become a better salesperson. What are you already doing right? What if you did more of that?”
  • “You want to race in the Master’s class cycling track finals. What are you already doing right in your training? What other things can you do to complement this training?”
  • “You want to spend more quality time with your kids. What are you already doing right? How can you add to what you’re doing while keeping what you’re already doing right?”

What are you doing right today? :)
Enjoy the game. Play often, see how people react.


Ctrl-Z The Ctrl-Z Button changed the face of humanity.
It created a trial-and-error mentality.
It encourages try-and-see.

“I’ll format this text like so in my business cards… Oh no! Too far to the left!!!
Ctrl-Z!!!!!!!!! :) Yay!”

These all work similarly: the Ctrl-Z button, having many lives for your character in a video game, going back to a prior saved Word document. Trial and error, multiple-trial and success.

Can there be any harm in the Ctrl-Z button? Research shows that there’s not much, if any, harm. There’s some evidence that teenagers are taking more risks these days (e.g., this pdf), which some attribute to the second-chance mentality, “Sure, I might get in trouble, but I’ll get a do-over.” Restart the game. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t get a second chance. But so far, there’s no direct evidence that a trial-and-error mentality is connected to crime or harm. In fact, sociologists recently reported that video games do not cause more aggression in teens.

On the other hand, there are a ton of great things about restarting. See what Dave Seah highlights about rebooting your day. Restarting is freshness. It’s counteracting what the Made-to-Stick Heath brothers call “The Curse of Knowledge,” knowing so much about your subject that you can’t step away and be objective. If you can trigger yourself to restart your day, then maybe you can cultivate that “beginner’s mind” that Jordan Silberman writes about here and Miriam Ufberg writes about here.

I love Ctrl-Z. I love trying, going back, retrying.
The most memorable way to learn is by making mistakes. :)


I read over at Phil Windley’s Technometria about these great fun games that Jane McGonigal is creating using Positive Psychology principles. Some of the Positive Psychology ideas that Phil says Jane mentioned in her talk are (from Phil’s site):

* Quality of life is the primary metric for evaluating everyday technology
* Positive psychology is a principle influence for design
* The public expects tech companies to have a clear vision of a life worth living

* To succeed, a brand or product must increase real happiness, the new capital.

I’m especially interested in this because playing games increases your positive emotion, and we know from Fredrickson and Losada’s work that a positive emotion to negative emotion ratio of 3:1 contributes to increased world view, a broadening of intellectual resources, and a building of intellectual, social, and physical capital (meaning that you have more reserves to do what you want to do in life). Here is Jane’s site and some interactive games she’s created.

Do you guys have suggestions for how games can influence your day-to-day life or your weekends or your interactions with friends?


Let’s talk about games.

That’s already an oxymoron on some levels! The point of games is to play them, not to talk about them. Still, why are games so hot? Why am I so big on games? You’ve seen me write about games. You’ve seen me talk about the feeling of being alive when you’re playing games.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT GAMES?

  • The Thrill
  • The Competition
  • The Speed
  • The Creativity Needed to Win
  • Winning
  • Possibility of Affecting the Outcome
  • Not Knowing Until the End
  • Knowledge of Possibly Improving Each Time

I can tell you all these above, and yet. And yet! Those are WORDS! As Hamlet says, “Words, words, words!” There’s no point for words. Games are about action!

You think you can smack-talk your opponent? Go ahead, but let’s see if your skill holds up to your smack-talk. Larry Bird was always known for his smack-talk, and maybe priming his opponents for failure was EXACTLY what he was going for because it may have worked (so suggests the latest research). But even better, Bird’s skill ALWAYS held up on the court. ALWAYS.

Games are about using our best self to beat the competition.

EVER USE A GAME AT WORK?

Have you? Sure you have! Everytime you’re on deadline and you need to make a specific time. Everytime you want to complete something faster than you did it last time. Everytime you want this quarter to be better than last quarter. Everytime you count how many clients your company has. You’re always playing games.

