But, let’s face it: many of us won’t commit to doing that. So, let’s make this simple. Let’s improve our spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude right now, whatever we are doing, wherever we are, even if we are not celebrating Thanksgiving.
I’m a big fan of mentoring relationships. A mentor may be a formal relationship with someone or it may be a virtual relationship. In fact, the reason I read so much is that I’m curious and constantly learning from others. I’d rather learn from someone else’s mistakes than make them myself. I’d rather take a shortcut if someone else has already figured out the best way forward.
We believe that behind every successful person, you’ll find a mentor—usually several—who guided their journey. There are many famous mentor/mentee examples out there—Socrates and Plato, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey—the list goes on and on. With the pace of change today, we believe that mentoring can ground you and guide you in a way that few other activities can. The amazing thing about mentoring is that in many ways it benefits the mentor as much as the mentee.
“Potential mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.” -Blanchard / Diaz-Ortiz
Many people who want a mentor don’t know where to start. You point out that “Potential mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.” How do you identify potential mentors? Ones who match your needs?
There’s an old saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. We’ve found in our own lives that mentors are all around you once you start looking for them. You might find a mentor in a boss, teacher, neighbor, friend, or colleague. Or you might find one through a professional association, volunteer organization, or online mentoring organization.
That old saying works both ways—when you’re ready to become a teacher/mentor, the student/mentee appears. We encourage people to step up and become mentors, because you won’t fully discover, appreciate, or leverage what you have until you start giving it away.
As for identifying a potential mentor/mentee, it’s important to think about compatibility. In the book, we show that there are two aspects of working with someone: essence and form. Essence is all about sharing heart-to-heart and finding common values. Form is about structure—how you might work together. For a mentoring relationship to thrive, you need to establish that heart-to-heart connection.
Success Tip: writing about issues that arise during introspection can help to clarify them.
Why is it important to keep a journal of your mentoring journey?
One of Ken’s most important mentors, Peter Drucker, taught him that, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” It’s important to keep a journal of your mentoring journey so you can see where you’ve been and stay on track with where you’re going. In the book, the first step in our MENTOR model stands for “Mission”—creating a vision and purpose for the mentorship. Keeping a journal as you engage with your mentor/mentee will reveal the ways you’re fulfilling—or not fulfilling—that mission. For example, if your goal in a mentoring relationship is to create a career you love, you can record in your journal each step you take toward accomplishing that mission.
Success Tip: tread lightly on the networks of others. Never use or abuse the connections made for you.
“Tactful honesty in a mentoring relationship builds trust.” How have you seen that in practice in your own lives?
Ken’s earliest mentor was his father, a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II. Ken’s dad had a brilliant way of guiding Ken without dampening his spirit. For example, when Ken was in junior high, he was elected president of his seventh-grade class. He came home all proud of winning the election. Instead of telling Ken he was the greatest thing since sliced bread—or, on the other hand, telling him not to get a big head—Ken’s dad said with tactful honesty, “Congratulations, Ken. But now that you’re president, don’t ever use your position. Great leaders are great because people respect and trust them, not because they have power.” That One Minute Mentoring taught Ken one of the most valuable lessons he ever learned about leadership.
“Tactful honesty in a mentoring relationship builds trust.” -Blanchard / Diaz-Ortiz
I found it fascinating, and I kept returning to the prompts to push myself. Then, I reached out to Jane to talk about her research and experience into creative strength training.
Jane Dunnewold teaches and lectures internationally, and has mounted numerous one – person exhibitions of her art work around the world. The former President of the Surface Design Association, she has authored numerous books on textile patterning and surface design.
“You are perfect the way you are…and you could use a little improvement.” -Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Yes, Skip, it IS possible. It would be disingenuous to say that everyone is capable of being creative at the same level, but EVERYONE is capable of learning to think (and behave) more creatively than they do right now. Of course there are people who are really creative, and they’ve embraced it. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the large percentage of adults who are “out of touch” with what it means to be creative.
Re-connecting with creativity happens in stages. The first step is acknowledging how you feel about your own abilities. You might not feel very creative. You might not feel creative at all. Either way, I’d be inclined to ask, “What about other people? How creative do you think they are?” Because most of us can see something creative about other people’s behavior more easily than we can see it in ourselves.
Once we begin to notice other people’s creative ability, it’s easier to acknowledge our own. After all, if everyone else has at least some modicum of creativity, by default we must, too! Accepting that creativity is in us, no matter how untapped it may be, is the first step in learning how to unlock its potential.
Copyright Jane Dunnewold. Used by permission.
By the way, I highly recommend actually writing down whatever you’re thinking concerning creativity – yours or someone else’s – because then you’ve tethered your thoughts to the earth plane. We’ve all had the bummer experience of having a great idea – one we can’t possibly forget. But then it slips out of consciousness, and no matter how hard we work to get it back, it’s gone. Writing captures thoughts and ideas in order to allow time to develop them.
