Powerful lessons that will help you craft your brand

Branding is powerful. It associates an array of associations with a commodity. Successful messaging and branding makes it about you, the customer.

An excellent and not-so-excellent example of branding happened during this past year.

Donald Trump understands its power.

Hillary Clinton did not.

The reason.

Trump’s brand messaging was focused solely on “Make America Great make-america-great-againAgain!” a take action phrase first used by the Reagan campaign in 1980. It was simple, memorable and understandable. He messaged his brand in terms folks could easily repeat, remember, take ownership of and lets_make_america_great_againtake pride in. His brand message was of an outsider that was doing it for YOU, America, the country, the underdogs. He branded himself as “for the people.”

Hillary’s overall message? “I’m With Her.”

“Stronger Together and “Love Trumps Hate” were out there as well, but the first message became the focus – and ultimately the brand message.

im-with-herUnless you’re a well-read policy wonk, the benefit of standing with the candidate is unclear. I understand what strategists were thinking. It would be great to brand this as a historic, progressive time and that America is ready for a battle-tested female president. I’m sure it spoke to her base, but it didn’t seem to contribute to growing her audience, to which good branding should aspire.

The problem.

Clinton’s campaign message didn’t appear to be about the people – it seemed to be about the candidate. Branding cannot afford to be myopic. When brands connect, such as: Nike’s “Just do it,” “Inspiration and Innovation for Every Athlete in the World.”; Coca Cola’s “Taste the feeling!” “Red, White and You.” “I’d like to buy the world a coke…”; and even benefit branding served with humor “Save 15%…” by Geico, they make it about you, the customer, taking you into account, making you the center of the message. Clinton’s campaign brand wasn’t about you, the country or people, instead placing the candidate at the center of attention. A much better branding approach for Clinton would have been (if we still needed to remind folks she was female), “She Stands for You” or a more generic “A Vote for Her is a Vote for America” style of branding and messaging. The list could go on – just anything but “I’m With Her.” Could you imagine a brand trying to define itself with, “I’m With Brand X” while still in the difficult process of convincing you that they are looking out for your best interests, and therefore your best choice? It’s a tad presumptuous.

The solution.

If you want to get people behind you, you need to make it about them, their choices, their ideologies, and their voice. It’s not about you.

Trump understood that and took it to the finish line. Will your brand?

How to get work done (when you don’t feel like it)

Holidays are over and it’s back-to-work time. Not feeling inspired in the dreary month of January? No worries – I especially appreciated artist Chuck Close’s observation that “Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up and get to work.”


There’s that project you’ve left on the backburner – the one with the deadline that’s growing uncomfortably near.  And there’s the client whose phone call you really should return – the one that does nothing but complain and eat up your valuable time.  Wait, weren’t you going to try to go to the gym more often this year?

Can you imagine how much less guilt, stress, and frustration you would feel if you could somehow just make yourself do the things you don’t want to do when you are actually supposed to do them?  Not to mention how much happier and more effective you would be?

The good news (and its very good news) is that you can get better about not putting things off, if you use the right strategy.  Figuring out which strategy to use depends on why you are procrastinating in the first place:

Reason #1   You are putting something off because you are afraid you will screw it up.

Solution:  Adopt a “prevention focus.”

There are two ways to look at any task.  You can do something because you see it as a way to end up better off than you are now – as an achievement or accomplishment.  As in, if I complete this project successfully I will impress my boss, or if I work out regularly I will look amazing. Psychologists call this a promotion focus – and research shows that when you have one, you are motivated by the thought of making gains, and work best when you feel eager and optimistic.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, if you are afraid you will screw up on the task in question, this is not the focus for you.  Anxiety and doubt undermine promotion motivation, leaving you less likely to take any action at all.

What you need is a way of looking at what you need to do that isn’t undermined by doubt – ideally, one that thrives on it.  When you have a prevention focus, instead of thinking about how you can end up better off, you see the task as a way to hang on to what you’ve already got – to avoid loss.   For the prevention-focused, successfully completing a project is a way to keep your boss from being angry or thinking less of you.  Working out regularly is a way to not “let yourself go.”  Decades of research, which I describe in my book Focus, shows that prevention motivation is actually enhanced by anxiety about what might go wrong.  When you are focused on avoiding loss, it becomes clear that the only way to get out of danger is to take immediate action.  The more worried you are, the faster you are out of the gate.

I know this doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, particularly if you are usually more the promotion-minded type, but there is probably no better way to get over your anxiety about screwing up than to give some serious thought to all the dire consequences of doing nothing at all.    Go on, scare the pants off yourself.  It feels awful, but it works.

Reason #2     You are putting something off because you don’t “feel” like doing it.

Solution: Make like Spock and ignore your feelings.  They’re getting in your way.

In his excellent book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman points out that much of the time, when we say things like “I just can’t get out of bed early in the morning, ” or “I just can’t get myself to exercise,” what we really mean is that we can’t get ourselves to feel like doing these things.  After all, no one is tying you to your bed every morning.  Intimidating bouncers aren’t blocking the entrance to your gym.  Physically, nothing is stopping you – you just don’t feel like it.  But as Burkeman asks,  “Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it?”

Think about that for a minute, because it’s really important.  Somewhere along the way, we’ve all bought into the idea – without consciously realizing it – that to be motivated and effective we need to feel like we want to take action.  We need to be eager to do so.  I really don’t know why we believe this, because it is 100% nonsense. Yes, on some level you need to be committed to what you are doing – you need to want to see the project finished, or get healthier, or get an earlier start to your day.  But you don’t need to feel like doing it.

In fact, as Burkeman points out, many of the most prolific artists, writers, and innovators have become so in part because of their reliance on work routines that forced them to put in a certain number of hours a day, no matter how uninspired (or, in many instances, hungover) they might have felt.  Burkeman reminds us of renowned artist Chuck Close’s observation that “Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

So if you are sitting there, putting something off because you don’t feel like it, remember that you don’t actually need to feel like it.  There is nothing stopping you.

Reason #3   You are putting something off because it’s hard, boring, or otherwise unpleasant.

Solution:  Use if-then planning.

Too often, we try to solve this particular problem with sheer will:  Next time, I will make myself start working on this sooner.  Of course, if we actually had the willpower to do that, we would never put it off in the first place.   Studies show that people routinely overestimate their capacity for self-control, and rely on it too often to keep them out of hot water.

Do yourself a favor, and embrace the fact that your willpower is limited, and that it may not always be up to the challenge of getting you to do things you find difficult, tedious, or otherwise awful.  Instead, use if-then planning to get the job done.

Making an if-then plan is more than just deciding what specific steps you need to take to complete a project – it’s also deciding where and when you will take them.

If it is 2pm, then I will stop what I’m doing and start work on the report Bob asked for.

If my boss doesn’t mention my request for a raise at our meeting, then I will bring it up again before the meeting ends.

By deciding in advance exactly what you’re going to do, and when and where you’re going to do it, there’s no deliberating when the time comes.   No do I really have to do this now?, or can this wait till later? or maybe I should do something else instead.   It’s when we deliberate that willpower becomes necessary to make the tough choice.  But if-then plans dramatically reduce the demands placed on your willpower, by ensuring that you’ve made the right decision way ahead of the critical moment. In fact,  if-then planning has been shown in over 200 studies to increase rates of goal attainment and productivity by 200%-300% on average.

I realize that the three strategies I’m offering you – thinking about the consequences of failure, ignoring your feelings, and engaging in detailed planning – don’t sound as fun as advice like “Follow your passion!” or “Stay positive!”  But they have the decided advantage of actually being effective – which, as it happens, is exactly what you’ll be if you use them.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. is associate director for the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia University Business School and author of the bestselling Nine Things Successful People Do DifferentlyHer latest book is No One Understands You and What to Do About It,which has been featured in national and international media. Dr. Halvorson is available for speaking and training. She’s on Twitter@hghalvorson.

Original POST

For better creativity, protect your alone time

In my experience, the office has never been a particularly conducive place for creativity. Instead, it likes to pop out at times when I used to least expect it, such as during runs, or washing dishes (as mentioned in this article by HBR). I am a big proponent of time away from the office but would add that time away from family and friends is important as well. That solitude needs to be in place (as well as that phone shut off) for a complete sense of quiet, solitude and security in knowing that your ideas are yours alone to fuss over.



In our contemporary offices and always-busy lives, alone time can be difficult to come by. But successful creative thinkers share a need for solitude. They make a practice of turning away from the distractions of daily life to give their minds space to reflect, make new connections, and find meaning.

Great thinkers and leaders throughout history — from Virginia Woolf to Marcel Proust to Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak — have lauded the importance of having a metaphorical room of one’s own. But today’s culture overemphasizes the importance of constant social interaction, due in part to social media. We tend to view time spent alone as time wasted or as an indication of an antisocial or melancholy personality. Instead, we should see it as a sign of emotional maturity and healthy psychological development.

Of course, positive social interactions and collaboration are a critical part of a healthy workplace. But while some people may be inspired by experience and interacting with others, it is often in solitary reflection that ideas are crystallized and insights formed. As author and biochemist Isaac Asimov wrote in his famous essay on the nature of creativity, “Creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.”

Now science has reinforced what countless artists and innovators have known: solitary reflection feeds the creative mind. In recent years, neuroscientists have discovered that we tend to get our best ideas when our attention is not fully engaged in our immediate environment or the task at hand. When we’re not focusing on anything in particular — instead letting the mind wander or dip into our deep storehouse of memories, ideas, and emotions — the brain’s default mode network is activated. Many of our most original insights arise from the activity of this network, or as we like to call it, the “imagination network.”

Its three main components — personal meaning making, mental simulation, and perspective taking — often work together when we’re reflecting. Using many regions across the brain, the imagination network enables us to remember the past, think about the future, see other perspectives and scenarios, comprehend stories, understand ourselves, and create meaning from our experiences.

As mentioned above, activating this network requires deep internal reflection — the state that many artists and philosophers refer to when describing how they arrive at their most original ideas. This type of reflection is facilitated by solitude, which is why we often get creative insights when we’re relaxing or doing mundane, habitual tasks like showering or washing the dishes.

