Staying Unstuck

“If you feel stuck, move. You are not a tree.”~ Germany Kent

“Don’t wait for the right answer and the golden path to present themselves. This is precisely why you’re stuck. …”

Seth Godin

I love Seth Godin. I took his altMBA class and learned to trust myself. Together, the other students and I learned how hard it is to get unstuck. In 30 days we shipped 13 grueling assignments that challenged our “stuckness.” We found that our growth came from getting unstuck and challenging the resistance (fear) we had as we faced change.

STAYING UNSTUCK?

Three months after graduating, I’m trying to stay unstuck. It’s hard to get unstuck, but staying unstuck — outside with the wind whipping around our psyches, slapping against our egos, and whistling the “you’re not good enough” tune is unsettling. And daunting. I have to revisit the cycle again and again and again.

Start. Work. Try. Sweat. Finish. Publish/Ship/Send. Fail? Repeat.

Start. Work. Try. Sweat. Finish. Publish/Ship/Send. Fail? Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

The rug gets pulled out with a tug from fate. From the competition. From an employee, a manager, a brother or sister. And we flip upside down.

Flip.

Flip.

We can choose to quit. On the other hand,

“…You might not end up with perfect, but it’s significantly more valuable than being stuck.

Don’t just start. Continue. Ship. Repeat.”

Seth Godin (again, still)

Here’s another quote about being stuck.


“If you feel stuck, move. You’re not a tree.”
— Germany Kent (American print and broadcast journalist)

If you want to get unstuck and stay unstuck, try something new every day for three weeks. See how it feels. If you want to step it up, level up, play up, check out the altMBA. OR check out any of the many other Akimbo.com workshops.

I like being unstuck. Some days are scarier than others, but unstuck is better. I’m never bored. My unconscious blow-through-the-day-in-a-haze self can rarely file its nails and rock on the front porch of life. That self is always wondering, “What’s she going to do NOW?”

Me too.

Photo credit: Pexels.com

“Do You Know What You Want?”

It’s a quintessential business question but like a free lunch–the answer is decidedly not free.

The group of especially intense entrepreneurs sat in a Zoom meeting discussing the question above. But it was not the question we were asking each other. Rather, it was the question we ask companies who come to us for advice or help with projects, whether it is marketing, growth, design, education, perhaps, or personnel. It can be anything.

It is not surprising that companies like yours look outside for startups and creatives like those in our group to help you gain clarity on your next challenge.

Is it one of these?

Sales are down. | Employee turnover is up. | Deliveries are late. |It’s time to hire, fire, grow, move, add a product, cut a service. | It’s something else.

You’re stumped, because you don’t know what’s wrong, OR what you want to do to fix it.

We don’t either. But here’s what we’d like you to know. Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you have seen it. Sometimes, that means looking at one option, and another, and another with nothing that looks or feels quite right. It’s like looking for a home. You kinda know what you’re looking for, but you have to go through a lot of no’s before you get to a yes. The kitchen is too small, and even though it appeared there was enough room to expand it, it wouldn’t work. You move on. You haven’t paid the agent a dime. But that’s their job.

That’s the difference. A realtor’s job is to show you a bunch of homes until you find one you like. They don’t “charge” you for that time, and you think small businesses shouldn’t be charging to show you different answers to your problems. That there is a problem. Here’s the thing. If you had some department in your company doing the analysis, scenario building, and defining the resources and assets, boundaries, and constraints for various paths, you would be paying them. The “cost” gets buried in their salaries, but in truth, the opportunity cost is that they’re working on your project, not on someone else’s, or perhaps they’re moving deadlines on their regular jobs for that day.

No Free Lunches

“Do you know what you want?” is not a free question anymore than there are free lunches. Everything costs. When I’m asked “that question,” I can say “No, I don’t know what I want.” But if I begin the analysis seeking solutions so I can answer the question, I should expect to pay for the time it takes to do it.

