This is why you need to play

playing outside

Most of us were not taught to appreciate the value of play when we were children.

Instead, we picked it up instinctively, either by ourselves or with peers, and used our imagination to create make-believe games that were fun and exciting. Cardboard boxes become castles and action figures become soldiers and ninjas. But as we grew older, we learned to stop playing silly games and instead, were told to focus on more important things.

Ironically, one of the places that discourages play is school.

It seems that most schools only honor competitive forms of play, like team sports or competitions. And although the word school is derived from the Greek word schole, which means leisure, much of our time at school is purely focused on work. In his popular TedEx talk, How Schools Kill Creativity, Sir Ken Robinson suggests that our modern educational system actually hinders our creativity and imagination. Instead of encouraging freethinking and exploration, students are taught to “paint inside of the lines” by memorizing facts and figures to accomplish routine tasks.

This makes sense in a world defined by the Industrial Revolution.

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Invest in Fewer Things. Yield Bigger Returns.

investing

Not too long ago, I was invited to become co-chair of an impressive committee on the board of an association for young lawyers. Undoubtedly, the position would have looked really good on my resume and probably would have expanded my network in a positive way.

I was excited about the opportunity and quickly said yes. However, only a few days later, once I realized that my overloaded schedule would prevent me from doing a good job, I was forced to re-evaluate my commitments. Ultimately, I decided to revoke my acceptance and enable someone else who was more available to undertake the task.

Maybe you’ve experienced something like this too.

You establish a clear purpose and focus for your career, you work hard and buckle down when times get tough, and the result is a great foundation for future success – increased responsibility and an improved reputation amongst your peers. Unfortunately, once people determine that you are a high achiever, you will eventually become bombarded with more and more opportunities, which lead to more and more demands upon your time and energy.

Sometimes, being hardworking backfires.

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Begin With The Customer In Mind

customer

You have been exploring a side business and have settled on an idea.

Maybe you would like to create a fun new product, or perhaps you would like to offer your services as a consultant. In the last segment of the Before You Launch series, we talked about finding your idea, defining your story and creating a vision for the future. These items are important because they not only help us define a vision of success for our business, but they also help us identify the important metrics and goals that will help get us there.

Now we will dive a little deeper and begin exploring the issues that are most important to our future customers.

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Don’t Plan to Sell, Plan to Matter

paper airplane

So you want to start a side business.

You have this cool idea that just won’t go away. Something fun and unique, an innovative product or service offering that you believe could revolutionize the market, bring you great personal joy, or perhaps allow you to make a little extra income each month. You don’t necessarily want to quit your job (not yet anyway). You simply want to explore the limits of your creativity and share your unique gifts. Rest assured, you are not alone. Entrepreneurship is incredibly popular these days.

And truthfully, people have been launching their own business ventures for a very long time. Starting a side business – whether it’s offering your time as a consultant or creating products that educate or entertain – can be a lot of fun. However, before you put up your ‘lemonade stand’ and begin seeking clients, it’s important to plan strategically.

Do you have a clear grasp of the problem you are targeting? Have you explored various business models? What about a business plan – do you need one? How much planning is even necessary? Do you need a Twitter account too? Even if you’re not thinking about starting a business, learning how to plan for a new venture is valuable.

As Daniel Pink suggests, we are all in the sales game.

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The Secret Reason Why No One is Reading Your Articles

type messages

There is a possibility that no one will read this.

That’s always the problem with publishing articles online or sending newsletters through email, right? There is always that small chance that every reader who finds your article or opens your email message will take five brief seconds to sift through your quotes and scan your headlines for anything compelling before quickly pressing the DELETE button. Goodbye. Have a nice day. Your efforts have failed.

See, even after discovering a great story or crafting an inspiring message, the challenge is figuring out how to grab your readers’ attention long enough for them to digest your great content. How do you organize and convey your ideas in a way that resonates with your audience and keeps them engaged? What is it about a piece of content – an article or picture or video – that makes it not only interesting, but worthy of being shared on social media through mediums like Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest?

