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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Developing Spontaneous Creativity

The British statesman Herbert Henry Asquith once said about Winston Churchill: "Churchill had a zig-zag streak of lightening genius in the brain. When he was right, he was ever so right. But when he was wrong, Oh my God."

Churchill was a rare breed. He was also a bit of a fox. When he spoke in the House of Commons, he spoke without notes, and appeared to be speaking off cuff. He earned a reputation as an incredibly witty, insightful and poetic extemporaneous speaker.

But none of his speeches were off the cuff.

Churchill worked late into the night, night after night preparing for his "extemporaneous" speeches. All of his insightful remarks and witticisms, for which he became legendary, were prepared beforehand. Churchill worked hard at being creative.

I'm no Churchill (Who is?), and I often have very tough speaking jobs. I have given motivational talks to some very skeptical audiences over the years and make no mistake about it, my first task is entertaining them. One of the things I'm known for is always giving an interesting talk.

How do I do this? I use Churchill's method, I prepare. There is not substitute for preparation. Never be fooled. Every creative person you know works hard at this supposedly unique ability.

The other trick is to realize that like Churchill, some times you are ever so right, and at others you are ever so wrong. This is called editing, part of my work.

My method is fairly simple. I take two sheets of paper. On the first, I brainstorm. I write down every idea, quote, anecdote or story that occurs to me. Every idea is a good one at this level.

When I have three to four times as much material as I can use, I take the second piece of paper, and I ask myself: "Now, what really is my point?" I write that in one sentence.

Then I edit. I cut out ideas which have nothing to do with my point, usually about half of my material, which still leaves me with twice as much as I need.

Then I ask, "Why should they care about my point?" Then I explain. Soon it begins to write itself.

There is a great editing line that is worth remembering: Never, never answer a question that nobody is asking. If you think you are, start over. It's actually fun being known as "spontaneously creative."

But we know better. Thomas Edison was right when he said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Speaking From The Heart

Nothing will convey your conviction and your enthusiasm like opening your heart to others and telling them how you really feel about something that is important to you.

Martin Luther King knew this and he inspired a crowd of 250,000 civil rights marchers in Washington D.C., when he departed from his prepared text and said, "I have a dream..." In that moment when he began speaking from the heart, it was if a lightening bolt shot through the crowd, and King did not stop speaking as he was scheduled to do.

Instead, he launched into the stirring speech that became the conscience of an entire movement.
King later said that he had used the phrase, "I have a dream" before but at that moment it felt right to use it again. The people who were there that day, however, say it was more than just a right feeling.

Walter Fauntroy, then director of the Washington Southern Christian Leadership Council, told the Chicago Tribune in August 1993 that he believed King was moved by the Spirit. In fact, before King stepped to the microphone, Fauntroy told King, "Do what the Spirit tells you."

Rev. Benjamin Hooks, former head of the NAACP, was also there that day and he simply calls the moment "Divine inspiration."

"King came at the end of a long hard and hot day and the people were waiting for him and he was lifted up," Hooks said.

Coretta Scott King, his wife, later said, "It was as if the Kingdom of God appeared."

In the business world, we're taught to restrain our emotions and to maintain almost clinical detachment, but it has been proven again and again that while people use logic to justify their actions, they make decisions based on emotion.

When you speak passionately about your dreams and ambitions, and your products and services, people respond favorably. There's no substitute for emotion and inspiration that results when you follow your heart.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

There Are No Dull Subjects

Every business in the world from the small one or two person operation to the gigantic industrial complex, has something of value to sell, and its degree of creativity can be measured by the way in which it tells its story to the buying public.

An advertisement, whether it's pasted on window of a small retail store, appears in four colors in a quality magazine, appears on a Web site, or airs on radio or television, is the company's salesperson.

Its purpose is to attract favorable attention and move enough people to act over a given period of time to make it a profitable endeavor. Unfortunately, most advertising, like so many things in our world today, is not very creative.

In my years working for a large Advertising Agency and as an independent consultant, I've found that in most small businesses the job of handling advertising copy is done by either the owner or someone else who is least likely to handle it effectively.

These people usually know nothing about advertising and they simply scan the ads of other businesses in the same field and just copy what they do, changing little more than the name and address of the business.

I've often heard business owners and upper level managers make ridiculous statements such as, "No, I've never tried the newspaper" or radio, or television, or the Internet, "and it didn't work for me." They say this as though it were the fault of the medium.

