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Friday, September 25, 2015

7 Lessons From Entrepreneurs Who Kept Their Day Jobs While Starting Their Businesses

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015, Michelle Goodman

This story first appeared in the September issue of Entrepreneur. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Keeping your day job while starting a business has its advantages. Aside from the steady income and free coffee, reliable full-time work helps you flesh out your résumé and portfolio and extend your professional network. Even better, working for someone else gives you a front-row view of the best (and worst) ways to run a company, from managing time and money to handling customers and employees.

We asked some successful entrepreneurs who founded companies while holding down a 9-to-5 to share the lessons they learned.

1. First, prove your concept.

Holding down a day job means having only so many waking hours to devote to your side venture. That’s why validating that your idea will work—and that people will pay for it—should be priority No. 1, says Shara Senderoff, co-founder and CEO of Career Sushi, an online marketplace that connects young professionals with employers.

Senderoff was fortunate that her former employer, a Hollywood TV and film production company, agreed in 2011 to fund and incubate her startup in-house. But because she didn’t need to bootstrap, she mistakenly spent more time than she should have on Career Sushi’s branding, web design and minute platform details, proof of concept be damned.

“I probably spent six months doing that,” says the Los Angeles-based entrepreneur, whose site now serves 15,000 employers and 150,000 job seekers. “In retrospect, that was a wasted six months.” Of course, the typical startup can’t afford such indulgences, lest they run out of cash before going live. Lesson learned, says Senderoff: “Don’t try to build a Porsche when you just need to build the wireframe and test whether the car will ever drive.”

2. Let the big goals shape your calendar.
Wrangling your schedule won’t necessarily be easier after you leave your 9-to-5. Between the shoestring budget, lean staff and avalanche of action items, deciding which tasks to tackle each day at your startup can get overwhelming.

For Allyson Downey, co-founder and CEO of baby-product review platform weeSpring, working at an educational nonprofit provided valuable training in organizing and prioritizing.

To stay the course, Downey relies on a chart on her desk, a carryover from her previous job, showing the day’s top goals. “I have a column called ‘user growth,’ a column called ‘revenue growth’ and a column called ‘development,’” says Downey, who is based in New York. To prevent herself from “going down the rabbit hole of fixing little things and building new features,” the development column is half the size of the other two, she says.

This means that less-pressing tasks like updating weeSpring’s About Us page take a back seat. “That has been on my to-do list for two years, and it probably will continue being on my to-do list for another two years because I need to keep my head down and focus on the stuff that’s going to move the company forward,” Downey explains.

3. Document processes.
Before Guy Baroan began running his Elmwood Park, N.J.-based IT firm, Baroan Technologies, full time, he spent several years managing an indoor amusement park. The facility employed 80 teenagers and hosted about 135 children’s birthday parties per week.

“There had to be a specific method for the hostesses to go in and run the birthday parties,” Baroan explains. Employees needed a process road map—from the timing of the cake presentation to the sale of game tokens—to keep parties running smoothly and guest meltdowns to a minimum.

Baroan was a one-man show when he left his job in 1997 to focus on Baroan Technologies. Determined to hand off some of his workload as soon as possible, he took a page from the amusement park operations and began documenting all his business practices—everything from scheduling appointments and making service calls to training workers.

“The best way to delegate is to create processes and systems,” says Baroan, who now employs 18 people and brings in $3 million in annual revenue. “Then you have a consistent method where, no matter who’s doing a task, it’s going to be done the same way.”

4. Catch problems early.

Before devoting herself to her business full time in 2012, Katie Stack spent a decade working in the costume departments of regional theaters. Often it wasn’t until the final fitting that a designer would decide on a different color or fabric for a costume and want a replacement. Between overtime and last-minute shipping costs, “suddenly the cost of that new garment was around six times what the original cost of the garment was,” says Stack, who now runs Stitch & Rivet, a design studio and retail boutique in Washington, D.C.

In selling her own handmade totes, handbags and belts, Stack ensures that the quality of the materials she orders from vendors is up to snuff before making each product. Because if she isn’t happy with a particular fabric or zipper, her wholesale customers might not be either.

Stack’s advice: “If you need to change what you’re doing, change it in the prototype stage instead of in the final stage, when you’re up a creek and can’t really backtrack.”

5. Plan for financial fluctuations.
Heidi Andermack became intimately familiar with the fluctuations of small-business cash flow during the seven years she managed her husband’s custom font company. So when she co-founded Chowgirls Killer Catering in 2004 in Minneapolis, she and partner Amy Lynn Brown set some fiscal ground rules: Limit the amount of personal credit used to float the company during lean times; avoid draining their retirement funds; seek out a bank loan as soon as they qualified.

They also relied on their business’s peaks—summer wedding season and year-end holidays—to sustain the valleys. “Learning those patterns of your business is really important,” Andermack says. “You can expect slimmer times.”

You also can expect cost overruns, adds Stack, who began padding Stitch & Rivet’s budgets for worst-case scenarios during her theater days. “Always have a contingency budget,” she says, noting that she allots 15 to 20 percent more money than she thinks she needs for website overhauls, trade shows, printed materials and product development. “If you don’t use it, that’s great. But chances are you’re going to need it.”

6. Invest in employees.
Making workers feel valued has always been a primary concern for Chowgirls’ Brown, who was paid handsomely by the multinational media company that employed her for nine years before she turned her full attention to catering. “Being treated and compensated well and receiving great benefits taught me how important that is for staff loyalty,” she says.

Chowgirls, which makes more than $2 million in annual revenue, offers its full-time staffers competitive pay and generous benefits, including four weeks of paid parental leave, three weeks of paid vacation (after three years on staff), free massages and grocery discounts. “We have a really high retention level,” Brown says.

7. Treat customers like gold.
When Baroan started his company in the late ’90s, “IT people thought they were gods,” he says. But he had no desire to build a team of smug techies who would be too arrogant to treat customers with respect. Instead, he cribbed the service philosophy of his former employer, the amusement park: “We had a major focus on treating everyone like a guest in your home rather than just somebody off the street that you’re doing a favor.”

For his IT crew, this means showing up on time, addressing customers by name, answering questions and checking whether customers need anything else before wrapping up jobs.

“People judge you by what they can relate to,” Baroan says. His customers may not know much about network configuration data, but they know when someone is courteous and reliable. Baroan credits these traits with earning his company referrals and repeat customers over the years. “That’s how the business grew,” he says.

Cutting corners is not in Kevin Jordan’s DNA. His six years as a commercial airline pilot instilled in him an unshakable discipline. Skip the required preflight inspection, and you could jeopardize lives. Now owner of Redpoint Marketing Consultants, which he opened in 2012 in Farmville, Va., Jordan applies those same standards to each project he accepts, even those involving chores he’d rather avoid—and chores that his clients may not even know about. One such task: interviewing clients’ customers for their take on the business. “Some of those things are a pain,” he says. “It’s hard to get people on the phone.”

But for Jordan, having the discipline to go the distance when no one’s watch-ing is part of the job. “Just like with the preflight inspection, the client may never realize that you did a lot of these things,” he says. “But it will make a difference in the long run. And that’s what distinguishes me from other people who do what I do.”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

6 Steps for Creating a Strong Company Culture

MAY 28, 2015, Jeremy Bloom, Contributor

In his book Fueled by Failure, entrepreneur and philanthropist Jeremy Bloom shows readers how rebound and reprogram themselves after defeat and how to use the lessons from those failures to achieve winning results. In this edited excerpt, the author reveals the five things you can include in your company culture to help create a thriving business.

Building a strong culture within a team is at the core of business success. You want a culture that recognizes and embraces shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize the goals of the organization. And it’s a good idea to make sure it suits the best people who work at the company while making a positive impression on customers and anyone else associated with the business.

Establishing a culture you believe in means having a clear and consistent vision and knowing how you'd like everyone, inside and outside, to view the company. Many old-school CEOs and leaders were often “business operations first and people second.” 

But it's the people that make a business successful. The greater inclusion of people in the operation of the business has led to far more significant contributions by employees, which spill over to more appreciation from customers. So unless you are alone with nothing but technology, your business is built around people producing products and providing services for other people.

It’s a good idea to start by sitting down with your board of directors or co-founders to write down what your core values are and how you want to weave them into the DNA of your team. It’s important that the founders uphold the culture from the very beginning. To do so, the culture has to be more than just a shared vision. If you have a vision without a strategy, it will never be more than a vision.

Following are some things I believe to be the cornerstones of a solid business culture.

1. Transparency.

At my company, we go over all the key metrics of the business with the entire company. The goal is for all employees to feel they know the thinking, responsibilities, and strategy at various levels of the company and can share ideas and feedback no matter who they are.

Another thing we do to help bring more transparency into the organization is what we call a TGIF (I got this idea from Google). Our TGIF calls take place every other Friday and are all-hands calls. Everyone in the company can participate and ask questions. Since people often feel intimidated or uncomfortable in an any-question-welcome situation, we built a private forum on the Integrate server where employees can ask anonymous questions.

2. Time to disconnect.

We all need to hit the reset button once in a while -- people can't come in early and leave late every single day without getting burnt out at some level. While you want employees to have a work-hard founder’s mentality, you need to recognize the work-life integration that exists and how significant it is to make sure you have personally fulfilled, clear-thinking people. It’s important to understand that sometimes life will get in the way of business and everyone should be allowed to take care of pressing personal matters.

3. Empowerment and a sense of freedom.
You empower people by not micromanaging, erring on the side of giving people general guidelines rather than explicit, detailed directions. Informed employees are more involved and empowered in a company. And the more freedom people have to take on tasks, manage them, find solutions, and execute them, the more they feel connected to and woven into the company’s culture.

4. Physical space.

If you haven’t watched Susan Cane’s TED Talk on introverts, I highly recommend it. She opened my mind to the idea that American businesses are built for extroverts, down to the floor plans of our office spaces. Although open spaces are great for some, other people need to be able to close the door to be at their most productive. It’s important to consider the comfort level of your employees before you decide how to lay out space or what type of office space to lease.

5. Talking to customers and employees.
At different points in a company’s maturation process, you're almost guaranteed to go through weeks or even months where you feel lost. When you haven’t nailed a product market fit or you’re having challenges relating to your product or corporate vision, the natural tendency is to turn your attention to where you or your team went wrong. Another way to try to solve these problems is by talking to your customers.

“I go out to talk to customers to understand what works and what doesn’t work in the product," says David Tomizuka, CFO at Integrate. "It [also] helps you refine your approach and know how you're going to market it. And probably the most important thing is it fires you up. You get a lot of enthusiasm from being out there with customers and talking to people about your product.”

It's also important to touch base with your employees. “As an executive, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the minutia and the day-to-day operations that you're not out on the front lines as a leader,” Tomizuka adds. “So many leaders I know never go out and talk to their employees without an agenda. I used to schedule time just to walk the halls and get a pulse on how the culture is doing, how the employees are doing, and build and develop relationships. Making personal connections makes such a difference.”

6. Your organizational design.

Simply put, organizational design is the processes, structure, and hierarchy you put into place that allow you to put your culture into practice. It’s “how you do things.” This will include your communication, company policies, team building, performance indicators, performance evaluations, division of responsibilities, and even how you schedule, and run, meetings. 

For example, do you have a weekly meeting at the same time and in the same place, or do you hold meetings only when there's something worthy of discussing at a meeting? Are meetings for all employees, division heads, or certain team members? Do you always meet in conference rooms, in a specific area of the office, or by conference calls, or does the setting change?

If designed well, everyone in the business can do his or her job more effectively. Your business culture will significantly be enhanced if the organizational design you put into place clarifies authority, responsibility, and accountability.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

5 Affordable Ways to Get Your Business Noticed Online

Daniel Negari, Contributor,, SEPTEMBER 16, 2015

If you’re a small business you likely don’t have the budget to draw prospects to your site with expensive digital ads. Which means you need to be strategic about managing the fundamental pillars of your digital presence.

