Soften your eyes

Remember those Magic Eye posters from the 90’s?

They were totally cool.

You’d stare into the image.
You’d relax your eyes.
And eventually, a “hidden picture” would appear!

The scientific name for this kind of image is an autostereogram. They allow people to see 3D images by focusing on 2D patterns.

According to the Magic Eye website:

“Autostereograms produce an illusion of depth using only a single image. The computer-generated image repeats a narrow pattern from left to right. Then, by decoupling eye convergence from focusing operations, a viewer is able to trick the brain into seeing a 3D scene.”

Now, if you’ve ever found yourself staring at a Magic Eye poster for an extended period of time, you know how frustrating it can get.

Especially when one of your smarty-pants friends walks by and says, “Hey, look! A sailboat! Cool…”

This makes you want to yell, “No, shut up! I haven’t seen it yet! Go away!”

OK. Settle down. It’s just a picture.

ANYWAY, HERE’S MY QUESTION: what was the difference between your vision and your friend’s vision?

Simple: your friend softened her eyes.

See, we live in a hyperspeed, A.D.D., instant-gratification, advertisement-saturated culture. It’s information overload!

And millions of powerful forces are constantly vying for your precious time and attention.

So, “softening your eyes” is more than just a technique, it’s a philosophy. And it’s not just physical, it’s mental and spiritual as well:

It’s about slowing down.
It’s about noticing the novelties of life.
It’s about studying ordinary things intently.
It’s about making the mundane memorable.
It’s about being mindful of your surroundings.

AND HERE’S THE BEST PART: when you maintain a Soft Eyes Philosophy, three cool things happen:

1. You OPEN your mind to the world around you.

Which means your optical guard lets down.
Which means you’re less likely to neglect key opportunities.
Which means you’re more willing to accept multiple perspectives.

RESULT: more ideas for your business.

2. You OBSERVE patterns quicker and more frequently.

This enables you to make connections between seemingly unrelated things.
This enables you to notice things and give them names.
This enables you to have more creative thoughts.

RESULT: better ideas for your business.

3. You ORGANIZE your thoughts with ease and comfort.

Which helps you filter them through your personal theory of the universe.
Which makes them YOUR unique ideas and theories.
Which makes them easier to spread.

RESULT: word-of-mouth worthy ideas for your business.

All from Softening Your Eyes.

Now, as you’ve probably guessed by now, we’re not exactly talking about Yoga here.

(Although, physically softening your eyes is a great relaxation technique!)

So, if you want to put the Soft Eyes Philosophy into practice, consider this list of 13 leverage questions to ask yourself (and your team) on a daily basis:

1. How are these issues related to each other?
2. How could you use this as an example in your work?
3. How does this fit into your theory of the universe?
4. How does this have to do with your expertise?
5. How is this a symbol or example of you expertise?
6. What did you (just) learn from this experience?
7. What does this have to do with you?
8. What else can be made from this?
9. What else does this make possible?
10. What else is like this?
11. What is around you that you can use?
12. What’s the key idea here, regardless of the context?
13. What’s the Universal Human Emotion?

HERE’S YOUR FINAL CHALLENGE: if you truly want to LIVE this philosophy, try this. Write a few of these questions on sticky notes and post them all around your office!

By practicing QREATIVITY regularly, you will train your eyes to soften regularly.

And a result, EVEN in our crazy-busy, information overload culture:

You will slow down.
You will notice the novelties of life.
You will study ordinary things intently.
You will make the mundane memorable.
You will be mindful of your surroundings.

And you will develop higher quality ideas than ever before.

Even if you (still) can’t see that damn sailboat.

What have you recently discovered by softening your eyes?

Share your revelation here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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15 Ways to Avoid Writer’s (Thinker’s) Block

Writer’s Block is a myth.

There’s no such thing.

See, writing is merely an extension of thinking.

So, if you hear someone complaining about her insufferable “Writer’s Block,” what she’s REALLY complaining about is her “Thinker’s Block.”

Because she’s not asking enough questions.
Because she’s not taking daily time to think.
Because she’s not maintaining constant curiosity.
Because she’s not viewing the world through her unique lens.

Those are just (some) of the causes of Thinker’s Block.