If it’s MY time, I “pay for it” by pushing another project aside for the moment. I may “pay” by not watching television or by not playing a sport that day. In the generous world of my ZOOM group this morning, we help each other freely. But we pay each other back by asking them “the question” and helping them to answer it honestly and with due diligence of reflection, clarifying comments, and respectful, necessary disagreement sometimes.

Seth Godin says a lot of pithy things, but I’m going to pick this one for now.

“If you can’t state your position in eight words, you don’t have a position.” – Seth Godin

If you can’t answer the question, you don’t know what you want and that’s okay. But knowing what you want has immense value. And everything costs.

***

If you want more content like this, check out Mickey Mellon’s blog posts. He’s a Seth Godin fan and a deep thinker (and a member of the thought group that originated this blog’s question).

Photo compliments of Pexels Free Photos.

Save the Cat!

“I think we can learn so much from other disciplines…”

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is a book about screenwriting


And what does screenwriting have to do with business and life? I’d like to submit that there’s a huge parallel between our businesses, our lives and screenwriting based on this “Bible” of screenwriting that I learned about in a… wait for it… novel-writing workshop a few years ago.

Why the parallel?
Let’s just start with the first three chapter titles.

  1. What is it?
  2. Give me the same thing… only different.
  3. It’s about a guy who …

The chapters build on the idea of having a successful formula for creating the screenplay including the characters, the storyline, the pitch, the marketing, the writing, testing, etc. that are rules that cannot be broken. Our businesses have (need) some unbroken tenets.

Three-act plays are important only because the rule of three is dang strong. Example: Youth. Middle Age. Old Age. Another: Product life cycles: New, rising to a peak, and fading.

Character arcs: What does your company start as? How does it grow and then change? What are the “bookends” the opening and closing images that we can see about your company? What do YOU see? Can you apply that idea to your life?

Beats. What is the heartbeat of your company? What happens when? Is it on schedule and according to plan? Snyder lays out fifteen beats that define the screenplay. What are those for a company? A life?

The promise of the premise (a.k.a “What is it?”) has to appear on every page, in every scene, in all parts of your company, in all the stages of your life. You’re delivering what your website says, what your promotions promise, and what your families expect.

Okay. It’s a stretch. But people who buy from companies want to like the company and they want to think that, given the chance, the company would save the cat.


ALSO, I think we can learn so much from other disciplines. And from what I’ve seen, this is one of the better books for anyone wanting to write a screenplay. Besides. It’s funny.

Save a cat today.

The Truth?

“If you don’t have the experience of something you’re not at liberty to write about it.”

Do you agree?

Can I tell if I’m telling my truth? Am I writing for an audience that I’m trying to impress? Am I trying to impress you right now?

Here’s what I want you to know: I struggle to tell the truth because sometimes I don’t know what it is until I write about it. Which… is probably why I write.

What’s the truth?

In recalling from altMBA that we are all irrational, I can assure myself that even if I think I’m telling the truth, I’m probably not. Or maybe, it’s my truth today, but it will be different tomorrow. Is that possible? Does truth change day-to-day?

Do you want the truth? “You can’t handle the truth,” Jack Nicholson’s character says in the movie A Few Good Men. The truth can remind me of something. It may remind me of hurt. I don’t know. Or happiness? OR wishes, that are not the truth… just wishful thinking.

Here’s the thing: Stuff “above the fold” or at the top of the iceberg above the water may or may not be the truth. The stuff below is the ‘truth-y’ stuff. And I should go there more often to write my truth, even if it hurts, and maybe even if I have not experienced it directly. Is that cheating?

Best Travel List

If you pack these items you will always have a good time, wherever you go, in any season of the year.

  1. A sense of humor
  2. Curiosity
  3. Patience
  4. A sense of direction
  5. Reliable systems
  6. Sleep
  7. Something to read
  8. Something to write in and with
  9. Bravery
  10. Presence
  11. A positive attitude
  12. Snacks
  13. Your memory
  14. Listening skills
  15. Openness

The best part: you don’t even need a suitcase.

