The Power of a Mentor

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I’ve met people who seem to be waiting for something.  They aren’t getting started on their dreams because they think someone is going to show up and change everything.  For most, that never happens.  For Andy Andrews, it did.  One person showed up and changed the direction of his life.

Let me explain.  Today the world knows the name Andy Andrews as a best-selling author.  Others know him as that hilarious speaker who showed up at a convention, had you in hysterics, and before you even realized it…he had changed your thinking.

But, long before Andy’s success, he was broke, homeless, and sleeping under a pier on the Gulf coast.

And then, a man by the name of Jones showed up, and his life literally changed.

 

A good mentor knows how to share the truth with love. -Andy Andrews

 

Andy, you first told the world about your story and about this incredible teacher in your book, The Noticer.  You have just released a new book, The Noticer Returns.

There are so many avenues we could explore, but I want to focus on something key to your success and this new book.  And that is a “mentoring” relationship.  When Jones appeared in your life, you were ready and willing to listen.  Somehow he got through to you. 

Why was Jones able to reach into your world and change it?

It’s funny that you say I was “ready and willing to listen,” because in many ways I actually wasn’t! Jones was the only person who was willing to tell me the truth about myself and, at first, I didn’t like what he was saying one bit. Fortunately, he had a way of bringing people around to the right perspective, which he eventually did for me.

When do you know you are ready for a mentor?

The number one key thing you need to have in order to be ready for a mentor is a spirit of openness. You have to be open to the possibility that you don’t know anything or that some of what you DO know might be incorrect. You have to accept that there may be things wrong with your thinking.

10 Myths of Creativity

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The idea for the novel is not only clear, but the story is outlined and researched.  Still, the page is blank.  She is waiting for the inspiration to make it happen.

The business to create a fortune is constantly pushed to the backburner.  Magazines and books are consumed like candy as he studies ideas only to continue looking.  The idea never is good enough.

Someone is waiting for a divine moment, that flash of insight that is a near-religious experience.  Until that happens, the idea is frozen.

Creativity myths have been around for centuries.  David, you say that these myths hinder the creative process.  In fact, the subtitle of your new book is The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great ideas.  How does knowing the truth about these myths help?  Why is rewriting the myths so important?

David Burkus is the author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas. He is also founder of LDRLB and assistant professor of management at Oral Roberts University. Find out more about David at www.davidburkus.com. He also writes for Forbes, 99U, and the Harvard Business Review. You can also follow him on Twitter.

We’ve been writing myths for thousands of years. Myths are attempts to describe the world around us, everything from where sun comes from to the creative process. But myths are dangerous because they’re often not true, or at least are half-true. So it is with the myths surrounding creativity. They help us explain a little bit, but because they aren’t totally true, believing the myths in entirety can actually limit our ability to express our creativity. If we question them, find the truth, and rewrite them, then we stand a better chance of reaching our full potential.

3DCoverWileyYou are rewriting and busting these myths, but they are legendary in some ways because we love them.  That “falling apple” moment or “lightning strike.”  Why do we love these stories?

I think we tell a lot of these stories because they let us off the hook. If some outside force, a fallen apple or a lightning strike, is responsible for our creative insight, then the pressure is taken off us to generate great ideas. But creativity doesn’t come from outside ourselves, it comes from inside and from thought patterns we’re all capable of, as long as we believe we are capable of them.

Your new book The Myths of Creativity outlines ten creative myths.  Let’s walk through a few of these myths. Starting with the Expert Myth, aren’t trained experts the best source for creative solutions to dire problems?

Creativity doesn’t just love constraints, it thrives under them. David Burkus

Not always. In fact the research shows that many times professionals in a given field reach a peak early or mid-way through their career and then their contribution to the domain lessens. In Physics for example, it’s commonly held that PhDs will make their greatest discoveries before the age of 30. (Einstein was 26 when he published the paper that won him a Nobel Prize.) The reason is that expertise is important, but truly creative ideas often come from people on the fringes of a domain. They have enough experience to understand problems, but don’t have enough experience to write off “crazy” ideas without testing them. They don’t know what won’t work; so they try everything. The lesson is to keep learning and gaining experience in a variety of domains because you never know what field your breakthrough insight will come from.

Let’s talk about The Constraints Myth.  You write “constraints shape our creative pursuits.”  Give an example of how constraints encourage creativity.

We tend to assume that when we’re having trouble coming up with a viable solution to a creative problem, it’s because we’re too constrained. In reality, constraints actually help us find solutions. It’s impossible to solve a problem without understanding the structure around it. We can generate lots of wild ideas, but without the constraints of a problem, we’ll never know if those ideas are also useful. That’s why a lot of companies actually force constraints. Companies like 37Signals mandate small project teams and put limits on the amount of features their products can have. And it’s paying off for them. Creativity doesn’t just love constraints, it thrives under them. It’s like G.K. Chesterton suggested,  “Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.”

A Leader’s Responsibility

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Max DePree makes it seem so simple:

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. -Max DePree

Let’s break down the wisdom in this quote:

A SERVANT.  A LEADER.

Previously, I shared the nine qualities of a servant leader.  The servant leader has characteristics of both a servant and a leader.  The characteristics are blended together in a harmonious balance.  The result is a servant leader we can all admire.

DEFINE REALITY

Defining reality is a huge part of leadership. You want to follow a leader who is honest about the current situation you face as an organization.

A leader should be optimistic but still realistic. If a company is nearing bankruptcy, you want a leader who understands the gravity of the situation—but not one who is frozen by that reality. You want someone who can navigate through the storm and lead everyone to the best possible outcome.

3 Tools to Break Through the Noise

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We’ve all heard that your brand and your platform are important to your success.  But what if, after all of your platform and branding work, you are lost in a sea of competing messages?

That’s where Jonah Sachs enters, arguing that we are in the midst of the Story Wars.  The Story Wars are raging around us.  With so many messages bombarding us daily, fewer resonate and make it through the cacophony.  What cuts through the noise?  Stories.  And the subtitle of his new book signals the importance of the story teller:  Why those who tell—and live—the best stories will rule the future.

Jonah Sachs is the co-founder and CEO of Free Range Studios, helping major brands create unforgettable marketing campaigns.  He has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fast Company Magazine, CNN, and FOX News. He has created numerous viral marketing campaigns.

Stories that empower are better performers. –Jonah Sachs

Jonah, let’s start there.  You’ve created viral campaigns.  Why is it that some campaigns take off and go viral and others fail to break through?

I’ve been exploring that exact question for 14 years. I couldn’t figure out the pattern at first. No rules seemed to universally apply. At times I thought it had to do with humor, shock value, beauty, good taglines. And then I discovered that one thing viral successes seem to share: They tell compelling stories that appear to give audiences the chance to see themselves as heroes in it. Instead of just talking about how great they are, brand campaigns that break through tend to talk about how great their audiences can be.

jonah-sachsIs this where you developed the idea for Winning the Story Wars?

Yes. It was this search to understand what works in viral campaigning that led me to study mythology, neuroscience and psychology in the hopes of understanding what makes stories work. All that thinking eventually became my book.

You talk about the five sins of marketing:  vanity, authority, insincerity, puffery and gimmickry.  Would you touch on just one of them and give an example of how the sin destroys?

42 Team and Teamwork Quotes

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Working effectively as a team creates momentum, improves morale, wins contests, and can even save lives. Here are 42 quotes on teams and teamwork:

 

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships. -Michael Jordan

 

The speed of the boss is the speed of the team. -Lee Iacocca

 

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. -Henry Ford

 

Teamwork makes the dream work. -Bang Gae

 

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. -Helen Keller

 

The strength of the team is each member. The strength of each member is the team. Phil Jackson

 

A successful team is a group of many hands and one mind. Bill Bethel

 

Good teams incorporate teamwork into their culture, creating the building blocks for success.  Ted Sundquist