By Andy Crestodina
Laszlo Polgar started with a belief: â€œgeniuses are made, not born.â€ The Hungarian chess teacher felt this notion so strongly, he wrote a book called Bring Up Genius! The book was basically a how-to guide for raising brilliant children. And through his children, Polgar had a plan to create a chess champion.
It was basically a social experiment. First Laszlo found a woman, Klara, to be the mother of his future champions. He married her, and together they had three daughters: Susan, Sofia, and Judith. From the age of three, the girls were immersed in the game of chess.
How did it work out? Today, the Polgar sisters are chess legends. Sofia is an International Master, and both Susan and Judith are Grandmasters. Judith actually became the youngest player to ever achieve that title. She was 15 years old. To this day, she is one of the strongest living chess players, male or female. She has defeated World Champions with names like Karpov, Kasparov, and Spassky.
Mr. Smith goes to Hollywood
Actor Will Smith is another example of planned success. He set out with a deliberate purpose to not just be an actor, but to be the most successful actor in the business. His manager James Lassiter said to him “Listen, if we’re going out to L.A., we probably should have a goal.” Smith replied, â€œI want to be the biggest movie star in the world.”
So together they looked at a list of the 10 top-grossing movies of all time. “We looked at them and said, O.K., what are the patterns? We realized that 10 out of 10 had special effects. Nine out of 10 had special effects with creatures. Eight out of 10 had special effects with creatures and a love story.”
In minutes, Smith and Lassiter had deconstructed the formula for Hollywood blockbusters. Smithâ€™s conclusion? â€œIndependence Day, no-brainer. Men in Black, no-brainer. I, Robot, no-brainer.â€ He pursued opportunities that would lead him down a specific path. It wasnâ€™t an accident. It was a plan.
Vision + Work + Environment.
Success requires vision. In the case of Judith, that vision began before she was born, with Laszlo Polgarâ€™s dream of raising a champion. With Will Smith, he started by analyzing the greatest successes in his field. They both understood Stephen Coveyâ€™s principle of â€œbeginning with the end in mind.â€
Success requires work. You must put in the work! You may have heard the â€œ10,000 hour ruleâ€ made famous by Malcolm Gladwell. It takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to become an expert. They both started early, but both Polgar and Smith have pursued their goals with intense determination.
Success requires the right environment. All that practice has to happen somewhere, so a favorable setting is critical. Polgar himself said, â€œGenius equals work and fortunate circumstances.â€ But your environment and circumstances can be controlled. If youâ€™re not in a good situation for reaching your goals, change it.
Make your own genius
Your goals may not be as lofty as chess Grandmaster or Hollywood movie star. Success at this level requires almost total dedication. But all accomplishments at any level require these same ingredients. Whatever your goal, set your sights, create your environment, and get to work. Great things await you.
This is a bit more of a worky-work post today, but it’s also geared toward fun. Let’s see what’s possible, eh?
Some of your colleagues or competition may have started to ease up on the productive â€œpedalâ€ right around Thanksgiving, with the idea of coasting through the holidays all the way through January second. While there is nothing wrong with celebrating, if you have one iota of ambition in your cells, youâ€™ll wish to capitalize on everyone elseâ€™s ease and propel yourself past them.
There are a number of actions and steps you can take to maximize your time at work while still leaving plenty of time for egg nog or spending time with friends and family. These are five suggestions for making the most of your efforts.
1. Project the first quarter, based on history and current projectsâ€™ trajectory. Spend just a few minutes a day (or a solid afternoon) reviewing company information, competitorâ€™s trending data and your respective industryâ€™s future capacity. If you have a solid relationship with your boss, you may wish to see if (s)he would find anything you generate of interest. Keep in mind, projections are just that: educated guesses. However, taking a moment to visualize possibilities puts you in a strong frame of mind to act on what occurs.
2. Go through your files and purge the inessential. Admittedly, this is not thrilling work. Crank up some RATM or Souza and blast through the detritus (digital and otherwise) that is clogging your workflow. Be brutally honest here. Ditch the junk; keep the treasure. If you really have a difficult time pitching something, create three boxes labeled: Keep, Pitch and Possible. You may find a piece of dormant business while you clear your decks.
3. Prioritize the â€œKeepâ€ pile. Once youâ€™ve narrowed down the actionable business, put it in a tickler file or other type of system that will remind you that it needs doing. Evernote, alerts, Outlook calendar… whatever. The KEY is to sift and LABEL as you go while itâ€™s fresh in your mind. That way, when the â€œpingâ€ comes up on February 17th, youâ€™ll have all of the actionable information right in front of you (ie. Call John about the Tasty Wheats contract. Mention Neo and how everything tastes like Tasty Wheats. They want to order 75 gross for the Nebuchadnezzar).
