When it comes to resilience, which are you – an egg, carrot or a coffee bean?

 

My friend & I had climbed several of flights of stairs & sandwiched ourselves into high-backed, comfy chairs to listen to the bright minds that had come to speak at TEDx Kilimani, a suburb of Nairobi. Like speaker Sitawa Wafula, award-winning activist & founder of My Mind My Funk, demonstrated recently.

 

Sitawa had me from the get go when she began her story…

 

One day her father showed her 3 pots that had all been cooking for some time. One pot was full of carrots. Another pot was full of eggs. And the 3rd pot held coffee beans in boiling water.

 

Her father asked her what she saw.

 

Somewhat impatiently, she said ‘a bowl of carrots, hard boiled eggs & boiled coffee beans.’

 

Then he asked her to look closer & drew her near.

 

  • He explained that some people are like carrots. They start off strong, but when put under pressure, they can’t stand the heat & they turn to mush.
  • Others are like eggs – they start off soft, but when heated they actually become firm & strong.
  • And finally, some special types are like coffee beans. They not only start out strong & resilient & stay that way under pressure, but they influence those around them to be come strong & resilient (hence the coffee coloured water).

 

I LOVE this story of resilience, partly because it’s super creative & partly because it demonstrates that we can build our resiliency muscles.

 

 

Resilience means deciding if it’s time to fight, flee or flow

 

Here’s another way to look at resilience, from an old classic, the book As above so below:

If you can’t fight & you can’t flee, flow.

It’s an easy way to think about challenges that get put in our path. Once we know what type of challenge it is, we can pick our response.

 

  • What challenges do you need to ‘fight’ – I don’t mean physically fight but what are you willing to work to change & influence? These are things that are really important & meaningful to you & it’s worth your effort to try & change them.

 

  • What challenges do you need to ‘flee’ – these are things that could be risky (physically, mentally, emotionally) & you simply need to get away from them.

 

  • What challenge do you need to ‘flow’ – for me these are the toughest. They’re the ones that I’m not fired up enough about to fight, & I don’t need to flee, so I have to find ease with flowing & accepting. Tough stuff, but I find it easier to accept when I’ve framed it like this.

 

 

Resilience for your funny bone

 

Is your funny bone ready for a workout? Here are some very tongue in cheek examples:

 

And not so funny, but more tender, sweet & true:

 

Now that’s resilience.

 

Resilience is all about managing change & conflict & knowing when to stand up & be a coffee bean. It’s picking your battles wisely because not everything deserves a fight. It’s making yourself scarce sometimes, to self-protect, ponder & reflect. And it’s finding ease with the rest.

 

 

Your turn – take action:

 

 

Photo Credits: Derek N Winterburn, pheezy  & wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

 

 

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What my temporary disability has taught me & how facing a lifelong fear didn’t kill me but made me better

My multiple wacky arm braces.

You don’t know how much you use a particular muscle until it’s not working.

 

These days brushing my teeth, eating, writing & typing produce, at worst a searing hot pain & at best a dull ache. Meeting a tight curriculum writing deadline has caused tendinitis in my arm.

 

Multiple doctor & physio appointments later, I’m relieved to say it’s finally improving. In the meantime I’ve grown quite used to the odd looking braces I wear on my arm & my constant companions – heating pads.

 

After weeks of not being able to use my right arm or hand, I found myself feeling pretty down & frustrated. I needed some new perspective & I needed it fast.

 

Of course, being the lifelong learner I am, I applied a learning lens.

 

The 3 F’s – what my temporary disability has taught me.

 

  1. Fatigue– I’ve been sleeping waaaay more due to the pain. It’s tough when simple things become difficult (who knew brushing your teeth could be so hard?), which results in mental & physical fatigue & hence the need for more rest.

 

  1. Fear– I adore my work & not being able to fully function has been scary. I found myself thinking ‘will this ever get better & what happens if it doesn’t?’

