You Don’t Have to be Steve Jobs to be Ahead of Your Time

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Computer visionary Alan Kay coined that phrase in 1971.

At the time, he was working in the research department of Xerox. But, as innovative as he was, he failed to convince the higher-ups that his new programming ideas would revolutionize computing.

Until.

Eight years later, pioneers from Apple Computers used Kay’s ideas to develop a revolutionary, user-friendly computer called The Macintosh. In the end, Alan’s vision for the future changed the face of technology forever.

Take that, Steve Jobs.

That’s what happens when stop predicting the future and start inventing it: You don’t just make money – you make history.

THE COOL PART IS: You don’t need to be a computer scientist to be ahead of your time. You just need to bear the daily fruit of an indomitable spirit of innovation.

Here’s how:1. To be cutting edge, live on the edge. When Barbie hit the scene in 1959, she was the first adult doll. And she allowed girls to do more with a doll than just change pretend diapers and feed pretend bottles. Barbie was all grown up. She was mature. And she could do real things with her friends. Which meant playtime was endless.

Is it any surprise, then, that ninety percent of all girls in America between the ages of three and ten have at least one Barbie? Or that three Barbie dolls are sold every second somewhere in the world?

Nope. Hell, Barbie was Miss Astronaut in 1965 before women were even allowed in the space program. Our country didn’t send another woman to space until Sally Ride in 1983. Talk about being ahead of her time.

Barbie wasn’t just a hunk of plastic – she was a hell of a pioneer.

And if you want to learn from her example, here’s my suggestion: Envision a future most people aren’t ready for. Then, spend your days bringing it to life. Tackle untouchable issues and revolt against the orthodox doctrine of the day.

Whatever it takes catch the public by surprise. You’ll be ahead of your time in no time. When people play with you, how does their world change?

2. Do more experimental work. Few musicians were – and still are – more ahead of their time than Brian Eno. As the former frontman of Roxy Music, and as the principal innovator of the ambient genre, Eno makes enthusiastic use of all that technology has to offer.

He just tries things. He experiments. And his insatiable desire to tinker and toil with every tool available fuels his ability to innovate consistently. In his immortal words, “Art is the one place where we can crash our plane and walk away from it.”

To infuse your creative practice with Eno’s winning attitude, here’s my suggestion: Gently move toward that which scares the crap out of you. Next time you have a radical idea that makes your stomach drop, don’t run from it.

Listen to your body. It’s trying to guide you. Lean into your worry with all your might. And remember that if you’re not scaring yourself – you’re not stretching yourself. Comfort zone? Pshht. Are you willing to set up basecamp in uncharted territory?

3. Don’t be selfish with your brain. You can’t keep your thoughts to yourself. Ideas weren’t meant to stay ideas. And the people who change the world never do so with their mouth closed.

Don’t worry – nobody is going to steal your thunder. That is, not if you’re smart enough to be so identified with your work that nobody could steal it, and if they did, people would know it.

What you have to remember is, when you share your expertise generously, people will recognize it, became addicted to it and eventually depend on you for it. Hell, they might even have something to add to improve it.

Whether you increase your creative openness, ramp up the frequency with which you publish your ideas or solicit more feedback from the people who matter most, your efforts will not go unrewarded.

You just have to be willing to share. To trust that the more you give away from free, the wealthier you will be. And to have faith that the world will pay you back. Who have you shared your creativity with today?

4. Hack the rules. Don’t break them – hack them. Huge difference. According to the bestselling Trust Agents,

“Hacking is about finding alternatives for the traditional uses of a system. It’s about modifying the conditions of the system you’re in. Hacking isn’t cheating. It’s changing the rules or the game and using a system in a different way than it was designed.”

The way I see it, you have three options: Change the rules so you can win at your own game, change the game so there are no rules, or play the game but become the exception to every rule.

