Undisruptable: A Mindset of Permanent Reinvention

Undisruptable: A Mindset of Permanent Reinvention

It’s the first day of the last month of 2022. Whew!   Amid the whirl of holiday plans and wrapping up the business of this year, it’s time to start planning for next year. Thinking ahead can seem daunting when you are focused on what’s in front of you.  Instead of talking about setting goals and resolutions, we’re going to spend the next four weeks discussing how adopting new ways of thinking can help us, not only with our goals for the coming year, but the vision for our life.

With the disruption of the lockdowns, I noticed a pattern in my own career. In the past, I have focused on doing a good job, which meant I was always reacting to events, instead of anticipating them. Striving to do a good job is a wonderful quality in a creator and an employee. But in today’s fast changing world, thinking strategically and being able to pivot are valuable skills to cultivate.

Undisruptable: A Mindset of Permanent Reinvention by Aidan McCullen

I read  this book  so you don’t have to! Here are the takeaways.

S Curves: A Framework for Permanent Reinvention

McCullen’s big idea is that the moment you are the most successful, that is the time to reinvent yourself because paradoxically you are already declining.  This idea is both depressing and empowering.  Depressing, because if you are at the top of your game, who wants to think about failing?  And empowering because the S Curve offers a framework to keep evolving and thus keep succeeding. 

The difficulty lies in recognizing we have reached the peak and what we can do to prevent the decline.  When everything is going right, it is easy to feel like failure is impossible. Consequently, when we are at our most successful, we are also at our most vulnerable.   To stay relevant, we must be constantly learning and evolving, both in our careers and life.  The willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable is at the heart of permanent reinvention. 

This is what McCullen’s S Curve looks like.

The S Curve Phases

Phase One: An idea. Your idea may be a new career, project, or skill you want to learn.

Phase Two: The beginning. A new career or learning a new skill or role. For example, you are writing your first few screenplays.

Phase Three: Things are going great! You have been promoted or mastered a new skill. As a creative you are making money and getting attention with your projects.

Phase Four: Success! Danger! The Success Trap. After succeeding, you rest on your laurels, believing that you know everything and stop learning and growing. You keep doing what you’re doing and feel threatened when anyone suggests that you could do it better or another way.

Phase Five: Stagnation, decline, and decay.

Phase Six: Jump the S Curve! You transition from success you have achieved today to possible successes tomorrow.

Jumping the S Curve:  Building New Skills

Building capability before you need it allows you jump the S Curve. Notice how the second curve starts long before we reach the peak of the first one. To jump you must start the second curve at the same time you climb the first, not when the first one is declining.  What this means is that when you are successful, that is the time to create a new vision and learn new skills.

The key is to change long before you need to because by the time we realize we need to change, it is often too late.  In happy times it is easier to try new things and recover from mistakes.  Even more challenging, jumping to a new curve always looks like a step backwards and you never know when to jump.  To stay ahead of the curve (pun intended) you must always be jumping – that is the mindset of permanent reinvention. 

The Infinity Curve:  Always Be Jumping

In our new mode of permanent reinvention, the S Curve turns into an Infinity Curve.

If you want success and growth in the future, the best time to act is now.  The secret to living in an Infinity Curve is to let go of what no longer works for you and learn skills which will work in and for your future.  To operate like this, we must reframe our relationship with change, seeing it as an opportunity rather than a threat.

How to Live in Permanent Reinvention

Embrace Resistance

Change brings resistance because people are comfortable with the status quo.  Whether it is suggesting a new idea at work or starting a new exercise routine, you will feel resistance from others and yourself.  See this resistance as a milestone.  We can expect pushback when pushing boundaries. Resistance is a natural part of any transformation.

Embrace Failure

When you try new things, often you fail.  And if you never fail, you never move forward.  Failing and making mistakes is how we learn.  McCullen says there are always assets in the ashes if you take the time to look for them.  Mistakes are only failures if we don’t learn from them.  Work on finding the assets in your ashes and bouncing back quickly. 

Embrace Cycles – the Highs & Lows

Seeing life as a series of cycles makes it easier to let the hard times go. You know the good times will come around again.  When things don’t work out as planned, you still gain valuable lessons. In an Infinity Curve the highs will outweigh the lows.

Embrace Obstacles

As  Ryan Holiday  says, “the obstacle is the way.” Failures often reveal something much better than you had envisioned. Understand there is a positive with every negative. That when you have a negative encounter, you know it is temporary and a positive experience is on the way.

Embrace Fear

Fear is an intrinsic part of the S Curve in the beginning, but it dissipates as you climb the curve.  In permanent reinvention mindset, you recognize fear as growing pains.  These growing pains are the fuel of the Infinity Curve. There is no destination. Every time we become comfortable, we enjoy the crest of the wave, but we don’t sit still.  We add a little bit more and more discomfort until we become comfortable and then the cycle starts again.

Embrace Crisis

When crises happen in life, they are devastating in the moment, but potentially reveal opportunities. By shaking us from our existing paths, unforeseen paths are uncovered. To adapt and benefit from the change, we must be flexible and ready. A crisis can be viewed as danger or an opportunity.

Let Go of the Past

Letting go of mindsets that served us in the past, makes room for new ones that will shape our future.  Do you want to be defined by your record of the past or driven by your vision of the future?

Conclusion:  Don’t wait for the storm to hit; get ahead of it.

To stay on the Infinity curve we must stay hungry, keep learning and continually evolve.  When you have a big success, enjoy it.  Also, ask yourself what is next.  What is my next step?  What skills do I need to make it happen?  Stay curious.  Stay humble.  And ride the Infinity Curve.


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Oops!  Learning in Public

Oops! Learning in Public

Last week I sent out the newsletter missing a paragraph! Oops! You can read the correction here. That mistake didn’t feel great because it was in public. But it got me thinking that as creatives the only way we learn is in public. Whether you’re writer, an actor, visual artist, or a filmmaker, you put your work out into the world and learn from each experience. The next time you and your project are even better. Every week I feel a twinge when I hit publish.

The people I think are the bravest are stand up comics. They tell stories about their own life on stage by themselves. It is the rawest kind of performance and writing combined. And stand up is created in public. Comics tell jokes, seeing what works and what flops. Constantly refining their act before it is “official” and they go on tour. The serious ones go on stage almost every night. If you live in Los Angeles or New York, you can see well known comedians working on their new acts. When I was going to a lot of stand up, I would see the same people over and over. It was fascinating how their bits changed over time.

Like stand up, this newsletter is a constant work in progress as I learn from my experience, my research, and your feedback. I really appreciate your patience when there is a mistake like last week. And I love hearing from you about what you like and don’t like.

When something doesn’t go quite right in your life or in your career, do your best to react with grace. Laugh at yourself. Pick yourself up and move on. Remember everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes they lead to a breakthrough. Penicillin was famously discovered when mold accidentally grew in a dirty Petri dish. Mistakes can fuel your creativity. One time in high school, I turned in a two part creative writing piece with the wrong part as the first page. My teacher went on and on about what a great choice that was and how it made the piece work so effectively emotionally.

Do you have any stories of mistakes that turned out to be for the best? Comment below and let me know.


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Harness the Power of Positivity With Reviews

Harness the Power of Positivity With Reviews

Last week we talked about how a simple way to support your favorite author is to write a review on Amazon. Positive reviews can help everybody including yourself. Use the same format as writing a book review, just a few sentences about what you liked about the experience and a five star rating. Let’s harness the power of positivity!

Podcasts

Just like Amazon is the granddaddy of bookstores, Apple Podcasts is the most effective place to review your favorite podcast. If you listen to them on another medium like Google Podcasts, Spotify, or IHeartRadio, consider reviewing them there too.

Small Businesses

Reviews are the life blood of small businesses, and a few good reviews can really help them generate more sales. Every place from your plumber to the pet salon will benefit from good word of mouth. Some places to review your local small businesses: Google, Yelp, Next Door, Angie’s List, and Open Table.

Here is a thank you note I got from a restaurant I reviewed. They really do help!

A word of caution when reviewing small businesses, you are leaving an online record of where you go and what you do. You might consider for safety and privacy not using your full name when reviewing locally. This may sound a bit paranoid, but I think it’s smart whenever you’re posting publicly. Please don’t let that stop you from supporting a small business that gives you great service.