 

  1. Frustration– I enjoy throwing myself into my work & into my life. Without a fully functioning arm I feel frequently frustrated. I can’t do 2 simple things at once – like carry a plate & open a door (because that takes 2 working arms).

 

 

The gifts of empathy, insight & perspective

 

As I’ve started to feel better, I’ve noticed my fatigue, fear & frustration (on good days) have given way to empathy, insight & perspective.

 

  1. Empathy – thanks to excellent healthcare I’ve been able to see the doctors & the physio I’ve needed to. I can afford the ultrasound, the medicine etc. My heart goes out to those who can’t afford the care they need. I’ve also been reassured by all the medical professionals that although we’re 7 weeks in, this health issue will resolve itself. I empathize with those for whom their disability &/or pain isn’t temporary & it’s something they manage everyday, & have done so for years & will continue to do so for years.

 

  1. Insight – anyone who knows me well, knows how utterly & entirely phobic I am of needles (I even have trouble typing the word) and yet, I’ve had acupuncture multiple times …. & I didn’t die. I learned when my fatigue, fear & frustration are high enough, that I can do things I thought would have been impossible.

 

  1. Perspective – when I was told I couldn’t type or write for weeks, I’ll admit it, panic set in. How would I work? How would I serve my clients? Taking a deep breath & gaining perspective really helped. For example I found Dragon dictation. I’ve learned how to speak (& to speak punctuation aloud, which sounds pretty odd), have my words instantly transcribed & peck around with my left hand to copy & paste into emails.

 

 

In the end:

 

  • Fear, fatigue & frustration have given way to empathy, insight a7 perspective.

 

  • I discovered I could do more than I thought I could (desperation likely played a wee role). To my great surprise I tried acupuncture, which not only helped but I didn’t die in the process.

 

  • I found workarounds. Our family recently had the chance to visit a research station near the Tanzanian border where my kid is doing an internship, only it was a 4+hour drive away. Determined not to miss the opportunity, I found I could still drive, just using my left hand. Voilà. It was thoroughly worth it. For example we drove through these stunning, bright pink salt lakes to get there.

Yep, that pink area is water.

  • As a result of my arm not functioning, I appreciate all my body bits that DO work just fine.       Thank you eyes that blink automatically, heart that pumps, knees that bend etc. etc.

 

Your turn. Take action.

 

  • What have you learned from a trying time in your life? What has fear, frustration & fatigue taught you?

 

  • What do you do to gain empathy, insight & perspective?

 

  • Speaking of perspective, check out this short (1 ½ min) video for a sweet take on a new perspective.

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Rabble-rouser or runner? How you feel about conflict affects how you resolve it.

Photo Credit: David Compton Flickr via Compfight cc

 

When you hear the word conflict how do you feel? I often ask this question in workshops I lead simply because how we feel about conflict completely affects how we do (or don’t) resolve it (regardless of what the conflict is about).

 

It’s fascinating to see the extremely wide variety of responses to how people feel about conflict – from ‘I’m a rabble-rouser / I adore conflict’ to ‘it makes me want to run away with every fibre of my being’ & everything in between. Recently I was delivering a team building workshop with staff who work to bring stability to Somalia & I asked them how they felt about conflict. Because their work puts them in physical danger, responses ranged from death & displacement to intriguing & complex.

 

I asked you to let me know how you felt about conflict & 65 of you replied via this link (it’s not too late- you can still reply if you haven’t already).

 

 

Curious to see how everyone replied how they felt about conflict?

 

Here are your responses in a word cloud (word clouds analyze text by frequency; the larger the text the more frequent the response & the smaller the text the less frequent the response).

 

 

What do you think? Can you see your response?

 

It’s worth noting that the difference between feeling anxious / destruction or displacement & opportunity / interested or healthy is a wide chasm.

 

It demonstrates how people experience conflict matters, regardless of the content of the conflict.

 

If you’re someone who conflict provokes high anxiety & you’re trying to resolve a conflict with a colleague who sees conflict as a terrific opportunity, that is worth noting.

