The Secret to Rapid Improvement

How would you like to accelerate your progress in an area of weakness? My 23-year-old son, Chris and I discussed this a few days ago. He reminded me of how he stretched himself by being in several lead roles in musicals. “I hated that but it was good for me,” he told me. He is a naturally shy creative who can draw, paint, write articles, write and arrange music, write lyrics and produce music. He rapidly advanced as an actor because he did what he didn’t want to do.

Chris confirms what I just listened to on this podcast hosted by Ray Edwards. He interviewed bestselling author and creativity expert Jeff Goins who is releasing a new book about creativity. Jeff researched leading successful artists such as Michaelangelo who was one of the wealthiest artists of his time during a period when artists were considered paid laborers. Goins revealed a key to rapidly growing in your craft – going public with your process, especially when you’re uncomfortable with this.

Goins discovered that Chris Rock, one of my favorite comedians, would test his jokes on audiences before adding the jokes to his show. Chris would show up at a club with a pad of paper and just start telling jokes to see which ones worked. The jokes that didn’t get any laughs didn’t make the cut. By going public with his creative process, Chris was building his fan base and testing his ideas.

Goins shared his own story of playing in a band and how he rapidly improved as a musician by doing several shows a week. My other son, Alex, has been literally leading worship for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week while he has been in India. I’ve been watching him via Facebook live broadcasts. I asked him why is he always on the keyboard. He responded, “Because I’m the band leader.” That’s 15 to 20 hours of leading and working with other singers and musicians.

These worship sessions have been broadcast live over a Facebook page with opportunities for people to instantly comment. This means that every song that’s off key or pitchy can’t be edited. Awkward transitions are live for everyone around the world to see but the heart and spontaneous singing have been amazingly fresh.

Alex told me that he has noticed an amazing improvement in his singing and playing piano because he has been doing this for many hours. If you want to rapidly advance in an area, then do it for hours at a time and go public with your process. I’m trying to do this right now as I go public with my attempt to do more writing.

I spend hours writing headlines, teasers, and curating hundreds of articles a week. Now I need to carve time out to do my own original writing. Look for more writing in days to come as I go public with my own creative process.

What would you like to improve in?

5 Secrets to Becoming a Successful Working Creative

I’ve made a living from doing what I love to do for over 20 years. I’ve won a few awards along the way, met famous people and enjoy a flexible work life. My sons, Alex, 17 and Chris, 20, are also both emerging creatives.

Chris and Alex have grown up watching mommy hit deadlines, get ready for presentations and lead conference calls on the weekend. When Alex was 4-years-old, he had been trained to answer the phone, “Mommy is deadline, she can’t talk to you.” They have seen the hard work it takes to make a living from what you love to do.

They are both aspiring musicians and already have an established work ethic. The first thing they do when they come home is hit their instruments, work on their song or record in their ghetto-grade studio in the basement. They have learned the first rule in becoming a successful creative is to work with what you have.

1 Work with what you have. Most people who have told me that they have a dream to write are waiting to have that slot of time to write. Or they need a computer or a writing coach or someone to tell them what to do. In today’s online and print on demand environment, writers have more opportunities then they did in earlier generations.

My advice to someone who wants to be a writer is to write. Start a blog. Take a writing class. Volunteer to write your church/PTA/organization newsletter, press release, article, etc. Just do it.

2 Work with who you know. The cardinal rule I’ve learned since my journalism professor helped me land my first internship is that who you know matters. That means you need to be polite to everyone. You have no idea who that barista at your favorite coffeehouse knows that could open the door for you.  Read the rest of the post here. I would like to hear your ideas as well.

Put the idea to action

If you did what I said yesterday, you have a notebook with some ideas written down. To weed out the impossible ideas, cross off the ones that are:

Illegal – meaning that you will break the law. You can’t kill your boss. You can’t kill your client. Those actions would put you in jail.

Impossible – I know I told you not to edit yourself, but if you’re a 250 lb. 50-year-old male, there is no way you’re going to be a ballerina. The impossible ideas are the ones that are biologically out of reach unless you commit to a year of serious cross-training.

The next step is to prioritize your ideas. Which idea can you do right now with your resources or relationships? If you need to find a job, then your first priority is to write a killer resume. If you want to start a business, the next step is to vet the idea. Evaluate your business idea by looking at your market and competition. If you have a market and lots of competition, then your offer needs to be so unique that people want to do business with you instead of the competitor down the street.

If you have a market and zero competition, then the door is wide open for your business idea. Make a list of what you need and funds for launching the business. Then prioritize what you need to launch.

Here’s some links to resources for launching your idea:

8 Steps to Launch an Idea, in Just a Few Hours

How to Take an Idea to Launch in 4 Steps

Prepare for Takeoff: How to Launch Your Idea


Turn on the idea engine

The ability to capture an idea and turn it into reality is a gift. If you can grow in that ability, your life will get better. The first step is to remove the barriers to your idea engine working.

