Why you are less creative today, and what to do about it tomorrow.

The Torrance Test is like the IQ test, but for creativity. New research on the Torrance creativity scores by researchers at the University of William and Mary show that U.S. Torrance creativity scores have been dropping steadily since the ‘90s. (The decade not the age.)

One of the main reasons for our decrease in creativity is that we are no longer doing one of the most important things you need to do to think creatively. It is not creating Shrinky Dinks, wearing acid wash jeans, or rocking a mullet.

We no longer simply sit and think.

We don’t allow ourselves to be quiet and un-entertained. Today, we have cured ourselves of boring moments with our arsenal of digital devices, televisions, and computers. As long as you have electrical power you have something to do to fill your empty time.

But the ubiquitous digitization of our planet has a devastating effect on our creativity. It is like the burning of the South American rainforests. Or the melting of the polar ice caps. Except what we are losing isn’t trees or ice. It is our creative thinking and innovation.

So how do we solve this?

We need to be bored.

We need to stop entertaining ourselves at all times.

We need to turn our digitals off regularly.

We need to lie quietly in bed at the start and end of the day.

We need to turn our idea generators on and let them run uninterrupted for long stretches.

We need to reprogram ourselves to use these incredible digital machines as tools for creativity rather than time killers, entertainment crutches, and boredom erasers.

Creativity Tip: While you are waiting you should be creating.

Employers need to adjust expectations too. If you expect your employees to respond to emails, calls, texts and slacks quickly, you are programming them to check their digitals often. And that leads to the type of check-in habit that eliminates room to think. Instead, we should slow down our response expectations. And put a premium on regular stretches of total focus on creation, problem-solving, and strategic thinking.

Key Takeaway

The longer you spend thinking the closer you get to great ideas. Make sure you spend the time you need to get all the way there. Long, uninterrupted stretches of thinking are where the gold is. So go there. Get yours. You’ll find your quiet time pays off in many valuable ways.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

You have the ability to create your own comeback stories.

I am a Milwaukee Bucks fan. This week the Bucks won the NBA championship for the first time since 1971. I wasn’t even alive the last time the Bucks won the NBA title. In fact, during the Bucks’ championship drought bellbottoms went in and out of style 3 times.

The 2021 title did not come easy. There were several times when a championship this season seemed out of the question. Like in the second round of the playoffs when the Bucks were down 2 games to 0 versus the Brooklyn Nets. (Not to be confused with the Moscow Nyets.) In the second game of that series, Milwaukee lost 125-86. In case you don’t know sports, that’s really bad.

Then, in game 7 of that series, it looked like the Bucks had been eliminated when the Nets’ Kevin Durant hit a last-second 3-pointer to seal the win. But it turned out the toe of his size 18 shoe was on the 3-point line, making the shot a 2-pointer, and sending the game to overtime, and a Bucks win.

In game 5 Against the Atlanta Hawks, the Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo went down with a nasty knee injury that looked as if it was sure to end his season, his ability to walk right, and the team’s championship hopes.

Then the Bucks opened the NBA Finals in Phoenix against the Suns. Despite the fact the Giannis miraculously was back and played great, the Bucks got rolled in back-to-back games. Things didn’t look good when the team was down 2 games to none.

But the Bucks never gave up. They never waved the white flag. They stole Phoenix’s schtick and kept rising to the occasion.

They won game 7 in overtime against the Nets.

They rallied after it looked like they lost their best player against the Hawks and won the final 2 games without him.

Then, when they came back to Milwaukee down 2-0 against the Suns in the finals, the crowd cheered the now famous ‘Bucks In Six! Bucks In Six! Bucks In Six!’ Which meant the team would win the next 4 games in a row. And that is exactly what happened.

Key Takeaway

  • Just because you are losing doesn’t mean you have lost.
  • It isn’t over until it is over.
  • Bad breaks don’t mean a bad outcome.
  • What has happened doesn’t indicate what will happen.
  • Humans can cause their own momentum shifts.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

How I create each day for maximum success.

We all have daily drivers. They are the influencing forces that determine how we spend our time each day. They can be internal or external. Productive or not. (And if we are getting technical, the drivers could also be Donald, Minnie or a 1-wood.)

Your drivers, whatever they are, become your operating system, your scheduler and the determining factor of how you budget your most valuable resource — your time.

What drives your day?

  • A to-do list.
  • Your email inbox.
  • People who call and stop by to talk.
  • Phone notifications.
  • Your success list.
  • Addiction to cat videos and bargain yarn sites 
  • Requests of family and coworkers.
  • There is no driver. Days are just giant improvisations.

To create each day for maximum success, my morning routine involves getting on top of my day before my day gets on top of me. To do this I start with a daily success list.

