Pick Extraordinary People

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Who are you?

“You are most like the five people you spend time with,” so goes the saying.

Sure, sure. It makes sense. We spend time with the people who make us feel good (the definition of good being a relative and deeply personal one).  We hang with people who affirm what we know (or hope) is true.

I decided to name what makes my people so special. Not just special to me…I went bigger. How do the people I know make this sometimes-really-shitty-frustrating-and-imbalanced-planet a better place to live?

See for yourself.

I put those ass-kickin friends in this Wordle:

WordleFriends

The answers humbled me. I pinched myself. I said “Self, do you even KNOW how blessed you are? Do you even GET that you run among remarkable people?”  Yeah, I know. I really do know.

So, who are YOUR people?

Forget, for now, what it says about you. But who are they? Don’t stop with the five people closest to you; consider anyone who influences your life.

What is their mark on the world? What is the imprint they leave on you? If your experience is anything like mine, this is an exercise in extraordinary gratitude.

Dwarfed. And okay.

Funny thing is, I don’t see myself perfectly reflected among my friends. I see myself as a dwarf among giants.  These people do, see, and say things I need three lifetimes to have the balls to do.  What I do see, though, in every one of them is the person I hope to be.

And for now, I’m pretty okay with being a work in progress — and I’m banking on their goodness rubbing off on me.

Your turn ~ If you do this exercise, let me know. I’d love to see what you came up with.

P.S. If you aren’t familiar with Wordle, give it a whirl. It’s a simple, free word cloud creation site that allows you to form mini works of word art.    

10 Random Questions: From One Creative to Another

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Annie Leibovitz Portrait

Annie Leibovitz by John Keatly

Moment of truth. Today I couldn’t bring myself to write about anything social, trending, controversial, educational or overly deep.  So coffee in hand I let my thoughts tumble around, and they landed (bullseye) on something I’ve always wanted to do.

Shoot Me, Annie.

My secret wish has long been to appear in Vanity Fair‘s Proust Questionnaire column.

I’d be witty, honest, and bang-on with my answers. My sparkle would mesmerize the writer. In a flash, they decide to break tradition of using a caricature. The creative director would come careening into the room with an unexpected Annie Leibovitz in tow. My hair would have it’s best day EVER, and my skin would be clear and creamy — no Photoshop needed.  The published piece would paradoxically leave me awed and humbled. My mother would wipe a proud tear from her crinkly eyes as she read my words.

Well, some dreams come true and others — ones like my tongue-in-cheek Vanity Fair fantasy — may forever be a fable. So what’s a creative girl to do when she still longs for some good Q&A? She whips up her very own questionnaire for all those people who — like her –don’t mind peeling back the layers and sharing who they are.

So here you have it. 10 very random questions I’d ask YOU if we had a sit-down to compare the minds and ways of being right-brainers.

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Stop Reading and Start Doing

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I read. A lot. Books, blogs, reports, research. Tweets (of course). You name it; I read it. Throughout my adult life  I’ve believed that I read because I’m curious. I’ve told myself and others that I read because I am a proud life-long learner.

Of course I am both of those things. But if, like me, you spend more time reading than doing, you may detect the deeper problem here — can you spot it?

Truth is, there is a deeper story. I read because I’m scared. I read to avoid what I do best, which is write.  In my moment of truth I had to ask, am I really learning or simply running?

Do you read as a way to postpone real action? It’s cool if you don’t want to raise your hand. I’ll be honest; writing this blog post is uncomfortable. It stirs feelings of shame that here I am — with a God-given talent — and I’m not fully using it. I’m hiding in the pages of someone else’s good writing.

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The iPad, my Blog, and Clicky Keyboards

Eerily similar to “the dog ate my homework,” I have a perfectly good reason for allowing my blog to grow weeds. Pure and simple, it is the fault of technology.

As my laptop wheezed its way to certain death, my iPad was working a diabolical plot. With its hip energy and snuggle-in-bed-affection, it lured me into believing I (a writer) could live on iMac and iPad alone.

Simply put, I was left unfulfilled. I crave a clicky keyboard. I miss composing content in my PJs on the couch. Mobility seems crippled without multi-tasking.

I need a laptop.

Though I have lived and loved in an Apple world, my next laptop won’t bear the logo of the forbidden fruit. That’s not to say I’ll stop playing with apps (such as Blogsy) in my pursuit of writer mojo.

It does mean, though, that I’ll be back to blogging in my pajamas soon.

Every A-Player Needs a Playbook

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I recently worked on a project that included the creation of a Sales Playbook, and it sparked an idea worth sharing. What would happen if you created a Career Playbook that captures your methods for success?

Personal Playbook Page

Mindmap from Kelli's Playbook

Could you use it as a competitive advantage if you are job hunting? Perhaps you’re craving an opportunity to do and be more where you already work, and you want to prove you’re ready.

If a Personal Playbook did nothing other than map what makes your methods unique, would it be worth your effort?

My answer? Yes. Definitely Yes.

What Do I Mean By a Playbook?

