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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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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Top Ways to Create Your Own Luck

I wrote earlier about viewing life as an opportunity to create your own luck.   But what approaches should you take?  I’ll let you in on a secret…It starts with the right mindset…it starts with Believing.


Nicole Carter of Inc.com wrote a terrific article on the 6 Steps for making your own luck. She listed out 6 Steps I wanted to share:

Be humble 
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

Roll up your Sleeves
A strong work ethic is the biggest contributor to being lucky.

Be Generous
A pay it forward attitude pays off in spades. And it feels good.

Be Ready

Per Jim Collins, author of  Good to Great, “Thousands of people could have done the same thing that Mr. Gates did,  at the same time. But they didn’t…”    Bill Gates was ready to take action. Are you?

Go with your Gut
Per Steve Jobs at his famous Stanford Graduating Class speech : “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you  can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.   You have to trust in something.”

Simply believe you are Lucky
According to psychologist and University of Hertfordshire Professor Richard Wiseman, “Simply believing you are lucky can create positive outcomes… Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there,  rather than just what they are looking for.”

While very unfortunate things could happen to us or our loved ones in life, sometimes painful experiences, we can still create our own luck and have some wonderful experiences and accomplishments in our life.

Action of the Day
For the rest of today and tomorrow, start a new belief system. You are indeed a very lucky person. If the luck hasn’t materialized yet, know that every challenge or setback is simply putting you one step closer to your ultimate goal.  Visualize yourself ready for the opportunity. You will be amazed at how many times situations arise to move forward on your goals when you are least expecting it. They will almost fall into your lap. Trust your gut. I am an “analyzer”. Sometimes, I need to take that hat off and just embrace what is coming my way and go with my gut feelings without analysis.  I then welcome the new opportunity, roll up my sleeves and give it my all. Luck is sure to follow.

Quote of the Day
“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”       Michael Jordan (world famous professional basketball player

Picture : Credit

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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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People Networking – How to Get Started

At all times of your career, your most valued assets will be your Network.   Networking is a commonly referenced to mean developing and maintaining contacts and personal connections with a variety of people who might be helpful to you and your career. This topic will be an exciting venture of focus.

We will be focusing on this very important career skill and I will share some valuable fundamentals and helpful tools to take you to the next level from where you are. According to a very good blog posted by blog.Jobfully.com on “How to Create a Network”, there is one place to turn to for fundamentally creating your network.

Start Close to Home
You do not need to initiate your efforts by cold calling people who don’t know you or start raking through LinkedIn to find new people to link up with to get to know…That can be both time consuming, inefficient and to say the least, downright intimidating.

I remember a time during my 20s when I was sure that I wanted to focus on the “aging industry” aka supporting those 65+.   I wanted to meet people familiar with the topic.   So I picked the name of the best selling author of a book on Aging during the 1980s and wrote him a letter asking for a chance to meet him and discuss the topic.   If you are familiar with the phrase “Six Degrees of Separation”, I was more like trying to go from ten degrees to one in a single dramatic step. And I was not offering to help him, but rather to get his help(I have learned better since).  Don’t get me wrong, I am all for dramatic steps, but there was high probability of failing on my first attempt. And fail i did….I should have started more methodically to build my network on the “aging” topic  and “started close to home”.

A more effective route to pursue is the following order of priority to find people to meet:

*       Family members
*       Friends
*       Co workers
*       Organizations you belong to (Religious, Interest Groups, Political affiliations)
*       LinkedIn and Facebook Connections

Either you know people linked to the topic you wish to learn more about or they know someone. You have so much to offer others that you might be overlooking….A different perspective…a fresh face who wants to learn something new…you are a potential helper/mentor to others on the topics you know well and understand…..Never sell yourself short….You have so much to give…and it is through this giving that you will ultimately develop a very valuable People Network to help you on your life’s journey.

Action of the Day:   If you haven’t already, establish a personal journal to capture your journey of improvement. It is so valuable to track your progress and issues on a daily basis to learn from your experiences.   Write down the top 5 people you consider to be part of your network.   Jot down what is important to them in their lives and career and what you do on a regular basis to help them make progress towards their goals. If you do not know what is important to them, schedule time and find out. Try to figure out how you can help and start taking steps to do so.  Always start from the point of view of giving….you will feel better as a person and find that mysteriously, you will receive  back 10X more than what you give…Networking is not about taking…it is about giving…

Quote of the Day:  “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.     Zig Ziglar, famous leadership and personal motivation expert.

Picture: © Werg | Dreamstime.com

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5 Ways to Make a Positive Impression

Skills are not always about specific capabilities like putting things together, typing so many words per minute or being able to write software code to solve the most complex Sudoku puzzles.  To succeed in this world(however you define success), you must build relationships through sincere based interactions with people.

Very few people can succeed without collaboration and partnership with others.   Before you can develop these relationships, you need to make a great first impression. This is a soft skill(one we do not take a college course to develop). Soft skills tend to focus on communication and interpersonal skills.

We know they are important. When is the last time you wanted to partner with someone who didn’t leave you with a positive impression. Martin Zwilling, CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.; published a list of 7 things to avoid making a Poor Impression.  I summarized to 5.

* Dress appropriately from the perspective of the person you are trying to impress
  (Dress more conservatively than might be expected…if unsure, wear business attire – always)

* Find a common business link or friend to warm up the connection 
(Key — Research who the person/company you will be connecting with.  Leverage Google,
Facebook, LinkedIn 
…you can be sure the same will be done on you…what do you have
in common?)

* Be prepared to concisely state your key objective
(In communication circles, this is known as your elevator pitch…you have 1 minute to
clearly state what you want
and have questions prepared to continue the dialogue as
appropriate)

* Know a lot, but don’t flaunt it
(Remember, you are building a relationship….clearly do your homework and be prepared
to answer any question..
but don’t be arrogant…they need to not only respect you
but like you!!
)

* Be positive, courteous, on time, and attentive
  
(All those years of mother/father teaching you manners will pay off here…be polite, say
Hello
 and respect the other people’s time….Don’t be late for any reason!!)

Action:  Make a lunch, coffee or even a 15 minute catch up appointment with someone you know.  It can be with someone you meet with frequently or someone who you have not invested much time in the past to meet with. Pretend you haven’t met this person before.  Perform a virtual search on this individual and put together a picture of him/her strictly based on the information available online. What do you have in common?  Memorize the information and prepare some questions.  Create an elevator pitch where you have uncovered a common interest and would like to discuss their knowledge on the topic in more details.  Show up for the appointment 5 minutes earlier than the committed time. Work hard to make a great impression.  Take note of the experience. How did it go?  Were you able to further connect with the individual to establish or enhance a bond?

Quote of the Day: “Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.”
Dalai Lama

Picture : © Corwinsg | Dreamstime.com

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Make A Dream Come True – No College Degree Required

My first year of blogging will touch on various skills to manage not only your career but your life. The fundamental skill to address first is controlling your thoughts and letting your passion/energy outweight the naysayer inside of you. You need to be your biggest FAN.  If you do, nothing can stop you.

Here is an awesome story of two Canadian teenage boys who made the declaration of putting a man into space…ok..a LEGO man…but they did it…and they didn’t accept perceived limitations…lack of education..lack of money….See the article from the Toronto Star.

What can we learn from this?

* It doesn’t matter where you have been, you can make things happen no matter what people tell you

* Lack of education, lack of connections, lack of money are not show stoppers…you can do it!!

* Believe it or not, there are things you are doing today, that are inspiring others..You just don’t know it.

* Building your own self-confidence comes from taking risks and living your passion..one day at a time

* Let yourself feel inspired by others…if they can do it…you can do it.

Action: Pretend you are a teenager, if you are not so today.  Everything is possible and you ignore people who tell you otherwise. What two things would you do that would be inspiring and lift your spirits? Can you find a way to make it happen? If you can, you will feel higher than the Lego Man in Space!!!

Quote of the Day:   “Dream as if you will live forever, live as if you will die today”….James Dean

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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

Picture from © Chrisdorney | Dreamstime.com

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Career Path vs. Hobby

Can you make something you really enjoy doing as a HOBBY your CAREER PATH?

Let’s take photography. That can be fun. Who hasn’t experienced capturing the worlds best photo and feeling really good about it.

Photo by Graur Razvan Ionut.

Hey, wouldn’t it be great if someone paid me to do what I like to do? But converting a hobby into a money making venture can be a potential rude awakening.  Do you have the knowledge and capabilities today to begin the transition from your current career path?

An interesting article in STARTUP NATION addresses topics for converting your hobby into a business. http://www.startupnation.com/business-articles/1180/1/AT_Turning-Hobby-Into-Business.asp.   Key concepts:

1) Focus on the Prize.   Keep your focus and patience. The prize of doing what you love and generating an income over the long term must be high enough to develop and implement a plan over time.

2) Validate your Hobby can be a viable Business. Just because you can bake eggplant in 35 delicious and unique ways, does not mean there are enough people interested in your product and service.  Investigate. Use Google Search, Ebay, Craigslist. Do you see any competition? No competition, means you will have a nice long road ahead to create a market for your hobby.

3) Evaluate Yourself Realistically. Are you skilled enough at this hobby that other people actually will pay you for your service or knowledge, or do you just enjoy the heck out of it? Do you have the commitment and disciple to fully pursue this venture when it starts to feel like a job instead of fun?

4) Is there enough Revenue potential?  Similar to #2, but we are expanding from general interest in the marketplace to specifically defining the areas of Revenue you can realistically obtain? Going back to the Eggplant recipe example, you may live in a community who is in love with eggplant, but there is a natural limit to how many customers will buy your recipes or packaged meals.

5) Figure out how to stand out…..It is not enough to be as good as the competition, you need something extra. What is that something extra that will cause customers to move their business to you?

Action: Make a list of your hobbies and select the top 3 you enjoy the most.  Check out the competition on the internet. Do you see any? As you evaluate, don’t stop your day job or pursuit of jobs to keep your finances afloat.

Quote of the Day:  “Instead of giving myself reasons why I can’t,  I give myself reasons why I can.”      Author Unknown

The web address for graur razvan ionut’s portfolio is: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=987

Introducing – Upgrade Your Career – The Blog

Picture by Idea Go

Greetings everyone and welcome. With an eye on exploring ways to address your career concerns and issues, this new blog that will start to focus on various topics for those interested to “Upgrade Your Career”. This could mean one of the following to you:

1) You want to do something different and/or better than where you are today

2) You are not working and looking for a job to support yourself

3) You are questioning your life’s direction deeply and fundamentally

2) You enjoy what you are doing today but want to earn more $

3) You enjoy the area of your current career and earn enough money to meet your needs, but you want to explore different aspects of your current career focus

4) You enjoy what you are doing, but your significant other, parents,or dog hates it. What else is out there?

What’s the angle? The angle is practicality, with a focus on expediency. It combines guidance for action while building your “can do” thoughts and beliefs. Making changes in lives is work.  But, we can have fun and enjoy the ride. Consider this to be the start of our journey together.

Don’t ever lose faith in yourself. You are not only enough, but someone special with gifts waiting to be explored and appreciated and compensated. We all can make a clean start and make improvements in our career and in our lives. Starting today. The how will be explored. The “why” starts in the mirror.