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How to Cultivate Your Own Creative Career

creative work

More and more people whose likelihood depends on being creative and innovative continually are working for themselves. They’re freelancers, they’re consultants, they’re independent. But many can spend much of their time doing anything but creative work: drumming up new prospects, carving out time for administrative work, or getting up to speed on new projects. Freelancers also lack resources that their colleagues with traditional jobs may take for granted: team support, project managers, tech assistance, or training opportunities, to name a few.

Daniel Goleman spoke with Teresa Amabile in his Leadership: A Master Class video series about practical ways to cultivate your own successful creative career.

Skill Development

Pay attention to your skill development. Keeping your skills sharp is an important piece of creativity. Learning new things in your own area of expertise as well as outside of your strengths can spark new associations that lead to fresh ideas.

Get a Different Perspective

Engage with people who have different perspectives, or who come from different fields. That’s going to fertilize your creative thinking. Working with people who see things differently can also sharpen your problem solving skills by seeing new perspectives on challenges or tasks, forcing yourself to break out of mental habits.

Stay Motivated

Pay attention to your motivation. Try to feel excited about what you’re you’re doing. If you find that you’re work is getting stale, look for new projects, new people to work with, or new things to do.

Small Wins

Focus on your daily progress. It’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind on our to-do list given a typical freelancer’s workload. That’s why it’s important to keep sight on your accomplishments – no matter how small they may seem. Keep a daily diary. Take two or three minutes at the end of the day to jot down what things you actually got done that day that moved things forward for you in projects that you care about. Maybe it’s something that you didn’t plan on getting done that day, but if it’s meaningful. If you can see your way learning, getting somewhere, doing something that matters to you or to people that you care about, keep track of it. Look back on your record of the progress that you’ve made and the enjoyment that you found in your work.

Become Aware of Obstacles

Take note of obstacles you encounter. Include mental blocks or moods. Find ways of overcoming them. Make a plan for the next day to build on the progress that you experienced the day before to refocus on your goals.

Learn More

Maximize your creative potential with proven-effective practices by Teresa Amabile, director of research in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School.  Her insights are available in the following resources:

The Executive Edge: An Insider’s Guide to Outstanding Leadership examines the best practices of top-performing executives. It offers practical guidance for developing the distinguishing competencies that make a leader outstanding.

Leadership: A Master Class Training Guide offers more than nine hours of research findings, case studies and valuable industry expertise through in-depth interviews with respected leaders in executive management, leadership development, organizational research, workplace psychology, innovation, negotiation and senior hiring. Each module in the guide offers individual and group exercises, self-assessments, discussion guides, review of major points, and key actionable takeaway plans.

Create to Innovate details the latest research behind creativity and innovation and how leaders can drive these critical factors in any organization by creating and growing positive inner work lives for employees.

mindful school

The Mindful Child: Teaching the New ABCs of Attention, Balance, and Compassion


mindful school


The classical training of mindfulness revolves around the four foundations or applications of mindfulness, depending on translation. These four foundations involve paying attention to inner experience, then outer, then both together without blending the two. It is so important to ground your bases in some form of well-established, or basic and classical truth.

Andrew Olendzki concisely defines them in his article, The Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness, as:

  1. Mindfulness of Body – bringing awareness, attention, or focus to breathing and bodily sensation
  2. Mindfulness of Feeling – noticing the affect tone, such as pleasure or displeasure, that comes with every sense object, whether a sensation or a thought
  3. Mindfulness of Mind – noticing when there is attachment (greed, judgement, wanting) present in the mind and when there is not attachment present
  4. Mindfulness of Mental Objects/Phenomena – being mindful and attentive to any thought that arises and allowing it to pass away unobstructed, and eventually directing this observance through a much more in depth exploration of the true origins of that thought

The Mindful Child

At the Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference in 2012, Susan Kaiser-Greenland talked in her keynote address about the importance of having a deep and scholastic understanding of mindfulness before even thinking about addressing a classroom full of children about it. It is crucial not go about it haphazardly. The games and activities you do with your children should be rooted in scientifically proven and backed truth. This could include the classical training, or a multitude of other resources. It is also important to bring the language down to a level children can fully understand.

“When I work with children,” says Kaiser-Greenland, “I teach them mindfulness is paying attention with kindness – first towards yourself, then to other people, then to everyone and everything.”

Kaiser-Greenland believes another way of defining mindfulness is that it’s a way of looking at the world; it’s attention, balance, and compassion. Always remember to check in on your mind. Is it cloudy? Dull? Alert? Judging? Are my actions or words consistent with who I would like to be or who I would like to become?

“What happens when we do this?” she asks, before drawing on activist Cornel West. “We are in the world in a different way. A way of looking leads to a way of being. We call that love on legs.”

View an excerpt from Susan’s speech here, or purchase the full streaming video here. To view the entire BHMY conference, it is exclusively available here.

Additional Resources

Focus Back-to-School Bundle

Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth 2013 Conference

The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education

How Students Can Develop Their Mental Muscle

mental muscle

Most of our internal narrative is fictitious, repetitive and negative. The internal narrative of children can be all of that – heightened. They don’t have the skills of experience to recognize the thought/emotion connection. How can educators help students become more aware – and in control – of their internal world?

Physical movement, including basic yoga postures, is a fun, practical way to help students strengthen not only their physical muscles, but their mental muscles. The goal is to cultivate a multitude of traits:

  1. Awareness
  2. Embodied attending
  3. Emotional intelligence
  4. Self-regulation
  5. Recognition

Here’s how it works. Take a break for physical activity, perhaps when you notice they’re getting restless. Try something very simple such as tortoise pose, to camel, to triangle, to warrior, to mountain, and back down again. Or walking slowly around the room.

Ask the children occasionally throughout and after the sequence: what do you feel in your body? Then you can ask them to name an emotion they might be feeling: tired, happy, angry, bored, etc. This will help them to start recognizing emotions such as impulses of anger when they arise. When children learn to handle their anger (or any emotion) as an impersonal entity, they’ll be less inclined to deal with it violently either to themselves or others.

“So we’re on the upward facing dog. Now what? Nothing!” said Jon Kabat-Zinn at his keynote speech at the 2013 Bridging Hearts and Minds of Youth conference. “This is a curriculum already: being. Just be here! We’re learning how to inhabit being – in school. All of a sudden it wakes something up.”

The basic practices of mindfulness and yoga are a great way to show students how to free themselves from paying too much attention to the movie in their minds – and focus on the task at hand.

Jon’s full speech is available for purchase in an exclusive streaming video here, and the entirety of the 2013 BHMY conference is available here.

Additional resources

Back-to-School Focus Bundle

Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference DVD Set

The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education

How to Integrate Mindfulness into the Classroom

mindfulness in classroom

The Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth conference in San Diego (presented by UC San Diego School of Medicine and Center for Mindfulness and Stressed Teens) host talks that present timeless truths about mindfulness. A few years ago, Megan Cowan talked about practical ways to integrate mindfulness into the education system, and gave some advice to help teachers foster a more compassionate, reflective environment.

 Define Mindfulness

First, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is and what impact it’s having on education. Mindfulness is relatively new in the secular world – and even newer in education – and the definition varies depending on the definer.

The way Mindful Schools describes mindfulness when they go into schools is simply by telling the children it’s about paying attention to any aspect of your experience. For example, tell your students to pay attention to sound. What do they hear? Tell them to pick one noise, and focus on it. Focus on it so hard that all other sound fades away until it becomes the only one. After a few moments in this state (perhaps five minutes), allow them to slowly drift back to the classroom. They can do the same with all of their senses.

 Notice Our Internal World

Mindfulness also involves being aware of internal experiences, such as thoughts and emotions. A good idea is to have a curriculum broken up into segments that only integrates one new aspect at a time. Take mindful listening, for example. It’s a good idea to have an unusual sound – such as a bell or any sort of instrument – to get their attention before starting the exercise mentioned previously. Don’t be surprised if the children become quite attached to the instrument you use! A Pavlovian effect will most likely occur. When they hear the bell, they’ll know exactly what to do. They might not be able to be mindful on their own; they might need a gentle reminder.

