How a Road Taken Can Lead to Unexpected Results

What do you do when you face a challenging situation?

I tend to mull it over and over until a kernel of an idea forms that leads to something that might be a solution. To get there, I talk and discuss with everyone around me until they engage in finding that solution. I gather information. I want to know why it’s challenging. Why has it presented itself? What are the issues? What are possible solutions? And then, in collaboration with others or on my own, I decide on a pathway to what is hopefully a satisfactory resolution.  And that often leads to surprising results.

One example: MAMMA

Challenges about mothering led to development of a MAMMA newsletter, TV series, mini-conferences and workshops.

mamma-five-cousins

The five cousins who ignited the idea for MAMMA.

Those initiatives began with discussions I had with my sister-in-law Marlene whose children were the same age as mine and  sick. Each of my three kids at that time were in the midst of taking turns with chicken pox over the course for six weeks. Hers had croup. We were completely isolated in our homes. No friends over to visit. What saved us from going nuts was our dial up telephone. In our discussions, we recognized that our situation was universal: moms at home had little to no support system.

We bandied about the idea of starting an entity that would address real issues of motherhood. We approached a municipal government organization offering family services about distributing a survey asking moms to indicate their interest in participating in and contributing to what we assumed would be a regular newsletter. Very supportive, the organization’s committee agreed. Response was considerable – and positive. We decided on an unwieldy, yet appropriate name: Modern Activities for Mothers’ Mental Awareness. We wrote articles, invited contributors to write, typed, copied and collated our first MAMMA issue.

mamma-ethel-and-paul-stapling
Each family member, from grandparents to children, took turns at folding and stapling each newsletter

 

mamma-with-kids

 

Eventually, MAMMA became a quarterly publication, edited and designed by professionals, sent to the presses for printing, and mailed to subscribers across the nation and around the world. One issue included a Directory to Home Party and Services that led to a Home Party  feature by Financial Post Magazine. A journalist with a copy of MAMMA asked to interview us and some of the home party business owners mentioned in that issue.

mamma-homeparty_issue

After capturing the attention of local and then national media, we were contacted by the director of a small cable company about the idea of a taped half hour weekly cable show along the lines of our publication. We were excited to take on the challenge.
meet-the-mammas

That gig in turn led us to pitch the idea to a major cable company of an hour long, live, interview and phone in show, once again ‘wo’manned by local volunteers.

mamma-show-control-room

mamma-motherhood-gets-a-network

We became a phenomenon, especially after the airing of an interview with our camera woman – a last minute guest who – til then, it turned out, had received the largest divorce settlement  in the history of Canada! (How well do we know the people who cross our lives?)

media-coverage-decades

You never know when the solution to a problem can lead to wonderful results you never considered. You just have to take the leap.

Another example: GRADING THE TEACHER: A PARENT/TEACHER GUIDE

Challenges about my children’s education motivated me to writing a proposal for an article in one of our local newspapers. It was turned down as not suitable for that publication by the editor – with the suggestion that I expand it into a potential article for a national magazine. With that in mind, I created a report card to send with my proposal to another newspaper. That became the focus of a full page focusing on evaluating teachers, using some of the points in my report. (See the Toronto Sun headline “Marking the Teacher” in the photo below.)

The editor there suggested I use the report as the source of a book.

That led to writing an outline, submitting a proposal, taking on a New York agent, being turned down by 28 publishers, and then contacted by Penguin Books Canada!

My book Grading the Teacher became a best seller worldwide. And … as well as by most major local and national media across the country, it was featured on page two of the newspaper by the very first editor I approached with my proposal for an article!

gtt-media-coverage

Have you taken risks overcoming challenges that led to surprising results? Share your story…

___________

In the next post, I will describe the background of a completely new initiative I’ve just previewed this past week. Here’s a sneak look:  https://www.facebook.com/NellieJacobsSunnySideUp

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SmallTalk

Image result for conversationThis week an email request arrives from a friend who has the weird belief I know something about communicating with people. Although she’s an expert in her field, I know she’s shy and uncomfortable in crowds. What she initiated with her seemingly simple question was an honest response that then led into the absurd.

For your entertainment, in this post I’ll share our exchanges. I’d love to read your personal stories and reactions…

In her first email, she asks, “Can you coach me I how to make small talk?”

