Managing Creativity with Harriet Tubman

I just read the most cool article in Mental_Floss magazine.  Check out the magazine sometime…interesting facts that are stimulating and out of the ordinary. The article was about Harriet Tubman, the famous lady who led slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad during the US Civil War.  She redefined leveraging creativity to achieve her goals.  It is fascinating and written by Erik Sass.


There was a bounty on Harriet for the equivalent of $1 million as she led 19 journeys freeing more than 300 slaves. This wasn’t easy as you can imagine.  The obstacles to achieve our goals for the most part pale in comparison.  She followed several approaches that are reflective of successful people today.

*  Know your terrain and where you are heading
Slave owners often kept their slaves close so they wouldn’t know their surroundings and wouldn’t know how to escape. Tubman would manage the navigation and at times on the fly leveraging dense forests, and swamps. Sometimes she would need to split the group up and provide to the group simple easy to follow advise for a meeting point.

* Know your clients and manage them effectively
The slaves were often brought to freedom as a family unit. Kids could give away their presence by crying so to address this, she always carried paragoric, an opium varient.

* Make sure everyone knew who’s in charge
Runaway slaves faced draconian punishments if they were caught so sometimes, they would change their minds and wish to return to servitude. But going back would have exposed her Underground Railroad network. So she gave them a choice facing the barrel of a gun. Die a slave or be free!!!

* Work the News Cycle, control your messaging.
Slave owners would alert bounty hunters with substantial rewards to capture runaway slaves. So Harriet would initiate her rescues on a Saturday giving her a 48 hour head start before the ads circulate in the Monday paper.

Since Harriet was engaged in activities with life/death implications, clearly some of her actions would be viewed as over the top in what most of us face in our day to day lives. But, she addressed problems through solution approaches you can use.

Action of the Day
Imagine you were rescuing your career and running yourself through the Underground Railroad. How would you prepare for this herculean task?  Pretend Harriet is right beside you ready to coach you. What would she tell you?  Are you ready to take the lead?

Quote of the Day
“Everything depends upon execution; having just a vision is no solution.”  Stephen Sondheim:  Award-winning American composer & lyricist

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5 Ways to Address Failure

Have you ever thought about having this tagline?  I am Looking Forward to Failure.

Probably not. Who would?  We often link the failure to achieve a goal as coming up short versus others we wish to compare ourselves to.  You get this converged potion of feelings including disappointment, resentment, envy and self-doubt.  Most people’s lives and careers are based on seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. Most will bend over backwards putting themselves into a situation where they avoid failure because the perceived pain far exceeds any potential probability of success.

This is where we will stand out and make a difference in our lives.  Every failure is a stepping stone to inevitable success. If you knew, in the bottom of your heart, that no short-term obstacle can prevent you from achieving your goals in life, wouldn’t you view failure in a different way?  You bet!!!

Scott Edinger, the founder of Edinger Consulting Group, co-authored an excellent HBR(Harvard Business Review) blog titled, Get Ready to Fail.  In it, Scott highlights 5 ways to address failure and make it part of the process rather than something to avoid.

1) Acknowledge the failure and put it in perspective
Research referenced in the blog shows that taking responsibility for your mistakes separates those who handle failure well from those who don’t.

2) Look for causes, not blame
Assigning blame means shifting control of a solution from yourself to others.  Focusing on the cause(s) means you take control to prevent similar failures in the future.

3) Before you wrack your brain to think up an appropriate response, take a break.
We are not designed to operate under a 24/7 mode though when we confront failure, we cannot stop thinking about it. Engage in other pursuits. Spend time with loved ones or get some physical activity(endorphins). Let your mind wander. You will be surprised what 30 minutes to a few days of a mental break can do.

4) Get some help.
Feeling down is normal. Prolonged periods of depression and despair are not. If needed, find that friend, mentor or therapist to help you through this setback.

5) Refocus your efforts and take action.  
Nothing will make you feel quite as good as taking action and finding even a small element of success in that action. It may take some time to reach that success, but you certainly won’t have any until you start trying.

Action of the Day
Identify if you are taking any risks in your career where you are risking failure. If not, identify an action you could take to make a difference. Make believe you failed miserably in your initial efforts.  Create an outcome that is likely to cause you to feel let down, rejected or taking several steps back instead of forward.  Now, pretending you have failed, go through the 5 steps above in your mind. Play the scenario out. Do you come out of the role playing exercise in a stronger place where the implications of a failure can bring you strength and one step closer to success? The pain of failure starts to be less significant than the pleasures of success from the experience.

Quote of the Day:  “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right”….. Napoleon Hill

Picture Credit: © Ia64 | Dreamstime.com

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Happiness – No Arms or Legs Required

As you can tell from reviewing my posts on this website, Upgrading Your Career is less about any technical abilities and more about your attitude, getting along with people and possessing a never quit philosophy.