 

Conversely if you’re known as a rabble-rouser & you love to debate & you’re trying to address a conflict with someone who feels nothing but dread & fear, that’s certainly an issue.

 

 

Why stopping to take into consideration how you & the person you’re in conflict with feels about conflict leads to better resolutions

 

The next time you have conflict brewing, take a moment to reflect on how you feel about conflict. Then take a moment to ask the person (or persons) how they feel about the conflict.

 

It’s is a critical step in getting to resolution because it doesn’t assume we all feel the same way.

 

Taking the time to discover means you’re showing the other person that it’s important to you & you can use that information to craft a better conflict resolution process.

 

For example, imagine you’re a rabble-rouser – aka you love conflict; you adore debating & may even take the opposite view of what you believe to be mischievous.

 

Now imagine you have a conflict with someone who’s every instinct says ‘run’ at the mere mention of conflict. Perhaps they’re a survivor of gender-based violence or perhaps conflict meant getting hit as a kid.

 

No matter what the conflict is about between the two of you, it’s going to be a rough road to resolution.

 

Here are some options for moving forward

 

First off don’t try to resolve the conflict. Focus on the process first – the ‘how’ of moving forward.

 

Here are some suggestions:

 

Setting the scene: ‘I know we have some conflict to work out but before we work on how we’re going to resolve it ….”

 

Possible prompts:

  • What do you think is the best way forward?
  • How are you feeling about the situation?
  • What can I do to make it comfortable for us to figure out a resolution?

 

So whether you’re a rabble-rouser & love to provoke debate or run at the mere mention of conflict or are somewhere in between, the next time a conflict raises her head:

 

  1. Think about how you feel about conflict
  2. Think about how the other person feels about conflict (& ask if you don’t know)
  3. Use this information to craft a better, more tailored fit conflict resolution process

 

Your turn. Take action

 

Jana replied to a recent post on conflict resolution saying:

 

Just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed this post and the two step suggestion on conflict resolution as well. It is an art and these simple tools are invaluable – just need to remember to breathe, think and then speak… in times they are necessary (minus road ranting of course.) Jana

 

 

  • Go against your instinct. The next time you’re faced with a conflict, remember don’t try to resolve it right away. Instead, focus on the process first – the ‘how’ of moving forward.

 

 

 

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The danger of a single story

 

Photo Credit: redfoxinict Flickr via Compfight cc

As a young Nigerian student who had travelled to the US to study, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie came face to face with something we all encounter many times throughout our lives – a single story. Let me explain.

 

Chimamanda arrived to the US and met her new roommate, a roommate who was shocked and surprised to find Chimamanda so different than what she had expected. She’d been surprised to not only find out that her new roommate spoke English (not knowing that English is an official language in Nigeria) but that her ‘tribal’ music included Mariah Carey.

 

Chimamanada’s roommate had fallen victim to a single story. A single story is a story that we create about people and things, before having learned anything about them.

 

A single story is one that accepts people at face value.

A single story is one that judges a book by its cover.

A single story is seductive because it’s easy & quick.

 

Why single stories are dangerous

But they’re dangerous.

Single stories make assumptions. A lot of assumptions – and assumptions can be problematic and get you stuck.

They draw well defined borders around who’s included & who’s not.

Single stories also leave out. A lot.

They leave out alternative voices. Different opinions. Different ways & walks of life.

In the end they hurt us as well (not just the person we’re writing a story about in our heads) because excluding people because of their so called story, has a high price.

 

Why should we seek out layered, nuanced stories of depth?

Years ago I was working in a very remote, very tiny, very rural, very conservative village in the Philippines. When I referenced my husband, I used the word ‘partner.’

(Insert huff of indignation here, as it’s always bugged me that there are up to 3 ways to address a woman – Ms., Miss & Mrs. – & they all connote her marital status, while at the same time there’s only 1 for men.)

After the workshop a tiny Filipino woman approached me & said ‘I love it when straight people use the word partner, it’s such a sign of inclusion.’

