Old Fashion Summer is a #Phonelesssummer #Screenlesssummer

Old Fashioned Summer

The Beatles, Albert Einstein, plus Thomas Edison all didn’t have a certain habit during dinner? These people of achievement, and I’ll include Alexander Graham Bell, didn’t interrupt their meals by looking at their smart phones.

Having the world’s store of information and people at our fingertips could increase our creativity if used mindfully, but often it’s not. Remember when waiting for a bus or in a checkout line meant a time to think or to start a conversation. Now with a free minute we’re out of pocket and starring at our screen – as if we’re a emergency room astronaut in the middle of a critical merger and acquisition of a hostile nation that is demanding our urgent attention.

Our phones are just the beginning of artificial intelligence. With the possibility of so much promise, AI also sadly brings a massive outsourcing of our mental processes from our large brains to our tiny devices – putting our creativity and our future at risk. Let’s take a stand this summer to take back our minds.

I used to wonder why so many people were looking at telephones – endlessly waiting for a ring? Then, I got a smart phone and joined the crowd. Getting news alerts, ignoring friends, checking weather, trouble falling asleep, scanning stocks, and never having enough time. I resisted games but became occupied with the endless feeds of twitter. Freeing me to work from anywhere but finding myself at work everywhere. Tightening acquaintances across the globe but loosening local ties.

Creativity thrives through our curiosity; however, the curious are the ones most susceptible to loss. Instant answers rob us from pondering too deeply about things like whether Pluto should be considered a planet and takes away our will to dream about a future with cordless toasters.

Not enough time is the reason many give as the barrier to creativity.

Smartphones are like sponges absorbing every last drop of our downtime by continuously pushing us today’s equivalent of Gilligan’s Island.

The more we repeat something like checking our phones, the more it becomes a habit that’s hard to break. Like eating peanut M&Ms and knowing that each tiny glance adds unnecessary weight doesn’t make it any easier to stop.
We have cravings, feel hunger pains, and start to rationalize that if we don’t check our phone, a worse version of our worse case scenario will occur.

Be part of the solution by honoring other peoples right to peace afterhours. Take your finger off the send button unless it’s an emergency – and then call someone who can actually help. Set some limits you can live with. Not anything too impossibly dangerous like stepping out of your home to get the newspaper without your phone fully charged and turned on. Try carving out Internet free zones in your life – and summer is the perfect opportunity.

What does an “old fashion summer” mean to you? Boring stuff like stretches of unstructured time for dreaming up ideas, reflecting, developing real friendships, experiencing nature, listening to music, playing sports and sunburn. We used to debate whether to answer the telephone during dinner and now we’re on 24/7.

Technology gives us tools to communicate and become more productive in every aspect of our lives, in every room in our house. AI promises to take on more of our mundane tasks. While this could free more of our time, this dividend of freedom is being squandered. What we need to hold onto are the parts that allow us to be creative and make us human.

Set some limits on your technology. Leave your phone behind, before we get left behind. Give our children a technology free summer and give ourselves a vacation back to a time when we could dream.

What will you do this summer?


Who are the Geniuses in Your Neighborhood? Take a Neighbor to Work day!

Otto Kroeger

Otto Kroeger

Do you remember the song on Sesame Street “Who are the People in Your Neighborhood?” How much better would it be if we changed the words to “Who are the Geniuses in Your Neighborhood?”

My book CREATIVE YOU launches today and it wouldn’t have been possible without a genius in my neighborhood. About 15 years ago, I met Otto Kroeger my co-author at a neighborhood gathering. It was clear that he was the life-of-the-party and I was surprised to learn that he was also a foremost leader in the field of personality type. Soon after he sized me up he said: “I don’t have enough time, and you don’t have enough money for me to fix you.” We became friends anyway.

Otto spent most of his career teaching people to work together and collaborating on our book was a natural. New ideas often spark when wires cross and this happens when people meet too. We all have specialized knowledge in certain areas and as neighbors we shovel snow side-by-side, wave while taking out the trash, and chat about our cars — running in parallel like the overhead power lines but unfortunately without ever touching on our neighbor’s real knowledge.

It takes some kind of crossing for us to exchange and generate sparks and these sparks are where innovation happens.