But sometimes they feel like work. What would make those same games that you are right now not calling games and are possibly not considering as fun – what would make those games fun and productive for you and improve business for the company?

Sure, I know that’s a leading, rhetorical question…

I refer you to my favorite Simpsons quote of all time:

Lisa: Dad, do you even know what “rhetorical” means?

Homer: Do *I* know what “rhetorical” means?

FUN, PRODUCTIVE, IMPROVES BUSINESS

Look, I’m not advocating going crazy with happiness juice, and just saying blindly, “Oh, let’s turn our work into fun.” I’m advocating asking yourself or your colleagues, “How can I get more of these components into my work?”

  • The Thrill
  • The Competition
  • The Speed
  • The Creativity Needed to Win
  • Winning
  • Possibility of Affecting the Outcome
  • Not Knowing Until the End
  • Knowledge of Possibly Improving Each Time

Remember, being wealthy is about having money and time. How can you enjoy your time at work more, leave more time for yourself outside of work, and show that “play” can get improved results? How can you put those elements in, and put them in in such a way that they improve the bottom line?

I know I’ve asked more questions above than I’ve answered. This week and next week, I’ll be writing a lot about GAMES and BUSINESS!

And today, I’m asking you: how do you think you could make work more like “play” and do so in a way that strengthens the bottom line?


What is harder than rock, or softer than water? Yet soft water hollows out hard rock. Persevere.
~ Ovid

If there is one key to creating what you want in your life, it is daily practice. When you repeat again and again, you learn so much about the habit you’re building and about yourself. There are nuances that you do not learn from a how-to guide. Such as how to persevere.

Why daily? And why action?

  • DAILY! Daily moves you toward putting in hours to develop your expertise and toward repeating an activity to develop discipline and focus. Whatever your regularity is, you build your own daily practice. You can choose if your daily means 5 days a week (work week daily) or seven days a week (whole week daily) or three times a week (M-W-F regularly).
  • ACTION! Action is a form of commitment. A thought can be transitory, passing. An action is you saying to the world, “I am ready and I am doing it.” An action is more powerful than a thought – by definition, Action = Thought + Activity.

But why do it? Why take regular, structured, self-scheduled daily action as opposed to acting whenever you feel like it?

The Deep Math Example. As my very good friend and a former math professor says,

“It takes a while to get into the problem. You need to sit with it at your desk for several hours at a time just to start to focus deeply enough to be able to create any new conclusions.”

It takes time to get deep enough into a subject that you are no longer skirting the surface.

Math
The Ballroom Dancing Teacher Example. Have you found that some people who are excellent at what they do returrn to the basics from time to time? Like a yoga teacher taking a basic refresher course. Or an author going back to the structure of his characters? I know dance teachers who regularly take beginner classes. Why? Ballroom Dance
  • When you are at an advanced level, you get a lot more from beginner lessons. You start to see the nuanced distinctions that you didn’t notice at the beginning – “When I ask my students to ‘rock-step’ here, some are still thinking that they are rocking when the important distinction is that they are there-and-immediately back, on their toe and immediately forward… it’s more about the forward than it is about the rock-step back.” You start to see new ways of describing something, new ways of understanding and then being able to explain a concept.
  • You take the beginner class to come back to the beginner’s mind. To return to that joy that you loved about the activity to begin with, and to hear and see and feel and imagine what it is like to learn the steps for the first time. As Chip Heath and Dan Heath say in Made to Stick, we are sucked into the Curse of Knowledge: We are no longer able to often explain things to a five year old because we know too much detail. Avoid the Curse of Knowledge. Play as a beginner.
The Twyla Tharp Creativity Example. You make space for yourself – in your head and in your heart when you practice something regularly. You make space for yourself to be creative, to focus, to live in the moment. So much of life ends up being planning and rushing that unless you make the Creative Habit as Twyla Tharp says in her book, then you don’t ever create the discipline of creativity, the space for allowing yourself to do. That space is often only possible within the constraints of time allowed for that activity. Twyla Tharp
The Alaska Hiking Example. It is through action that you create a habit, and through habits that you create the life you want to live. According to Ann Graybiel, neural pathways – i.e. the pathways that create a new habit or new behavior pattern – form when you go over them again and again. Again and again. Like a hiking trail in Alaska worn by all the footsteps repeating over the ground again and again, so a new mental pathway forms when you repeat an activity. Best results are daily. Hiking
The Guitar Example. My guitar teacher years ago said, “The most important thing in learning guitar is daily practice. Even if you play 15 or 30 minutes a day, do just that. And if you have the choice to play once for 30 minutes or twice for 15 minutes, play twice for 15 minutes.” According to him and many other musicians, the mind learns when it starts a-new – when it comes to a project a-new. So scheduling that “new” regularly allows a habit to make that deep Alaskan hiking trail pathway. Guitar

And then, once you have taken the daily actions, keep track of them. Put a star on your wall calendar. Post about it on your blog. Write yourself an email accounting for that day. Track your progress. Roy Baumeister of Florida State University says (23-min interview) that one of the keys to creating a new habit is writing down those times when you have acted on that habit.

Is it really possible to achieve anything in life?
Let me ask that another way: what is harder than rock, or softer than water?

Lesson and Take-Away: 1) Take daily action and 2) write down your daily actions!

Images: math, dance, Twyla Tharp, hiking path, guitar.

Senia Maymin Senia Maymin, MBA, MAPP is an Executive Coach, and presents workshops to corporations about Positive Psychology. Senia is the Editor of Positive Psychology News Daily, and posts her latest ideas about positive psychology, business, and coaching at Senia.com. Senia’s bio.

The February 23rd challenge!

I challenge you today to book yourself for an event in the next 30 days (by March 23, 2007) that is just a little more difficult than you are used to. An event where you need to perform just a little more than you are used to!

I challenge you to challenge yourself to play the Book Yourself game with a specific goal and time.

I do my BEST work when I put a goal in front of me – a goal that is just a little higher than I am used to, and then I strrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeetch.

Streeeeeeeeeeeeeetch A woman named Laurie that I know is an amazing volleyball player. She played competitively in college, and I played with her several times in grad school. When she played with us, she was many leagues better than our grad school intramural team, BUT…. but she played as if her life depended on it. She played as if every block, every serve, every hit was the one. Was the one that would make us win. Was the one that would count.

And the single best thing that she did when she played with us was that she would shout out just in time “streeeeeeeeetch” to the person at the net going for a spike. It didn’t matter that more than half of us didn’t jump up when we spiked – we spiked from the ground. It didn’t matter if it was the best player on the team or any player. Laurie yelled “streeeeeeeeetch,” and each of us stretched!

That’s what I’m talking about. Streeeeeeeeeetch yourself. Do that one thing that seems just a little bit above where you are! Streeeeeeeetch and GROW!

Some examples:

  • Exercising a certain number of times a day (that’s self-regulation), and doing a workout that’s just a little harder than is comfortable (that’s streeeeeeeeetching).
  • Booking yourself as a speaker at a conference before you have the full outline prepared (that’s streeeeeeetching). Then working regularly, repeatedly, deliberately on creating a superb presentation for that day (that’s self-regulation).
  • Expanded your business in a direction you’ve never tried before (streeeeeeeeetching), and preparing for each new milestone in the new direction by creating a process (self-regulation) that you can rely on in the future.

So, for the next 30 days, what can you book yourself to do that will challenge you?

(BTW, in case it EVER seems like I have all the answers, please don’t think that could be true. I have a whole bunch of fun questions. I’m changing things about my life and work while I’m writing this website. My answers in the comments. If I suggest something on this site, it’s because I’m thinking about it myself. Streeeeeeeeeeeeeeetch!) :)

Sometimes you need a challenge in order to move yourself into action.
What’s your challenge? :)

CONGRATS for doing this for yourself – for playing this Book Yourself game.