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brainstorm

How do you come up with new ideas?

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From Vision to Venture

Creativity. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. Heck, I even include it in my company name: Hopkinson Creative Media. I must think I’m a creative guy or something.

Brainstorming. Just the very word brings me to a soulless conference room, with a facilitator holding up a fragrant, colorful marker to a blank flip chart, urging under-caffeinated employees that “there are no wrong answers!”

But what does creativity and brainstorming mean in the current workplace? I’m super excited to be on a panel at the new SXSW V2V (Vision to Venture) in Las Vegas on August 14 with Helen Todd, Adam Marelli, and Jey Van-Sharp. If you’re going to be at the conference, but all means stop by and say hi.

sxs-v2v

Coming up with new ideas

Some people ask me, how the heck have you been able to come up with a new idea to write about every single week for 5 years? Well, for some weeks, ideas just come to me, and others it is much, much harder. I don’t recall the source, but there’s a comedian or a writer or someone that replied “It’s easy… at least once a week something ticks me off.”

Here are my tips for coming up with continuous new ideas on different subjects:
1) Keep a Google Doc or other online list so that you can continually add article ideas to it at any time. You can also include links.
2) Go for a run. If I’ve done it once, I’ve done it 100 times… what works for me is going for a run to clear my head. While it helps to have a general topic to build from, I’ve also gone out with a blank slate and come back with a fully formed post.
3) Build off of other topics that intrigue you. For example, last week I was inspired by a video Gary Vaynerchuk did about digital legacy, so I put my own spin on it, expanded the topic, and turned it into a blog post and podcast of my own
4) Interview other people. When you’re low on ideas or energy, feed off of others. Find someone that is doing something cool, ask good questions, and tap into their energy for a change.

running-creativity

Fostering creativity on the same idea

While coming up with a new topic each week is tough, what’s even harder is writing about the same topic again and again. I do this with my ongoing contributions to Salary.com. Twice per month I need to come up with a new angle on the same exact topic.

Here’s how I do it:
1) Get that Google Doc going. As with my blog, I keep a continual list of ideas to build from. Some weeks I look back at an idea and it springs to life, but honestly, most times when I go back to a topic I’ve jotted down, I hate it and need to start from scratch.
2) Avoid clichés. The easy fallback is to do a clichéd list post, such as “Top 10 Salary Negotiation Myths.” I have to admit I go to these on occasion, especially since that audience loves easy to digest slideshows. But even when I do, I try to pepper the story with pop culture references and items the average person might have missed.
3) Go to real life. By far the best source of material are real life case studies. While I can go on for weeks about what SHOULD happen during a negotiation, every situation is different and there’s no way to predict what will happen. This makes for great stories. Fortunately, I offer 1:1 salary negotiation consulting, and get a steady stream of clients. I’m able to use their stories – always with their permission and always changing names and details to keep things anonymous – and build advice off of that.

Go to the crowd

When working on an important idea, sometimes it is necessary, or imperative, to get another opinion. Take the example of a tagline for my new website. I have a bunch of ideas, but I want to make sure they are good.

Here are some of the sources I’m looking at:
Personal ideas: Ones that I had personally brainstormed during the writing of my book
Social media outreach: Offer 4-5 options and then asking friends on Twitter and Facebook which one they like best
Trusted inner circle: I have a mastermind group of savvy entrepreneurs and internet marketers that I respect and trust, and can run ideas by them
Fiverr.com: For $5 you can have a copywriter come up several ideas. I actually hired two of them, which gives me a completely outsider opinion of my site
Hire a pro: I have a friend that is a professional copywriter, and I’m considering hiring her to work through some options
FeedbackArmy.com: This is a new site that I’m loving, where for $20 you get 10 immediate, unbiased pieces of feedback

fiverr-taglines

Don’t combine create mode with edit mode

This was a tip I received from Tess Vigeland while at the World Domination Summit: Don’t try and write and edit at the same time, because…

It’s like hitting the gas and the brake simultaneously.

gas-brake

Step 1: Put yourself in creative mode, writing and brainstorming and getting into the flow. Find the best time of day for this, whether it is first thing in the morning, late afternoon once you’ve warmed up, or late at night over a glass of wine.

Step 2: Pick a completely different time to be in edit mode. Again, right after morning coffee, or when you feel most alert, when you can edit ruthlessly and spot typos with abandon. As one famous saying goes, write drunk, edit sober.

When I’m doing a major speech, I’m famous for creating epic presentations, adding in various story lines, trying new jokes, bringing in new photos, and just experimenting with the best way to deliver the content.

I’ll then practice the speech out loud with a timer, only to find out I have a 53 minute presentation to deliver in a 30 minute limit. However, when I switch to edit mode, this forces me to go back and see what flows, what works, continually improve, and cut cut cut. I know I have to be relentless, hone those jokes, hit those beats.

