The myth of positive thinking

SunComing of age in the 80s, I have heard and read my share of self-help advice. By the time Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” hit the Billboard Top 100 in 1982, I had already read a dog-eared version of M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled“. “I’m OK, You’re OK” had already become a pop-psychology joke. Freud was out, Jung was slipping, Maslow was in. Hierarchy of needs, baby.

Enter New Age. The stores, the books, the incense. Meditation, channeling, crystals, astral projection, psychic energy, self-healing, Mother Earth, the Gaia effect. And somehow, the idea of positive thinking degenerated into a think-yourself-rich, think-yourself-well kind of magical thinking. (This thinking-it-will-make-it-true schtick reappeared in 2006, troublingly, in Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret”.)

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Demographic urns by Mathieu Lehanneur

Mathieu Lehanneurs: ceramic urns map human population for franceThese are stunning visualizations of demographics. French designer Mathieu Lehanneur has created a series of urns that capture demographic data in art. This urn, for example, shows the last 100 years of population boom and bust in France.

You can see more on Mathieu’s site – click on tab 36.

All his stuff is pretty awesome, actually

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What do floppy disks and voice mail have in common?

voicemailwoes_fullsize_story1They’ve both been around forever and neither one ever improved.

The 3½-inch HD floppy disk had 1.44 MB (okay, 2.0 MB unformatted, but no one cares) of memory. It never grew. It never changed. It never got bigger. The floppy just chugged along, continuing to exist, awaiting its obsolescence.

How like voice mail. I was reading an article on the subject (“You’ve Got Voice Mail, but Do You Care?“) in the NY Times and it got me thinking: When will voice mail, once and for all, evolve or die?

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Your communications plan should tell you what NOT to do

keep-calm-and-just-say-no-10The first time I saw a “real” communications plan, it made me question the wisdom of having chosen to work in this field.

It was a 40-slide PowerPoint presentation weighing in at almost 3000 words with graphs and pie charts and tedious demographic information. Holy guacamole, I thought, is all this laborious detail really necessary? Is anyone ever going to read this again after today?

The answer came a few months later when the director of another department criticized the marketing-communications team for not having been present on a certain media channel. My boss replied simply, “You signed off on the comm plan and that doesn’t respond to any of our objectives.” She was right. We didn’t do it because we had decided – collectively – that we were not going to do it.

Our 40-slide behemoth saved the day.

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What’s next, Gen X?

Sandwiched between Boomer bosses and now the upcoming Gen Ys / millennials, Gen X finds itself, once again, juggling to navigate the hierarchy and structure of the past and the new realities and expectations of the present and future. We don’t manage like the generations before or after us. And maybe that’s a good thing.

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Choosing an easy life

I just love Hugh MacLeod’s cartoons on His book, Ignore Everybody, is a great read. It’s like having a good conversation with an old friend about the stuff that really matters in your creative life.

Choosing an easy life...

From Hugh MacLeod’s

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Jeff Gordinier on Gen X

To-do list for today:

1) Go to Youtube and watch Jeff Gordinier, editor-at-large of Details and author of X Saves the World, discuss Gen X and his book

2) Go to Amazon and buy Jeff Gordinier’s book, X Saves the World.

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Too busy to be effective

So, yeah, it’s been a while. You know the song: “I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to do, well, anything but work.”
In their article in the Harvard Business Review entitled Beware the Busy Manager, Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal argue that most of us managers are more like the proverbial headless chickens than productivity machines:

Managers will tell you that the resource they lack most is time. If you watch them, you’ll see them rushing from meeting to meeting, checking their e-mail constantly, fighting fires. Managers think they are attending to important matters, but they’re really just spinning their wheels. For the past 10 years, (we) have studied the behavior of busy managers, and the findings should frighten you: Fully 90% of managers squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities. A mere 10% of managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful, and reflective manner.

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No time to think

This is a great talk given as one of the Google Tech Talks in 2008 by David Levy. It lasts almost an hour, but it is worth the – you got it – time.
Truth is, all of us are so overwhelmed with trying to keep up that we never get any of the quality “gestation” time in which brilliant ideas are born. This talk addresses many of our assumptions about productivity and challenges our dismissive attitude toward the idea of “leisure time”.

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7 tips for emails that don’t annoy and actually get things done

inboxSometimes I would like to replace that eco-friendly addition to e-mail signatures “Do you really need to print this e-mail?” with “Do you really need to write this e-mail?”; with the volume of e-mail I have to process each day, there’s no time to waste wondering why I received the message or what action I am supposed to take.
Though many excellent articles have been written about e-mail etiquette and effective message writing, I have my own pet peeves and (hopefully) a bit of good advice on the subject.

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