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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Sharing Is Caring And Nothing Beats Retweets. How One Minute Briefs Adds Value To Content.

Sharing is caring

Sharing interesting articles, videos, photos, designs even memes is a fundamental digital content transaction we participate in daily. Just scroll through your Facebook news feed. Or Twitter. LinkedIn.

But why bother sharing?

Like. You know. Whatever.

Liking a post is great.

It shows that… You like the post.

And whilst that’s fine, it doesn’t really add any value. It doesn’t really help the content’s creator. At least, not in the same way sharing does.

Sure, a ‘like’ shows appreciation. It lets people know that you enjoyed their content.

But did you really?

Sharing A Post Adds Exponential Value.

Unfortunately, liking posts doesn’t really help the original publisher. It doesn’t move the content along. All it does is stamp a little heart or a thumbs-up on it.

And surely, if you really enjoyed the post, wouldn’t you want others to enjoy it too?

That’s why sharing or retweeting content is infinitely better.

By sharing a post you’re not only giving it your seal of approval, you’re vouching for it.

When you retweet or re-post something, you are effectively sifting through all the content traffic and cherry-picking the interesting bits for the rest of your network to see.

You’ve determined it has value. It is of interest. And it is worth people’s time and attention.

Passing on a piece of content means that you believe the rest of your close network will appreciate it too. And, because it came from you, they are more likely to trust it and engage with it. After all, you are infinitely more trustworthy than an anonymous source of content. Right?

You share it. Then someone else shares it. And all of a sudden the readership has multiplied.

Reach (the number of people who see the content). Impressions (the number of times the content is displayed). Engagement (the number of interactions people have with the content).

This is how retweets and shares add exponential value.

You Are An “Influencer”

This is a term that gets bandied about a lot.

But what does it actually mean?

Simply put, influencer marketing uses the popularity of influential people and their extended network to deliver a message to their followers. Individuals, who may have an influence over potential buyers within a target market, are identified and used to promote a product.

Sharing.

That makes YOU an influencer.

Widening The Net

That’s why sharing content is so important.

One Minute Briefs encourages retweets for this very reason. It expands the audience for the content creator.

One Minute Briefs Logo

If you like an ad created in response to a brief, retweet it.

You’ll gain the creator greater exposure. You’re adding value to their work and ideas. And this is a whole lot more appreciative than just a ‘like’.

So next time you read or see something that you really like and wish to show your appreciation…

Share.

Retweet.

You are influential.

We all are.

 

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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The Alphabet Writing Challenge (It’s Not As Easy As It Sounds!)

The alphabet is there to be played with.

A while back I started setting myself short writing challenges. By doing so, I hoped to inject some fun into my blog whilst also providing ideas for anyone whose writing might be stagnating.

Creative writing should be just that: creative.

Doing something a little bit different can shake things up and help break you out of any rut you may find yourself in.

Experimenting and playing with language by imposing constraints and limitations means you have to take time to think imaginatively in order to find a solution. Find ways to focus your thinking and force yourself to pay attention to your craft. Give yourself time to play with written forms and you’ll soon see the benefits.

Here’s an example.

In this post I have set myself the alphabet writing challenge. Just in case you hadn’t noticed thus far, having started this post with the letter ‘a’, I have continued every subsequent sentence with the proceeding letter of the alphabet. Knitting it all together is where the creative wordplay comes into its own.

Let’s consider the uses for an exercise like the alphabet writing challenge.

Most would agree that, on the face of it, this is little more than a contrived piece of writing that serves no obvious purpose.

Nevertheless, by restricting the way you start your sentences in order to structure your writing, however contrived it may seem, demands creative thinking and considerable attention to detail.

Originally I set out to write twenty-six paragraphs, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, but I didn’t think this would amount to much of a challenge. Perhaps I was a bit hasty in changing my parameters down to twenty-six sentences, but there you go.

Quick as you like, my change of approach made writing this post infinitely more challenging – a problem with an ambitious outcome bound by a significant constraint.

Really, when compared to the other challenges I’ve set myself in the past, this one has required the most thought and creativity. Some letters of the alphabet do not naturally lend themselves to a starting berth in a sentence.

This is when you need to get really creative.

Up until this point it hasn’t been too bad. Varying sentence structures has been essential. When you get to the end of the alphabet though, it gets pretty tough.

Xylographs are engravings on wood, apparently.

Yes, that last sentence was extremely contrived, but this approach to writing is a great way to expand your vocabulary, and it’s a necessary evil if you are to stick to the form (just don’t do it too often, otherwise you risk entering the realms of nonsense).

Zenith achieved!

26 sentences, each beginning with consecutive letters of the alphabet. Not as easy as I first thought. But an enjoyable lexical challenge nonetheless.

Give it a go.

Share your efforts with me in the comments section below, or via my social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn).

Happy writings!

 

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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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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