My Daily Success List

  1. At the top of the page I write the major areas of my life (like my business The Weaponry, my health, my family, my writing etc.) and the related initiatives I am prioritizing. 
  2. Then I write a few motivating cues and phrases about making things happen at the top of the page. Like:
    1. ‘Move all trains forward’
    2. ‘Focus!’
    3. ‘Things do not happen. They are made to happen.’
    4. ‘Get sh!t done!’
    5. ‘More & Better!’
    6. Or dollar values related to goals. (Like Dr. Evil’s $100 BILLION Dollars….)
  3. I list my prioritized actions for the day.
  4. I find time for each of the actions on my calendar.
  5. Then I start attacking the list.   

(Note: WordPress served up a number-on-number outline above, versus numbers-to-letters-to-Roman numerals, which would be clearer. I would try harder to fix it, but I have other things to do today if I want today to be a success.) 

Key Takeaway

Know your goals and long-term priorities and let them drive your days. Start your morning thinking about them. Script action items that help you make progress towards them each day. Find time in your schedule for those actions to make sure you have time to get them done. And protect that time. It is the only way to assure you will make progress each day.

*If you know someone who would benefit from this idea, please share it with them.

It’s time for you to enjoy quality time with others again.

One of my favorite things to do is spend time with other humans. I am naturally curious, like George. I love hearing other people’s stories, experiences and perspectives. While I always regret wasting time consuming nutrition-less digital nonsense, live, human interactions almost never disappoint. (Except when I interact with Debbie Downer, Andy Angry or Michael Myers.)

Covid-19 and the cancelation of up-close and personal interactions was super odd. But I adapted. I really enjoyed my focused time with my wife and 3 kids. But the experience dragged on so long that I almost forgot what I was missing with other non-nuclear family interactions. Until recently.

I was pfully vaccinated in early May, and I am now a Pfizer pfan pfor life. With so many others in my circles now vaccinated, life feels more and more normal (or moremal) all the time.

But over the past few weeks things have grown insanely normal. I have enjoyed in-person meetings with clients, in-person chocolate milk meetings, (because I don’t drink coffee), breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I have invited people to drop by my office. And I am visiting people in their offices, homes, and vans down by the river.

Art and Laurie Mazor, my former next door neighbors in Atlanta, are great people who I have had a great mask-less time with recently.

It all feels like a social springtime. Conversations are blooming. Interesting topics are popping up. New collaborations are unfurling. But it’s nothing to sneeze at. Because when humans come together they create the future through ideas, visions, collective action, motivation and inspiration.

Key Takeaway

Get vaccinated. And get back together. The best part of life is our togetherness. Inspire and encourage others to do great, fun, interesting, meaningful and important activities together. Help each other. Share talents, connections and energy. Grow personally and professionally through positive shared in-person experiences. They are available to you again. Take advantage of it. Because great relationships are your secret advantage in life.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

To achieve great things don’t let preparing turn into procrastinating.

We all have big things we want to do. Goals, dreams, and aspirations are easy to find. Just ask any waiter in Hollywood. What is harder to find is goals met, dreams realized and aspirations achieved.

You can spend a lot of time thinking about the great things you want to do. You can talk about your plans. You can write them down and sketch them out. You can listen to podcasts and read newsletters and books. You can go to seminars, workshops, and meet-ups. And all of those things will feel like progress

But Oklahoma sooner than later, planning and preparing simply turn into procrastination. Because there are only ever 3 things that matter in the achievement process.

The 3-Step Achievement Process

  1. Where you are now.
  2. Where you want to finish.
  3. What you need to do next.

You already know where you are. (You do know where you are, right?) So once you know where you want to finish you have to quickly move your focus to what you need to next. That is the entire planning process.

The rest is doing.

  • If you want to start your own business, you should be working on your product or service, or finding customers.
  • If you want to write a book, movie, or play, sit down and start writing. (Unless you have a standing desk.)
  • If you want to become an investor in real estate or business, freaking buy something.
  • If you want to be an entertainer, start entertaining people.
  • If you want to travel the world, go somewhere you haven’t been.
  • If you want to be a nude model, lose the turtleneck sweater.

Key Takeaway

The difference between dreamers and doers is action. Once you know what you want to accomplish find the next step forward and take it. Once you start moving the next step always reveals itself. Gobble up those next actions like Pac-Man eats dots. Then keep going until you have cleared the board and you are ready for the next level. That’s what achievers do. And you will achieve by taking action.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Why you should embrace your tipped canoes.

