Looking out at the grey London skies, I'm trying to remind myself that summer is a state of mind… and it's probably better that there's not much great weather to tempt me outside, as I need to spend a lot of time glued to the chair to finish my next book. Thanks to those of you who have bought the current one, "FOCUS: The Power of Targeted Thinking," published in the UK by Pearson. It's still selling about 700 copies a week, and I'm starting to get some gratifying e-mails from people who have read it. If you need some help reaching your goals and finding better ways to manage your time, get a copy – and if you're an executive at a company that wants to distribute a branded edition, I know that the folks at Pearson can do that for as few as 1000 copies. You can find more about the book at www.focusquick.com. And now on to some inspiring ideas:
1: Managing change
I recently saw a short video in which Ken Blanchard of "One-Minute Manager" fame explained the best way to introduce change within a company, and it struck me that this could help individuals as well. He pointed out that we tend to emphasize the advantages of the new idea when we should be sharing three other aspects first:
1: Information – what are the specifics of what you have in mind?
2: Personal impact – how will the change affect you and others? (This includes the time and resources needed)
3: Step by step, how will it be implemented? (What's the timeline? What's the Plan B if things don't go according to plan?)
Action: If there's a change you've tried to make in the past but have not succeeded, maybe it was because you put most of your emphasis on getting excited about the benefits, and not enough on the first three steps. Try again, this time giving more attention to the three aspects above.
2: Some advice for these nervous times
In Fortune magazine, Stanley Bing had some advice for putting these nervous times into perspective: "Throughout the course of human history, life on earth has been a struggle, a disappointment to most, a tragedy to some, a triumph to a few. But for most of us, the small things in life make it worthwhile."
He invites us to go on a little mind vacation: "Think back to the days when we didn't have cable news, online updates, or cell phone alerts. You woke up. The birds were singing in the trees. You had breakfast. The morning paper gave you some news about what was going on, mostly stuff you already sort of knew. Its main function was to reassure you that the world was still turning. Maybe you read the funnies [comic strips]." Today, he says, "So much of what we see and hear is hype, spin or baloney. Is it any wonder we're freaked out?"
Action: Consider taking a "news vacation" one day a week – it's easiest to start with a weekend day. That day, don't read any papers, watch any news on TV, turn off your phone as much as possible. If you want to read, try Ralph Waldo Emerson. Or the funnies.
3: Is it time for you to act with Applied Chutzpah?
Publisher and writer Ron Schultz wrote in E:CO magazine about Applied Chutzpah. [There's no great translation for chutzpah, but let's say it means daring or nerve.] He defines it as, "a willingness to step forward into audacious action even though one may have no idea of how one will either pull it off, or where it will ultimately lead. The only real knowing at the moment of Applied Chutzpah is an intuition that if some audacious action were not initiated, nothing would get done."
Action: Take a moment to think about any times in your life when you have acted with Applied Chutzpah. For me, one example is moving to London after my house in L.A. burned down, even though I didn't know whether I'd be able to continue to make a living as a scriptwriter from here (it worked out pretty well). Might it be time for you to act with AC again? What form might that take?
4. Maybe it really is better to give…
A fascinating study reported in the Harvard Business Review reveals that when companies hand out bonuses, people get no meaningful boost by spending it only on new clothes, TVs and iPods. They do tend to feel better if they spend even a small portion (such as 15-20 percent) of a windfall on others.
To test whether there was really a cause-and-effect relationship, they gave 46 people either $5 (approx. £3) or $20 (£9) and randomly asked half of them to spend the money on themselves and half to spend it on someone else over the course of the day. People who spent either amount on others were significantly happier that night.
Action: Why not give it a try yourself? Today allocate at least $5/£3 to spend on someone else and notice how it makes you feel.
5: Do you suffer from hyperopia?
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research explored the regret of current college students over how they spent their winter breaks, and by alumni over how they spent their winter breaks 40 years before. The key finding: Regret about not having spent or traveled more increased over time, while regrets about not having studied, worked or saved money decreased with time. In other words, if you have fun now, you probably won't regret it, but if you deny yourself you probably will!
The researchers say that people who overly resist temptations suffer from hyperopia – they classify the things they might enjoy as irresponsible, wasteful and even immoral.
Action: What are you denying yourself at the moment? This may not be something material but a way to spend your time or be good to yourself. Imagine yourself looking back to today from the perspectives of 10, 20 and 30 years ahead. How do you think you'll feel about your self-denial? Is it time to do something different?
6: And a quote to consider:
"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." – Albert Einstein.
Until next time,
PS: If you haven't looked at my blog since the last e-bulletin, you've missed posts on sources of inspiration, a different way to organise information, the fine art of quiting, and an expansion of Howard Schultz's thoughts on Applied Chutzpah (post of Aug. 11). Why not go have a look now and, if you like what you see, subscribe to the blog by RSS or email notification? It's at www.timetowrite.blogs.com.
PPS: If you happen to live in the Portland, Oregon area, you might be interested in a Writing Breakthrough workshop I'm teaching there on Sept. 13 and 14 – if so, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you details.
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