How to boost creativity

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!” Henry David Thoreau penned in his journal. “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” Thoreau was onto something when it comes to building your strengths of creativity. I always wondered why Gallup never included creativity as one of their Talents in the Strengthsfinder assessment. 


Apparently it is as simple as walking according to a Stanford study highlighted in a story featuring Steve Job’s famous practice of taking people for walking. Where you walked did not matter: “The act of walking itself, and not the environment, was the main factor,” according to the study. This study follows on an excellent article in the New Yorker on how Walking Makes You Think. Walking has many other benefits as outlined by the arthritis foundation:

1. Walking improves circulation.

2. Walking shores up your bones. 

3. Walking leads to a longer life. 

4. Walking lightens mood. 

5. Walking can lead to weight loss. 

6. Walking strengthens muscles. 

7. Walking improves sleep. 

8. Walking supports your joints. 

9. Walking improves your breath. 

10. Walking slows mental decline.

11. Walking lowers Alzheimer’s risk. 


12. Walking helps you do more, longer. 


Success comes from habits

There is a short, but excellent article summarizing Tom Corley’s research he published in his best-selling book “Change Your Habits, Change Your Life,” on what financially successful people do in comparison to lower earning individuals. I have added my own commentary to several, but do read his article.

  • They get up early
    Well begun, half done, so goes the saying. It is not getting up early that matters as much as what you do when you are up. Getting up early allows for several other habits take hold–exercise, reading, quiet contemplation. One excellent practice is known as morning pages whereby you aim to write 750 words fist thing.
  • They spend 15 to 30 minutes each day on focused thinking
    Perhaps this can be split into two parts: Focused thing vis-a-vis your goals and tasks at hand, and focused attending to yourself such as a mindful practice. Tim Ferris figures 85% of his guests on his excellent podcast have some sort of contemplative practice.
  • They make exercise a priority
    Research shows Cardio exercise is not just good for the heart and waist, but your brain as well from stress and anxiety to depression and many others. Watch John Ratey explain

    • They spend time with people who inspire them
      Role models and mentors are powerful inspiration. Chris Peterson famously summed a life worth living as “Other People Matter:

The Greater Good Society reports that “Results from some studies—as well as end-of-life conversations—indicate that many people count their relationships as the most meaningful part of their lives, even when those relationships are difficult or strained.” There is one special relationship that matters: Mentors:

  • They pursue their own goals
    The Ritz Carelton has curated seven great TED Talks  on goal-setting and how to follow through on your dreams.

    1) Keep your goals to yourself by Derek Sivers

    In this three-minute TED Talk, the speaker shares psychological evidence about the importance of keeping your goals quiet. You’ll have a better chance of following through on your plans if you don’t share them with others.

    2) Try Something New for 30 Days by Matt Cutts

    In this three-minute TED Talk, the speaker shows how small steps can lead to big adventures. Inviting activity into your life seems to lead to a richer experience.

    3) 5 Ways to Kill Your Dreams by Bel Pesce

    In this six-minute TED Talk, the speaker shares five lines of thought that will keep you from reaching your goals, and she also emphasizes the significance of the journey.

    4) Four Keys for Setting and Achieving Goals by William Barr

    In this eight-minute TED Talk, the speaker shares how he was able to build one of the nation’s largest home improvement companies.

    5) If You Want to Achieve Your Goals, Don’t Focus on Them by Reggie Rivers

    In this 11-minute TED Talk, the speaker shares how focusing on the goals can actually prevent you from achieving your goals. By focusing on your behaviors, you will be more driven to follow through.

    6) The Key to Success? Grit by Angela Lee Duckworth

    In this 6-minute TED Talk, the speaker shares how grit is a key ingredient for success. She encourages the audience to live life as a marathon and not a sprint.

    7) The Power of Believing That You Can Improve by Carol Dweck

    In this 11-minute TED Talk, the speaker shares how adopting a growth mindset can open you up to greater success. She encourages the audience to see a challenge as a “yet” opportunity.

  • They get enough sleep
    You need sleep to draw on vitality. Tom Rath explains getting Fully Charged:

  • They have multiple incomes
    Obviously financial wealth requires income. Multiple incomes take precedence especially if they are self-sustaining. Tim Ferris explains in his book the Four Hour Work Week.

  • They avoid times wasters
    Hopefully you do not see this blog as a time waster. Even the pope has spoken out against Digital Media filters: “When media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously,” he wrote in the letter.

Comparing Strengths assessment

Different strength tools
Who is it for and what does it cost



















24 in order


Top 3 of 10

Top 5 of 34

21 of 60

2 of 9 

Free +

Free +

Free in Naviance








C, T and unrealised

Strengths roles


What it measures




6 Virtues


4 dimensions

10 talents


4 Domains


5 families

9 Strength groups



Wisdom and Knowledge 




Humanity –


Justice – 


Temperance –










Two reports:





15 patterns







Future Thinker 














Being, Communicating, Motivating

Relating Thinking

















List of Strengths defined







Love of Learning

Perspective, wisdom


Perseverance, industriousness



Capacity to Love Kindness/generosity

Social Intelligence








App. of Beauty/Excel.


Hope, optimism,











Objective Thinker





Result oriented









Future Thinker 





Communication, Competition, Arranger Maximizer, Achiever


Significance, Woo

Consistency, Belief Deliberative,

Discipline, Focus, Responsibility, Restorative, Developer

Adaptability, Input

Connectedness, Empathy, Harmony, Includer, Individualization, 

Positivity, Relator

Analytical, Context, Futuristic, Ideation,, Intellection, Learner, Strategic






Emotional Awareness

Esteem build




















Meet the strengths exchange

Looking for a story to help understand Strengths in Action? Check out the Strengths Exchange Website put together by Professor Leah Walters of University of Melbourne and Lara Mossman. Their aims to bring free rousrces for parenting:

The Strengths Exchange brings together stories of character strengths to encourage families to start conversations about the strengths within them. Discover what character strengths are and how they are being applied to everyday life by parents and children of all ages. Watch our videos of children, adolescents and parents talking about strengths. Discover our strength-based parenting resources, too. 

The website brings together interviews, videos and podcasts focusing on strengths in action. Well worth checking out. 

Book Review: Grit

Angela Lee Duckworth has released her long awaited book that follows up from her stunnng Ted Talk:


Angela has spent all of her academic career investigating what she believes is one of the defining characteristic of successful people.

The book opens with the drop outs of westpoint, which she spoke on her Ted talk. She expands on her research there and follows up with Spelling Bees. While familiar grounds, she goes in much deeper with a meander through human achievement research with the likes of GaltonEricssonCsikszentmihalyiWillinghamCox, and several others. Her pulling together, in one volume, proves the most useful part of the book. While her own anecdotes provide some insight, but lack weight. Her own research is only in its infancy. So the details she provides gives useful backdrop for the coversation, except the conversation is one sided. She really does not address can one have too much grit? The answer is Yes!

Having just completed the book, I have aimed to pull together the best strategies for building your grit (not all of which Angela discusses):

On Angela’s website she is asked about parenting and teaching for Grit and replies:

The entire book is about teaching grit. Before I became a psychologist, I was a classroom teacher. It was as a teacher that I discovered how important psychology was to a child’s achievement. It’s not an exaggeration to say that every chapter in this book has special relevance to teachers. Chapters Two and Three might be especially useful when explaining the importance of effort (versus talent) to students. Chapters Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine on interest, practice, purpose, and hope are where I define the four psychological assets that lead to grit. In Chapter Nine, I talk about parenting for grit—but the same dynamics play out in the classroom. In Chapter Ten, I explain why Harvard and other colleges are eager to see students cultivate their grit in extracurricular activities. Finally, a teacher who wants the classroom culture to support grit will find Chapter Twelve full of examples of how to do that.

 That is one significant problem with the book. Her research reveals little about how to cultivate grit in real, normal circumstances. Million dollar organizations like West Point and Seahawks are not the real world. Paul Tough did a far better job outlining and illustrating a plan in How Children Succeed

Ethan Ris takes her task in an important Op-Ed for the Washington Post:

There’s more to the story, however. In a recent peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Educational Controversy, I examined the history of the discourse surrounding this special trait. It far predates Duckworth’s research, of course. My investigation led me to two conclusions. The first is that the widespread assumption that grit is a salient concept for low-income students is a stark misconception. The second is that while grit theory offers little of value to those disadvantaged students, it can certainly harm them, by romanticizing hardship.

Still, this is an important book. Already number 13 on Amazon (Behind Dr Seuss, a Deit cookbook, a pre-teen story about Greek Gods, Harry Potter, Alexander Hamilton, Bill Clinton, and two adult colouring books–so clearly not as important as all those escapes from our Gritty world, but still important), this book will be a big seller this year.


Book Review: Grit

Angela Lee Duckworth has released her long awaited book that follows up from her stunnng Ted Talk:


Angela has spent all of her academic career investigating what she believes is one of the defining characteristic of successful people. Having just completed the book, I have aimed to pull together the best strategies for building your grit (not not all Angela discusses):

The book opens with the drop outs of westpoint, which she spoke on her Ted talk. She expands on her research there and follows up with Spelling Bees. While familiar grounds, she goes in much deeper with a meander through human achievement research with the likes of Galton, EricssonCsikszentmihalyi


A dozen ways to build Identity Capital:

Dr. Meg Jay, author of “The Defining Decade,” borrowed the term Identity Capital from socioligist ames Côté to describe the task of becoming yourself:

“Identity capital is our collection of personal assets. It is the repertoire of individual resources that we assemble over time. These are the investments we make in ourselves, the things we do well enough, or long enough, that they become a part of who we are. Some identity capital goes on a résumé, such as degrees, jobs, test scores, and clubs. Other identity capital is more personal, such as how we speak, where we are from, how we solve problems, how we look. Identity capital is how we build ourselves—bit by bit, over time.


