Tag Archives | Creativity

Captains Curious: Curiosity Is the Foundation for Creativity and Success


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest contributing member is Connie Harryman! To learn about the other Captains Curious, please click here.

Curiosity is the essence of creativity

“Curiosity killed the cat.”  I still laugh when I remember my Mom saying this to me.  For me, curiosity has led me on my grand journey of becoming an acknowledged expert in creativity.  For you see, curiosity is the essence of creativity.  Without curiosity creativity and success would not exist.

Examples

I will give you several examples.  When I was quite young, I lived in a tiny rural community in Texas.  I had no role models and no experience beyond what occurred within a few short miles.  However, my curiosity ate at me.  What else is out there in that other world?

I had no resources to explore that other world.  However, because of my curiosity I developed an insatiable lust for reading.  I especially loved historical novels set in far off exotic places.  I was not allowed to read because it signified laziness.   Due to my abiding curiosity I simply found hiding places where I could read.

It was this same drive of curiosity that led me to leave my community to go to college.   What do they teach in those colleges?  I had no idea but I knew they were filled with books and I knew books satisfied my curiosity.

After I graduated I was curious.  What is it like to work in a shiny multistory building with all the walls covered with windows?  My friends and even those who loved me told me that I was not meant for technology and I would not be any good at it so I should stay away from it.  However, I was curious.  Would I be any good at it?  I would not know unless I tried.  I spent the next several years working for the market leader in emerging technologies and I excelled.  My curiosity was satisfied.

It didn’t stop there

I became aware of the field of creative thinking quite by accident.  I was told, “You are the most creative person I know.”  What does this mean?  Surely this could not be true.  After all I cannot sing, dance, or even memorize poetry.  What is creativity?   My curiosity is rising again.  Where do you go to find out about creativity and what does creativity have to do with the practical things in life?

My curiosity is pulling at me.   It must be satisfied.   I decided to go to Austin to attend a conference sponsored by the American Creativity Association.   The next year I was on the organizing team for the Singapore conference.

Do you remember my curiosity led me to read about exotic far off places when I was young?  If you are curious about creativity in a far off place, then Singapore satisfied my curiosity completely.  I travelled there and met my future business partner, Lars Ringe, founder of RobotLab.  My curiosity led me to this creativity and innovation expert from Denmark.

Curiosity drives my passions

Let us now return to my passions.  These include creativity and technology.  I am curious.  How can I take advantage of the power of social networking and social media to share knowledge about creativity and innovation?  I am so curious I decided to take classes in social networking.  Six months later, I was invited to be a professional guest blogger for the Front End of Innovation Europe held in Amsterdam.  This is an event sponsored by the International Institute of Research.  My curiosity led to me a rather terrifying and daunting situation but again I succeeded.

My curiosity led me to join many social networking groups.  Many are focused on creativity and innovation but some are focused on science and technology or women in technology.   My curiosity compels me to connect with fascinating people on Twitter and LinkedIn.

I continue to satisfy my curiosity about how to build creative teams and how to increase their performance.  I wrote a white paper entitled Mastering Creative Problem Solving Within Teams and it was presented to the International Association of Science Parks by Lars Ringe, founder of RobotLab in Copenhagen, Denmark.  I was to be the presenter but, alas, I had to attend my daughter’s wedding in Dublin, Ireland.

Rejoice in your curiosity and fulfill your dreams!

My curiosity has been my major driver leading me to many adventures in the world of creativity and innovation.  For a joyful and passionate life, you must rejoice in your curiosity and satisfy it to find out what type of creative adventures you can embark upon to fulfill your dreams!

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Connie Harryman is CEO of Applied Concepts Creativity.  She refers to herself as a Creativity Developer.  She is also the President of the American Creativity Association – Austin Global.  Her blog is http://developyourcreativethinking.com/ You are invited to connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Would you like to submit a guest post on the subject of Curiosity? Send an email to susan {at} susanTblake {dot} com with the subject line: Captains Curious.