To get a better perspective of her need, I write back, “How small? The size of an inch, a foot, a yard? Who’d be the recipient?”

Then I add, “I just tend to wander away.” (Which is true when I find myself bored or uninterested in the conversation).

She responds with, “I’m going to a fundraiser for our local MLA next Saturday. Not sure how to interact with the people there. Want to feel more confident. It’s only 2 hours, late afternoon.” 

Okay. After a bit of thought, I send her this:

“All you have to do is ask any person about themselves. And away they go…

Eg: 
  • How are you connected to this?
  • Have you lived here all your life? No? Where are you from? Yes? Where’s your family from?
  • What are your interests/hobbies? 
  • Have you read any good books lately”? Movies? Tv programs? Theatre? What are your favourites/recommendations?
  • What are your favourite activities?
  • Do you have family here?

I suspected any of these questions would lead into a fuller conversation.

Next, I get this surprising response:

Hmm. Now, she’s opened the door to my imagination… So-o-o-o, I go there with,

Ask more generic question.  Are these less personal …

My friend responds with, “Fabulous! Game on.” And then adds,
  • “how did they make their money?
  • What kind of future do they envision for Canada/ is it aligned with the one they want…”
At first, I’m pleased that she’s galvanized. Suddenly, I reread the money bit, and realize that she often doesn’t ‘get’ jokes and may very well think that the suggestions in my last two emails are serious.
Oh my. She/I could be in real trouble.
At first, I re-direct with, “How did they make their money? Or, what’s your specialty?” Then, to be totally clear, I write, You know I was joking w the last bunch of questions?
My final words in this exchange:
“I had so much fun w the absurd ones. And shared them w Paul and a friend w a hearty sense of humour. We laughed crazy. Thank you!

Signs of a Successful Marriage/Partnership

I’ve always been interested in family relationships. What makes them good? What causes them to fall apart? So, after Grading the Teacher was first published in 1996, I decided my next book would be about family.

Image result for family

When friends, relatives, acquaintances, and even strangers I met in the supermarket, learned my intention, they eagerly shared their family insights and experiences. People wrote letters, emails, phoned – and stopped me whenever I went out. I took so many notes, there came a point where I had so much material, I realized the stories I’d collected would add up to more than 1,000 pages. Facing the daunting prospect of collating, sorting, organizing and editing the voluminous material, I was completely overwhelmed.

Paul said, “Forget writing the book. Design a great cover. Add blank pages. Sell it. Let people record their own stories.” I abandoned that project, and went on to write Magical MousePainting and Making Opportunity Knock.

However, my interest in family never waned.

This past week, I read disturbing Facebook posts written by young mothers whose partners were deceitful and abusive. I thought about my wise friend Merle’s  belief that couples abide by their unwritten contracts. Interesting concept. What is your contract? I reached out to my long married friends/followers who could offer advice about signs of successful marriages. Ruth Asher, a social worker married over two decades, sent this link to a video entitled “6 Things We can Learn from Happy Couples”:  http://bit.ly/2hRTtsX

Here’s the beginning of a checklist contributed by some who have been in long marriages/partnerships. This list could be referred “Grading the Relationship.” Feel free to add to it.

___ Trusts the Significant Other completely

___ Openly discusses mutual and personal issues

___ Truly listens and addresses the concerns of the Other

___ Values Other’s opinion and reasoning

___ Shows appreciation  for all that the Other does

___   Focuses on giving emotionally, rather than taking and having certain expectations

___ Offers consideration, mutual respect for the Other’s needs and wants – and appreciation for same

___ Shares common interests

___ Accepts Other’s right to have the opportunity to follow personal interests, friends and activities

____Communicates issues and opinions well

 

 

Promoting Creativity. Selling Yourself.

sell-yourselfIt’s one thing to be chomping at the bit, ready-finally-to inspire and change the world; it’s quite another to let the world know you exist. These days, with a bit of imagination anyone engaged in the creativity field is in a terrific position to promote themselves and their creative passion. Countless platforms and websites offer simple tools to help you grow your network and achieve your goals.

If you haven’t already done so, for very little time, money and research, you can start a blog or send out an e-newsletter to your network. (If it’s too difficult to maintain regular postings, invite guests to contribute articles, or offer to write your own for other people’s blogs.) Pitch editors of traditional or online publications with an idea for a regular daily, weekly or monthly column. (Have some samples ready for submission). Consider writing and self-publishing a short e-book that might, for instance, offer a step-by-step guide to your insights, experiences, or expertise. Speaking of specialties, prepare a course to teach in-person or online. Initiate and lead supportive groups. Post comments and share links on social media. Conduct interviews of creative individuals on a podcast series-or offer yourself as a well-informed talk show guest.

BELCHATOW POLAND - MAY 02 2013: Modern white keyboard with colored social network buttons.

Creativity has become the buzz word used in ads, articles and media headlines around the world. The trick is to produce a ‘hook’ for a press release that will lead to a feature story. Plan events relating to current events or holidays. Identify a pressing public concern, its creative solution-and then act on it. As example, after internationally renowned creativity specialist Marci Segal read a 2001 newspaper banner that said creativity was in crisis, she was moved to establish World Creativity and Innovation Week April 15 (Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday) to 21 (WCIW). Through networking and media coverage, WCIW is now celebrated in more than 40 countries worldwide!

WCIWHere’s an idea to promote creativity AND yourself immediately. Use WCIW as a newsworthy reason to go out into the community to encourage individuals and groups to do something special to celebrate creativity. Approach businesses, schools, recreation centers, clubs, and public institutions to establish partnerships or guide creative projects. For great ideas, explore https://wciw.org/. Add to the list!

-Nellie


This article was first published in the March, 2014 Creativity Coaching Association Creativity Calling! newsletter

Creative Thinking: Tools and Techniques Workshop

As generally happens, out of the blue I received an email inviting me to facilitate a creative thinking workshop, this time  for engineering students at the national Conference on Diversity in Engineering (CDE2016) sponsored by McGill University in Montreal,  November 18-20.

marci-and-nellie-being-funny
Marci and me having fun facilitating at our 2014 WISE workshop 

On her request in 2014, I’d partnered with Marci Segal  in developing and presenting a Creativity and Confidence workshop to female engineering students during their WISE (Women in Science & Engineering) National Conference in Toronto.

Apparently, a participant at that workshop recommended it to the coordinators of  CDE2016 .

I love working with Marci. She’s now living in Canmore, Alberta, so I immediately sent her a note asking if she’d be interested and available to plan and facilitate with me. “In a heartbeat!” she wrote back within minutes.

We sealed the deal with the conference team, and began to collaborate using Skype and Google Docs. An academic with an MS in Creativity, Marci has led creativity programs  worldwide (including NASA, PHD Canada, Ricoh), and is the creator of management training modalities and of World Creativity and Innovation Week April 15-21, now celebrated in more than 50 countries. I’m author, artist, and coach to creatives  who has studied art, screenwriting, and photography – and created original initiatives (such as skits, TV shows, mini-conferences, podcasts and Mining Your Creativity presentation) at virtually every stage of my adult life. Marci and I easily incorporate our different styles, background and experiences and have a great rapport in front of audiences.

After several conversations with members of the CDE2016 team as to their needs and objectives for this workshop, we came up with its title and description:

cde2016cre8-workshop-schedule-2

Marci and I pooled our resources, brainstormed ideas,  decided upon appropriate challenges for participants, chose illustrations, and  developed/designed the slides for a PowerPoint. Using Google Docs we created a logical outline and timeline:

cttt-timeline-002

We also created a Twitter hashtag for posting comments (click on it to go to Twitter):

#CDE2016cre8

 The weekend was a blast, yet getting there was a definite challenge for each of us. My husband was hospitalized with severe back pain earlier that week. As a result, on Thursday, the day before I was to leave, we had to turn down a potential kidney transplant. Until that evening I had no idea if I’d be able to leave. My kids urged me to go, promising to stay with my husband as much as possible. Marci, on the other hand, was stuck that same day in a snowstorm at the Denver airport where all planes were grounded, while only 2 of 27 de-icers were operable. She thought she was on her way to Calgary after leading sessions for Peace officers in San Diego. Instead, at 3 in the morning she was re-routed to Montreal through New York. Marci slept on the floor of the airport waiting for her flight to leave.

What we do to keep our commitments!

We had a wonderful time in Montreal. We each met long-time friends, rode the Metro, ate at the famous Snowdon deli, and enjoyed watching the terrific play Prom Queen. The best part, though, was the conference. During breakfast before our workshop and during lunch afterwards, we met so many enthusiastic students seriously committed to their futures. We chatted with them about their backgrounds and motivations for choosing engineering. We were amazed to learn of the multitude of specialties in engineering today, among them chemical, material, software, project, automation, mechanical, electrical, applications, power systems, etc. and on…

cde2016-lunch

CDE2016: Lunch with engineering student leaders who participated in our workshop. Marci is seated 2nd from left.

 

Our workshop was scheduled to start right after breakfast from 9:30 until 11:00. We arrived a half hour early to set everything up. Our seminar room has a spectacular view of the city and beyond and is situated on the 37th floor of the Marriot Chateau Champlain hotel. About forty people settled in at the long tables facing the front. We were introduced. Marci started speaking.

marci-speaking-cde2016

She introduced the topic and workshop objectives:

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We gave the group our first challenge, a game: work individually or in groups to create a four word sentence connecting the hashtag #wciw of World Creativity and Innovation Week to the issues related to diversity discussed over the conference weekend.

cde2016-wciwgame-hastag

Here are some of the clever results:

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and

cde2016-wciwgame-hastag2

and

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As we’d promised, our workshop was packed with techniques and tools to think creatively, including this slide:

cde2016-workshop2

Our audience listened carefully, took notes, worked in groups to address challenges, and shared their Eurekas:

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All in all, we had a great time presenting, offered tons of laughter, and received terrific feedback, including invitations to present this workshop at other universities across Canada. And afterwards, we had the unique experience studying the Trading of Crests, a long time engineering student tradition:

cde2016-exchanging-crests

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If you belong to, or know of, an organization, group or business that could use our Creative Thinking Tools and Techniques presentation, please contact me: Nellie Jacobs at Rogers dot com.

 

 

Letter to My Children

Friendship

I’m at that stage of life when I am sorting, organizing and eliminating clutter in preparation for moving out and on.  Digging through boxes stored away for years, I am making so many discoveries.  In the process, I read everything. Forgotten memories are stirred up. Letters to and from friends and relatives remind me of past relationships, events, losses and achievements. Among all that paper, I’ve come across notes I wrote to my children to help guide them through life. They grew up into loving, responsible, caring adults, now parents themselves. Hoping they will share this with their children,  written from the heart and unedited, here is one of the letters I wrote to them decades ago:

……………………

LETTER TO MY CHILDREN

Be true.

Discover your whole person.

Develop you.

Draw upon your inner resources.

Success is being happy.

Success is being fulfilled.

Success is being secure with yourself.

Be honest.

Analyze your shortcomings.

Work on a plan to improve.

ENVY

Envy no person.

No one can have it all. No one can have it all. If they do, at what price?

The rich lose their possessions; the beautiful, their looks.

The powerful, fall.

KNOWLEDGE

Learn from others.

Learn from yourself.

Read.

Discuss.

Watch.

Think.

Pause.

SELF-DEVELOPMENT

Identify your strengths. Build upon them.

Admire yourself.

Be proud of your accomplishments.

Identify your weaknesses. Attend to them.

Love yourself.

IMPROVEMENT

Not everything is self-fixable.

Get help if and when you need it.

Grow up.

Become mature.

Take responsibility for your actions and words.

Let go of blame.

CONSIDERATION

Be courteous.

Be irreverent but not rude.

THE RIPPLE EFFECT

What you don’t do can have a great – or greater – effect than what you choose to do.

Consider the effect of your words and actions on others.

SHARING

Carry your share.

Each excuse creates a heavier burden for the rest of us.

RESPECT

Don’t look down at others.

It’s too easy to be critical and patronizing.

LUCK

It is not everyone’s luck to be good-looking, bright, capable and privileged as you.

COMPASSION

Be forgiving.

You may never know what secrets your friends and acquaintances carry.

Be compassionate.

You may never know the burdens and tragedies of people you meet in your lifetime.

PRESUMPTIONS

Don’t presume.

Don’t presume you know all the answers.

You don’t even know all the questions.

No one knows. if he or she says they do, they are either lying or fooling themselves.

SUCCESS

Behind the face of every adult is a kid trying to figure out what the hell he or she is doing.

Some seem to accomplish it better than others.

No one is successful in every area.

The secrets of life are within yourself.

Have faith.

The world is wondrous.

Question values.

Hold onto humour. It may save your life.

FRIENDS

Choose friends you can love,

Choose friends who love you back.

ATTITUDE

Be open.

Learn to trust.

Accept love.

Guard yourself.

Don’t be naive.

Give yourself time.

Be patient with others.

Allow mistakes.

Reach higher, always.

GET HIGH

Forget drugs.

Learn about art. You will appreciate beauty.

Learn about music. Its rhythms captivate.

Study literature. Attend live theatre. Gather ideas.

Forget television and electronics. Interact with people. Volunteer.

Look for positive role models. follow their lead. Become a leader.

Mentor others, then set them free.

Recognize those who labour for you.

Acknowledge their work.

Be open-minded.

Consider new ideas and approach.

BALANCE

Balance your life.

Develop hobbies.

Cultivate interests.

Follow your interests and hobbies.

Become physically active.

Nurture family relationships.

Work at friendships.

Keep in touch. Regularly.

Visit.

Meet for lunch or dinner, movies, theatre.

Phone.

Write.

Email.

Be balanced emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually.

Believe in something.

Nurture yourself.

Pamper yourself.

Relax.

Take time.

Abandon sarcasm.

Don’t goad.

Encourage others.

Give compliments.

Be generous to those who deserve it.

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Should individuals campaign for their own organ donors?

The following is my response to this week’s Toronto Star article:

toronto-star-article-re-advocating-for-organ

………….

I can’t believe that is even a question.

This is not a matter of rich and cute; the media chooses who to feature. Desperate people do desperate things to continue living, including posting signs on placards, cars, and billboards, and flying to other countries for purchased kidneys.

Why would anyone who can make a public campaign just wait in a long line for their organ to fail? Creating a public plea for living donors is beneficial to the thousands waiting for a kidney, liver, lung-or more-who do not have the voice, support or resources to do so. As you rightfully mention, the plea creates both deceased and living donor awareness, in addition to offering a potential spillover effect…

living-donor-registry-photo

Here’s a brief outline of my family’s story.

In 2010, my husband’s kidneys suddenly failed. Not one to ask others to do what I can myself, I went through 11 months of tests and was approved to donate my kidney to my husband. Two and a half years later, a rare reaction to the polyomavirus slowly attacked the kidney, and in January of this year my husband once again began undergoing four to five hour long hospital dialysis treatments three times a week.

Our lives changed drastically.

Since there is no living organ donor candidate list in Canada, we determined not to sit back and wait the current 6-10 years for his name to be reached on Ontario’s list for a cadaver kidney. My family leapt into action:

  • I created an online petition to create a living organ donor candidate list:
  • We composed a letter outlining our situation, what it means to be a living donor, who to reach for more information, and a request to sign our petition. We circulated the letter among our personal and social media networks, and to media outlets.
  • We created a Facebook page and Twitter hashtags.
  • Partnering with the Kidney Foundation of Canada, after seven months of intensive planning, we initiated a 30 kilometre six person – including a female Olympic hopeful – relay swim across Lake Muskoka on July 30th this year.

organdonorswim-logo

It was a remarkable day with remarkable volunteers, many of whom arrived as strangers to us. Not only did the swim raise awareness about organ donation through media coverage, it raised enough monies through donations to send 10 (!!!) children with kidney issues to a week at summer camp:.

BTW: This past Thursday, my husband was completely unexpectedly notified of a matching kidney from a deceased donor available for him. We prayed for the grieving family, and then hurried down to the hospital; he underwent a series of tests to evaluate his suitability; he stayed overnight, enduring more tests; our kids gathered in the morning. On Friday, just an hour before the scheduled surgery, we were told the potential donated kidney was unfortunately compromised.

Two liver and two kidney surgeries were cancelled. We returned home to continue our campaign—for ourselves, and for others.

…..

The Star article was based on results of a current paper released by The Canadian Society of Transplantation.

If you haven’t already signed your organ card, please consider doing so. Your donation can save or enhance eight lives. Click here for more information about making donation part of your legacy plan.