I confess I was surprised. I didn’t expect to be approached by a gay woman in the conservative area I was in.

My single story got expanded. Without realizing it, I’d created a single story about the people and community that I was visiting, one that meant that I wasn’t seeing clearly but rather was shrouded in assumptions.

When this woman came and talked to me, I realized how much deeper I needed to go to truly get all the value there was to be had out of my visit. I needed to be ready to hear a multitude of stories.

 

There’s magic in expanded stories

It’s only when people feel welcome & heard that they’ll participate. And when everyone’s making a contribution, multiple voices are heard & magic happens.

 

When I’m teaching in new countries I’ve never visited before, I’ve learned to:
• listen hard,
• question my assumptions
• use humour strategically &
• keep an unfettered mind..

 

It helps me make sure that I fully embrace the stories around me & makes people feel comfortable knowing that I truly care about them and am ready and open to engage.

It’s a kind of magic.

That magic includes an increase in creativity & innovation, discovering multiple ways to resolve conflict &tackle tough issues..

‘When we reject the single story, we regain a paradise,’ says Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie, in her TED talk.

 

Embracing expanded stories for International Day of Families

As the International Day of Families has just happened (May 15th) let’s take her advice & include wonderfully diverse & complex stories in your work & your personal life, that embrace:

 

– families that are far-flung global nomads
– families whose only travel is done seated in a comfy armchair watching TV
– families that are fractured
– families that are messy, dysfunctional
– families that are far from the ‘norm’ of mom, dad & 2.5 kids
– families with mental health issues
– families that are struggling with poverty
– families that are broken
– families that are on the mend
– families with alcohol & drug issues
– families who have members in prison
– families who aren’t biologically related
– families who are colourful – whether it be via the rainbow, skin colour, or personalities
– families that fit inside the box & families who are waaaaaayyyy outside the box

 

Because after all, as Pico Iyer says, home is more about soul than soil.

This week in the lunchroom, share a story about your life with your colleagues you’ve never shared before and invite them to do the same. The more we are ready to share & take in our various stories, the more we are open to deeper connections, and the more we understand each other, the happier/calmer/more creative/ more connected we feel.

 

Your turn. Take action

– Think of a time you unwittingly wrote a single story in your head about someone. How did you realize it needed some expansion?

– Expanding a single story means uncovering assumptions you’re making. Check out this post to help you with that. 

– If the idea of expanded a single story resonates with you, I invite you to share this post with a colleague or friend, &/or sign up for my blog.

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Pssst – what’s your secret password? I will tell.

Photo Credit: Gruenewiese86 Flickr via Compfight cc

 

May 4th is world password day (#WorldPasswordDay), which got me thinking – there are passwords to your computer files of course, but what about the passwords to your heart? To a life full of meaning? To success on your terms?

 

Some of my passwords are ‘spacious possibilities’ which for me means:

 

Why have a password?

Knowing my passwords help me identify when I know it’s time to sit up & pay attention when I’m NOT feeling ‘spacious possibilities,’ the signs of which for me are:

 

What about you? In the spirit of learning from each other, I’d love to hear your secret sauce, your passwords to a happy, healthy life, on your own terms.

 

Need some inspiration? Here are Richard Branson’s 8 tips for living your best life.  (Think of them as passwords to a life well lived.)

 

But hang on. Before I tell you what Branson’s tips are, I’ve given you some prompts below (based on his tips).

 

Thinking about what you would tell people about living life to the best of their abilities, what words would you add to this?  How would you fill in the blanks? For example from #1 below – Be what? Be happy, be healthy…. How would you fill in the space?

1.Be _________
2. Be _________
3. Be _________
4. Say _________
5. Dream _________
6. Have _________
7. Give _________
8. Look _________ _________

 

 

And Google says ….

When I searched Google’s auto complete, I thought it ironic that when I typed in ‘give’ (from #7 above) Google completed it with ‘give me.’

Google’s auto fill to ‘say’ was ‘say something’ & ‘say anything.’

Google’s auto fill to ‘have’ was ‘have a nice day.’