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stuff That Knocks on My Brain and Demands to Be Let In (or Out)


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Off On a Tangent

This morning I was writing in my journal, something I’ve been doing most every morning for a while, clearing my head and gathering my thoughts for the coming day. But my mind kept drifting off on a tangent about a project that is waiting patiently on the sidelines, and I kept losing my Here And Now train of thought.

I finally gave up and spent some time paying attention to that tangent, noticing what was coming up, listening to it and writing it down. And I ended up with an unexpected essay that I can submit to one of the literary journals I discovered over the weekend, bringing me closer to my goal of submitting two pieces to outside publications by June 6.

Tangents and Discipline

What if I had chosen discipline this morning over following that thought? Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask, What if I had chosen a different discipline this morning? Because paying attention to the distractions and tangents my mind throws up is a discipline, too.

Noticing is a discipline, a process of learning by instruction and practice (from The Free Dictionary).

Ever since I was a child, when I have seen a road winding off around a bend I have wanted to follow it, thinking “I wonder what’s down there?” That is part of my curiosity. Noticing the tangents my mind goes off on and following them is like noticing a road I haven’t gone down and giving myself permission to see what’s around the bend.

Tangents vs. Hooks

One of the things I noticed about myself years ago is that when I get hooked on a tangent, like being mad at somebody, it is a very effective distraction from what is really going on. As long as I am focused on them, I don’t have to pay attention to what’s going on with me.

After getting over being embarrassed at myself, I started paying attention to those times when I go gleefully off on a tangent so that I can ignore what I’m really feeling, and started noticing what it is I’m trying to avoid. It’s not easy, and it can be very humbling, but it sure saves a lot of time and energy.

Those two kinds of tangents and distractions are very different. The first is like a visitor knocking at the door, wanting to share the cookies she just baked and have a lovely chat, but who gives up after a while if I don’t answer. The second is like a gossipy neighbor who bangs on the door, bringing over something fattening to eat while telling me juicy tidbits and keeping me from what I should be doing. One is an invitation, the other an intrusion.

I can accept either one – or not; I get to choose. But I have to use the peephole in the door to notice which type of visitor it is. And if I’m very good, I notice my motivation for letting either one in – or not.

Tangents, Ideas and Creativity

I could have stuffed this morning’s tangent back in its box and forced myself to concentrate. Later I probably would have bemoaned my lack of new ideas.

I wonder: Perhaps people who believe they are not creative get just as many ideas as “creative people” do, but they are just better at ignoring them.

Do you pay attention to the tangents your mind takes off on? Can you tell the difference between an idea and a hook? Do you choose one type over the other? If so, why? Or do you ignore them all?

Photo Credit: Ian Britton www.FreeFoto.com

Captains Curious: Conquering the Curse of Curiosity


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest member of the Captains Curious is Colin Beveridge! To learn about the other Captains Curious, please click here.

Try Not To Have Ideas

Here’s a guaranteed way to come up with half a dozen ideas: Sit down in a quiet room with no distractions and try to clear your mind of all thoughts. Give it, say, half an hour. At the end of your time, write down all the ideas that popped into your head while you were trying not to have them.

The Curse: Suddenly You’re In a Bind

This is The Curse of Curiosity. Every time you get started on something, your brain starts asking curious questions: “Ooh! How about this? Or that?” And suddenly you’re in a bind: Do you keep slogging away at the boring old idea that has just been completely eclipsed by your exciting new revelation and risk forgetting it, or do you drop everything and set out on the new adventure?

It’s a difficult balance to find. If you always slog on, you risk your brain getting the message that its brilliant ideas are worthless, which makes it that much harder to generate good ideas when you need them. If you always switch to the new idea, you never finish anything (and my hard drive full of incomplete stories, websites and other assorted pieces of work is testament to that).

My Solution: A Middle Way

My favorite solution to The Curse is a middle way: Write the idea down, no matter how crazy, then finish what I’m doing.

The ideas I’ve written down then go in a safe place – I keep them in a marmalade jar, but you might prefer a file on your computer or a notebook – to be dipped into when I’m feeling uninspired (or have some rare free time). Charlie Gilkey came up with a brilliant metaphor, calling this safe place your ‘idea garden’ – somewhere you put your ideas to grow, although you have to look after it carefully to get the best results.

