Igniting Your Creativity

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In the span of 24 hours I saw three articles on how to spark your creativity cross my Facebook news feed.  Let me save you the time of reading them all yourself and tell you exactly what they have in common.  I’ve also summarized each article below for your convenience.

Observe + Process
All types of creative people seem to agree that intentionally making the time to stop, look around, observe your surroundings, and take notes on life is an important part of sparking creativity and new ideas.  But there is a 2nd step that is equally important.  Creative people find a space, usually alone, to process and synthesize all that they have observed.  Not only does this allow time for your mind to slow down after being stimulated by new input, but it creates a place for your mind to make connections between otherwise disparate objects/people/ideas, thereby creating a new idea.

Daydream + Play
Creative people often advise others to intentionally carve out time to let your mind wander and play.  Not only is this a creative exercise itself, but it often distracts the mind from your “normal work” which is usually when breakthroughs occur.  Have some fun with it, stare at a wall or a tree or the sky, let your mind go for a walk and see what happens.

Joy + Passion
Creative people tend to engage in activities that bring them joy and that they are passionate about.  They do these things, not for money or recognition, but because it puts them in what is known as “flow state” where they lose all track of time.  Finding internal motivation (vs external such as money) to fully engage in an activity is a quick way to ignite creativity.

Breaks + Change of Scenery
Both creative people and researchers will tell you that taking regular breaks is an effective way to reduce burnout and creative blocks.  Next time you are feeling stuck, or you want to fire up the creative juices, consider walking away from your desk or studio or wherever you normally work, and get outside.  Change your vantage point and your perspective, literally, and you may find a new idea to work with.

Here are the summary lists from each article on how to spark creativity:

10 Steps to Grow & Unleash Your Creativity
according to Chase Jarvis, elite photographer, SXSW speaker, also recognized for his writing and directing
Read the full article by clicking here

Note: words in parentheses are my own brief descriptions of the content

  1. Pursue a Creative Craft (intentionally engage your mind)
  2. Find a Space (to “sample the mayhem” and “then synthesize”)
  3. Play (take regular breaks)
  4. Find a Tribe (of like-minded individuals to share ideas)
  5. Show Your Work (not just the final product)
  6. Imperfection + Iteration (don’t let perfection hold you back)
  7. Put More of You Into Your Work (don’t be afraid to use your own voice)
  8. Doubts?  You’re Doing it Right (taking a little risk is a positive sign)
  9. Make Something Every Day (stay creatively active)
  10. You Have Nothing to Lose (remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of believing you have something to lose)

10 Creative Rituals You Should Steal
by Sean Blanda, Managing Editor and Producer of 99u
Read the full article by clicking here

Note: words in parentheses are my own brief descriptions of the content

  1. Take a Quarterly Vacation (change your environment and get out of town)
  2. Hold a “Retroactive” After Projects (debrief and download your experiences with others)
  3. Write Every Day (writing forces you to locate your clarity – “The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.” ~Mortimer J Adler)
  4. Create an Interesting People Fund (set aside time/money to meet interesting people)
  5. Keep “Tear Sheets” to Get Inspired (take breaks when you are stuck, revisit beautiful things you’ve saved)
  6. Nap Every Day (protect your time, say no, and stay rested)
  7. Envision What You Will Be Remembered For (use a creative writing exercise to create a vision of what you want)
  8. Brainstorm at the Bar (don’t do the “think-work” in the studio – that’s a space for the work-work)
  9. Get Out of the Building (don’t stare at a blank page – get out into the observable world)
  10. Engage in “Morphological Synthesis” (force yourself to think outside the normal boundaries of things)

18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently
by Carolyn Greggoire, Features Editor at the Huffington Post
Read the full article by clicking here

Note: words in parentheses are my own brief descriptions of the content

  1. They Daydream (make time to allow your mind to wander)
  2. They Observe Everything (take notes on life)
  3. The Work the Hours that Work for Them (9am-5pm is not the agreed upon hours of creativity)
  4. They Take Time for Solitude (take time to synthesize what you observe and listen to that inner voice)
  5. They Turn Life’s Obstacles Around (use post-traumatic growth to learn from setbacks)
  6. They Seek Out New Experiences (stay open to new experiences, places, people, and ideas)
  7. They “Fail Up” (failing fast is one agreed upon way to be creative and succeed)
  8. They Ask the Big Questions (stay curious and explore)
  9. They People-Watch (observe other humans expressing themselves or interacting can generate new thoughts)
  10. They Take Risks (to create without risk is impossible – sharing something new is inherently risky)
  11. They View All of Life as an Opportunity for Self-Expression (imagine your life as one big canvas for art – the way you express yourself daily is the paint)
  12. They Follow Their True Passions (find activities that are intrinsically motivated, not by money or recognition)
  13. They Get Out of Their Own Heads (try to think as if you were someone else or as if you were seeing something familiar for the first time)
  14. They Lose Track of the Time (engage with activities that both interest you and challenge you to achieve “flow state”)
  15. They Surround Themselves with Beauty (nature, art, fashion, etc tend inspire new thoughts)
  16. They Connect the Dots (look for the connection between two otherwise disparate things)
  17. They Constantly Shake Things Up (create a diversity of experiences)
  18. They Make Time for Mindfulness (use meditation to relax, focus, and find “center” again)

Managing People: Expectations

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of business clarity.  This post is the first in a multi-part series about effectively managing and leading others.


