Mar 082011
 

"The Thinker - At the Rodin sculpture garden in Paris." Photo by Dan McKay. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

“Have the right attitude” is a common admonishment to anyone making a difficult change. The mind is a powerful ally or foe in the change process. We can convince ourselves of success or failure and often this core belief influences a future course of events.

Now, there are those who take this theory a bit too far and insist that if we want to change all we have to do is think our way to success. We know from Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch that this is not true as willpower is weak and easily exhaustible. You have to back up that willpower with constant motivation and practical tweaks to your environment to make your change process easier.

But thinking is undeniably a very important part of the change process and perhaps the most important part. After all, if we weren’t thinking, we probably would never decide to make any changes at all!

John C. Maxwell’s Thinking for a Change is an interesting read on the thinking process. He has clearly done a lot of thinking about thinking. He organizes thinking into 11 different types–each type having a role to play in leading a fulfilled life personally and professionally.

  1. Big Picture Thinking (thinking beyond your immediate needs to the greater goals of your organization)
  2. Focused Thinking (restricting your interests and contacts to those that are most valuable to you)
  3. Creative Thinking (invention, innovation, being unafraid of failure)
  4. Realistic Thinking (i.e. negative thinking, preparing a backup plan for when things don’t go according to plan)
  5. Strategic Thinking (planning and organizing, asking why and how)
  6. Possibility Thinking (believing you can succeed when the odds are against you)
  7. Reflective Thinking (reviewing the past, turning “experience into insight”)
  8. Questioning Popular Thinking
  9. Shared Thinking (seeking input from others)
  10. Unselfish Thinking (putting the needs of others ahead of your own)
  11. Bottom-Line Thinking (remembering the desired result or end goal)

Dr. Maxwell approaches thinking from an interesting perspective. He is a trained evangelical Christian preacher and now operates several businesses that help congregations raise money and train church leaders as well as provide general leadership training for the business world. He has written numerous best-selling books on leadership, communication and other topics. Because he has both the reflective and unselfish practice of a preacher and the realistic, strategic practice of a businessman, he ends up having quite a lot to say.

I went into this book not quite sure what I was going to get out of it. I was a bit skeptical that there would be some real insight to cling to but I am pleased to report that there was plenty.

While the main focus of the book is on the 11 different types of thinking, including questions to ask yourself and examples of the different types of thinking, some of the real gems in this book are the quotes about how thinking relates to the change process. Since an enormous part of Dr. Maxwell’s consulting involves changing churches steeped in tradition and resistant to change, it is clear that he has had to become an expert on change. Each of the quotes below made me stop to think further.

• “Unsuccessful people focus their thinking on survival.
• Average people focus their thinking on maintenance.
• Successful people focus their thinking on progress.”

–John C. Maxwell, Thinking for a Change

When I read this quote I immediately thought about my own organization challenges. I don’t find it motivating to embrace a “maintenance” mentality when it comes to organization. “A place for everything and everything in its place,” while certainly true and helpful, is not intellectually stimulating. I find it far more inspiring to have a higher and broader goal of improving and changing my environment that just returning it to the same state time after time.

“People are willing to embrace change when they:

• Hurt enough that they are willing to change.
• Learn enough that they want to change.
• Receive enough that they are able to change.”

–John C. Maxwell, Thinking for a Change

This one hit home as well. Think of the last time you made a change and identify how these three aspects made your change possible or how lack of one of these elements thwarted your change.

“If a change doesn’t feel uncomfortable, then it’s probably not really a change. . . People often forget that you can’t improve and still stay the same.”

–John C. Maxwell, Thinking for a Change

I realized that I often do think that I can get better in one area without making any changes to other aspects of my life that are already working well. Embracing change means being willing not only to fix something that doesn’t work well but also to revisit something that already works well to do it differently or perhaps even better.

“[T]he purpose of goals is to focus your attention and give you direction, not to identify a final destination.”

