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Where's Your Muse?
March | 2014


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Courageous Leadership

TED Talks

 
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Courageous Leadership

Where's Your Muse?

Many mornings, when I wake up in that dreamlike state, I find my most creative self. I lay in bed quietly observing my mind as it reveals new ideas about work and play. The other day I drew up plans for a trip to see granddaughter Tori play soccer right after I outlined a proposal for a new client. I usually allow myself to stay in bed during that time, enjoying the pleasure that comes from creating while under warm covers. Sometimes, I even remember to pick up the notepad on my nightstand so that I can write down all these brilliant ideas. My creative forays usually continue for a bit longer while I do my morning stretches and even into my shower time when the hot water seems to evoke new ideas that I hadn't even considered.

Unfortunately, my inspired self does not always follow me around once I get out of my creativity chamber and in front of my computer screen. Even with my sometimes legible but always cryptic hypnogogic notes in front of me, my mind doesn't always continue on the creative path I was so hopeful about just an hour or two before. It seems, that in front of the computer, my mind freezes up and my creativity drains right out of me almost as if someone pulled a plug.

At least I'm not alone.

A few weeks ago I was listening to an interview on Public Radio with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. She told the story of how she struggled to find a title for her book before she sent it off to her publisher. The title would not come and she decided that she would "demand that her book tell her its name" One friend commented to her that "with that attitude, I certainly wouldn't tell you!" Gilbert decided to change her tone and went to bed that night sweet-talking her manuscript. The next day her now famous title came to her.

Of course, the idea of personifying creativity is not new. The Ancient Greek Gods, Zeus and Mnemosyne raised their 8 daughters to be muses. These Goddesses provided inspiration to authors, scientists and artists. As the great Greek writer Homer prepared to write his classics, The Iliad and its sequel, The Odyssey, he probably called on Calliope, the muse of epic poetry to help him reveal his story.

But how can this idea about creativity or any other approach you might consider, help us be creative in your work? Here are some suggestions to consider:

  1. Claim Your Creativity: You may think that your harebrained ideas have nothing to add to your businesses or life success. But you may very well be wrong. When Patty McCord, the Chief Talent Officer at Netflix had a new idea about how to manage employees, she was at first cautious about bringing it up to the CEO. When she finally told him her idea to change the company's approach to talent management, he was game to try it out. The idea — to inform employees that the company would be treating everyone like adults. They would not be tracking vacations or expenses and they would be focused on only keeping "A" performers while letting go of sub par staff. Many people were dumbfounded, but the key message she conveyed to employees was to think about what was in the best interest of Netflix. not be tracking vacations or expenses and that they would be focused on only keeping "A" performers while letting go of sub par staff, many people were dumbfounded. The key message she conveyed to employees was to think about what was in the best interest of Netflix. Her ideas took hold, changed the culture in the company and created great success for Netflix.
  2. Turn to others for ideas: We often turn to experts to find the answers for complex problems at work and at home while some of the experts we need are probably working right along side of us. When Toyota implemented their lean technology, they looked to their workers on the assembly line to find the errors in production and made sure that their insights were used to change processes that improved efficiency and effectiveness.
  3. Be Resilient to Stress: As Elizabeth Gilbert discovered, and my early morning interludes have taught me, creativity seldom happens under stressful conditions. Creativity is greatest when you are in a place of calm and ease. It's not easy for many of us to find a relaxed state. We're usually on the move and have one more thing to do before the next thing. One senior executive I work with has scheduled in 90 minutes 2x/week for creating thinking. No meetings, phone calls, or report writing. She is in her office, finds some calmness and then thinks about her own priorities and those of her division.

Remember that creativity is hard wired into our DNA. Sometimes we just have to get out of the way to find it and let it help us become more successful, and to have more fun. I may be turning to Thalia, the muse of comedy for inspiration a bit more in the future.

Who will you be turning to?

 

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TED Talks

Tania Luna was 6 years old when she emigrated from post Chernobyl Ukraine where she faced the terror of nuclear fall out. When her family came to New York, she thought the homeless shelter she and her family were staying in was a hotel. It was just a penny she found on the floor of that shelter that helped her appreciate how much she had. Hear her story about that penny and her piece of Bazooka Bubble Gum.

 

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