In early June of 2020, following a week of heavy rains, my family of 5 went on a paddling adventure on a swollen creek in Wisconsin. Notice I said creek, not river. A creek is a narrower body of water. Rain and high water create dramatic changes on a creek. If this were a podcast the ominous music would begin right about now…

This particular creek was littered with fallen trees. The tangled trees were like traps set to snare kayaks and canoes. Paired with swift water, the trees created very dangerous conditions for paddlers. (Cue the dueling banjoes…)

After several close calls, my family flotilla of 4 boats (3 kayaks and a canoe) came upon the most dangerous section of the river. The bend in the creek and the trees it collected forced us to navigate a narrow Z-shaped course in the river. (Which is Z most difficult to navigate.)

The last of the boats in our convoy got swept into the trees at the top of the Z. I quickly tried to turn my canoe around and paddle back upstream against the current to help.

In our attempt to help free the trapped boat, my 10-year-old son Magnus and I got swept into another tree. The rushing water soon broke over the top of the upstream edge of the sideways canoe. The force of the water tipped the canoe. (And Tyler too.) The boat instantly filled with water and sank below the surface of the rushing water.

Magnus and I were tossed into the current. Thankfully, we both held onto the canoe and quickly freed ourselves from the trees by swimming under the branches which dangled to the surface of the water.

We swiftly corralled all of our belongings and swam downstream with our submerged canoe until we found a creek bank where we could unload the soaked contents of our canoe, and flip the 17-foot vessel again to purge the water.

After a few minutes of rest, we reloaded the canoe and climbed back into our seats in the bow and stern of the canoe. We pushed off from the creek bank, caught the current, and resumed our travels downstream in the canoe.

The experience provided a few important lessons:

  1. It was a reminder that things can go wrong at any time.
  2. It is how you respond when things go sideways that matters most.
  3. Teamwork matters most when the stakes are highest.
  4. If you keep your head things will be okay.
  5. A little planning ahead, like packing your smartphone in your dry bag, makes you feel smart and well prepared when you open the dry bag to find your dry phone.

Now Magnus and I have a fun story to share and a stronger bond thanks to going through the experience together. We have seen how the other person stepped up in a crisis. Knowing that we can trust each other in difficult situations has brought us closer together. Which is the long-lasting reward for going through challenges with others.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to take risks. We learn more about ourselves and others in hard times than in good. Adversity is when character is revealed. And when relationships become strongest. The best memories and greatest stories are created when things don’t go according to plan. Embrace the challenges and mishaps that come your way. They will teach you how much you are capable of.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Do people seek you out for your skills and abilities?

At the beginning of your career, you practically have to beg for an opportunity to show what you can do. Because you have no experience, no contacts, and no juice. No one looks for a specialist with no experience. A person with no experience and no skills is the easiest thing to find. Which is why no one would watch a show called America’s Got No Talent.

When I first began my career I asked for informational interviews, because there were no job openings for advertising copywriters with no experience. But as I developed my skills and gained knowledge and experience everything changed. I became an increasingly valuable resource to my employers, coworkers, and clients. Suddenly, my time and my attention were in serious demand.

Eventually, my clients encouraged me to start my own business. So I opened the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Today, clients, employees, interns, and partners seek us out. Because we add real value to all of those groups.

As you grow and develop, ask yourself if you are becoming sought after. (The FBI’s Most Wanted posters don’t count. But a ‘Yes’ to any of the following questions does.)

Questions To Ask Yourself.

  • Do people seek you out?
  • Is your time in demand?
  • Do people want to get your phone number, email, or social contact info? (Even if it is because you are a hottie with a karate body.)
  • Are people trying to hire you?
  • Are you approached about consulting or coaching?
  • Do you get requests to pick your brain? (I wrote about my dislike for brain-picking here.)
  • Does the media ask your perspective?
  • Are people willing to pay a premium to work with you?
  • Do you have a non-ironic fan club that you didn’t start yourself?

Who is Seeking You Out?

If you are being sought after, ask yourself the next critical question: Who is seeking you out? Do people seek you out who have no other options? Or are they people with means and resources? The more options the people who seek you out have, the more it says about you, your value, and your skills.

Key Takeaway

Commit to a career of continuous self-improvement. Develop your skills until people come looking for you. Then keep developing your skills until everyone is looking for you. That is the surest sign that you have developed rare and valuable skills. Which gives you maximum control over your career.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

To live your best life declare your own independence today.

On July 4th, 1776, the original Founders of the startup called The United States of America declared the organization’s independence. They opened for business and tourism and began working and fighting to maintain that independence.

In the movie in my head, by the 5th of July Americans began living into the dream. Bakeries were cranking out red, white, and blue cupcakes with sprinkles (both vegan and regulargan). Beaches were full of red white and blue board shorts and bikinis. And a small group of our forefathers, that included Lee Greenwood, Don McLean, and Joey Chestnut invented baseball.

Stuff the Founding Fathers put on their Rider when they went on tour.

Declare Your Independence

Today, 245 years later, make sure to declare your own independence.