The purpose of the medium is to expose the message to a certain number of people for a certain amount of dollars. It isn't the job of the medium to sell products or services; the medium's job is to take the message to the people. It it the job of the message to do the selling.

The secret to successful advertising is merely the knack of saying pertinent things in a fresh and original manner.

For example, look at all the new housing going up all over the country, they don't exactly present themselves in a fresh and original manner. They all look alike; there is little that is original, charming or different about any of them, and so you don't really see them. The only way you can remember them is by their street or unit number.

We're all engaged in trying to sell something to others, perhaps it's ourselves. So if you own a business, no matter what the industry, and sales are not what they should be, maybe you need to put a little more creativity into your sales story.

The success of your advertising depends upon the degree of your creative ability.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

How Employable Are You?

If you were an employer, would you hire yourself? In other words, if you were an employer and a person exactly like you in every detail and respect applied for a position, would you hire that person?

For example, let's say he or she knew everything about you that you know about yourself: how you do your work when now one is around; the attitude you take toward your work; the way you regard the company's customers; the way you habitually get along with those people you come into contact with on a daily basis.

Here are some other questions you would want to ask:

How long were your with your former employers? This gives a glimpse into your stability. Employers try to avoid hiring people who have stayed for short periods with many previous employers. The odds are good you'll repeat the same thing.

Is your history with one type of work, or are you a jack-of-all trades? Employers like those people best who have found a preference for and have developed skills in one type of work. Believe it or not, the jack-of-all trades person, the person who has skipped from one type of work to another, has the most difficult time finding employment.

Have your earnings been steady, with a gradual upward climb? Here again, satisfactory work and stability are indicated. A person whose earnings have gone up and down is regarded, justifiably, with some suspicion.

Would you feel comfortable and conscience-free to give facts regarding your financial affairs, life insurance and established credit? Here again, the employer gets a pretty good picture of the sort of person you are. If you have excellent credit, it tells the employer more in one minute than you could tell him or her all afternoon as far as your reliability an sense of responsibility are concerned.

Do you have a "Life is what you make it" attitude, or are you an "I never got the breaks" type of person? If you're the latter, you may find it difficult to obtain a good job.

Do you have sense of humor? Or do you ten to take yourself too seriously?

Finally, what sort of letters will your former employers write about you? Were you outstanding, very good, fair, average, or poor? Unless it's one of the first two, outstanding or very good, you might find yourself turning yourself down.

These are some of the important qualities an employer must check, or at least should check before they invest their money in someone, and entrust the reputation of their company and quality of their product or service with that person.

So pretend you're an employer, and you're applying for a job. How do you measure up?
It's an excellent idea to stand back once in a while and look at yourself objectively, to try to see yourself as you would look at a stranger if you were applying for a job.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Most Fortunate People On Earth

I was invited to dinner at a friend's house this past weekend and I had the pleasure of seeing his parents who I hadn't seen in quite a while. My friend's parents had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last week.

I was having a pleasant conversation with my friend's mother about why so many people today get divorced and as she was giving me her opinion, I asked her; "Why do people fall in love?" She answered, "We fall in love with the person who sees in us that which we see in ourselves."

It makes you think, doesn't it? I'm sure she didn't mean that as an absolute rule for being attracted to the opposite sex. Men often fall desperately in love with women so self-centered that they can't see beyond their vanity mirrors, and vice versa. I'm sure some people marry a father or a mother figure as well.

I think it's fairly safe to say that generally we fall in love with the person who mirrors back to us a reflection of ourselves that shows us in our best light.

People who love us very much have a way of overlooking our faults in the same way we do. So, I suppose people who don't love us as much as we would like have a way of locating our faults and fixing upon often with a lot of criticism.

Humanity and relationships are like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Most of the pieces don't go together, but when one piece fits perfectly with one of the other pieces, then you have a good marriage or friendship.

Most people can change their personality to get along with a variety of people, but occasionally you will run across the kind of a person who is so flexible that he or she can get along with just about anyone.

On the other hand I'm sure you've come across people that have no flexibility at all. They insist that others conform to them, and if they don't, they are written off as inferior or stupid. These types of people often have a history of divorce as well as a string of lost jobs. These people always believe that the fault lies with others and never themselves.

Learning how to get along well with people is the most satisfying and rewarding thing you can do in life. Those people who are flexible have the best jobs and happiest relationships. Simply put people who get along well with others are the most fortunate people on earth.