And the auto fill to ‘look’ was ‘look at me’ & ‘look up.’

 

 

We can do better than Google. What’s your password to a meaningful life?

Here are Richard Branson’s tips for a good life. Do you agree? Are there any you’d take out? Add?

1.Be brave
2. Be you
3. Be respectful
4. Say yes
5. Dream big
6. Have fun
7. Give back
8. Look after yourself

Here’s a tool to help you prioritize them.

 

What are your secrete passwords? Lean in & whisper them, as they leave your lips with hesitation & uncertainty or stand up tall & shout them from the street corner.

 

Have a good think on it. Then take action below.

 

And in the meantime know that I spent the year leading up to my 50th birthday asking girls & women from 8 months to 98 years what their password was to a meaningful life, what lessons they’d learned & then I made an eBook out of their wise words. I’d hoped to get 50 responses. I was gob smacked to get 71 from 21 countries.

 

If you’re interested in seeing it, let me know in the comments below & I’ll share it in a future post.

 

 

Your turn. Take action

 

  • After you’ve picked your top two (which can include new ones you add), commit to doing 1 thing to make it true(r) for you. For example, ‘Be you’ is my top tip & for that I commit to being true to myself, being clear what my boundaries are & being confident. And please share your commitments below.

 

 

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Embracing the moments that matter (or what an Irish Ball & imposter syndrome have in common)

Framed card from Pegasus Cards (Vancouver) that sits on my desk.

 

There are so many moments in life that can seem small but upon some quiet reflection you realize they have so much in common. Here are 7 of those moments & experiences that I was able to come up with in a very short period of reflection that all have something very special in common. Read on and see if you can see the thread that binds them together.

 

  1. An email of thanks from one of my readers (who I happen to know & who is unbelievably talented) arrived recently: “I just started my new position as managing director of xyz on the executive team. It was announced to the whole team and boy, was I overwhelmed with “imposter syndrome”, definitely wondering if the team thought of me as incompetent &/or incapable! My biggest leadership challenge has always been dealing with the AME (African Male Ego). This came right on time, thank you so much. I will use my feather duster).

2. I’m redesigning/redeveloping my website & I’ve found the perfect fit with the talented Alyssa Burtt

3. I’m learning about storytelling from the gifted & magical Marsha Shandur

4. One of my all time besties just said to me ‘Isn’t it great that I have money problems. I mean that that’s all I’m really concerned about? It’s a great problem to have, it’s figure-out-able.’

5. I recently facilitated a learning forum in the Maasai Mara where hippos sung us to sleep & we drove past a pride of stately lions on the way to the dusty airstrip to fly home.

6. While in London recently, a man tapped me on the shoulder in the tube & handed me back my credit card, which I’d unknowingly just dropped.

7. Two friends & I had tickets to the Irish ball recently but at the last minute they couldn’t go. I was able to find a brand new friend & an old friend to go with me at the last minute (who were wildly disparate, had never met & got along like a house on fire). I danced all night (one of my absolutely favourite things to do) & even won a little competition.


 

What do all of these scenarios have in common?

Reasons to be grateful. Gobsmackingly, fill you up to the brim & beyond, grateful.

 

When I think of all of these events I remember people’s overwhelming capacity to be kind. I acknowledge synchronicity, mama nature & the importance of connecting (not to mention dancing). And most of all, they’re a wonderful reminder & respite in the busyness & chaos of every day life.

 

April 29th is International Dance day – I’m going to be doing a little jig of gratitude that day. Won’t you join me?

 

And be sure & share the gratitude.

 

One of the recommendations in my recent post, the C-word (confidence), recommends asking a friend or trusted colleague what you’re great at & remind yourself about all you have to be confident about.   After receiving my reader’s response to the post above (& having my heart strings tugged at her imposter-syndrome) I immediately emailed her with things I know are wonderful about her.

 

Spread the confidence, spread the gratitude.

 

 

Your turn. Take action

  • Identify 5 things you’re grateful for. Make a point of celebrating them (& you).
  • Send a note to someone and tell them how grateful you are for having them in your life.
  • April 29th is International Dance day #InternationalDanceDay – make a point of dancing to one of your favourite songs. Even better, invite a colleague or two to join you.
  • It’s easier to be grateful when you’re confident, so use this confidence building (& sharing) tool.
  • Please do leave a comment below about what you’ve got to be grateful for no matter how little or how big.
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Does a fish see the water it swims in? Identifying the assumptions you’re swimming in

 

We’ve all done it – unwittingly made a big, fat assumption that we only realize much later clouds our thinking & our way forward.

 

See if you can determine what assumptions these parents are making as they try to free their kid, who’s managed to get his head stuck in their fence. Fast forward to 2:20 to see how & who identifies the assumption & opens the way to problem solving. It will more than likely surprise you.

 

Similarly here’s a case of when I made an erroneous assumption. See if you can determine what it was.

 

Scenario: I wept big, sloppy tears & my head ached, as I laid it down on my desk. I was inconsolable. Multiple deadlines converged & the only way from here to there was to plow through & do something I intensely dislike which is write program evaluation reports. Multiple program evaluation reports. (I’m shuddering even as I write this, years later.)

I had multiple contracts, all with the same damn deadline for the same damn reports.

I loved the evaluation design & data collection – especially when it came to engaging communities challenged by drug & alcohol abuse, incarceration, mental health issues, poverty, racism etc. Over the years I’d worked side by side with participants to create ways for them to have a direct voice in the evaluation.

Over the years we’d created colorful quilts, evocative oral stories & creative scrapbooks that told the story of their involvement in the client’s program- all of which went into the final report & formed a part of the official program evaluation.

But now it was that time of year again – time to write the three reports & my shoulders felt as heavy as the rock that had settled in my stomach.

 

 

Can you identify the assumption I was making?

 

When I called a friend & colleague & relayed my woes, she pointed this (now) obvious fact to me.

 

I’d assumed that I had to write the report. While the program funder did indeed need 3 reports from me (1 from each client), it didn’t have to be me who wrote them.

 

The next day I headed to the Canadian evaluation society who happened to be having a meeting. I asked the organizer if I could make an announcement, that I was looking for someone who loved to do data analysis & write evaluation reports. She quietly turned to me & said ‘I love to do both of those things.’

 

Cut to years later & I still get weak with relief at finding the yin to my yang. She loved everything about evaluation I disliked & vice versa. To this day if evaluation is part of a contract of mine, I bring her onboard. Working with her is like taking a deep drink from a sweet water well, after having gone parched for days.

 

 

UNmaking an arse out of you & me. How to identify pesky assumptions.

 

  1. Acknowledge that you’re definitely making assumptions: Does a fish see the water it swims in? Likely not. Assumptions are so big & so many we have a tough time seeing them.

 

  1. Talk to a trusted friend or colleague: The thing is (insert marque flashing lights here for emphasis) I likely wouldn’t have thought to go searching for a report writer/data analyzer / a strategic alliance / the yin to my yang, if my original colleague & dear friend hadn’t identified the erroneous assumption I was making (that I had to write the reports all on my own).

 

  1. Find a solution & then another & another: Assumptions tend to fall by the wayside when we continue looking for solutions to problems & when we go beyond the first solution that comes to mind.

 

  1. Practice amping up your creativity: There’s a direct link between identifying assumptions & increasing your creativity. Need some tips how? Check out last week’s post.

 

 

Assumptions can stop you in your tracks in all areas of your life – next time you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed, whether it be trying to get through a hard work project, not knowing how to deal with a difficult colleague or boss, struggling to find a better balance between home and work or how to get your head unstuck from a fence – remember there is almost never only one solution to a problem.

Your turn. Take action.

