Tag Archives: books

My Book of the Year//Book Review: The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry

Ok, by best, I mean non-fiction book (the best fiction book goes to the Steig Larson’s “Girl Who Kicked The Hornest’s Nest.”) The Accidental Creative: How To Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, though, holds in it all the practices and principles that I could only hope every creative executive. The author Todd Henry and the complimenting web site are dedicated to “free[ing] creative teams to do brilliant work. We do this by equipping them with the proper mindset, the right tools, and the systems they need to thrive.” In fact if I had found the book and the site earlier this year, I may not have started this blog.

The author, a self-described “arms dealer for the creative revolution” provides tools for anyone to bring consistent brilliance into their daily lives. If there is a phrase that could trump “highly recommend” or “strongly urge” I would insert that now. Henry speaks to any individual who is called upon to generate ideas and solve problems–from artists to product managers–this book can change your life. I mean that.

Henry understands to the toxic habits and convoluted reasoning that plague many corporate environments. I smiled and shook my head several times as I read this book. I wondered if he ever walked the halls of my old office buildings seeing statements such as “a workplace in which rationalization and mediocrity become the norm. Innovation is often the rallying cry, but bunting for singles is the everyday ethic.”

From this vantage point he offers acute diagnosis for what prevents us from being consistently creative. Then he follows his analysis with cures that can be implemented immediately. Henry says, “To unleash your creative potential now and thrive over the long-term, you need to establish your own rhythm–one that is independent of the pressures and expectations you face each day.”

The most profound teaching for me was Henry imploring his readers to live with intentionality, choice and discipline. “…effective creating begins the moment you decide to reclaim the natural rhythms of your creative process and structure your life around them.” As with any “self-help” or instructional book, it’s some times hard to implement all the suggestions consistently and correctly. But living with intentionality, choice and discipline was the starting point I chose and it has infected my entire life.

Intentionality means I only go with the flow on vacation. I wake up every morning with purpose and focus. In my case, to be a great storyteller. More importantly, I check in with myself to make sure that I’m on track to accomplish my goals from time to time. Choice means I remind myself of each day’s opportunity cost. If choose to watch X amount of hours of television, that also means I choose not to spend that time reading, writing or working on my goals. “You can do almost anything you want, but not everything you want.” Discipline means getting the task done despite how I feel. “Comfort is frequently the enemy of greatness.”

My apologies for so many quotes, but the book is just that good. Henry hits the mark. If you are looking for a book to jumpstart a sluggish career or seeking methods to improve your creativity, this is the book for you. I’ll be referring to it regularly as I re-enter the workforce. (Read more on that here.)

Check out this video about the book. It’s just as good as my review. (wink)

What do you smell like at the office? BOOK REVIEW: Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod

Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

I enjoyed this book. I recommend it for anyone who is looking for a pick me up while working on a project or anyone contemplating leaving their job for a more “creative” one. Hugh takes his blog postings and card cartoons and expands them into what I took as mini-lessons about what it means to live and make a living as a creative.

I didn’t agree with all his assessments. He says not to quit your day job. Too late for me. But Hugh makes some excellent points about how to own, asses and manage your creativity, your process and your ideas in the marketplace. My favorite chapter, was #29.

Power is never given. Power is taken. People who are “ready” give off a different vibe from people who aren’t.”

Wow. That hit me in the face. I had to close the book and let that settle in me for a few days. I started to think about what vibe I give off. When I started working a new job in New York (I’ve had three. A blessing.) I gave off the intelligent and eager vibe. By the time I left each one, I gave off a “I could care less vibe.” Ha! I can laugh now, because I was fortunate to have employers that could still remember me when I smelled of talent and promise.

What vibe do you give off? Is it obvious that you only come in for the free bagels and the good dental plan? Does your body language and vocal intonation express timidity in meetings? This is what you have to know. When you are a ball of energy in the building, everyone will tell you. They’ll compliment you on it and anticipate your presence in the hallway. But when you reek of complacency and have “checked out after breakfast!” on your forehead—guess what–very few people will tell you. They’ll just talk about you behind your back.

