Category Archives: Brainstorming and Creative Thinking

Are you stuck or uninspired, but are unsure as to how to “find” inspiration? Try brainstorming and creative thinking techniques to unleash that creativity and move forward.

How to Build a Career by Solving Personal Problems

Cloud computing technology executive Marc Ferrentino answers the question: “how has solving your own problems shaped your business career path?” Ferrentino notes how his engineering and technology career has been built by solving problems that affect his life and why living these problems helps him build product to address them.

Ferrentino is Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of cloud computing at BMC Software. Previously, he was Chief Technology Architect (CTA) at Previous to, Ferrentino worked in mobile and Internet startups and at Goldman Sachs. He earned a BSEE in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan.

Video created by Capture Your Flag
Adapted from How to Build a Career by Solving Personal Problems

How to Take Action on an Inspiring Moment

Capture Your Flag interviews motivation teacher Jullien Gordon, who answers the following question: “What is your process for designing career learning products and programs?” Gordon goes into detail on how he takes action on inspiring moments and creates learning products and experiences that help others. Gordon shares the step-by-step evolution of that idea and how he packages the idea and delivers it to an audience. From this, Gordon, develops an annual framework that allows him to continuously turn new ideas into learning and career education products.

Gordon is the founder of the Department of Motivated Vehicles, a personal and professional development company that helps clients identify purpose and map it to successful outcomes. Gordon has written five books and speaks regularly to college students across America. He earned his masters degrees in education and business from Stanford University and an undergraduate degree from UCLA.

Video created by Capture Your Flag
Retrieved from How to Take Action on an Inspiring Moment – Jullien Gordon

Relate Your Actions to the Larger System

The aim of any systematic form of thinking is to attempt to streamline a wide body of knowledge into a scientific set of rules in order to achieve a desired outcome.

Religions, economic models, business trainings, and even dating and relationships all have differing schools of thought within them about how to create the best possible scenarios for the people subscribed to each system.

  • Sales trainings try to teach you how to increase the ability to close deals and maximize income.
  • Economic models try to increase the ability for the maximum number of people within them to profit.
  • Religions try to teach you how to avoid negative spiritual outcomes and maximize positive ones.

Each system and school of thought has its own benefits, or else no one would take part in them. The problem arises when we become blinded by any one particular system and close off our minds to anything outside of it. The lessons being learned in any system may have been applicable in a certain time and place, in a specific context. But the world is always changing, and so are the circumstances upon which these schools of thought were built.

When discussing something of a highly theoretical nature, it is important to always consider the possibility that the world around us has shifted, and the schools of thought we’ve gotten comfortable clinging to are no longer valid. No matter what it is we’re discussing, it’s important to relate what we are doing and what we believe back to the big picture.

  • If I become great at maximizing sales, but become a manipulative person with no real relationships as a result, is that really a good, “successful” career path to go down?
  • If I beep and curse at people in the parking lot after leaving a house of worship, am I really acting as my highest self and becoming a better person?
  • If I intentionally do things to make my significant other jealous out of fear of losing them, am I really in a good and loving relationship?
  • If I am a philanthropist, yet disrespect the people I work closely with, do I really love humanity?

I see this happening all over the world. Each religion believes so strongly that they are right, and so does each economic theorist, each political party, and so on. The people within each group stick to the party line, and no meaningful discussion happens with the “opposing” side. All of us suffer as a result.

Let’s get back to the basics.

We don’t know anything for sure.

We’ve all shown up in this life for a bunch of years from who knows where, and we will all leave this place at some point to go who knows where.

All living creatures feel pain. All living creatures love to feel loved. So, no matter what system we choose to create, follow or not follow, let’s remember the most important root of the entire thing:

Minimize the amount of pain you create. Maximize the amount of love.

Written by Jordan Phoenix
Adapted from Stay Open Minded

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 /

Minimize Your Distractions for Great Ideas

I’m sure many of you have heard the cliché “I always come up with my best ideas in the shower.” I believe I just realized why that is.

I live in my own studio apartment in LA right now, and do not own a television. I have had some of my most profound thoughts over the past few months in that environment. These ideas have not only improved my life, but are also leading to widespread changes for many others as well.

