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Find Your Inspiration, Jack London’s Way

Find Your Inspiration, Jack London’s Way

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    Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” He knew what he was talking about, too: London cranked out short stories, novels, essays, plays, poetry and non-fiction at a tremendous rate. To write — and make a living — the way London did, there just isn’t the possibility of waiting around for inspiration to strike. The same holds true in other fields. When we’re in need of inspiration for any project, we have to be prepared to go find it.

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    1. Go out looking for inspiration
      My first stops in the search for inspiration are my peers’ blogs and websites. I immediately go online to find out what other people are working on. It’s not a question of finding someone working on the same exact project — instead, it’s a way to see what techniques are out there. There are new techniques, as well as old ones that slip our minds, that we can catch glimpses of when we see others in our industry at work. From there, it’s just a matter of thinking about how we can use those techniques on our own projects.
    2. Read outside your area of expertise
      Just because someone doesn’t know a single thing about your project doesn’t mean that he can’t provide you with a little inspiration. Head outside the blogs, magazines and people that you follow in your own industry and go hunting for a little wild inspiration. A chef can just as easily find inspiration on how to arrange food from an architect as from another chef — and sometimes she can find something entirely new in architecture that can be built in food.
    3. Try another format
      Format can devour inspiration: working on projects that might as well follow a format can sap you of any desire to work on the next, identical project. So change things up. A website designer may have spent the past several years married to the 800 by 600 pixel format that is often used as a standard format — but there are plenty of other configurations that could work better. Just give a new format a try: you don’t have to sell a client or supervisor on the final project unless that new format really does inspire you.
    4. Get an outsider’s take
      Handing someone outside your field a description of your project will get you a list of questions. Answering those questions can be a quick way to spark inspiration: an outsider won’t know that you traditionally don’t take a specific approach or know what limitations you’ve placed on the project. Sure, you might get asked a few questions that go over approaches you’ve already tried and discarded — but you’re likely to get a few questions you’ve never considered.
    5. Look back at what has worked
      It isn’t always necessary to go outside of your normal pursuits to find inspiration: reviewing past work done in the same area can give you a few new ideas. Keep an eye out for pieces not fully developed the last time around — even if you can only concentrate on taking a similar approach and improving on it a little, you can find enough inspiration to finish your current project and move on to the next one. In the course of your career, you’ll find a few projects where your only inspiration is to make a small change from an earlier iteration. Just because inspiration doesn’t offer a hugely divergent approach in these situations doesn’t mean that you can’t complete a quality project.
    6. Borrow an idea
      If you feel like someone else is getting all the good ideas today, borrow one for inspiration. A write might rewrite a story in his own words. An ad designer might rework concept with her own insight. Using other people’s ideas as a starting point can jump start your own inspiration. It’s not a favored approach to finding inspiration for many people: it’s too easy to turn out something that is, for all intents and purposes, identical to someone else’s work. Stealing an idea is bad; borrowing an idea and developing it in a new way, however, is just another way to find inspiration. Consider that ad designer: most designers keep a file of ads that they’ve seen and enjoyed as a place to start their search for inspiration.
    7. Brute force your way through
      Nice as inspiration is, there are always projects where we just don’t have the time to find inspiration. While inspiration can make the work go faster, though, it’s not always necessary: sometimes just sitting down and putting together an uninspired project is the best option. Not every memo, design or product can be perfectly inspired. Sometimes, the best we can do is just try to create more inspired projects than uninspired projects.

    Jack London was known for his ability to find inspiration in anything: he wrote stories based off of newspaper clippings, his own experiences — even watching a boxing match was enough to spark a short story. London made sure that he had plenty to draw on. He went out and brought back inspiration with a club, no matter what it took. London joined the Klondike Gold Rush and got scurvy — experiences that he based some of his most successful stories on. We may not need to suffer scurvy to find our inspiration, but we do have to go looking for it.

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      Last Updated on February 20, 2019

      How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

      How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

      Are you stuck in the same position for too long and don’t really know how to get promoted and advance your career?

      Feeling stuck could be caused by a variety of things:

      • Taking a job for the money
      • Staying with an employer that no longer aligns with your values
      • Realizing that you landed yourself in the wrong career
      • Not feeling valued or feeling underutilized
      • Staying in a role too long out of fear
      • Taking a position without a full understanding of the role

      There are many, many other reasons why you may be feeling this way but let’s focus instead on getting unstuck.

      As in – getting promoted.

      So how to get promoted?

      I’m of the opinion that the best way to get promoted is by showing how you add value to your organization.

      Did you make money, save money, improve a process, or some other amazing thing? How else might you demonstrated added value?

      Let’s dive right in how to get promoted when you feel stuck in your current position:

      1. Be a Mentor

      When I supervised students, I used to warm them – tongue in cheek, of course – about getting really good at their job.

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      “Be careful not to get too good at this, or you’ll never get to do anything else?”

      This was my way of pestering them to take on additional challenges or think outside the box, but there is definitely some reality in doing something so well that your manager doesn’t trust anyone else to do it.

      This can get you stuck.

      Jo Miller of Be Leaderly shares this insight on when your boss thinks you’re too valuable in your current job:[1]

      “Think back to a time when you really enjoyed your current role. I bet there was a time when this job was a stretch for you, and you stepped up to the challenge and performed like a rock star. You became known for doing your job so well that you built up some strong “personal brand” equity, and people know you as the go-to-person for this particular job. That’s what we call “a good problem to have”: you did a really good job of building a positive perception about your suitability for the role, but you may have done “too” good of a job!”

      With this in mind, how do you prove to your employer that you can add value by being promoted?

      In Miller’s insight, she talks about building your personal brand and becoming known for doing a particular job well. So how can you link that work with a position or project that will earn you a promotion?

      Consider leveraging your strengths and skills.

      Let’s say that project you do so well is hiring and training new entry level employees. You have to post the job listing, read and review resumes, schedule interviews, making hiring decisions, and create the training schedules. These tasks require skills such as employee relations, onboarding, human resources software, performance management, teamwork, collaboration, customer service, and project management. That’s a serious amount of skills!

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      Is there anyone else on your team who can perform these skills? Try delegating and training some of your staff or colleagues to learn your job. There are a number of reasons why this is a good idea:

      1. Cross-training helps in any situation in the event that there’s an extended illness and the main performer of a certain task is out for a while.
      2. In becoming a mentor to a supervisee or colleague, you empower then to increase their job skills.
      3. You are already beginning to demonstrate that added value to your employer by encouraging your team or peers to learn your job.

      Now that you’ve trained others to do that work for which you have been so valued, you can see about re-requesting that promotion. Be ready to explain how you have saved the company money, encouraged employees to increase their skills, or reinvented that project of yours.

      2. Work on Your Mindset

      Another reason you may feel stuck in a position is well explained by Ashley Stahl in her Forbes article. Shahl talks about mindset, and says:[2]

      “If you feel stuck at a job you used to love, it’s normally you–not the job–who needs to change. The position you got hired for is probably the exact same one you have now. But if you start to dread the work routine, you’re going to focus on the negatives.”

      In this situation, you should pursue a conversation with your supervisor and share your thoughts and feelings. You can probably get some advice on how to rediscover the aspects of that job you enjoyed, and negotiate either some additional duties or a chance to move up.

      Don’t express frustration. Express a desire for more.

      Share with your supervisor that you want to be challenged and you want to move up. You are seeking more responsibility in order to continue moving the company forward. Focus on how you can do that with the skills you have and will develop with some additional projects and coaching.

      3. Improve Your Soft Skills

      When was the last time you put focus and effort into upping your game with those soft skills? I’m talking about those seemingly intangible things that make you the experienced professional in your specific job skills:

      An article on Levo.com suggests that more than 60 percent of employers look at soft skills when making a hiring decision.[3]

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      You can bone up on these skills and increase your chances of promotion by taking courses or seminars.

      And you don’t necessarily need to request funding from your supervisor, either. There are dozens of online courses being presented by entrepreneurs and authors about these very subjects. Udemy and Creative Live both feature online courses at very reasonable prices. And some come with completion certificates for your portfolio!

      Another way to improve your soft skills is by connecting with an employee at your organization who has the position you are seeking.

      Express your desire to move up in the organization, and ask to shadow that person or see if you can sit in on some of her meetings. Offer to take that individual out for coffee and ask what her secret is! Take copious notes and then immerse yourself in the learning.

      The key here is not to copy your new mentor (think Jennifer Jason Leigh in “Single White Female.” Just kidding). Rather, you want to observe, learn and then adapt according to your strengths. And don’t forget to thank that person for their time.

      4. Develop Your Strategy

      Do you even know specifically WHY you want to be promoted anyway? Do you see a future at this company? Do you have a one year, five year, or ten year plan? How often do you consider your “why” and insure that it aligns with your “what?”

      Sit down and do an old-fashioned Pro and Con list. Two columns:

      Pro’s on one side, Con’s on the other.

      Write down every positive aspect of your current job and then every negative one. Which list is longer? Are there any themes present?

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      Look at your lists and choose the most exciting Pro’s and the most frustrating Con’s. Do those two Pro’s make the Con’s worth it? If you can’t answer that question with a “yes” then getting promoted at your current organization may not be what you really want.

      The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. –Mark Twain

      Mel Carson writes about this on Goalcast that many other authors and speakers have written about finding your professional purpose.[4]

      Here are some questions to ask yourself:

      • Why is it that you do what you do?
      • What thrills you about your current job role or career?
      • What does a great day look like?
      • What does success look like beyond the paycheck?
      • What does real success feel like for you?
      • How do you want to feel about your impact on the world when you retire?

      These questions would be great to reflect on in a journal or with your supervisor in your next one-on-one meeting. Or, bring it up with one of your Vital Work Friends over coffee.

      See, what you might find is that being stuck is your choice. And you can set yourself on the path of moving up where you are, or moving on to something different.

      Because sometimes the real promotion is finding your life’s purpose. And like Mastercard says, that’s Priceless.

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      Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

      Reference

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