Just as in sports, it’s a notebook containing narratives, lists and diagrams of the plays you have practiced. It is the blueprint for how you operate in business scenarios. This is the HOW, not simply the WHAT.

Your Playbook is a highly-personalized tool that reflects YOUR direct experience. It’s your reference, your bible, your go-to resource.  It is your proof of concept.

Fast Company founding editor Bill Taylor wrote The 10 Questions Every Change Agent Must Answer, and in it he asked ‘What Are You the Most of?’  That is the guts of your Playbook. It’s the User Manual of what you do best.  It isn’t your memoir or a journal nor is it a lesson book.

Your Playbook is a collection of YOUR tactics and best practices (not those of your favorite guru). It’s not a history book; it is a living-breathing body of knowledge about your methods and rituals.

Why Write a Playbook — More Than Just Intrinsic Value

No matter what type of thinker you are or whether your strengths are strategic or tactical, a Playbook will boost your market value.  I came up with 5 reasons to do my own book:

  1. High performers have a methodology. Own yours, because it sets you apart.
  2. Methods and rituals do co-exist with creativity. Even the most spontaneous people are predictably spontaneous.
  3. You can’t scale without process. When you articulate a scalable methodology, you will blow the door open for new career opportunities.
  4. Prove to yourself that you are a repeatable success story and not just a tale of one-hit wonders.
  5. If you want to jump industries, you have to prove you can transfer your knowledge.  Your process makes that possible.
Timeline Exercise

Brainstorm technique: Timeline your highlights of a key position.

The Content: Part Ritual, Part Process, Part Magic.

If you’re still with me on this idea, you may have guessed it is no small task to create. Let’s be real about this project: creating a Playbook demands an honest look inside of yourself and a fair bit of writing.

What goes into your Playbook? Simply put: any (or every) scenario that is part of your regular work life.

Here is part of the list I created for my own Playbook:

  1. How do you (begin to) understand your customers?
  2. How do you gather competitive intelligence?
  3. How do you seek understanding of the formal and informal communication norms inside a company?
  4. Where do you look for new ideas outside of the company?
  5. Who do you turn to for advice?
  6. How do you make an unforgettable impression?
  7. What is your decision process?
  8. How do you break down the walls of communication with people who are NOT like you?
  9. How do you communicate most effectively (i.e. what do people need to know about the way you do it)? This includes all channels of media.
  10. How do you cross cultural barriers?
  11. What are the signals that you’re stressed or over-committed?
  12. How do you know when you’re short on resources? What steps do you take to get what you need?
  13. What feeds (and kills) your creativity?
  14. Who is in your power base?
  15. What motivates you? (don’t skip this, because you need to be very clear with your own boss about this.)

3 Ways to Start the Process

  • Replay your success reel. Think through your career in 5-year increments and identify the 1-2 remarkable achievements that stand out.  What made those possible? What did you face, and (most importantly) how did you make it work?

    Left Brain - Right Brain Example

    Inside the pages of my separate Vision and Mission Book, an ongoing project.

  • Look at where you’ve prevailed against all odds. Your biggest lessons often come from there.
    List the project or the job or the company. Explore how and why it didn’t meet your expectations (in some cases, maybe it did, but it fell short of someone else’s).
  • List your Always and Nevers. This is your sacred ground and the deal breakers.  Know where you draw the line with colleagues and clients.

The good news is that you already have the content for your Playbook. The content is in your head,  but in order to make it tangible, you need to invest the time and discipline to put it on paper.

Have you done something like this? I’d love to hear about it.

Great Additional Reading:

Chock Full of Goodness: 10+ Article Faves

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Here are 10 share-worthy articles from 2009.  If you care about communication, collaboration or leadership, dedicate your next coffee break to reading them.

  1. The Value of Visual Thinking in Social Business – Slideshare (David Armano)
  2. A Selection of 2009 Collaboration Posts (collected by Oliver Marks)
  3. Stop, Collaborate and Listen: knowledge management has a brand new adventure (James Gurd)
  4. Advice for Saving the WorldOutside Magazine (Nicholas Kristof) FAVE
  5. Media Heroes and Villains of 2009 (Trevor Butterworth)

  6. Best of 2009: 24 social media experts interviewed (Graham Charlton)
  7. The Social Customer Manifesto (Christopher Carfi)
  8. PR Disasters That Aren’t (Shel Holtz)
  9. This I Believe: A Manifesto for Web Marketers and Analysts (Avinash Kaushik)
  10. Five Ugly Numbers You Can’t Ignore: It’s Time to Calculate Hiring Failures (John Sullivan)

It’d be a crime to leave these links out of my list of 2009 faves:

  1. Blogging Starter Checklist (Rajesh Setty)

How much time do you invest in your blog?

There’s no way around it — blog content takes time to create.  Writing has its process, and good ‘ol process requires time.

How much time does it take you to create a single blog article? Chime in (as a comment) about the challenges you’ve encountered if you’re writing blog content for the first time.

Bonus Reading for Bloggers