Archive for the ‘Mentoring’ Category

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Part II)

April 10, 2009


Looking Upwards

Looking Upwards

“For everyone of us that succeeds, it’s because there’s somebody there to show you the way out” Oprah Winfrey

There are many ways that people show others the way, both directly and indirectly. And, many people have allowed others to stand on their shoulders, sometimes even without knowing, simply by teaching others what they know or by documenting their observations, thoughts, insights and discoveries for others to read.

A quick way for us to stand on the shoulders of giants is to examine what’s been done before by reading about and listening to the experiences and lives of those we value and respect. You never know what bright idea you could come across, or what problem could be solved now because the time is right and the technology now exists.

A review of several books on creativity, inventions, discoveries and great thinkers and scientists who have changed the world, books such as Discover Your Genius, Aha! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas, The Art of Thought, The Art of Thinking, The 100 Greatest Inventions of All Time, 100 Discoveries: The Greatest Breakthroughs in History, suggest that great thinkers have certain traits in common.

Leonardo da Vinci, Francis Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Gutenberg, Copernicus, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie and Alexander Fleming, a few of the great thinkers who made discoveries, and/or created products that influenced/changed the world, had the unique knack to do many of the following:

  • Reflect
  • Open to experiment
  • Keep record of research
  • Steely determination: impossible was not an answer
  • Open minded
  • Childlike sense of play
  • Curious
  • Voracious reader
  • Read/study broadly
  • Observe, detect and collect facts
  • Think independently
  • Take breaks to reenergize
  • Total absorption in subject
  • Have imagination 
  • Have vision
  • Didn’t reinvent the wheel – built on present and past knowledge
  • Look at the limitations of old inventions and devise a solution
  • Modify present technologies for other uses
  • Make connections between two different things
  • Combine theoretical knowledge with practical skills
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Give vital ideas the opportunity to take root and grow

How many of these traits do you have? And how many could you acquire with concerted effort? If you re-read yesterday’s blog post you will notice that some of the above traits are similar to some of the activities mentioned by survey respondents.

All of us are capable of generating our own great ideas. Read widely, reflect on life, travel to places that you’ve never been before, eat foods from different cultures, interact with nature, think about problems that need solving and work on ways to solve those problems. Immerse yourself in many activities and create new experiences for yourself. We can learn from the experiences of others, and we can use the words of others as Invisible Mentors to help us make progress in life. We can stand on the shoulders of giants!

What are your thoughts? How can you build on this concept?

Related Post: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Part I)

Photo Credits: Avil Beckford


Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Part I)

April 9, 2009
The Sky is the Limit

The Sky is the Limit

 Every successful product and service started with a great idea, but where do great ideas come from?

About five years ago, by way of an email survey, I decided to explore the concept of great ideas. I asked the following questions and twelve people of varying backgrounds took the time to share their views.

  1. Where do great ideas come from?
  2. Do great ideas come only to some people?
  3. How will you know if you have a really great idea?
  4. What constitutes a great idea?

Here are the thoughts of survey respondents about what a great idea is:

An idea that gives someone a new perspective or way in which to see the world
Something that helps mankind to create, evolve or develop in some specific way
Fresh, in the sense that I haven’t heard it before and it offers a solution to a challenge that may be long-standing or a challenge that I may not even be aware of yet
An idea that fills a need that is greater than personal self interest; a need that will serve others be they constituents, shareholders, stakeholders or the public at large

When it came to determining if there was a process for generating ideas, the responses were different, and it showed that there wasn’t a clear process for generating great ideas.

Pray and meditate, knowing that the answers will come when the time is right
Respond to a stimuli that starts me thinking which results in a new idea
Read the best that has been thought and said about things that really matter, talk to thoughtful people about things that really matter, spend time reflecting on things that really matter and prepare the soil as best as you can
Ideas are always out there. You just have to put two different ideas or thoughts together to create something new
Sit quietly and wait for them [ideas] to come to me from the depths of my subconscious
Brainstorm everything I am thinking about on a piece of paper, then look for ideas that will connect with those ideas using the internet, newspaper, books and so on.  Look at the context in which you want to use the ideas then add, subtract or combine ideas, and once you have a great idea look at how to implement it
Think about the situation and think about the best possible solution, even if it’s an impossible solution

Great ideas came to respondents at different times. One respondent had a Eureka moment while sitting in church watching and listening to a group of musicians. For others it happened immediately after praying and meditating, talking and trading insights and reading a book on the subject matter. For others it happened after a process of thinking and visualization.

So, how do you know when you’ve got a great idea?

You have a gut sense that the idea will help you fulfill the triple bottom line; best self, best work and contribute to my best world
It comes as a revelation. It gives you an understanding of something
It comes back into your mind again and again and you can’t ignore it
When other people are excited by it and want to get involved
Some great ideas come before their time. They won’t succeed because of conditions, circumstances, attitudes, belief and so on. Success or failure alone is not the judge.
When you feel bliss in its execution
You become very excited and can see the possibilities that can generate from the idea. You know that your idea is good when you see the entire picture and everything becomes “crystal clear”
When everything is in sync, your mind, body and your heart

“Everything has been thought of before, but the problem is to think of it again,” says Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Is that true? Where do your great ideas come from? How will you know when a great idea is staring you in the eye?

In Part II of Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, I will delve more deeply and highlight the common traits of the great thinkers and scientists who have changed the world. And it should not surprise you that they built on the work of others.

Photo Credit: Avil Beckford

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To Read or Not to Read, Now That’s the Question

April 8, 2009


Active Reading


Any professional who aspires to navigate up the corporate ladder, especially in belt-tightening times, must develop intellectual power. The fastest way to develop intellectual power requires reading the right books which is akin to eating. Some books have to be chewed, some digested and others savoured.


Tim Sanders, former Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo! Inc.  in his book Love Is The Killer App, recommends that you use the 80/20 rule. Spend 80 percent of your reading time on books and 20 percent on articles, newspapers and so on. Books give more detailed knowledge on any subject than articles do.


Before reading, develop a reading plan and identify your purpose for reading. Is it for entertainment, for information or to further your knowledge? Think about how you can apply what you are reading to improve your personal and professional life. When you read, have a pen, notepad and highlighter to take notes and capture ideas that may percolate.


Why Read? 7 Reasons Why You Cannot Afford Not to Read


  1. Builds intellectual power: Reading widely allows professionals to learn about different concepts and gain insights, which builds intellectual muscles, enabling them to shine in conversations
  2. Builds verbal power: Reading extensively introduces professionals to words they usually would not come across in their everyday interactions. And, research by the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation found that vocabulary correlated with executive level and income
  3. Discovers new ways of thinking: Authors who write thought provoking books frequently introduce readers to new ways of viewing the world
  4. Develops critical thinking skills: Reading demanding and difficult text requires focus and concentration, forcing professionals to think about what they are reading
  5. Keeps the mind active: Professionals who interact with the words on the pages  are engaged, keeping their minds active into their senior years
  6. Discovers/Builds on ideas: After Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace independently read Thomas Robert Malthus’ Summary View of the Principle of Population, they both understood how evolution worked. For Darwin, the rest they say is history. Galileo built on Copernican’s work and Newton built on Galileo’s work and the field of astronomy was born. More recently Amazon juggernaut Jeff Bezos after reading that the Internet was growing 2,300 percent per year wondered how he could use the information. He then looked at the top 20 catalogues to see which would translate best to an online business and as a result Amazon was formed.
  7. Builds the power of communication: All of the above reasons enable professionals to communicate with power, both orally and written because they have a well-fed mind.


Consistently reading the right books and the right articles allow professionals to tap into their inner genius and promote a personal growth regiment. Where will the idea for the next “big thing” come from? And more importantly, will you be the person to find, develop, and implement the idea for the next “big thing.” Keep reading!



Related Resources


Building Intellectual Power One Book at a Time

Photo Credits By Avil Beckford

Transforming a Negative into a Positive: What I Learned from Adversity

April 7, 2009
Grand Etang Forest Reserve, Grenada

Grand Etang Forest Reserve, Grenada


The past five years have often felt like I was a runaway train heading for derailment. There were far more valleys than peaks. My bread and butter client disappeared overnight as a result of being acquired by a firm with a very different focus from theirs. Many other projects disappeared and suddenly I was without a safety net. Ninety percent of my income came from that one client.


I scrambled and tried to make it work with little success, until I finally learned to let go. I let go of the control freak within me, and I let go of the intense fear that I was feeling. Realization came crashing down like a cement wall; I no longer enjoyed what I did for a living and felt trapped. I had been feeling that way for a long time but refused to acknowledge those feelings.


My life now felt like a threadbare garment that had seen better days. I often wondered how I would go on. I was stuck in a familiar place that was not so comfortable. I looked at my life and compared it to a large project that’s overwhelming at first. Whenever that happened I would take on bite sized portions, and in no time the project became bearable. So, I viewed my life like one of my research projects taking one step at a time, and suddenly my life seemed less daunting.


And like a research project, I conducted a needs assessment, but in this case I was assessing my life. During this period of darkness, I became more self-aware and wiser. I learned that I didn’t have to discard my research skills, because they would be critical to whatever I decided to do. I learned that even though you are very good at something doesn’t mean that it’s your calling.


I spent a lot of time in solitude reflecting on my life and evaluating everything.  I became wiser and more aware of myself. I learned to be easier on myself. Despite the tough times, I still managed to write my first book Tales of People Who Get It and its companion workbook, Journey to Getting It. I marvel now at how much I accomplished even though I felt like I was going nowhere fast.


I experimented with writing poetry, short stories and about life in Jamaica. I was transported back to a simpler time when I would go to the market with grandma on Saturday mornings. I re-experienced happiness. It’s amazing how it took an adversity, the loss of my safety blanket to explore what would really make me happy.


Each day, I take one step closer to the life that I want to live. It’s not easy, but one step is all that I can take. The pieces in the jigsaw puzzle of my life are fitting into place and for the first time in my life I feel as if I am going exactly where I want to go, and exactly where I need to go. Here is one of the poems that I wrote during my time of transitions.


The Square Peg


All his life he tried to fit in,

A square peg into a round hole.

All his friendships were superficial at best.

He worked hard at being liked,

Always being a people pleaser – the “yes” man,

And the “go-to-it” guy.

He catered to everyone else’s needs,

Except his very own.

One day he wised up,

And took stock of his life.

He realized he could no longer,

Continue living his life this way.

For the first time in his life,

He stopped trying to fit in,

And working so hard to be liked.

In the blink of an eye, like a flash,

He was surrounded by square pegs.

All this time he wasted,

When all he had to do,

Was simply be himself.


I believe that we can learn from the experiences of others. And I believe that we can use the words of others as Invisible Mentors. What lessons have you learned from others? Does the poem resonate with you? Do you work very hard at fitting in? How do you deal with adversity?


 This post is an entry in the What I learned from Adversity Group Writing Project hosted by Robert Hruzek, Middle Zone Musings.


Photo Credits: Avil Beckford

The Secret Garden By Frances Hodgson Burnett Book Review

March 2, 2009

The natural order of life is for people to grow, evolve, and have the ability to adapt to change. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is really about the transformative power of finding “passion” which gives meaning to life. The author’s writing is very vivid, and the words jump off the pages and transport readers into the story where they become a participant versus a passive observer.

First published in 1911, The Secret Garden is a story about 10-year old Mary Lennox, a self-absorbed, sour and sickly girl who becomes an orphan when a cholera epidemic kills her parents and the staff at their home in India. Mary is sent to Misselthwaite Manor in the United Kingdom to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven who is still grieving 10 years after his wife’s death. Shortly after Mary’s arrival, Archibald leaves on a journey to heal his aching and grieving heart.

At the Manor, chambermaid Martha is the only one who has time for Mary, and she regales the child with tales about living on the moor. Martha also talks about her brother Dickon Sowerby, a spirited lad with a kind disposition, who has a “green thumb” and the unique ability to charm animals. After hearing about Dickon, Mary is fascinated and wants to meet him.

One day while exploring the grounds at the Manor, Mary finds the key to the Secret Garden which she has heard about. Everyone is banned from entering the garden, but Mary who has always been accustomed to getting her own way, enters the garden. Her transformation begins immediately. Later, she meets Dickon and shares her secret with him. Together they sneak into the Garden each day and work hard at restoration by pruning and planting new flowers. Doing something that she cares about, Mary gets stronger and her sickness starts to disappear. Because her life now has meaning, she becomes a nicer person and her sourly nature starts to fade.

One night while in her bedroom, she hears weeping and decides to investigate. She discovers her 10 year cousin Colin Craven who is confined to his bedroom because he refuses to go outside. Colin is convinced that he has a disability and is going to die very soon. “Mary stood near the door with her candle in her hand, holding her breath. Then she crept across the room, and as she drew nearer the light attracted the boy’s attention and he turned his head on his pillow and stared at her, his grey eyes opening so wide that they seemed immense. ‘Who are you?” he said at last in a half-frightened whisper. ‘Are you a ghost?’ ‘No, I am not,” Mary answered, her own whisper sounding half-frightened. ‘Are you One?’… ‘No,’ he replied after waiting a moment or so. ‘I am Colin.’ ‘Who is Colin?’ she faltered. ‘I am Colin Craven. Who are you?’ ‘I am Mary Lennox. Mr. Craven is my uncle.’ ‘He is my father,’ said the boy. ‘Your father!’ gasped Mary. ‘No one ever told me he had a boy! Why didn’t they?’”

Like any other relationship, this one has its ups and downs, but the two cousins develop a bond. When Mary feels that she can trust Colin she tells him about the Garden. Together Mary, Colin and Dickon go to the Garden each day to work.

As the story unfolds, the transformative power of the Garden spreads to Mary and Colin, and, as the Garden comes to life, so do Mary and Colin. Both regain their strength and health and Colin no longer needs his wheelchair. Not only is their health restored through the transformation, but they learn the importance of appreciation and showing consideration for others. What seemed impossible now becomes possible.

Five Great Ideas

  1.  “You learn things by saying them over and over and thinking about them until they stay in your mind forever…”
  2. “The beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen.”
  3. Make life meaningful by doing work that you are passionate about. Live each day as if it were your last
  4. Everyone wants to be liked, appreciated and wanted. People also want to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves
  5. To receive compassion you have to be compassionate and to earn respect you have to respect others

Though The Secret Garden is a children’s book, everyone will benefit from reading it. Living a meaningful life brings joy, and people learn to live rather than merely exist. In 2009, what are five things you could do to add meaning to your life and work? And, how can you grow and evolve into the multiple roles you play both at home and at work? I recommend The Secret Garden. When you read the Secret Garden, read it with the view of applying the concepts to your life.

Excerpt from January/February 2009 Ambeck Edge