Unfortunately, most people rarely give themselves time for purposeful contemplation. While the modern workplace is often not conducive to this type of alone time, there are things managers and their teams can do to reclaim solitude and improve their ability to think creatively — without diminishing collaboration.

One solution is to give employees the flexibility to work remotely, particularly when they’re focused on creative assignments that require them to generate new and original ideas. Another is to designate an office or conference room for quiet work. But most of all, managers should let employees know that they’ll respect their individual work styles, and that slipping away from their desks to think in solitude is OK. In fact, managers should actively encourage this, as well as urge employees to take all of their vacation days. Having time for periodic rest and reflection will give your team the space to replenish their creative energy.

It’s time to allow creative workers (and who doesn’t have to solve problems creatively these days?), as Zadie Smith advised, to “protect the time and space” in which they work. Doing so helps lay the foundation for true innovation.



Original POST

Optimistic People All Have One Thing In Common: They’re Always Late

Hmmm… I’m usually on time. Don’t know what that says about me.

Here’s the article with a big ht to Wait But Why:

I woke up at 6 am this morning, three hours before I’m supposed to be in the office, and was still 10 minutes late to work.

This is pretty standard for me. I’m almost always a few minutes late. I don’t mean anything by it, and I certainly don’t think I deserve a different set of rules than everyone else — it’s just the way I am.

I wake up early and try to fill the time before I leave for the office with as many activities as possible: a short workout, breakfast, catching up on the news, daydreaming while struggling to put my socks on, etc.

I’ll look at the clock and think, “Oh, I still have plenty of time.” One or two tasks later, I’ve only got 40 minutes to get to work and a 45 minute commute.

This has been the case with every single job I’ve ever had and is typically true when it comes to social meetings as well. I’m habitually unpunctual, and apparently I’m not alone.

As management consultant Diana DeLonzor states:

Most late people have been late all their life, and they are late for every type of activity — good or bad.

Surprisingly little scientific research has been done on tardiness, but some experts subscribe to the theory that certain people are hardwired to be late and that part of the problem may be embedded deep in the lobes of the brain.

So if you’re chronically late, I feel for you and sympathize with the onslaught of criticism you likely receive on a consistent basis.

I know you’re not a lazy, unproductive, inconsiderate or entitled person. I know you’re not attempting to insult anyone by your tardiness.

Your lateness is simply a consequence of your psychology and personality — nothing more, nothing less.

With that said, while those of us who are continuously tardy should work to overcome this trait, there are also hidden benefits.

Chronically late people aren’t hopeless, they’re hopeful.

People who are continuously late are actually just more optimistic. They believe they can fit more tasks into a limited amount of time more than other people and thrive when they’re multitasking. Simply put, they’re fundamentally hopeful.

While this makes them unrealistic and bad at estimating time, it also pays off in the long-run in other ways.

Researchers have found optimism has a myriad of physical health benefits, from reducing stress and diminishing the risk of cardiovascular disease to strengthening your immune system.

Indeed, happiness and positivity have been linked to a longer life in general.

Maintaining a positive outlook is also vital to achieving personal success. Research shows happiness increases overall productivity, creativity and teamwork in the workplace.

All of this makes a great deal of sense, as a study conducted at San Diego State University has also connected lateness with Type B personalities, or people who tend to be more laid-back and easygoing.

In other words, people who are habitually late don’t sweat over the small stuff, they concentrate on the big picture and see the future as full of infinite possibilities.

Time is relative, learn to live in the moment.

We should also note punctuality is a relative concept. Time and lateness mean different things in different cultures and contexts.

In the United States, we often interpret lateness as an insult or a sign of a poor work ethic.

When people are late, it’s assumed they feel their time is more important or valuable. Americans believe time is money and money is time.

But if you head over to Europe, it’s almost as if the notion of time magically mutates each time you enter a new country.

In Germany, the land of perpetual efficiency, punctuality is of the utmost importance.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin was late to a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, she left because that’s how Germans roll.

If you venture over to Spain, however, you’ll find time has taken a completely different character. The Spanish run by their own clock and are famous for eating dinner at 10 pm.

Sail on down to Latin America, and you’ll discover punctuality bearslittle to no importance.

The point here being, we all do things our own way.

It’s fair to contend unpunctuality is bad for economic growth and that schedules are vital to maintaining efficiency.

But when we look at the fact Americans work extensive hours yet exhibit low levels of productivity, this argument feels somewhat empty and void.

As both societies and individuals, we all need to find the healthy balance between punctuality and lateness. Schedules are important, but breaking them isn’t the end of the world.

People with a tendency for tardiness like to stop and smell the roses, and those with a propensity for punctuality could learn a thing or two from them (and vice versa).

Life was never meant to be planned down to the last detail. Remaining excessively attached to timetables signifies an inability to enjoy the moment.

Living in the present is vital to our sanity. Sometimes it’s much more beneficial to go with the flow.

We can’t spend all of our time dwelling on the past or dreaming of the future, or we end up missing out on the wonderful things occurring around us.

Original post here

Wait But Why post on the post