School’s out for Summer

Summer slows everything down, people are away, there’s a sense of school holidays even if you’re not a kid and don’t have kids, the evenings are long and light and when you can you’re lapping up your year’s supply of Vitamin D.

Life is ebb and flow, there’s time for speed and a time to slow down. Think of a garden; you don’t plant a seed and expect to see a tree the next day. The art of patience allows for a natural pace, the need for speed forces artificial pressure on a creative process. Think of Genetically Modified Foods. They grow quick and taste of nothing. In the film industry we use the three pronged model: quick, cheap, good. You can only have two of the three. Quick and cheap, but not good. Quick and good, but not cheap. Cheap and good but not quick.

Have dreams

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Even instant gratification takes too long” Carrie Fisher is quoted as saying. But she has Bipolar Disorder. “I would get really impatient. I was going faster than everything else around me, and it drove me crazy. You feel out of step with the world” She has achieved a lot, being talented and manic. Her 1987 book Postcards from the Edge hit the New York Times bestseller list and won her the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel; and she’s published three bestsellers since. More recently she’s turned her memoir Wishful Drinking into a one-woman play, as well as an HBO special.

But you don’t need to be Manic to achieve a lot. I’m from the School of Plod, you do a little and often and you can incrementally produce a large body of work. The art is in consistent application. It’s like saving money. You put in 3% of your wages and over time you have built up a substantial nest-egg. It’s called Compound Interest. Day one you put in £1, Day 2 you put in another £1 and you’ve already doubled your money. Day 4 you’ve quadrupled your initial deposit. The same with writing a book; two hours a day or 1000 words and in 80 days you’ve got your first draft.

where's your hideaway

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Carl Honore wrote In praise of Slowness, a book on the need to slow down. He speaks of how we have added speed to everything; speed-reading, speed-walking, speed-dating. He even passed a gym in New York offering speed-yoga. We believe ourselves to be time poor, so pack more in, we run faster and we feel like we have even less time than ever. We do nothing properly, we leap frog from one task to another. Marinade, savour, mull, languish, ponder, wander, contemplate, peruse, explore, lie fallow, are words we have ejected from our vocabulary and left to curl and wither under the heat of our soles pounding tarmac.

When you slow down you simply do things better. Eating, sleeping, making love, creating, inventing, designing all become better when slowness is your modus operandi. Understanding this has created the international Slow Movement, which started in Italy but has slowly spread around the world. Slow Food, growing, consuming in an organic sustainable way that celebrates pleasure and health. Slow Cities where people slow down, smell the roses and connect with one another; slowing traffic, putting in places for people to sit, read, take a breather and decompress, green spaces, art works for contemplation, poetry on the underground.

The Scandanavian countries are showing that you don’t need to work at the speed of light in order to have a kick-ass economy. They work reasonable hours and they are now among the top six most competitive nations on earth. They understand that in order to be more productive people need to be able to work fewer hours, to unplug, to sit in a quiet room. In order to be creative we need to switch off and re-charge on a regular basis.

So take timeout over Summer, use it as an opportunity to kick back and let your creative mind take over. Day dream, chill out and enjoy the view. Then in September you can come back to life and hit the ground running.

If the thought of September scares you, if you are wanting to get out of the rat race but don’t know how, I can work with you to find another way. Lou@createlab.co.uk

If you are coach and want to take your practice to the next level join us on our Quantum Coaching Bootcamp workshop. Warning: It’s not for the faint-hearted

Motivational Mondays: I am not Creative

“I’m not creative” is a defensive strike, stated loudly by those wishing to dissociate themselves from Strange Artistic Types. Fear not, opening up to your sleeping creativity will not immediately have you spraying anonymous politico-art statements on the side of bridges or get you suspended from a gallery ceiling while people throw paper balls at you. Here is a fact. To think creatively you do not have to be an Artist.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Yes Artists have finely tuned their creative thinking skills, which they use in the pursuit of Art. But you too can get your creativity out from under the dustcovers of primary school, which was the last time most of us were encouraged to use it, spritz it with a good dose of WD40 and get cracking on directing it in any way you want. But to do that lets first understand what it is, how we can improve it and then how to put it to good use.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