  • April 20th is National High Five day #NH5D. Make it a goal to identify at least one assumption you’ve been making that is getting in the way of more creative, resilience building solutions & give yourself a high 5 when you do.
  • Feel free to comment below about the assumptions you’ve broken & how it went. I’d love to hear.
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Amp up your creativity through these thought provoking questions

Photo Credit: Natalia Medd Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Spoiler alert: two weeks ago I wrote ‘How many sides does a circle have & other creativity provoking statements.’  I’ll answer the creativity questions in this post. Didn’t get a chance to see the first post? Check it out here first.

 

Doing more, doing better

Most of my clients are looking for ways to do better, to do more & to leave a positive impact on their communities. Part of that equation is polishing off sometimes-rusty creativity & innovation habits & skills.

I’ve found that asking creative questions is a gateway to more, overall creative thinking. Here are some of the questions I asked during a treasure hunt activity I facilitated during a learning forum in the Maasai Mara recently, this time with the answers.

  • Question:

Why are female ostriches gray & male ostriches black?

  • Answer:

Female ostriches protect their eggs during the day & gray blends in better with their daylight surroundings, while male ostriches guard the eggs at night, their feathers blending in much better with the dark.

  • Question:

How many sides does a circle have?

  • Answer:

I’ve had several answers to this one (if you know others, please add them below in the comment section): infinite, 2 (inside & outside) & if the circle is a disc, 2 (top & bottom).

  • Question:

What animal can you hear in the river by our camp (bonus points if you can imitate it)?

  • Answer:

Hippos lumbered & lounged in the water beside us. Check out a recording of the odd noise they make here.

  • Question:

What’s this → .

  • Answer

This is from Roger VonOech’s classic work. One of the most creative responses (from a child) is it’s the view that a crow gets flying over a fence post.

There’s all sorts of ways to be creative. Let the illogical leaps & bursts of unusual connections be your conduit to creative problem solving & increased productivity. Like one of the participants in the learning forum said it made for a “very productive conference.”

Need a concrete example? Thanks to reader Mark, who forwarded me this article, check out the link between saris & protection from deadly bacteria.

 

Creativity accelerators

Here are 3 specific ways to increase your creativity skills:

  1. Look for a new way to use an old item (a la the sari example above)
  2. Look for an usual way to view a commonplace item (like the . example above)
  3. Find an answer to a problem you’re facing & then find another answer & another (like the ‘how many sides does a circle have’ question above)

 

Your turn. Take action

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The C word

The C word.

 

Have it & you’ve got a protective buffer against life’s many challenges. Lack it & every challenge, like a colleague’s careless cutting remarks, stings more than a scraped knee.

 

Some people look like they’re oozing it, but often they’re only faking – like a house built without a foundation, they blunder about with hollow boasts which are often coupled with snide remarks about others.

 

Because if you don’t have it on the inside you gotta get it on the outside. Translation: if you don’t possess the C word, people often look for it in the wrong places, substituting having to have possessions instead of this thing.

 

The C word.

 

Can you guess what I’m talking about?

Confidence.

 

So many people struggle with self-confidence due to one reason or another. It would be great to get suggestions on how to improve such issues for both men and women….

 

So began the email from Aska, a reader who asked me to write about being confident & comfortable in one’s skin.

 

Lovely readers know that I take your requests seriously & this one has been rattling around in my brain like loose change in my pocket. My curiousity was piqued & I kept coming back to the issue, thinking about what could I write.

 

Fast forward as I sat cramped in our tiny plane, hot & dusty but very happy after a two day learning forum in the Maasai Mara.   My face felt like I’d grown a second skin- only this one was made of dust & dirt. Loose hairs, that had come undone from my pinned up hair, swirled around my face, refusing to lie still, while I fanned myself to keep cool.

 

I couldn’t help the grin that crept across my face as I recalled our last two days – learning on overdrive, coupled with siting’s of gorgeous wild animals while on the way to from the lodge we’d made our home. After driving from the lodge to the airstrip to fly back to Nairobi, having sited a pride of lions, I was feeling the glow of contentment.