“The sound really meant something to the children,” said Megan. “It was more than just a reminder. It was permission to stop. It’s like a safety zone for them, and a chance to go inward.”

View an excerpt from Megan’s talk here. Her full lecture is available for purchase, as is the full conference.

How to Manage the Unexpected

manage change

As the levels of stress, difficulty, and pressure increase in the workplace, it’s even easier to make the wrong decision. This puts leaders and other decision-makers in a fight-or-flight mode. That mindset does not allow them to use the executive functions of their brains well. The result is inefficiency – for them, colleagues and clients.

The Harvard Business Review published an article called, “What VUCA Really Means For You.” V-U-C-A is an acronym representing the environment of today’s working world. It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Here’s how to use these four letters to better manage the unexpected.


A volatile situation is the best-case scenario you could have for a challenge. You are best able to predict the results of your action, and you have a lot of knowledge about the situation. It most likely arises unexpectedly and leaves you on unstable ground for an unknown duration. It’s not hard to understand, but hard to deal with.

The best response:

  1. Prepare for these situations.
  2. Make sure you’ll have the proper resources and talent to deal with these events.
  3. Be wary of expenses, however. Your investment should match the risk.


An uncertain situation arises when you have no information about a challenge, but the likely cause and effect are known. The situation is not permanent and could change quickly.

The best response:

  1. Find out all the information you can, and do not keep it to yourself.
  2. This method works best when the structural integrity of organizations is shifting to help reduce uncertainty.


A complex challenge involves multiple interconnected moving parts and variables. Your knowledge of the situation is most likely limited (although probably predictable), and it can be hard to know which actions will solve the problem without gathering knowledge. However, the volume or nature of this challenge is overwhelming, making the process of gaining knowledge about it difficult.

The best response:

  1. Approach a complex situation by restructuring and bringing in specialists.
  2. If you don’t have any specialists, develop some of your employees and train them to become specialists.
  3. Develop resources that can help you deal with these problems in the future.


An ambiguous challenge is intimidating because no precedents exist. You have little knowledge of the situation and how your actions will impact your organization.

The best response:

  1. Use an ambiguous problem as an opportunity to experiment.
  2. Understand your environment, the competition in other fields, and experiences similar organizations used to change their course.
  3. Cater your experiments and decisions so that they can be broadly applied, and help you in the long run.

thriving on change

Stress. Distraction. Indifference.

These are common ailments brought on by a rapidly changing global business environment. If untreated, they negatively impact your team’s performance – and the bottom line.

How Will You Adapt?

Thriving on Change is an online course that teaches the proven-effective methods that will ensure your team can expertly respond to uncertainty, conflict, and inevitable distraction.

The material is delivered incrementally to align with busy schedules. It’s designed for individual participation or group training sessions.

Register today!

The Executive Edge Excerpt: Leading Through Change

executive edge

The following is an excerpt from The Executive Edge: An Insider’s Guide to Outstanding Leadership.

Leading Through Change

Daniel Goleman: The main task of so many leaders today is leading change. And there’s a saying—which I’m not sure is true—that people resist change. But how can this insight about the mind’s eye and so on help a leader make the change that they’re trying to make?

George Kohlrieser: Well, this is one of the very destructive myths around—that people naturally resist change. They do not naturally resist change. They resist the pain of the change. They resist the fear of the unknown. Now, the brain naturally is going to seek—be curious, explore, do new things—and it actually creates new neurons. It’s how the brain thrives. But to do that, you have to feel safe. You have to be able to have your survival needs taken care of. So when you’re defensive, you can’t change. When you feel safe enough, then you go out and you want to explore. That’s what a leader has to do. A leader has to be able to give that trust, that sense of security, and then explosions of creativity will occur.