Here are a few barriers:

“I can’t do it.”

“I don’t know how to do it.”

“I don’t have the money.”

Notice that the barriers start in your mind. For one day, wear a rubber band around your wrist and don’t allow yourself to think or say those statements. Every time you think or say these statements, flick yourself.

During that same day, carry a notebook with you and write down every idea that comes to your mind. Don’t edit yourself or censor yourself. Just give value to your thoughts. Give value to your ideas.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about putting those ideas into action.


When Life is Over

God called Abram at 75-years-old. What if He called you later in life? (Photo Credit: Mario Mancuso/Flickr)

God called Abram at 75-years-old. What if He called you later in life? (Photo Credit: Mario Mancuso/Flickr)

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers”. (Genesis 17:1-2)

Can you imagine God calling you at 99-years-old? Our culture has sentenced 99-year-old people to either a hospital or a nursing home. Age was not a limiting factor to God.

Abram was actually called by God at 75-years-old.

“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.” (Genesis 12:4)

I posted a blog yesterday about how God was moving mightily among teenagers and young adults in our nation. He is also calling the older generation – the Abrams who have raised their families or built successful careers – to lead. You may be ready to retire or fantasizing about sitting in a lawn chair with the waves lapping against you on the beach.

Or you’ve poured your life out to your family and think it’s time for you to rest. You’re calling or ministry may just be getting started. Your age doesn’t disqualify you from being called by God. He is calling you now. Will you answer?

I Want to Be Depended On

I was looking for a picture of the mural Chris drew and painted on his 2 bedroom walls when he was 8 years old and I stumbled across this:

The same 8-year-old boy that played with his little brother and little sister drew an amazing jungle mural with a lion, gorilla, and elephant drawn to perfect proportion. I was hoping to pull this mural to show off his artistry for the Kansas City Art Institute.

Chris returned the admissions counselor’s call today after she left him three messages. We need to get her his high school transcript, ACT score and 15 to 20 pieces of his art uploaded ASAP. Of course I’ve been telling him all year that he needs to work on his portfolio. But he’s an artist who would rather create than organize. Which is a lot like his mother.

Last night at 7:30pm my husband and I visited Liberty Tax to finish our taxes. I thank God for tax preparers like Kim Emery who added up every receipt from my husband’s business expenses and patiently calculated his business miles. If I have to choose between writing and working on my taxes, which do you think I’m going to choose?

I would rather create rather than organize. Chris is one of my most glorious creations as my son. I’ve told him that he christened me into adulthood. I freaked out that I was responsible for the caring and feeding of another human being who was completely dependent on me. My friends who knew me as a single gal that flitted about the country at a whim, prayed for him and me.

They prayed that I wouldn’t forget picking him up after school. Or forget about feeding him or leave him at church. Thankfully after 18 years, I’ve remembered to pick him up at school, feed him when he is hungry and never left him at church.

I heard a message last Sunday about how being made in the image of God is being in the god class. We are not gods per say, but we are in His class of being able to create. But just like we have the ability to create, He enjoys our complete dependency on Him.

We don’t like depending on anybody and our culture celebrates the self-made, independent individual. Depending on someone is considered a weakness. But I keep thinking of that scripture when Jesus said He does the Father’s will. Jesus was a dependent being who could call on an army of angels.

He walked on water. He healed people. He fed 5,000 yet He was completely dependent on the Father. Another hallmark message that I’ve had drilled into me by Pastor Steve Gray is learning how to become smaller on your own eyes so He is bigger. I’ve never heard any preacher encourage congregants to become smaller. Instead, the church encourages us to become bigger in God, to the point we don’t need anyone, and maybe not Him.

As I’ve watched Chris grow up from the baby who snuggled at my neck, then wrestling with his little brother to the 18-year-old looking for his art work, I silently pray and hope that he will still depend on me. That he will still need me. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to do well and I know that God will bless everything that he puts his hand to but I still want him to need me.

I loved helping him get his applications together for college, doing the research and editing his essays. And just like I love to help Chris, I get a taste of how the Father loves to be needed. He loves to hear us call out to Him and depend on Him.

Unfortunately, the only time most people notice Him is when they are in a crisis. If you live from one crisis to another, that may be one reason why they never stop. The never ending crises make you depend on Him.

What if you called out to Him and depended on Him when the times were good? I bet those crises would happen farther apart in life and become infrequent. Learning how to need Him, depend on Him, call out to Him to thank Him, love Him and honor Him when times are good is a discipline of consistent devotion.

Try it right now. Thank Him for the good things happening in your life even though you might be in the middle of a crisis. Thank Him for the outcome. Honor Him by sharing about the good things He has done in your life with someone else. Consistently needing Him, depending on Him with disciplined devotion will keep you involved with His life and Him with your life.