 

Our tiny plane was lined up on the dusty airstrip, waiting in a queue to take off (we’d chartered several planes for our group). As I let my mind wander, I glanced beside me at Alice, one of the participants from the learning forum.

 

She looked relaxed, poised & regal. I smiled & said ‘you look beautiful.’  I fully expected her to make an excuse or to half-heartedly accept my compliment.  Because that’s what we often do. Oh not really. Oh but…. Not this old thing.
Or we simply turn away, tongue tied, embarrassed & unsure what to say.

 

Why is it that compliments catch our tongue & hold it firmly?

Why do we often disbelieve the compliment giver?

 

Because our confidence is shaky.

 

Not this time however. Alice turned to me & without any arrogance, like simply stating a fact; she said ‘that’s because I am a beautiful woman.’

 

Flashbulb burst in my brain. I had my blog post. But would she be willing for me to write about her?

 

I shared my idea with her & she quickly agreed to be the subject of this blog post & what’s more, she let me take her picture.

 

Meet Alice.

After taking her picture I told her I thought she looked poised & powerful.  Can you guess her response?

 

She turned once again to me & in a low, modulated, confident voice, said ‘that’s because I am a powerful woman.’

 

Bingo. Point made.

 

The next time self-doubt gnaws its way into your heart, or worry weighs your shoulders down, or your brain is on an endless repeating loop of how NOT great you are take an imaginary (or not!) feather duster & brush those unhelpful, uninvited thoughts away.

And remember:

  • you ARE powerful (even when you feel small & weak)
  • you ARE good enough (even when you feel incompetent & incapable)

 

Ask a friend or trusted colleague what you’re great at & remind yourself about all you have to be confident about.

 

And celebrate your wins.

 

Because when you’re confident, you’re more able to share your unique gifts & talents with the world. And all deities know, we all need more of that.

 

Your turn. Take action

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How many sides does a circle have & other creativity provoking statements inspired by the Maasai Mara

My morning neighbour in the Mara- a gorgeous eland

Zebra, wildebeests & elands (the largest of the antelopes) scatter as our tiny plane lands on the dirt runway. The air is heavy & loamy after the recent rains. The sky is a whorl of mauves & grays, which will soon darken to slate as the rain starts again. The safari vehicle that takes us to our camp skids sideways in the heavy mud several times, before coming to rest beside a pack of hyenas. We watch in delight as 2 adults lope off in search of something, while other adults stay behind with the fluff ball babies.

 

Safaris never get old. I’m in the Maasai Mara – Kenya’s version of Tanzania’s better known sister, the Serengeti. I’m here to facilitate a client’s learning forum.

 

I adore the Mara – something about her wide open spaces inspires creativity, a sense of awe & wonder. As the sun has now set, & the loud calls of hippos in the river beside us have been replaced with the croaks of dozens of frogs, I reflect back on the day.

 

Doing more, doing better

Most of my clients are looking for ways to do better, to do more & to leave a positive impact on their communities. Part of that equation is polishing off sometimes-rusty creativity & innovation habits & skills. Why? In order to find ways to access new & creative ideas to approach entrenched, pesky &/or intricate issues.

 

Which is why I decided to incorporate a treasure hunt at the end of our day. Teams competed to answer the most questions correctly & for their troubles, the top four were rewarded with prizes. (lovely traditional Kenyan fabric wine covers for some & chocolates for others).

 

I’ve found that asking creative questions is a gateway to overall, more creative thinking.

 

Here are some of the questions. Give them a try (and post your answers in the comments!) I’ll provide the answers in next week’s post.

 

  • Why are female ostriches gray & male ostriches black?

 

  • How many sides does a circle have?

 

  • What animal can you hear in the river by our camp (bonus points if you can imitate it) (the learning forum was at a camp – can you guess which animal kept us company in the river during the day)?

 

  • What’s this?    .

 

 

Your turn. Take action.

Here are a few fun and simple ways to get your creativity flowing.

 

P.S. Stay tuned for next week’s post where I found the perfect response to a reader’s query about how to be comfortable in our own skin.

 

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