Book Launch January 28, 2018

Giving My Self to the Wind

 GMSTTW COVER  I had so much fun.

The top left photo is of my husband Don and my son Ted with me at the Gatsby Books signing. Next on the left, friends Tim and Nancy Thomas, and then my brother Bob and me.  The threesome at the bottom are my friends, Dave Fleck, Candice Brandt, and Jim Larkin.

 

20170128 (1101) (1)Above is a photo of me with with my crazy “pinwheel” pens for giveaways.

I look forward to another one soon.

 

Published!

GMSTTW COVERThis is my book. I wrote it because I had to put my self out. Be out. These are pieces of me (they’re always called pieces, whether a piece of music, art, or writing) that assure me I was here. I never thought of that before, but it’s true. Creatives leave these little breadcrumbs like Hansel and Gretel.  Do they (we) then have a way to find our way back to ourselves? Does an architect leave a piece? No. They leave big things. Whole things like buildings and subdivisions. Are those pieces? Maybe. Engineers leave bridges, waterways, and aqueducts and dams and things. Doesn’t matter. They see edifices in their minds and build them. Creatives see music and art, and we write it, paint, or draw it. Then, we share it. Sometimes we perform it.

I could say my kids “prove” I was here. Or that I have photos that say, “I was here.” But I’m not sure of that. Some of the photos were taken when I was too little to remember. Was I really there?

My family should be pleased to know I was here. Hah. And they may see themselves immortalized in these pages, too. While many of the stories are pure fiction, some are versions of events that happened with the names of the characters changed. I wonder if they will recognize themselves.

That’s it. The book is available from Outskirts Press, on Amazon, and also on Barnes & Noble.

Now on to the next creation. I do hope some other (not family!) people will read this book and like it. Themes, lessons, and laughter titter through the pages, yes. But mostly I’m glad I wrote it. And published it. Just. For. Me. In. The. Wind.

 

WRITING Is Not Easy

We are inundated with content all day long. We are buried in promotions. Suffocating from inbound. Struggling to create outbound. So because writing is all around us, it seems that it is an easy thing to do. But it’s not. WRITING is not easy. Good writing is really, really hard.

  • People write emails all day long. They’re writing. Right? No. It’s not WRITING. On the other hand…
  • Writing is not surgery. Good writing isn’t either. But writing is important. (Examples: The U.S. Constitution, The Bible, The Koran, etc.). And it may save lives as in well-written checklists like those in Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto or an instruction manual for electrical wiring.

Writing may save lives.

  • You need a license to practice surgery. And while you do not need one to write, you do need a license to drive a car and to be officially married.
  • Did you think about the fact that you do not need a license to have a child?

Having a license sets people apart. It denotes a level of proficiency. Yet, even after obtaining a license, people practice what they have learned to become good at it. Doctors, dentists, and lawyers have “practices.” Professional musicians practice. Dancers, actors and other people who are not licensed practice long hours to attain the level for which they can be paid… as a professional. Writers do, too.

People struggle to write well. Professional writers struggle more. Tennis players strive to play well. Professional tennis players strive harder and longer. Professional golfers and painters (or anyone who needs the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours of practice to be really good) do not have licenses but compete to be deemed the best at what they do. Writers that write for 10,000 hours do not always get their books published by one of the big publishing houses. That also takes luck. (And luck is also a Malcolm Gladwell Outlier ingredient for success.)

Good writing is not easy. We can try to write more because we think more is better. However, practicing long hours is only helpful if it’s correct practice. Because so many people write all day long, they may think they will become better at it. Yes. Better.  But to be a really good writer, people can take a class. Buy a book on writing. Enter contests, and seek legitimate publishing venues. Or they can hire a professional writer to write with them.