4. Read. During the course of 2012, you probably had at least four books per month that you wanted to read for work or pleasure. Add to this any industry-related reading and you probably could stock a small library with the stuff you would benefit from knowing. Mark off at least an hour a day to catch up on reading that will help you remain competitive as the new year rolls around. Keep in mind that â€œreadingâ€ also means audiobooks (iTunes etc.) that you can listen to during a commute, on the train or while on the treadmill.
5. Network. Go through your Rolodex and find someone you would like to grow with/mentor or learn from in 2013. It could be a superior; it could be a peer. Perhaps itâ€™s someone within your company; perhaps itâ€™s someone you met at a conference. Reach out to at least three people and send off a HANDWRITTEN snail mail piece of correspondence that says a few key things:
â€¢ Where you met or your common connection
â€¢ Why you are reaching out (â€œI admire your knowledge of Tasty Wheats.â€)
â€¢ What you bring to the relationship (â€œMy graduate thesis was about the derivation of the Tasty Wheats from cellulose fibers from urban gardens.â€)
â€¢ An offer to meet or collaborate in 2013
â€¢ Thanks and closing
Youâ€™ll find that with very little effort, you can zip by your coasting colleagues or competition (who will be essentially moving in reverse in comparison to you). Keep it simple; follow through and enjoy the holidays. You deserve it.
Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establishÂ Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founderâ€™s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter asÂ @mckra1g orÂ @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation) or “Like” them onÂ facebook.
Why Letting Your Inner Child Out Can Benefit Your Business
How many times have you watched your son or daughterâ€™s imagination shine as they play with their friends or by themselves? Children are incredible dreamers and creators who have no inhibitions about letting creativity dictate their actions. To me, entrepreneurship is synonymous with creativity. People often talk about business and art as if the two couldnâ€™t be more separate, but both celebrate the value of looking at the world a little differently than everyone else. The best entrepreneurs see possibility and opportunity where others have failed to, because theyâ€™re able to spot unique and powerful ideas that will resonate with consumers. Developing and celebrating your creative energy can benefit your business in countless ways.
Iâ€™ve spent the past twenty years bringing my product ideas to life. Thinking creatively has helped me invent and innovate, but even more importantly, Iâ€™d argue, it has helped me problem solve. Business owners are constantly surprised by new and different conflicts to overcome. Youâ€™ll never be able to predict them all. The more comfortable you become with quickly brainstorming solutions, the better your business will be. Thereâ€™s never just one answer. And thatâ€™s why being able to think outside the box when your business is faced with a seemingly impenetrable roadblock is important. Somewhere along the way most of lose the ability to dream and imagine as easily as we did as children; being able rekindle these skills will help your business.
3 Ways to Recharge Your Business Creativity
I donâ€™t believe that certain individuals are inherently more creative than others. The belief that â€˜youâ€™re just not creativeâ€™ is an excuse. Weâ€™re all creative! As children, weâ€™re all able to dream and imagine with abandon. But like any other skill, creativity requires practice, commitment, and inspiration. Iâ€™ve found that playing games helps recharge my creativity.
The first one is, â€˜What If?â€™ When I try to imagine new product ideas or encounter a problem in my daily life, I allow myself to ask any question I want to. What if we lived in a world that __? What if I were able to __? There are no right or wrong questions (nor answers!). I remember my own three children asking me question after question when they were little. Questions lead to answers, answers lead to more questions, and creative juices flow during the process!
The second game I play I call, â€˜Mix and Matchâ€™. I combine several ideas together, even if they donâ€™t seem to make immediate sense. Someone really hit the nail on the head when they matched a camera and phone, after allâ€¦. Some of the best ideas actually combine existing concepts or products in interesting ways. Think about all the times youâ€™ve watched your son or daughter play with their toys in unique ways. They are no strangers to mixing and matching to make things new and exciting.
The third creative game I use is called â€˜Solve Itâ€™. What do you wish was made better? What would you do to change it? Some products and services have been around for so long, we no longer even think about what it would be like if they were different. Donâ€™t take any assumptions for granted, and stop subconsciously assuming what is and isnâ€™t possible.
And finally, donâ€™t forget to get inspired. Seek out friends, family, and peers who, like loved and empowered children, believe that anythingâ€™s possible and embrace the alternative. Some people are more receptive to new ideas than others. At the least, find someone whose first word isnâ€™t always â€˜noâ€™.
Break out of your normal mold and schedule. How can you imagine something different and unique if you always do and see the exact same things? Change your route to work. Try a new restaurant instead of your neighborhood favorite. I know your schedule is hectic, but make time to read a new book or magazine, or watch an interesting film. Exposing yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking will jumpstart your own creativity.
Above all, allow your creative inner child to emerge to help bring your business to new heights.
What do you do to inspire your creativity?
Thank you, Steven. Love your thoughts on inspiring creativity!
–Me “Liz” Strauss