Luckily, it’s not too complicated.Here are five strategies to keep in mind if you want to get your business noticed online without breaking the bank.

1. Use social media to do more than just sell your product or service.

These days, most companies are engaging with customers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social channels. But that doesn’t mean they’re doing it right.

Just like a person who constantly talks about himself, a company that never stops selling on social media is a bore. Don’t use every post and tweet to tout your product or service. Instead, mix in some links to interesting stories that are relevant to your industry and community, as well as personal posts, such as a fun anecdote about your office culture.

Don’t overdo it, however. Though frolicking kitten photos rule the Internet, they probably don’t have a place on your business’s social accounts unless you run a pet store.

2. Avoid purchasing backlinks.

Link backs to your site from other sites are said to be the biggest rank-influencing factor in SEO. If search is a huge driver of traffic to your site, it may be tempting to purchase backlinks from outfits that practice that particular dark art. Before you do so, be aware you’re taking a risk.

Google effectively views each link to your site as a vote of confidence that propels your ranking upward, and it equates buying backlinks with vote rigging. Those who are caught can be punished with a lower search ranking. In most instances, it’s not a risk worth taking.

Instead, focus on building relationships with reputable websites. You could either look for opportunities to syndicate content on websites or see if you could contribute to their site. Another option would be to do a Google search of websites that have mentioned your company in a post and requesting a link back to your website. 

3. Experiment with Instagram.

While most businesses have an active presence on Facebook and Twitter, far too many neglect Instagram. That’s a mistake. With more than 300 million users who, on average, spend 21 minutes per day
 on the app, Instagram is a powerhouse.

If you run a B2B company, you might think Instagram’s image-based platform just applies to bakeries, florists and other businesses with photogenic products, but Instagram can be a great way to make an emotional connection with current and prospective customers no matter what kind of business you’re in. It can also serve as a recruitment tool, allowing your business to showcase its company culture.

Social media management system Hootsuite’s Instagram account is a great example of this. With 13,300 followers and counting, the account shows scenes from Hootsuite’s dog-friendly office. Email-marketing service provider MailChimp’s account is similarly well run. With more than 19,000 followers, it features images, including a person in a robot costume and the company logo reproduced in latte foam.

4. Focus on securing a domain that matches your business’s industry.

There’s a widespread belief that Google penalizes new domain extensions like .nyc, .house, .flowers, .market, and the hundreds of other new top-level domains (gTLDs) in search rankings. In fact, many people assume Google doesn’t surface domains registered with these extensions at all.

That’s not the case. “Overall, our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs, [such as] .com and .org,” Google’s John Mueller explained. “Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.”

So there’s no need to make a big cash outlay to obtain your exact-match domain name on .com, instead of a new domain extension, because Google won’t reward you for it.

5. Build your own website.

Given the variety of affordable website builders at your disposal, it makes sense to take matters into your own hands. Squarespace will help you run a showstopping website for $18 a month with a business account, while a pro account on Weebly costs $12 a month. Similar to Weebly in pricing structure, WIX – which you may recognize from its Super Bowl ad – has a bare-bones free version, as well as a set of paid plans. The one recommended for small businesses is about $8 a month.

GoDaddy,, and other domain retailers combine domain registrations with their own web page design and hosting. They also offer affordable services that provide virtual storefronts and email communications. Lastly, it’s also worth checking out WordPress, which offers themes that are flexible enough to look truly customized.

As your marketing budget grows, you’ll have more decisions to make, like whether to build a mobile-optimized website and which paid marketing channels to advertise on. But if you can create a solid foundation, using the above strategies to create content and a website that resonates with your customers in the early stages, you’ll already have a significant advantage over your competitors.

5 Enjoyable Weekend Habits That Set You Up for Success

Sujan Patel, Marketer, SEPTEMBER 17, 2015

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

--Benjamin Franklin

Understandably, the weekend is a time when many workers focus on relaxation, family and fun. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that, but you can also think bigger. Instead of simply using the weekend for leisure time, there are things you can do ahead of time to help your next work week go more smoothly.