When I visit family and friends in New York, I get a chance to watch the football highlights on Sportscenter the way I used to when I was a kid. After living without a television for some time, I realized something profound the next morning: having the television on from the moment I woke up was so distracting, that it was drowning out my ability to think for myself. This is something that I’m sure happens to many of us so often, but I was able to recognize it only through the basis of comparison. If watching television and listening to the radio during all of your free time is the norm you have always abided by, you wouldn’t even realize how much more clarity you can have by spending some time away from them. Now it completely makes sense to me why our best ideas come in the shower. There is no one to talk to in there. There are no radio hosts, television shows, commercials, billboards, or other things to consume our mental energy. In the shower, for the few minutes that we are in there, there is nothing else to do except to think for ourselves.

I notice personally that when I spend the first hour or so of my day clearing my mind, meditating, focusing on my goals, exercising, and then listening to certain types of music that I love, I come up with amazing ideas that blow me away. It is quite simple actually: all it takes is a commitment to spend a little bit of time each day away from the distractions, and breaking our addiction to needing electronic devices 24/7 that cloud our minds in this day and age.

When we have the television on all the time, our cell phones constantly ringing, and are running around non-stop, we forget to schedule some time to just relax and reflect on life by ourselves. Sometimes, we have deep conversations with others about life; but most of the time, the conversations we have with others deal with surface level matter: errands we have to run, surface level problems we are having, and gossip that is happening in our lives or on television. Perhaps this is why many people find that they constantly face the same types of problems over and over again in their lives. We spend all of our free time during the day complaining to everyone we know about a certain situation, when we could easily resolve it by simply being honest with ourselves, and trying to figure out what behaviors we are personally taking to put ourselves in those situations in the first place.

What we rarely do is take the time to zoom out, and look at the big picture. It is very beneficial to see things from a different light; to take a look at the path our behaviors are leading us down over the long term, and see where we can change for the better to give ourselves better results.

When we don’t take the time to stop and think for ourselves for at least a little while each day or week, we become victims of our bad habits. The only way to break bad habits that are holding us back from achieving all of the things we deserve is to a) figure out what they are, b) admit to ourselves that they actually do exist, c) figure out why they are there and where we picked them up, and d) then figure out how to set up conditions in life that will redirect our energy to more efficient habits, until we start doing them automatically without having to think about it consciously.

On a higher level: when we don’t stop to think for ourselves, we can never innovate. Innovation is so important, because it is the way to create the life you want. It involves looking at everything the way it is, seeing what you can do better in certain ways, and seeing what should be completely eliminated from your life. It is about figuring out your passions in life, and putting effort into them constantly, until you discover new breakthroughs that allow you to live a life where all of your time is spent doing only things you are passionate about, in a career you are passionate about, around the people you want to spend time with, in places you love. When we don’t take the time to innovate, we are simply following the ideas that are suggested to us unconsciously by those around us; and also through those pesky billboards, mass media, and so on. External influences can get into your mind so quickly that you may have trouble stopping to think: is this idea really in my best interests long term? Do I even know what vision I have for my life in the long term so I can check to see if the actions I am taking on a daily basis are leading me in that direction? Is it possible that there is a much more direct route that I have overlooked?

All of the external sources of information in our lives have their own personal agendas that serve their own purposes. I’m not trying to say that this is a good or bad thing; I’m just stating what is. But there is one purpose that none of these external sources serve – that is to help you get to a place that is ideal for yourself. That is because nobody knows where you belong or what you want better than you do! In fact, several years ago, I found that the reason why I was not happy with my career, the quality of my relationship, and the city I lived in was because I had spent so much time trying to follow all of these external ideas about where my life should go from the society around me, rather than contemplating that I needed to stop caring so much about what others think, to think for myself about what I truly want deep down, and to create my own path.

So obviously, if you are not taking out the time to figure out where you most belong (geographically, career-wise, relationship-wise, health-wise, etc.), no one else is going to grab you by the back of your shirt and pull you to go there! Actually, I guess you could say that is what I am doing right now. I am going to try to wake you up, and introduce some novel thoughts into your mind about what you are capable of and where you would truly be most fulfilled in life. I certainly have innovated in my own life, and I do enjoy sharing the ideas I come up with to allow others to use them if they wish. But I can only provide the spark. Each person has his or her own hopes and dreams – I can help you along the path (and feel free to ask me any questions you may have), but you are the only one who can provide the constant energy to turn that spark into a blazing fire.

Written by Jordan Phoenix
Adapted from How to Generate Great Ideas

Image courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn /

Tiny Changes You Can Make For Greater Career Success

The idiom “Put your best foot forward” generally refers to making a great impression. But, watching Aries Merritt — the 2012 U.S. Olympic gold medalist in the 110 meter hurdles — made me think of different use for the phrase.