I have managed employees for well over a decade.  I have encountered naturally talented employees, and employees that just work harder and hustle more to make up for whatever talent deficiencies they might have (I actually put myself in that category).  I have managed those that seem to “get it” and those that seem a little lost and confused.  I have managed introverts, extroverts, analyzers, intuitive-types, the organized, the creative, and any other possible variation or combination thereof.

I have learned, through much trial and error, that proper expectation setting is the first step in a four step management process that yields the most productive, efficient, successful, and happy employees.

Step 1:  Expectation Setting

Step 2:  Rhythmic Communication

Step 3:  Focus Through Accountability

Step 4:  Autonomy, Pride, and Compassion

Having coached and managed for a long time, I have come to understand that adults, despite the beautiful and strong facades we have built over time, are really just big kids with money, responsibilities and the ability to drive.  We all have a need to feel secure, cared for, believed in, and connected with others.  And ultimately, much like children, deep down inside we crave to belong and to please others.  Don’t perceive this a weakness, but more of primal instinct.

As a manager, the single biggest gift I can give to a new employee is a list of expectations.  To be able to clearly state what I expect of them in a general sense, with some specificity around goals, gives them the opportunity to do or complete what I expect.  That clarity of what their purpose is (within the context of a job/career/position) provides a kind of calmness, understanding, and confidence that “if I do what is expected of me, others will be happy and I will be secure.”  It’s a win-win.

Alternatively, I fail as a manager if I cannot provide clear direction to an employee.  If someone is left guessing, or left to figure out what to do or where to go, it creates an inherent sense of uneasiness and instability in their personal and professional lives. 

Additionally, not knowing where you stand with someone is equally jarring and anxiety producing which is why rhythmic communication is the next step.  More on that in the coming days and weeks ahead!

Do you have thoughts on expectation setting and managing others?  That’s what that little doohickey is for below.  Leave a comment!

Business Clarity

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Earlier this week, I discussed the importance of personal clarification on topics that help leaders have a consistent, authentic approach to their vision.  Click here to read more about the areas of life one must be clear about in or to be productive, happy, and successful. 

If the business leader is not clear on their personal items, they will ineffectively lead their teams by being inconsistent and unclear.  They will often produce mixed messages because they lack clarity on who they are or where they are going, often becoming distracted on their journey.

These mixed messages and personal unawareness make way for constant distractions all day long for your team.  A lack of clarity on the questions below means more struggles and less traction.

Points of Business Clarity:

Is your team clear on…

  • the roles within the company and who does what?
  • the “why behind” company goals and initiatives?
  • the company’s 5-year stretch goal?
  • the company’s vision for the future?
  • the company’s annual goals?
  • the company’s quarterly themes?
  • their daily/weekly activities and how it ties to annual goals and quarterly themes?
  • the company’s strategic planning process?
  • everyone’s communication and decision making styles?
  • the company’s culture?

If the team is not clear on these business categories, they will be consumed with distractions instead of opportunities.  Brandon Ames, an entrepreneur from Phoenix is fond of saying, “absent values and vision, you cannot differentiate between opportunity and distraction.”

Imagine each person on your team sitting in their own canoe on a lake, tied to each other by a rope.  They are facing in various directions and you instruct them to start paddling.  What happens?

Not much. 

Or worse – the strongest paddler eventually starts dragging the group in whatever direction pleases them.  In your business, who’s the strongest paddler? 

You are.  Which is why at times it can feel like you are dragging the team to achieve a goal.  You may be asking yourself why this is so hard, or why your team doesn’t care as much about the success of the business as you do. 

Imagine, instead, if when you told everyone to start paddling, they all instinctively turned to the same point on shore and with laser focus aggressively paddled in that direction. 

The key to business clarity and success is alignment, focus, accountability, and rhythmic communication. 

Future posts will tackle these topics.

Personal Clarity

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I often speak with entrepreneurs, realtors, business leaders, and other professionals about achieving more.  Of course, it is rare to find someone that is completely satisfied with the amount or pace of their achievements. 

And when you look at people around you or in the media, you find wide ranges of achievement.  Some people struggle to balance their checkbook, while others own and run 3+ businesses. 

Similarly, some businesses languish for years in mediocrity, barely able to keep the lights on, while others skyrocket to success.

What is the cause of this disparity?

Distractions are the primary reason people and businesses do not achieve the success they desire.  Without a question, to be distracted is the most detrimental obstacle to achieving a goal with any kind of efficiency. 