Easier said than done, I know. The secret is to constantly ask rule-hacking questions, i.e., “What corners can be cut here?” “Can this rule be ignored, modified or changed?” “Is this a rule or just a recommendation?” and my personal favorite, “What could I do in this moment that would be the exact opposite of everyone?”

Over time, hacking will become second nature and your idea will become first rate. Either that, or you’ll get arrested. What are the exceptions to the rules that helped you succeed?

5. Offer a complete deviation from old school style. That’s how the greatest musicians expanded the boundaries of their genre: With broadly sweeping scales, rapid changes of register, unusual divisions of beat, extremes of tempo and dense chordal textures.

Even if you can’t play a lick, the lesson is universal: Always retain contempt for imitation and mediocrity. Don’t wait for the advent. Establish your own industry standards. Test the definitional boundaries. Transcend the medium. Make it your goal to be able to finish the following sentence:

After encountering my work, people will never thing about (x) the same way again.

That’s how you become a vital force. It starts with believing that you were designed to make a distinctive difference. Otherwise, if you don’t operate from that place of worthiness, you’ll never execute anything that’s ahead of its time. Are you distinct or derivative?

6. Never shut down your curiosity. Amazed at his ability to be one step ahead of his enemies, Watson once asked Holmes, “How is it that you always see everything?” To which Sherlock replied, “Because I’m always looking for it.”

That’s what most people don’t realize: Curiosity might have killed the cat – but it also makes you a lot of money. And history proves time and time again that the most successful, most celebrated and most ahead-of-their-time people in the history of planet were the ones who asked dangerous questions despite overwhelming efforts to silence their enthusiasm and deflect their curiosity.

If you want to become one of those people, here’s a few questions to keep your curiosity in check:

*Do you keep a running list of questions?
*How often are you flexing the muscle of huh?
*Do you dare to be dumb and refuse to discard hunches?
*Have you commenced an unrelenting quest for continuous learning?
*Are you studying ordinary things intently and finding interesting?

That should morph you into a giant question mark in no time. Are you making time to be curious?

7. Do your own thinking. You’d be amazed how many people delegate this task. They wimp out and let their friends, their company, their family or the media think for them.

Yes, it’s easier and faster – but it’s also stupid and dangerous. And if you’re not willing to ask yourself what you think before adopting the perspective of the masses, you’re not an innovator – you’re a sheep.

Look: People will try to define who you are and then make you believe that definition. You can’t let that happen. Take a hint from novelist Ayn Rand. She was more ahead of her time that most of her literary contemporaries. Not only because she grappled with questions most people didn’t even have the guts to ask, but also because she asked people to ask her about her thinking.

That’s how she stayed sharp. That’s how she stayed relevant. And that’s the lesson we can all learn: You can’t be ahead of your time if you’re behind in your perceptions.

You must strive to reevaluate commonly held ideals. You mist stick closely to the shape of your truth. And you must exhibit intellectual toughness and uncompromising progressive character. No matter how many haters opposes you. No matter how many times you’re hit by the snarls. Are your thoughts 100% your own?

8. Study the anatomy of innovative talent. I’m obsessed with documentaries. Doesn’t matter what the subject is. If I can invest ninety minutes dissecting the world of someone smart and cool, count me in. I even keep a journal on my coffee table to document powerful lessons learned from people who were ahead of their time.

You have to make time in your schedule to saturate yourself with inspiration from those who dared to challenge the odds. Whether you watch, read or listen, the process always invites a few cool things.

First, you’ll get into their heads. That’s the best way to understand the innovative mindspace. Second, you’ll get into their process. That’s the best way to learn how people make decisions that matter.

And finally, you’ll get into their lives. That’s the best way to find out how to embody an innovative spirit. Look: Success leaves clues. Everywhere. What’s your learning plan for finding them?

REMEMBER: You don’t need to be a computer scientist, bestselling novelist, corporate conglomerate or hall of fame musician to invent the future.

But you do have to answer the call to adventure.