By nature humans are creative. We are curious, we challenge, we play with ideas, we experiment, we investigate, we invent, we innovate, we imagine, we change, we conceptualise, we solve problems. That is how humanity has developed. And the ability to use it is one the most critical life skills we can develop. We have a monopoly on it. No animal or supercomputer can compare to our capability to think creatively. And if you are choosing a career or business, find one that has infinite capacity to expand on your creativity. Creative Thinking can’t be outsourced to China. Developing it will keep you constantly in demand. It differentiates you from those who are bound by logical, traditional, linear thinking and systemized, number crunching, rule-laden productivity. Build your creative muscle and it will give you the edge. Be the one to generate ideas and procedures, notice how elements can be improved and implemented to make the whole more efficient, more enticing, more in demand.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

David and Tom Kelly of the innovative global design company IDEO, responsible for Apple’s first mouse and Proctor & Gamble’s stand-up toothpaste dispenser, have written a book called Creative Confidence. In it they tell the story of a guy called Doug Deitz who helps lead design and development of high-tech medical imaging systems for GE Healthcare, an $18 billion division of one of the largest companies in the world. His multimillion-dollar CT Scanners peer painlessly inside the human body in ways that would have been considered extraordinary not that long ago.

A few years back, Doug completed a project on a CT scanning machine that he had spent two and a half years working on. When he got the opportunity to see it installed in a hospital’s scanning department, he jumped at the chance. Standing next to his new machine, Doug talked with the technician who was operating it that day. He told her that the CT scanner had been submitted for an International Design Excellence Award—the “Oscars of design”—and asked her how she liked its new features.

Doug was patting himself on the back for a job well done, his question somewhat rhetorical. What happened next certainly wasn’t what he was expecting. The technician asked him to leave, so that her patient could have her scan. He walked out into the corridor and saw the frail girl walking towards him, gripping her parents’ hands, visibly frightened, her parents no less anxious; all in anticipation of her having to climb inside Doug’s machine. As the family passed by, Doug saw the girl was crying.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

In all his self-congratulation Doug had never considered what it was actually like for a child to lie down on the sliding base and be maneuvered into the claustrophic, cylindrical tomb, having to be completely still and alone whilst bombarded by unfamiliar mechanical sounds. In fact most children had to be sedated in order to lie still long enough for the equipment to do its job. It had never once dawned on him that using his ground-breaking machine was so utterly terrifying. The incident shook him to the core. Rather than an elegant, sleek piece of technology, worthy of accolades and admiration, his innovation was the source of anguish and misery.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Doug consulted with his friends and colleagues, wracking his brains for a solution. Someone suggested he attend a week-long executive creative education workshop that would test and challenge his perceptions. He was introduced to the idea of human-centred approach to design and innovation. Instead of thinking about the function and aesthetics of his machine, he thought about the child who was to use it. It re-invigorated his creative confidence. He experimented and played with the concepts that arose around the child’s experience, building on a cross-pollination of ideas with the others in the group. He learned to look outside of his usual frame of reference.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Back home his creative instincts took hold as he talked to child life specialists and paediatric experts and he studied children at play, absorbing what engaged, inspired and excited them. What he came up with completely transformed the children’s experience. He created his ‘Adventure Series’, turning the CT scanning machines into an adventure, decorating them as spaceships or pirate ships, with the staff in character leading the child in the starring role, onto their voyage. The amount children needing to sedated during the scanning process was dramatically reduced.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

With a spin of creative thought he learned to design not from his ego but from the perspective of the child. He boosted his creative mindset and challenged himself to push beyond the status quo. When we do this we build our creative confidence and we are able to increase the span of our vision. We can have a greater positive impact on the world around us in our lives and at work as we approach problems with our children, our partners, colleagues, and clients, with empathy and intuition.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Creative thinking opens us up to a whole realm of opportunities. Look at The Internet, Space-travel, the Wheel. Wherever we turn we come across the results of someone’s creativity. We are surrounded by potential waiting for us to grab hold of it and turn it into something life-enhancing. The more we look, observe and question the more we can make the most of our lives and our businesses. How can we make money while we sleep, how can we eat more healthily on a budget, how can we stay youthful looking without injecting rat poison into our skin, how can we help our children to develop their ideas and become independent confident young people, how can we avoid getting miserable in the winter, how can we find our passion and purpose, how can can we get more fun out of a longstanding relationship, how can we revamp our wardrobe, how can we grow our business without working ourselves to an early grave?