You will just love this video on Nick Vujicic. A man born without arms and legs. But…..he has made a life for himself based not on self pity but self exploration, living life to its fullest and sharing his passion with others. Take a look.

I have experienced, like many of you, periods in my life where I felt nothing went right.   There were times when I felt very alone and lacked confidence in myself.  My career has had bumps in the road. I sometimes just did not want to look at myself in the mirror.  As Zig Ziglar would say,  I would throw myself a pity party. Have you gone through periods like this?  Nick leads by example and overcomes his struggles through sheer brute force of a positive attitude and desire to make a difference for people.  For almost all of us, our career and life could not be more challenging than what Nick has experienced. Yet Nick finds happiness. Nick finds hope. You know what….if I were an employer, I would bend over backwards to see how I can bring Nick into my company. There is a lesson there for all of us. Be inspired. Allow others to be an example for you. We all have room to grow and become a better person.

Action of the Day
Before you go to sleep tonight, sit at the edge of your bed and think about what you appreciate. Think about how Nick might handle the problems you are facing right now. How can you shift your thinking from problems waiting to happen to opportunities waiting to come forward? This is an exciting time of your life, right now. Embrace it.

Quote of the Day
“It doesn’t matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going.”   Brian Tracy

Youtube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8ZuKF3dxCY  Nick’s Website: http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/

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Solving Business Problems Methodically

In our careers, we are always faced with uncertainty.

Uncertainty comes from things we cannot control. This includes the economy, how other people act/perform, and just pure fate. Successful people don’t stress out because there are uncontrollable factors in their lives. By definition, they are uncontrollable.

What we focus on are the things we can control.  Marty Zwilling from Startup Professionals, Inc. wrote a terrific blog on the 6 Tips to Max Your Business Problem Solving Skills.  You can train yourself to be a problem solver. Here are the 6 tenants:

1. Practice Active Listening  – Resist the urge to vocally jump into the fray, and listen attentively without interruption.
2. Promise Action but Manage Expectations – You know the drill….Undercommit, Overdeliver!!
3. Investigate thoroughly – Don’t assume anything…GATHER THE FACTS!!!
4. Provide Regular Updates to All – Communication is the most underrated element of problem solving but probably the most important step.
5. Make a Timely Decision – Assemble the facts, talk to all the stakeholders of a problem, then make the solution decision. Don’t delay….that’s status quo.
6. Follow up – Reconfirm your decision within hours or latest days by all who is impacted. Explain why.

Action of the Day : Review the last decision you have made (or led others in making) that impacted more than yourself. Did you follow each of the above 6 steps. If not, which one did you fail to adequately address? What happened as a result? Write down these 6 steps onto a small index card. Carry it with you for a week. Refer to it daily. You are working to modify your behavior. This typically takes a period of constant repetition until it is habit. You will find over several weeks that you have trained yourself to follow these steps intuitively whenever confronted with a significant business problem/decision you need to make.

Quote of the Day :  “Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.  ~Author Unknown

Picture Credit: © Ginasanders | Dreamstime.com

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What if 20,000 People Came to your Rescue?

Imagine how you would feel if you messed up singing the national anthem in front of over 20,000 people in an arena on national TV?  Many of us would avert the crises by never putting ourselves in that situation. But, Natalie Gilbert, the winner of a Toyota sponsored contest for an up and coming vocal performer, found out what it is like. She forgot the words, but the very best of human nature came out. Watch what Coach Mo Cheeks, former head coach of the Philadelphia 76rs, did.

Imagine how powerful you can be if you went through life, and your career, with the fundamental belief in the positive nature of people. Most people wish the best of others and will root for their success. Just like for Natalie, the whole arena wanted this risk taking experience to be as positive as possible.  Imagine if you were one of the people in the audience that night. Wouldn’t you have wanted to lift Natalie’s spirits during this challenging experience?

Action of the Day:  If you knew that everyone you knew would be there to break a fall, help you recover from a failed experience, give you a smile when you felt like crying, what would you consider doing?  Visualize yourself doing that risk with all your loved ones, friends, and every acquaintance you know but forget their name, were there to root you on all the way. Feel that warm feeling.  Now for the fun part, how can you be that person who helps others rise to the occasion even when they believe they are destined for failure?  Find that opportunity to help others, even anonymously.   You will find yourself transforming into an even more “giving” person. Giving people are the most successful people in the world.

Quote of the Day: “Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”    Martin Luther King, Jr.

