Where do novel ideas come from? From deep study and reflection on the examples we already have or from wide and ranging discovery of paths not connected to the way we understand the present? Convergent or divergent?
I can get stuck in one or the other easily but have recognized that the most original and novel ideas come from doing both multiple times. In a world that is looking for predictability, because that is what we know and where we feel safe, the impetus is to land on one solution too quickly. The choice might seem logical and maybe even clever because it aligns with something we can relate to a previous experience. “A is like b and B worked when we did C’. Some decisions we make can survive and thrive in opting for predictability. If we are looking to get more of the same for the next year it works to use charts and tables and forecasts. If I want to lose 5 more pounds and it took burning 17500 more calories than I took in over 10 days to lose the last 5 pounds, I could predict a similar pattern for the next 10 day 5 pound plan.
But, the world we are living in is changing; changing faster than we can imagine or believe is possible. Fortune 500 companies use to spend an average of 65 years at the top of their game, now the might make 7. The things I take for granted in communication; Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, Smartphones, didn’t exist 5 or 6 years ago. When I was in high school I took computer programming and needed to take my punch cards to the university to run on a computer that filled a large room. Now my cell phone has 100 times the power. In 5 years it will compute at the speed of the human brain and by 2050 it will have the power of all of humanity. Electric cars, hover boards, MOOCs, Pokemon GO … The world is changing fast. I can’t use prediction to forecast accurately what action I need to take today to be on track 2 months from now. Adaptability and flexibility will become the most important skills for the next generation or at least for the next while. The ability and comfort to thrive in ambiguity will be the difference between making a difference and being forgotten.
So I arrive at the conclusion that we need to do many things, most things, maybe everything differently. To get there we need to break out of the prison of bias and mediocrity. We need a plan to knock down the bars and make a great escape. This will take some diligence. Think like you are making a break from Alcatraz or Smokey Mountain Penitentiary. Nobody succeeded because they were all trying the same thing. How widely and wildly can you think about the problem? Can you imagine enough possibilities that you list a dozen crazy ideas? And then how do you decide on which ones make the first cut? second? Final?
Over the next couple of posts I am going to think about divergence and convergence then for a couple of posts work through convergence back to divergence and arrive at an original idea.
Make Today Remarkable, by thinking crazy thoughts,
The mire and muck of mediocrity and misery has depressive and draining side effects. One of the consequences of being stuck in the mud too long is that you become less useful than yesterday and eventually useless. Your lack of motivation is smothered by the ache of all the yesterdays and you become rooted in place. In a world that is on a path of skyrocketing change, you are left behind in weeks and knowing that it adds to the lethargy. The only way out is to become useful again.
Utility is incremental. It begins with 3 steps in succession. Take 3 small steps towards usefulness – 1 Do one thing better than you have done it before (or at least better than the past month) 2) Do something outside the bare necessities – if you need to wipe down 10 tables, do it and wipe 10 chairs as well 3) Have a small celebration (to yourself) that you did better and did more.
Rinse and repeat tomorrow. After a week the muck will loosen around your knees and the stranglehold of misery will begin to release you.
As always, utility isn’t a single act that will change everything – keep breathing, appreciating, practicing self care and being kind as well as the other 13 steps we have taken this month.
Tomorrow – Happiness
My comfort zone can be a trap. Like a big sagging hammock, it can pull me down and lull me into a satisfied stupor. When I recognize the problem I can usually drag myself out by doing something outside the zone. Jumping on a trampoline, walking in the rain, reading an author who I don’t really appreciate … A couple hours of uncomfortableness reminds me that the status quo and stability lull me towards mediocrity. In order to be near my best I need tension in my thoughts, my actions, my intentions and my expectations.
Taking someone or something for granted or being taken for granted is disrespectful and destructive. Add some spice. color, absurdity to add friction and see if any of the sparks light a new approach.
Simply walking in the rain can make you taller, sharper, handsomer, quicker …
As I near the end of month one in my commitment to write and post every day, I wonder what the content is really about; really intended to do. Am I so vain as to believe that every phrase uttered by my mouth or pecked by my fingers is worthy of the ears of dedicated or disinterested readers? Is it all just to feed my ego that needs stroking, imagined or real? Am I just an eccentric old man? Yes,yes and yes.
But mostly I hope it is received as a provocation, a call to something different. I worry that we live in a world mired to our knees in mediocrity, settling for second/fifteenth best. If I don’t expect and demand more of myself, I feed the bland beige blur. Today I am considering how the platform of this blog and fadedrecollections.com could help reach the goals that all the posts this month pointed to. I haven’t discovered and answer but the struggle is better than complacency, isn’t it?
Seth Godin’s ” What to do When it’s Your Turn” and his longstanding practice of shipping daily set me on this journey. Maybe a reread is in order.
My request today is that if you have something to say, add it here and let me and other readers what is rumbling around your life.
Resist the Convenience.
What are you deeply devoted to completing today? On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being completely committed, where are you? If you aren’t at 10 what will it take to get to 10?
Is there something that you have been putting off, procrastinating about, but needs your utmost attention?
We all make lists (at least I imagine everyone else does too) and then cherry pick the easy stuff and transfer the frogs to tomorrow’s list. Take a look at your list for today (or make a list) and rank your commitment 1-10 for each item. Now tackle the biggest challenge first. Whatever you need to do to make this assignment your priority; remove obstacles, write the first line, run the first 500 meters, pick up supplies or whatever excuse you are using should be bitten off.
One of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s most famous quotes ends ” Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now” While inspirational it isn’t all that helpful.
I think the beginning of the passage “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” makes sense of the begin it now challenge.
That is why your commitment needs to be 10/10, so hesitancy doesn’t wrap its warm blanket around your shoulders. It isn’t quite as simple as saying you are completely (10/10) committed but almost. Accountability and practice will improve execution to 100% over a very short time. Holding yourself accountable -good or having someone hold you to account – better will make your statement a self fulfilling prophecy. Not stating your firm deeply held conviction can fulfill a different and dangerous self perpetuating prophecy.
Make Today Remarkable by committing completely.
I am heading into a couple of days of strategic positioning and exploration. I am always excited by the prospects and like many people a bit apprehensive about the unknown.
Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse. ~Winston Churchill
Ambiguity fits with my style and I am comfortable stepping forward when the path isn’t clear but those around me might need more certainty.
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. ~Steve Job
The cusp of greatness is upon us but large institutions and individuals are resistant. How do we get our feet moving? The first small step is just a first small step, but the second and third and … are what propels movement. I commit to taking five steps and seeing if that unsticks us.
Mindless habitual behavior is the enemy of innovation. ~ Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Sometimes it feels like my world is spinning out of control. Busyness captures me and I resort to tried and true rituals rather than exploring remarkable opportunities. In this place, in this time, with these people we should expect miracles but often seemed mired in mediocrity quicksand. Multitasking my way to bounded rationality where “I have too much to do” has been my refrain and excuse for not shipping my very best. My best intentions don’t seem to produce my best work. Only when I focus and deepen my efforts do I see the quality and results I am known to achieve.
Practice makes perfect – not likely. Poor practice delivers poor results.
My battle with mediocrity is the same one I have with procrastination. My important priorities don’t receive attention because I can always create something urgent (often more fun or easier) that looks important. The gravity pulls me to do something else, almost anything else – the laundry, checking Facebook, … When I set priorities for each day (I started with 3) and don’t just tick boxes but rather complete them deeply, fully and to the best of my ability, I celebrate.
Mark Twain said ‘Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.’ I try get the most difficult task done first and when I succeed the Twain adage is true. I can feel myself pulling away from mediocrity towards miraculous. I feel better, lighter, readier. I am strengthened by the effort. After years of practice, this hasn’t become habitual and I need to remain vigilant or mediocrity invites me back.
Remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen themselves and others. When I am mired in the quicksand, up to my knees in averageness, I am not strong. Today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow I am committed to being strengthened and breaking away from the pull. How about you, what miracle could you create in three days?
Make Today, Tomorrow and the Next Remarkable,
Edit – just received notice that the master of productivity David Allen is hosting GTD Fundamentals next month for those who are serious about getting out of the quicksand.