Unfortunately, we rarely appreciate the power habits can have in transforming our lives. Whether you’re new to habit-building or you’re an old hand, give these five weekend habits a try in order to set yourself up for a successful work week.

1. Get enough sleep.

Many times, we throw away our typical schedules on weekends - telling ourselves that staying out late or getting less sleep is “no problem” since it’s the weekend. But this habit sets you up for failure by making it hard to get up on schedule on Monday morning.

Everyone needs a different amount of sleep, but it’s rarely less than 6.5 to 7.5 hours. Studies show that too little sleep causes significant problems with brain function. Sleep deficiency causes trouble making decisions, controlling your mood and problem solving. Prolonged sleep deficiency can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

These negative effects keep your work week from being as productive as possible. The habit of keeping your sleep schedule regular on weekends will set you up to be much more successful at work in the coming week.

2. Make time for fun.

A weekend should be a break from work, not a continuation of it. Unfortunately, a 2010 study showed that one-third of US employees work additional hours on weekends (entrepreneurs and business owners are especially guilty of this work-related sin). Don’t do it! Take the weekend to relax, unwind and pursue your hobbies. Remember, Warren Buffett plays the ukulele in his spare time. If he’s got time for fun, so do you.

If leisure time is a foreign concept to you, try spending time playing with your children, doing an art project, enjoying time with a spouse, or just going for a walk in nature and taking in the birds and scenery. Do something you’ll enjoy. Make a habit of having fun on weekends to clear your mind and come back to the office feeling refreshed.

3. Give thanks

Many of the most successful people in the world make a habit of giving thanks. This is an especially good practice to incorporate on weekends if you’re dreading Monday morning.

Instead of hating the upcoming work week, make a habit of taking time on the weekend to be thankful for all of the good things in your life. Be grateful you have a job to go to (or a business to run), a place to live, a family and friends who love you, and much more. Write down in a special journal three to five specific things you’re grateful for, no matter how small. You’ll find making a habit of gratitude makes the upcoming work week easier to face and more enjoyable.

If you find yourself dragging at the start of the week, re-read your journal entries. The inspiration you’ll feel will help you return to work in a more successful, productive mindset.

4. Look at the big picture.

Weekends are an important opportunity to step back and look at the big picture. How are things going in your personal and professional life? An unhurried Saturday or Sunday is a good time to reflect and plan for your future. Are you happy with your career? Is your family life all you hoped it would be? If not, what kind of changes do you need to make?

Get into the habit of reviewing your progress on monthly or yearly goals. Have you been able to workout three times a week? If not, how can you work it in this coming week? By tracking how your goals are progressing, you can make changes as needed for the upcoming work week. These big picture habits help you succeed in all areas of your life - work and otherwise.

5. Plan the week Sunday night.

Many people don't think about the work week until it’s upon them. That’s asking for trouble. It’s much better to think about and plan the week ahead on Sunday night than Monday morning.

This means planning everything from the outfit you’ll wear the next day to deciding who will pick up the kids and what’s for supper. Get kids in on the act by having them choose their school clothes and making sure they have everything they need in their backpacks ahead of time. This habit will save you a ton of headache on Monday morning, enabling you to be much more successful during the week.

All of that said, the most important thing about these five tips is to make them habits. Habits - something we do all the time without thinking - are an essential way to save your brain power for more important decisions. When you habitually do all five of these things on the weekends, you’ll be set up for a successful work week, every week, without fail.

How to Get Luckier in Business and Life

Dorie Clark, Marketing Strategist,

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015

All entrepreneurs are short on time, so there’s a tendency to focus on activities that generate an immediate ROI. But when it comes to networking, that single-minded focus can be a mistake, says venture capitalist Anthony Tjan, whom I profile in my new book Stand Out.

Through extensive interviews and surveys, Tjan and his colleagues discovered that the best leaders fell into four categories: Hearts, Smarts, Guts and Luck, the name of a book they wrote in 2012 exploring what makes entrepreneurs successful. The first three make perfect sense; of course those would be useful traits for leaders. But luck was more surprising.

