5 Ways to Stimulate Your Creativity by Rachel E. Watson


5 Ways by Rachel WatsonMy well of ideas runs dry more often than I’d like. If I had my druthers, it would never run dry at all. But it does. I’ll wake up one day, and I’m all drained of creative energy. I can’t think of what to write.

If your well also runs dry, here are a few tricks for refilling it:

  1. Travel. Take a full-fledged vacation, a simple day trip to the beach or a park, or even an hour-long walk in your neighborhood to the local library or ice cream parlor. You’ll see sights along the way that will help get your creative juices flowing.
  1. Daydream. Relax in your backyard, if the weather cooperates. If it’s raining, stare out the window and let your eyes notice everything they want to notice. Fantasize about what you see. Let your imagination run wild with possibility. And then write about it.
  1. Doodle or color. I read an article recently that said coloring is good for adults because it helps us combat stress, get in touch with our senses and express our creativity. It exercises a different kind of creativity than writing does. But I’ve found that artistic pursuits tend to feed off and stimulate other artistic pursuits. There’s a reason why some artists keep a blog, and some writers paint as a hobby. It helps increase creativity.
  1. Exercise. I wrote a whole blog post on this recently, noting that motion helps clear your mental cobwebs, provides opportunities for people-watching, enhances your self-discipline and boosts your energy levels. All of those things can help you get through the creative dry spell you’re facing.
  1. Play. If you have kids, engage with them in games, fort-building, swimming, reading together or playing outside. If you don’t have kids, hang out with your nieces or nephews. I’m always amazed at how an hour or two with the little ones in my life can refresh my perspective on the world. Even if you don’t know any little ones, you can find other ways to embrace play in your life. It’s all about re-learning curiosity and wonder.

My hope is that, if you’re struggling through a dry spell, trying one or more of these tips will help restore your well and revive your joy.

Go forth and create!

Rising Strong with Brene Brown


“The story that I’m telling myself is…”

There is power in the story. Our brains reward us when we fill in the information gaps in order to make sense of the data. But often, the stories that we tell ourselves are far from true.

If someone is giving me the stink eye, I tell myself that person is mad at me. Perhaps they even hate me. Probably, I said or did something to them that they took issue with. Maybe they are even plotting my downfall in some way. In reality, they may just have their contact lenses in backwards and the stink eye is a physical response to a foreign object being stuck in their eye.

The real problem with stories isn’t that they are powerful, it is that we usually tell the worst stories possible. There’s a term for a person who regularly fills in the information gaps with bits of story to make sense of the data; we call that person “paranoid.”

To combat this, we need to be aware of the stories that we tell ourselves. Are they really true? Are they tainted by past experiences? Are we really trying to get as much information as possible?

Here’s how our storytelling ability relates to leadership. There’s a typical format to stories: The hero is faces with a challenge. The hero tries all of the easy ways to overcome the challenge, but fails. The hero realizes that the thing to fix the problem is going to be extremely uncomfortable, but they do it anyway. The challenge is overcome.

Leaders today are faced with stories all of the time. Often, leaders find that they face uncomfortable challenges and they can respond by either denying the story (ignore it and it may go away) or they can embrace the story and write the ending. Leaders can choose courage or comfort, but they can’t choose both.

Hear more from Dr. Brown’s Ted Talks here.

I am 33.

33Today is my birthday. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for life and whatnot. I’m still enjoying it these 33 years later.

I was trying to think of some things that famous people did at age 33, so I could know what to expect, but aside from Jesus being crucified, I didn’t come up with much. I really hope I don’t get crucified this year.

So I did a bit of research on the number 33 itself. There’s a fair amount of mathematical mumbo jumbo associated with it:

33 is the smallest sum of two different positive numbers, each of which raised to the fifth power: 1^5 + 2^5 = 33.

33 is the largest positive integer that cannot be expressed as a sum of different triangular numbers. It is also the smallest odd repdigit that is not a prime number.

But that isn’t all that interesting (really, I just don’t understand any of it and at 33, I’m not going to start learning it now).

33 is the atomic number for arsenic, which is poison, which is probably a better thing to die from than crucifixion, but still not the happiest thought in the world.

On the upside, according to one Yahoo news article, 33 is the happiest age. I don’t know how to feel about that. I guess that means that I’ve peaked and everything else will be worse than it is this year. I suppose I should just enjoy it and not consider that I’m about to embark on a downward spiral toward death.

To be honest, I think I’m going to like being 33. I’m within a few days of having 10 amazing years of marriage under my belt to a beautiful woman. My kids are great fun and aren’t too cool for me yet. And I have a grown-up job, drive a grown-up car, and do grown-up things. It’s a good time to be alive.

Here’s hoping that this is my best year so far!

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Nerds, Unite! Have you ever wished that you could live in a corner of Middle Earth (one that wasn’t in New Zealand)? Join the Kickstarter campaign and get an apartment in Minas Tirith!
  2. If you’ve ever wanted to see a satisfying website where you can digitally cut fabric with a bloody knife, then you are going to love Jack the Fabric Ripper.
  3. Are 100 word stories too long for you? Here’s a mostly awesome (except for the last one) collection of 6 word stories just for you.
  4. The robot revolution is finally coming to lawn maintenance. The makers of Roomba just got approval to make a robot lawn mower. Watch out injured animals, rocks, and garden gnomes!
  5. So, I just learned that 10 bodies were found buried in the basement of Ben Franklin, the founding father. Here’s a possible reason why.