In an interview with NBC, Aries credited his arrival to the top of his game to a small change in the way he starts a race. Rather than starting his race with his right foot, he now starts with his left foot. This tiny adjustment, while not noticeable to most people, changed his stride, allowed him to “run to the best of his ability” and win.

The corporate equivalent of changing feet is called a pivot (a term coined by Eric Ries). Pivoting allows a company to change direction by keeping one foot in the past and another foot in the future. Coaching business leaders, I saw that it is usually the small changes – our personal equivalent of Aries’ changing feet – that most often allows us to leap over the hurdles to success.

So, what does the start of your race/day look like? What minor adjustments could you make to position yourself to win?

Here are a few ways to find out:

  1. Ask a mentor, your sponsor or a coach what small changes or pivots they would recommend you make.
  2. Observe or read about how the most successful people run their race.
  3. Reflect on how you typically run your race. Below are a few common habits/behaviors that often need an adjustment.
  4. This exercise may spark more ideas and help you think of slight changes you can start making today:
If you usually/always: Try:
Start your day by responding to emails… Creating time and space to think about your goals and how you might creatively achieve them.
Start a meeting, conversation or sales presentation by talking… Asking questions and listening.
Eat lunch at your desk or don’t eat lunch… Eating lunch at least 2x a week with someone who can positively support your career/business success.
Defer to others in meetings or in business decisions… Clearly expressing your opinion.
Work and interact with a small network… Expanding your network to include people who can be influential in helping you achieve your objectives.
Downplay your achievements… Promoting yourself
Accepting outcomes that are less than optimal for you… Negotiating.
Assume that a goal objective will be hard to achieve… Envisioning yourself achieving the success you deserve and desire.

I encourage you to pause today and consider: What small adjustment or change could you or do you want to make in your personal in professional life? Remember that even if it is not noticeable to other people, it can make a huge difference in your success and where you want to go.

Like Aries, I believe we can all change our stride, put a different foot in front of the other, and leap over hurdles to even greater professional success. We are cheering you on!

Written by Rania Anderson
Adapted from How To Make Tiny Changes For Greater Career Success, published by Women 2.0

Images Courtesy of The Way Women Work

Ways to Find Success by Discovering Your True Purpose

It sounds like a paradox but nothing fails like success. Success can often lead to failure if you are not ready for it when it comes or you fail to clearly define it so that you can recognize it when it arrives. According to Robert Michael Fried, best selling author of Igniting Your True Purpose and Passion, “True success is not just getting what you want, it’s wanting what you get.”

True success involves more than a monetary scorecard; instead, it involves others beyond ourselves. Fried offers this perspective: “True success is achieving the delicate balance between making money and making meaning.” But achieving this is no easy task.

Are you currently on a path that will lead you to true success? It all begins with discovering your true purpose in life. Fried offers these tips:

  1. Define what really matters most. Make a list of people, causes, activities, business interests, and dreams that will give you a better reason to get up in the morning filled with anticipation and excitement to conquer yet another day.
  2. Define your vision for a better world. Write down the causes or meaningful activities that will allow you to best serve others; perhaps it’s to protect and preserve our environment. You might have a political interest, or maybe you are concerned about childhood obesity, or the plight of homeless people in our society. Maybe you care about child abuse or the cure for cancer. It could be something as important as improving special education, or just making people laugh. It’s your vision, get in touch with it.
  3. See clearly with your heart. Get in touch with those things, causes, or activities that ignite and fuel your passion. Hone in on those things you know you do best. The things that give you unbridled joy. The things you do when time just seems to fly by.
  4. Work backwards. Sometimes, it’s easier to work backwards and eliminate those distractions that are clearly not aligned with your purpose and passion. Many of us get stuck doing things that are not in concert with our true calling or passion. We get stuck in a corner office and wonder, “How did I end up here?” Know what you don’t want to be, and move forward on the reason you were placed on this planet.
  5. Create your “most admired” list. Jot down those famous, or not so famous, people, and the reasons you admire them. You might admire Oprah Winfrey for the way she uplifts and motivates others, or Robert Redford for his work in encouraging creativity with his Sundance Foundation. You might admire your parents, or a family member who inspired you as a youth and instilled the core values you exemplify today. When you get in touch with what you admire about others, it can lead directly to your own path of purpose.
  6. Heed the call. List the short and long-range actions you need to take to realize your true calling. You might want to rethink your present job. You might want to start up or join a company that is more aligned with your true purpose and passion. The point is to take action and heed your true calling.
  7. Make meaning as well as money.One of the biggest challenges in life is to make meaning as well as money. It’s one great balancing act, but well worth the effort to align your purpose with your purse strings.