But there’s more. And if you want to avoid it, remember these six words:


Here’s a list of fifteen ways to do so:

1. U NEED 2 REED EVERY DAY. This is the #1 reason people suffer from Thinker’s Block: they don’t read. (And no, US Weekly doesn’t count!) I’m talking about BOOKS. Old and new. Every single day. Also, I suggest reading more than one book at once. Keep reading material in your car, bathroom, briefcase, gym bag, desk and anywhere else you spend a lot of time.

2. Copy your notes. Don’t just read; STUDY! Take copious notes. Write related ideas in the margins. When you’re done, re-copy your notes onto your computer. Store them in a folder called “Book Notes.” Revisit them regularly to refresh your melon.

3. Write everything down. Writing is the basis of all wealth. And if you don’t write it down, it never happened. That’s all I have to say about that.

4. Everything communicates something. But are you paying attention? Probably not. And yes, it’s hard. Especially in such a fast-paced society. So, remember the words of Ferris Bueller: “Life move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while – you could miss it.” What does your hurried lifestyle make you miss out on?

5. Soften your eyes. Literally AND metaphorically. It’s about slowing down and noticing the novelties of life. It’s about being more mindful of your surroundings. Studying ordinary things intently. Are you making the mundane memorable? (More on Eye Softening tomorrow)

6. Think on paper. That way you won’t have to remember anything. So, based on your learning style, use flip charts, whiteboards, voice recognition software, note cards or mind maps to record your thoughts.

7. Capture, capture, capture. Don’t (just) write stuff down. Take pictures. Rip articles out of magazines. Pick up trash and keep it. Save voicemail messages. Keep key emails and letters. Constantly update a folder full of scraps and ideas you jotted down on vomit bags three months ago. You never know when a bad idea might come in handy!

8. Write Morning Pages. These are the single best tools I’ve EVER discovered as a professional writer. They prime the pump, get the creative shanks out and allow your best material to surface. And if you make them a habit every single morning, you will NEVER have Thinker’s Block again. Read how to do Morning Pages here.
9. Exercise every day. Aka, solvitas perambulatorum. Even if it’s just a fifteen-minute walk. It’s the best way to get the endorphins and dopamine flowing. Best legal high in the world. Best source of ideas in the world. Plus it’s, like, good for your health and stuff.

10. Easy Does It. Keep running lists of quotes, one-liners, great ideas, cool words, websites, pieces of advices and short thoughts. Start documents called “Quotes” and “Ideas.” Just list them and updated them daily. No explanations. Just list. By recording your incomplete, fragmentary association process, you stimulate and inspire highly saturated streams of thought.

11. Perpetually hunt for insight. Inspiration comes unannounced! And your constant stream of ideas flows everywhere. So, actively respond to life. Maintain childlike curiosity and ask, “Why?” to everything you see, hear and experience.

12. Prime your brain. Each morning, affirm that new ideas, concepts and thoughts will come into your mind. Maintain a receptive and creative posture for your mind. Meditate daily. Have daily appointments with yourself to mentally prepare your mind to accept ideas from all sources. Prime your brain and the ideas will come to YOU!

13. Stop organizing. Premature organizing stifles idea generation. Just get it down. Make lots of lists for EVERYTHING. Order comes later. First, puke everything out. Then, don’t stop until your cashed. Finally, review (and update) the list over time.

14. Ask and you shall receive. Questions are the basis of all creativity, discoveries, innovation, knowledge, learning and understanding. So, you need to have a readily available list of questions you ask yourself on a daily basis.

15. Punch yourself in the face. Consider writing your motivational questions on sticky notes or on your wall. By keeping them in front of your face at all times, you will challenge yourself AND keep yourself creativity accountable. Potential questions include, “What did you write today?” and “Is everything you know written down somewhere?” REMEMBER: questions are ideas waiting to happen. Learn how to punch yourself in the face here.

With these fifteen ways to create a constant stream of ideas, you melon will be motivated from every possible angle.

And you’ll never have to worry about Writer’s (er, Thinker’s) Block again!

How do you combat thinker’s block?

Share your tips here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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The problem with WHY


It’s THE crucial question.

It fuels creativity.
It generates answers.
It promotes discovery.

In fact, asking, “Why?” has probably enabled more businesses, more organizations and more people to explore more ideas than any other question in the universe.