Simply, what makes a story go viral?

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What I’ve Been Reading: 5 Book Recommendations for September

bookshelf

I hope September is off to a great start!

This past month, I read more fiction than I usually do, which has been really wonderful. It is helping me think about ways to improve my own writing, and more importantly, it has been a lot of fun to explore new worlds. Sometimes, I find that reading fiction helps me process things going on in my own life in a way that non-fiction never will.

I am excited for the books I have on deck for September. In the meantime, check out five books I read in August (and early September) below.  I hope you add one or two to your list for this month.

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10 Leadership Lessons You Need To Remember

nelsonmandela

We all want to become better leaders.

Whether at home or at the workplace or in pursuit of our passion, we are constantly striving to learn and improve and grow. But it’s certainly not easy. What enables great leaders to overcome hardships, build great teams and innovate radical solutions to challenging situations?

What does it truly take to get there?

Often, the best lessons can be learned from history. Frequently, great leaders throughout history share common characteristics and attributes that not only made them unique, but also helped them lead great movements with innovative ideas. These individuals were not born leaders; they developed leadership habits and followed the inspiring example of those that came before them.

We can develop and foster the habits of leadership within our own lives too.

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You Should Want To Die While Singing

She Sings

No one wants think about death.

Yet, it is in reflecting upon the imminence of death and acknowledging the fleeting nature of each passing day that we can learn to appreciate the gift of life. Countless stories of untimely deaths have recently flooded the media– from teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to American journalist James Wright Foley in Syria to the acclaimed actor Robin Williams. People are angry and hurt and many believe that these individuals were taken from the world before their time.

It’s not just that these stories remind us that racism and prejudice and depression are hardships that millions of people still endure each and every day. They highlight the simple truth that life is indeed short and we must take advantage of every opportunity to share our unique gifts with the world.

Unfortunately, so many fail to do this. As Les Brown says,

“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step . . . ”

Don’t die with your song tucked away safely in the corner of your mind.

Do this instead.

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Making Your Messages Stick With a Story

tellstories

When I was still a young little lad in kindergarten, before tortoise shell glasses and bowties, before I was fully comfortable with printing my long name on lined paper with an oversized yellow pencil, one of my favorite “classes” was story time.

The entire class would surround our teacher in growing anticipation, each of us seated on the carpeted floor with our legs crossed so that we could see the colorful pictures and hear the engaging words. I loved listening to my teacher read each sentence as I imagined the unfolding story play out in my mind.

There is something special about really good stories and their ability to move us.

It’s the reason why Apple described the iPod as “one thousand songs in your pocket” instead of focusing solely on the technical specifications. Or why political candidates spend so much time crafting their narrative and defending themselves against accusations about their past.  It’s why marketing, branding and social media consultants remain in demand, and why videos are a critical component of every successful Kickstarter campaign.

The power of stories is the reason why, even as adults, we crave colorful and fun stories that remind us of our youth, like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Happy Feet. And as you will see in this post, stories are even useful during interviews or for those venturing into the business world.

But telling a good story, especially in the professional context, takes some work.

How do you do it?

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What I’ve Been Reading: 4 Book Recommendations for August

bookshelf

I hope the month of August is off to a great start! The year is flying by!

I just spent a fun week in Cambridge, MA helping to coordinate the 2014 MIT Online Science, Technology and Engineering Community (MOSTEC) Conference.  It was an amazing time and I look forward to working with the students over the next few months to help them grow and prepare for college success!

While at MIT, I was reminded that before life got complicated and we became absorbed with finding the right career or gunning for the best promotion, we simply enjoyed learning for the sake of learning. Waking up each day, excited about using our talents and skills to invent something new or brainstorm solutions to problems in our community. I love reading and am trying to do it as often as I can because it keeps me grounded and reminds me that there is so much to learn and learning is beautiful.

This past month was a busy one and I am still finishing up a few great books. In the meantime, check out four books I finished in July below.  I hope you add one or two to your list for August.

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