Defining your purpose focuses you on those things that really matter most to you. People who say they have found their purpose tend to be in better health and happier than those that say they haven’t found their role in life yet. There’s something powerful about finding your purpose; it just seems to give life a new meaning. It’s a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning and go to a job or cause that you feel like you were put here on earth for. Having a purpose ignites passion. Passion provides the fire in our belly that heads us toward our true calling. Remember the words of Robert Byrne: “the purpose of life is a life of purpose.”

Written by Wandia Chiuri
Adapted from The Delicate Balance Between Making Money – And Making Meaning (True Success), published in Women 2.0

How Long Does It Take To Become an Expert?

Seeing this infographic may change your mind. Did you know that it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert?

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, it does.

He claims that the “10,000-Hour Rule” is the key to success in any field and is a matter of practicing a specific task for around 10,000 hours.

See what it takes to become an expert in areas such as astrophysics, sports, litigation and even poker.

Are you really an expert? An infographic by
Source: Udemy Blog

Originally published at Udemy, retrieved from Women 2.0

Just BE Cause: Ah Ha Moments to Inspire the Next Generation of Change Makers

Over the years, we’ve seen amazing people leave their legacy. They’ve taken their unlimited supply of “ah ha” moments and made the most of them, and now it’s time for us to get to work. We don’t have to wait until we have had a job for thirty years, kids, a house, and a retirement plan to know the meaning of “Giving More.” Imagine a world where teenagers create the curriculum for their high school education alongside their teachers or where a twenty-year-old finds a way to integrate green energy initiatives in schools across America.
– From Just BE Cause: Ah Ha Moments to Inspire the Next Generation of Change Makers

Just BE Cause: Ah Ha Moments to Inspire the Next Generation of Change Makers by Syreeta Gates
Syreeta Gates, 2013, 166 pages, $24.99

If you are looking for a step-by-step guide on social enterprise, from having that first “ah ha!” moment to establishing your project, Just BE Cause: Ah Ha Moments to Inspire the Next Generation of Change Makers/ is a great place to start. However, it is an initial primer and not the holy book of how-to and secrets on social enterprise, particularly for Generation Y/Millenials to whom the book directly speaks.

After painting the picture of frustration that many young people face with the way things are and the fact that one has an alternative to working for “the man”, the publisher’s overview describes this anthology as “a collection of stories, anecdotes, and wisdom from community leaders, innovators, leverage experts, executive directors and CEOs.” The book is about breaking down social enterprise and advising Generation Y on using their unique values and ideology to create this social change, which is essentially introducing and providing advice on social entrepreneurship with Millenials as the main audience. The ideal is that it will help you start your own enterprise, which would indicate that it is hoped that the book will directly influence you to start your own project or enterprise.

Just BE Cause delivers on this collection of voices in four major parts between the introduction and concluding chapters by playing on why one would want to engage in social entrepreneurship and intrepreneurship:

  • ‘Cause It’s Necessary – The Problem
  • ‘Cause I’m Possible – The Journey
  • ‘Cause I Make It Happen – From Idea to Action
  • ‘Cause I’m Winning – Putting Things into Perspective

Within the latter three parts, each chapter begins with “Just BE”. These thirteen titles include topics like “Just BE You!”, “Just BEgin”, and “Just BE…” (which is where SoJo’s Kanika Gupta has a contribution). There is something for everyone at any stage of their entrepreneurial journey then, whether you want to start with Mark Babbit’s overview of social entrepreneurship in ‘Cause It’s Necessary or you want some insight into topics like fundraising and crowdfunding as provided in Just BE a Resource by Mike Del Ponte and Alex Budak.

Though the book is directed at young entrepreneurial hopefuls, there is still much to learn from Just BE Cause, even as an intrapreneur – an inside entrepreneur or someone who behaves like an entrepreneur while working within a large organization by using entrepreneurial skills without incurring the risks associated with those activities. For example, that value for me was clearest when reading Akua Soadwa’s story of finding and living the empowerment she was providing others; Edward González-Novoa’s outline of habits of the mind and the heart; Dale J. Stephens’s take on the Western and Eastern paradigms towards doing, having, and being. However, there were other sections that also made me pause and really think. For example, Sarah Baird’s positive spin on impatience is encouraging in that it is exactly what propels me to action when I am unsettled by something – whether it’s the desire to learn more or the push I need to take action.