Having Ideas Is Easy. The Hard Part Is…

Having ideas is easy. Picking which ones to act on now is the hard part.

There are worse curses to be under, though: Imagine never having ideas. Now, that would be a real curse.

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Colin Beveridge (@icecolbeveridge, http://www.flyingcoloursmaths.co.uk) is a math confidence coach and author of the UK version of Basic Maths For Dummies. He helps children and adults overcome their fear of math and start to discover its beauty. He lives in Poole, England with an espresso pot and nothing to prove.

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Would you like to submit a guest post on the subject of Curiosity? Send an email to susan {at} susanTblake {dot} com with the subject line: Captains Curious.

Captains Curious: What Was the Cat Doing?


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest member of the Captains Curious is Delisa Carnegie! To learn about the other Captains Curious, please click here.

Curiosity killed the cat, or so they say. I’m curious about what the cat was doing before it died. What adventure did the cat go on? It had to be awesome.

Zombeez aren’t curious. Their minds are vast wastelands of cardboard. No cats live in the hive.

Creativity Needs Curiosity

My blog is filled with posts revolving around creativity, but that creativity needs curiosity. Curiosity makes us ask “What if?” and creativity provides limitless possibilities to answer with “Maybe this or that.” Working on this post made me realize how intertwined curiosity and creativity are. I hadn’t thought much about curiosity (as separate being) before. I let it hang out in the shadow of creativity. In reality, you can’t have one without the other.

Curiosity is a risk and an adventure. You can ask any cat about that.

The Hive Doesn’t Want You to Be Curious

You risk doing something new, different, or nontraditional. You lead yourself on your own customized adventure. The risks won’t always be life threatening, like jumping out of a plane, but it might feel like it. The longer you live according to the hive mind the more dangerous curiosity feels. The hive doesn’t want you to be curious; they use fear to try and control you, because they are afraid.

Think about what a dreary boring place the world would be if no one every followed their curiosity. We would still be living in caves and hunting with sticks. The caves wouldn’t even have cool cave art.

Curiosity Will Set You Free

It may be true that love will set you free, but I don’t think they got that quite right. Curiosity will set you free and lead you on a lifetime of adventure. That sounds way more exciting to me.

Why Is It Always a Cat?

Writing this post has got me wondering (curious) about why it is always a cat and not some other animal that kicks it. I think it is because cats are independent and do what they want. Cats are the opposite of zombeez (mindless drones).  Are you more cat or zombee?

How often do you follow your curiosity?

How often do you follow your curiosity? Do you jump in and go for it or do you hang back thinking about the poor dead cat?

This may sound a little morbid, but we all are going to die some day from something. Isn’t it better to spend our lives satisfying our curiosity, having adventures, being fulfilled, and being truly happy than to spend it being too afraid to live?

I think we should enjoy ourselves while we can.

If you aren’t used to being curious and seeing where it gets you, try it. The next time you are curious about something, act on that curiosity. You won’t know what you are missing out on until you do.  You could be missing out on the best things.

Are You Curious?

I know Jimmy Hendrix would ask “Are you experienced?” but I want to know “Are you curious?”

The experience comes later. First you have to be curious.

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Delisa Carnegie is the leader of The Creativity Rebellion. She spends her days creating, crafting, teaching people how to fist pump like Billy Idol and kick zombee ass at www.thecreativityrebellion.com. Follow her on Twitter @delisacarnegie or email her at delisa@thecreativityrebellion.com.

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Would you like to submit a guest post on the subject of Curiosity? Send an email to susan {at} susanTblake {dot} com with the subject line: Captains Curious.

Testing Ground


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In Nova’s “Car of the Future,” which I watched recently on PBS, one of the technologies profiled was hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that are being tested in Iceland.

Iceland prides itself on helping to improve this technology by testing it every day. Says Jon Björn Skúlason of Icelandic New Energy, Ltd., “You go to a small society like Iceland, where a lot of things are simpler than in a big society like the US or Europe, you can actually test things out here. That’s actually how we think we can help the world (emphasis mine).”