It turns out that’s not just a catchall to describe some inexplicable success. Instead, the "lucky" entrepreneurs had a very distinctive outlook on life. Luck is the post-facto term we apply when we realize that a certain set of moves has been beneficial. But in the moment, luck actually springs from a combination of curiosity and humility.

Too many current and aspiring leaders refuse to waste their time talking to people who aren’t immediately useful to them; they’ll make a beeline to hit up a top journalist or a prominent angel investor or potential client. But everyone else? Not so much.

The problem is, that myopia means you’re likely overlooking others around you who could ultimately be great contacts one day down the road. The lucky leaders were the ones curious enough to talk to anyone, and humble enough to realize they have a lot to learn from all comers, not just people who have already "made it" or are "higher up the food chain" professionally.

To guard against the tendency to chase superstars or only talk to people like yourself, you can follow the strategy of one man studied by psychologist Richard Wiseman. He would randomly choose a certain color before arriving at a party, and only talk to people wearing that color. Make an effort to break out of your comfort zone and talk to people who don’t look like you, or who may not fit the typical profile of who you’re expecting to meet.

The directive to get luckier may sound paradoxical. But by increasing our curiosity and humility, it’s eminently possible. To bring more luck into your life, ask yourself questions like:

How can I pare back my schedule to allow for more serendipitous encounters?

You can’t pursue interesting opportunities if you’re scheduled wall-to-wall. Make it a rule to leave at least one hour unscheduled per day, to allow room for emergencies, or lucky breaks.
How can I meet people I normally wouldn’t connect with?

Whether it’s following the “colored shirt” strategy above, or making a point to strike up a conversation with random people on a given day (your barista, the bus driver, the person in line next to you at the grocery store), it’s useful to push your social boundaries periodically.
Am I overthinking the value exchange?

It’s important to appreciate people for who they are, rather than immediately wondering what’s in it for you, or whether they’re the “right kind” of person to talk with.

Most people think of luck as something mysterious -- something you can never control. But by adopting an attitude of curiosity and humility, entrepreneurs can stack the odds in their favor that their interactions with diverse people will pay off over time. And five or 10 years later, when a connection has helped you break in to a new client or a new business opportunity, everyone will say: "Wasn’t that lucky?"

Saturday, September 5, 2015

6 Unusual Habits of Exceptionally Creative People

AUGUST 31, 2015, by Tavis Bradberry

I expend a huge amount of my time and energy writing books and articles and working to keep my company innovative. I’ve developed an obsession with some of history’s most creative minds in the hope that I might learn some tricks to expand my own creative productivity.

Some of the things I’ve learned are more useful than others, and some are simply too weird to try.

Steve Jobs, for example, routinely sat on toilets, dangling his bare feet in the water while he came up with new ideas, and Yoshiro Nakamatsu (inventor of the floppy disc) would dive deep under water until his brain was deprived of oxygen, then write his ideas on an underwater sticky pad.

Weird ideas aside, I’ve developed a pretty good understanding of the habits of some of history’s most creative minds. There’s enough commonality between different people that I’ve distilled their habits into strategies that anyone can follow.

Six of these strategies stand out because they have the power to change the way you think about creativity. Give them a try, and you’ll reach new levels of creative productivity.

1. Wake up early.

Not all creative minds are morning people. Franz Kafka routinely stayed up all night writing, and William Styron (author of Sophie’s Choice, among other best sellers) woke up at noon every day and considered his “morning” routine to be staying in bed for another hour to think.

However, early risers make up the clear majority of creative thinkers. The list of creative early risers ranges from Benjamin Franklin to Howard Schultz to Ernest Hemmingway, though they didn’t all wake up early for the same reasons. Ben Franklin woke up early to plan out his day, while Schultz uses the time to send motivational emails to his employees. For many creative people, waking up early is a way to avoid distractions. Ernest Hemingway woke up at 5 a.m. every day to begin writing. He said, “There is no one to disturb you and it is cool and cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”

The trick to making getting up early stick is to do it every day and avoid naps—no matter how tired you feel. Eventually, you will start going to bed earlier to make up for the lost sleep. This can make for a couple of groggy days at first, but you’ll adjust quickly, and before you know it, you’ll join the ranks of creative early risers.

