There’s More To Wearing Odd Socks Than You Think

Odd socks say more about you than you may think.

Recently I put on a pair of odd socks by mistake. They’d accidentally been coupled together in the wash. I didn’t realise until it was too late, and they were on my feet and in my shoes.

I felt uncomfortable.

Not physically. Psychologically.

Perhaps it’s a streak of OCD. Maybe it’s social conditioning. But I couldn’t stop thinking about my mismatching socks.

I was acutely aware that they looked odd.

And whereas some people wholeheartedly embrace regularly wearing odd socks (even deliberately buying them that way), I was experiencing inner turmoil.

So I took a philosophical approach.

Is There More To Odd Socks Than Meets The Eye?

Wearing odd socks is more than just having a quirky dress sense. It’s more than laziness, or losing items in the wash, or a nonchalant approach to footwear. It says a lot about you as a person.

What?

It begins with a pejorative.

What’s Wrong With Being Odd?

“Ha ha! You’re the odd one out!”

“He’s a bit odd.”

“Oddball!”

It’s strange how “odd” is seen as a negative, almost derogatory, term.

What’s wrong with being odd? Apart from not being divisible by two?

Well, actually, that could be the likely source of the problem.

The Safety Of Symmetry

We love things that are even. Symmetry is comforting. Just look in the mirror.

Two eyes, ears, arms, legs, etc.

Same number of teeth, toes, fingers, ribs, nostrils, on each side.

And anything singular is bang in the middle. Nose, belly button, naughty bits.

The things we see, day in, day out, are what we guide ourselves by. Symmetry and even numbers represent safety and normality.

That’s why odd is considered unappealing.

It’s safer to conform and be part of the crowd than risk standing out.

After all, isn’t it better to have balance?

A world where people know their place — in line with everyone else.

Easier to control.

We can’t have hordes of freethinking, free spirited individuals running wild in society now, can we?

That just wouldn’t do. It would be chaos.

Or would it?

Oddity Is Just Another Word For Unshackled Creativity

Take a look at a Picasso painting. Odd.

David Bowie. Odd.

Salvador Dalí. Very odd!

And yet, there’s little doubt that they were masters at their craft. Creative geniuses with a different world view.

It’s this distinctiveness that sets them apart from everyone else. That’s why they are memorable. Revered.

Because they’re not like everyone else.

They embraced being odd. It allowed creative freedom. And, as a result, it helped them stand out from the crowd and carve their own, unassailable, creative niche.

Stick Out Like A Sore Thumb

Negative idioms like this abound. Conformity is the message. Odd is not good.

Wrong.

Setting yourself apart IS a good thing.

Being the odd one out can be an advantage

Be contrary.

Have confidence.

Don’t be swayed by what other people think or say. It is merely an opinion.

It’s ok for people not to agree with you.

Don’t feel you have to shy away.

Be the odd one out.

Wear odd socks.

You’ll certainly get noticed.

And who knows where that might lead!

Gareth

 

 

Main Image Courtesy of Michael Wright on Unsplash

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Don’t Obsess Over The Answer. Obsess Over The Question.

There are plenty of big questions out there in the universe

We want results. And we want them yesterday!

Give me answers.

I want solutions. Not problems.

It’s often the case that we obsess over the answer, the final outcome, the end result. But if we neglect the question, the answer can be rendered irrelevant. And the process of arriving at the solution becomes inefficient and wasteful.

As mentioned in a previous post (Slow Down! Why busy people need to stop and disconnect) the first step is to gain some perspective and objectivity.

Breathe deeply and slow things down. We are all very busy and this can affect our ability to distinguish the wood from the trees.

With this done, it’s time to change the obsession.

The Answer Is In The Question

Knowing how to phrase a question correctly is key to gaining a meaningful solution to the problem.

This is what Adam Morgan and Mark Barden call “A Propelling Question” in their book A Beautiful Constraint.

“A propelling question is one that has both a bold ambition and a significant constraint linked together”

It forces you to think and behave in a different way.

The Audi R10 TDI was the answer to a propelling question

(Image courtesy of http://www.evo.co.uk/audi/7921/audi-diesel-for-le-mans)

Morgan and Barden offer several examples of propelling questions that harness the constraint to the ambition, ensuring the constraint drives the solution:

  • How do we win the race with a car that is no faster than anyone else’s? (Audi, Le Mans 2006)
  • How do we build a well-designed, durable table for five euros? (IKEA)

In this way, questions that exhibit a bold ambition linked to a limiting factor, or constraint, will yield better answers.

The Power Of Why

My two-year old son understands the Power Of Why all too well.

He is a master.

There isn’t a statement or utterance that isn’t met with an instant “why?” in our house.

This will inevitably lead to an explanation. Followed by another “why?” And some further explanation. Then yet another “why?” In a seemingly endless sequence in search of the truth (usually ending in exasperation or throwing the question back at him: “why do you think?” – that’s CIA-level parenting for you).

But there’s a wisdom in this transaction.

As annoying as it can be, it is his way of trying to understand things better. He’s not satisfied with the quick, generic response to his question. He wants to know the detail.

“Why” is the way to a clearer answer.

Especially once you’ve found an initial solution.

Ask yourself, why you should accept it? Or, why it worked? Even, why you arrived at that answer and not a different one?

Do this and your results will improve.

Stretch And Challenge

The grid below is used widely in education.

The language you use in your questions is critical

It teaches the vocabulary of inquiry and how to ask good questions (for both teachers and students).

As you can see, “Why” questions (along with “How”) feature in the higher order Analytical and Application Synthesis sections of the grid.

When coupled together with the verbs across the top of the grid, these form powerful questions that really stretch and challenge your thinking. Inevitably leading you to a better answer.

It’s Ok Not To Have All The Answers

So long as you’re asking the right questions.

Get the question right, and you open the door to an intricate thought process.

You will arrive at the solution. There will be a final outcome. And you will gain results.

But the journey, the twists and turns, the developing sequence of questions that you use to arrive at the answer, may end up being more beneficial and enlightening.

Why?

How?

Over to you.

 

Gareth

 

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Dink Thifferently: Rules are only the limit of someone else’s imagination.

Blue shoe. Yellow shoe. Break the rules. Live a life without limits.

There’s a lot we can learn about creative problem solving from pioneers like Carol Dweck, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Avis. They know how to push beyond the limits of what is believed possible.

No. No Limits.

For every time someone has said “it can’t be done” there’s always been someone else thinking “how can I do it?”

If history teaches us anything, it is that things that were once believed to be impossible, can be achieved.

Just watch any science fiction TV show from the 60s!

Pioneers are those who shun “can’t” and embrace “can’t yet”. They embrace challenges. Persist in the face of setbacks. Acknowledge that effort leads to mastery. Learn from criticism. Find lessons in the success of others.

In short, they don’t put a limit on what they can achieve.

Or, as Carol Dweck explains, they have a Growth Mindset.

The difference between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset

Finding Lessons In The Success Of Others

When something is considered to be unreachable, it becomes the benchmark.

For some, it’s the limit.

For others, it’s a glass ceiling waiting to be shattered.

This is especially relevant to the three rule breakers below. They defied the norm successfully. They didn’t accept limitations. Instead, they transformed the sense of what was possible.

Afford A Ford

These days it’s hard to imagine a world without automation.

When Ford started building cars he did it in exactly the same way that every other car manufacturer did. One at a time.

This was the norm.

The car was built from the ground up by a team of mechanics. They would have to source parts, then return to the vehicle in order to assemble it.

Not a very efficient process. And very expensive.

Perfecting the assembly line concept turned the process on its head. Ford changed the game.

Henry Ford's legendary Mode T

(Image courtesy of https://hymanltd.com/vehicles/6028-1921-ford-model-t-center-door-sedan/)

He wanted to mass-produce affordable vehicles. Increase efficiency and reduce costs. He wanted to push beyond the limits of what convention dictated at the time.

Instead of having mechanics going back and forth to fetch parts, Ford had the parts brought to the mechanics at appointed stations. The chassis was then moved between each station, stopping along the way to have parts fitted, until the car was completed. (https://www.ford.co.uk/experience-ford/history-and-heritage#assemblyline)

Ford was able to reduce the assembly time of a Model T from twelve and a half hours to under six.

When everyone else was limited to building one car at a time, Ford found a way to push beyond what was conventionally accepted.

Cost-efficient, affordable vehicles for the masses became a reality.

A small change in thinking, made a big difference.

White Headphones

Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod on 23rd October 2001. A revolutionary device. It pushed beyond the limits of the portable audio technology available at the time.

An entire music library that fit inside your pocket!

This was the coolest, sleekest and most exciting new tech accessory ever invented. Everybody wanted one. And everybody who had one, wanted everyone else to know it.

But there was a problem.

It couldn’t be seen if it was in your pocket!

So, how would people be able to show off this cool new music device?

Before the iPod, headphone cables were black.

No one had ever had a reason to make them a different colour.

Want stand out from the crowd?

Go from black to white.

“As psychologists and business experts have acknowledged since iPod’s release, the decision to make its earbuds all-white sent Apple’s cache as an uber-cool company into the stratosphere.” (http://uk.businessinsider.com/why-are-apple-headphones-white-2016-5?r=US&IR=T)

From Second Best, To Second Is Best.

No one ever remembers who came second in a race. (Apart from the person who came second.)

That all changed in 1962.

Advertising agency DDB helped Avis turn being ‘second best’ into a strength.

Hertz had historically dominated the American car rental market. DDB turned this to Avis’ advantage. They devised a campaign celebrating the company’s customer service. Because “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder.”

Avis' famous disruptive "We try harder" campaign by DDB

“Within a year, Avis went from losing $3.2 million to earning $1.2 million[…] From 1963 to 1966, as Hertz ignored the Avis campaign, the market-share percentage gap between the two brands shrunk from 61–29 to 49–36. Terrified Hertz executives projected that by 1968 Avis might need a new ad campaign—because it would no longer be No. 2.”

(http://www.slate.com/articles/business/rivalries/2013/08/hertz_vs_avis_advertising_wars_how_an_ad_firm_made_a_virtue_out_of_second.html)

Suddenly, being the best wasn’t as good as being second best.

That’s how you tear up the rulebook!

Sometimes,  you need to openly acknowledge your limitations. It might just be the kind of thinking that sets you apart from everyone else.

Break Through The Glass Ceiling

Rules and perceived limits can act as psychological barriers.

They can make something seem daunting and unreachable. However, changing your mindset can transform a limiting factor into a target for success.

Conventional wisdom is the general and unquestioning acceptance of the limitations of someone else’s capacity and imagination.

Don’t be defined by what someone else said can or can’t be done.

Break the rules.

Embrace challenges.

Persist in the face of setbacks.

Acknowledge that effort leads to mastery.

Learn from criticism.

Find lessons in the success of others.

Dink Thifferently.

 

Gareth

 

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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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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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