Home Lifestyles Advice February 2008 Brainstorm E-Bulletin

February 2008 Brainstorm E-Bulletin


I hope your year is off to a good start. I'm very pleased to have been invited to be one of the speakers at the BBC Creativity Summit this month, with all 150 participants also getting a copy of my "Do Something Different" book. I have some exciting plans to go with the launch of my next book, "Focus," and you'll be hearing about those here soon. But for now, here are some ideas I hope will make your February days a bit less gray:
1: That Buenos Aires Attitude
Bob Johnson, senior facilitator with Bluepoint Leadership Development, recalled in a recent Blue Point newsletter that he was teaching in Buenos Aires and became frustrated by how difficult it was to get participants back into the classroom after lunch or breaks. They insisted on chatting away, joking with each other, even looking for a while at a painting in the hallway. Suddenly Johnson appreciated the irony of his irritation:
"In North America I find much of my work centers around a client finding their way through the maze of daily life, particularly their jobs, rushing with such furor that they often forget to slow down, connect with others and enjoy life. I get paid well to help open their eyes to the art of connecting with others, slow down the pace and take a strong look at what is most important. And here I am in Buenos Aires completely frustrated with a culture that honors friendship, connection and appreciating life as it unfolds! Why won't they just get back in the classroom, sit down and pay attention to what we have to say?"
He realized, "My friends from South America can teach all of us a few things…stop to smell the roses, connect with the people that are important in your life and consistently value the gift of relationships. We spend precious little time in both our professional and personal lives nurturing these valued connections."
Action: It's typical to start the year focused on your work goals, but have you also made time for the other important things in your life? If not, how can you bring a little "Buenos Aires Attitude" into your life this week?
2: It's a bird! It's a plane! It's…nothing!
Robert Cialdini's book, "Influence," is one of my favorites, and one of the stories he tells underlines the influence of group behaviour. The experiment took place in New York. When one man stood and looked up at the sky, passersby ignored him. But when a group of 15 did it, a crowd formed within seconds, all looking up and continued to do so even when they didn't see anything up there. The same principle is at work with Amazon.com reviews–if there are lots of positive reviews for a book, it sells more copies, even though probably many of the comments were written by friends and relatives of the author. (Note to self: must get more friends and relatives to write positive reviews of my books on Amazon…).
Action: If you are trying to sell people on your project or idea, start with those most likely to agree so that by the time you get to the more skeptical ones you'll have the psychology of group influence on your side.
Have you heard what people are saying about "Your Writing Coach" (published by Nicholas Brealey)? Here's one: "I am a teacher in the Professional Writing Module at our adult education college. This book is going to be a great resource and I have listed it on the set text list. The chapter bonuses and e-mail tips will be invaluable." Carmel Williams, Australia
Who do you know (maybe even yourself?) who'd be happy if you ordered them a copy of "Your Writing Coach" via your favorite online bookseller right now?
3: Watch your language–part one
Nick Kemp is a neurolinguistic programming trainer who has worked in schools to help students and teachers be more effective. In an article published some time ago in the magazine, "ReSource," he mentions a simple change in language that created positive effects. He noticed that in interviews with staff, many of them used phrases like "We'll try to…" or "We'll aim to…" or "Hopefully…" or "All being well…" All of these imply that failure is possible (perhaps even that it's likely). When he had them switch to definite statements like "We will…" it changed their thinking and their whole state in the classroom.
Action: Listen to how you speak about things you are about to undertake. Do you use qualifiers that suggest you may not/will not succeed? (If you find it difficult to be aware of this as it goes on, try tape recording yourself for a few hours.) Switch to definite statements that presuppose success and notice the difference in how you feel and how you carry out the tasks.
4: Watch your language–part two
Another tip from Nick Kemp that teachers found very useful was setting the scene for a lesson with a phrase like, "Have you noticed that…" or "How do you know that…" or "Are you aware that…" All of these make the listener relate the rest of the sentence to himself or herself. This is more involving than starting by simply stating a fact. Similarly, when I give a talk on creativity, instead of saying, "We all start out creative–when a child plays with a box, it turns into a space ship, a cave, or a haunted house," I say, "Have you ever watched a child play with a box? Isn't it great how that box immediately turns into a space ship, or a cave, or a haunted house?" That calls for the listeners to relate what I'm saying to a memory of their own and they're immediately more engaged.
Action: The next time you are giving a presentation, pitching a project, or trying to involve someone else in a task or get them interested in something, start with a question that calls for them to make a personal link with what you're about to say.
Special for London-area readers: My new book, "FOCUS", comes out in May in the UK. I'm going to be giving six people an opportunity to go through the entire "FOCUS" process for overcoming procrastination and finally reaching their goals. The cost will be just enough to cover the expenses (mainly for hiring the venue plus materials; if I can find a free venue, the cost will be even lower). In exchange, you agree to let me use you as a case study on the Web site and in promotional materials. Also, you'd be willing to talk to journalists who are writing about the book, at your convenience, of course. Here's what you'll get:
* six sessions in central London
* e-mail contact in between the meetings
* coaching support from me (and also your fellow participants)
* printouts of the materials (and a copy of the book as soon as I get any copies–it's in galleys at the moment)
It doesn't matter what your goal is–it can be related to writing, or weight loss, or personal development or anything else. If it's a big goal, in the first session we'll chunk it down and help you set a sub-goal that is reasonable for you to achieve in six weeks (after that, I'll still be available to help you via e-mail).
This is a legitimate deal–there are no catches, it's not a set-up for some expensive course, etc. If you think you might be interested, send me an e-mail at [email protected] and tell me the kind of goal you have in mind. Obviously you're not committed to anything until we finalize the dates (probably mid-March to end of April), location, and fee, but I'd like to have an indication of how many people are interested. I'll follow up with an e-mail to you once I have more details. I think this could be an exciting six weeks that will propel you to realizing your dreams.
5: Active body, creative mind
There's more evidence that exercise is good for your creativity as well as
your body. Marketing professor Stephen Ramocki of Rhode Island College found that a single aerobic workout was enough to make college students more creative for the two hours following their exercise. This has been demonstrated previously with animals: fit rats and monkeys do better at problem solving than inactive ones. Exercise increases the supply of oxygen and blood to the brain and stimulates the production of important brain chemicals.
Action: If your resolution to get better fit has stalled, restart it. Find an exercise that doesn't require your full concentration, so that your mind can wander. Walking in a park, swimming or using a cross-trainer at a gym are all ideal. Be sure to have a pen and pad with you or nearby you so you can record any great ideas that come up.

6: And a quote to think about:
"The most successful people are those who are good at plan B." – James Yorke, mathematician
Until next time,
PS: If you haven't looked at my blog recently, you've missed items on how to mine your mind, the creative genius of N. Tesla, a prescription for overcoming perfectionism, how to protect yourself from idea vampires, and much more. Have a look now: www.timetowrite.blogs.com and when you get there, sign up just below my picture to get blog posts sent to you daily via e-mail.
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You may also want to have a look at our Web sites, www.yourwritingcoach.com and www.BrainstormNet.com, www.TimetoWrite.comand my two newest books, "Your Writing Coach," published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, and "Do Something Different," published by Virgin Books.
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All contents copyright Jurgen Wolff, 2007. If you would like to co-sponsor this e-bulletin, please contact me at [email protected] for details.


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