2. Exercise frequently.

There’s plenty of evidence pointing to the benefits of exercise for creativity. Feeling good physically gets you in the right mood to focus and be productive. Exercise also forces you to have disconnected time (it’s tough to text or email while working out), and this allows you to reflect on whatever it is you’re working on. In a Stanford study, 90% of people were more creative after they exercised.

It’s no surprise that so many creative and successful people built exercise into their daily routines. Kurt Vonnegut took walks into the nearby town, swam laps, and did push-ups and sit-ups, Richard Branson runs every morning, and composers Beethoven and Tchaikovsky both walked daily.

3. Stick to a strict schedule.

It’s a common misconception that in order to be creative, one must live life on a whim with no structure and no sense of need to do anything, but the habits of highly successful and creative people suggest otherwise. In fact, most creative minds schedule their days rigorously. Psychologist William James described the impact of a schedule on creativity, saying that only by having a schedule can we “free our minds to advance to really interesting fields of action.”

4. Keep your day job.

Creativity flourishes when you’re creating for yourself and no one else. Creativity becomes more difficult when your livelihood depends upon what you create (and you begin to think too much about what your audience will think of your product). Perhaps this is why so many successful and creative people held on to their day jobs. Many of them, like Stephen King, who was a schoolteacher, produced their breakout (and, in King’s case, what many consider his very best) work while they still held a 9 to 5.

Day jobs provide more than the much-needed financial security to create freely. They also add structure to your day that can make your creative time a wonderful release. The list of successful, creative minds who kept their day jobs is a long one. Some notable individuals include Jacob Arabo, who started designing his own jewelry while working in a jewelry shop; William Faulkner, who worked in a power plant while writing As I Lay Dying; and musician Philip Glass, who worked as a plumber.

5. Learn to work anywhere, anytime.

A lot of people work in only one place, believing it’s practically impossible for them to get anything done anywhere else. Staying in one place is actually a crutch; studies show that changing environments is beneficial to productivity and creativity. E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web, said it well: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” The same is true for any type of creative work. If you keep waiting until you are in the perfect place at the ideal time, the time will never come.

Steve Jobs started Apple in his mom’s garage, and JK Rowling wrote the first ideas for Harry Potter on a napkin on a train. When you have a creative idea, don’t wait—put it into action as soon as you can. Recording that spark of creativity may very well be the foundation of something great.

6. Learn that creative blocks are just procrastination.

As long as your heart is still beating, you have the ability to come up with new ideas and execute them. They may not always be great ones, but the greatest enemy of creativity is inactivity.

Author Jodi Picoult summarized creative blocks perfectly: “I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it—when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? 

Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

Picoult’s comment describes all creative activity—the only way to stay creative is to keep moving forward.
Bringing it all together

In my experience, you must get intentional about your creativity if you want it to flourish. Give these six strategies a try to see what they can do for you.

A version of this article first appeared at

Remembering Wayne Dyer: 20 Quotes to Help You Become a Better You

SEPTEMBER 01, 2015, by Matt Mayberry

We lost a beautiful soul and human being on Aug. 29, 2015. Dr. Wayne Dyer was a pioneer in the personal-development field and made a profound difference in the lives of million of people all over the world.

Here are 20 quotes of his to not only remember a phenomenal human being, but to help motivate and inspire you to become a better you.

1. “Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.”

2. “If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t you will see obstacles.”

3. “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

4. “With everything that has happened to you, you can feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”

5. “Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.”

6. "When I chased after money, I never had enough. When I got my life on purpose and focused on giving of myself and everything that arrived into my life, then I was prosperous.”

7. "Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”

8. "Everything you are against weakens you. Everything you are empowers you.”

9. "How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.”

10. "You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”

11. "Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.”

12. "There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love. There’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.”

13. “You leave old habits behind by starting out with the thought, ‘I release the need for this in my life.'”