“Goals may give focus but dreams give power. Dreams expand the world.”

–John C. Maxwell, Thinking for a Change

These quotes made me tighten up my goal-setting language. Dream the destination, goal the direction.

“[E]xperience alone does not add value to a life . . . it’s the insight people gain because of their experience. . . . An experience becomes valuable when it informs or equips us to meet new experiences.”

“Some of the most valuable thoughts you’ve ever had may have been lost because you didn’t give yourself the reflection time you needed.”

–John C. Maxwell, Thinking for a Change

If you are in the business world in particular, the above quotes should give you pause. How many times do you find yourself rushing about from appointment to appointment on your calendar, fielding hundreds of emails and calls and never having a moment to stop to think about what you are learning from all this “experience.” Dr. Maxwell’s quote reminds us that just putting in the time is not enough if you aren’t truly learning from your experiences. Making time each week (on the weekend if necessary) to review your week and reflect on how it went is very important. A brief diary of accomplishments, lessons learned and key decisions and their impacts could make the difference between a future leader and the eternal employee.

For a taste of Dr. Maxwell’s speaking and teaching style, watch the short clip below from a presentation to businesspeople in Taiwan. It is interesting to see how he combines his religious background with his business presentation style. The result is an instant credibility because he is unafraid to hide what may be considered controversial or unpopular, presents his authentic self, and highlights the advantages of his engaging and emotional style.

Do you set aside time regularly for thinking? How do you characterize your primary thinking style? Has the right attitude made a difference in your change process? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on March 8, 2011 General Tagged with: , , ,
Mar 032011
 

Imagine you are trying to get to a destination and the only way to get there is by elephant!  There you are, sitting atop the elephant, headed down a path.  What will influence your progress?  According to Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, there are three main variables:

1)   The Rider: i.e. your logical/analytical brain.  Do you know where you want to go and how to get there?

2)   The Elephant: i.e. your emotional brain.  Are you excited about going there? Can you summon up the stamina to make it to the end of the journey?

3)   The Path: i.e. the external situation factors.  Is the path steep, flat or downhill?  Will you be deterred by weather or other hazards en route? Can you take a different route that makes the journey easier or the wrong path harder to pursue?

Switch is kind of a treatise on the current status of psychological research with regard to change and motivation.  The authors have cleverly organized an enormous amount of information around the elephant metaphor above and added in numerous real-world examples of change at work in personal lives, in business and in the non-profit world.

Similar to the Ruly philosophy, the Heath brothers believe that there is one process for successful change and that mastering that process will lead to success in any context, whether personal, business or philanthropic.

Some of the great psychological theories discussed include:

1)   solutions-focused therapy – This is a technique developed by the husband-wife therapist team Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg in their marital counseling practice who asked couples to imagine that overnight all of their marital problems were solved.  She then asks them to identify what visible signs would be evident the next morning to indicate the change had occurred.  Identifying and recognizing these signs is critical to identifying the progressive changes that need to occur.  This type of therapy essentially disregards the reasons why someone got to their current state of problems and makes the person focus on the way forward.

2)   identity theory – This theory, developed by psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser, shows that shifts in your identity result in behavioral changes. (Example: If you identify as an environmentalist, you might be inspired to recycle.)  Experiments also show that people can be receptive to adopting new identities.

3)   fixed mindset versus growth mindset theory – Carol Dweck  developed this theory and determined that you need a growth mindset to implement change.  The growth mindset believes the brain is like a muscle and you can change your situation at any time with enough effort.  The growth mindset accepts big challenges despite the risk of failure.  (Example: Schoolchildren who received training that they can be good at anything, including math, if they just work hard enough achieved far more than children who did not receive this training.)

4)   fundamental attribution error – This theory, developed by Lee Ross, is similar to the fixed mindset theory and explains that sometimes we don’t believe we (or others) can change because of innate, unchangeable personality characteristics.   “The error lies in our inclination to attribute people’s behavior to the way they are rather than to the situation they are in. “ (Example: The speeding driver who just cut you off is not necessarily a thoroughbred jerk but someone running late for an appointment.)

