Category Archives: Tweak Your Life

How Eno Can Jumpstart Your Creativity

Brian Eno is one of the most prolific, creative, and influential artists and producers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Eno began as part of glam rock band, Roxy Music.  After becoming a solo artist, he experimented, grew his craft, and was responsible for founding and growing the ambient music genre. Eno’s prolific influence and impact are in great part due to Eno’s ability to think conceptually, to consistently evolve his creativity, and his willingness to think differently and actualize his wild imaginings.

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Image courtesy of cinetech

Eno was the first to introduce “chance music” to popular audiences; he produced work for greats like U2, Coldplay, and David Bowie; and his work extends beyond music to include art installations, writing, and today’s focus, “Oblique Strategies,” card game he created intended to resolve studio conflicts via randomness.  I learned about Oblique Strategies today and right away started thinking of ways I could integrate this into the classroom, specifically as a part of the creative process in presentations. For teams, Oblique Strategies helps put members outside of the conflict zone, which helps them resolve conflicts.

This image by Flickr user Rusty Sheriff is of an Oblique Strategies card. Seems fitting for sparking presentation-based creativity!

This image by Flickr user Rusty Sheriff is of an Oblique Strategies card. Seems fitting for sparking presentation-based creativity!

For individuals struggling with themselves (or their lizard brain) to choose or develop a topic, Oblique Strategies can help reposition that internal conflict, recharge the creative process, and lead to growth. Oblique Strategies decks are still rare, but lucky for us, there are web versions available. Oblicard.com is a random card generator available free on the web; it contains many of the cards created by Eno and creative partner Peter Schmidt. Next time you face conflict, whether internal or external, try generating a random topic. It could be the spark that jumpstarts creativity nirvana!

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Current Reads to Grow My BoW

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The month of March continues to be one of the busiest for most in my circle (including my amazing sister who just came back from a trip to London and was recently accepted to my alma mater, the University of Florida). This week’s posts have been short and sweet, but I am happy to say next week will be packed with articles on course development (designing the instruction sheets for the PCP reboot), the first installment in the Ideate content development series, and a post on the design process for my first slidedoc. I think part of what has made 2014 so fruitful has been the drive and commitment by my colleagues, family, and friends to grow their body of work. That kind of commitment is contagious! I am working to expand my BoW by taking on three new books (in addition to inhaling the second book in the Sword of Truth series). This month, I am reading Words that Work by Dr. Frank Luntz, Creative Workshop by David Sherwin, and Cook This, Not That! by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding. Four very different books, four ways to tap into areas of potential growth in this the year of the Body of Work.

Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind

I’ve always been a big fan of science fiction (I’ve devoured most sci-fi shows and am on my second viewing of the Dr. Who reboot), but good fantasy from my perspective was hard to come by outside of LOTR. I picked up the first installment of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series after realizing it was the basis for a fantasy series I’d sampled a few years before, Legend of the Seeker, a mostly forgettable but entertaining show featuring several folks from the film adaptations of LOTR. I have enjoyed immersing myself into Goodkind’s world. I cannot help but see Joseph Campbell’s Hero Cycle in Richard Cypher’s journey from simple forest guide to Seeker, wizard, and lord. Reading and becoming invested in this story is teaching me more about crafting stories and integrating them into presentations, as well as bringing to life Duarte’s idea that conflict is a constant in a great story.

Words that Work by Frank Luntz

The name Dr. Frank Luntz is familiar to me from reading Alex’s blog, in particular her review of Win, so when I ran across Words that Work while perusing the bargain books at Barnes and Noble (yes, I love a bargain!), I of course bought it immediately. I am looking forward to learning more about the impact words have on decision making. I teach my students that language and the ability to use it well can have immediate and lasting impact. Learning the right words to create resonance can help me not only teach others but also achieve my own professional goals. I am particularly intrigued by the use of real case studies of working words in action.

Creative Workshop by David Sherwin

Another area I’d like to grow is my design skills. While I have found a way to design pretty much anything and everything I need in Keynote (so intimidated by Photoshop, even after completing a Lynda course on the subject), I have reached the point where I know I need to learn to use the tools of the design trade, and I’d like to learn by designing new types of deliverables. Creative Workshop is an application-based, skill building book. It contains 80 exercises broken up into seven categories. The purpose of the book is to help designers push and challenge their creative skills, to tackle the spectrum of design (from branding to video) in order to grow creativity through practice. I’ve owned the book for a few years, but felt intimidated by the projects. After completing Ideate, for which I created several icons and visualizations, I realized that innovation and growth as a designer will only come from challenge, so it’s time to tackle Sherwin’s challenges!