Photo-hailu by Lou Hamilton

Photo-haiku by Lou Hamilton

By asking questions we can instigate and manifest positive change. Using our creative thinking skills we develop a more active and less passive role in our own lives. We implement, cope with and adapt to change. By building our creative muscle we will trust our intuition, act on our instincts and be in the driver’s seat on a journey of opportunity, growth, fulfillment and transformation.

Photo by Lou Hamilton

Photo by Lou Hamilton

So next time you are stuck, ask yourself, how else can I think about this? Write down the problem and brainstorm all other possibilities, keep asking why and how, challenge your first responses, talk to other people, research other approaches, don’t accept a solution until it takes you to where you want to be. Understand it is a process of questioning, challenging and transforming, all in the pursuit of something better.

If you want to feel good, work well and build a better life, invest in a Creative Thinking coach who will work with you to develop your creative thinking skills. Email me on Lou@createlab.co.uk

Follow my daily Picture Posts on Twitter: @createlab.co.uk Instagram: create_lab Facebook: Lou Hamilton

Motivational Mondays: No to Naysayers

‘Who do you think you are?’ is the name of a TV series getting people to trawl through their family history to unearth new information about their forebears and cast a different light on who they are on the back of it.

road less travelled

It implies you are the sum of generations rolled up and reincarnated into a model of baggage and inherited personas. Think of your hang ups. Do you procrastinate, doubt yourself, live in fear, pray for the end of the week, compare yourself negatively with others, put up with naysayers, people please, put yourself down, etc etc? Wherever all that stuff came from (blame the ancestors if you like) it is certainly not helping you now. Is it possible to cast off the shadow and reinvent a new you?

Head in the clouds

Imagine not feeling those things? Imagine waking up in the morning and saying like President Obama “Yes I can?” With New Year’s Resolutions we promise ourselves a mental make-over, but unfortunately sheer will power usually isn’t man or woman enough for the job. You need to get creative to upscale your mindset. Creative thinking will trick your deeply entrenched resistance into shedding the shackles of years of self-sabotage.

Inspiration is everywhere

How does it work? Well it’s basis is in anti-logic. The usual solutions haven’t done the trick, so you have to get cunning. Resistance thinks ‘can’t’- creative thinking does something out of the blue, beyond the pail, something ridiculous or subverted or upside down. It spins our brain and our patterns of behaviour and our damaging beliefs, out of orbit and into a place where ‘Can’ is actually possible.

Light changes everything

The two words we coaches hear more often than anything (yes to our ears they are swear words! ) are : “Yeah but…” When we hear them we know that person is wallowing in the mudflats of misery and will bat you away with the deftness of a hippopotamus’s tail swatting flies.

“Yeah but I’m not creative, yeah but I’m no good at that, yeah but I’m not qualified, yeah but I’m a woman in a man’s world, yeah but I’m too old, yeah but I’m working class, yeah but I’m not clever enough, yeah but I’m shy, yeah but I’m broke, yeah but…” The yeah-butters are very creative in finding reasons to not change or transform themselves even when they say they want to. The yeah-butters put their energy into the treadmill of resistance. What they are really saying is “I have decided it is not possible”.

Sky high dreams

But there is very little that you can’t get around somehow, if you choose to. Beethoven had gone completely deaf when he wrote his 9th Symphony. The great photorealist painter Chuck Close was paralysed so badly by a blood clot on the spine that he couldn’t even pick up a paint brush. He had his paintbrush strapped to his wrist and he developed a new technique in paintings. His work became even more successful than before.  I bet no one heard either Beethoven or Close say “Yeah but…”

Fling open your doors

And then when you’ve won the battle against yourself, you run headlong into the frontline of Naysayers who hide behind the shields of “we don’t want to see you fail, we’re only thinking of your best interests, we don’t want you to get hurt, we’re only trying to protect you, we don’t want you to humiliate yourself.” The list goes on. If they were people who had become immensely successful and happy on the back of this fearful approach, then by all means it would be ok to listen to their concerns. But they’re not. Do you think Richard Branson took any notice of Naysayers proclaiming that setting up an airline was madness? I imagine the only voices he listened to were the ones saying “why the hell not?” And now he owns an Island in the Carribean. I doubt those Naysayers are his neighbours.