Bottom line:  Really good writing is extremely hard to do. There is no license to be a writer. Masters and Doctorate degrees—yes. Otherwise, the proof is in the publishing. In clarity and voice and tone. However, the real proof: the pleasure of reading good writing of any kind.

You Need a Break

Hire a professional. Perhaps a professional writer, even.

Maybe you have too many projects for the writers on your staff. Maybe you’re the writer and the staffTaking a Break from Writingand you’re doing it all. Sometimes it’s just plain hard to come up with a new angle. Your writers and you have been writing about the company for years. It’s difficult to create spanking new content every time.  

“What are we going to write about today?” they plead, their eyes crossed from the sheer weight of the challenge. Perhaps Sisyphus, the mythological Greek king (whose punishment in hell was to push a rock up a mountain only to have it roll back down every time, again and again, and again) had it easier.

Take a break! Make it like the day a landscape architect comes to your home. Budget so you can afford it. The yard will look better, and fewer plants will die if the experts design, choose the correct plants, and set the automatic watering schedule for the best time of day and water requirements for healthy plants.

A “word architect” will likewise design a written project that will look better, will include the correct words for your audience and purpose, and will arrive with placement suggestions to deliver the (marketing) piece to the most effective promotional channels or media outlets.  Your feeling of relief is…priceless!

Find a way. Hire a professional. By hiring a landscape architect, or by indulging in, perhaps, an interior decorator or a writer, you will see that it’s good for the soul to take a break from the angst of Do-It-Yourself. It’s good for your head, too. It’s like taking a little vacation: you come back renewed and refreshed.

A freelance writer will let you take a break, and free your mind for other endeavors.

Seeing With Fresh Eyes

Everyone from marketers to writers to web designers needs Fresh Eyes. Find out why and how.

Seeing with Fresh Eyes

I don’t like to edit. Well, I like to edit other people’s stuff, but not my own. I like what I write. Or I wouldn’t be a writer. That said, everyone needs someone to edit their work.

 

EVERYONE. (Including moi).

Fresh Eyes are other people’s eyes. Or they’re your own eyes after a good night’s sleep.

Fresh Eyes are your eyes after 24 hours away from the project. Maybe 8 hours. Or 2. For longer works, Fresh Eyes, if they’re your own, require time and a blink-worthy dusting (think powdered sugar here) of amnesia.

Stephen King says Fresh Eyes are needed between book drafts. In his writing craft memoir On Writing he says, “How long you let your book rest—sort of like bread dough between kneadings—is entirely up to you, but I think it should be a minimum of six weeks.”

Fresh Eyes could be called “vu-jà dé” … (I stole this from Adam Grant’s TED Talk at minute:second 10:57 into the talk. Thanks Adam! J). It’s like the opposite of déjà vu, where instead of already having seen it before, you’re seeing it for the first time.

Fresh Eyes bring someone else’s perspective into your life, onto the project.

Fresh Eyes sing new tunes and bring new rhythms.

Fresh Eyes understand there are more ways to approach the problem, write the story, paint the picture, take the photo.

Fresh Eyes are untainted by prejudice. Fresh Eyes are unclogged by confirmation bias.

Fresh Eyes are often “focused” by listening ears and open hearts and reading out loud.

Fresh Eyes are gifted by a willingness to admit you’re wrong. A possibility that you made a mistake. The welcoming of another opinion, instead of an anxiety about being criticized.

Fresh Eyes are not fearful, nor are Fresh Eyes to be feared. They are your friends.

For your writing project, your film, your new product, your idea, your company, or your invention or daring marketing scheme, take a moment and a deep breath. Take two steps back, or take a walk around the block. A trip around the world. A night away. Take in a movie or a play. Read a book.

Then return with Fresh Eyes. And when “Did I really say that?” escapes your lips, you can thank us. Or thank Stephen King. He’ll be glad he could help. I’m sure.

Artwork by Katie Phillips