Success: What Does It Look Like And How Can You Be Sure When You’ve Achieved It?

Success: go get it! Written in chalk on a blackboard

Success is such a subjective term. Personal. Context-dependent. Relative.

I was asked recently by a student if I could write something on how to be successful.

This got me thinking.

Success means different things to different people.

What you might think is a success may be something rather ordinary for someone else.

For example: my two-year old son sees peeing in the toilet as a success. Frankly, who doesn’t! But to those of us who have mastered the art of peeing in the toilet, this doesn’t seem like such a big deal (unless you’ve had a few).

So how do you become successful, when success is variable? Subjective? Personal?

I started working backwards.

What are the steps taken towards success?

If you are to be successful you need something specific to aim for. A goal. A target. Something that you aren’t doing now. Something that you can’t do now. Yet!

Man on a mountain top taking in the view.

Make it relevant. There has to be a reason behind your target. A purpose. Something linked to what you already do. Or something that will develop you in another direction and broaden your skillset. Or something that will bring your personal satisfaction. Whatever it is. Make it relevant. You’ll be more inclined to work on it if you see a value and purpose in what you are doing.

Of course, it’s very easy to set yourself the target of turning over £1m a year within the next five years. And for some that is an achievable and realistic goal. But not so much if you’ve just started your A-levels.

And therein lies the crux. Whatever you want to be successful at has to be within the realms of reality. It has to be achievable. By all means be aspirational. But don’t be a fantasist. If you want to be successful, you need to give yourself a chance to succeed. A target that is unrealistic and unachievable is unworkable. Set the bar too high and you’ll end up demoralised, dissatisfied and dejected. Set the bar too low and there’s little value in your success.

Targets need to be in the Goldilocks Zone. Just right.

You need to be able to measure or quantify what success will look like. It makes it easier to judge how far you’ve progressed and whether or not you have ultimately achieved what you set out to do. Say, for instance, being able to complete 50 push-ups without stopping. Or write a blog post every week (yours truly).

These are easily quantifiable targets that you can use to measure your level of success.

Without this, how will you know if you’ve been successful?

How do you know when you’ve achieved?

The next logical step is to decide how long you think it should take you to reach your target. Achieve your goal. Be successful.

Give yourself a manageable timeframe within which to hit your target. As you progress you may find you need to adjust this. You may take less time. Or you may need more time. However, don’t get caught in the trap of procrastinating. Adding time and doing nothing. Try to be strict with yourself and keep to your original timeframe. Making it realistic from the off means that you give yourself a fighting chance to succeed at whatever your goal is.

Once you know your aim and how long you want to take to get there decide on the actions you need to take during the allocated timeframe to get you to the end product. What are the steps? Small increments that you can make on a regular basis to advance you towards success? What little changes can you make? Something that won’t have an immediate big impact on your progress or your current way of life, but if formulated into a routine, if made into a habit, will, over time become second nature. Something you can build upon. The foundations of your success.

No matter what the end product. No matter what the means you go through to achieve it. The process remains the same for anyone wishing to be successful. 

So what’s the secret to success? How do you become successful? 

Be SMART.

Give yourself specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-constrained goals. 

This is the formula. Stick with it.

Success will follow.

Gareth

 

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10 FREE Website Gems You Need If You Work In Design, Advertising, Marketing Or Social Media

Free Gifts in Red and Black Gift Boxes

Working in Design, Advertising, Marketing or Social Media can be pretty full on. Time is not always on your side. It’s not always possible to find exactly what you need, when you need it, all in one place. For FREE!

Luckily, I’ve put together this list of websites to do just that!

This is your one-stop shop for online freebies to make your work that little bit easier.

1) Free Stock Images

There is always a need for stock images. Blogs, tweets, posts, ads, marketing materials; they all rely on high quality images to grab the audience’s attention.

Getty Images and iStock are the big hitters in the stock image game, but not everyone can afford to pay the subscription fees. Especially if you’re posting frequently.

The websites below provide equally high quality images for FREE (although their libraries are nowhere near as full and diverse as the paid-for sites).

PEXELS Free Stock Photos

PEXELS and PIXABAY are the go-to sites for bloggers the world over and my top picks.

You’ll soon see why.

2) Free Mockups

So you’ve got your stock images. You’re ready to create your design/advertising/social media/marketing masterpiece. Wouldn’t it be handy if there was a mockup available for you to just edit and modify?