Distractions come from a lack of clarity around a number of personal and professional categories.  Here are some examples:

Points of Personal Clarity:

Are you clear on…

  • your core values and how to use them?
  • your signature strengths and how to leverage them?
  • your purpose and how to activate it?
  • the activities that bring you joy, happiness, engagement, and meaning?
  • how others’ energy affects you and vice versa?
  • your inner critic’s impact on your decisions?
  • your goals and why you want to achieve them?
  • how your sleep, nutrition, activity, stress an overall health affect your happiness and productivity?
  • what brings you the most satisfaction while you work?
  • what brings you the least satisfaction while you work?

Clarity around these ten issues will provide you with the foundation you need to be confident, happy, and successful.  When you are clear on responses to these questions, you are by default also aware of what a distraction looks like. 

A distraction will feel uncomfortable.  A distraction will feel misaligned with what you know you are supposed to do.  A distraction will be so obvious, you’ll forget how once it was so alluring.

But like anything worth having, gaining clarity takes work and practice.  How can you begin?  If you feel like you are not 100% clear on 1 or more of the above areas, take the Velocity Life Review assessment and receive a free debrief of your results.  This is the first step in gaining clarity around areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction in your life. 

As always, with awareness comes choice.  Clarity is, therefore, empowering.

Core Thought-Action Model

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It has been said by some that an average adult in the U.S. makes over 10,000 decisions a day. I’ve even heard estimates as high as 35,000 decisions. Research has actually shown that adults will make just over 226 decisions a day about food alone.1 The exact number of total decisions is not clear, but it’s safe to say that we make a lot of decisions everyday (although if you are aware of research that makes it more clear, please leave a comment).

I’m fascinated by this topic because it astounds me. There is so much going on behind the curtain of our mind that it’s hard to keep up with. Having well-defined that you actively use is one way to help you make better subconscious decisions, but about the conscious ones?

More than how my food decisions are driven by more core values, I am now consumed with choice of thought.  Here are two important concepts I have learned while examining my own thoughts:

  1. Since I cannot control the external world around me, including any person within it, my thoughts are, indeed, the only thing I can control.
  2. There is a “secret” pattern flow to be aware of when changing behavior, achieving success, and being fulfilled.

Core Thought –> Core Emotion –> Core Action

While our thoughts drive our emotions, it is our emotions that drive our actions. The key is to understand and examine our core thought at any given time so that it becomes a choice rather than an “external fact.”  By being aware, or conscious, of the core thought inherently makes you able to choose whether to accept that thought or choose another one that is more beneficial to you.

This formula is applicable in so many scenarios.  Are you dealing with a challenge that you can’t seem to figure out?  Are you dealing with someone at work that is pushing your buttons?  Do you want to start a business (or write a book, or find a life partner, or change careers, or lose weight, or…)?

When reflecting on your challenge, ask yourself the following 3 questions:

  1. What is the underlying thought that keeps replaying in my mind, over and over again when I think about this challenge?
  2. When I have this thought, what feelings am I experiencing?
  3. When I feel this way, what actions do I typically take?

Let’s use the example of changing careers.  It’s not uncommon for someone to be unhappy in their job and want to find a new path.  Often times I will hear something like, “I am so unsatisfied and want to make a change.  But I have bills to pay at home and can’t risk any missed income or a lower salary.  Plus I’ve been in this job for so long that I don’t think I have enough experience to do this other thing I want to do.”

What is the core thought that they are replaying in their mind?

Core Thought(s):  “I don’t have what it takes to make this change happen.  I’m not valuable enough to another company to pay me what I want, and can’t imagine finding a good opportunity.”

Now, if you had this core thought, how would you be feeling?  Here’s how I would feel:

Core Emotion(s):  Helpless, frustrated, dejected.

If you were feeling this way right now, what are some typical ways you might behave?  Here’s what I would do:

Core Action(s):  Take no action, accept my current state of dissatisfaction, complain about my situation.

Now, here’s the power of this formula.  Let’s do a “thought pattern interrupt.”  If you could, what thought would you like to have when thinking about this challenge?  Here’s how I would like to think:

Core Thought(s):  I deliver value to my employer and clients.  I am competent and hardworking.  I deserve to find a career that is both satisfying and rewarding to me, and valuable to my employer.

If you had this core thought, how would you be feeling?  Here’s how I would feel:

Core Emotion(s):  Empowered, hopeful, confident.

If you were feeling this way right now, what are some typical ways you might behave?  Here’s what I would do:

Core Action(s):  Analyze my situation, prepare my personal situation for change, reach out to others for help and connections, do some research, and confidently display my value to others.

By catching the process in the beginning at the core thought, you can completely interrupt the negative cycle and choose new ways to think, feel, and act.

This is the basis for change, for growth, and for fulfillment.  Examine your thoughts…you may be surprised at what you find.


1Wansink, Brian and Jeffrey Sobal (2007), “Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook,” Environment and Behavior 39:1, 106-123.