The failure for many leaders is that they are creating negative states in other people because they’re in a negative state. They cannot hold on to the positive energy, the positive focus, and change is painful. We’re not denying that, but with the flashlight—the mind’s eye—you have to seek beyond the pain, beyond the frustration, to what the opportunity is. And you know the great stories of people in life who had catastrophes—personally, professionally—who have been able to overcome it by seeing opportunity. They can live with what they have and be able to get beyond setbacks, so that in the end they come back to the joy of life.

Goleman: It seems what you’re saying that if a leader is held hostage by his or her emotions, it really limits that leader’s potential. How can you tell if you are being held hostage, and what can you do about it?

Kohlrieser: Well, you can tell when you’re playing life defensively as opposed to playing offensively. Playing to win is a special attitude. This does not mean competition. It means that you take the right risks at the right time. You focus the mind’s eye on possibilities and opportunities—not on regrets and fears. Anytime you’re speaking about yourself—or people, or life—with a sense of regret, a sense of complaining, a sense of you are not able to do what you want, then the possibility is very strong that you are held hostage. So you can be hostage to a person, to a place, to an event, to an experience, to a memory.

And a highly performing leader who isn’t held hostage is always thinking of talent development. For instance, how can I learn something new? How can I expand what I already know? And using Ericsson’s research, we know that you need 10,000 hours of practice. But to be able to do that, you can’t be held hostage by frustration, by failure, by all the things that stop you. You need to be able to practice correctly—”deliberate practice,” he calls it—and do that over and over again, without complaining. Enjoying learning a musical instrument, learning a language, or learning something new regarding how you deal with people. And emotional intelligence provides the greatest learning there is: discovery of people. People are really wonderful! But they’re also complex.

Then lastly, having somebody to help teach you—a mentor or coach—who is emotionally intelligent and can help develop your talent. Then you can stop feeling like a victim. I think when people haven’t gotten over something, when they feel like victims, there’s something wrong in the way they’re looking at life. It’s in the mindset, and the most powerful thing that we have is our mindset: having that be clear and focused, and being adaptable and being flexible, and always being willing to learn.

About The Executive Edge

The Executive Edge: An Insider’s Guide to Outstanding Leadership examines the best practices of top-performing executives. It offers practical guidance for developing the distinguishing competencies that make a leader outstanding.

Every leader needs threshold abilities to get by at work. But in today’s complex business landscape, getting by isn’t enough. It’s the distinguishing competencies that are crucial for success. You need elements that will give you “the executive edge.”

As a collection of Daniel Goleman‘s in-depth interviews with respected leaders in executive management, organizational research, workplace psychology, negotiation, and senior hiring; The Executive Edge contains the necessary research findings, case studies, and shared industry expertise every motivated leader needs.

Available in print and on Kindle, iTunes and nook.

You might also be interested in:

Thriving on Change: The Evolving Leader’s Toolkit

Leadership: A Master Class Training Guide

The Coaching Program

The C-Suite Toolkit

Expand Your Leadership Style Repertoire

leadership style

There are six leadership styles that are vastly underused: affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, coaching, coercive, and authoritative. Employing the right approach at the right time could make all the difference when it comes to closing a big deal, improving production quality and speed, or managing conflicts. Even though most leaders would say they only use two or three of the styles, it is important to understand that all of them can be mastered and used to your advantage.

Short-Term Solution

A simple solution to making up for the leadership skills you currently lack is to surround yourself with people who possess the style you need. For example, let’s say you’re the vice president of a food distribution corporation. You successfully did business in your home state of New York and expanded up into New England and down along the coast to the Carolinas using the affiliative style. You traveled frequently between the states, met with restaurant owners and eased their concerns, and made sure the customers felt like your company had a personal touch.

However, you know your tech knowledge is lacking, and technology is needed to distribute the food as quickly as possible. Efficiency is the most important appeal to your customers. Therefore, you informed a trusted colleague about the performance standards and let them delegate the strategy using their authoritative approach. You also told this person to appoint a second-in-command to bring along on visits to make sure you don’t spend too much time at each restaurant.