The second stage is remembering creative approaches or ideas we’ve used in the past. Sometimes I use a few questions to get people started, like, “Can you remember making something as a kid, from odds and ends – maybe re-purposing something, maybe even a toy? What was it? How did you do it?”
Another good question? Games we invent as kids. What were the rules? Who made them up? These prompts almost always lead to memories of creative activity—changing a recipe, fashioning a quick fix for some household problem, coming up with a gift for someone that was off the wall. Most people are creating all the time. They just haven’t named it yet. So asking someone to recall small acts of creative action primes the mental pump.
The third stage encourages people to embrace being creative on a regular basis. Because, as is true of all learned behavior, practice helps us get better at whatever we’re doing. Athletes don’t come out fully formed and neither do musicians or spiritual guides. Each works repeatedly at improvement. Creativity isn’t any different. You may not ever be the most creative kid on the block, but you can get a heck of a lot better at it if you intentionally seek opportunities to be creative in your approach to work or play – or Life, for that matter – and then embrace those opportunities.
Cultivating strategies to enhance the ability to think creatively include asking questions when you face a situation where the “same old, same old” doesn’t feel like the best solution. The questions could include:
What’s boring about how this is usually resolved?
What are the roadblocks to the problem’s solution?
What’s the craziest solution I can think of right now?
What would ___________ do? (Not Jesus, but someone you really admire and believe is a creative person! What would that person do under the circumstances?)
Maybe you’re not problem solving per se; you’re just thinking about your life and wishing you could be “more creative.” If that’s the case, then answer these questions:
Is there something I’d really like to learn to do?
Am I afraid to try it? Why? What am I afraid of?
Can I accept trying something even if I’m crappy at it, if I think it will be fun?
Each of us can craft questions that suit our own situation and personality. But ask a few of the above to kick things off. Get a feel for how to advance beyond usual thinking where problem solving or personal use of time is concerned.
“Find your own rhythm. Seek your own alignment.” -Jane Dunnewold
Copyright Jane Dunnewold, 2005, Used by Permission
I LOVE this question! Stamina = strength, right? Athletes build physical stamina, and you might think “creative” stamina only applies to artistic types. But anyone can build creative stamina by showing up and by working with the three stages I described above. Just don’t turn away or give up when the going gets rough. I’m reminded of the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”: Tim Robbins cogitating, strategizing, working endlessly, bit by bit, to escape from prison. Creative stamina isn’t as harrowing as that, but it does involve good-naturedly returning to a situation with resolve. As an artist, it means not getting a “poor me”’ attitude when things aren’t going well in the studio. It would be easy to look at what other accomplished artists have done, and give up. Just shelve it. But don’t. Keep working. And there’s always more to do. The end goal is elusive. This is the story of authors who send manuscripts to 50 agents before they find one who will give them the time of day. This is the story of actors who try for roles until they’re totally beat, but go to auditions anyway – and eventually land a part.
People who don’t think of themselves as creative assume what I’m describing has nothing to do with them. But it does. Building creative stamina means figuring out what you care about and then engaging with it creatively—whether you love to cook, and the vegetable soup isn’t quite right, or you love to garden, but the ground is hard as a rock. Maybe you don’t even know what creative passion is, but you keep showing up and trying things on for size.
“If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.” -Katherine Hepburn
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.
There is much written about journaling, most of it on how to keep a journal, covering mechanics, tools and discipline. It is more difficult to find information on the benefits of journaling from real-life experiences, especially pertaining to leaders. Most of what is written on the benefits of journaling is about self-discovery, but I believe it can help make better leaders, too.
Many famous people kept journals or diaries. These people came from all walks of life: business (John D. Rockefeller); military (George Patton); inventors (Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison); presidents and prime ministers (John Adams, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill) and many authors (Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway). These journals left a chronicle of thoughts, events and critical decisions as well as documenting their legacy. But what about the rest of us? Why write in a journal?
Years ago, I became interested in journaling. At the time, I was very stressed and overloaded with responsibilities. I needed something to help me stay focused. I read several books, but one by Julia Cameron, The Right to Write, was the most helpful. After reading her book, I began to journal and found it very beneficial.
Eventually, as I found myself in more prominent leadership positions, I found journaling helped improve my leadership in the following ways:
Here is why writing in a journal makes better leaders.
One recommendation from The Right to Write is to write “Morning Pages” before the start of the workday. I have found that to be the best time for maximum benefit. Writing early in the morning gets the juices flowing before your mind has its normal defenses and filters in place. There is something about writing early in the morning before engaging in the day’s activities that is very helpful — sort of like how your best ideas often occur in the shower. Here are the main reasons:
Helps to reduce all the things in your head to key priorities
Allows you to ramble, then organize your thoughts for the day
Provides a way to better formulate tasks and frame issues
Gets mere ideas formed into concrete terms
Starts the day with a clear framework in mind
Improves the quality of your To-Do list
Writing in a journal in the morning will help you be more organized during the day.
“Write in a journal in the morning to be more organized during the day.” -Bruce Rhoades
Writing in a journal is a great way to facilitate problem solving and decision making. Here is how:
Provides a private, non-judgmental forum to work through issues; no one is watching and pressure is off
Helps facilitate idea generation and new perspectives
Facilitates better problem definition to make sure you are working on the right issue
Helps to develop alternatives and examine their positive and negative implications, resulting in better choices
Gives you the chance to formulate tasks and frame issues properly before “real time” in meetings
Provides a way to examine causes rather than symptoms for issues and problems
Provides a forum to ask “So What?” about problems, issues and directions
Makes your decisions and explanations more crisp
Turns thoughts, decisions and ideas into actions
If you are skeptical, just try it on some decision that you are contemplating. Write and refine the problem definition; quickly list alternatives; structure the list; examine implications of each alternative; choose an alternative and list the actions that need to happen. I predict it will help.
Leadership Tip: try journaling to improve decision-making.
This is a guest post by Thai Nguyen. The power of words to evoke positive change motivates Thai to write. Formerly a professional chef and international athlete, he’s now somewhere in the world with a backpack, MacBook, and a story to share. You can follow his work at The Utopian Life, Facebook or Twitter.
It all begins with looking in the mirror. Success in the public world goes hand-in-hand with success in your private life. Effective leadership flows from effectively leading yourself.
“Effective leadership flows from effectively leading yourself.” -Thai Nguyen
Our empirically dominated culture places all focus on the external and physical world, blinding the importance of the internal and mental. Self-mastery is being in control of the internal thought processes that guide your emotions, habits, and behaviors.
It’s the ability to respond rather than react. The former is done with intention and awareness, the latter is visceral and without reason.
Self-mastery is captured well in this quote attributed to many:
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
It seems counterintuitive, but being selfish and focusing on enriching yourself will lead to being selfless and enriching the lives of those around you.
Here are 7 effective strategies for cultivating self-mastery:
1. Talk To Yourself
There’s a voice inside your head, and that’s completely normal. It’s your internal dialogue, the inner commentary that strives to make sense of the world. The first crucial step in developing self-mastery is to become an observer of your thoughts—to become self-aware, self-reflective. To think about your thinking.
Throughout history, psychologists and philosophers have presented theories on the multiplicity of the human mind. Plato divided the psyche into appetitive, logical, and high spirited. Freud categorized into the Id, Ego, and Superego. Modern theories continue to be presented and debated.
But they all agree on the multi-dimensional aspect—as strange as it sounds, there seems to be more than one “you” inside of you. And often, we’re at odd with ourselves. Self-mastery is about creating inner congruence—an agreement and peace between an external stimulus, our internal interpretation, and our emotional response.
A lack of mindfulness will respond to external stimulus immediately with an emotional response. Self-mastery causes a pattern break and allows for an internal interpretation to take place. Stop, fully observe the emotions welling up inside you and the thoughts that present themselves.
Self-mastery requires this observation and recognition. Label the emotions and thoughts as they present themselves.
“Becoming the best version of yourself will equip you to spark change in others.” -Thai Nguyen
While there’s truth in the statement, we’re the sum total of our experiences, self-mastery recognizes we’re certainly not confined to them. It’s not easy to do; our experiences, particularly negatives have a way of seeping deep into our soul. But although some stains can’t be removed, we can choose not to wear those clothes again.
A personal example, I made peace with my father and our lack of relationship: Acknowledging the post-war trauma he was no doubt affected by, and that he had to play the father role in light of a difficult script. Self-mastery meant not allowing past negative experiences the power of emotional collateral to spark present and future fires. As a result, the clean slate has given birth to the relationship I’d always desired.
Making peace with your past allows you an untarnished and more objective approach to the present, ideally resulting in a positive future. It’s hard to pick up anything new when your hands are full with burdens. It means to let go, forgive, and as humanly possible, to forget.
Author Eleanor Brown has a great quote on mastering your past:
“There are times in our lives when we have to realize our past is precisely what it is, and we cannot change it. But we can change the story we tell ourselves about it, and by doing that, we can change the future.”
3. Play Devil’s Advocate
Challenging your thought patterns and reasoning will help with self-mastery. Putting on the other shoe and playing devil’s advocate will uncover weaknesses and holes in your thinking. A more critical mind will result in making better decisions. You’ll be able to iron out any unreasonable biases that appear in your logic.
Whatever decision you’re working through, come at it from as many different angles as possible. Debate with yourself, have a spirited argument. You may be surprised at some of the insights you come up with.