Five Star Reviews of You

No matter what your profession, whether you’re you are a creator or work in a corporate job, you can harness the power of reviews for yourself. In an earlier newsletter we talked tracking your kudos. If you are a writer, try doing something fun and creative with the positive feedback you’ve gotten by including those quotes on your website and your bio or in an e-mail when you’re introducing yourself or pitching a project. Good reviews provide social proof that you offer great service and are wonderful endorsements to use in your sales materials from pitch letters to sales pages. Everyone from creators to solopreneurs and executives can use their positive feedback as testimonials on their website or recommendations on Linked In.

Who can you help with a positive review today?


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2 Things About the Creator Mindset

2 Things About the Creator Mindset

I have been sick for two weeks and my foggy brain and the forced rest has made philosophical. For me there are two things I always relearn from listening to other creative people. From established writers, to newbies, my clients, and myself, it seems like these are universal struggles.

1. Don’t judge yourself by other people’s careers or other people’s work. There are no overnight successes. You don’t know how hard someone worked to get where they are. You don’t know if they have 25 unsold screenplays in their drawer before they’re suddenly the hot screenwriter. You don’t know if someone wrote their novel 15 minutes at a time over five years or in 5 weeks. Just keep your head down and keep creating. The more you do, the better you’ll get, and the bigger your body of work will get. There is no I should be where she is or I should have done X by now. Everybody’s life unfolds at their own pace. Which lead me to…

2. It is never too late. Some people have been creators their whole life, making movies in their basement when they were seven. Some people start writing at 25; some people start writing at 55. You can be a YouTube star at 25 or you can be a YouTube star at 75. Just start.


One final bit of advice, as a creator, always be consuming the kind of content you want to create.

Read at the level at which you want to write. Reading is the nourishment that feeds the kind of writing you want to do.

Jennifer Egan, novelist

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In Case of Emergency

In Case of Emergency

In these days of being connected to work 24 hours a day with email and texts, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and behind. A while ago I accepted that I would always be behind. It was just a matter of how behind I was and what I was behind on that really mattered.

The zero inbox is a myth; as is the zero to do list. As soon as we answer one e-mail, another one comes in. As soon as we cross something off our to do list, another task occurs to us. Instead of trying to catch up, each day and each week I prioritize the projects I need to be working on.

Emergency!

Everyone and everything is fine now, but the last two weeks I was in the midst of a serious family emergency. It was my complete focus even though I had a full plate of client meetings, getting out two issues of this newsletter, and the two hour workshop last Thursday.

In the midst of the chaos I had to remind myself of my philosophy and really focus on what I had to get done and what I could do. I am sharing my coping strategy with you because unfortunately, we all have to deal with the unexpected. Whether tragedy with a loved one, being a little sick, or being really sick, real life intrudes on our work life.

Here’s how I handled it:

Decide Your Non-Negotiables

What are the things that absolutely have to get done? Are there ways you can make doing your non-negotiables easier temporarily? Any shortcuts you can take just this once? My non-negotiables were my newsletter and the workshop. I put off everything else.

Put Systems in Place

My Newsletter – Ironically, one of my projects next year is to become more systematic about how I produce content. Right now I do not write my newsletter ahead of time. I do have a long list of topics and ideas, some with rough outlines and reference materials. For the first newsletter I didn’t use any of them because I had gone to the ballet on Sunday and wanted to write about Peter Pan. I already had a rough outline. I researched the history of Peter Pan to distract myself while I was waiting for a phone call and wrote the article late at night when I couldn’t sleep. For the second newsletter, I used a list of movies about writing I had in my idea file.

Why didn’t I skip the newsletter once or twice? I made a commitment to myself that I would send out a newsletter once a week for 52 weeks. I’ve really been enjoying writing it and the conversations with all of you. I knew that skipping it would make me feel worse when I was already feeling badly. I also knew that an emergency may come up again and I wanted to know that I can still produce in hard circumstances.

The Workshop – Because September was such a busy month for me, luckily I had already outlined my workshop and finished 3/4 of my slide deck. What was left was the marketing side of things. Posting the link was an easy task. For each workshop I create handouts and a landing page where people go to download them. That took a little bit of time, but because I had done it so often before, I wasn’t having to learn any new skills so it wasn’t stressful.

