“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world.” – Archimedes
While listening to a training disc recently, it came to mind that we use fulcrums throughout our lives for work and play, like children on a playground having fun on a “see saw” and like carpenters using fulcrums to pull nails.
The power is determined by the placement of the pivot and its relationship to the handle, and its length.
There are mental pivots, or fulcrums, that help us do tasks, or help relationships to be more fun, deeper, effective and productive.
When I was in elementary school, I didn’t enjoy memorizing my “times tables”, but little did I know how much I would use them later. This is a simple example of a fulcrum when used later in life would give me the power to determine if there were enough chairs in a room to accommodate participants for an important meeting.
I thank Mr. Powers, my shop teacher, for placing another powerful fulcrum in my tool box. This tool helped to get my creative juices flowing.
During the first week of classes, Mr. Powers gave us a plain white sheet of paper and directed us to scribble on it by making swirling and straight lines covering the page. Next we were to select three shapes within the scribbles, and shade them in. Then we were to scale up or down in size the shape as we transferred it onto graphing paper. Finally, we were to cut out the resulting shape and use it as a pattern to create a wooden ornament for a necklace.
I didn’t understand until much later: he was actually teaching a process to prompt and actualize creativity and problem solving, especially when you’re stuck and don’t know where to begin.
Using a simple and playful device gives your brain a rest and frees it from circling a problem over and over again.
Years later, I read a book titled, A Whack On The Side Of the Head by Roger von Oech, Ph.D (Warner 1983). The book’s focus is the process of recognizing how to remove roadblocks to creativity, and inspire problem solving and innovation.
I have reviewed this book a dozen times or more since first reading it. I’m reminded to not be too serious and to be playful with ideas. It suggests that you put yourself in mentally stimulating situations and look for different points of view. Also, you can learn to remove roadblocks to creativity, and discover ways to inspire innovation.
Do your answers prompt innovative ways to think and discover?
What are a few things that empower, excite and refresh you? Be intentional. Use them TODAY.
Be intentional, and open to serendipity.
Pursue an unorthodox approach.
Expect innovative thoughts.
Prompt the process: scribble and color shapes, bounce a ball, make and launch a paper airplane, vacuum a floor,
mow the lawn, or read something unrelated.
Take a walk (Philosopher Francis Schaffer walked back and forth thinking and listening until his floor had a
worn path in it).
Browse in a library.
Respect and record your ideas.
Talk to someone about the topic. Listen for emotions, not only content. Ask why they feel strongly. Positives or negatives provide a broader perspective.
Each of these ideas will provide a new angle of view, clarity, and more questions.
Our 17 year old started his senior year in high school, got his provisional license, started a new job at a café and inherited his grandfathers 2001 Buick Century, all within two months. Today he had a moment of transition while standing in the kitchen preparing to go to work. He picked up the lanyard holding a door key he has worn since grade school. In his other hand, he was holding the key ring to the car. I watched him pause, look at both and make a decision to move the key ring from the lanyard to the car keys.
He didn’t realize I saw him. I spoke up and said, “A big moment isn’t it? Leaving something from childhood and moving toward being an adult?” He looked at me and with a big smile, said “Uh huh”, and thoughtfully nodded yes.
Often the larger transitions in life are marked by small indicators.
At work, maybe you’ve been given an opportunity to show your abilities, accepting challenges and responsibilities, preparing you for promotion. Maybe the promotion has already come, and now you’re in the same place our son was, when you realize that you have a lot to learn, new expectations and responsibilities. You’re entrusted with the keys; you’re wearing a shirt without your name on the front; your office is larger, your desk is different; you push a different floor button on the elevator; people report to you, or some other indication that things have changed.
Stop and take it in. Take a moment to recognize what it took to get there, and appreciate those who helped you prepare for the challenge.
What moment have you had similar to this that required learning something new? Maybe you took on a challenge at work, a new hobby, or did something at home that was unfamiliar to you? Did you stop and realize the small things that were indicators of your growth? Those small things like the lanyard and key ring, the award pin, a plaque, or the photos with people indicate transitions, and the new levels of confidence.
My father recently passed away at 100 years old. For 30 or so years, while talking to strangers, friends, family (including me), he would almost always turn to his WWII experiences, starting with the phrase, “when I was in the army we…” or “during the war, we…” During one of our conversations, I interrupted and asked “why do you so often recall your military experiences?” He paused for a very brief moment and said, “That’s when a boy, became a man”.
As my sister and I were going through his things after he passed, we found his Honorable Discharge, and other memorabilia. What we didn’t know until our Congressional Representative called about honoring Dad for his service was that he earned the “Bronze Star” for an act of bravery. Oddly, he never spoke of it, or his other awards. We also found his business and professional licenses for more than 30 years in an envelope along with other items tucked into a small, worn cigar box. But what we found, and what touched us the most among his things, was that he kept a stack of Father’s Day cards he’d received from us. I think he realized that each card indicated changes and growth, and he also accepted his changes that influenced our lives and those we influence. Each card, each year, embodied a brief message of transition, success and legacy.
Life’s transitions are important and often significant to our present, future, and past.
Especially for Managers and Leaders: