Posts Tagged how to
Never leave the scene of a decision without first taking a specific action towards its realization. ~ Tony Robbins
I may not have that exactly right, but the spirit of it is there. So often in the past I have made decisions and basked in the afterglow of ‘accomplishing something’ or ‘doing the right thing’ only to notice that weeks later I still have not taken any steps to make that decision a reality. However, quotes like these are, to me at least, very sticky – once I know them they pop up all the time. It’s like my consciousness has a twitter account and once it gets a hold of something good it tweets it to me at very timely intervals.
I can remember in my undergrad days having to write (seemingly) incredibly long research papers and dreading each one. I would put them off as long as possible and then scramble to put something reasonable out. Then, one day, I came across a motivational poster that said:
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
and it just made perfect sense to me. It’s cheesy, I know, but it worked for me. Whenever I sat down to write something that I knew would be a long journey, I would repeat the quote to myself, and then beginning it would be easy. Just one foot in front of the other. You don’t think about the end state, just the next state, and then you get that feeling of blissful productivity that is so addictive.1
Action precedes motivation.
This is a great segue from one quote to the next. I learned this phrase while working at BrainBoost Education as a tutor. Students are notorious for waiting for motivation to get started on something, generally anything, that resembles school work or homework. Of course, this is a generalization, but it’s mostly true. We would use this phrase all the time to prod students into action. For some it became like a mantra. You utter it before you begin something and soon enough you have done something and then you are motivated. Motivation does not come out of the vacuum – it is manufactured by each of us through doing.
The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it’s corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no’s you’ve said. ~ Dave Eggers
I generalize this quote as ‘yes to everything’. Granted, I don’t say yes to literally everything, but if I have no immediate and strong objection to whatever thing is proposed, I immediately think of ‘yes to everything’ and then I say yes. Sometimes whatever it is is awesome, other times it’s just generally ok, but when I think about what I would have been doing, such as watching tv or surfing the internet, I think, ‘man am I ever glad I said yes.’ You should try it – it’s great.
The Lesson, or Theme
The common theme here, if you can’t see it already, is that doing stuff is great. It probably sounds juvenile, but you should always be doing things, real things, things that mean something. The things you do don’t always have to be new or different or meaningful (but bonus points for each if so), but standing still is like death.
A way in which I used these quotes recently: I’m currently looking for a job, and on this morning a week or so ago, I wasn’t feeling particularly motivated. Action precedes motivation – I turned on the computer and inbox zeroed my gmail. One of these emails came from Vantage Point – I get it semi-regularly and it outlines various volunteer opportunities available in Vancouver. This time, quite recently, I saw a posting for ‘Business Coach’ so I clicked through on the link. EMBERS, a Vancouver based organization that is working to eradicate poverty on the DTES, helps individuals get small businesses going through teaching, coaching and sponsorship. They need some people with business experience to commit a few hours each month to helping fresh graduates from their build-a-business program to help them get their businesses running. Say yes to everything - I thought, this is great, that’s what I’ll do, and promptly opened the Globe and Mail to read some news. But my brain said: wait! This is that thing you do where you make a decision without doing anything! Email the person and get this thing rolling! Take a concrete action to make this decision reality – so that is what I did and now I’m signed up and raring to go. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – granted, getting signed up for this was hardly a thousand mile journey, but in the end maybe that is where this first step will take me. And there were, of course, other smaller steps, but without doing that first one right then I would still be thinking what a good idea this was and why hadn’t I done it yet?
Problem Solving using these four rules:
1 – blissful productivity – not a term I made up, but learned from the truly excellent TED talk by Jane McGonigal. You should watch it. In case you aren’t one to take a step toward a decision right away, I will help you out by embedding it below.
This post has been a long time a brewin’. In aniticipation I created a little ‘Great TED Talks’ sidebar over there which will have a rotating (and growing) list of some of my favourites.
First, what does TED stand for? What’s it all about?
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.
The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).
(retrieved from the TED.com FAQ)
My friend Matty G first tuned me into these talks and I have been all over them ever since. We used them at BrainBoost Tutoring to engage students in the discussion of complex or philosophical ideas – because the presentations tend to be quite engaging, it was difficult for anyone to tune them out. They had a way of making learning fun…not that it isn’t normally, but this was like ninja-style learning, as if you really had no idea what was going on, but all you knew was that you really wanted to be part of the conversation. Your brain was always going, ‘Hey, wait a minute!’ or, ‘NO WAY!’, and you would generally have the urge to shout out something. We even occassionally had students asking to pause the video so they could say something (not a common occurence in most classrooms where videos=sleep).
In any case, because the ideals of TED (a non-profit organization) are both lofty and inclusive (i.e. ideas have the power to change the world; they are free; so please spread them!), they really encourage others to use the videos in pretty well any way they see fit (so long as you don’t profit from them directly) – there is a list of ways you can help the TED mission on the site. If you’re interested in something, I don’t know, maybe ‘urban design’, you just search for it there and at least a half a dozen videos pop up. Or maybe you need a 20 minute break, just take a stumble through their themed archives and you are sure to find something extremely interesting. Some pretty big names from just about every field you can think of have gone at some point to the annual TED conference and wowed the audience; notables include: Bill Clinton, E. O. Wilson, Dave Eggers, Jeff Bezos, David Kelley, Louise Leakey, Richard Branson, Richard Dawkins, Jill Tarter, Steven Pinker, Dan Dennett, Silvia Earle, Malcolm Gladwell, and my oh my, the list goes on.
For marketers, you pretty much have to check out Malcolm Gladwell’s talk on product design.
A ha! Never mind! I’ve learned to embed! Scratch that. I most definitely have not learned how to embed video. You will need to click through on the links provided. Damn you strikethrough!
And below here is one of my favourite talks that I forgot about until recently. It is weird and wacky, but completely representative of the kind of creative and revolutionary thinking that goes on in the minds of TED speakers. And best of all, it’s short if you only have a little time to relax and unwind.
Update: New TED Talk from Evan Williams on How Twitter’s spectacular growth is being driven by unexpected uses. http://tinyurl.com/ba4uu7