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A Millionaire Secret

About 200,000 new millionaires were added last year according to Spectrem Group of Chicago who released its latest annual report of American millionaires early in 2012.   One can be a cynic and come up with unfair reasons why this happened.  Why be bitter, jealous or indifferent? Let’s celebrate the success of others unselfishly. Paul B. Farrell wrote a revealing blog titled Secrets to Being a Millionaire and Enjoying It.    It really comes down to ATTITUDE. It is all in your head.

It is deciding you have what it takes to take your life in whatever direction you need to take it to create value for others.  Paul identified 10 ways to think the right way:

1. Getting rich isn’t about the money
(It’s about creating value for others…improve peoples’ lives)
2. Think different
(Go  Your Own Way….take out that machete and carve that path…make life fun)
3. Accentuate the positive
( A positive attitude will offset “almost” any disadvantage thrown your way)
4. Quit doing what you hate
(Don’t let your life whittle away doing what you don’t enjoy.)
5. Do what you love
(Many times it starts as a hobby, then some pocket change and then….it happens a lot)
6. Find the real you
 (You will know it when you feel it…experience new things, meet new people)
7. Invest in “You Inc.”
 (Take the attitude that you right now own your own company..take pride in what you do)
8. Live with Passion
(Go through each day with enthusiasm, live with zest, you are a lucky person!!)
9.  Live in the moment
 (Live every day to its fullest, ..who knows what tomorrow brings…but today is a sure thing)
10. Make a difference
(Most millionaires love helping people and making a difference in other peoples’  lives)

 ACTION OF THE DAY
List 3 ways you can be of value to others.  One way at work, one way at home and one way for a stranger. Take action today. How did it feel? Natural or strange. Keep practicing this approach until it feels comfortable and natural. You will find so much joy in bringing value and happiness to others, that the inevitable future compensation you get from your services will happen automatically.

QUOTE OF THE DAY
“You are the masterpiece of your own life; you are the Michelangelo of your experience. The David that you are sculpting is you. And you do it with your thoughts.”
Dr. Joe Vitale   Motivational author and speaker

Picture Credit: © MinervaStudio | Dreamstime.com

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The Ultimate Positive Thinking Person

This gentleman is amazing.   We all can get down in the dumps periodically due to something that didn’t work right for us.   But Jon Morrow,  Associate Editor of Copyblogger wouldn’t have any of that.   Jon wrote a blog that will just blow you away titled…..How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World. To me this is not about Quitting a Job…it is about thinking positively in your life…this positive attitude will yield unbelievable results to you in your career and personal life.

Basically, here is a man who ran into some physical issues from an accident and became dependent on the US Government for survival.  He took initiative and developed a positive thinking approach and created a new career….He didn’t stop to grovel or just accept his predicament. He took on a passion of blogging. It could be any vocation. But he drove it forward with passion. His first focus was to help people….not strictly to make $.

This blog entry from Jon is well worth the time investment. No matter where you are in  your career and life, from unemployed and alone to self-employed with a large loving family nearby,  you can do it. Just think positive, make a plan, establish goals, take action.

Action of the Day
Are there any problems you have that exceeds Jon’s health issues from the accident?  If yes, you have my full compassion. However, if you don’t, you have the world ahead of you.  Write a list of the top 3 things you are grateful for.   Carry these blessings with you on a notecard. It will help you stay in a positive mood almost all the time. You have so much to be grateful for and maintain a positive frame of mind.  Smile…make a plan, establish goals, take action on your top pursuits..TODAY!!!

Quote of the Day
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”  ……..William Arthur Ward

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Am I an Entrepreneur? It doesn’t Matter

Entrepreneurs are critical to the success of our economy by bearing the financial risks to drive innovation and value to their customers.  We salute them.


Are there shades of grey in being an Entrepreneur or is it black and white?  Can you be employed by others but still bring significant value to your company?   If your employer fails, you typically simply move on taking on the risk of lost income, not loss net worth.  However, what if you started to think like an entrepreneur where you are currently employed. Deborah Bailey wrote an interesting article to reflect this concept titled Become a Star Employee by Thinking Like an Entrepreneur.  There are several key take aways:

Your Attitude
Entrepreneurs start out with a vision of what they want to create, whether it is a product or a service. As an employee, your vision is just as important. The good news is that you have 100% control of this

Be Creative
Another trait of entrepreneurs is the ability to find creative ways to get things done. You also  have 100% control of this. Entrepreneurs must think creatively even in their sleep.  If you only do so during your waking hours, you are ahead of a majority of others.  If your employer goes out of its way to keep your creativity at bay, pick your battles.  If possible, find a new manager more responsive to new ideas. Believe it or not, they are there waiting for you!!!

Keep an Open Mind
A most important trait of entrepreneurs is the ability to learn new information and to continue to adapt.  Guess what, you have 100% control of this as well.  Many people find themselves doing the same type of responsibilities for years and get comfortable. Are you in this situation? If so, find a new set where you are more on the edge. It will reawaken your thought processes and clear your mind for new approaches and opportunities.

