Who do you write like?

From the ever rewarding Word magazine’s “Something for the Weekend” newsletter came the link to the site www.iwl.me which apparently tells you who you write like.

First,  tried it with some random blog postings and it said that I wrote like David Foster Wallace of whom I had never heard, it seems that he had a very short and ultimately tragic life, he committed suicide at the age of 46.

Next – I used one of the first pieces that I wrote which was first published in 2007. Now apparently I am in the style of Cory Doctorow who isn’t a new name to me.

Finally, an editorial/opinion piece from 2009. This time I’m in the style of George Orwell – all those days reading “1984”, “Down & Out in Paris & London”, “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” et al, on the bus between Boston Spa and Harrogate must have had some influence. Coincidentally Orwell also died at 46.

Not very scientific but a bit of fun, give it a go.

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The Monday Morning Quote

These will be posted on the last day of my vacation in Ireland. The “normal” service of good intentions will be resumed on Tuesday 27th July.

Today’s quotes are from the late Thomas Leonard who can be said to be the godfather of modern coaching.

There’s more information about Thomas here, here & here. You can subscribe to Thomas’s work here.

  • “People spend more time worrying about what might happen than dealing with things that do happen.”
  • “Focusing on the problem reinforces it. Focus on the results; problems will take care of themselves.”
  • “The trappings of lifestyle are often that; traps.”
  • “Tolerate nothing. When you put up with something, it costs you. Costs are expensive and thus unattractive.”
  • “Great coaching is not really about coaching skills, competencies or even proficiencies. It’s about being a great person. Great people make great coaches.”
  • “We’re all gonna pass on; most of us can have 50 to 70 great years as an adult. Tell me again why we should feel burdened with problems, shoulds, coulds, musts, tolerations, conflicts, pain, frustration, obligations, and duties?”

The Monday Morning Quote(s)

A few from the US 19th century.

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right.

Men will believe what they see.

Henry David Thoreau

Let everything you do be done as if it makes a difference.

William James

The Monday Morning Quote

A bumper collection from Nisa Chitakasem’s blog on BNET

1)  “You are what you do. If you do boring, stupid, monotonous work, chances are you’ll end up boring, stupid, and monotonous” US lawyer Bob Black is being blunt, but he has a point.

2) “Right now, this is a job. If I advance any higher, this would be my career. And if this were my career, I’d have to throw myself in front of a train.” Jim Halpert of ‘The Office: An American Workplace’ epitomises someone whose job is not what they envisioned their career to be. But job satisfaction is just as important as career satisfaction. If your work makes you want to throw yourself in front of a train, then it’s time to make changes — to aspects of your role, or your role altogether.

3) “If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that it going to be interesting.” Actress Katherine Hepburn had bills to pay too, but she really did find an interesting way to pay them. Yes, you need it, but don’t just work for the money. Instead, find something you truly love doing and then find a way of getting paid for doing it.

4) “Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.” Magician and writer Robert Orben may be driven by riches, but the message is to find something that motivates you to not only work, but to be the best you can be. There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition and ambition — they can turn average organisations into excellent ones.

5) “Work and Play are words used to describe the same thing under different circumstance.” Mark Twain is right. You can do something that you love as a hobby, after work. Or you can do something you love for work, during the daytime when you’re more alert, and get paid for it.

6) “A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.” Marilyn Monroe would no doubt be turning in her grave at Lady GaGa’s counter-quote that “your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore”. That may be true, Gaga, but if you treat your career like it’s the only member of your family, it’s more likely that your life partner will eventually fall out of love with you. Of course a career is a huge part of your life, but so is a family. They can’t make the decisions for you, but at least consider them when making major career choices. Sorry Gaga, Marilyn’s career advice wins out here.

7) “The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form.” Businessman Stanley J Randall must have come across a few lying job candidates in his time. How did he know they were lying? Because if you lie on your job application or CV, or at interview, you will get found out, especially if you make yourself sound perfect. It’s like cheating in an exam and answering all the questions right — that 100 percent just looks suspicious.

8) “If you don’t like your job you don’t strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed.” Homer Simpson is half right. Don’t go on strike if you’re unhappy with your job role. Talk with your employer about how it can be changed to suit you more. If that won’t cut it, consider changing  jobs. And do I really need to tell you why Homer is half-wrong? If you do your job half-heartedly because you think it’s the fastest route to change, you’re wholly wrong. Your employer will not empathise. They’ll be reluctant to alter your role and they won’t give you a great reference if you want to change careers.

9) “I’m doing everything I can to sabotage my career. It’s a little thing called ‘fear of success’.” It’s human nature to subconsciously to mess up something good in our lives, as media personality Jon Stewart observes. It’s the ‘do the dumping before you get dumped’ syndrome. Overcome these insecurities by remembering all the effort you’ve put into getting a job you love and using that to remind yourself that you’ve earned this opportunity — you deserve it. If you continue to show the same dedication and effort that you’ve so far invested in pursuing your chosen career, there’s no logical reason why it should ‘dump’ you, so stop thinking it will.

10) “I don’t wish my career on anyone.” Musician John Entwistle’s quote can be taken two ways. First, that you hate your career so much you wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Or that while you love your career, no-one else would want it. It’s important to remember that our personal preferences apply to our careers as well as to everything else in our lives. If you’re looking for a job or choosing a career, don’t go for something just because it’s what you think your peers would be interested in. You are unique as a human being, your career objectives are unique and so should your career choice. Decide on what you want to do and then find a way of doing it.