There are plenty of mockups available online. Many are paid-for. Others are free. But it’s not always easy finding the right mockup to suit your needs. Searching can be time consuming.

Free Mockups from Mockup World

That’s where MOCKUP WORLD comes in. Offering an extensive library of FREE photoshop mockups, you are likely to find whatever design you need to give your work a professional finish.

Alternatively, you could pay a visit to MOCKUPTIME or GRAPHIC BURGER.

Time to call off the search!

3) Free Stock Footage

It’s no secret that video improves click-through rates on social media posts. If you haven’t got the time to create original video content why not use some stock footage instead? Or you could give your original video content an extra professional edge by adding some stock footage!

It all serves to improve the quality of the content you are posting.

Videezy Free HD Stock Footage

As with stock images, you can access an extensive range of stock footage online, at a cost. However, VIDEEZY offers a healthy library of FREE stock video for you to use.

VIDEVO also provides a substantial catalogue of FREE stock footage for you to download under both Creative Commons licensing (crediting the original creator) or under the Videvo Standard License (free to use, so long as you don’t make the clips available to download anywhere else).

4) Free Font Identifiers

“I really liked the font they used in that ad. What is it? Where can I find it?”

I’m no typography connoisseur, but I do like a good font.

Font Spring Font Matcherator

If you want a quick and easy way to identify and find fonts used in design pieces or ads head over to FONTSPRING or WHAT THE FONT. Simply upload an image to the site, or input the image’s URL, and let the identifier work its magic.

You’ll soon find that font you’ve been fawning over. If not, you’ll be offered something pretty close.

5) Free Vintage Posters

This one’s just for fun.Free Vintage PostersIf you love design, you’ll appreciate the extensive library of classic posters at FREE VINTAGE POSTERS. All are available to download. Completely GRATIS.

All you have to do is figure out how to use them creatively!

6) BOOKMARK THIS POST!

So. There you have it.

10 Website Gems You Need If You Work In Design, Advertising, Marketing Or Social Media.

And it only took FIVE headings! (This last one doesn’t count. I just thought I’d make my use of numbers in this post even more confusing. Not your average listicle!)

Anyway…

Go!

Be creative.

 

Gareth

 

 

 

Secret 7) Royalty Free Music

The importance of sound is underrated. Music adds atmosphere, creates mood and can turn into a motif that is associated with your work – especially if you’re into podcasting!

Bensound Royalty Free Music

For royalty free music look no further than Bensound.

There is a substantial library of tracks available under a whole range of different genres. The music is covered by the Creative Commons License, so make sure you credit Bensound and add a link back to his website.

Alternatively, you can browse YouTube Audio Library.

There are a range of tracks available to download for a whole host of moods and styles, including sound effects! Just make sure you check the licensing for each track as some require credit under Creative Commons.

So…

Why not turn a blog post into a podcast?

Or add some backing music to a slideshow?

You might even turn your creative portfolio into a short film reel with its own banging score!

You never know.

 

 

I think that makes 12 Website Gems now…

You’re certainly getting value here!

 

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Slow Down! Why busy people need to stop and disconnect.

Slow down and watch the world fly past - Train rushing past long exposure

Have you noticed how push notifications actually SHOVE their way loudly into your day? How instant messaging requires INSTANT REPLIES? Otherwise you end up having to scroll through a whole list of posts in the group chat to find out what the hell is going on! If you recognise these tell-tale signs you need to slow down. Breathe. Disconnect. Gain some perspective.

When Push Turns To Shove

Likes, shares and retweets are the new currency of approval and measures of success. We’re infinitely more connected, globally. Everything and everyone is pushing its way onto our phones and into our lives. Notifying us that we are indeed connected. And reminding us that we need to remain connected.

Yet, we’ve become totally disconnected. From real life.

We’re so busy chasing after faster broadband or super fast fibre optic connections. Moaning that 3G is too slow. Groaning because 4G just about manages to buffer a feature length film in full HD.

When are we getting 5G?

Everything is speeding up.

We need to slow it down. Stop. Disconnect. Unplug.

And let our natural creativity flow.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ~ Ferris Bueller

Speed Limit

Here’s an interesting anecdote from someone I know who had to go to Speed School:

“If you drive above the speed limit you might arrive a few minutes earlier at your destination. But you greatly increase your chances of not getting there at all.”

This isn’t exactly revelatory.

Better late than never?

Life’s a marathon, not a sprint?

Slow and steady wins the race?

We’ve all heard these idioms, or variants of them, more often than we’d care to mention. Usually delivered with the gravitas of a sage by a parent. Or grandparent!

Beautifully cliché. Eye-roll inducing. Yet with their basis in a very simple truth.

As old and wrinkly as they may sound (not your parents/grandparents), there’s wisdom behind these idioms.

What’s the big rush?

Stop And Look Around

You only get to appreciate the pace, and fleetingness, of life once you’ve experienced enough of it to look back and wonder where it all went.

So, yes. What’s the big rush?

It’s amazing what you miss when you’re not looking. Ever bumped into someone or something whilst staring at your phone as you walk through town?

Look around you.

Children (especially children who cannot yet read) are highly observant. They don’t miss a thing.

They’re not distracted by the words and symbols that bombard us daily. These things hold no meaning for them. So they take in their surroundings. Completely.

Young children will notice the smallest detail.

Something that may have been there all along. Staring you in the face. But, as a busy adult, you fail to see. Overlook it because there are so many other things drawing your attention. Too much on your mind. Far too many distractions.

All too often, you can find yourself looking at the wrong thing.

Disconnect. Stop viewing the world through a phone.

And these things are getting in the way.

Reducing your productivity. Curtailing your creativity.

This Is Your Life

Rob Dial offers an interesting assessment of our Life Timeline.

With the best years of our life spent as a working adult it’s probably wise to seek enjoyment in what we do. But more importantly is to take time to actually live.

Nobody on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” ~ Senator Paul Tsongas

Shove those push notifications away!

They can wait.

Disconnect To Reconnect

We may all be infinitely more connected. So civilised and modern. Extremely knowledgeable and advanced. Yet detached from reality and our surroundings.

Everyone is always busy.

It’s as if we need to fill our lives with things to keep us occupied.

But actually, it’s ok to do nothing.

It’s ok to be bored.

And it’s perfectly fine to allow yourself to look out the window and daydream.

Disconnect. Then reconnect. With reality.

Take Time

You can’t make time.

Don’t try to find time.

Take your time instead.

Slow it all down. Take a good look around. Don’t just hear, actually listen.

Observe the world and all its subtleties.

Notice things.

Your capacity for creative thinking will increase.

As will your productivity.

 

Gareth

 

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What A Load Of Rubbish… We Found On Our Impromptu Family Beach Clean.

Bag full of rubbish collected on our Croyde beach clean.

A visit to the beach is always fun, and educational. Tides, waves, limpets, sea snails, anemones, crabs, rock formations, sand structures, rubbish and plastic waste; it’s all an opportunity for discovery and learning. And an open invitation to do a little beach clean in an attempt to preserve the beauty of our wonderful coastline.

I visited Croyde and all I got was this lousy bag full of rubbish!

I’m really lucky to live by some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Britain. The beaches here are stunning. Huge expanses of sand. Great rocky outcrops, perfect for rock-pooling. Rolling sand dunes. Amazing surf. Perfect.

Not quite.

A Saturday visit to the beach with my family, being chased by waves, splashing in rock pools, running up sand dunes and sliding down on our bums, quickly turned from enjoying the beautiful setting to a realisation that it wasn’t as idyllic as we first thought.

Moody Croyde

We didn’t even need to scratch beneath the surface. It was staring us in the face. Rubbish.

So our beach day out quickly became a family beach clean. A daddy. A mummy. A granny. A 5-year old. A 2-year old. A determination to do our little bit.

We’ve previously joined in with Surfers Against Sewage  (@sascampaigns) on beach organised cleans. But today was impromptu.

Surfers Against Sewage Logo

We simply didn’t like what we were seeing on our beach!

45min later we had a bag full of bits of fishing net, fishing ropes, plastic wrappers, plastic bottle tops, glass bottles, mermaid’s tears (little plastic pellets), plastic straws, bits of sanitary towels, crisp packets, cigarette packets, cigarette butts, amongst other bits miscellaneous bits of broken plastic. We had barely moved 10m up the sand dune.

Close up of the bag full of rubbish collected on our Croyde beach clean.

Now imagine if everyone who ever visited the beach spent half an hour of their visit collecting bits of rubbish. 

Now imagine if everyone who ever visited the beach took their rubbish with them and disposed of (recycled) it correctly.

Now imagine if everyone who ever visited the beach tried to reduce the amount of single-use plastic packaging they used.

Now imagine what our beaches, coasts, seas and oceans might look like as a result.

This is definitely something we should all be saying “yes” to doing. And regularly!

I’m no eco-evangelist. It just struck me how much rubbish we found on a small patch of what is a very ‘clean’ beach.

If we all do our bit, the collective outcome will be greater than the sum of its parts.

And we’ll have coastlines, beaches, seas and oceans to enjoy forever.

Moody Croyde Panoramic

I’ve previously created One Minute Briefs ads on the subject of recycling and reducing plastic usage, for initiatives such as City to Sea (@CitytoSeaBrist)

City To Sea Logo

Creating an advert and driving up awareness is one thing. Practising what you preach is something else altogether.

I’m not satisfied with simply creating awareness. I want my kids to see me picking up rubbish. I want my kids to join me in cleaning up our beaches. I want other people to see us choosing to make this a part of our family day out. Looking after our environment together.

A beach clean. As a family.

The kids loved it! It was like a treasure hunt to them. They busily searched through the sand looking for bits of plastic they could contribute to the haul. We talked about what we found. Discussed the impact on the environment. And had fun doing it. Just as we’d had fun running away from the waves. Scrambling on rocks. Splashing in pools. Running up sand dunes and sliding back down again.

Collecting the detritus around us became another integral part of our beach trip.

Next time we hit the beach we’ll definitely get another bag of lousy rubbish!

You?

Gareth

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The Reason You Haven’t Done It Is Because No One Told You To: The Secret To Becoming Immediately More Creative And Productive.

Cardboard robot thinking about how to become more creative and productive

You have lived on a conveyor belt most of your life. It’s time to jump off and be more productive.

Some Assembly Required

The success behind mass production factory lines is they offer consistency. Sameness. A standardised product.

The raw materials are shaped and moulded as per a preconceived design. They are then sent along a conveyor belt and pieced together. By the end of the line you have your product. Fully assembled. And looking the same as every other product on the line.

Industry at its efficient best.

Unpicking The Metaphor

Now imagine the same scenario, but this time change the factory setting to a classroom. The conveyor belt is your compulsory education. And the different parts added along the production line are your subjects and predefined curriculum.

Everybody gets the same. Expectations are that we all learn exactly the same and need the same content in order to be fully functioning human beings.

We all sit the same exams. Because we all need to be standardised.

And any deviation from the expected norm is seen as a defect and steps are taken to fix it back into the standardised shape.

Square pegs are sanded down to fit into round holes.

Told what to think. How to think. When to think. And even what to do with these thoughts and what the expected outcome should be. Which is why you’re not as productive as you could be.

Education Dumbs You Down

There’s an interesting study by NASA which boldly suggests that “We are born creative geniuses and the education system dumbs us down”.

In this study 98% of children tested, between 4 and 5 years old, fell in the genius category of imagination.

And the adults tested?

Only 2%.

The researchers revisited their subjects every five years and found that at age 10, only 30% remained in the genius category of imagination.

A drop of 68% in only five years!

When tested again at age 15, the figure had dropped even further to 12%.

The outcome?

The longer you receive a conventional education the less likely you are to hold on to the creative problem solving and free thinking skills you had as a child.

Why Haven’t You Done It Yet?

Ask yourself this: “If someone tells me to do something, am I more likely to do it?”

Do you do things independently because you know there’s a value in being proactive?

Or are you more likely to put things off? Usually to the last minute? Until someone comes along and tells you it needs to get done? Urgently!

Sounds like the student approach to homework and revision to me!

Compliance At What Cost?

As much as educational establishments would like to think that they are equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need for the future, they are sadly doing the opposite.

Self-motivated, Resilient, Independent Thinkers with a propensity for creative problem-solving. They are in steady decline from the age of 4 – school age.

Cartoon of a teacher squaring children's thoughts

Instead we find a preconditioned majority.

Spoon fed. Hand held. Dependent. Passive. With a disdain for an education that they don’t value. Only completing tasks they are told to do, because they are told to do them. Not out of any genuine interest.

And as soon as they are no longer told what to do, they find themselves at a loose end. They can’t cope. Without approval and an imposed direction they lack the skills, confidence and motivation to self-start.

They don’t really want to do what they’re being told to do. But they don’t really know what it is they want to do instead.

So they comply.

Because that’s what everyone else is doing. It’s easier than having to figure things out for yourself. And it gets people off your back.

Turning The 2% Back Into The 98%

Recognising that we are all products straight off a factory assembly line, with an inherent fear of failure, is important if we are to rewire our thinking.

“You must do this if you are to be successful in your exams! You want to get good results right? If you don’t do this in exactly the way you’ve been told, you will fail!”

Sound familiar? Near enough?

We need to stop fearing failure and start embracing it. Start by trying some of these creative exercises.

Don’t wait for someone to tell you to do something. Recognise the value in being proactive.

Do it for yourself.

Not for approval.

Certainly not just because there’s an exam at the end!

There are few standardised tests once you leave education.

The most successful people don’t conform. And they certainly don’t wait around for someone to tell them to do something about it.

Five Steps Towards A More Productive And Creative You

These are easier said than done. But they are fundamental to breaking free from the assembly line mentality of passive acceptance and conformity.

  1. Teach yourself to do things. Don’t wait for someone to teach you.
  2. Learn what you want to learn, how you want to learn.
  3. Ask questions. Don’t expect immediate answers.
  4. Don’t seek approval, but also don’t fear disapproval.
  5. Celebrate difference. Embrace divergent thinking. Forget everything you’ve ever been told you can or cannot do.

Throw yourself into everything you do with the same reckless abandon as a five year old.

Who cares what anyone thinks? Who cares whether you succeed or fail? Get out of your own way.

Break the mould.

Free yourself of conventional thinking. Jump off that conveyor belt and be more productive. Not a product.

What are you waiting for?

Gareth

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Get your writing into shape. Quick creative writing tasks to experiment with every day.

Triangles. Diamonds. Squares. Get your writing into shape.

Writing should be fun. It should be a source of creative enjoyment. But sometimes you can hit a rut. Writer’s block. Stagnation. So it’s important to have a few tools at your disposal to help you break through the wall and knock your writing back into shape.

These quick writing exercises will do just that.

Shape your writing!

Syllable Symbolism

Writers have always imposed constraints on their work to inspire creativity. And the use of syllables to impose a structure or limitation on your writing is a firm favourite.

There are many established forms based around syllable length: Iambic Pentameter, Haiku, Tanka.

These are some of the more easily identifiable verse forms. There are, of course many more. It just goes to show the importance of imposing restrictions on your work in order to develop creative responses.

So, borrowing from traditions of syllabic structures in writing, I’d like to propose the following three techniques to help you whip your words into shape, and have fun doing it:

1) It’s hip to be square

Turn  your  words   into   a  square.
Set      a      syllable      length     per
line  and  stick  to  it  as  best   you
can. Going down you should then
use   the   same  number   of   lines
as     you     have     used    syllables.
In      this      case     it      is      seven.

Ok, so this example might not look like a square, but that’s not the point.

It IS a square.

A 7-syllable by 7-line square.

Restrict yourself to a set number of syllables per line. Whatever the number you determine is, make that the number of lines of writing you will allow yourself in order to create your text.

2) Now try angles

There’s a pattern emerging here (excuse the puns).

I
will try
to show you
exactly    how
this writing technique
works, demonstrating how
you    can    use    syllables   to
shape      a      text.      Continually
add one more syllable to each new
line  of  text   so  it  forms   a   triangle.
Narrow   at   the   top   and   ever   widening
as you progress towards the bottom of the text.

Again, this is not an exact visual science. But we’re not looking for exact visuals.

This is just another way you can inject some fun and creativity into your writing by using syllable structures.

The objective is to work within the constraints of the form and challenge yourself to think of creative ways to harness the restrictions of the form.

3) Diamonds are forever

                                                          Just
                                                       like the
                                                      previous
                                             form, this writing
                                           technique relies on
                                          adding syllables per
                                      line of text up to a point,
                                           before beginning to
                                             remove syllables
                                              all the way back
                                                     down to a
                                                          single
                                                            one.