  • Make sure to think for yourself.
  • Act for yourself.
  • Vote for yourself.
  • Work for yourself.
  • Advocate for yourself.
  • Educate yourself.
  • Speak for yourself.
  • Own your own happiness.
  • Fulfill your own dreams.
  • Take care of your own finances
  • Drive your own career.
  • Find your own tribe.
  • Embrace your own interests.
  • Take care of your own health.
  • Write your own story.
  • Scratch your own itch.
  • Cut your own hair.
  • Save for your own retirement.
  • Change things you know are wrong.
  • Make your own moonshine sunshine.
  • Take full responsibility for your own actions.

Key Takeaway

Independence means that you depend on yourself. It means that you take responsibility for your own happiness and success. Write the script for your own story. Then play director, producer and leading actor every day. Take control of your own life and the final results. It is the most American thing you can do. And it’s the best way to live your best life. Happy Independence Day. God bless America.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Start with a script to make sure you stay on the rails.

A surprising number of humans have a major fear of public speaking. Or maybe it’s just surprising if you are not one of them. I have no issue giving a speech, presentation or eulogy. Although I do limit eulogies to one per person.

I once had a supervisor ask me if I ever got nervous about public speaking. I replied, ‘I get nervous that they’ll cut me off.’ But a major reason I feel comfortable speaking in front of others is that I prepare.

When I address an audience I often begin in a way that feels very informal. Usually there is some kind of ice breaker or introductory humor. But what appears to be a casual start to my talks is designed.

I learned many years ago that my energy and my eagerness to talk about anything can work against me if I am not careful. I can start a presentation or speech hard and fast with loads of enthusiasm. But that can approach can feel like bull riding, with lots of surprising jumps and turns, but not much forwards progress.

To control the story flow, and make sure I hit the key points I need to hit upfront, I use a special technique: I always script my opening.

Even if I am only given a brief moment to prepare to speak I use all the time I have to craft my opening. I know the first word, sentence, and paragraph, cold. (Which means I have it memorized, not the my knowledge is temperature-dependent.)

I have found that if the first 60 seconds of my talks are predetermined, everything goes well. I spend time learning and perfecting that opening. And by delivering that well, I know I am staying on track. Then, like a freight train, I find my rhythm and follow the track all the way to the destination.

Key Takeaway

Whenever you speak in public script your opening. By organizing your introductory words and ideas you will point your speech, presentation, or toast in the intended direction. When the beginning goes well, it is easy to relax, enjoy and pick up momentum as you roll. Preparation is the best way to minimize your fear or anxiety. And it’s the best way to do your best every time you talk.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Remember, this is your life.

Newsflash! Your life is flying by you!

Your days are ticking off far faster than you realize. And if you are like most people you are not taking enough time to enjoy your success, accomplishment, and self-actualization. You are not enjoying the special people and special moments as much as you should. The worst part is that most people don’t realize this until the final credits roll on their lives.

My Wedding Day

During the 5 months that my wife Dawn and I were engaged, I talked to a lot of married couples about their wedding day experience. Time after time I heard that the day flew past in a blur. I heard from friends and relatives that they didn’t really remember much from the day because it was a sensory overload experience.

Not wanting that to happen to us, Dawn and I went into our wedding day with a plan. Throughout the day, we would stop regularly for a minute or 2, hold hands, and just look around. Like the Schuyler Sisters in Hamilton. 

We would quietly drink in the moment together. We wanted to remember who was there, and what the people and place looked like. We wanted to see the details that blur in a busy life.

Each time we hit pause that day I felt like I was taking a moment to write in my journal. It provided a quiet moment to capture my thoughts, feelings and observations.

Today, when I think back about my wedding day, I have clear memories. And most of them come from those pauses. They are in my head like photographs in an album. (And when I look at the photographs, every time I do it makes me laugh.)

I have continued to use this Wedding Day Pause technique regularly ever since. In the middle of a fun, significant or proud moment for anyone in my family I will stop and say, ‘This is your life.’ And we take a moment to place that moment in the special mental album of feelings, experiences and observation. It is like stopping to smell the roses. And remembering that smelling roses, lilacs and magnolias is life. Not a detour from it.

Remember the words of the great Ferris Beuller:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

― Ferris Bueller 1980s Philosopher & Hooky Player

So today, tomorrow and beyond, when good things happen to you, your family, friends and coworkers, remember to stop and remind people that this is their life. Grab and hold that special moment. Remember that life is good. And seek out as many of those good moments in life as you can find.

Key Takeaway

Life is a sensory overload experience. To drink in all the wow and wonder take a regular pause to simply feel, and observe the little details we often overlook. Remind yourself in that moment that this is your life. It is good. And if you are fully experiencing and remembering those special moments you are doing life right.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.