You may be wondering why I just didn’t come out and say what I had to say instead of using stupid quotes. Well, I’ll leave you with one last quote from David H Comins: “People will accept your idea much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.”

The Monday Morning Quote

“Success is a great killer of innovation”

“Schumpeter” in The Economist

Planning for the sequel
How Pixar’s leaders want to make their creative powerhouse outlast them

“TO INFINITY and beyond!” Buzz Lightyear’s memorable if nonsensical phrase has been echoing around playgrounds ever since Pixar introduced the space ranger to the world in “Toy Story” in 1995. It will echo with renewed vigour this week when Pixar releases the third instalment. There is every reason to expect that three will be as successful as one and two—and Pixar will continue to mint money for its parent company, Walt Disney.

Pixar has succeeded as well as anyone in mastering the art of creativity. The company has produced one animated hit after another—including “Finding Nemo”, “Cars” and, a particular favourite of this columnist for its enthusiasm for unbridled individualism, “The Incredibles”. Rather than being crushed by Disney, as many feared, Pixar has reinvigorated its parent company.

But hit machines can run out of steam. Pixar’s founding fathers cannot go on for ever. Ed Catmull, the firm’s president, is 65, and John Lasseter, its chief creative officer, is 53, which makes him ancient by Hollywood standards. Creativity is hard enough to sustain for individuals, let alone organisations. Business history is littered with the corpses of corporate Icaruses that rose heavenwards on the wings of creativity only to plunge to the ground. That is a worry not just for Pixar but for the whole Disney empire: Mr Catmull doubles as head of Disney Animation Studios and Mr Lasseter is chief creative officer for both businesses.

How likely is it that Pixar will be able to escape that fate? The company has one important thing on its side: planning. Messrs Catmull and Lassetter spent many of their formative years watching Icaruses fall to earth from their base near Silicon Valley. Even Apple almost expired before begging Steve Jobs to return to the company. The pair consequently did everything that they could to build a machine that could outlast them—and continue churning out animated characters for decades to come.

Pixar’s approach to creativity is striking for two reasons. The first is that the company puts people before projects. Most Hollywood studios start by hunting down promising ideas and then hire creative teams to turn them into films. The projects dictate whom they hire. Pixar starts by bringing in creative people and then encourages them to generate ideas. One of its most successful recruits has been Brad Bird, who has presided over two Oscar-winning feature films, “The Incredibles” (in which he also provided a character’s voice) and “Ratatouille”.

The second is that the company devotes a lot of effort to getting people to work together. In most companies, people collaborate on specific projects, but pay little attention to what’s going on elsewhere in the business. Pixar, however, tries to foster a sense of collective responsibility among its 1,200 staff. Employees show unfinished work to one another in daily meetings, so get used to giving and receiving constructive criticism. And a small “brain trust” of top executives reviews films in the works.

Pixar got the inspiration for this system from a surprising place—Toyota and its method of “lean production”. For decades Toyota has solicited constant feedback from workers on its production lines to prevent flaws. Pixar wants to do the same with producing cartoon characters. This system of constant feedback is designed to bring problems to the surface before they mutate into crises, and to provide creative teams with a source of inspiration. Directors are not obliged to act on the feedback they receive from others, but when they do the results can be impressive. Peer review certainly lifted “Up”, a magical Pixar movie that became the studio’s highest-grossing picture at the box office after “Finding Nemo”. It helped produce the quirky storyline of an old man and a boy who fly to South America in a house supported by a bunch of balloons.

Pixar also obliges its teams to conduct formal post mortems once their films are complete. In lesser hands this might degenerate into a predictable Hollywood frenzy of backslapping and air-kissing. But Pixar demands that each review identify at least five things that did not go well in the film, as well as five that did.

And the winner is…

None of this can guarantee Pixar’s long-term success. Creative organisations depend to a striking extent on the X-factor provided by charismatic leaders such as Messrs Catmull and Lasseter. Creativity depends on serendipity as much as planning: Pixar itself started life making computer parts and only dabbled in animation as a sideline. Success is a great killer of innovation: there is an ever greater danger that, as Pixar’s list of blockbusters lengthens, its “creatives” will take ever fewer risks and its managers will become ever more complacent (as happened, by the way, at Toyota). Too much planning can alienate the prickly eccentrics who sometimes drive the creative process. It is worth remembering that Disney went into a long decline because its emphasis on doing things the Disney way alienated many creative people. But on the other hand not even the most robust production systems can eliminate risk: the second “Toy Story” film had to go through a set of wrenching revisions at high speed after it went too far off the rails, in spite of the studio’s early-warning systems.

Managing creativity involves a series of difficult balancing acts: giving people the freedom to come up with new ideas but making sure that they operate within an overall structure, creating a powerful corporate culture but making sure that it is not too stifling. Few organisations can get this balancing act right in the long term—particularly as the formula can change over time.

But Pixar’s attempt to solve this problem is nevertheless impressive. The company’s enthusiasm for thinking ahead is admirable. Even more admirable is its willingness to look to a car company for inspiration. For a culture as inward-looking as Hollywood’s, that is a remarkable piece of creative thinking.

(This article was corrected online on June 19th: we had referred to “Saving Nemo” when we had of course meant “Finding Nemo”.)

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