Some of the unique insight about successful change offered by the Heath brothers includes:

1)   look for bright spots – If you are trying to implement a very difficult change, look first for examples of people who live in nearly identical circumstances to you who have achieved the goal.  What did they do that you could replicate? (Example: When working to combat poverty in a poor community, philanthropists first looked to the poor mothers in that community with relatively healthy children and taught those healthy mothers’ dietary techniques to the mothers with more sickly children.)

2)   seek small solutions – “Big problems are rarely solved with commensurately big solutions.  Instead they are most often solved by a sequence of small solutions.. . . If you seek out a solution that is as complex as the problem . . . nothing will change.”  As former UCLA coach John Wooden put it: “When you improve a little each day eventually big things occur . . . Don’t look for the quick big improvement.  Seek the small improvement one day at a time.  That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens it lasts.” (Example: The U.S. government’s food pyramid is cited as an incomprehensible guide for healthy eating that does almost nothing to solve obesity and other problems.  More effective have been specific directives such as asking people to switch from whole milk to 1% milk.)

3)   make change seem easy – “A  business cliché commands us to ‘raise the bar.’  But that’s exactly the wrong instinct if you want to motivate a reluctant Elephant.  You need to lower the bar . . . ‘shrink the change.’”  (Examples: A car wash offering a free wash after 8 washes on a punch card had better success when giving customers a 10-wash punch card pre-punched with 2 washes than an 8 wash card starting from zero.)

4)   focus on changing feelings – “The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people, and behavior change happens in highly successful situations mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.”  (Examples: Trying to inspire your employees by focusing on cost reduction or financial goals is much less effective than inspiring them to provide incredible service to their customers or other emotionally connected goals.  Trying to sell to your customer by giving them a PowerPoint presentation with the logical reasons why they should use your product or service is much less effective than walking in with a hands-on tactile display showing you understand their problem and showing them the way to a solution.)

5)   expect failure – “Any new quest, even one that is ultimately successful, is going to involve failure.”  . . . You need to enable the expectation of failure. . . . Even in failure there is success.”  (Example: A famous design firm tells its designers to expect that during the design process there will be ups and downs and that the down periods are not signs of failure but periods the designer must persevere through to generate an excellent design.)

I generally enjoyed reading this book.  It started off very strong and engaging but toward the end in the discussion of making the path easier it started to lose a little steam.  Some of the last suggestions are about making checklists and scheduling tasks—basic time management stuff.  The only other criticism I have of the book is that when you finish it, you feel inspired with all kinds of thoughts but do not have a lot of clarity about exactly what to do next when facing a specific problem. However, if you are willing to sit down and spend some time doing your own thinking, this book is an excellent starting point and a goldmine of ideas about solving truly difficult problems.

Believe it or not, organization is mentioned in the book as a complex problem in need of a solution.  And the FlyLady, a.k.a. Marla Cilley, is cited as an example of effectively using various psychological techniques for optimum motivation in the field of personal organizing.    She is cited as a “shrink the change” follower by advising people to set a timer for 5 minutes to begin to clean up one room the best they can rather than committing to clean the entire thing (which can be daunting).  I also think she is a “quick, small solutions” practitioner as her first commandment is the simple, “shine your sink.”  She then progressively adds tasks like “get dressed to your shoes.”  You could also argue she is an “identity” practitioner as she has her own alter ego and calls her followers “FlyBabies.”

If you want to start applying the Switch philosophy to your own problems, you could start by separating your problem into the three change areas:

1)   Analytical/logical – What do I need to accomplish?  What is wrong with the way I am doing things now?  What do I need to learn more about?  What steps are involved?

2)   Motivation – What would make me excited about making this change?  What thoughts/feelings are derailing my success?  How can I structure the steps toward my goal so that the change seems easier to me?

3)   External – How can I change my environment to make change easier and reversion to my old ways harder?

Can you relate to the Switch elephant/rider approach?  Which techniques/theories appeal to you the most?  Please share in the comments.

Feb 152011
 

Andrew Huang - Website: http://www.songstowearpantsto.com/, Twitter: @andrewismusic

It’s the day after the most romantic day of the year and I thought we could all use a little reminder to cherish our loved ones every day of the year.  This month’s Ruly Mix artist, Andrew Huang, has provided a great song inspired by the day he married his wife.  It is also a great, sunny upbeat track that reminds those of us in winter climates right now that warmer days are coming soon.

Read on for more about Andrew and his music.

What is your musical background? When did you begin playing/writing music? What instruments do you play?

From almost as early as I can remember, I was playing and listening to classical music. Radio pop started to creep in as I approached the age of 10, and soon after discovering the bass guitar at 12 my mind was opened to the worlds of rock, jazz and hip-hop.

I have a bit of formal training in piano, guitar, bass and theory, but am completely self-taught in terms of writing and recording and all of the other instruments I play. “What instruments do you play” is a difficult question for me to answer because while I’m comfortable in my own way on many instruments – for instance, banjo, ukulele, mandolin, drums, glockenspiel, melodica – for all I know I could be doing everything all wrong!

At 15 I decided that writing and recording songs was going to be the most important thing in my life, and since then have dedicated most of my free time to honing those crafts.

What inspires you generally when you are writing music?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. A major theme in my songs is love, but many also touch on political, religious or societal issues that I’ve heard about through the news or that have affected my life in some way. I like to write songs about both the real people in my life and fictional characters and stories I dream up; about large and loft ideas as well as the mundane things we all experience.

An extra tap into inspiration that is uniquely mine is a hilarious website I’ve been running for several years, where visitors are daily suggesting song ideas to me. The majority of them are not that inspiring, but some have induced me to write songs – that I end up liking a fair bit – about the strangest things, from robots in love to energy drinks to sea anemones to brushing your teeth. It’s worth a visit: http://songstowearpantsto.com

Tell us about September 6th. What were you thinking about when you composed this?

September 6th is my anniversary. I started writing the song a few months before getting married and finished it a few months after. It’s the sappiest thing ever, but simply put the song is a celebration of the life and love I have with my wife. I actually wrote the whole song just about our wedding day, but realized later that it will apply to every September 6th that ever comes around for us – particularly the line “I always knew we’d make it this far.” The first half of the song is kind of cute and talks about how much we enjoy being together, and the second half is a rejoicing explosion of singing, latin percussion, bouncy guitar and two drum kits.

This month’s theme is about obsessive compulsive disorder and its relationship to excessive tidiness. Do you classify yourself as a neat-freak? How much chaos and disorder can you/do you tolerate in your own life?

I’m pretty on top of keeping things in my environment clean and neat, though I don’t think anyone would call it excessive. When I get immersed in my work, my studio degrades into more and more disarray, but I always get everything tidied and organized again before beginning another project. I might be a compulsive hand-washer though…

Click the picture below to play or right-click to download Andrew’s track, “September 6.” (If the picture is not working for you, you can also download by clicking here.)

To respect the rights of the musician, please comply with the simple Ruly License terms below.

Ruly License: You may download and play any Ruly Mix song for your own personal use so long as you keep the voiceover tags intact indicating the name of the artist and that the song came from beruly.com. Businesses may also download this song to play as background music in their establishments so long as the voiceover tags remain intact. Any other uses of the song (such as in videos, etc.) must be pre-approved by the musician. Questions about license permissions can be addressed to info@beruly.com.

If you enjoy this mix, please comment, give a “like” on Facebook and share this link with others!

Previous Ruly Mix artists: Ben Harris, George Vlad, Samuel Pushpak, Danny Stewart-Smith (“Maintain Focus”), Danny Stewart-Smith (“The Flow”), Danny Stewart-Smith (“Insights”), Danny Stewart-Smith feat. Evin Gibson, Joe Hanley, Jamie Smith, Rajiv Agarwal

 Posted by on February 15, 2011 Ruly Mix Tagged with: , , ,
Dec 102010
 

. . . . Ben Harris . . . . . http://www.fsrecording.com

‘Tis the season! Whether you are joyfully shopping and putting up decorations or feeling a little tired and overwhelmed, you will get a great boost from today’s Ruly Mix track from composer Ben Harris! I asked Ben for some modern holiday music and he came through with a wonderful tune called “Pushing Forward” that is inspirational and motivating but not necessarily aligned with any particularly “holiday.” It also makes a great New Year’s soundtrack with its positive vibe.

Read on for more about Ben and his music.

1) What is your musical background? When did you begin playing/writing music? What instruments do you play?

My musical training began as a child singing with the radio. I continued to learn music at home and in school. I started piano lessons at age 12 and taught myself guitar and bass at 15. I began writing music while in high school with aspirations of becoming a rock star. I sang in the choir, played bass in the jazz band, and played in multiple garage bands. In college I studied music, played in more bands, and realized that I didn’t want to be a rock star anymore. I wanted to do the less visible side of music such as composing, engineering, arranging, and producing. I have made a career in that less visible side and I still sing, play piano, keyboards, guitar, bass, percussion, and of course I play pretty mean MIDI drums on the keyboard.

2) What inspires you when you are writing music?

The groove inspires me most of the time, just finding that hypnotizing rhythm or melody that you want to play over and over. But what inspires me the most are the rare magical musical moments. The times when a passage of music pierces you and reminds you of a buried memory or makes you close your eyes to take it in. The times when repeating the part too many times seems to cheapen it, as if it where a sacred gift. That is what inspires me.

3) Tell us about “Pushing Forward.” What were you thinking about when you composed this?

I composed the original riff for Pushing Forward while in high school and then recorded it in college, so I was probably thinking about girls. Pushing Forward has one of those hypnotizing grooves and I remember just playing it over and over losing track of time while writing and recording it.

4) What “holidays” are you celebrating this December, if any? Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?

I am celebrating Christmas and New Years with my family. One of my favorite traditions is singing Christmas music. I purchased a Christmas fake book a few years ago that has made me the life of every Christmas party since. Everybody looks through the book for his or her favorite Christmas songs and then I accompany the singing on a piano or guitar. I just wish I had ten copies of the book so everyone could sing the same words.

Click the picture below to play or right-click to download Ben’s track, “Pushing Forward.” (If the picture is not working for you, you can also download by clicking here.)

To respect the rights of the musician, please comply with the simple Ruly License terms below.

Ruly License: You may download and play any Ruly Mix song for your own personal use so long as you keep the voiceover tags intact indicating the name of the artist and that the song came from beruly.com. Businesses may also download this song to play as background music in their establishments so long as the voiceover tags remain intact. Any other uses of the song (such as in videos, etc.) must be pre-approved by the musician. Questions about license permissions can be addressed to info@beruly.com.

If you enjoy this mix, please comment, give a “like” on Facebook and share this link with others!

Have a great weekend!

Previous Ruly Mix artists: George Vlad, Samuel Pushpak, Danny Stewart-Smith (“Maintain Focus”), Danny Stewart-Smith (“The Flow”), Danny Stewart-Smith (“Insights”), Danny Stewart-Smith feat. Evin Gibson, Joe Hanley, Jamie Smith, Rajiv Agarwal

 Posted by on December 10, 2010 Ruly Mix Tagged with: , ,
Oct 282010
 

. . . . . George Vlad . . . . . http://myspace.com/aexzm

Overwhelmed? Need a lift? How about something to challenge your thinking and creativity? I have just the treat for you today . . . another great Ruly Mix!

Today’s mix comes from Romanian composer George Vlad. When I first contacted George to discuss doing a mix for me, he wrote back . . .

“[U]pbeat is not quite my genre. For the last few years I have been concentrating on game music and sound effects, mainly from the horror, suspense or action categories. This lead me to experiment on how to convey intense feelings of fear, shock or whatever comes with a game of those types.” [emphasis added]

Could “intense feelings of fear” work for the Ruly Mix? Hmmm….it got me thinking about how much fear is a motivator for all kinds of behaviors. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of imperfection, fear of embarrassment, fear of change, fear of pain . . .sound familiar? The demons in our lives so often come internally rather than externally. So, in contemplation of Halloween, I thought George’s music would have a lot to say to all of us and it also makes an excellent soundtrack for a spooky weekend.

Read on for more about George and his music.

1) What is your musical background? When did you begin playing/writing music? What instruments do you play?

I studied music theory in elementary school, where I also played my first instrument, the recorder. My then- music teacher really helped widen my musical horizons, and guided me through my first steps in exploring Baroque and Classical music. Until I graduated from high school, I did quite a lot of listening. I was attending classical music concerts, but I also went to jazz and electronic music events.

I think it was around the age of 18 when I really became interested in composing music. I had been DJing for a while, and I suddenly felt that I had so much to express and couldn’t do it just as a DJ. Therefore, I got my hands on various Digital Audio Workstations and a keyboard and I started learning how to use them. Then I began composing electronic music, mostly drum&bass and breakbeat. Over time, I widened my production horizons, composing ambient, trip hop, IDM, and even breakcore. It was during last year that I started to get involved in videogame music, and since then I have been honing my orchestral arranging skills.

As for instruments, I play the MIDI keyboard, which, in turn, is able to control a wide variety of instruments, from percussion to brass or strings.

2) What inspires you when you are writing music?

I find that I am inspired by anything aesthetically pleasing, such as taking a walk through the woods, admiring a complex painting or reading an interesting book. Moreover, it is not always a conscious process. It is rather an urge that grows inside me when performing these activities, to the point where I find myself playing something in my head until I can express it through music.

3) Tell us about “Cat’s Eyes.” What were you thinking about when you composed this?

I composed the first version of this song in the summer of 2006. All I wanted was to compose something of a happy careless nature, but as I was working on it, I noticed that my cat was watching me from under the bed. I could only see its eyes, hence the name. The whole picture looked slightly evil, and I tried to capture that with my music: a happy careless creature that sometimes can look a little scary.
Doing this remix for the Ruly blog was really exciting. If composing the first version took me only one night, remixing it took me more than two weeks. I had never tried to remix my older songs, and I had the opportunity to compare my present knowledge and technique with what I knew back then. I have to say I learnt quite a lot in the mean time.

Click the picture below to play or right-click to download George’s track, “Cat’s Eyes.” (If the picture is not working for you, you can also download by clicking here.)

To respect the rights of the musician, please comply with the simple Ruly License terms below.

Ruly License: You may download and play any Ruly Mix song for your own personal use so long as you keep the voiceover tags intact indicating the name of the artist and that the song came from beruly.com. Businesses may also download this song to play as background music in their establishments so long as the voiceover tags remain intact. Any other uses of the song (such as in videos, etc.) must be pre-approved by the musician. Questions about license permissions can be addressed to info@beruly.com.

If you enjoy this mix, please comment, give a “like” on Facebook and share this link with others!

Have a great weekend!

Previous Ruly Mix artists: Samuel Pushpak, Danny Stewart-Smith (“Maintain Focus”), Danny Stewart-Smith (“The Flow”)Danny Stewart-Smith (“Insights”)Danny Stewart-Smith feat. Evin GibsonJoe HanleyJamie SmithRajiv Agarwal

 Posted by on October 28, 2010 Ruly Mix Tagged with: , , ,