Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Important Matter of Doing Creative Work You Can Believe In

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)
Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Christopher Connors, Medium - The Mission:
"If one has fear, there can be no initiative in the creative sense of the word. To have initiative in this sense is to do something original - to do it spontaneously, naturally, without being guided, forced, controlled. It is to do something which you love to do" - Jiddu Krishnamurti.
I see so many creative works these days that lacks authenticity and integrity, because they’re regurgitated, reprocessed trash. Whether writing, painting, spoken word or music, there’s too much art now that is unoriginal. We’re lacking innovation and creativity because few people are trying to invent something wholly original and unique to their DNA. 

They’re not even mimicking what someone else did. They’re reproducing exactly what someone else did and calling it their own. Some might call that stealing or copying. I call it, “unoriginal excess” that does harm and danger to the creative community.

I checked out Facebook earlier to find that a good friend of mine had one of his designs taken and used by someone else. He’s a graphic designer and a very talented one. He’s grown a small business around Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gear. It’s thriving and growing. He’s passionate about it and believes in it.

And now, there’s someone else trying to not just mimic - but completely usurp and take his hard work to make it their own for profit. Somehow, someway, we’ve come to tolerate this garbage. It’s become more acceptable. Thing is, the part that bothers me most isn’t the stealing. Which DOES bother me. It’s the total lack of originality and the thought of getting away with it.

Original Content
"If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original" - Ken Robinson.
Crafting original content means that you take the brilliant ideas that pop into your mind and write them out in the unique style that only you can. And if you can’t? Be willing to cite or give a “shout out” to the person who did. Then, work harder and learn from those artists that you admire. Because eventually, your end-product will be a conglomeration of ideas, thoughts and works from thousands of sources that will end up uniquely your own.

I think about this constantly. I’m always trying to craft original content based on my life experiences. I’m always competing to find new ideas in the marketplace, when I go out into the world and in new things that I read online and at the library. I turn to writers of yesteryear - literary giants like Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis and Stephen Covey. I look to the stars of today like Brene Brown, J.K. Rowling and Malcolm Gladwell. On this publication alone, I’m inspired by a true original, James Altucher.


Inspiration is vital. It should lead us to a greater belief in ourselves, to find what we want to do and then go create it with maximum effort and a positive attitude. That’s when we do our best work. I pour my heart and soul into each article I write. I’ve had some extremely kind people in this Medium community reach out to me and offer me praise. It touches my heart. Writing is such an enormous part of my life and I have big, big dreams just like so many of you. All of us should want success on our terms, rooted in the belief that we can have it if we stay true to ourselves.

Trust me when I tell you, imitation is not always the most sincere form of flattery. Value your originality and the desire to be yourself over any desire to want to be exactly like someone else. That’s something you can count on and believe in with all your heart.

Believe In It
"Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy" - Norman Vincent Peale.
If you’re a creator of art, chances are, you do it “for the love of the game.” You want to inspire, attract and produce content that a community of people get value from. That’s the way it should be. We as a people are so afraid to make mistakes, these days. So as a result, we sometimes lack faith in three ways:
  • We’re afraid to simply put our art out there
  • If we do create, we’re afraid of what others might say
  • We’re uncertain and doubt whether our creation is “good enough”
We have to disabuse ourselves of this mindset! It’s stultifying progress and hindering bold, new creations from coming into existence. 

Do what you love. But first, believe in it! You have to believe in what you’re doing. That belief should transcend every other factor or obstacle in your life. Your faith should be rooted in creating and doing things that ONLY YOU can do. Work and art that is unique to you, because there is only one you. Never, ever let anyone hold you back from this. Be original.

Believe in what you’re doing. Don’t just do something because you think it’s what people want. When you’re true to yourself and uniquely, boldly yourself, you’ll see the best results. The world will thank you for it.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Myth of the Alpha Leader is Destroying our Relationships - At Work and At Home

Does the suit really make the man? (Unsplash/Ben Rosett)
by Danielle Teller, Quartz:

According to a Fox News article written by Suzanne Venker, women’s achievements in the workplace are dooming their marriages. As women are increasingly “groomed to be leaders rather than to be wives, [they] become too much like men. They’re too competitive. Too masculine. Too alpha.”

The author’s premise is that the husband is meant to be the alpha in the household, and cohabiting alphas are like “like two bulls hanging out in the same pen together.”

I take exception to this article, but not for the obvious reason. The contention that women’s success at work leads to marital dissolution is so laughably unsupported by facts that it’s hardly worth disputing. Divorce rates are strongly negatively correlated with women’s educational attainment and income level, as well as the rise of two-income families

While University of Chicago economists made a splash a few years back by reporting that marital satisfaction is diminished when wives earn more than husbands, a more up-to-date study paints a more nuanced picture: Unequal incomes are associated with marriage instability regardless of who earns more, but having a career decreases a woman’s probability of divorce by a whopping 25%. Equal-earning marriages are even less likely to end in divorce.

What bothered me about the article was not its easily falsifiable premise, but the author’s unthinking acceptance of an American trope, the leader as alpha male or female. The metaphor evokes images of chest-thumping silverback gorillas and snarling she-wolves. This symbolism of leader-as-dictator has wormed its way deeply into the American subconscious - and it’s wrong.

Cultural assumptions have the power to shape society in both positive and negative ways. Countries that expect children (boys and girls) to be good at math produce better mathematicians. Conversely, expectations can backfire: countries that paint youth with the brush of sexual innocence have high rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. And when an entire culture conflates leadership with aggressive domination, it opens the door to bad behavior in both the boardroom and the living room.

