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Keeping Creativity Alive as Long as You Are

Keeping Creativity Alive as Long as You Are I’ve worked in and with ad agencies for much of my career, and truth be told, you just don’t see a lot of gray heads in those cubicles. The belief in this arena seems to be that the most original creations spring from young artists, writers, producers, etc., and as these right-brain innovators age past their creative prime, it becomes harder and harder for them to come with fresh ideas. But the fact of the matter is that creativity isn’t a spring that runs dry over time. In fact, as we age, a process in the brain’s frontal lobe, called demyelinization, which loosens associations and often diminishes our ability to be as precise and focused as we used to be, can conversely allow our creative ideas to flow more freely, according to Rex Jung, assistant professor in the department of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico. That means that there’s a fount of creativity in many older folks just waiting to be tapped into. Here are some ways to keep your stream of ideas flowing: Don’t stop. The old adage, “Use it or lose it” also applies to creativity. When you stop reigniting that creative spark on a regular basis, the flame can start to flicker out. Even if you’re not engaging in a patently “creative” activity like painting or writing poetry each day, continue to challenge those neurons with pursuits like reading books and articles that are out of your area of interest, learning a new language, and listening to and perhaps debating opinions that differ from yours. Be mindful. Remember as a kid how you were always looking forward to Christmas and summer? Then you [...]

Keeping Creativity Alive as Long as You Are2016-09-22T12:48:42+00:00

Love Notes

Love Notes Recently, I stumbled upon two cards. One was from my father’s mother, dated 1983, the year she was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The “Thank You” card (Granny was always a stickler for sending them), although not in her handwriting, obviously contained her words: “Your visit meant so much to me. It really brightened my day.” It concluded with her assurance that she was “doing fine.” In other words, “don’t worry about me, honey!” She died almost a year to the day later. The second card was written by my mother to her mother, a few days before her birthday and four years before she passed away at 94. It read: “With your 91st birthday quickly approaching, I wanted to tell you how much I admire your courage. … I can only hope that I am as brave.” (My grandmother had a hard life but weathered every storm with pure grace. Her strength lives on in my mother.) Of course, I have many pictures of both of my grandmothers. I even have jewelry, vases, and knickknacks that belonged to them. However, somehow these yellowed, handwritten notes, found sandwiched in between letters from old friends, ticket stubs from dances, playbills, and whatnot, mean so much more to me than the more conventional memorabilia. A note is like a brief glimpse of a moment in a relationship, not only reminding you of recounted events but also evoking the person’s spirit in a way that a photo or a piece of crystal simply can’t. A year ago, my mother was very sick, and my sister and I were pretty sure we were going to lose her. Because she was on a respirator, we couldn’t even communicate with her, [...]

Love Notes2018-04-29T10:36:55+00:00

Sylvester was a weird kid

Sylvester was a weird kid (fiction) Sylvester wasn’t weird like other kids in Joey’s class, the ones who were really quiet or the ones who lit fires in the back of the school. Sylvester was weird in a way that Joey had never seen before. He wore black shirts and black pants all the time, never jeans and t-shirts like the other kids, and he could make his voice sound like it was coming from the front of the room when he was sitting in the back. He had a pet bird that he carried on his shoulder to the 7-11, he ate spiders and beetles for fun, and no one had ever been inside his house. All the kids in the school called him “freak” and no one would sit next to him at the lunch table because he always said he had things like bat wings and mouse tails between his Wonder bread. But Joey liked Sylvester because if you could talk him into playing soccer at recess he always could kick the ball harder than any other kid (no one ever could block his kicks). And Sylvester could definitely tell a good story. Sylvester was always making up stories, like the time he brought a plain old gray rock for show-and-tell and said it had supernatural powers or last year when he told the teacher that his mother was a witch. So when Sylvester told Joey that he had a glass eye, Joey just laughed. Joey knew real people didn’t have glass eyes, just like real people didn’t have vampire teeth and dogs couldn’t talk. That stuff was just in the movies. Sylvester was just a weird kid. Sylvester made up this particular [...]

Sylvester was a weird kid2018-04-29T10:36:55+00:00

It’s not all about you!

It's not all about you! When you write sales or marketing for your company, the natural tendency is, of course, to talk about yourself. Whether it’s a brochure, website, blog or even talking points for your sales staff, you find yourself rhapsodizing about how many years you’ve been in business, the stellar expertise and efficiency of your staff, your robust, proprietary technology, your latest and greatest product, or a service that’s unmatched in this galaxy and beyond. But believe it or not, customers really aren’t interested in you. They’re only interested in what you can do for them. No matter how “experienced,” “respected” and “cutting edge” you claim to be, customers are ONLY going to fork over their hard-earned bucks if they think you can help them in some significant way (reduce their wrinkles/melt their fat/put money in their pocket/improve their love life/make their life easier). That’s why you have to turn your sales and marketing copy paradigm on its head. Rather than telling prospective clients how many awards you’ve won for your financial advice, tell them how many of your past clients have retired to Rio because of it. When you’re tempted to talk about catering that party at the Governor’s Mansion, instead tell potential hosts how they can throw a great party in just two weeks or they’ll enjoy their events as much as their guests (better yet, have past clients tell them!). When you want someone to like you, it’s easy to go on and on about how great you are. No matter what the context, that strategy doesn’t often work. However, once you understand customers (and people in general) and are poised to fill their needs and wants, you’ll find them needing [...]

It’s not all about you!2018-04-29T10:36:55+00:00

Southern Hospitality

Southern Hospitality You can become rich, you can become a blonde, you can even become a Republican, but the fact is you just can’t “become” a Southerner. Pretty much you are or you aren’t, and not even an address on your driver’s license can alter that fact. So when my mother moved my sister and me south of the Mason-Dixon line, we were nothing but a bunch of hopeless, hard-edged square pegs in a world of unaccommodating round holes (so much for southern hospitality!). We couldn’t have appeared more alien to this strange territory if we had been dropped right out of a spaceship. Everything about us was not only different but strangely enough—shorter: our names (not one of us had a hyphenated first name), our haircuts (women in the South chose to ignore the shorter, shaggier styles of the 60s), the number of syllables in our words, and most importantly, our bloodline. We drank pop, not soda; our mother’s sisters didn’t mind being called “ant”; and when we visited the john, he generally had a last name too. We eventually came to realize that no matter how long we lived in the South, we would always be outsiders to these bred-in-the-bone Southerners. The lucky thing for us was that Southerners, although humble as all get out about most everything else, are pretty darn self-righteous about being southern. We had all kinds of friends and neighbors willing to show us how being them was so much nicer than being us. We had a lot of unknowing teachers in those early years, from the lady at Roses five and dime, who steered us to the dotted swiss curtains for my bedroom to my Girl Scout leader, who [...]

Southern Hospitality2016-08-09T10:13:32+00:00

Travel memories that I wear in my ears and around my wrists

Travel memories that I wear in my ears and around my wrists When I was in my 20s, I developed a passion for travel. It started with a backpacking trip with a girlfriend through Europe and almost every year thereafter, I visited a new place, travelling by train through the Rockies, watching salmon flying through the air in Seattle, having my hair braided on a Jamaican beach, eating beignets in New Orleans, shopping for bell bottoms in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, seeing Old Montreal from a horse-drawn carriage, and so on and so on. At the time, I didn’t have the disposable income to buy jewelry at stores like Schwarzchild’s or Zales; however, when traveling, I allowed myself the purchase of at least one piece of unique, often hand-made, jewelry from the cities that I visited. Scoring interesting finds everywhere from street corners to craft fairs and markets, I built an eclectic collection of jewelry that way. While none of the pieces I purchased had any real monetary value, they were all worth a fortune in the memories that came flooding back when I wore that ring or bracelet. Some pieces have become part of my identity like the square, brushed-silver ring, which I purchased in Park City, Utah, while attending a training session there about 15 years. The whole group enjoyed some music at an amphitheater perched in the mountains at Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort (a real thrill!), and then the next day, while wandering around a craft fair, I fell in love with a ring handcrafted by a local silver artisan at a craft fair. It was a bit over my allotted $20 or $30 but I wore it home anyway. For my sister’s 40th [...]

Travel memories that I wear in my ears and around my wrists2016-08-09T13:53:47+00:00

Rock star: A job with no retirement age

Rock star: A job with no retirement age I went to a live music show this weekend, where the band was made up of four guys in their 60s (in other words, my peers). During the show, that group of aging rockers, with their gray hair, creased faces and even a couple of potbellies, had just as much swagger and animal magnetism, and whipped the receptive crowd into a frenzy just as quickly, as any young, agile boy band strutting across the stage. It occurred to me (and pleasantly so) that music might be the last public bastion for aging men to be viewed as sex symbols. Sure, there are still some silver-haired gentlemen on the silver screen, but they’re typically not given leading man status anymore, i.e. parts designed to make women swoon. Whereas, the part of surly and seductive heartthrob that these aging rockers are playing hasn’t changed one iota over the past 40-plus years. Actually, their acts have probably gotten a whole lot better with time! Take musicians like 71-year-old Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger, 72, for example. I dare you to name a single young artist who has the stage presence and charisma of either one of these seasoned performers. Why else would Adam Levine claim to have “moves like Jagger”? However, these guys are certainly not the only ones who’ve still got it. At 66, Bruce Springsteen, still commands the stage like “The Boss” and Sweet Baby James, 68, continues to have that quiet, unassuming charm when he strums out “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” to women of all ages. Then there are Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon and “old friend,” Art Garfunkel, all now septuagenarians and all still [...]

Rock star: A job with no retirement age2016-08-09T13:54:57+00:00