In our case our wires got tangle up when, Otto, invited me to a Myers-Briggs seminar he was

crossed wires

crossed wires

giving. As an artist, I connected what he was teaching about personality type with what I knew about creativity. Of course Otto is one-of-a-kind – but it’s the cross-disciplinary concept itself that is repeatable. The best thing we could do is get to know our neighbors and ask them to teach us about what they know – about what their work is like – and in return to share what we know – I propose a:

Take a Neighbor to Work day
1) Find a neighbor who is knowledge in a field that you know little about.
2) Ask if they could use some help and if they are willing to put up with you for an afternoon.
3) Ask yourself: How does their work intersects with your work?

Widely known, charismatic, always surrounded by people, socially Otto threw huge parties, and professionally he was invited to speak all over the world — I’m extremely grateful and fortunate that he took the time to collaborate with a friend. As our book is now complete we are hoping to show a wide audience how to use their natural creativity. My suggestion is to find the genius in YOUR neighborhood and find a way to work with them – it will benefit you both!


Robots with Wings? Next Year in Review: 14 Trends for 2013

Can you see a new camera in my future? The last photo I took with my 5D before the mirror fell off

New camera in my future? The last photo I took with my 5D before the mirror fell off

Do you ever have a strange dream and wake up to read about it the next morning in the newspaper. The following visions of the future aren’t as rigorously derived. For the third year here are my predictions and trends:
1) It’s increasingly possible to become happier and richer through your investments. Now, you can be a capitalist with a conscious by trusting your intuition and following your values. Being green or socially responsible is gaining momentum and as more people shop, fund and support, what they believe in – valuations increase too. The book Conscious Money shows you how to become a self- reliant benevolent investor so you could become richer in spirit and balance sheet.

2) When natural disasters inevitably strike we will see faster and more direct response to those in need. The web provides democratization of charity as giving shifts to small and local organizations. Lost with the tide are economics of scale and the experience of seasoned relief workers from large central organizations.

3) It’s been said that “on the internet, nobody knows if you’re a dog” but it may increasingly be known what neighborhood you log in from, your income, the type of car your drive, what schools you attended, or your shopping habits, allowing the sellers to adjust their prices and offerings accordingly. Whether you’re a social media butterfly or not, your degree of influence may begin to affect the way you are treated by customer service representatives when you try to return your defective dog dish.

4) The concept of retail is forever changing. For deciding what TV to buy, or if you needed a gasket yesterday to repair a leak – retail is the way to shop – but increasing what you find at the corner stores are limited selections and last year’s models. If you know the model number of the chef’s pan you must have, or the brand and quantity of vitamin C, or the size, color, and degree of insulation for a new hot tub cover, then you will increasingly find availability and the best prices online. Even for small items like halogen light bulbs, lasagna pans, or shampoo. In the near term, we can expect to see more hybrids. Apple provides advice and demos in their stores and encourages you to place your orders online. No checkout lines at Toys “R” Us the Saturday before Christmas, for their sake, I hope the customers are all on line online.

5) Unfortunately, you will be spending more time proving who you are, not at the security line at the airport, but at home. Even our own computer, printer, or toaster doesn’t seem to believe it’s us without our secret password. Proving you are the “genuine you” will drag on your productivity but at least with plenty of practice entering your keystrokes, you can memorize ItsMe123 and our ink jet printers will be safe.

6) Walk down the street and everyone is looking down at a screen. Same in the office, the gym, or even at home. Soon we won’t have to be only looking down as screens will encroach washing machines, breakfast tables, and replace bulletin boards everywhere.

7) Not just calorie count but more info on your food will be available such as which farm your potatoes are grown and pasture where your steak once roamed will be recorded and tracked to control disease and authenticate attributes like organic or Angus.

8) Watch the skies for robots with wings as drones will be used for more than military purposes. Unmanned flight will seek new applications in gathering information and delivering goods and services.

9) Less DVDs, less physical data, less printouts, less 4×6 photos, More storing and exchanging data through cloud computing.

10) A sense of design will be increasingly valuable. Everyone with a smartphone is a digital photography, every computer serves as darkroom and over the internet, our amateur photos can be seen by more people than ever. At times when it’s necessary to stand out like the launch of a new product or to promote a brand, it’s more important than ever to get help from a pro. Expect a re-emergence of the great photographers who hone their craft. Professional website developers too.