Thinking like an entrepreneur will ensure you will increase your value to your employer. With this brings increased opportunities, greater income potential and a life filled more with excitement.

ACTION FOR THE DAY
Imagine receiving an unexpected letter in the mail. You open it up and it declares that you are the new owner of the company you currently work for.  You have been given authority to make changes in the way your company earns revenue or manages its costs. Take a look at your roles and responsibilities in your current position.   Identify 3 ideas to accomplish your responsibilities in a faster and/or more efficient way.  How would you run your newly found company with a positive attitude, creative approach and keeping an open mind?  Who would you want to talk to in your company to implement these ideas?

Quote of the Day
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!! – Goethe


Picture Credit : © Shane Trotter | Dreamstime.com

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Do you need a Jolt of Inspiration?

Have you ever felt like you are hitting your head against the proverbial wall?  I have many times. There were my early days in Middle School where I ackwardly tried to fit into the social scene(it wasn’t pretty).

I hit my head on those first jobs where I was still discovering what career path I want to pursue. There were the latter years where my passion at times exceeded levels some people are comfortable with.  As I pursued more and more exciting things, my head hit the wall all too frequently. You know what, it is a good thing. It means I am pushing myself beyond the comfort zone of the status quo. I bet you have experienced the same thing.

I recently searched for a short video that can very simply serve as a catalyst to inspire positive thoughts. Why? Because to Upgrade your Career and your life, you need to be continuously inspired. You get to ultimately learn to inspire yourself. This is a pretty cool objective.

I discovered a “results” expert, author and consultant named John Von Achen. I have no ties to John, haven’t met him or interacted with him as of this writing. There is a short/sweet slideware YouTube he made available(approx. 3 minutes) that you will enjoy and can turn to for a quick dose of inspiration anytime. I sure will.

The beauty of this is that it isn’t rocket science. Your thoughts are a muscle. Work them, feed them and manage your thoughts through positive repetition. Please feel free to visit John’s website.

Actions of the Day: Count how many times over the next 12 waking hours you find yourself facing negative thoughts that create doubt in yourself. Of those negative thought experiences, how long did they last in average? If you find yourself spending a significant amount of time focused on doubts, fears and feelings of temporary helplessness, then make a commitment to invest time to build your control of thoughts. This could be one of the most constructive decisions you make. Many people find career development to not be meaningful if plagued by negative thinking. One way to do this is have available short inspirational reading/video material whenever negative thoughts set in.

Quote of the Day: “If you don’t see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner.”
— Zig Ziglar: Motivational author and speaker

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To Do Lists….Don’t Forget Your Calendar!!

I have been committed to “To Do Lists” as a productivity tool ever since my busy days in high school.   It was right up there in importance over time with saving my pennies and being nice to a girl before asking her out on a date…  I must admit that this supplemental step has shown much merit.

Technology author Dave Johnson reported on a Harvard Business Review finding on an alternative to traditional “To Do Lists”…it is leveraging more aggressively your calendar tool i.e. Outlook. It is simple but very dramatic if implemented. Here is how it works.

 My top 3  prioritized activities due today:

* Complete work Project Plan
* Call Mom
* Build Financial Plan

Like most of you, I am extremely busy.  I would review this list regularly and update several times daily.  The risk here is that I need to ensure I convert the priorities to results. The how is discovered on a daily basis.  But the missing link here is actually scheduling specific times to complete everything you have prioritized.

Alternative Approach: Schedule the Priorities in Your Calendar (NOW)

* Complete Work Plan
(Slotted between 9:00-10:00 AM…reschedule a less critical meeting to later in the week)
* Call Mom
(Scheduled during lunch..moved lunch 1:1 out by 15 minutes…she’s retired with more flexibility than I have!!)
* Start Developing Personal Financial Plan
(Scheduled for 8:00-9:00 PM…Many people only schedule activities for work..add your personal requirements too!)

Don’t just list your priorities, calendar them in… To the best of your ability, do not schedule over these time slots. If you must,  review your calendar and adjust as needed to slot new times into it.  I have followed this approach and it has improved my productivity in quite a significant way.  If it is not on your calendar, your risk of closure increases dramatically.  You might have already experienced this pitfall of strict reliance on  “To Do” lists.

Action of the Day: Review your top 2 priorities over the next 24 hours. Go to your calendar(whether through a planner, outlook or other scheduling tool) and reserve  specific time slots to work on them. To the best of your ability, do not allow anything to conflict with those time slots or ensure you find alternative times that day when conflicts arise.  If you do not maintain a calendar to organize your time, now is the time to start (you can find free templates on the internet including one from Microsoft).

Quote of the Day:  “Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose”…Thomas Edison

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