Do that, and you’ll be ahead of your time in no time.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Is the future a place you’re avoiding, going or inventing?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “12 Ways to Out Service the Competition,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking dates for 2011!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

8 Proven Strategies to Make You, Your Brand and Your Company a Game Changer

The best way to win the game is to change the way it’s being played.

That’s how you dwarf the competition.
That’s how you reach the people who matter.
That’s how you solidify your place in the history books.

AND THE SECRET IS: It not important what game you change.

It’s important why you want to change it.
It’s important who you become while you change it.
It’s important how the world improves once people start to play.

Are you ready to roll the dice?

Consider these ideas for being a game changer:1. Provide an alternate platform. Hulu changed the television game twice. First, in 2007. Their website began offering ad-supported streaming video of shows and movies from NBC, Fox, ABC and later Disney.

And viewers could watch their favorite shows, anytime, anywhere – for free. Lesson learned: Find out where the door is already revolving. Then let the wind carry you across the threshold.

The second game-changer occurred three years later when they launched Hulu Plus, the first ad-supported subscription service to offer full current season runs of hit programs across multiple Web-connected devices. According to CEO Jason Kilar, “With Hulu Plus – your favorite TV shows love you back.”

Lesson learned: Don’t fight the current. Match your deliverables with your people’s preferred channel. Ultimately, you have to remember that your customers are making music already. The question is: When are you going to join their drum circle, and what type of instrument will you bring?

2. Change the interaction model. I contribute to around fifty different publications, both online and offline. And as a writer and speaker, doing so is essential element of my visibility plan and a crucial component to my listening platform.

What’s more, the reader interaction model I’ve created makes my editors love me. Here’s how: Each of my modules concludes with a unique response mechanism, or call to action.

It’s become a trademark of my writing style and a calling card of my brand. And it’s helped me change the writer/reader game, albeit on a small scale. Inspired by Scott Adams’ idea to include his email address on every Dilbert cartoon, my daily posts take it one step further.

Not only do I give people my email – I offer them an additional resource to supplement the piece of content they just read, watched or listened to. The cool part is, the bonus resource changes every time. There must be hundreds of lists. All of which are free for anybody.

And every day, I receive thirty to fifty emails from readers worldwide who not only want the list – but also want to offer feedback on the piece of content they just read. Which, I later feed back to my editor. Which, they love.

Result: The readers win. The writer wins. The publisher wins. How are you interacting with your people in a way nobody else is?

3. Blow the barriers to powder. Jason Fried is the cofounder and president of Chicago-based collaborative Web-application company, 37signals. He’s also the author of my favorite book of the year, Rework.

“Getting real is less. Less mass, less software, less features, less paperwork, less of everything that’s not essential. And most of what you think is essential actually isn’t.”

Love it. Love it. Love it. Now, the reason Jason’s a game changer is because his software company sells a suite of web tools architected around open-source programming frameworks. According to his interview with Timeout:

“When you lower the barriers of entry, powerful applications (that formerly might have taken months) are executed in a matter of days.”

Lesson learned: To change the game, first pave the way for a new era of players. What about you? How will your organization make it easier for people to participate in your process?

After all, it’s not about technology – it’s about extending usability to new industries. And you don’t need to write software – you just need to surrender a little control. How are you enabling people to take your idea into their own hands?

4. Tip the balance of power. My friends at Brains on Fire have been changing the customer engagement game for years. In their eponymous book, authors Gino Church, Robbin Phillips and Greg Cordell write:

“Participate in people’s lives – not just the conversation about their lives. Because it’s not about you talking about your product. It’s about people celebrating how your product fits into their lives and how you enable them to use it.”

That’s how you tip the balance of power: By asking your fans how they prefer to connect. By giving fans the ability to participate in your message. Otherwise you’re just in love with your own marketing. The door opens both ways.

Like my mom once told me, “Always doing just what you want and making the decisions unilaterally is a sure fire path to destruction.” How are you deeply engaged with your people?

5. Change the basic metabolism. That’s how YouTube trumped television: It was no longer just about watching the videos. Now it was about uploading, sharing, rating, tagging and cataloguing the videos. As a result, they transformed the entire medium. They changed the basic metabolism.

If you want to execute the same for your organization, I challenge is to rethink the way people consume. Take mobile content, for example. Remember when cell phones were used to make phone calls? Pshht. Thing of the past.

Now, because of hyper-connectivity and built-in payment options, the game has changed. Cell phones are no longer cell phones – they’re pocket portals into people’s lives. Not to mention, their wallets.

And if you’re not befriending that current, the crumbled remains of your message will wash up along the mobile shore. Are you trying to put books on people’s shelves or people value in people’s pockets?

6. Become fans of your fans. Take Pearl Jam, for example. After twenty years of rocking, they no longer care about the labels. Or the radio stations. Or the record stores.

All that matters is the music. Giving the fans that love it something to believe in, according to Eddie Vedder’s 2007 Rolling Stone interview. And not surprisingly, Pearl Jam has outlasted most of its grunge rock counterparts.

They’ve sold sixty million records worldwide, many of which were bootleg recordings of live shows to give people a chance to relive their concert experience. All because Pearl Jam was a fans of their fans.

Are you giving your people a reason to ditch the mainstream and follow you into the sunset? After all, love is a circular transaction, says the aforementioned Robbin Phillips. And if you want to change the game, you stop making war on the competition and start making love to your customers. Whose jersey are you willing to wear in public?

7. Access trumps ownership. Google eliminates the need to buy and own books. Pandora eliminates the need to buy and own music. YouTube eliminates the need to buy and own a television. Online storage removes the need to buy and own external hard drives.

That’s been the biggest cultural shift over the past five years: Nobody owns anything anymore. Everything you need is either available for free or shared for cheap. Like landlines and online privacy, owning things is a thing of the past.

“Consumers have more choices, more tools, more information, and more peer-to-peer power,” says Lisa Gansky, author of The Mesh:

“Smart companies create, share and use social media, wireless networks, and data crunched from every available source to provide people with goods and services at the exact moment they need them, without the burden and expense of owning them outright. And there is real money to be made and trusted brands and strong communities to be built in helping your customers buy less but use more.”

Take Zipcar, for example. They changed the game of personal transportation by making it easy and affordable to have a car whenever you need one, without actually owning one. Brilliant.

Therefore, because access trumps ownership, your challenge is twofold. First, to make friends with free. Identify which of the many models of free your organization is going to leverage. Otherwise The Rapture will leave you behind with the rest of the dinosaurs.

Second, deploy assets your customers don’t have to buy, but can easily access. By reducing the burden of ownership and offering wider access to your value, you can change the game forever. Are you (still) trying to charge customers for a cow they’re already milking electronically for free?

8. Shatter the limitations of size. Shawn Fanning never made a billion dollars creating Napster. But do you think he cares? Doubtful. His game-changing program became the pivot that altered the landscape of music industry for-better and for-always.

Screw making money – that guy made history. And he was just some dude in a dorm room. Who’s to say you couldn’t do the same?

Sure, it’s not probable that you’ll disrupt an entire industry. But it is possible. More possible than ever before. And that’s the great part about the Web: All that fluff you were force-fed as a kid about how one person could change the world has actually become a glimmering reality.

Advances in technology have (finally) made changing the game financially viable. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of thing that makes me get out – no, leap out – of bed in the morning. Do you think it’s time to pursue your goal with a more modern vehicle?

BOTTOM LINE: You can’t just sit there waiting for the revolution to begin.

You’ve got to extend your arm.
You’ve got to transform the tempo.
You’ve got to deploy an unconventional strategy.
You’ve got to shake people out of their complacencies.
You’ve got to blend the conventional with the contemporary.
You’ve got to carefully observe problems that fall through the cracks – then solve them.

That’s how you change the game.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What’s the nametag of your service process?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “12 Ways to Out Service the Competition,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

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