Cook This, Not That! Easy and Awesome 350-Calorie Meals by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding

As I mentioned previously, I have been perfecting a few of my own homemade recipes, in particular my mojo marinade. If you know me well enough, you know I love to cook. In my home, we create a menu for each week’s dinners. Trying out new recipes and cooking for and with my significant other is the highlight of my day. I don’t usually buy cookbooks anymore because, let’s face it, I can Pinterest pretty much anything, but I loved the first book from this duo, Eat This, Not That!, so I picked this book up on my B & N bargain book trip. As soon as I opened the book, I was hooked. Not only were the recipes easy and yummy, the book is so well-designed! My favorite sections are the preambles to each category. For instance, the salad section contains a “salad matrix,” a visual breakdown of salad bases, vegetables, toppings, and dressings one can create hundreds of combinations with. Each section is color coded, includes call outs, variations, and visual representations. I can’t wait to plan this week’s menu using Cook This, Not That!

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40 Days of Dating: Design and Life Intersect

I ran across the project, 40 Days of Dating after perusing the site of one of my followers. I ran across his interview with one of the creators and participants of this project, Jessica Walsh. Walsh is a talented designer whose work has earned her critical acclaim and big client (she redesigned the Adobe MAX logo with partner Stefan Sagmeister), but she’s also a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic who jumped into relationships head first, often to her own detriment. Her partner in crime for the project was Timothy Goodman, fellow designer and polar opposite in dating terms. Together, they engaged in a social and aesthetic experiment: what happens when two designers and relationship opposites date for 40 days? The couple was tasked with documenting each date on their blog. From day one, the blend of aesthetics/design and storytelling grabbed me. I read through all 40 days in an hour. I love the rawness of the story, the complete familiarity I felt as reading each post and studying each piece of artwork designed to accompany the post. Some have criticized the duo, claiming the experiment was a gimmick to land a movie deal (which just happened), but for me, the blend of visual and verbal storytelling was compelling and engaging. It’s something I’d like to implement in my own presentations for a few reasons:

1. Handmade design that aligns with and tells part of a story is immersive

Part of what drew me into the project was the visuals. Each image, photograph, video, or illustration perfectly aligned with the stories Jessica and Timothy told.

2. Storytelling transcends all media and forums

It doesn’t matter if you are an award-winning designer or a cat lady from Orlando,Fl, the experience of finding love for another and yourself is universal, and it’s universally interesting!

3. Perspective is everything!

What fascinated me most was how differently Jessica and Timothy viewed their daily experiences. It has made me even more mindful of just how much of our daily interactions are guided by our internal perspective engines.

Check out this intro video below and the rest of the blog 40 Days of Dating by following the link!

What do you think of the project? Gimmick? Design genius?

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Drew Dudley’s Definition of Leadership

In this week’s consultation with leadership trainer David Morillo, I was reintroduced to Drew Dudley’s short but sweet TED talk, Everyday Leadership. Every person has the potential to be a leader; we tend to either glorify leadership as something unique to a particular set of people (the extroverted, the charismatic, the confident, the powerful) or we define leadership as the state of being in a position of power. Either of these will lead to the right person avoiding a leadership position or the wrong person filling a leadership position. There is nothing more damaging to an organization than not cultivating the leadership abilities of its employees, except perhaps a person in a leadership position who cannot or does not want to cultivate growth and intrinsic motivation in his or her team. So, what is the true definition of leadership? What is the first step in growing one’s leadership? Well, there is no one true definition (that’s what makes it so universal), but we can all agree that great leaders have vision and a true understanding of the “why” or purpose that drives them. For Dudley, the first step in growing leadership comes from the recognition that one small act, something that changes another’s vision of the world is leadership.  Leadership is about those “lollypop” moments. Check out this inspirational talk below!

How do you define leadership? How do you cultivate your skills as a leader?

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February: The Month of Unprecedented Growth

February has been an amazing month for myself, my significant other, my superteacher bff, and my superstar friend, writing center coordinator, freelance writer, and Younique consultant, Nicole Chapman. Nicole has been growing her body of work since graduating with her MFA in creating writing and earning the PROPS Excellence Award for outstanding service to Full Sail University. Her growth has expanded to her actualizing one of her natural talents and gifts–makeup and image consulting. Check out her teaching portfolio here for more information on this superconsultant and future superteacher. I am inspired to see someone talented take on the initiative of growing and evolving her skills!

I am participating in a tech networking event next month, Trucks and Tech III: Truckpocalypse. In preparation, I created business cards for myself and Jason, who is a freelance video editor. This has definitely helped me overcome my designer’s block and I am hard at work on my next Slideshare offering, based on my content development series.

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In designing my card, I used the colors and style in my TYS logo to help reinforce continuity in my brand.

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In designing the back, I wanted to convey the three core principles that drive my services as presentation consultant–developing ideas, designing visuals, and delivering an engaging message.

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I chose to keep the front of Jason’s card very simple; you’ll see why when you see the back of the card!

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I was inspired by other video editor business cards and chose the clapper as an iconic representative in designing this card.

I also met with David Morillo, a colleague, trainer, and former student, whose leadership presentation was positively incredible–a lovely blend of storytelling, audience engagement, and motivational ideas. Finally, Alex and I learned we will now be teaching a new set of students from the Sports Marketing Bachelor of Science.

There’s something in the air readers, something that has sparked an incredible amount of creative growth and opportunity in my network. I am taking a blogging break for the weekend to finish the PCP course reboot, participate in a 5k, and consult with my students, but I wondered if anyone else out there had felt or experience a similar spark of growth and opportunity?

Post-script, this week I heard from two of my heroines, Pamela Slim and Nancy Duarte. This is what my face looked like when I opened up my WordPress front page:

Photo on 2-27-14 at 1.32 PM

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Great Questions Spark Innovation

This week, Alex Rister and I met with a colleague and former student, David Morillo. During our meeting, David, who is an Online Admissions Training Team Leader at Full Sail University and an integral part of leadership training at our institution, led me through an exercise designed to help me isolate my hierarchically based value system. During that exercise, I shuffled through cards with words like “Faith,” “Family,” “Accomplishment,” and “Wealth” on them. After sorting, resorting, and resorting again, I landed on my top two values: “Fairness” and “Creativity/Innovation.” I cannot really pin point the source of my adamant belief in fairness as a guiding principle in life, but when asked why I chose creativity and innovation over other values like “Change” or “Knowledge”, I realized that for me, innovation leads to growth, increased knowledge, and wisdom. My drive to choose paths in life that help further foster creativity leads to growth in these other areas. One way I teach by innovation is to constantly ask my students questions and encourage them to come up with questions of their own. Author and business journalist, Warren Berger recently wrote the book (A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas) on questions as a tool for innovation. More than just asking questions, it’s important to ask the right questions as a path to innovation. In this book and in this INC. article by Leigh Buchanan, Berger describes what makes a great question, what sorts of questions don’t get asked, and how to motivate others to ask questions. Three takeaways from this article I can apply to my own body of work and the work of my students are:

1. A great question is challenging and ambitious

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Great questions force the speaker and listener to content with an idea, make sense of it, and find a solution (or myriad of solutions) to the proposed problem at hand. A PCP Reboot question to consider here is: What if we actualize persuasion by asking students to learn to sell their professional stories?

2. Leaders’ questions help create a culture of inquiry

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Oftentimes as a teacher, I don’t have an answer to a proposed question. I simply want to see where a question takes us. Students can then learn that sometimes the best questions have no immediate or firm answer.

3. A great answer takes time

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I’ve worked on answering the big question for my course–how do we truly reveal the power and importance of a presentation in an accelerated asynchronous medium–for five years. Each time I think I’ve found the answer, a new facet of the question reveals itself that I must contend with, iterate around, and work to solve.

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Data Display of the Day: The Secrets of Happy Couples

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Though I don’t devote much time to discussing my personal life via Tweak Your Slides, I am happy to say that I am coming up on one year with my tender ginger beard of a boyfriend.

His silliness definitely adds to the gaggilion reasons why this one is a keeper.

His silliness definitely adds to the gaggilion reasons why this one is a keeper.

This is only the second time in my life that I’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day with a partner. It’s not something I regret, but something I celebrate. Having been single for most of my life has made me a stronger, more resilient and self-reliant person. But, it also means I have a lot to learn about how a strong relationship works. Today’s infographic, which comes by way of Daily Infographic and was created by Happify, is a great tool for comparison. While one cannot completely codify what makes a relationship work, by analyzing data related to what makes couples happy, we can get a bit closer to understanding what it takes to have a happy relationship:

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My Year on Slideshare

So, my readers know I love Slideshare.net; my students now have two assignments they must share with others on what’s becoming THE place to share and spread deck and infographic-based content. But, you might have also noticed I’ve been quite silent on Slideshare lately. I produced on average one new deck per month in 2012; that’s fallen to only four decks and three infographics for all of 2013. I admit, some of this has been work with my courses and my baby, the Liberal Studies department Round Table (which is being rebranded as the Liberal Studies Brown Bag Extravaganza for 2014), but a lot of it has come from a serious lack of inspiration to ideate. I’m working on my first upload of 2014, based on my content development series, as well as the next infographic, analyzing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” as well as one more deck on creating infographics as a teaching tool, but apart from developing my teaching portfolio, I haven’t found my way to the level of design-awesomeness I saw myself create in decks like “Your Speech is Toxic” or “Simple Design.” However, I happened to click on a link on my Slideshare homepage touting that my content was among the top 1% most viewed on Slideshare in 2013 and it got me thinking–I need to get back in the game! So, it’s on 2014. Time to step it up, put my design glasses back on and iterate, iterate, iterate!

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Beyond Rhetoric: What MLK Day means to me

In Professional Communication and Presentation, we devote a class to studying the rhetorical strategies Martin Luther King uses in his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech, but it’s also important to recognize that while the speech is well constructed, what creates true impact is the shared vision Dr. King so eloquently expressed to all Americans. King’s speech was not about racial equality and justice–to him these were givens that our country had the potential and responsibility to live up to–King’s speech was about the dream of all citizens working together to further the cause of creating a thriving future for our children and grandchildren.

I’ve been working on the following infographic for several months now and still have several more weeks of design before it is complete, but considering King’s vision has helped me push past a creative block I’ve been dealing with.

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Because my focus is on emphasizing the rhetorical mastery of the speech (and it’s definitely masterful), I’ve been missing the words and visuals to truly communicate the impact of this speech on the American psyche. The bottom third of the infographic will include rhetorical analysis, but I plan on devoting the majority of that design space to translating and communicating the lasting effects of Dr. King’s work as embodied by this speech. As Americans, we have a responsibility to “work together, to pray together, to struggle together…to stand up for freedom together” (Source). It’s this legacy of unified service that we must remember just as much as the way the idea was communicated.

Today is MLK Day also known as the MLK Day of Service. There’s no better way to commemorate one of our greatest humans than by honoring his legacy through service. Make a commitment to serving someone other than yourself today, whether it’s through an act or an encouraging word.

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April’s Communication Goals

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Today in Professional Communication and Presentation, Alex led her students and me through an awesome exercise (and not just for the first day of class). Alex asked us to come up with three presentation/communication goals for this month’s class. She shared her goals with the class and also with her readers on Creating Communication. The students’ goals inspired me to choose three goals for the month of April. Here goes!

Goal #1: Launch an educator round table

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Two months ago, our Director of Liberal Studies and superwoman, Dr. Kim Murray, sent around a newsletter featuring some of our faculty’s current projects and work. Liberal Studies is a large school that houses six different departments, including mine, the English department. Our faculty don’t get much of a chance to collaborate with those outside of our immediate departments, though, unless we take the initiative to reach across departments. In the brief newsletter, I learned that our faculty were doing amazing things both in and out of the classroom. This inspired me to bring the idea of collaboration between the departments to  faculty and management. After a bit of planning and meeting, the first round table discussion is set to take place this month, with the English department being the first to take the reins in terms of choosing, presenting, and discussing our first topic, creating a teaching persona. I am taking a supporting and facilitating role in this initiative and I’m really enjoying the hustle of marketing, scheduling, and organizing this project.

Goal #2: Don’t let the lizard brain sabotage me

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While I’ve conquered and defeated the public-speaking/presenting lizard brain, I definitely feel much anxiety in other situations in which I feel either out of control or as if there’s a more perceived sense of judgment involved. The biggest one for me has to be the job interview. I believe that twice in the past, my nervousness, insecurity, and lack of polish during interviews have sabotaged my chances. I’ll be interviewing this Wednesday and am using a combination of Amy Cuddy’s power pose and in-depth audience analysis/prep to help me quiet the lizard within.

Goal #3: Post the simple design series on Tweak Your Slides

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Blogging is my bane but also my love. I am great at keeping up a schedule with teaching, gyming, and socializing, but I cannot seem to get the rhythm of the blog down. So, my challenge for this month is to post a six-part article series on design. I won’t put a specific date on this, but I will say, look for a brief introduction to the acronym SIMPLE in the next few days.

Do you set goals each day, week, or month? What are your goals for April?

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