11) Entrepreneurs will find opportunities for Innovation where they look to improve inefficiencies, especially related to underutilized resources, boats, exercise equipment, cars, land, or wedding dresses – people will find ways to utilize and monetize all the stuff we have sitting around our closets and garage. Ebay helped us sell our stuff we no longer wanted; Now entrepreneurs will help us rent our stuff we rarely use.

12) The best meals will be prepared at home. We once went to restaurants for celebrating special occasions – now we often go for convenience. However, with cost control and increased everyday demand the quality of the experiences is washing down the drain. Learn to cook your favorite foods, make friends with cooks, shop at farmers markets, buy fresh ingredients and you will surpass the quality and healthiness of all but the finest restaurants.

13) Never easier to go with the flow as social media allows for ideas to gather supporters to correct errors and promote justice. However, never has it been more important to make up your own mind, check the facts, and guard against mob rule and global lynch mobs.

14) Your phones, computers and even cars will be rendered useless not by a coffee spill or a collision but from those seemingly helpful automatically installed software updates. New codes may require newer hardware… so Beware of the update!

What do you think about these and what trends have you spotted and do you predict?


Since crayons don’t come with spell check: INNOVember – Your opportunity to invent


out of the fire and into the frying pan

We don’t often have the chance to really look at the imaginative artwork created by children. Quickly walking past bulletin boards of preschool artwork, I recently saw written in day-glow orange crayon the word Innovember” and this got my attention.

With my brain preloaded for all things creative, I mistakenly took this to mean: “Innovation in November,” and thought: what a great theme! Then, looking more carefully, the word accompanied an illustration of a Thanksgiving scene and I realized the little typographer who created this amazing idea had actually left out the spacing between words and meant to say: “In November.”

Well, it’s not exactly Rocktober but still a great theme and InNovember we have a built-in opportunity to be innovative. Our harvest festivals around the northern hemisphere and Thanksgiving in the United States in particular are steeped in traditional foods that are ripe for shaking up. However, as we are giving thanks and reflecting on our good fortunes, many people come to expect their stuffing and cranberry sauce cooked a certain way — and many families have traditional dishes that even the most courageous of us won’t dare to mess with.

Our opportunity doesn’t come from reinventing the whole meal or redefining a treasured side dish but from bringing an entirely different creation to the table. Whether it’s your favorite everyday food that you’ve perfected and want to share or a wholly new experiment involving bat’s wings, eye of newt, or the nearly forgotten sun dried tomatoes — either have the potential to become next year’s tradition. Assuming you use ingredients that don’t exceed their expiration dates and are fully cooked, there is little risk in serving a new dish since a singular disaster in a vast feast won’t leave anyone hungry — and mistakes provide the best leftovers that can be warmed up into stories for next year – and some even may even become legends. Try something new! And if you can, please December to help the less fortunate.

What was your biggest holiday food disaster or your greatest success? What will you cook this year?


Save the Economy with More Exercise, More Showers, Longer Commutes

Banking Hours?

Do you have certain hours of the day when you are most creative? People always say they get ideas while showering, exercising, or commuting. If these are indicators for creativity, I wonder which countries have the great environment for generating ideas?

I don’t know who takes the longest showers, and does the most exercising but there are numbers available for longest commute. According to Worldmapper The world average commute is an hours and twenty minutes each day and the nation with the greatest commute time is Thailand with over 2 hours. In fact, Southeast Asia, on averaged commutes almost twice as long as workers in North America. Bad for fuel consumption, pollution, and productivity but is it good for generating ideas?

Do you think urban or suburban commuting makes a difference and which is more conducent for generating new ideas: Mindless driving? Or being a passenger in a taxi and letting your mind wander?
Here is an innovation: for Fashion Week, A fleet of 50 taxis in New York City are providing free rides to test a new service. The already equipped in-taxi TV screens will be used for this experiment to allow passengers to view advertisements and make direct purchases of items, like lipstick, by scanning a code with their mobile phones.

Apparently, a supermarket has tested this idea in Seoul allowing passengers to buy groceries (for delivery) directly from billboards in their wifi enabled subways. This could certainly revolutionized and expand the concept of what is a store, if anything printed with a barcode becomes an opportunity to buy and sell. But will it give us more to do during our commute and take away our precision time to daydream?


