Let’s Start a New Exercise Program …

Jump for Joy“The only exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions, running down their friends, side-stepping responsibility, and pushing their luck!”

Author Unknown

This saying always makes me smile, but a lack of critical thinking skills is not a joke.

The ability to clearly describe problems, find possible solutions, evaluate and test those possibilities, and ultimately decide on the most effective path is pure gold for both employers and employees.

Employers desperately need people on their payroll who understand and can use creative and critical thinking skills to solve problems.  Solving problems results in higher profits, lower costs, more satisfied customers, and more engaged employees.  Now who doesn’t want all that …?

Employees desperately need to prove their understanding of and ability to use creative and critical thinking skills to solve problems.  Solving problems results in better job satisfaction, a close tie to the organization and its processes, and a more marketable skill set.   Everybody wins …

However, I see one issue arise repeatedly as people attempt to solve problems …  few people are willing to do the hard work of data collection and research that underlies most effective decision-making …

In a world where we can slide more than an encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge into our pockets and where facts are plentiful, if not always credible …When our ability to objectively analyze situations and weigh conflicting opinions and position statements is reduced or marred by partisan affiliations and ideological warfare …

At a time when we can do a lot and too often attempt exactly that, without concern or regard for the consequences of filling our days and nights with superficiality …

Creative and critical thinking is just not that easy … but immensely worth it.

Look It Up

“Jumping to conclusions might be an enjoyable mental exercise, but it’s not nearly as good for you as digging for facts.”

Author Unknown

Trying not to jump without a very good reason and solid support in the Heartland ….


Four Reasons Why I Will Never Write a Book …


Actually, I’ll never get past writing the title to a book …

Here’s why.   I cannot or will not:

1)  … Use absolute or hyped terms  like “Secret”, “Ultimate”, “Last”, “Only”. “Biggest”, “Best”, “Worst”, “Everyone” or any other term which indicates an absolute.

The use of absolute terms which cannot be proven or supported probably qualifies as “low-hanging fruit” in the teaching of critical thinking skills.   People tend to use absolute terms in everyday language with little or no conscious consideration of what they imply through that use. 

2)  … Be pinned down by numbers, such as “Three”, “Five”, “Seven”, “Nine”, “Thirteen”, or “any other number which indicates a finite number of strategies, techniques, rules for living, or ways to do something.

Sometimes numbers in a book title are very descriptive, evocative, and useful in a title:  “1984” or “Seven Years in Tibet” are examples of this.

Sometimes they are not:  “25 Ways to Beat The Pants Off Your Competition“, “10 Surefire Strategies to Lose Weight Without Moving or Dieting“, “7 Habits of Highly _______________ (fill in the blank with your own topic or group – must include both an adjective and a noun).

Apparently I have no problem with numbers in a blog post title:)

3) Promising that someone will experience or achieve something.  Shoot, I can’t even always control what I do, let alone a bunch of anonymous readers.

When I see titles like “Surefire Ways to Become Rich” and “The Only Guide to Chewing Gum You’ll Ever Need“, my immediate reaction is to become extremely cynical and mistrusting of the author and the book.

I also include most uses of the words “Exposed” and “Revealed“, just because they sound like hype.

4) Titles that degrade other people:  “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations” and “How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter” , for example.

Notice the equal time given to the two major political divisions – I’m just too even-handed to play the partisan game, even though I strongly agree with one of these titles.

Bonus Point:   I also hate titles that mention one topic (i.e. writing a book) , but do not show the real content of the piece (i.e.book titles) … very misleading.

So what did I miss about book titles?

Considering what else to do with my time in the Heartland ….


Enough of This Positive Thinking Already!

“I am so sick of all the positive thinking messages that are infesting Facebook!”

Not quite an exact quote, but close enough for accuracy and my purposes.

This comment was recently made in an online post, along with a request for those who are tired of the constant stream of “think good thoughts” and positive quotes that seem to be flooding many online networking sites these days to add their voices.   The underlying message seemed to be:

1)  Life is hard and those who post positive messages are ignoring that fact.

2)  Positive thinking is shallow and not reality-based.

3)  We are seeing an epidemic of people sharing sappy feel-good messages on social networking sites.

4)  Without context, all this is just annoying.

Ahem … let me respond, since I am one who posts, reposts, and shares positive thinking from a wide variety of sources on a daily basis.

First, you are right, to some extent.  I am seeing much more posting and sharing of all types of positive thoughts, from religious to whimsical to thought-provoking.  We just disagree about the value of what we both see.

Second, this is a response to the times in which we live.   Life is not easy for many these days, with little relief in sight.   Hard times tend to affect people in one of two distinct ways:  We either get more focused on thinking positively or we fall into thinking negatively.

Third, while posting a positive thought does not change the physical or economic reality of the world, benefits do accrue.  When I post a happy thought:

1)  I am reminded that not all is doom and gloom and politics.   Life does contain little treasures, if we just pay attention.   I am not denying the negative when I focus on the positive – just making a decision, the same one we all can make.

2)  I firmly believe that sharing positive thoughts helps others.  Maybe to ninety-nine folks, what I share is just trivial, simplistic, or trite.   To that one other, it may be just what they need at the time to make it through another day.  I know other’s sharing has helped me.

3)  I feel better because I am sharing positively, rather than negatively.  Sort of like engaging in empathy rather than sympathy – both are focused on the challenges faced by others, but empathy is infinitely more helpful than sympathy.  I can feel sorry for someone, but when I take the time to understand their emotions, I am in a better position to help them.

4)  I do not believe that positive thinking denies reality.   The very need to engage in positive thinking reinforces the realities which which we all deal every single day.

Life can be challenging.  Better to face it with a smile than a frown.

I should share that thought … 🙂

I honestly enjoy thinking , creating, and sharing positive thoughts with others.  I plan to keep right on and I hope you will too

Thinking in terms of abundance rather than scarcity in the Heartland ….


Inventiveness …

Charles Kettering in Mechanical Engineering: Volume 66 (1944)

Inventiveness is all about creativity, right?

… and creativity is some magical trait that only a few favored folks can enjoy, while the rest of us are slaves to our chosen fields, right?

I think creativity also mandates that you have to wear berets and loud clothing too, but I’m not absolutely sure on that part.

Of course, the above is not true.     Creativity is not magical, it’s simply learning to think in different patterns than we learn in traditional education.

Anyone can be creative, given the right circumstances and some support.

I am assuming that “education” used in Kettering’s statement refers to formal and traditional education.   We do need to take our “book learning” seriously … we just need to know when not to rely on it.

What does our education give us and what do we need to remember?

Varied Knowledge:  Remember all those classes which you thought had no usefulness to you, but you had to take?   The awareness of at least the basic concepts within a wide range of areas is a hallmark of a well-educated person.

Just remember that facts and concepts are only as valuable as their usefulness.

Discipline to Learn:  Nothing to sneeze at, since some folks never really grasp the value of being able to learn.  They focus on learning a specific thing and place their faith in that field or topic.   Topics and knowledge come and go.  The ability to learn lasts.

Those who concentrate on a specific subject to the exclusion of all else run the risk of not recognizing connections.   When we miss the connections, we miss the greater value.

Integration is Key to Creativity

When we know something about many things and can easily incorporate new knowledge, we bring a much stronger array of cognitive ability to bear on our creative and critical thinking.

Trying to connect the dots in the Heartland ….


Some Reflections on Reflection …

Dan Rockwell is a renowned expert on leadership development and an award-winning blogger.Writing at The Leadership Freak , Dan is conducting an interesting exercise.    He has provided 16 quotes about leadership and invited folks to “expand, correct, clarify, and/or modify” one or more.

At the core of this simple exercise is Reflection. 

Reflection is essential to the learning process.  This learning skill involves three related elements when we reflect on something, whether it is an event, a statement, or an emotion.

As leaders, we should regularly engage in the practice of reflection:

ACKNOWLEDGE- We decide to pay attention 

First, we have to actually regard the thing on which we reflect.  We have to pay attention to it, focus on the dynamics and the characteristics of the thing.

When we reflect on statements, one effective technique is to consider each word and its meaning separately at first.  This focus on parts can often reveal deeper meaning than when we just consider the whole.

When we pay attention, we notice things that otherwise are missed.

This step may seem obvious, but how often have you or someone you know been “too busy” to stop and focus? Continue reading