Long-Term Solution

While surrounding yourself with people who possess the skills you lack, it’s also a good idea to work on your limitations. The first step is to acknowledge your gaps in emotional intelligence so that you can work with yourself or a coach to develop them. Take an authoritative leader, for example, who may want to add some democracy to their workplace. They need to work on collaborative and effective communication skills.

They’ll want to master the affiliative leader’s strengths:

  • Empathy: Sensing how people are feeling in the moment allows the affiliative leader to respond to people’s emotions immediately, which helps build trust.
  • Building Relationships: Meeting new people and cultivating a bond comes easily.
  • Interpersonal Communication: Say just the right thing at just the right time.

Enhance your leadership styles

Gain practical insights from the following resources:

What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters presents Daniel Goleman’s ground-breaking, highly sought articles from the Harvard Business Review and other business journals in one volume. This often-cited, proven-effective material has become essential reading for leaders, coaches and educators committed to fostering stellar management, increasing performance, and driving innovation. This collection reflects the evolution of Dr. Goleman’s thinking about emotional intelligence, tracking the latest neuroscientific research on the dynamics of relationships, and the latest data on the impact emotional intelligence has on an organization’s bottom-line.

What Makes a Leader is also part of the C-Suite Toolkit.

The Coaching Program is an online streaming learning series for executives, highlighting methods for enhancing any leader or manager’s effectiveness, creativity, and ability to connect with their teams.

Leadership: A Master Class Training Guide offers more than nine hours of research findings, case studies and valuable industry expertise through in-depth interviews with respected leaders in executive management, leadership development, organizational research, workplace psychology, innovation, negotiation and senior hiring. Included is an extensive, detailed training guide around the video content for human resources professionals, senior managers and executive coaches. Each module offers individual and group exercises, self-assessments, discussion guides, review of major points, and key actionable takeaway plans. The materials allow for instructor-led or self-study opportunities.

Happy Employees, Happy Customers

customer service

Happy employees tend to go the extra mile with their customer service when they feel encouraged and supported. The relationship between workers, their environment, and customer service has actually been proved by a logarithm; customer service climate and revenue are directly proportional. In fact, a positive atmosphere doubles revenue.

Throughout his studies at the University of Maryland and his observations in a multitude of industries, Professor Benjamin Schneider has found that when employees responded more positively to their work environment, customer satisfaction and business results increased. Inversely, a negative work environment led to unhappy workers, poor customer service, and declining revenues.

The service industry is among the most stressful of all occupations. Workers have to deal with everything from insufferable customers, disagreeable managers, challenging working conditions, long hours and, more often than not, low pay. Not much to smile about.

Emotional Contagion

Bad moods spread faster than wildfire. Rudeness can transfer from the employee to the customer, in turn making them angry or dissatisfied, regardless of how well the actual service was executed. Furthermore, disgruntled workers who aren’t thorough can create a wake of trauma in their path. Cardiac care units, for example, where nurses’ described their outlook as “depressed” had a patient death rate four times higher than comparable units.

Great service, in contrast, can make a world of difference for both the consumer and the employee. If consumers enjoyed their experience, they are likely to return, and share good reviews to their friends and colleagues, or online. If the employees feel upbeat and cared for, they are also more likely to work harder to appease the customer. Jennifer George and Kenneth Bettenhausen concluded in their study, Understanding Prosocial Behavior, that stores with positive salespeople had the best sales results.

A Good Leader Can Make a Difference

The manager is often the person who sets the mood. If a leader is confident, optimistic, and shows genuine compassion toward their workers, both the overall atmosphere and the sales will be lifted in the right direction. There are three factors that make or break a job: working conditions, salary, and leadership. Resonant leaders are perhaps the most important of the three.

How leaders carry themselves and their relationships with their employees directly impact their emotions and performances. Between 20-30% of an organization’s profit can be traced back to how employees feel about their place of employment, and 50-70% of this view traces back to one factor: their leader. A leader’s ability to understand their emotional intelligence and act rationally – not impulsively – becomes a major factor in the overall performance of the business.

Resources to develop a positive work environment

The HR and EI Collection

Leading with Emotional Intelligence [online course]

Resonant Leadership: Inspiring Others Through Emotional Intelligence

What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

High Performance Leadership


How would you define mindfulness?

