Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Fascination

Mitch Ditkoff, Heart of Innovation, offered this the other day:

“A person who is fascinated does not need to be motivated… or managed… or ‘incentivized.’ All that person needs is time, some resources, meaningful collaboration, and periodic reality checks from someone who understands what fascination is all about … the root of innovation is fascination.”

There it is, folks. The understanding we are newly gaining, the truth of human nature that is already far down the road towards the dissolution of industrialism and hierarchical business structures. Instead of relying on money as the ultimate goal, we find that our own individual souls provide the true source of inexhaustible motivation. Once discovered, no substitute will suffice.

Of course, the problem remains that we have generally lost (misplaced?) our connection to fascination. Our social structures for the most part encourage suppressing our quirky little obsessions. Our challenge is to learn to pay attention to them, cultivate them, find our meaning and purpose through them. Use them to benefit the world. We will soon be teaching the skill of such self-knowledge in every arena, in schools and businesses and governments, on the streets and in our homes.

Playing by the rules

I’m working on a writing job currently that has lots of rules, including a long list of words one is forbidden to use. Why? It’s a rule, that’s all. Rules are rules. We stop there.

Rules seem to be necessary in society. Wherever three or more are gathered, there the rules shall be. It’s the basis of civilization, the only way we know to approach peaceable life together.

Rules are usually established by wise leaders, who set down these maxims for good reason. But the hoi polli who must live by them soon forget their reason for being, and simply accept them as rules and therefore indisputable. The human propensity for fear keeps us in the thrall of rules and dictums from on high. For the most part, we let these forces do our thinking for us.

At some point, though, you can step back from the rules. You can consider what your own judgment is, apart from givens you’ve been force fed. You can make the conscious decision to adopt or reject the rules. In a way, that’s what branding is all about: communicating to others your own well-considered set of rules and regs. It’s certainly at the core of innovation, where not being bound by rules is the first practice.

Thinking habits

The hardest habit to recognize and then manipulate is your habit of thinking. Not, of course, your habit of using your brain (not so much a habit as a natural instinct) but your habitual way of using your brain.

Certainly we’re all experiencing the challenge of re-building our thought patterns as a result of changing technologies. The codifying of information, for instance, in digital bits is not a way my parents can conceive of things; but it’s the way my generation has come to think.

Feeling stuck, or in a rut, or continually stressed, or oppressed by your job can be the result of thinking habits that no longer serve you well. Can you recognize them? Only through careful observation. Can you modify them? Absolutely, if you’re truly dedicated to the effort.

Here’s one little practice that can help. I am a counter. I count (silently, in my head) everything: if I’m doing anything the slightest bit repetitive, there I’ll be, ticking ’em off one by two by three. At some point, I realized I had this ridiculous habit, though it seemed impossible to shed. It was a habit of thinking that kept me in the quantitative, judgmental, efficiency-obsessed world; and usually made a mockery of me in that context!

So now (and I admit, it’s a continuous effort), instead of counting, I try to remember to use a little mantra, just one word that is about important things, not mere digits. Instead of counting, I repeat this one word with each iteration. It’s not easy after my many decades of the old habit, but it does become more natural with practice. And the result is that I’m not measuring my actions anymore; rather, with each action I am invoking ultimate strength and support.

Not everyone has this strange tic of mental counting, but if you do, maybe you’ll try this modification and let me know how it works.

Mulberry pie

I try to take a long walk about three times a week, or daily if possible. I have a committed meditation practice. I’m a first-time grandmother as of the past six months. And this weekend, I made a mulberry pie.

The pie, simply the most delicious thing I’ve tasted in years, was filled with the fruit of a huge tree in our yard. Each year it produces, of course, and heretofore, the berries have just fallen to the ground and fed the birds or fertilized the grass. This year, finally, we humans benefitted from their sweetness as well. This was possible because I now actually have the time to harvest them. Finally, after more than 50 years in this vale of tears, I am able to actually smell the roses.

While this is an awesome liberation, it’s tinged with sadness because of all the years when I kept these natural pleasures at bay because work was more important than anything else. It’s perhaps a function of personal branding: as I have developed my allegiances and revised my methods to more closely align with my inner self, some things that were previously dispensible have become central to life.

Big business owners can’t do much with such an attitude. People who care deeply about such things as mulberry pie and meditating are no use to corporations. But the problem is, can the rewards offered by the corporation come anywhere close to those available through careful development of personal branding? Probably not. So the corporations must adapt to keep up with the individual, and follow the dictates of personal soul, or drown in the rush of human evolution.

Memorial Day musings

Memorial Day is about respecting sacrifices.  That word, sacrifice, is a rare one these days.  Perhaps the only arena in which we personally experience sacrifice is that of parenting.  And maybe dieting.  We shun the concepts that relate living itself to sacrifice:  the old values of giving your life for your country, or giving up your fatherhood for your job, or giving up your creative potential for work that earns you money but brings unhappiness – we increasingly see through these unhealthy dictates of oppression.

Without this ancient respect for selflessness, though, how do we refrain from becoming self-involved to our detriment? How do we promote compassion and devotion to making everyone’s life better, if we drop the idea of sacrifice?

It used to be that humanity understood happiness as an endangered resource. The ease and comfort of 21st century life, with its amazing technology and global awareness; as well as the blending of quantum theory, and Eastern and Western spiritual philosophies, have consorted to produce the nascent idea that happiness may after all be available in unlimited quantities.

But there’s a hitch. We discover that we are not capable of lasting happiness unless it is grounded in compassion. So we do find our salvation, after all, through others. The difference is that we use our gifts, we do not deny them, in serving others. We think of it as self-development rather than self-sacrifice. We yearn to live well for others, not to die well for them.

Blog carnival

Sunday night special:  check out the virtual assistant blog carnival  going on over at Amanda Moore’s VagabondetteVA blog!  Quite an array of topics and writers.  VAs are plugged in!  Thanks Amanda.

Pictoral Summary

Often, nature is delightful in her branding expressions.  What other island can boast the particularities of this little gem?  How confidently and generously its character is shared, how easily it rises above the tide.

A year ago, we vacationed in Costa Rica, and this Friday I’m dreaming of bright beaches and quirky little offshore islands in the sun.

Branding and communication

Had an interesting comment on yesterday’s blog, which took exception to my suggestion that branding is a form of communication.  The commenter seemed to be saying that your brand is simply who you are, what impression your very appearance gives; and inferred that while you work on promoting your brand, you cannot modify it.

Of course, my rebuttal is about how recognizing and articulating – more than modifying – your own brand is the issue.  It takes a long time and serious focus to get a handle on how you are impacting others, and what your actual reputation is.  Like your rear end, you carry your brand everywhere with you, but seldom get a good peek at it yourself. 

By defining your personal brand, you become capable of consciously projecting it, and winning support and success through it.  How to clearly communicate your business brand is the number one issue for sales; projecting, enjoying, and cultivating your personal brand is the road to fulfillment in the individual’s life because it’s the full appreciation of natural gifts.

Once you become more aware regarding the brand you habitually manifest, you can emphasize its positive aspects, carefully study the negative sides, and intentionally project (i.e., communicate) this recognized strength of character.  Until you spend committed time and much thought on this aspect of your existence, you stay a slave to the brands of others.

Branding and compassion

“When you treat people with respect, acknowledgment, and genuine positive reinforcement, you significantly increase the odds of creativity — and by extension, innovation — flourishing in your organization.”  So said Mitch Ditkoff a few days ago on his Heart of Innovation blog.

Branding of any kind is about sharing with others; it’s a function of communication.  It is not, however, about bragging or sharing yourself in the sense of shoving your personality down other people’s throats.  It’s really about sharing your capacity to be compassionate.  It’s the reputation you’ve earned for the level at which you’re able to help others.

As accomplished and marvelous as I may be, the only thing of real interest to anyone else is how well I can share the benefits of my prowess.  My achievements that can be duplicated by others or that serve to aid and comfort others are the ones that really count.

Ditkoff’s point goes even a little futher, however, in saying that it is possible to bring the sources of inspiration closer, to make innovation part of your everyday business, by establishing a culture of mutual “respect, acknowledgement and … positive reinforcement.”  I suggest that likewise, a worker wanting to strengthen personal branding does well to start with a strong dedication to supporting others.  Even if this doesn’t come naturally to you, as you practice compassion you’ll become infinitely more aware of what makes you tick.

Balancing act

So, despite all tangents, I’m considering the concepts and practices of branding, in these writings over the past couple weeks.  It seems to me that when you align your brand perfectly with your passion you have achieved success. 

 

When the way you are perceived is the same as the way you think of yourself, you are a happy person.

 

Until you find that sweet equilibrium between your natural urges and the outside world, you are constantly in turmoil.  You know you’re special, but your image is average.  You have a passion for painting, but you spend all your time at work.  You are an expert bicyclist, but everyone knows you as the insurance guy.  It can configure in the other direction, as well:  you’re well respected and powerful, but you harbor an inner self hatred; you have a great job that brings valuable benefits, but an insistent whisper suggests you hit the road.

 

Most of us live most our lives walking this tightrope.  Few actually figure out the balance.  But all of us could work harder at it.  We know that the happier we are, the happier others are around us.  It’s the compassionate thing to work at finding your particular balance in life.

 

Young people and older workers who have given up ambition don’t pay much attention to branding; it’s us middle-agers, struggling to get past Seth Godin’s infamous Dip who concern ourselves with such ultimate challenges.  It’s desperation tactics by a generation that has tried everything else.  It’s the best way we can invent to find our place on this globe.

 

But I’d surely love to convince a few young people or hopeless workers to start considering what their brand might be.  By getting an early start, greater balance may perhaps be achieved; and, on the other hand, it is certainly better late than never.  If everyone is working on developing their brand, I believe we can build a stronger society, a culture characterized by self-knowledge and sharing.