I’m happy to report that the workshop was a big success. Thank you to those who came. I’ve gotten great feedback from the attendees and it went half an hour over because there were so many questions. I love teaching and I’m grateful I could have such a positive experience after a rough couple of weeks.

Communication

I rescheduled all of my clients letting them know then I had an emergency and I would be back with them in a week or so. I also told the workshop leader what was going on. She let me know that if something came up and I couldn’t make it, she had materials she could go over that night and I could speak the next month.

When you are upset and your life is in chaos, it is tempting just to disappear. As a professional, you must let your clients and coworkers know a little bit of what is happening so they can be understanding. You don’t have to explain in detail. Just tell everyone you will be back with them when you can. If I owe you an e-mail I apologize. I’m still getting caught up.

Recognition of Recovery

Once the emergency has passed and the adrenaline has dissipated, you’re going to be tired. It may take a while before you get your energy up and feel back on track. Be kind with yourself and recognize that you are in recovery. Again, communication is key. Let your coworkers know you still may not be operating at full speed. Include rest time in your schedule. For me I was already in the midst of a healing journey so this recovery is one more aspect of rebuilding. In fact, this situation has made me realize we may always be in some phase of recovery from something. And that is okay, as long as we still move forward in our life and creative goals.

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

While the advice to look for the good in the bad experience can be incredibly annoying when you are suffering, there is truth there. I have decided to write about what happened to me and my family. I’m actually feeling excited about writing the story. It will be a while before I can share it with you because there is an ongoing investigation and I want to be able to talk about it from beginning to end. I might be becoming a true crime writer! Life is very strange.

I hope you never need an emergency plan for your work life, but I suggest that you put systems in place. They will help your workflow either way. And never be afraid to reach out and ask for help when things get tough.


This week’s newsletter is brought to you by my newest cartoon coffee cup.


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I Hate Doing Laundry!

I Hate Doing Laundry!

I hate to do laundry. Mainly because it ends up taking all day and it’s not fun. Different people procrastinate for different reasons. I have two.

  1. It’s a terrible chore that I hate doing like laundry
  2. It’s a job that seems too big to start. I suffer from overwhelm big time.

The best way I have found to get through both types of procrastination is my Laundry Method. I break down the job into steps and I often don’t do all of them on the same day. I might sort the clothes one day. Wash and fold the clothes another day. And put up the clean laundry another day. How much of the task I do at a time depends on how my day is going and what else I have to do. Once I started doing laundry this way, it became less of a chore.

Now I apply the Laundry Method to almost everything on my to do list – both life things and creative projects. In his wonderful book The Success Principles, Jack Canfield calls this method chunking it down. When you have a big project, brainstorm with the steps are. And then break down what you need to do for each step. Get as granular as you need to and then start on your list.

For example, I am currently developing my first video course (more on that later 🙂). Here is how I chunked it down:

  • Outline Course – into 11 modules
  • For each module – write – make a video
  • Write each module – research – write lesson – write homework
  • Make a video – find images for slide deck – make slides – record video

As I work my way through the list, I can see my daily progress on the big project and my overwhelm goes away. Instead, my progress motivates me to keep going and fuels my creativity. I keep thinking of more fun things I want to do with this project!

This method also helped me get comfortable with being behind. I think in life we are never caught up. Especially as creative people we’re never finished. There’s always another rewrite to do and another project to start. I’ve shifted my perspective from catching up to making progress every day. Even if you just manage to do a little bit of your project every day, eventually you’re going to finish it. Consistent progress helps give you the self-confidence to keep going and to start something new.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, chunk it down and start with the first step. You’ll be surprised how much concrete progress you make and how much better you feel with the Laundry Method. Let me know how it goes!


Attend My Free Workshop!

On the evening of September 22nd I will be speaking to the Montana Screenwriting Group over Zoom about pitching yourself and your projects. You don’t have to be a Montanan to attend. You just have to join their Meet Up group to get the Zoom invite. Sign up here. I hope to see you!

I've written a script. Now what?  Building your Hollywood career with Lindsey Hughes

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