Hmm. That made me wonder: If that’s true of a small society like Iceland, is the same thing true for small organizations? How can small organizations help the world by testing ideas, processes and technologies?

Please tell me what you think!

Low Hanging Fruit – Part II


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My spontaneous post on Low Hanging Fruit has spurred all kinds of additional thoughts, and the committee in my head has jumped into the debate. Warning: They have no fear of mixed metaphors or clichés. (Luckily no monsters have shown up. Yet.) So pull up a chair and enjoy some Humble Pie and Resistance Crumble.

Why do I overlook Low Hanging Fruit? Is it because it is almost too easy, and I love a good challenge? After all, that looks so easy, somebody else must have done it already. Or, maybe it looks so easy because it is and no one else will find it interesting?

Or, maybe it only looks easy to you because of your unique superpowers that you take for granted?

Maybe I overlook that Low Hanging Fruit because I can see it up close and I can see the spots and worm holes. But that beautiful shining apple way up at the top of the tree looks perfect from down here.

Yes, and haven’t you learned from experience yet that once you get close to it, That Apple Up There has just as many spots, if not more? The apple is always greener. (Wait, that’s a mixed metaphor.) You know what I mean. Anyway, you can wash off the spots and eat around the worm hole on the apple down here, right now.

Maybe what makes this Low Hanging Fruit hang so low is that it is a little heavier from the weight of needing some resources (as in, help from other people). And being a good Taurus who stubbornly thinks I have to do everything myself, I would rather, well, be stubborn. About Doing. It. Myself.

But wait, this person has already given you some great feedback, and that person has offered to be your proofreader, and that person is really excited about doing the graphic design. What makes you think you’re doing this alone? Or that you have to?

Besides, you’re going to need help building a ladder to get to the top of the tree to reach that supposedly perfect apple way up there. Why not accept the help now?

I’m afraid that what makes that Low Hanging Fruit spotted and wormy is that it is so personal. What if I pick that fruit and hand it to someone and they say, “Eew!”?

Your apples are beautiful and organic and the spots are part of their charm. People want your apples because they are personal. And that’s what makes them different from everyone else’s.

Oh, and one more thing. If you insist on leaving that Low Hanging Fruit, you’re Leaving Money On The Table and someone else is going to Eat Your Lunch! Don’t Throw Out the Baby With The Bath Water! Get picking!

Sigh. I hate it when you’re right.

This slice of Humble Pie was brought to you by the Low Hanging Fruit Pickers Association.

Low Hanging Fruit


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I recently had a very interesting coaching session with a young man who has taken on a new role with a growing organization. He is new to the organization, and the role is new as well.

This is an exciting spot to be in, but it is challenging as well. I once worked for someone who used to say, “There is nothing more challenging than putting a brand new person in a brand new role.” It is challenging because it is difficult to tell whether issues that arise are related to the design of the role or the skills of the person. As any scientist will tell you, a well-constructed experiment only has one variable at a time.

So, he is in a challenging situation. He was telling me about his ideas for initiatives to be undertaken, and he has great ideas! But they are very grand. And all the bright and shiny opportunities are making it difficult to prioritize.

I asked him if he was familiar with the term, “Low Hanging Fruit.” “No,” he replied.

So I explained that an apple tree has fruit all over it, but we don’t have a ladder. We can either build a ladder now, which will take time, or we can pick the Low Hanging Fruit first. We can reach it now, and it is ripe. We’re hungry now, I said. “Yes!” he said, “Hungry and thirsty!”

“Then start with the Low Hanging Fruit,” I suggested. “What are the projects you can start with first and get some momentum, while building a ladder to get to the top of the tree?” And we began talking about the projects he can undertake immediately.

It occurs to me this morning that the same is true for developing products.

I am in a “mastermind” or “success team” group that meets, virtually, every week. Our mission is to support and hold each other accountable while we are building our businesses. As part of that, each of us is working on a Product of some kind. We are having some interesting conversations and some exciting breakthroughs!

And we face some interesting challenges, some of which are of our own making.

