April 16, 2013
Back in 2006, my Goal-Free Living book was published by Wiley, and I was feeling quite proud. Later that same year, after giving a speech in Los Angeles, I drove up to Santa Barbara to attend a conference, arriving just in time for lunch.
While standing in the line for the buffet, I turned around and said hi to the guy next to me.
He told me his name was George. He then asked me what I did.
Given my new book and the success of my speech earlier that day, I said with a bit of swagger, “I’m an author and professional speaker.” I was feeling very good about myself.
I asked George, “What do you do?”
He replied nonchalantly, “Oh, I’ve done a bit of television.”
He said it so matter-of-factly, that I assumed he had a small role in television. Maybe he had done a couple of commercials. Or possibly he did some voiceover work; he certainly had the voice for it. Or maybe he once had a “bit” part in a minor show.
He then proceeded to ask me about my book and the work I do, and I gladly shared my life story.
When I sat down at my table to eat, not with George, I looked at the agenda of speakers for the conference.
I was humbled when I realized that the person I was standing next to in the buffet line was speaking later that day. He was none other than George Takei.
At that moment, I realized that truly confident, successful, and impressive individuals do not need to boast. They don’t need to be the center of attention. Instead, they make others feel good about themselves. They ask good questions and are interested in others.
After that embarrassing moment, I have done my best to do what George did with me. Instead of attempting to convince the world of how great I am, I try to bring out the greatness in others. When I am at a conference, I do my best to make others the centers of conversation.
The next time you are with a group, spend more asking questions and listening than talking. Spend more time promoting others than promoting yourself.
As I learned from George, the most powerful people make others feel like a super star.
P.S. I ended up spending about 90 minutes with George. He truly is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He even asked for a copy of my Goal-Free Living book, which I gladly signed and sent. The picture below is what he sent me, to thank me for my book. He is a class act!
December 7, 2012
Today I am thrilled to share with you a 45 minute conversation between me and Oliver Burkeman, the author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.
I met Oliver several years ago. We got connected through a book review he did back in 2007 for the Guardian newspaper in England.
He opened his review by saying, “One of the most stress inducing books I’ve ever read is called GOALS!, by the management expert Brian Tracy.” Reading this, given my contrarian perspective on goals-setting, I knew I was going to like this guy.
Oliver concluded his article by saying…
“Contrast that with the insight of Stephen Shapiro, whose book Goal-Free Living makes the case that you can have some kind of sense of direction to your life without obsessing about the specific destination. ‘Opportunity knocks often, but sometimes softly,’ he says. ‘While blindly pursuing our goals, we often miss unexpected and wonderful opportunities.’ That sounds a lot more smart to me.” (For those in the goal-setting world, you will appreciate his last point as being a poke at the SMART goals, advocated by many)
After reading this, I immediately wrote Oliver, and soon after we met up in a pub in London. I quickly discovered that he has a contrarian perspective on so many aspects of personal development. And he has a great (dry) sense of humor. I knew we would get along great.
Fast forward 5 years (after several meetings in pubs on both sides of the “pond”), Oliver wrote The Antidote. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to read a book. And I was not disappointed. After devouring it on my Kindle, I asked Oliver if he would do a podcast with me. Fortunately he kindly agreed. We did not discuss anything in advance. He did not give me questions to ask and I didn’t prepare any. It was a totally goal-free, in the moment interview. I think you will agree, he has some pretty incredible perspectives.
You have three ways to enjoy this interview:
- Listen to the audio (streaming):
- Download the audio (mp3) (right click to save to your computer)
- Read the transcription
Please share this with your friends. I am sure that after listening to this, you will agree that this interview can have a profound impact on anyone who is addicted to positive thinking.
October 11, 2011
Ten years ago today was my last day with Accenture. The day before I had my book launch party for my first book, 24/7 Innovation. October 11, 2001.
I recently found a notebook from about 15 years ago. In it, I found an interesting entry from November 1996. In it, I declared where I wanted to be five years in the future.
At that time, Dr. Michael Hammer, the father of reengineering, was one of the most influential people in the world, and someone I admired.
My declaration was that I wanted to be the Michael Hammer of the next wave – giving speeches, writing books, and traveling the world. Five years later, almost to the day, my first book was published, I became a “professional speaker,” and I started traveling the world. The next wave happened to be “innovation.”
Below is part of what I wrote. It’s amazing to think that one day I had a vision for where I wanted to be and, voila, somehow it materialized.
Here’s hoping that all of your aspirations come true.
December 26, 2009
New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. Many of you know that I have a tradition of setting a “theme” for each year rather than a resolution.
My theme for 2009 was “cool things.” And it definitely was a year of cool things.
I signed a 2 book deal with Penguin’s Portfolio imprint. I became InnoCentive’s Chief Innovation Evangelist. I had many wonderful trips to cool places, including several to London and Copenhagen. And I got to speak at some very cool events like the Global Creative Leadership Summit and the FT Innovate conference. Most important of all, my family remains happy and healthy.
I’m not sure what my 2010 theme will be yet, but I know great things are in store.
If you have not done so, please read my article on setting New Year’s Resolutions.The article explains the 6 steps for setting a theme, including “Choose a broad theme rather than specific measurable goal.” Excerpts of this article have appeared in over 300 newspapers around the world, including Costco’s Magazine.
You may also be interested in some statistics about New Year’s Resolutions. Here is a highlight of some of the statistics:
Only 8% of people are always successful in achieving their resolutions.19% achieve their resolutions every other year. 49% have infrequent success. 24% (one in four people) NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolution every year. That means that 3 out of 4 people almost never succeed. Regardless, there is no correlation between happiness and resolution setting/success. People who achieve their resolutions every year are NO happier than those who do not set resolutions or who are unsuccessful in achieving them.
Happy New Year!
September 22, 2008
But how do YOU manage YOUR innovation pipeline? OK, for simplicity sake, you can just call it your ”to-do” list.
I have so many different projects and ideas that I am working on at any given time that it is often hard to keep track of everything. I find most traditional time management processes and software a bit limiting. Some are just too rigid. Others don’t depict projects and tasks in a way that my mind can process them properly. And some tools are just not to my liking.
I have been asking around to see what other people use. The responses have been interesting. Most people still use paper and pencil, creating linear lists. Some use web-based list-driven applications. But I dislike these because I want quick access even when I am off-line. There are quite a few to-do list management applications out there. But again, most are list driven, with the fancier ones using hierarchical trees. And some are so complicated only an engineer with a PhD could figure them out.
I am admittedly a bit disorganized. Creative-types tend to be that way (for a variety of reasons that I won’t bother going into here). Every time I play Personality Poker, I am always attracted to the “2 of diamonds” – the “scattered” card. Fortunately I work with some great people who are “clubs” (the organizers).
And although I am “Goal-Free,” this does not mean I am structure-free. I still need structure. It just needs to be flexible enough so it can adapt as I “meander with purpose.”
Here’s how I manage MY innovation pipeline: I use mind mapping software. If you click on the graphic above, you’ll see a scaled down, simplified, and sanitized version of the one I use. You will notice a few things:
- Because I run a business, I tie nearly everything back to the four core processes of any business – Develop Products and Services, Fulfill Demand Generate Demand, and Plan & Manage the Enterprise. If you run a business, you have these same processes.
- Innovation happens everywhere, not just within Develop Products and Services. I constantly scan all of the process to make sure I am doing a proper balance of work within each, and that I am innovating throughout my business.
- I do have a catch-all bucket for “miscellaneous opportunities” that don’t yet fit neatly into a process. Within that bucket I have a “could do” list which is VERY long and is a bunch of ideas I have that are not ready for prime time for a variety of reasons. I even have a list of things I should ”stop doing.”
- Any trees with a (+) indicates there is more detail in one or more sub-trees. This allows me to organize my thoughts in any way I want, to whatever level of detail I want. In the branches I also link to Word documents, websites, and other materials. This enables me to keep all of my resources for a projects in one place.
- Tasks that I need to work on now all have start and/or end dates. The software automatically synchronizes these with my task list in Outlook. This is nice because it keeps my “to-do” small and focused.
The process is far from perfect, but it works for me. The software allows me to easily move projects and tasks around. Mind Mapping is perfect for creative thinking and helps me generate and capture new ideas quickly.
What do you use to manage your innovation pipeline or to-do list? What is the process? What is the technology? What has worked? And what has not worked? All suggestions are welcome…and appreciated.
P.S. I just bought “Getting Things Done.” I am told that this is the bible of time management. I’m curious to see how this fits with my philosophies.
P.P.S. I just received an email from someone who had a great suggestion: add a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) for the inspirational part.