14. "The fact that you are willing to say, 'I do not understand, and it is fine,' is the greatest understanding you could exhibit."

15. "When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself."

16. "You may have convinced yourself that giving is impossible because you have too little for yourself. If you are not generous when it is difficult, you will not be generous when it is easy. Generosity is a function of the heart, not the wallet."

17. "It’s never crowded along the extra mile."

18. "Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be."

19. "When the choice is to be right or to be kind, always make the choice that brings peace."

20. "When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out, because that’s what’s inside. When you are squeezed, what comes out is what is inside."

One of the best ways to remember people and pay tribute to their lives is to carry on their legacies somehow, someway in your own life. Let these 20 quotes from Dr. Wayne Dyer motivate you to become more as a human being, tap into your limitless potential and take time out of your busy day to remember a man that transformed millions of lives in such a profound and powerful way.

Matt Mayberry is an internationally-acclaimed speaker and maximum performance strategist. He is the CEO of Matt Mayberry Enterprises, a company that specializes in helping individuals and organizations escape mediocrity and claim their greatness. He is also a former NFL linebacker for the Chicago Bears. 

Do Bloggers Have Too Much (Hidden) Influence Over Media Coverage?

by Alexander Russo

Last week I had the chance to talk with PDK’s Josh Starr about the media coverage of the organization’s annual poll.

Generally, Starr and his colleagues seemed pleased by the amount and quality of the attentionthey’d received. The main concern was that reporters tend to miss opportunities to return to the poll results during the year in between polls — and organizations like PDK tend to dump tons of data on journalists rather than spreading it out over a period of time (which PDK is doing this year to some extent).

At the time, Starr also shared some thoughts about how the media sausage gets made from the perspective of his former role as a district superintendent.

In case it isn’t already clear and obvious, the process that results in media coverage of schools (or anything else) is pretty messy. One big issue is how a story get assigned. Is it pitched by someone from the outside, or suggested internally by an editor or colleague based on personal experience? Is it based on what the competition is reporting, or what’s happening on Facebook or Twitter?

Often, it’s not very clear to readers, which I think is a shame. (Reporters should disclose from where a story originated, according to no one else but me.) But it’s pretty obvious where stories come from to the folks who are their sources and subjects. And that’s what Starr told me.

Especially as a district superintendent, Starr noted that education coverage of the district was often driven by social media and bloggers rather than by what he considered the central challenges or interests of parents and teachers that he was pondering or addressing.

“There’s the whole blogosphere looms so large in shaping public opinion and forcing people to respond,” he recalled. “You’d pull your hair out over what they’re reporting, the sexy stuff that has nothing to do with the agenda.”

“I have never had a reporter say, ‘Yes, I got this story from a blog,’ but you can see a throughline that exists,” says Starr when asked for a specific example. “A blog posts about it, then all of a sudden reporters are calling about it.”

In some cases, as in situations where the district is missing something big going on or trying to hide a failure, this is obviously a good thing. But in other situations, it can mean that a prolific blogger — sometimes with an ideological agenda or narrow point of view — can distract news coverage from other issues that might be more important.

Blogs and social media are coming close to eclipsing mainstream media, according to Starr — at least in terms of their ability to generate issues that reporters then cover. “They can say whatever they want. They don’t have the same rules,” he says.

And they seed mainstream coverage. “Some reporters read the blogs in order to keep up get fed information that leads them down certain pathways. The consequence is that the blog posts become the initial framing for a mainstream story….You’re just playing defense all the time.”

My sense is that this is more of an issue in small and medium districts, where reporters are newer and lack as much background and resources to be able to sift through advocates’ claims and hidden motivations. But it happens in large and national publications, too. Sometimes the bloggers are just better-sourced and more knowledgeable than anyone else. Even then, however, I think it would be fair to the blogger and credibility-generating to the mainstream news publication if the sources of the ideas behind news stories were indicated to readers.

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at@alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at

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Cathy Harris is an Empowerment and Motivational Speaker, Non-GMO Health and Wellness Expert, Self-Publishing and Business Coach.