I would even suggest that readers who do not belong to Generation Y or consider themselves a Millenial would still benefit from reading the book, if they wanted insight into that mindset and to explore how they can better work with their younger colleagues by capitalizing on their skills and values. It would be unfair to expect to read all the perspectives on any given topic in the book, especially on social entrepreneurship. Just BE Cause is a positive and optimistic spin on social entrepreneurship for Millenials and is meant to highlight this as an alternative to the norms and expectations of North American society about finding success through a highly paid job. One can use this book as a starting point and then learn more using the concepts and ideas presented in the book.

I found Just BE Cause to be a great introduction to what SoJo is and continues to work towards: to be the interactive (online) resource that empowers individuals to turn their ideas for social good into action. Whether you are interested in creating change through a non-profit or a social enterprise, operating as an incorporated organization or as a one-time project, or being an intrapeneur or activist instead – you will certainly find some value and insight in at least one section of this book.

Written by Zainab Habib

For more information about the book, along with tools and resources like worksheets to help you get started, see the Just BE Cause website.

Be Addicted to Giving Your Best in Life

I was recently inspired by a statement made by one of my mentors, John Gray. He said, “When it comes to relationships, people often want the instant version but want it to feel like it was homemade.” This notion got me thinking.

How often in life do we operate the same way in terms of our careers, our health, our happiness?

We live in a society that has fostered and fed into the idea of instant gratification and as such we have become more impatient when things don’t take shape when we think it should.

We all long for a sense of contentment, fulfillment, and happiness.

The question is, what are you feeding yourself? What are you feasting on?

Junk food (a.k.a. fears, insecurities, negativity) is easily accessible, it’s instant, it’s cheap and can be highly addictive. The problem is, it does not nourish us. Instead, this instant food works against us. Though it may satisfy a ‘craving=need for fulfillment,’ it does nothing to move us forward but rather it does a fantastic job at keeping us where we are and holding us back from all that we are to be, do, and have in life.

The nourishing food (a.k.a. courage, confidence, positivity) is also accessible but requires more effort to seek out and ingest. The challenge is, it takes conscious effort, time and patience-something that a lot of us struggle with. The benefit is, it is the BEST investment strategy for yourself and for others as it not only feeds you, it is satisfying. And thus, has the ability to fuel every area of your life.

Ladies & Gents, it comes down to a powerful six-letter word: C-H-O-I-C-E. Your choice matters because you matter.

choices, lim

If you’re going to be addicted to anything, be addicted to being your BEST self and giving your best to yourself/others/world. Be addicted to feasting on nourishing food. It may be tough at first to break out of your current routine/eating habits but I assure you, it will be well worth it. Why? Because you are worth it.

Written by Joann Lim
Adapted from Big Picture. Fine Focus., Be Addicted… I Dare You.

Creating Solutions and Using Your Products: A New Perspective

busy building things

“Scratch Your Own Itch” represents the need to create the change you want to see in the world and the need to solve your own problems instead of waiting for someone else to solve them. Normally, you would use a backscratcher to scratch your own itch. In this art block, a backscratcher is used to literally demonstrate that very principle of creating something that solves your own problems.There is also a good possibility that the issue you’re experiencing is an issue a lot of people are experiencing. They would appreciate and support your solution, should you bring it forward. “Scratch Your Own Itch” relates back to the key theme of creating something that can help change the world, especially if you have first-hand experience with the problem.

In this next art print, there is simply a bag of dog food and a bowl. At first glance, it’s a bit confusing and a lot of people might not get it at first. The term “dogfooding” is an insider term from the software development world. Robleh has been in the software development space for the past few years, and now he is applying what he’s learnt to his products. Dogfooding translates to being your own customer and using your own products. By being your own customer, you’re able to see how efficient or inefficient your product is because you are using it yourself. It’s a good way to step into your customer’s shoes and see things from their perspective, rather than relying on a creator/producer perspective.

With this illustrated series, the idea was to be descriptive and use the best metaphors to accurately describe the message behind the print. The theme behind these two art prints is mainly about creating products to solve your own problems and also using the products you make.

Written by Robleh Jama
Summarized by Rebecca Mangra

Busy Building Things, created by Robleh Jama, is a lifestyle brand and art series that creates inspirational products to encourage you to create change and start something amazing. This article is part of a series of inspiring art prints from Busy Building Things.