How would you define mindfulness?

What Is Mindfulness?

by More Than Sound Staff

Have you heard anything about mindfulness lately? Chances are you have… Chances are you’ve heard a lot about mindfulness lately. You’ve probably been hearing about mindfuless in the media, at work, in casual conversation, maybe even at the dinner table from your kids. Perhaps you’ve read about it online a few times.

But even with the media spotlight on mindfulness, do you feel like you understand it? Is it clear to you how mindfulness works? How would you define mindfulness?

How would you define mindfulness?

Can you explain mindfulness? Credit:

There’s so much buzz about what mindfulness is or is not, and sometimes coming from people who have minimal experience in the practice. So in an effort to both simplify and deepen the mindfulness conversation, we have released a series of podcasts featuring noted mindfulness scholars, including Rick Hanson, Juliet Adams, and Joseph Goldstein. Upcoming contributors will include Daniel Goleman, Mirabai Bush, and Surya Das.

Common Questions, Thoughtful Insights

Designed as an interview series to maintain consistency across subject matter, the podcast contributors are all asked the same questions. Some examples are:

  • How can mindfulness be put into action?
  • What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
  • How does mindfulness training work?

Through these questions and others, our featured guests and their decades of experience will help provide clarity and add to the conversation surrounding mindfulness. This will allow you to formulate your own opinions about how mindfulness might apply to you.

Listen to some interviews now:

Rick Hanson: What is Mindfulness?

Juliet Adams: The Relationship Between Mindfulness and Meditation

Joseph Goldstein: Hidden Dangers in Popularity of Mindfulness

The Dangers of Groupthink


Everyone one of us has blind spots. But we often don’t see them until someone points them out. As leaders rise through the ranks, the less honest feedback they receive from peers.

A high-level executive can become isolated. They surround themselves with people who won’t report negative information. They’re afraid to deliver bad news for fear of repercussions. Not knowing the reality of a situation means you can get into a distorted bubble. A lack of information can lead to poor decisions. You go down a path that’s a mistake from the get-go, but nobody tells you.

When Daniel Goleman spoke with Bill George for Leadership: A Master Class, they discussed what Bill learned from a first-hand experience with the dangers of groupthink.

“Early in my life, I worked in the U.S. Department of Defense as a civilian in the year of Robert McNamara and the Vietnam War. Some of the most brilliant people I’ve met in my life were at the high levels of the Pentagon. But toward the end they were walking off the cliff together. They suffered from groupthink. McNamara was so powerful. His team simply reinforced what he was saying. They didn’t take different perspectives.

Any good leader needs to have a reliable team who will ask tough questions, or poke holes in logic.

Another time one of my co-workers asked, “Do you think everyone agreed with that decision in the meeting?” I said, “Yeah, they all said yes, and at the end. We even voted.”

His response was an eye-opener. “Well, there were three people backing their managers that were so angry, they could hardly speak to you because you  blew over them, and forced them to say yes.”

After some thought I knew he was right. I had to go back, tail between my legs, and say, “I’m really sorry. I guess I didn’t hear what you were really saying.” That allowed me to be open to honest conversation.

I also learned that it’s not just looking for and appreciating feedback from that special trusted group, but bringing the attitude with you to the office. I now try to surround myself with people who have diverse viewpoints.”

Fine tune your executive management skills with Daniel Goleman’s video series, Leadership: A Master Class.

Additional resources

The Coaching Program is an online streaming learning series for executives, highlighting methods for enhancing any leader or manager’s effectiveness, creativity, and ability to connect with their teams.

The C-Suite Toolkit is designed for senior management (or those new to senior management positions) seeking a comprehensive reference library from the most respected business and leadership experts of our time.

The Competency Builder program was created to assist workers at all levels learn how to work more mindfully, improve focus, handle daily stresses better, and use these skills to increase their effectiveness. A great resource for any HR library.

The EI Overview provides easy-to-understand insights into proven-effective ways managers can best employ leadership styles, as well as develop the areas where they lack.