As a society, we pay a steep price for maintaining the fiction of silverback gorillas and lone wolves. We reward bad behavior in the workplace like stealing credit from others, self-aggrandizement and entitlement. We discourage smart, talented people from seeking leadership positions because they falsely believe that superhero skills are a prerequisite (this particularly affects women, who systematically underestimate their abilities relative to men. It is probably no coincidence that America lags behind many nations in women leaders).

And, as evidenced by Suzanne Venker, this stereotype can even infiltrate our romantic lives, setting the expectation that one partner - of any gender - needs to be dominant. This may be a recipe for fun and games in the bedroom, as Venker claims, but over the long term, respect and self-esteem are eroded by a partnership of unequals.

In the American mythos, great men accomplish great deeds with little or no help from others. The truth, of course, is much messier. Nobody lives in a vacuum. Schoolchildren are taught that Thomas Edison single-handedly invented the lightbulb, and that Abraham Lincoln unswervingly shepherded the country toward the abolition of slavery. 

But in fact, the achievements of Edison and Lincoln would not exist without the cooperation, counsel and labor of many other talented and insightful individuals. Those contributions were not forced by intimidation or displays of dominance. Just as generosity is more effective than bullying or criticism when it comes to eliciting welcome behaviors in a spouse, so do colleagues respond best to leaders with positive motivations.

Great leaders do not succeed mainly through classical alpha behaviors like intimidation, micromanagement, and aggressiveness. Even Steve Jobs, a poster child for the American alpha male, said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do.” And for every visionary, controlling executive like Steve Jobs, there are many more people like Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who acknowledge that they succeed by amplifying other people. Yet outside of management classes and business self-help books, not nearly enough Americans have internalized the use of soft power, persuasion, collaboration and mentorship as keys to great leadership.

By blindly accepting the trope of the alpha male or female, we perpetuate it. If we can shift the leadership mythos in America toward more clear-eyed realism, we will ultimately get more leaders whose qualifications go beyond a talent for chest-thumping. It may not feel as satisfying to declare that you’re good at nurturing, empowering, and lifting up other people. But that’s what great leaders - and romantic partners - do.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Is it Possible to be Too 'Nice' for Your Own Good?

Giving alms to the poor is often considered an...
Giving alms to the poor is often considered an altruistic action in many cultures and religions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Juliet Wakefield, Nottingham Trent University, The Conversation:

Niceness is a topic that tends to fundamentally divide people. Should you put yourself first, stand up for yourself and get back at people who’ve wronged you or should you put others first and turn the other cheek when attacked? Is being nice more likely to make us happy in the long run – leading to fewer regrets and closer relationships?

Researchers have suggested that a “loneliness epidemic” is currently spreading across the Western world, arguing it can be as bad for health as smoking or obesity. With such clear evidence of the importance of social conceitedness for our well-being, it seems logical that we should spend as much time cultivating social relationships as we spend on other healthy pursuits such as exercise and diet.

Like other healthy activities, maintaining relationships requires the investment of resources. It involves the giving of time, energy, knowledge and sometimes money. But to what extent is giving or sharing good for us? Do the benefits of generosity outweigh the costs?

There do seem to be social advantages for people who behave benevolently towards others. Evolutionary psychologists have described the competitive altruism hypothesis, which posits that helpful group members tend to be perceived as possessing the highest status in the group, and are more likely to be selected as partners with whom to interact and cooperate. So being helpful to others within a group can be seen as a “costly signal” – a behaviour that consumes resources, but which ultimately signals the person’s positive aspects to the other group members. The popularity of such individuals may increase their chances of reproducing and passing on their genes, making altruism an evolutionary advantageous behaviour.

Altruism has also been shown to benefit the giver by increasing their levels of personal well-being. In fact being altruistic has been linked to higher satisfaction with life and happiness, as well as lower levels of depression. There are also strong positive relationships between altruism and physical health, including reduced mortality rates in altruistic groups when compared to less altruistic groups.

There are many different reasons for such health benefits. From the perspective of my own research, which is couched in the social identity perspective of social psychology, it can be argued that it is the group connections that are fostered through the giving and receiving of assistance that benefit our health and well-being. This also applies to helping those that are not part of our immediate group, such as refugees. Such actions will help to show that we are generous, intelligent and so on to people in our own group.

Good friendships help us stay healthy. Regissercom/Shutterstock

Identifying with social groups and their members provides us with a sense of purpose in life, as well as the knowledge that we will be likely to receive support from fellow group members during times of stress or crisis. I have shown how this subjective sense of group identification can be even more important for mental health than the amount of contact that we have with members of the group. This suggests that the costs of being nice are ultimately outweighed by its numerous advantages.

The downsides

The story doesn’t end there, however. It does also appear that it is possible to be “too nice”. This is clearest in instances where people become overburdened with the need to care for or provide for others. This situation can lead to stress, burnout and poor mental health. It is commonly observed in people who help others for a living, such as healthcare professionals and hospice caregivers, but it can be seen among those who spend a lot of time helping others in their personal lives too. Striking a balance between helping others and looking after your personal well-being is important, although not always easy.

Helping others is of course important, but if we are coming close to burning out it may be helpful to focus on people in a social group we identify strongly with. In this context the people requiring help are likely to also receive support from other group members – taking some of the pressure off.

But being nice is also about having a pleasant attitude; not being aggressive, manipulative or vengeful. Here there’s mixed evidence. Expressing anger, which is central to vengeful behaviour, has actually been shown to be associated with heart-related health risks in Western cultures, but the opposite trend has been shown in Asian cultures. There is also evidence that both feeling anger and suppressing it is bad for physical health, while anger suppression has been linked to depression and guilt. So the overall message (at least in terms of keeping yourself healthy in the West) is to avoid becoming angry – but to express the anger if you do. And this seems reasonably consistent with being a nice person.

Juliet Wakefield, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology, Nottingham Trent University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.