It can be tough to be upbeat as the pandemic lingers on so we need to infuse positive self-talk and affirmations wherever we can. Such was the idea behind Notes to Self socks that come with positive messages sewn into the material.
Founder Laura Schmidt read that the subconscious mind is most open to new thoughts in the morning and evening and decided to leverage one of the activities people routinely perform at that time – getting dressed/undressed. Notes to Self socks are designed to provide a quick word of encouragement that will last throughout the day: I am strong, I am a great teacher, I am confident, I believe, etc.
Two lessons to take from this: 1) capitalize on existing habits to add some positivity and affirmations into your life and 2) pay attention to those fleeting ideas that you have, even if they seem a bit crazy. Sewing affirmations onto socks may be outside the mainstream, but they have sold “hundreds of thousands” of them as well as donating over 70,000 pair to homeless shelters.
Rather than just a Post-it note of kind words on your mirror, maybe times call for wearing your affirmations around with you all day!
In a true sign of accepting reality, our mall converted one of the prime retail spaces into a rest area/mini-library. It’s located at the crossroads of the mall’s two wings, in theory, the busiest spot in the mall. It was once the home of a jewelry chain and when that went out of business, instead of leaving it available for another tenant, the mall tore out all the walls and doors and made it into an open area.
It’s a great space to take a break – if there was anyone around who needed one. I’m not sure if it was designed for walkers, mall employees or the mythical harried shoppers but, like most of the stores around it, it sits vacant.
I think about all the unused space that surrounds us – bankrupt stores, unoccupied office buildings, restaurants that didn’t survive the pandemic, schools with reduced enrollments – there is a wealth of built-up infrastructure that is currently unused. If you’re the owner of such space, rather than allow it to sit vacant to entropy think about a creative new use for your real estate. Can you rent it as a temporary office for parents who need to do Zoom calls with some privacy? Convert it into a studio for those forced to shift from in-person to remote presentations? Offer it as a voting place? Give shelter to some in need?
Space that sits vacant depletes energy from all who see it. Capitalize on the opportunity to give something or someone a new home, even if it’s just for the interim.
Whether you’re starting a side hustle, writing a case study for a class or just working on a creative project, there are many times when having a clever name for a business would come in handy. No need to expend brainpower to come up with one on your own: website host WordPress offers a nifty Business Name Generator that can be fun to use, even if you’re not seriously thinking of incorporating a company anytime soon.
By entering the key names for your business, the software will instantly show you a host of options. For example, “Bakery” yields Bakery Beautiful, Harmonic Bakery, Bakery Jet and Canopy Bakery among about 30 other options. You may not love any of them, but they could serve as a stepping stone to other options.
A friend once shared a brainstorming technique where you focus on one topic and write everything down that you can for 10 minutes. Then you do it again for 20 minutes more. In the second session, you’re more likely to get beyond the obvious and reach truly creative names. Let the Name Generator get you started and see where you go from there!
When problem solving, we often only think of solutions that we have used before instead of reconceptualizing the question entirely. La Paz, Bolivia can provide a good example of what happens when you think creatively.
Late night host John Oliver shared the story about the Mama Zebra Project in Bolivia where the solution to gridlock and pedestrian safety was resolved through the use of “traffic zebras” who inject levity while addressing a very serious issue. It’s worth your 5 minutes to watch here.
The Zebra Project addresses several issues at once – lightening the mood of drivers, ensuring the safe passage of pedestrians and giving work to a hard-to-employ population. It’s a win-win for everyone.
As Oliver says, I’m sure that “traffic zebra” didn’t jump in your mind as the first solution to this problem but keep it in mind the next time you’re faced with a vexing issue. Maybe the best solution is one that is the most out of the ordinary.
As part of the Aspen Ideas Festival, two speakers made comments that stuck with me – and as I later pondered how to incorporate them into my life, I realized that they were in direct opposition with each other!
One idea came from opera director Yuval Sharon who spoke about the concept of “doubling” that he used in the development of his recent production. He literally doubled his core artistic team, hiring two directors, two writers and two composers for his opera Sweet Land, intentionally done to create a dialogue between different points of view.
In contrast to working in pairs, historian and author Erik Larson spoke of how he does not use research assistants for his work. Even though scouring the archives can be extensive and tedious, he is not convinced that someone else would have his instincts and look for the same things so he does all of his research himself.
It was fascinating to me that on this national platform, one person applied the strategy of doubling in the artistic field where individuals are often heralded as the stars for their work, and another advocated the process of working solo in research which is often a team effort.
Maybe the real lesson is that those who shine in their field are the ones who utilize methods outside of the norm; who break the boundaries of what “should” happen and find ways to find new insights – either by including others or excluding them in certain phases. Don’t approach your projects by rote; rather intentionally consider whether your work could benefit from doubling or independence. There is no one formula for innovation.
A colleague shared a memory of her time as a tourist going to the top of the Empire State Building. (Can you even remember when we used to do things like that?) The observation deck is on the 78th floor and the elevator ride can prove to be a bit nerve-racking and ear-popping for some guests.
To combat this, the tour operators devised a way to divert people’s attention and equipped the top of the elevator car with a computer screen. On the way up, riders watch an animation of the building being constructed, and on the way down the building’s Art Deco logo morphs into a U.S. map. The ride only takes 30-45 seconds but with this forethought, it becomes a memorable and enjoyable experience for the tourists rather than one filled with angst.
Put yourself in the shoes (or the elevator) of those using your service. How can you eliminate some discomfort or increase the pleasure – or in the case of the Empire State Building – achieve both simultaneously? There are ways to wow all around you if you elevate your thinking toward that goal.
I suspect that many people are missing their coffeeshop “offices” and the ability to work in a location that varies from their usual desk setting. Different environments can spur more creative thinking and often enable you to become more productive because the distractions are limited. Also, when you go somewhere, you take with you the mindset that it’s time to get some serious work done and are mentally more compelled to follow through.
I experienced this myself when I planned to work in the car while waiting during someone’s appointment. During this time, I had a renewed focus and energy and was able to push past a block that I had on one project, outline the content for a handout and have a new perspective on another issue. It was one of the most efficient hours of my week.
You may not yet be able to plop down in Starbucks and commandeer a table for a few hours but don’t give up on the principle of a change in location. Maybe that means just thinking in your car while sitting in a parking lot, moving to your porch or basement, pondering a problem while walking around the block, taking a phone call while you go for a drive, or even rearranging the office furniture.
It has been long enough that for many the temporary home office is feeling normal, and with that comes the downside of a routine. Break out of your environmental rut and try to do your deep work elsewhere. A different view often provides a different viewpoint.
The founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra was also responsible for the establishment of the Boston Pops Orchestra, a novel idea in 1885 when it happened. Civic leader Henry Lee Higginson knew that the audience for classical symphony music was limited, so he envisioned a way to expand the orchestra’s reach through offering “light” classics and popular music in the off-season. But his real motivation was to extend the work of the musicians to be year-round, possibly attracting higher caliber performers who welcomed the full-time employment.
In addition to his innovative approach to talent management, Higginson also understood the importance of the environment in which music was played. He oversaw the design of Symphony Hall so that during the Symphony season, the theatre is fitted with straight back chairs in traditional aisles. A specially-crafted elevator is hidden within the floor so that when Pops season begins, the Symphony chairs are stored away underneath and the hall is transformed with cabaret tables and loose chairs around them, allowing for an informal ambiance akin to the lighter music.
Instead of making the Pops Orchestra a lesser version of the Symphony, Higginson had the foresight and vision to create it as an entirely new experience. From the repertoire, to the attire, to the appearance of the hall and other venues where they play, the Pops has achieved acclaim in its own right and doesn’t live in the shadow of the classical orchestra.
Think of whether there are lessons you can adapt to your organization from the symbiotic relationship between the Symphony and the Pops. Can you partner with an entity to design a space to meet both of your needs rather than building or renting two? Is there a way to increase your talent pool by sharing roles for part-time positions so that they become full-time contributors? Have you thought about the look and feel of space that you use for your programs and whether it is aligned with the content and outcomes you desire?
The Pops Orchestra may not have experienced its wild popularity if it was only seasonal and had to adapt itself to the formality of an unmodified Symphony Hall. Don’t force your music to be muffled because of the limitations you create yourself.
The New York Times called Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber the most commercially successful composer in history. He’s the man behind The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running show on Broadway that has grossed over $6 billion in revenue during its run.
So, if you were a producer who had the opportunity to invest in another show by Webber featuring the same Phantom characters, chances are that you would have invested. It would have been a mistake. Love Never Dies was a flop, and never made it to Broadway at all.
Despite all of his successes — Webber composed a number of hits that were on Broadway for years, including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and Sunset Boulevard – he also had a litany of shows that never became mainstream: Starlight Express, Whistle Down the Wind and Aspects of Love. His By Jeeves was so bad that it closed after just a month in London, but Sir Webber kept writing music and still has multiple shows on Broadway today.
The only sure-fire formula that guarantees success is perseverance. Your chances of doing great work improve by producing a lot of work and continually learning from it. Keep making music, even if some of what you produce seems a bit off-key.
In the film The Aeronauts, two characters from 1862 London ascend in a hot air balloon to conduct scientific experiments about the weather. The movie is loosely based on the actual James Glaisher, a scientist who believed that weather could be predicted.
When Glaisher presented his theory to the Royal Society of scientists, he was literally laughed off the podium. In his era, such a notion was preposterous and the Society would not fund his expedition. Glaisher found a pilot who would take him anyway (a fictional character in the film), and they manage to achieve 37,000 ft. in altitude, the highest any human had ever been at that point in time. Glaisher’s measurements revealed multiple characteristics about the atmosphere and when he presented them, the Royal Society ultimately gave him a standing ovation.
James Glaisher is another of many examples where the innovator is called a fool long before he is praised as a genius. Don’t keep your dreams on the ground because others call them crazy. You may first need to do what others laugh at before they recognize how high your ideas can take you.