Monday, March 30, 2009

Skating Lessons

My daughter just started taking skating lessons at the Petit National Ice Center. Can you guess what the instructors teach first at this Olympic training center? They teach the students how to get up

I love this. We all fall. What separates those who succeed from those who don't? Getting up. Those who succeed get up over and over again. The rest sit on the ice and whine: 
"It's too hard."
"No one supports me."
"Why do I keep falling?"

Last week I listened to creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk. He said, "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original."

In other words, those who succeed are willing to create something that others may mock (or worse). Scary! Most of us want the approval of other people. Once we know (or think we know) what pleases our audience, we do it over and over again. 

This week, try something different. Take a risk with your work. Get curious. Be willing to produce something you cannot use. As Samuel Beckett said, "Ever tried? Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Just remember this: get up and try again. Like the old proverb says, "Fall seven times. Stand up eight."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Smarter than a Scientist

We'd had one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days (thank you Judith Viorst for creating that amazing phrase). 

In the midst of this, my seven-year-old daughter piped up: "When you are having a bad day, do something you love. You'll feel better."

She's right, of course. Participating in activities we are passionate about DOES help us to feel happier. But most of us slog through life checking chores off our to-do list and forget about the stuff that once delighted us. When we get to the end of our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, we pour ourselves a glass of something, dig into the chips, and veg out in front of the television.

In honor of the first day of spring, I'm challenging you to do something different. Make a list of ten activities that engage and inspire you. Think about the last few times you felt that first-day-of-spring, new-possibilities feeling. What were you doing? Wandering around an art museum, digging in the dirt, working on your car, or walking in the woods?  Put it down on the list!

The next time you're having one of those days, stop working and do something that delights you. As my daughter says, you'll feel better! 

Speaking of my daughter. After she gave her sage advice, I asked if she would help me out with the blog. She suggested I call her blog posts, "Smarter than a Scientist" because—as she said—"I am."  

If you are looking for more young wisdom, check out young Alexander in Judith Viorst's book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Good News

I woke up this morning feeling uneasy. It took a few minutes to figure out why. And then I remembered. I'd broken my long-standing news fast. On Friday, I checked into a hotel to work on my new book proposal. This hotel had two perks I don't get at home: a daily newspaper and cable television. On Saturday night, after a day and a half of work, my daughter joined me for a night of girl time. While she watched The Disney Channel, I read the paper. Bad idea.

After all that news, the words in my head this morning were not the usual hopeful ones. Instead of thinking about my morning writing work, I was recalling dire predictions. As I drove my daughter to school and lifted weights at the YMCA, my brain kept remembering phrases like:
  • dismal possibilities
  • difficult publishing landscape 
  • staggering losses
  • lowest since ...
  • worst in 34 years ...
Before long, I was beginning to think, "Well, why bother?" Why bother writing a book, why bother building a business, why bother doing ANYTHING when the economic climate is so tough?

I'm not going to tell you that the economic climate is peachy. It isn't. It's a mess. Not an unfixable mess, but a mess.

But I am going to answer the question, "Why bother?"

Why bother?  Because the world needs you now more than ever. In difficult economic times, the world needs you to speak your hopeful words, write your books, play your music, make art, bake bread, and work on that business dream. 

The world needs some good news. Why shouldn't it come from you???

I'm creating my own antidote to the daily dose of bad news. On Sunday morning, my daughter and I each wrote down five things we were grateful for about each other. You can see her drawing above. The practice helped us both to feel better. So now I am expanding it. Every night I write in my journal three pieces of good news—ideas, people, places, or events that brought me hope that day. 

I'll let you know how that goes. But right now, I need to get back to working on my book. After all, the world needs more good news! :-) 

In the meantime, check out the movie Seabiscuit. The movie was a great reminder that the situation does not have to be perfect (the economy, our health, our age, or experience) in order to achieve success.