It’s silly. I know. But it’s a different way of thinking. A different way of writing. And, more importantly, it’s a way of refocusing your mind.

The shape of things to come

If you are stuck for ideas. When you hit a wall and find yourself struggling to get words down on the page. Break away and play with words for a bit.

Get your writing back into shape.

Figuratively.

Literally.

Creatively.

 

Gareth

 

 

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3 Creative Tasks To Help You Break Free From Your Fear Of Failure

Hear no failure. See no failure. Speak no failure.

Fear of failure is the reason you’re not succeeding. Whether you think so or not, you are afraid to fail. Now’s the time to break free of the psychological preconditioning preventing you from maximising your potential.

“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” ~ Thomas Edison

Rules Schmules!

Children are inherently creative. Why?

More heart, less head. No fear of failure. No self-editing. They are still learning and figuring out the world and what they are capable of. They aren’t afraid of what other people think.

Adults are more resistant. Afraid of not knowing. We fear failure. More importantly, we’re afraid of the way our failures are perceived by others – colleagues and superiors.

Appearances matter. And they hold us back.

Find Your Inner Child

Everyone has an inner child (the creative free spirit) but as we grow older and take on responsibilities we bury this deeper and ignore it.

Giving your inner child a chance to express itself and have fun helps the adult ‘you’ become more creative.

Creativity is play.

Creativity is exploring the world around you. Discover your limitations. Find ways of solving the problems you face. Experiment. Fail. And don’t worry about it.

“If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.” ~ Katharine Hepburn

Would you stop your kid learning how to walk after they fell over once? Twice? Five times?”

You learn more through failure. Embrace it. Learn what doesn’t work. Get one step closer to discovering what does.

Quantity Is The Route To Quality

Quality is what we all strive for and are pressured to achieve immediately – deadlines!

You can only get true quality by going through a process of generating QUANTITY.

“In 1953, a fledgling company called Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry. Working in a small lab in San Diego, California, it took them 40 attempts to get the water displacing formula worked out… WD-40® [was] perfected on the 40th try.”

(Source: https://www.wd40.com/cool-stuff/history)

 

Get ALL your ideas down.

No matter how childish, insane or improbable they may seem, DON’T SELF-EDIT. One of those ideas, or a combination of those ideas, could be the killer creative solution to your problem.

Unschool Yourself

Traditional approaches to education group and classify students depending on their age, background and perceived ability, based on standardised testing.

In school we are judged against static criteria. We are standardised. Everyone has their progress mapped out. We become part of an educational conveyor belt.

This model tells us what we are supposed to achieve by certain points in our life. When we should be able to read. What we should be able to read. How we should write. When we should be able to demonstrate these skills.

There’s one problem.

We don’t learn in a linear fashion.

What people think learning looks like vs. What learning really looks like

(Adapted from an original image by Demetri Martin. Source: https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/5935)

 

This is the major flaw in the system. We learn and develop at different rates, in different ways. Yet we have to conform.

Creativity is beaten out of us.

Independent thought is nothing more than an aspiration; spoon-feeding is the reality because failure is not an option.

Failure is the best option.

Resilience is key.

Prepare To Love Failure!

The following tasks and activities are designed to help you break free from the fear of failure. Shifting the importance away from the end product, they focus on the process. They encourage creative silliness and remove the pressure of how ideas will be received and perceived.

Because the outcomes don’t matter, we are freed to express ourselves with the same reckless abandon that children have. It’s playful.

You can’t fail. But you can learn from the process.

1. The Alternative Uses Test

Our brains are conditioned to protect us from risk and err on the side of caution, preferring things that have worked previously – the Comfort Zone. This is why we end up generating the same ideas. You need to trick your brain into thinking differently.

J.P. Guilford developed the Alternative Uses Test to stretch our creativity. You have two minutes to think of as many possible alternative uses for an everyday object – like a phone, a blob of sticky tack, or a chair.

For example, “paper clips” could move beyond simply keeping your papers together to become: cufflinks, earrings, imitation mini-trombones, something you use to push the emergency restart button on your router, a way of keeping headphones from getting tangled up, a bookmark.

Try it yourself and see:

  • how many different uses you can come up with,
  • how uncommon or original the uses are,
  • how many different categories your answers cover (cufflinks and earrings are both accessories – one category )
  • how detailed and elaborate your responses are.