I wonder, to what extent are we – am I – forgetting to pick the Low Hanging Fruit, overlooking it because it is almost too easy?

Hmmm.

My late husband used to look at me sometimes and say, “I hate it when you’re right.”

This time I have to say, “Gah, I hate it when I’m right.”

What is the Low Hanging Fruit you are overlooking?

What Do Jewelry, Jigsaw Puzzles and Recruiting Have in Common?


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I had a surprising epiphany the other night after spending a good part of the weekend making jewelry: Making jewelry is like doing a jigsaw puzzle.

I love a good puzzle. In fact, I am a Jigsaw Puzzle Addict from way back. If there is an open puzzle on the table I’m working on it.

We discovered this when I was in high school. My family went on vacation for a week to a beach cabin with no television, and my mother brought along a jigsaw puzzle to prevent utter mayhem in case it rained. (In western Washington State rain is a pretty safe bet.) If I was inside the cabin I was working on that puzzle. And I finished it.

So we bought another one when we got home. Same thing. Then my mother bought another one and this time she took away the lid to the box – so I had no picture to go by.

Didn’t matter. I did it anyway. Faster.

I find them very soothing. My brain goes into a different mode where there are no words, only visuals (and I am a very visual person). And with puzzles, I get to focus on both the details and The Whole.

There is something enormously satisfying about taking a jumble of pieces and making the myriad connections needed until a consolidated whole emerges.

When I was in college, I started using jigsaw puzzles as therapy at the end of a term. Once I was done with all of my papers and exams (and my brain was fried) I would lock myself up with a puzzle. By the time I finished the puzzle (usually in a weekend) I was fine again.

When my (late) husband discovered this, he adopted it as his favorite gift. Perfume? Jewelry? Occasionally. But my favorite thing was to come home on a Friday night and find a new puzzle and a bottle of champagne on the dining room table.

He had no interest in (or patience with) doing them himself, and he didn’t drink, either. This was something he bought just for me.

He even knew me so well that he could tell if I was having a difficult time at work. He would just look at me and say, “I think you need a puzzle.” And he was usually right.

I haven’t done a jigsaw puzzle in a long time, though, because I haven’t given myself permission to sit still and not focus on work in quite a while – except the occasional day spent reading or gardening.

But I’ve recently taken up beading. I blame my mother and sister, who took me along when they went to a humungous bead store for an afternoon when I last visited them in Seattle. I went in not intending to buy anything, but I ended up purchasing the beads for a necklace as a souvenir of that visit. (And, I should say, I bought way more than the two of them put together.)

Then a friend gave me a kit with a huge variety of beads, wires and tools, and my sister came to visit and helped me figure out what I had and organize it. Then we visited another bead shop, and one of my favorite jewelry stores had a sale on hand-blown glass beads… you can see where this is going.

So I have been spending time sitting with the beads, looking at them, combining them, recombining them, and recombining them again. Do these two go together? Do these three go together? Is there a pattern emerging? Are you earrings? Or a necklace? Or a bracelet?

I realized this is very similar to the process I go through when sorting puzzle pieces. Do these two go together? Do these three go together? Are you a roofline? Or a tree branch?

Then the thought occurred to me that maybe being an external recruiter, which I did for six years (and thoroughly enjoyed), was like doing jigsaw puzzles, too. Sifting through candidates and their skills and personalities and goals, sifting through clients and their job requirements and company cultures and goals, and matching them up. Do these two go together? Do these three go together?

They’re all about making connections, and the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.

My point is this: Sometimes we take things so for granted that we fail to see the connections that exist between them and the patterns they create.

What are some of the patterns or connections that repeat themselves in your life, whether in hobbies, or relationships, or in your work – or that cross over between them?

How Curiosity Can Help You Save the World


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The other morning I was watching Quest (a local science show on KQED), and one of the stories was about researchers who study the sun. And my mind went off on a tangent about astronomy, which has always fascinated me, and about the researchers – why are they curious about the sun and not about something else?

Which got me thinking about curiosity. This is a theme that has been popping up a lot for me lately.