Ride the wave

My final tip is from Helen, who is in the same boat as me in terms of working from home, juggling multiple projects, and trying to optimize business hours. On more than one occasion, we’ve been chatting on the phone about business between 8-10pm at night. She’ll say ask what I’m up to, and I’ll have just eaten dinner, be sitting at the computer, and have a project to-do list staring me in the face. More often than not, I’ll reply with the following:

“I’m trying to decide what to do. Should I work from 10pm-1am and just crank out this project, get it out of the way, and then sleep in tomorrow? Or should I relax, shut down the computer, have a glass of wine, watch an episode of International House Hunters, go to bed early, and then get up super early, hit the gym, and crank out a few hours of work in the morning?”

ride-the-wave

Her response: RIDE THE WAVE

What that simply means is going with whatever flow seems most natural. What I’ll usually do is sit down and write a few paragraphs of build a few web pages and see how I feel. If I get in a groove, and email is quiet, and I’m on a roll, I ride the wave… staying in the zone and working as long as I can until I crash.

If I find my brain skipping gears, my concentration lagging, or the flow of ideas at a crawl, I know it’s time to shut down the computer and crash.

That’s how I approach things, and I’m excited to share more ideas as we discuss them on the panel. How do you approach it? Hit me up on Twitter.

Check out my free online salary negotiation course, “How to Negotiate Salary: The Negotiation Mindset.”

Sponsor Message: Freshbooks Fresh Take of the Week: Being creative

Today’s topic is creativity, and what’s interesting is the term ‘creative accounting’ symbolizes a bad thing – working numbers and cooking the books in your favor. Not with Freshbooks. They get creative by putting everything in the cloud and letting you access your account from anywhere. This week I literally invoiced a client from the beach.

Switch to cloud accounting and join over 5 million people using FreshBooks to make billing painless at Freshbooks.com.

digital-legacy

When your grandkids surf the web for you, what will they find?

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Gary Vaynerchuk talks digital legacy

Either there’s a lot of bad content out there on the internet, or the good stuff is just exceptionally hard to find. Think about all of the stories you’ve read this month… the fluff pieces that pop up on Twitter or are shared on your Facebook feed:

– Could THESE photos be of the new iPhone 5 case?
– It’s a boy! The royal family celebrates.
– Hey, have you heard about this new sharing economy? People are actually renting out their apartments, their services, even their cars! (Yes, we heard about this 2 years ago)
– You won’t believe the FAIL this news reporter did on the air.
– Yet another story about “The 5 types of people on Facebook.”

That’s why I try to work incredibly hard to rise above that and deliver something of value. It isn’t easy.

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back-up-your-files

Your data has become more valuable than your computer, how to protect it

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More valuable: Computers or Data?

Computers used to be very expensive. Throughout the 90s and into the 2000s, the prices of desktops always seemed to be going down, but as someone that loved computers and worked in technology, no matter what I did, in order to get a computer that was fast enough to satisfy me and would allow me to get many years of use, the price tag always ended up in the $2500 range. There were – and are still – several important questions to ask before you buy a computer.

Now, the computers are works of art. The 21” iMac can be had for $1,300, while the 11” MacBook Air – what I consider one of the most impressive pieces of technology anywhere – starts at $999. And PCs can be had for much less.

And who even needs computers? For under $500 you can get a killer tablet or the latest smartphone. The geeks of today are truly spoiled.

But when given the choice of having your laptop or phone stolen – but retaining all your data, I think the choice is obvious.

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Portland-Food-Truck-Line

Is everyone else slow or is it just me?

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Efficient vs. Impatient

I have now lived in Manhattan for almost 12 years, which, despite my Boston upbringing, probably makes me an official New Yorker.

Sometimes people get the impression that New Yorkers are mean. That is entirely untrue. I’ve found people here to be incredibly helpful, kind, and outgoing. We are not mean. We are not impatient. But I’ll tell you what we are:

Ruthlessly efficient.

Here’s the difference:

I am not Impatient
– I have a long term view of life and a strong sense of delayed gratification
– I tend to work long and hard on projects and earn things over time, like sustaining a podcast for 5 years, training six months for a marathon, or starting a business at age 42, not 22
– I am not the type of person that blares their horn at the car in front of me the second a light turns green

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WDS-Dancing1

Living a remarkable life in a conventional world.

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World Domination

Author and professor William W. Purkey once said:

“You’ve gotta’ dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

There is no better place to embrace this mantra than the World Domination Summit, a gathering of nearly 3,000 bloggers, entrepreneurs, travelers, dancers, and dreamers. The conference is held in Portland, Oregon, the hometown of host Chris Guillebeau, author of the $100 Startup and visitor to all 193 countries.

When I attended last year and started building my path to world domination, the experience blew me away, and I have to say he hit a home run again this year.

At one point I found myself as one of the only people in a meetup group of first time attendees looking for direction. The group organizer Jon Carpenter – who would go on to become a close friend by the end of the weekend – asked if I could give some quick advice. I shared the ABCs of conference attendance:

A – Actionable items. Look for key learnings that you can later apply to your business
B – Be inspired. There was no shortage of inspiring speakers all weekend.
C – Connect with people. I spent the weekend connecting with close friends, people I met last year, and anyone and everyone that I found standing next to me.

Wait. Let’s add one more item to make it the ABCDs of WDS.

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