2. Torrance’s ‘Incomplete Figure’

Ellis Paul Torrance developed the Incomplete Figure test. This drawing challenge formed part of the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), a creativity-oriented alternative to traditional IQ tests. The result is a game similar to exquisite corpse.

You’re given a shape (like the one below, courtesy of What I See When I Look At), and then asked to complete the image.

 What I See When Spiral

(Click on the image to see some examples)

3. A Beautiful Constraint

Try imposing limits and restrictions on your work.

Hang on a minute. You’ve been going on about breaking free from constraints and self-imposed limits. What gives?”

At the risk of sounding contradictory, limiting yourself can actually help you be more creative.

“Adopting a ‘Transformer Mindset’ means viewing our constraint positively and possibly increasing the ambition along the way.”

(Source: http://www.abeautifulconstraint.com/the-process)

 

It is surprisingly easy to spend a lot of time doing very little.

Do more with less time! Force yourself to complete tasks quicker and with fewer resources.

 

 For example:

Write a story in 50 words. Then halve it. Reduce it further to 10 words. Or 6 words.

 

Creative constraints are the premise behind the One Minute Briefs I regularly enter (One Rule. One Minute. Create an Ad). Or the lipograms I write (no ‘a’ and no ‘e’).

If you impose restrictions you force creative thinking and problem solving. But most importantly you build resilience and you get over the fear of failure.

Because you don’t allow yourself time to be afraid of the outcome.

All you are focused on is getting the task done. Who cares what anyone thinks? Just get something done.

This can be transferred to any number of creative scenarios. Take the Status Quo approach to music and only use a small handful of chords in your song. Or limit the amount of colours you use in your designs.

These restrictions can bring out your most creative side.

Take Away Thoughts

Free your inner child.

Be childlike in your approach to tasks. We are all always learning.

Have fun. Create without restraint. Don’t self-edit. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks of your ideas. This will be liberating.

Ideas are a process, not the end product.

Make mistakes. Learn from them.

Keep up to date with my regular creative challenges on Twitter and via my blog. Join me as I explore more ways to help you break free from the fear of failure.

 

Gareth

 

 

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I stopped using ‘e’ and it was hard!

Proud as a peacock with my lipogram efforts

Look! It’s a lipogram minus that fifth symbol in our Anglo-Saxon syllabary!

My last post about not using ‘a’ in my writing was fairly fruitful. But now a similar trial has found its way onto my lap(top). My task? To draft a lipogram without using that fifth symbol in our Anglo-Saxon syllabary at any point in my post.

I told you so!

Why am I doing this ridiculously tricky task? A pal said that I should.

That’s it…

To his mind my prior post was too straightforward and had nothing to it.

Don’t assign any “A’s” to your writing? No probs! Any fool with a modicum of insight and imagination can do that!

But that fifth symbol. That sign that is customarily found in our writing. Omitting that is a fitting confirmation of skill (and impulsivity).

Prior to this I thought I was foolhardy. Now I know that I am just a stubborn ass in my pursuit of lipogrammatic triumph.

I want to say to my old amigo “I told you so! I told you I could do it!”

So it’s onwards and upwards from this point forward.

Sitting on top of a building looking down at the world beneath your feet.

THIS is strikingly difficult.

But still a fantastic brain workout.

As with my last post of this kind, I truly savour how writing drills of this sort focus your mind. By imposing limitations and constraints on your work you ask that your brain think in distinct ways to find solutions.

It boosts your vocabulary too!

Any author or artistic individual will find this kind of activity fulfilling and possibly a bit hooking.

I know I do!

Mostly to confirm that I can actually accomplish such a tortuous task.

This is why YOU should try it.

Lipograms afford you an opportunity to amplify your capacity with words.

If you blog, you must try this task.

If you find joy in writing, you will fancy giving this a go.

If nothing, it’s a fantastic distraction from doing actual work! I think that is a major contributing factor to my frolics with lipograms.

As with anything you do, it’s a bit of a thrill to find triumph in any taxing task.

Writing this lipogram was fun.

And that’s most important.

I found I was grinning on many occasions during my writing. Such silly actions can add fun to a working day, and possibly stop it from spiralling down into banality.

It’s a way of splitting up that long list of tasks you must finish, with original and unusual thinking. It might aid you in accomplishing your goals by providing you with a surprisingly vanguard approach to your work.

In summary…

Writing should thrill you.

So add fun to it!

Assist and boost your brain into thinking in distinct ways. If your writing is stagnant you will find this kind of activity handy. It’s a practical way out of mind rot.

Why not play along? Do your own lipogram.

Push your mind and your words to work for you.

So, in conclusion…

I want to proclaim this as a linguistic victory.

I’m as proud as a bird with ridiculously long tail quills!


Gar’th

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Is it possible to write a blog post without using the letter ‘a’?

Man writing a letter in his journal

OR, “Is it possible to write without using the first morpheme in the English linguistic system?”

This is difficult. Every other word I wish to use includes the forbidden letter! I don’t know why I set myself this test.

Never mind. Here goes.

I’m proving nothing, except being one dogged, determined moron, striving to justify this ludicrous blog.

It’s completely impulsive; needless even. But there you go. Up to this point it’s been shown to be possible.

How long will I keep it up?

Who knows! I guess it depends on the following five things:

1) My sheer bloody-mindedness. The demented willingness to continue with this buffoonery.

b) The need to hit the prerequisite word count for blog posts. You know, for SEO purposes of course.

c) It gives me more time to think of which keywords to include… Which ones get reproduced often enough throughout this post? Plus, more words will help hike up my word count.

d) People like lists! Or so I’m told.

e) The childish joy I derived from contriving this list without using the letter in question.

Lightbulb

Letter could be the keyword I’m looking for!

Come to think of it.

It does seem the most likely. So I’ve included it in the sub. Then it becomes obvious to everyone. It is definitely the subject of the blog.

Envision the Google query: blogs touching on the subject of letters.

Completely nuts!

But honestly, this isn’t so difficult, now I consider it.

I think I’ve proved the point I set out to prove.

It is entirely possible to write enough semi-coherent content without using the letter I set out not to use.

I think I’ve done pretty well to get to this point. Even though it’s not my best piece of written work – quite repetitive I feel – I hope it will get me noticed!

It’s been childish, frivolous, idiotic, but downright good fun! If you enjoy writing, of course.

But now I think I’m done. So I’m going to sign off.

Why don’t you try it?

Go on. Test yourself!

Let me know how it goes! Comment below or Tweet me.

G’reth

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It’s Been An OMBelievable Start to 2018: January in Summary

Cheeky monkey smiling at the camera. Just like me this January!

It’s been a whirlwind start to 2018. January has been a month full of exciting developments. Here’s my OMBelievable summary of the year so far.

January: Out With The Old, In With The New

The bubbly had barely left the bottle and things were already afoot. There was no hanging about. By the end of the first week of the new year I had re-launched my website with a fresh new template.

There was a new blog with the promise of regular new content and a determination to make things happen.

Straight into fifth gear!

Welcome OMBoard!

January 15th, and the days were about to get a lot brighter.

This was the day I became an OMBassador and member of the OMBoard. A real honour. It was an epic email to wake up to from Nick Entwistle (so much scrolling!) and a powerful end to the second week in January.

This is INKredible!

The dust had barely settled on the OMBoard announcement. But there was more big news to be had in January.

Only seven days had passed since becoming an OMBassador when I officially joined the Social Ink team, January 22nd, as Content Marketing Manager.

I’d previously worked with Chris and the team back when they were Just Consulting Ltd. as a copywriter and editor. I love what they do and I admire their work ethic. This was something I wanted to be a part of.

A total no-brainer!

Time to make an imPACT

I cut my teeth with Social Ink pretty quickly. My first blog post went live January 24th – The Value of Social Media for Business: Where’s the ROI?

This was quickly followed by a piece for #NationalStorytellingWeek – Social Media is Storytelling: Build Your Brand and Boost Engagement on Social Media Through Narrative.

Since then the content has been coming thick and fast, with further blogs, podcasts, Facebook Live discussions and infographics amongst the ideas already in the pipeline.

Keep checking the Social Ink Blog and Facebook Page or join our All About Digital Marketing discussion group on Facebook for updates.

Jan in 60 seconds! (43s actually)

To crown it all off, I set myself the challenge of completing at least one OMB for every brief set in January. Just to keep the creative juices flowing.

And here they all are. Edited together in celebration of one helluva month!

So, here’s to February!

(And every month after that)

Gareth

 

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