What Can One Person Do?

What can one person do?Answer: Do what you can.

The world is made up of seven billion you’s and me’s. Every day, with every action, large or small, you are either adding to the sum of beauty, joy and understanding in the world—or you are subtracting from it.

Read the news lately? The headlines are full of bigotry, suspicion and fear. What can one person do? Just do what you can, and that will make a bigger difference than you might think. Here’s how:

When you and I think about the people around us, the world has more care in it.

When you and I stand up for what’s right, the world has more justice in it.

When you and I send a card or an e-mail to lift someone’s spirits, the world has more light in it.

When you and I control our temper, the world becomes more reasonable.

When you and I reach out and lend a hand, the world becomes more giving.

When you and I forgive a wrong, the world becomes more peaceful.

When you and I inspire or encourage a child, the world becomes more hopeful.

There is no such thing as a small influence, or a small act of kindness, or an unimportant person, or an unimportant day. You may not be able to see the impact of your actions, but it’s all connected and it all matters.

As William James put it: “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

Caring is a Powerful Creative Advantage

Caring BLog ImageBad things don’t happen when we care; they happen when we don’t care.

None of us can do everything, but there’s one very powerful, almost magical thing we can all strive to do. And it doesn’t cost money and it doesn’t require any special technology or experience. And the most creative people and companies all do it. And here it is in just three little words: You must care. Continue reading

If the Founding Fathers had been Bloggers

Gettysburg AddressThis month thousands of high school and college commencement speeches will be delivered throughout the land. Some of them will be way too long. I know this because I have sat through a couple dozen commencement speeches through the years, and ghostwritten a couple myself.

It was Mark Twain who said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” The same principle can be applied to speeches and blogs. Writing a long speech or blog that no one will ever remember is a relatively easy task. Writing a short speech or blog that no one wants to forget is more difficult and time-consuming, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

Here’s a good example: On Nov. 19, 1863 famed orator Edward Everett delivered a two-hour speech at Gettysburg National Cemetery, but his long, rambling message put the audience to sleep. By comparison, Everett was followed on the podium by Abraham Lincoln who delivered a brilliant two-minute speech that has stood the test of time and inspired generations of Americans.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was only 273 words (about the length of a short blog), but it took him two weeks to write, and he was still doing final edits on the train ride to the cemetery that day. While it only took a couple minutes for Lincoln to deliver the final 273 words, his message helped heal the spirit of an entire nation divided by Civil War. Today, those same words are still immortalized in granite at the Lincoln Memorial. Continue reading

Trade Minds

It’s a mistake to surround yourself with people who are just like you.

Trade Minds

Creativity Tip Number 1: It’s a mistake to surround yourself with people who are just like you. Why? Because they’ll usually come up with ideas that are just like yours.

Creative people and companies make a concerted effort to look outside their normal circle of contact, so they can cross-pollinate their own ideas with insights and ideas from other people, departments, eras or industries.

Thousands of good ideas have been discovered simply because someone was curious enough to poke around in a seemingly unrelated industry or discipline. In his best-selling book, “A Whack on the Side of the Head,” Roger von Oech relates that legendary football coach Knute Rockne got the idea for his “four horseman” backfield while watching a burlesque chorus routine.

U.S. military designers borrowed from the cubist art of Pablo Picasso to create more effective camouflage patterns.

Dan Bricklin took the “spreadsheet” concept from accounting and turned it into VisiCalc, the program that launched the microcomputer software industry. Continue reading

Thumbprints in the Jelly Donuts

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.

Donut with jam and fruits

And now a special message for all you guerilla marketers out there. You may not have the time or budget to launch an in-depth customer satisfaction survey, but down deep you already know what bugs your customers—so start there.

Frontline employees at Lobridge Family Deli walked in their customer’s shoes for a week and asked themselves, “What irritates me about our deli?”

By week’s end, they had identified and begun eliminating 41 annoying items, including brick-hard butter pats; slow lines in the morning; fruit flies in the dessert section; and thumb impressions on the jelly donuts. Their slogan became: “Eliminate life’s little irritations.” Continue reading

Let me tell you a story.

How to be a better writer, leader or speaker in one step.

It’s a wise but apocryphal tale: A Psychology student wanted to explore how humans think, so she scripted a question for the University’s most powerful computer: “Do you calculate that you will ever communicate like a person?” she asked it. The computer then set to work to analyze its own computational language. Finally, the machine delivered its answer in just six words: THAT REMINDS ME OF A STORY.

It’s true. Since the days of the first cave art we humans have lived, worked and communicated in stories and legends. Jesus of Nazareth taught and led his followers through stories and parables, as did virtually every significant historical leader. Today and every day we burnish the stories of ourselves in an ongoing narrative that gives our lives meaning, keeps us sane, and connects us to one another.

Continue reading