Houston we have lift-off

If those negative voices are your own or someone else’s put up a big STOP sign and work on some creative strategies to turn around the yeah-buts and discard the naysayers:

7 Ways to “Yes!”

  1. For every yeah-but write down 10 reasons it could work out
  2. Write down the consequences of staying the same
  3. Think of the people you admire who have achieved great things, imagine the naysayers they met along the way and what yeah butting things those naysayers would have said. Write them down and then do what your hero did and throw them away.
  4. Research 5 successful people and find out how many rejections they had along the way. Make a colourful collage of all the rejections you’ve received and turn it into a Mandela for never giving up.
  5. Spend the day pretending you are already doing thing you want to do or being the person you want to be.
  6. Put yourself in a different context or with different people. It shifts your perspective.
  7. Focus on what you love doing and are happy to apply yourself to day in and day out. That is the only way to get good at something. Naysayers will have a hard time stopping you from doing what you love.

‘A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do’ Bob Dylan

If you need some help transforming your thinking or you are stuck in a groove, get yourself a Creative Thinking Coach. Email Lou@createlab.co.uk

For my daily photo-quotes & drawings follow me on Twitter @createlab Instagram create_lab Facebook Lou Hamilton

Hideaways gestate ideas

Stan the Man- Scoring Success

I spent Sunday morning in bed with Stanley Matthews and his autobiography The Way It Was. If ever there was a pioneer for positive mental attitude it was he. What a man. Stan the Man. Beloved Wizard of Dribble who saw his failings as stepping stones to success, a man who started with nothing but a rubber ball and a will to win and became famed for his performance for Blackpool in their FA Cup Final win in 1953.

victory in success

My partner is shooting a feature documentary about Stanley Matthews and I was intrigued by how much he had captured the hearts of generations. There have been other brilliant football players but arguably none so well loved. What was it about him that made him so successful and so popular? He was certainly single minded, his goal to win as part of his DNA as his studs were to his boots. But he was also generous spirited, understood the importance of teamwork, celebrated the successes of his fellow players and appreciated and learned from those on the opposition who aced him.

He was a respectful, courteous, modest, hard working and optimistic man who protected his family from the limelight. He loved football with a passion and saw it as a microcosm of life itself, reflecting on and sharing how to get the most out of it and the lessons to be learned from it. Eventually he was to tour the world spreading the ‘gospel of football’ as he called it.

His love affair with the game started as a lad but from early on his dad drummed into him to ‘expect  nowt’ and never be disappointed. His dad wasn’t given to outward displays of affection but his few words were wise and put the young Stanley in good stead. He taught him to keep humility in the face of aplomb and applause but to be confident in his ability through hard work and the right mental attitude.

Bend with the blows and bounce back

Bend with the blows and bounce back

He studied the game, he read every football book going, he pioneered good nutrition before science and sports were ever linked and he developed and practised his techniques every day until it was dark. He made it hard for himself, muddied the ground, put weights in his boots, and he raised his own stakes, tricking his brain and his body to think and act quicker, instinctively, intuitively. The tougher he made it for himself the better he got. With no guarantees, as in life, that it would get him where he wanted to be.

When he fudged his second International game as a relative newbie against Germany in 1935 he could have sunk under a barrage of self-criticism that made the surrounding press coverage look kind. “He did nowt against Italy and he did nowt tonight. He’s not good enough, simple as that.” But his dad took him aside and told him, that game’s done, no sense dwelling on it other than to learn from his mistakes and focus on the games to come.

Stanley took his dad’s words to heart and in his next match at Stoke he stormed it. He spotted his dad in the crowd and raised his fist to his head. A silent message of understanding that it was his strong mental attitude that won the day. It was that spirit of hard work and positivity that kept him on his toes throughout his career. It stayed with him to his retirement at 50 and beyond into his global mission and campaigning work to use football to help get kids off the streets and into lives that contained hope. He taught them to know what hope is made of.

None of us knows what is in store for us but hope is having a dream, making it our goal and training and preparing to make it happen. Who knows what the week will bring, but we can prepare for success with hard work and positive mental attitude. We can lay the ground work so when opportunity comes knocking we are pumped and ready, at the top of our game to grasp it with every sinew, pore, bone, nerve and muscle.

