Friday, July 31, 2015

Know When To Hold 'Em: How to Find Your Winning Ideas

I remember the lightning bolt striking me. Morning had not yet dawned as I laid, jet-lagged and wide awake in an unknown bedroom in Sofia, Bulgaria. My body said sleep, while my brain said wake up. Suddenly, the idea to end all ideas came charging through my brain. Neural pathways lit up as the idea clearly unfolded and presented itself. This idea was so striking, I jumped out of bed, fumbling through the dark room to find my tiny travel journal and start writing. I wrote as fast as I could, words spilling diagonally across the page as I attempted to keep up with the cavalcade of ideas simultaneously spilling out of my brain. Minutes later, satisfied that I had captured as much as I could, I put the pen down and fell into a deep sleep. Hours later, I laughed at the sideways scribbles. I also smiled. They were still gold.

For the next two years, I worked to bring this idea to life. This was, I believed, the perfect idea; the one that would bring me artistic and financial success as well as personal fulfillment. I set deadlines and met every one of them. I did every task necessary - I researched, composed, arranged, wrote dialogue, hired a marketing pro, edited, discussed with trusted colleagues and even trudged through a snowstorm to meet with a potential investor.

And then I stopped. No matter what I tried, I could not get going. I thought I needed a break. So I put the project aside for a month. I started up again, ready to present my great big artistic idea to the world. And then I stopped again.

This pattern continued for 6 months, which felt like an eternity. I was really frustrated with myself. Here was this great idea, ready to go and I could not move. What in the world was wrong with me?

Then, months later, sitting on my favorite beach, another lightning bolt struck me. This one showed me why I wasn't moving. I couldn't move. This project, as fantastic as it was, was not the right idea for me. I had the wrong set of skills to truly make it succeed. That's why I was stuck. This was a great idea. But it was a great idea for someone else.

Was this a waste of time? Heck no. During those two years, I improved skills and gained a tremendous amount of confidence. I also became much better at recognizing which of the many ideas that float through my brain are worth keeping. Would I do it again? Probably. Can I save you two years of your life? Let's try.

Here's what I learned:
  • Have a physical home for your ideas. A computer file, a journal or an audio file on your device. When you have an idea, stick it in there. Write or say everything; don't edit. Put it all down. This makes the idea real. It also frees up your brain so you can use the free space to continue developing the idea.
  • Leave it alone. Once you've recorded as much of the idea as you can, step back. Don't think about it and don't discuss it. Not yet.
  • Sleep on it. If it is back first thing in the morning, and I mean first thing, like right after putting your feet on the floor, it's definitely worth pursuing. If it comes in the first two hours, I still honor it. If it doesn't come back before lunch, I let it go.
  • Does this idea excite and scare you at the same time? Can you not stop thinking about it? That's probably a good one.
  • Okay, you've recorded the idea somewhere. You've left it alone. You've slept on it. You're still excited about it. Time to develop a plan of attack. Write down 10 steps that you need to take to bring this idea to life.
  • Set a deadline. Be reasonable. Put the date in your calendar.
  • Now discuss the idea, but with no more than two people – one you trust and one who has experience in the field in which the idea is centered. Listen to them.
  • You don't have to act on every good idea immediately. That's why recording ideas somewhere is so helpful. If it comes up again, you can refer to the idea as you've already developed it.
Using these guidelines, I've developed a much better filter for recognizing winning ideas that I enjoy having in my life. I'm also become much better at seeing ideas reach their full potential, and that, Creataviters, feels really good.

UPDATE: I'm so close to my goal of adding 20 new readers to my Creatavita email list.  If you've already signed, thank you!!!!  If you haven't, please sign up! You will make me very happy if you do this simple act.  Besides, you'll be receiving the benefits of Creatavita right in your inbox.

If you're on a computer, the signup form is at the top of the right hand column.  If you're on a device, you have to scroll to the bottom of this post and click on view web version.  A tiny hassle that has the potential to bring you the creative fulfillment you've been seeking.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Little Help From My Friends

Okay, so it is once again time for me to do something that still makes me feel uncomfortable.  Ask for assistance.  Some lessons require much practice.

We've been meeting here at Creatavita for 3 years, 1 month and 2 days.  I enjoy this even more than I thought I would.  Your response has inspired me to continue to collect my thoughts, ideas and experiences here so that they can inspire you.  

With each post, readership steadily grows.  But I'd like it to grow even more steadily. And that's where you come in.

Would you please sign up to have new posts delivered to your inbox?  You should see the sign up widget at the top of the right-hand column.

One of my little friends

My goal for 2015 is to have 20 more people sign up.  That might seem like a small number, but one of the things I have learned is to have attainable goals and to then build on that success. (And that's an example of what you read here, right?)  I know that some of you have already signed up and are receiving these posts via your inbox.  Thank you!!!  If that's the case, I'd be eternally grateful (okay, maybe until next year) if you would pass this invitation on to others.  Going over 20 new subscribers would really make my day!