That being said, I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about the potential dangers of the word WHY.

Because as routinely as that word is used, it’s valuable to understand the possible negative implications. Especially if you hold a managerial or leadership position.

1. WHY? … can be seen as criticism.
Especially if you use the wrong tone of voice or body language.

2. WHY? … can make people feel defensive.
Especially if it conveys judgment, not curiosity; accusations, not observations.

3. WHY? … can force someone to justify his actions.
Which can be tough, because people don’t always know why they do stuff. They just do. And sadly, they (sometimes) don’t give much thought to their motives.

4. WHY? … can be internalized as a personal attack.
This goes WAY back. See, during a child’s socialization process, he hears things like: “Why did you do that?” “Why didn’t you listen to me? “Why did you disobey me?” And these feelings are ingrained in their minds forever.

5. WHY? … can be easily countered with “because.”
Because I just DID! Because I just don’t understand! Because I felt like it! Because I said so! Sound familiar? Sound frustrating? See, these “because” answers, while valid, still offer very little information. Plus, they sort of leave you nowhere to go in the conversation. It’s best to avoid the possibility of “because.”

SO, THAT’S THE BIG CHALLENGE: what do you say instead of, “Why?”

I’m glad you asked.

HERE’S THE FIRST SECRET: instead of asking, “Why?” ask, “What?”

WHY … produces generalizations, rationalizations, justifications.
WHAT … uncovers information, specification and motivation.

What, not why.

HERE’S THE SECOND SECRET: use variations like “what,” “how,” “when,” “which,” “where.”

They’re more objective, less defensive and enable you to depersonalize the question.

What, not why.

HERE’S THE FINAL SECRET: consider these alternative Phrases That Payses:

DON’T ASK: “Why did you…?”
DO ASK: “What was your reason for…?”

DON’T ASK: “Why would you…?”
DO ASK: “How could you have done it differently to avoid this error?”

DON’T ASK: “Why didn’t you…?”
DO ASK: “Where could you have gone to follow the proper procedure?”

DON’T ASK: “Why couldn’t you…”
DO ASK: “What, specifically, were you confused about?”

DON’T ASK: “Why weren’t you…”
DO ASK: “What factors went into your decision to…”

What, not why.

Practice using these alternatives to the often accusatory, potential dangerous “Why?” And as a result, you’ll give people permission to feel comfortable volunteering the information you need to know!

What do you use instead of “Why”?

Share your Phrases That Payses here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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Study ordinary things intently

All creativity begins with curiosity.

About how things work.
About how things could work BETTER.
About why things are the way they are.
About why people do things they way they do.

But don’t MY word for it. Let’s hear what three of the world’s most notable creativity gurus had to say about the value of curiosity…

1. Leonardo Davinci. He called it curiosita, defined as, “An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.”

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding,” Davinci remarked. “Therefore, be always curious and observant.”

2. Edward DeBono. He encourages people to embrace curiosity by constantly saying, “Now that’s interesting…”

“Be able to find interest in almost anything,” DeBono says in How to Have a Beautiful Mind. “Be curious. Explore things. Bring up a discussion. Get people’s opinions, ideas and values. Explore, elaborate and make connections.”

3. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. He reminds us to fascinate ourselves with the ordinary.

“Evaluate critically every novelty you encounter,” he wrote in his book Creativity. “One of the surest ways to enrich life is to make experiences less fleeting.”

LESSON LEARNED: study ordinary things intently.

When you can learn to do this – every single day – three things will happen:

You will BOOST your creativity.
You will FLOOD your mind with new ideas.
You will BUILD a solid foundation of curiosity.

And the combination of those three results will mold your melon into an attractive, valuable commodity that your clients will want to access to.

See, clients don’t want to hire consultants or marketers or coaches – they want to hire cool, smart people who happen to do those things.

So, if you want to use curiosity to attract more ideas (and more clients!), follow this four-step game plan:

1. NOTICE. On a daily basis, take the time to stop what you’re doing and say things like, “Huh. That’s weird,” or “Now that’s interesting…”

2. EXPLORE. Study ordinary things intently. Then, start a dialogue. Ask other people questions like, “So, why do you think she said that?” “Hey, did you guys notice that?” and “It would be interesting to see if…”

3. RECORD. Remember, if you don’t write it down, it never happened! So, consider keeping a Curiosity Journal. Make daily entries about things you noticed and what you learned from them.