If you have a good boss, they’ll sit you down and ask about you. If you have a great boss, they’ll tell you they know you are better than this corporate zombie they see everyday and challenge you to pick up the pace.

But if you have a boss who knows her job, but doesn’t know how to manage, they’ll wait till review time and drop a bomb on you. They’ll slowly and systematically shift good projects away from you so that when layoffs come around, the work will already be re-allotted. Trust me. Very few people like confrontation and fewer are courageous enough to still do it.

So instead of sitting at your desk playing Angry Birds or daydreaming about the lottery (which I used to do a lot) pick up this book. It will help you transition from being a one-dimensional slave to Outlook by giving you permission and principles to own your creative energy. From there, he gives many tips and warnings about the road to creative living and livelihood.

For someone of you, it means getting back on track. Maybe you like your position but you’ve lost the romance between pseudo brainstorms and the ever evolving power point deck deadlines. Others of you will need to start that side hustle or pick a creative passion back up. It will revitalize your office hours and provide a creative, and possibly financial, reward.

Hugh talks about the difference between dreaming and really being ready to step into your creative calling. (My term, not his.) He explains the challenges and prepares you for temptations, like what he calls “pillars.” “Pillars” are things we claim to need to work, but are really self-made excuses nurtured by fear to keep us from moving forward. “I need a better computer before I can write.” “Once I upgrade my camera, I’ll go back to shooting.” Hogwash!!!

Another quote that I am dying to share and proves my point about Hugh pysching you up is

The best way to get approval is not to need it.

Whooo! If we were at church, I’d have to jump on that one. I’m not waiting on anyone to tell me I’m gifted or smart or unique anymore, baby. I know it and for your sake, I hope you get on board. The same goes for you my friend, change your office sent to confidence and competence TODAY! You know your skills set, mentally bathe in it every morning. Your mind, body, soul and everyone around you will be forced to inhale the whiff of your creative force.

Hugh calls ’em like he sees ’em. So don’t expect too much sugar-coating. But do expect your confidence to build. If you like it, let me know. If you don’t, share that too. Here is a visual of Hugh discussing his second book, Evil Plans. Enjoy!

Up next on my reading list? The Accidental Creative.

Creative Militancy Pt. 3: Access Your Creative Mind

Between returning emails, running to meetings and checking your voicemail–do you have time to be creative, inventive? Do you ever feel like a robot completing one task after another? In most corporate settings, we are slaves to our “to-do” lists. So when do you have time to think of a good idea?

As a part of my series on becoming a creative militant, I want to explore how we can tap into our creative unconsciousness. In Fast Company’s June 2011 issue (article alerts here) there is a wonderful article that I found: “Exercising The Minds Muscle. The writer claims that slowing down is actually the best way to ignite your creative brain.

Don’t underestimate the power of meditation or the importance of giving your mind a break. You may think that meditating is just for hippies or new age folks who did yoga before it was in style. But according to Ron Alexander a therapist, meditation teacher and author of Wise Mind, Open Mind, meditation “…is an excellent strategy for becoming successful in your profession, as well as the bigger game of transforming yourself and the people who work with and for you.” Alexander claims that meditation “sets the stage” to tap into out creative unconsciousness. His suggestions for mindfulness meditation include:

1. Sitting in a cross-legged position or in a straight-backed chair with your feet on the floor. If you prefer to lie down, keep your eyes slightly open.
2. Set an alarm for 12 to 20 minutes.
3. Concentrate on your breath as it leaves and enters your nostrils or as your belly rises and falls.

Reclaim your creativity by taking yourself off the corporate treadmill for a few minutes a day. Your mind deserves a chance to recharge. Our current corporate culture makes us feel that we can’t afford to spend time doing anything that isn’t directly related to our “to do” list. Don’t accept that.

Find the right place. Save some time for your mind. Time to think and meditate isn’t just for people who work in entertainment or executives with a swanky corner office. Walk away from your cubicle, make a morning commute playlist, close your office door, leave your desk during lunch—do whatever you have to do to access and unleash your creative energy!