Givers, Takers, and Matchers with Adam Grant


“If I don’t look out for myself, no one else will.”

“Let me help you with that. It’d be my pleasure!”

Now let’s pause and reflect on the two statements above. Can you imagine them coming out of the same mouth? Probably not.

The first statement, “I have to watch out for my own interests first,” is representative of someone we’ll call a taker. You probably know someone like this. Takers aren’t necessarily or obviously evil, they just tend to put themselves first and try to get more out of situations than they put into them.

The second statement is very focused on putting others first and is typical of someone we’ll call a giver. Givers are wonderful people who are always thinking of how they can take care of other people, often to the detriment of themselves. You can probably think of someone like this too.

And now you are probably thinking that there should be a third type of person, because you don’t consider yourself a taker but you recognize that you probably aren’t a giver either. For people like us, there’s the term of matcher. Matchers are people who put as much into a situation as they pull out, not more and not less. Justice and fairness is extremely important to us (yes, I identify as a matcher).

Now, let’s take a look at how these kinds of people fit into an organization.

First, who do you think is at typically at the bottom of the totem pole within any organization? I know that we all want it to be the takers since we’d like to think that the people who exploit others should be rewarded for their selfishness with a lack of success, but that just isn’t true. We both know that at the bottom of the ladder are the givers–people who allow themselves to be trod upon, who are willing to put in long hours for people who have no interest in returning the favor.

Knowing that the bottom is filled with givers, who do you think is at the top? If you are a bit pessimistic like me, your first answer would be that takers rise to the top since they take from everyone else. Fortunately, we pessimists are wrong for once. It isn’t takers who dominate leadership.

It must be matchers then, right? Since matchers are concerned first and foremost about justice and fairness, we use all of the weapons in our arsenal to take down takers (fortunately takers also take down other takers since they can’t stand other people getting the things that they want too). But matchers aren’t at the top of the pile either.

In addition to populating the lowest rung of an organization’s society, givers also gather at the top of that society. Interesting, right?

Obviously, the implication is that in order to rise in our leadership positions, we should be givers. We should be willing to put in the long hours and put others first. If we do this well and for long enough, it will be noticed and it will be rewarded.

Speaker, Adam Grant, has a lot more to say about givers, takers, and matchers in his book, Give and Take. In addition to a killer hairstyle, Adam Grant has impressive academic and business credentials. His presentation was top-notch and if you get a chance to hear him, take it (but not as a taker would; do it in a giving way if possible).

The 5 Intangibles of Leadership with Bill Hybels


The first thing that struck me at the leadership conference was the use of a children’s storybook. You probably already know the one that I’m talking about. If you don’t already know it, I think you can figure it out.

I think you can. I think you can. I think you can. Toot Toot!

It was a good conference, but is every inspiration talk required to reference the Little Engine that Could?

The thing about that little optimistic train is that it had “grit,” which is the first intangible of leadership according to Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels led the opening session and talked about those aspects of leadership that can be developed, but not easily taught—the intangibles.

First is “grit,” which Hybels described as being almost stubbornly committed to an idea. If a leader is to succeed, she or he must be willing to take on tough projects and then—here’s the important bit—stick with them to the bitter end. Grit is built with difficulty; it is opposed to ease. And if you want to develop it, you need to volunteer for the difficult tasks and learn from gritty people.

The second intangible of leadership is self-awareness. Leaders must be aware of their blind spots, how their attitudes and actions are being influenced by past hurts or those things that they think they do well when the reality is anything but. Unfortunately, blind spots are—by their nature—impossible for someone to find on their own. If we want to find them and lead effectively, it is going to require communication and some potentially uncomfortable truths coming out.

The third intangible is resourcefulness. The ability to think on your feet, be curious, and learn things quickly is vital to leadership. If you can’t experiment in the face of difficulty, you’ll give up. Resourceful people figure it out, and the only way to learn it is to put yourself into confusing situations.

The fourth intangible of leadership is one that probably wouldn’t pop up in most business leadership talks—self-sacrificing love. Leaders must love their followers, possibly to their own detriment. Where culture tends to encourage narcissism, the leaders who truly inspire and create followers for life are the ones who put others first. If followers feel that their leader has a personal concern for them and their interests, the whole organization is going to run more smoothly.

The final intangible is in being able to give followers a sense of meaning in their work. Followers may see your grit, your ability to work through blind spots, your resourcefulness, and your love for them, but if they don’t know have a sense of meaning in their work, they may flounder. Most people know the “what” and the “how” of an organization, but not the “why” of the job. Cast your vision and help them answer that question.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a post on Givers, Takers, and Matchers and what each type of person does to an organization.

I am a leadership conference attendee.


I attended a leadership conference last week on behalf of my work. I went there to help with the sales table but I was able to sneak into a few sessions anyway. I enjoyed the sessions that I attended and am now prepared to be the best leader that this world has ever known.

Well, I would be prepared for that, but one of the hallmarks of a good leader is to be focused on other people instead of myself, so maybe I shouldn’t have said that I would be the best. In truth, there are a lot of things that I have to work on and learn before other people should consider following me. The speakers gave me a lot to think about, so I may just go through my notes to make a few blog posts this week.

As I consider that, I’m curious.

  • Who is your favorite leader and why do you follow them?
  • What are three things that you specifically appreciate about their leadership?

I’d love to see some answers in the comments below.