Her Ted Talk is well worth the view:

I am struck by the idea of building one’s identity and how it can relate to leveraging one’s strengths. Inspired by Nicole Booz’s excellent list in Gen Twenty, I have crafted one aimed more specifically for high school students. I borrow heavily from her list, so credit is really due to her. I reorgnaized them so my list only has a dozen items. 

Here are more than a dozen ways to build Identity Capital:

  1. Identify goals you want to achieve in the next month.
  2. Give back to a cause that matters to you by volunteering your time.
  3. Keep your resume up to date.
  4. Spend quality time with people you consider family.
  5. Ask for more responsibility in one of your clubs.
  6. Learn something new such as:
    1. Read books from multiple genres.
    2. Learn a new skill; practice it for six months.
    3. Listen to TED talks and podcasts for inspiration.
    4. Learn a new technique for something you already know how to do.
    5. Attend a workshop for something you’d like to know more about.
    6. Learn a new language.
  7. Practice strong resiliency skills
    1. Avoid comparing yourself to others.
    2. Identify your natural talents.
    3. Stop doing things you don’t truly enjoy.
    4. Eliminate time-sucks in your life that aren’t productive.
    5. Stop procrastinating.
    6. Make a commitment and see it through.
  8. Keep a gratitude journal.
  9. What the heck:
    1. At least once a month, try something you’ve never done before.
    2. Cook your way through a professional cookbook.
    3. Take a break from social media.
    4. Spend a weekend cleaning out your closet and de-cluttering your home.
    5. Wake up and start your day earlier.
    6. Go for a hike and spend time outdoors.
    7. Go to the ballet, opera, or a show.
    8. Do something you’ve always been afraid to.
    9. Plan a vacation to a destination filled with history.
    10. Dedicate a few hours each week to a hobby that you enjoy.
    11. Set a fitness goal and work to achieve it.
  10. Schedule a meeting with one of your teachers and ask for feedback.
  11. Engage deeply in some sort of personal expression or creative project such as:
    1. Try your hand at a Pinterest DIY project.
    2. Start a scrapbook.
    3. Learn calligraphy.
    4. Start a collection of something you enjoy.
    5. Try your hand at writing a novel.
    6. Start a blog and connect with like-minded individuals.
  12. Dream big:
    1. Make a for the year; actively work to check off the boxes.
    2. Map out what your dream career path looks like from beginning to retirement.
    3. Write a letter to 80-year old you. What do you hope to have achieved by then?
    4. Allow yourself to daydream about who you want to be… then go be it.

 Shoutout to Eric for pointing me to the book the Defining Decade. 


Tool for building hope in schools

Stumbled on this website today, Schools for Hope.

Schools for Hope is a new curriculum project developed by iFred, the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression. It is based on research that suggests hope is a teachable skill. Our aim is to equip students, educators, and parents with the tools they need to find and maintain hope even during the most trying of times. 

The offer up a 10 lesson curriculum for teaching hope in middle school. Looks great. 

Love of learning…on overdrive

You can learn in many ways, from school to lectures, to conversation or experiences….all are valid. One of most accessible and popular is simply reading books. Ralph Waldo Emerson suggest that “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” Whil a book should expand our intellect, what we think about. You should move off the best seller lists and pick up some obscure titles for, as Haruki Murakami reminds us, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” But, you need to process it, you need to make it your own thinking. “Keep reading books, but remember that a book is only a book,” reminds Maxim Gorky, “and you should learn to think for yourself.” And it in thinking for yourself, you write your own meaning, which is the essence of reading according to  W. Somerset Maugham: “The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.” As you construct your own meaning, your soul grows or so it would seem to Marcus Tullius Cicero who observed that “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” 

Some of us are obsessed by books, as Henry Ward Beecher warned: “Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?” and Jorge Luis Borges confessed that “I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books.” For people like us, the week and sleepless, we horde books like misers do gold. And the Japanese have a word for us: Tsundoku

The word dates back to the very beginning of modern Japan, the Meiji era (1868-1912) and has its origins in a pun. Tsundoku, which literally means reading pile, is written in Japanese as 積ん読. Tsunde oku means to let something pile up and is written 積んでおく. Some wag around the turn of the century swapped out that oku(おく) in tsunde oku for doku (読) – meaning to read. Then since tsunde doku is hard to say, the word got mushed together to form tsundoku.

It strikes me that people strong in Love of Learning or Curiosity may well experiecne this phenomenon more that people of other character strengths.  I agree with Frank Zappa “So many books, so little time.” 


And just spotted this one to continue with the theme: