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Monday, September 28, 2015

Helen Keller

During the first 35 years of my life I was more of a pessimist than an optimist.  I saw the glass as half empty, not half full.  I saw problems instead of opportunities.  I've had to learn the power of optimism and the need to see the glass as half full.  I had to learn how to discover the silver lining in the dark cloud.  

Even now as the second 35 years of my life draws to a close, I still struggle some days to see the glass as half full.  Often my first reaction is that something can not be done.  I have learned that I need to believe in myself before I can accomplish anything.  I need to find hope in a negative world.

Being a pessimist is much easier than being an optimist.  In almost any situation, it is easier to find the reasons something can not be done than to find the reasons that it can.  It is easier to be a negative person than a positive one.  

Pessimists believe that they are the realists and that optimists have their heads in the clouds.  The truth is that it is much harder to believe something can be achieved than it is to find fault with an idea.  It is much harder to be an optimist.  And research shows that optimists usually achieve more than pessimists.

As creative leaders, we need to have faith that what we create has value.  We need to believe in our ability to create something that can benefit others.  We need to have the faith to keep working when there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel.  

Is your glass half full or half empty?

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  
Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."

— Helen Keller

Recommended Reading:  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Doug Larson

My wife and I are opposites.  She loves to talk and I prefer to listen.  She and her sister sometimes talk simultaneously and neither seems to be listening to the other.  When my wife was interviewing people for our book, It's Okay to Cry, she discovered that she often talked while others were talking.  When she transcribed the audiotapes, she could not hear the other person because she was talking over him.  She learned a valuable lesson about listening.  I have also discovered that talking can energize me.  After giving a speech, I want to keep talking but there is no one to listen since everyone has fled.  Talking helps me to think through my problems and come to a better understanding of what is on my mind.

While talking can sometimes help us understand ourselves, listening helps us understand others. And by understanding others, we will better understand ourselves. If we listen to the words of others, they will teach us about life — both what to do and what not to do. 

When we spend our time talking, we become self-absorbed, caught up in our perceptions of the world, and unaware of those around us.  Listening allows us to step outside ourselves and see the world through the eyes of others.  Listening helps us grow and develop as compassionate individuals.

We probably learn more from the failures of others than we do from our successes. As writers, storytellers and artists, we need to understand other people — why they behave in the way they do.  What motivates them?  What drives them? The better we understand people, the more realistic and truthful our art will be.  

So take the time to listen to others and understand what makes them tick.  Your creative work will be stronger, wiser, and more engaging because of it.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Henri Matisse

I have heard many wanna-be writers and artists say they are waiting to be inspired. They can only write or draw when inspiration strikes. Unfortunately, that is not the real world. If we wait for our muse to come, she may never arrive.  She is a fickle mistress who has her own agenda and cares not for our needs.

The key to finding your inspiration and to being creative is to work every day. Maybe it is for a half an hour or an hour, but one must do the work.  And when you least expect her, your muse will arrive wearing dancing shoes.  She will lead you into the heart of creativity and dance until your feet grow tired and your limbs ache.

And after your muse has left and gone to visit other lonely artists, don't throw your work away even if you feel that what you did was terrible. Let it sit and come back to it later and you will see it in a different light. Creativity is a process. It is messy and unorganized.  To produce great work, one must produce junk.  To achieve great work, one must fail again and again.    

Creative work is not easy.  Our conscious mind works against the spirit of creativity.  Our conscious mind attempts to distract us from the deep spiritual work by sending us to the refrigerator or demanding that we wash the clothes and vacuum the carpet.  We must be vigilant and not be deceived. 

May your muse fill your heart with joy 
and your soul with the spirit of creativity.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Ben Franklin

For many people learning stops after graduating from high school or college. They stop investing in themselves. While education will not cure all the world's problems, it will help us understand them and give us the skills to find the answers. 

I believe that reading is one of the most important ways of increasing one's knowledge.  I ask people when was the last time they read a book and many can't remember.  Some offer the excuse that they don't have the time between work and raising a family.  Others admit to not liking to read.

When I was a child growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I had a more difficult time finding a good book than children do today.  In the farming community of 1800 where I grew up, there was a school library and a small community library.  The nearest bookstore was 25 miles away.  Yet, I was always able to find something to read even though my choices were limited.  Today, books are available in giant bookstores, through online bookstores, and in libraries. I can access and borrow books from libraries through out the state without leaving my home.  Books now come in several formats including the traditional printed books, audiobooks and ebooks.  And people have access to thousands of free books online.  Project Gutenberg offers over 49,000 free ebooks.

Learning, though, is not limited to books.  There are documentaries that teach us about the world in which we live as well as teach us new ideas and skills.  If you are a visual learner, like my wife, documentaries are a great way to learn new ideas.  And technology has now given us new ways to access this knowledge.  You can find documentaries on Netflix, Hulu and Youtube.

We can also find knowledge in seminars, workshops and lectures.  We can find workshops on many subjects from business topics to art, from cooking to writing, and from investing to storytelling.  TED Talks offers free lectures on many different topics.

We live in the information age.  There is an abundance of information.  I think if Ben Franklin suddenly appeared in our age that he would be amazed at the learning opportunities that people have.  Are you taking advantage of the plethora of knowledge at your finger tips?  When was the last time you learned a new skill? When was the last time you invested in yourself?

As creative leaders, we have a responsibility to invest in ourselves.  We need to grow and change.  We need to expand our knowledge base.  We need to find new ways of communicating our ideas.  Take the time today to invest in yourself.