4. EXPAND. Continue to learn, ask and research these new ideas you’re curious about. Constantly run them through your personal filter of expertise by asking, “How does this fit into my picture of the universe?”

With these four steps, your curiosity will become a weapon!

Both for you AND the customers you serve.

Now … isn’t that interesting?

What ordinary thing have you recently studied intently?

Share your observations here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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Things I’ve recently unlearned, part 3

(Read part 1 of this post series here!)
(Read part 2 of this post series here!)

11. Well-roundedness is overrated. Let go of your past programmed, liberal education mindset. Instead, just get really, really good at one (maybe two) specific things.

THEN, be known for them.
THEN, be the first hit on Google for them.
THEN, let them become your leading attributes.
THEN, keep doing more OF and getting better AT those things.
THEN, let them become your number one income generating activities.
THEN, delegate or outsource the rest.

You have better things to do.

12. You don’t have to please everybody who comes to your website. If you get an angry email from an 81 year-old WWII vet who’s having trouble reading the articles on your website, and that type of person is NOT your target customer, who the hell cares?

Let it go. Just please the people who PAY.

13. You don’t have to prove yourself every ten seconds. This was a BIG realization for someone like me, who tends to be the youngest person in the room.

Let your actions and credentials do that for you. Don’t be so intentional. Relax. People will (eventually) discover how smart and cool you really are. Unless you’re a putz.

14. You don’t have to use all your bullets. For example, you don’t have to ask people questions every ten seconds. They might get the feeling you’re interrogating them. Or that they did something wrong. Or that you’re too lazy to think of anything good to say.

See, effective questioning is about the questions, yes; but it’s also got a lot to do with timing.

Two perfectly pitched questions usually beats five rapid-fire questions.

What three things have you recently UN-learned?

Post them here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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25 words that were recently added to the dictionary

I just think stuff like this is interesting.

Kind of a neat mirror of our culture.

According to Webster’s, these are some of the words that were added to the dictionary last year:

1. bada-bing
2. beer pong
3. belly-up
4. bling
5. breakout
6. Central Casting
7. cross-training
8. de-pants
9. Disneyfication
10. drive-by
11. gay-friendly
12. gross-out
13. hard-ass
14. ill-deserved
15. liposculpture
16. looky-loo
17. low-rent
18. microbrowser
19. off-label
20. Photoshop, v.
21. run-and-gun
22. self-harming
23. self-selecting
24. telemeeting
25. Wi-Fi

(Number 8 is my favorite!)

What three words would you like to see added in 2008?

Share your words here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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9 ways to TOTALLY piss off your competition

Ever meet someone who thinks EVERYTHING is a competition?

Kind of silly, isn’t it?

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having a competitive spirit.

But it always seemed like a waste of energy to me.

A lot of misplaced, macho anger.

I think that when it comes to your competition, there’s no reason to be mean.

No reason to put them down.
No reason to slash their tires.
No reason to undercut pricing.
No reason to poach their customers.
No reason to talk smack about them on your blog.

On the other hand, there ARE some respectful things you can do (as incidentals of your company’s hard work and success) … that WILL really piss them off.

Such as:

1. Just be really, really good.
2. Call your customers back within the hour.
3. Email your customers back within ten minutes.
4. Have a really, really AMAZING product. (Something I learned from Frank Lucas.)
5. Be the first ten hits on Google.
6. Publish an article or column in the paper your competitors read every week.
7. Give informative and entertaining speeches at the civic clubs and chambers THEY belong to.
8. Have an AMAZING website that’s fun, not overly-salesy, builds online community, enables WOM, is content-based and gets LOTS of return hits.
9. Just be really, really good. (Did I mention that already?)

If you do those things, you will (indirectly) destroy the competition.

And you will win.

BECAUSE … you will have spent your time, energy, efforts, talents, money and skills delivering as much value as possible, not over-aggressively trying to win some corporate pissing contest.

In cone-clusion, I’d like to share a quotation from Richard Connaroe. He’s the author of one of my favorite rare books, Bravely, Bravely in Business.

“Stop making war on the competition and start making love to the customer.”

What’s your theory on competition?

In 25 words or less, post your theory here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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It’s never too early to begin…

It’s never too early to begin
… basting that turkey.

It’s never too early to begin
… being really, really successful.

It’s never too early to begin
… being useful to the world.

It’s never too early to begin
… bending the ears of smart people.

It’s never too early to begin
… building word-of-mouth into your ideas.

It’s never too early to begin
… career exploration.

It’s never too early to begin
… chronicling your adventures and lessons learned.

It’s never too early to begin
… contributing.

It’s never too early to begin
… creating a positive context for your life.

It’s never too early to begin
… developing a professional portfolio.

It’s never too early to begin
… developing yourself.

It’s never too early to begin
… financial education.

It’s never too early to begin
… getting really, really smart.

It’s never too early to begin
… giving back.

It’s never too early to begin
… giving money.

It’s never too early to being
journaling your thoughts.

It’s never too early to begin
… laying the foundation of self-preservation.

It’s never too early to begin
… managing expectations and outcomes.

It’s never too early to begin
… meditating.

It’s never too early to begin
… networking.

It’s never too early to begin
… planning for International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

It’s never too early to begin
… retirement planning.

It’s never too early to begin
… teaching kids about character.

It’s never too early to begin
… thinking about internships.

It’s never too early to begin
… thinking about usability.

It’s never too early to begin
… validating your existence.

It’s never too early to begin
… writing out your goals and dreams.

Finish this sentence five times: It’s never too early to begin…

Post your thoughts here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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Don’t take this wrong way, but…

Framing is everything.

So, when approaching your staff, employees, volunteers or members, be careful of using “Kill Phrases.”

These types of setup comments negatively influence and/or negate whatever comes out of your mouth next.

For example:

1. “With all due respect…”

PROBLEM: people use this as a Get Out of Jail Free Card. A conversational passport to say whatever they want. As if insulting someone is OK if you say this first.

SILENT DIALOG: Oh, great. I bet he’s going to say something disrespectful to me next…

2. “Don’t get defensive…”

PROBLEM: mentioning the mere idea of defensiveness usually causes it.

SILENT DIALOG: Yeah right! Now I probably WILL get defensive about what she says next!

3. “Let me give you some advice…”

PROBLEM: this assumes superiority, even when advice wasn’t requested.

SILENT DIALOG: Um, did I ask for your advice?

4. “Try not to take this personally…”

PROBLEM: creates immediate self-consciousness.

SILENT DIALOG: How can I NOT take this personally?

5. “Don’t take this the wrong way…”

PROBLEM: puts people on the defensive.

SILENT DIALOG: Yep, here comes the insult…

6. “I’m only telling you this for your own good…”

PROBLEM: based on the assumption that the other person KNOWS what’s good for you.

SILENT DIALOG: My own good, or YOUR own comfort?

* * * *

SO REMEMBER: framing is everything.

If you can avoid these Kill Phrases, you will be sure to lay a foundation of approachability for the people you lead.

What other Kill Phrases should you avoid?

Post your examples here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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What’s YOUR resume?

The problem with your resume is that YOU wrote it.

Which means it’s kind of biased.

You may as well call it a resu-MEE.

Because that’s what it is: ME saying why ME is so great.

If you want to persuade potential employers, prospects and customers to hire you, remember this: your resume is most effective when someone OTHER than you writes it.

In fact, the word resume comes from the Latin resumere, which means, “to sum up.”

So, your resume is anything (or anyone) that sums up why you rock so hard.

For example:

Your resume is your Google ranking.
Your resume is your comments section on your blog.
Your resume is your testimonial page on your website.
Your resume is your media room on your website.
Your resume is your book review section on

Your resume is what people are saying about your name.
Your resume is what people are saying AFTER your name.
Your resume is what people are saying behind your back.


I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having an actual, traditional resume.

It’s still a valuable professional tool.

JUST KEEP IN MIND: it’s almost 2008.

If someone wants to hire you, she’s going to validate your credibility from multiple sources.

Not just from one piece of paper that YOU wrote.

What’s your resume?

Next time someone says, “Send me your resume,” send them a link like THIS.

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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