5 Top Tips to scoring success

  1. Know your goal. Picture it as clearly as if it’s real in front of you.
  1. Work out what actions you need to take
  1. Do something every day that will take you nearer to achieving your goal
  1. Embrace the things that trip you up. Understand how you can learn from them and use the challenges to make you better at what you do
  1. Practise patience but be prepared to act fast when the opportunity arises. Trust your gut instinct and go for it!

Queen of Dreams

When we’re trudging to work on a Monday morning in drizzle, traffic or overcrowded tube it’s hard not to see the freedom of the weekend slipping away into the fug of oncoming doom and overladen desktop.

Dream Big

Dream Big

Dreams are for the mildly insane we think, or at the very least best kept to the hours of midnight to 6am before reality kicks in with the jangling of the alarm clock. Who has time to fritter away idle precious seconds dreaming of wild adventures, best selling novels, Oscar winning performances, incomes sailing way above outgoings, picking up a Nobel peace prize, winning the Derby with your own steed, building a space rocket to take passengers into space.

Dare to walk on the wild side

Dare to walk on the wild side

We tell ourselves, as we neck back that treble strength expresso and launch into the Monday mayhem of demands, deadlines and office squabbles, such thinking is for the likes of Richard Branson and JK Rowling. The rest of us mere mortals have mortgages to pay, kids to feed and bosses to obey. Our wages barely get us through the month as it is so why would we take any further risk and go it alone into the mine field existence of entrepreneurial endeavour or running off to join a circus?

What new beginnings can you create?

What new beginnings can you create?

However, if you listen to JK Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech you’ll hear the words of a woman who had nothing but the dress on her back and a bunch of dreams that she had the courage to weave into the wild and wonderful adventures of Harry Potter. The rest wasn’t quite history. She tells us her path was paved with failure upon failure and she got used to picking up the pieces of shattered hopes until with perseverance and determination she cracked the code and her dreams took flight.

Her message to embrace failure spoken to young academics unused to failure is on one level amusing- these people will undoubtedly continue to sail the winds of sweet success, marry beautiful people, own big houses and cars and collect a substantial golden package on retirement. But what if they harbour secret dreams that don’t fit with their specified career trajectory, what if they really want to be a stand-up comic or invent the natural organic alternative to Botox or save children in Syria? Well then JK Rowling’s words will awaken the giant within because they will be faced with a choice, relative security of the known or the roller coaster ride of pursuing the dream.

We all dream, we all have choices but will we choose to do what ever it takes to manifest those dreams or will we stuff our dreams away until our knees crumble under the weight of a lifetime tied to a desk we wish we hadn’t chosen?

Avoid regrets in old age by making your dreams happen while you can

Avoid regrets in old age by making your dreams happen while you can

As a coach I help people find their big dream or manifest the dreams they already have. It’s about building confidence, fighting off fears, risk taking, and thinking outside the box.
I am helping my son, still at University, to build his new business SelvageLondon. His dream is to make people feel good through affordable bespoke perfectly fitting jeans. My daughter still in the middle of A Levels has just bought her own domain name RubyMayLondon and I am helping her develop a vlogging business in which she intends to encourage people to use safe homemade organic natural cosmetics (i.e. non-toxic).

I am happy that my kids have big dreams, are willing to take risks, collect their failures along the way and manage their own destinies. Running your own business is not for everybody of course but dreams come in all shapes and sizes and when you find one that niggles away at you, keeps you awake at night, gives you goose bumps and shivers of excitement when you allow yourself to think about it, please consider the option of diving in and making it happen. Life is too short not to.

If you need help making your dreams come true why not do a six or nine session (10th session free) coaching course with me and I’ll help you develop the right mindset to achieve the life you really want.

Believe you can make your dreams come true

Believe you can make your dreams come true

5 Top Tips to Making Dreams Come True

1. Write your dreams down

2. Give yourself a time-frame

3. Break the Dream into small manageable steps

4. Get a dream buddy or coach to keep you accountable

5. Find areas in your life where your dream is already showing up. This might be in a different way to what you imagine. Look hard- I have a belief that often what we search for elsewhere is actually happening in some way right beneath our noses. In this way act AS IF your big dream is already happening.