I am curious about curiosity. The more I think about curiosity, the more I realize it is connected to many things:

Differences

Although we humans have much in common, we are also very different from one another. What is it that enables us to learn from those from whom we are different, rather than demonize them?

Curiosity.

Creativity

Creativity and innovation are buzzwords of this era, and they are touted as the crucial factors in the strength of enterprises and economies. But what drives them?

Curiosity.

Powerful Questions

The ability to ask questions is an important one. Not just any old questions, but good questions. Powerful questions. What is it that makes the difference between powerful questions and questions of defiance?

Curiosity.

Compassion

Compassion, the ability to feel someone else’s pain, is more correctly defined as the ability to feel something with someone else. (Com + passion = with + feel.) We can instinctively feel with those with whom we share similarities, but we are different from most others as well. How can we feel with people from whom we are different? What makes that possible?

Curiosity.

So, Yes. Curiosity can help you – and me – save the world. I wonder… What role does curiosity play in your life? Do you consider yourself to be curious? To what extent is curiosity part of the environment in which you work? Is it allowed and encouraged? Or is it discouraged and stifled?

What Do I Do? I’m Glad You Asked That…


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This post comes to you in response to a challenge from blogger and IttyBiz marketing guru, Naomi Dunford. (You haven’t lived until you’ve listened to her read Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go.)

In her most recent blog post (which you can read here), Naomi challenged readers to answer a very scary question: What do you actually do? Although I do try to answer that on my About and Services tabs, here it is with a slightly different twist – with the questions provided by Naomi:

What’s your game? What do you do?

I wonder. No, really, not about what I do. That is what I do. I notice how things work, how people think and act, and how human systems work (or don’t work). I ask questions that make people think.

That’s a practice that could be extremely irritating if not used wisely. But I ask questions that give people ideas. And I create a safe space for them to answer those questions.

I apply that in a variety of ways:

  • I rock at facilitating group discussions and meetings, especially when it involves getting people’s creative juices flowing.
  • I write and analyze surveys, drive strategy planning projects, develop and present training, and provide individual and group coaching.
  • I write about these and other things that make me wonder and that I hope will inspire you.
  • Oh, and I’m a photographer on the side.

Why do you do it? Do you love it, or do you just have one of those creepy knacks?

I do it for a lot of reasons. I do love it; I’m naturally curious about – even fascinated by – people, nature, why things are the way they are. I want to share that wonder, and I believe it can open many doors.

And I do have a knack for usually asking the right question.

Who are your customers? What kind of people would need or want what you offer?

Maybe I have a big head, but I think everybody needs what I offer.

Have you ever thought,

  • “Now what do I do?”
  • “I should get this, but it just isn’t coming.”
  • “It’s right on the tip of my tongue…”
  • “I wish I had someone to bounce this off of…”
  • “I’m pretty sure I know what they think, but maybe I should check. How do I ask?”
  • “I’m stuck,” “I’m trapped,” “I’m bored,” “I’m in a rut,” or…

Then I can help.

If you need someone to…

  • Come in and ask the questions that need to be asked, or
  • Help you to formulate the questions that will help you get useful answers, or
  • Maybe you want to have a team event that you can participate in without having to lead it…

Then I’m the one you want.

What’s your marketing USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? Why should I buy from you instead of the other losers?

Because…

  • I ask great questions that give people ideas.
  • I will tell you the truth.
  • I’ve been around, and survived a few things, and I know you can too.
  • I have a lot of tools in my toolkit, not just a hammer.
  • People say my meetings are fun.
  • I know the difference between being a Consultant and an Insultant.

What’s next for you? What’s the Big Plan?

In addition to helping more and more people build their curiosity muscles,

  • I’m developing a series of workshops on Asking Powerful Questions in both personal relations and business interactions.
  • I’m updating my ebook, “Remember to Look Up: 35 Tips for Making a Comeback.” The new version will include exercises to help you with some of the tips, and it will be ready by the end of November.

So there you have it. If any of this appeals to you and you’d like to talk to me about helping YOU out, click here. Or give me a call at (925) 580-6922. (I’m on Pacific Time.) You may also leave a comment if you have something to say but aren’t ready for us to work together.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

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