Is it a MISTAKE to be comfortable with FAILURE?

Time to celebrate?

Failures cost us virtually nothing when we take photos with our digital cameras, yet failures cost us plenty when our banks make bad loans. Our political leaders fail us when the only agreement they reach is raising our debt ceiling allowing themselves to continue spending.

We hear that our creative spirit can save us all and according to conventional wisdom, to innovate we need to take fearless risks and be open to: “fail now,” “fail today,” “fail this afternoon,” ”fail tomorrow,” “fail often.” A recent Wall Street Journal headline reads
Better Ideas Through Failure: Companies Reward Employee Mistakes to Spur Innovation, Get Back Their Edge.

I wonder if even George Eastman would have thought failure has become overexposed. Are we producing an entrepreneurial culture or a culture of failure? Are we getting too comfortable with failure?

Of course we don’t expect to paint a masterpiece the first time we walk across a stage, and we shouldn’t be afraid of trial and error. Are we justifying and celebrating too many of our errors as we say: “At least I got the interview,” “it was an honor to be nominated,” “what a great experience,” “I met so many interesting people,” or “we designed a great product that was ahead of its time.” In our winner take all society; ask Al Gore, or yahoo what second place is like. Remember that we can learn from our successes too!

Winning isn’t everything. The will to win is the only thing.” described Vince Lombardi in an earlier era. In our acceptance of some inevitable failures, we can’t lose the will to win! Winning is the only option when the game is on, and only after the whistle blows can we allow for acceptance of failure and lessons learned. If you go into a supermarket expecting that you won’t find Key Limes, you probably won’t. When we expect failure, we give up too soon.

Your secret plan

  1. Start without concern about failing.
  2. Play to win! And failure is not an option!
  3. Evaluate your wins or losses for learned lessons.

What was your biggest mistake that you used to make a towering success? Or what is your biggest success and what did you learn?


Original Copies or Original Sins?

Seeding our clouds for a rainstorm of ideas

Seeding our clouds for a rainstorm of ideas

Like dialing your rival at the same moment they try to dial you, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone at the same time as Elisha Gray. Bell got to the patent office first and legally received the credit and fame, but were they both being original? It’s your call?

A certain number of people read the same news, watch the same movie, face the same problem and have a collective ah-ha moment to offer a collective solution. You could be thinking of a “new” idea and unbeknownst to you, somebody on the other side of the globe is thinking the same thing. It’s discouraging to come up with a “original” idea only to enter a few keywords into a search engine to find others are already standing in the same space.

Paul Bloom described in a TED  talk how especially in the arts, we appreciate originals more than copies. He tells how a once admired masterpiece lost its value when it was discovered to be forged and how a gifted violinist, who was appreciated in concert was largely ignored when anonymously playing at a train station.

What can you to do to be original? As you are saturated with information, does too much stimulation prevent you from being original? A talented artist and prolific writer Val Erde recently asked the good question: “I do think that the more I’m on the internet – certainly with my habit of always filling up my mind with stuff I read on it – the less creative I am in terms of originality. Does it affect you the same way?”

Original and salt free

Original and salt free

Of course we are all influenced by our environment. Filling our heads with the latest thinking on subjects is like seeding our own clouds for a future rain storm of ideas. Everything we do is done in our own way and is somewhat original.

Some people believe that art is a reflection of our environment and culture -so as the kaleidoscope of our world changes, so does what we produce. Don’t worry so much if someone else is doing something similar – do your own thing and soon your brief overlaps will dissipate.

“Yes, one may make mistakes, one may perhaps exaggerate here or there, but the thing one makes will be original. You have read in Rappard’s letter the words: “I used to make things now in this, then in that style, without sufficient personality: but these last drawings have at least a character of their own, and I feel that I have found my way.” I feel almost the same thing now.” described Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, c. 22 June 1883

We all have a unique experience and we all express things differently – as you put some words together, draw some lines, or dance, it’s possible someone else has done this before but when you add your own context and write a paragraph, paint a picture, dance a number, then it’s likely to say that this hasn’t been done exactly the same way. Does awareness of others increase or decrease your originality?


Live Longer by Eating, Drinking and Relaxing: 2 Books 2 Save Your Life

No time to be a crab.

John Belushi, Jim Morrison, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Vincent Van Gogh… unfortunately the list goes on and on – what else could they have created if they had lived longer? If you cut out some of your vices, does life become longer or does life just seem longer?

Today, the number of centurions is growing by 7 percent a year. Will you be one of them someday? For a living history, talk with one and learn how they adapted to a world that changed from long trips on horse and buggies to long waits at the airport, from silent movies to cell phones with streaming ads, and from deciphering Morse code to miscommunicating by SMS texting.

The greatest innovations weren’t air conditioning, TV remote controls, or microwave popcorn as many suspect, but instead came from improved health and nutrition that actually kept us alive and increased our life expectancy.

Thankfully, we no longer have to worry about being eaten by dinosaurs, falling out of chariots or freezing in an ice age, and OSHA standards have reduced workplace accidents to mostly paper cuts and burning our lips on coffee, but will our life expectancy continue to increase with our seemingly poor diets and increased stresses? While technology focused on making things convenient, and marketing focused on making things affordable, has anyone been concerned with our well being?

Sometimes we have to take matters into our own hands. Although they are no spring chickens themselves, here are two books that can help you to live happily ever after. the Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson M.D., shows how an easy to learn and simple to practice form of meditation can reduce your stress and reduce a host of nasty physical ailments.

The second book was given to me as a present and became a true gift. In general, the medical community has a predisposition to prescribe drugs and the Department of Agriculture has a mission to promote farmers. Who has the incentive to promote your longevity? Not the governments who pay out entitlements, the answer is YOU. In Eat Drink and Be Healthy
by Walter C. Willett, MD, the author provides practical advice about remaining healthy that is designed to enrich your body instead of enriching special interests. Both books have a long shelf life and I won’t spoil the endings.

When I was packing to move to Hong Kong, I sent thousands of my books into storage, but these are two books I brought along. What books would you bring to a tropical island?
What books will you share that you think could help others stay healthy?


Catching Ideas in Buckets

晴耕雨読 seiko udoku : Farm when it's sunny, read when it rains.

晴耕雨読 seiko udoku : Farm when it's sunny, read when it rains.

Sometimes the tides deposit millions of beautiful seashells on the beach and sometimes they wash up only a few broken shards. Have you found that generating ideas is also unpredictable and seems to ebb and flow?

Have you been hungry and wandered around having a difficult time searching for a suitable restaurant and after finding one and eating, you notice on the way home, three more good possibilities. Have you felt indecision when being helped by a pushy salesperson until you say: ”I’m not going to make a decision today.” Then with the pressure turned off, your blood pressure drops, your head clears, and you feel confident to make a purchase.

Sometimes pressure creates necessity, sometimes it creates diamonds, but often it causes anxiety. Are you more creative under pressure with deadlines looming or when relaxed? Not sure what to paint or write? Not sure how to solve a problem? or what to do on a rainy Sunday? When you finally get an idea, the pressure is off, you relax and your mind generates a thunderstorm of new ideas. Too many to use – so catch them in buckets! And write them down for next time. Even if you don’t use them, they can kindle new thoughts.

There is certainly a lot of pressure to develop solutions in Japan today. The kind of pressure most of us would be fortunate to never have to face. To solve the problems – wishing the Japanese buckets of useful ideas!


Jet-Fresh Ideas


Not exactly a jet

Have you ever been in some far flung places and noticed food being labeled as “Jet-Fresh?” If you search for a formal definition at you get: “No results found for Jet-fresh,” and it’s politely suggested: “Did you mean Catfish?”

Relying on experience, Jet-Fresh seems to mean produce or flowers that are freshly picked, immediately packed on ice, and rushed by limousine to the airport where the “catfish” are flown by private plane to you, all in a carbon neutral manner.

I would like to coin a new definition for Jet-fresh to mean: “A brand new idea – borrowed from a place far away.” New ideas are everywhere and so many of our ideas come through travel.  We don’t even have to go too far to hear different points of view and see different ways of doing things. Online, it’s as easy to read a foreign newspaper or twitter posts that originated in other parts of the world than it is to read what is local. Not only is food fusing but ideas are too and some of the good ones are Jet-Fresh.

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones,” said composer and philosopher John Cage.  Some old ideas, like catfish shipped on a slow boat, can be frightening. What was the latest idea you came across that was Jet-Fresh?