I know that many of you read Creatavita via Facebook, Twitter or Google+, and of course it will still appear on those social media platforms.  But in private conversations, I have become increasingly aware that not every post gets seen by every social media viewer.  Having it come to your inbox assures that you'll see every post.

So help me achieve one of my goals.  Sign up today.  Besides, there might be an idea out here that will change your life.  You never know!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Children Will Listen

Parenting has been on my mind lately.  I'm sure this is because we are all blissfully enjoying life before the Teen heads to college next month.  Yesterday, I found myself getting weepy in Costco when I realized I would no longer have to buy gallons of orange juice. It is also because of the eighteen, yes EIGHTEEN, out-of-town family members we hosted during June. Then there's the recent baby explosion. No the babies didn't explode. At least four close friends have welcomed babies into this world in the past few months and at least two more are on the way.

Some qualifiers before we go further:
I never intended to be a parent. 
I had one kid.
I'm amazed at what I learned.

What Worked For Me
Stay mindful of the grand task - The grand task is to guide another soul as they find their way into and through this marvelous, mucky world of ours.  You want them to grow, you want them to develop, and you want them to leave.  Yes, you do.  Remind yourself frequently of this task.
Let them fall, let them fail.  The earlier, the better. - Don't scream and gasp at every fall or tumble, whether physical, spiritual or mental. This tells even the strongest of young humans that falls are to be feared.  They aren't.  
Falling is a part of life.  Be there to confidently pick them up.  Pretty soon, they'll figure out how to do it on their own.  Which means you will have taught them how to be resilient. They'll come to embrace falling as a part of life.  So will you.  

Concerned that they'll seriously hurt themselves?  You will know when the fall is serious. It's embedded deep in your DNA.  Trust yourself.
Be with your kid - Get down on their level.  Look at the world from their perspective.  Shut off the device and look into their eyes.
Children Will Listen is a remarkable guide - "How do you say to your child in the night, nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white?"  These are the first words in Stephen Sondheim's timeless song Children Will Listen: 

Here's the text. Worth the click.
For those of you on your mobile devices, this link should get you to the video
Start the college account.  Yesterday – This one sounds practical, doesn't it? You're correct, it is very practical. But if you hit your kid's high school graduation and you don't have enough money for college, it will feel incredibly emotional. Don't do that to yourself, your partner and your kid. Start the account. $5, $10, $20 every month will make a difference. Tell the relatives to contribute to the account instead of purchasing another cute outfit.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am that Beloved and I took this approach. As we stare at those first-year numbers, I feel both relieved and joyful.  Relieved that there are enough funds to begin this part of the parenting adventure without extra worry. Joyful that we are able to provide for the Teen without extra pressure.  Join us.  You'll be glad you did.
Tell them the truth - You're tired.  You're sad.  You don't know what to do.  Tell them.  They know anyway.  They know before you do.  As soon as you lie, you start them down the path of emotional confusion.  This does not give you permission to become an emotional mess, blubbering away about all of your woes.  But do express emotions in as healthy a way as you possibly can.  If you can't, learn how.

You know I aspire to being as positive as possible, but there is an ugly truth out there that doesn't get spoken out loud enough. Here goes....
How Kids Mess Up Your Perfect Partnership
Having a child will be a huge stress on your relationship - Here's just one article about what having children does to a couple's relationship.  Yes, I know it is from 2009, but it's a good one and I'm quite certain we haven't solved this problem in the last six years:

Perhaps your experience will be an outlier.  I sure hope so.  But I will still counsel you to be prepared to encounter aspects of your partner that you never dreamed were possible once you add children into the mix. 
Be clear about why you are having a child - Hoping to repair a broken relationship is not a good reason.  Satisfying grandparents is also not a good reason.  Hoping to distract yourself from your personal situation is a terrible reason.
Parents need to be on the same page on the big issues – The little things don't matter. So your partner didn't put the Cheerios away. Hey, at least the kids got breakfast.
But, if that Cheerios box is masking a bigger issue, then you've got to start the conversation. Or continue the conversation. The one about the things that really matter, the ideas that make a life. These conversations go on and on; while that can be frustrating when you don't agree completely with your partner, compromising, listening and patience are all practiced. Tell your kids about that.
Beloved and I talk constantly about the big issues. Issues like respect, passion, resilience, compassion, honesty, commitment. Have we seen it in our kid lately? Did we have an opportunity to discuss or show one of these traits? Have we changed our minds?
The Cheerios can stay on the counter forever as long as you both agree on those big issues. And, if the Cheerios are bugging you, check in with yourself. If that's you being fussy, let it go. If it is the tip of the iceberg, it's time for that conversation.

As you can imagine, I have more thoughts on this subject.  If you're interested in more, please comment here on the blog.  Comment even if you're not interested!