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SEE your success before it happens

Depending on which website or biography you read, Albert Einstein imagined e=mc2himself running alongside a beam of light – or riding it. Either way, he arrived at E=MC2 – one of the most famous scientific theorems ever devised – by visualizing himself doing something extraordinary. And as a result, he arrived at a crucial conclusion that no one, to that point, had reached.

Now I’m no Einstein – nor do I really mean to compare myself to him – but I thought about the German physicist yesterday while looking up at the clouds through the window in my bathroom. The clouds were heavy – a few hours ahead of a later summer storm in Phoenix – and low enough that I could seriously study them with my naked eye. Which led me to wondering what they would look like, up close and personal. And what it would feel like to reach out and touch one? If I could build a ladder tall enough, or propel myself high enough in a helicopter without doors, that I could touch the cloud, would it have weight or substance?

touch a cloud

OK, all you weather geeks out there who already know the answer, I was an English major and mostly steered around all those science courses. I’d guess the cloud would not have weight or substantial tangibility, but wondered for a few moments what it might be like to try. The most important thing was I could see myself doing it – climbing that seemingly endless ladder or sweeping open the hatch on my hovercraft and then reaching my hand out to wave it through the mist.

I’ve been fortunate for most of my life to be able to see the things I want to create long before I sit down to create them. So much so that I’ve always believed that as long as I could imagine it – visualize it, if you will – it was as good as done. What kinds of things? Anything from a craft project to a client to a vacation.

Not everyone is a natural visualizer – but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how.

What is your next goal for your book? Finish writing it? Get it laid out and ready for the printer? Start scheduling readings and book signings? Sell 5,000 copies of you next run?

Regardless of the goal, can you SEE it happening? Can you see the reporter calling you to follow up on the news release you sent her last week? Can you see yourself on the phone for an interview with a popular book blogger or podcaster? Can you see yourself hosting a book signing at a swanky hotel or popular bookstore in a major city? Can you see yourself selling hundreds of copies of your book from the back of the room following a keynote address you give to a roomful of frenzied fans?

If these goals sound like things you’d like to achieve for your books, but you just can’t see them happening yet, perhaps you need to do some visualization practice.

Here are a few tips:

Be the doer, not the watcher. Imagine your scenario first person, as if you are standing in front visualization practiceof the room reading or signing books, not watching yourself do it.

Imagine every detail. Don’t leave anything out. Do you drive to your reading, take a taxi, or have someone pick you up? What are you wearing? Are your books already there or do you have them in a wheeled suitcase?

Engage all of your senses. Create the full experience. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch as your scenario is playing out?

Put it in writing. Committing your visualization in longhand (not at the computer) will help anchor it in your mind, and help your brain start figuring out ways to make it happen.

Keep practicing. I once taught a creativity seminar to engineers at American Express. I was new to public speaking and ridiculously nervous. What can I offer that these great minds don’t already know? Well, I found out what they didn’t know – they had no idea how to visualize. I asked them to imagine a red ball, and then change the color of the ball to blue. Then change it from a ball to a cube. Seemed like a pretty basic exercise to me, but it was really difficult for many of them, especially the men. If you can’t see something as big as yourself hosting a grand book event, start small. See yourself typing an email to inquire about the event. See yourself receiving a phone call to confirm it. Whatever you do, keep practicing!

Even if your goal seems lofty and you can’t imagine how it could come to pass, visualize. See it done. Remember, the Universe conspires to support you – as long as it knows what you want to achieve.

Here’s to SEEING your success!

Laura

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Poor spelling doesn’t equal inferior intelligence, but it does require a Plan B

After a recent conversation with a Facebook pal about her spelling challenges, I was reminded of this voicemail I received from a client a few years back:

Hi, Laura. It’s Elizabeth. I really hope I caught you in time. You know that article I sent you to edit? Don’t open it! I mean, I hope you didn’t look at it yet. I just reread it, and realized it’s terrible. I need to rework it. I’ll see what I can do with it later this afternoon, and send you my improved version tonight or tomorrow. Thanks.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth never sent me the revision.

Funny thing about writing: many people have absolutely ZERO confidence in their ability to do it. What they often fail to realize is that they are much more skilled than they give themselves credit for. And for those whose ability is less than stellar, that’s the whole reason editors have jobs, isn’t it?

What I’d like to convince my client, Elizabeth — and everyone else out there who feels similarly — is that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about with regard to their writing skills. No matter how bad the spelling or how egregious the grammar errors, none of that is representative of how smart she is; nor does it diminish the importance of the information she wants to share with her audience.

In a 2000 Suite101.com article, “What Does Your Spelling Say About You Behind Your Back?” Sandra Linville references Marilyn Vos Savant’s book, The Art of Spelling: The Madness and the Method. Vos Savant wrote her book after conducting a 1998 survey in her Parade Magazine column, in which she asked, “What does your spelling really say about you? Is spelling ability a measure of your education, intelligence, desire, or none of the above?”

In her article, Linville explains, “The survey garnered more than 42,000 responses, indicating that better organizational skills benefit spelling ability, rather than intelligence. However, Vos Savant realizes that inept spellers can look inept in other ways. A misspelled word can kill a job offer or result in a rejected proposal. She also states that an English-speaking perfect speller doesn’t exist.”

Corresponding with Vos Savant’s theory, it is widely reputed that Albert Einstein, the unquestionable genius physicist, was so bad at spelling that he was initially assumed to be retarded. In fact, according to the 1998 ScienceGoGo.com article, “Ten Obscure Factoids Concerning Albert Einstein,” Factoid #3 is:

He Was a Rotten Speller. Although he lived for many years in the United States and was fully bilingual, Einstein claimed never to be able to write in English because of “the treacherous spelling.” He never lost his distinctive German accent either, summed up by his catch-phrase “I vill a little t’ink.”

Some now purport that Einstein struggled with dyslexia, a learning disorder that impairs a person’s fluency or comprehension accuracy. However, this claim is only speculative. Nevertheless, spelling is only one of several serious difficulties facing people with dyslexia.

According to Dyslexia-Parent.com, there are four main challenges for a dyslexic person:

1. Spelling
2. Sentence punctuation
3. Handwriting
4. Sequencing ideas

In such a case, lack of intelligence clearly is not the issue for a challenged speller.

There is also the distinction to be made between poor cognitive spelling skills and never having learned to do it properly. As Philip Hensher writes in the UK’s The Independent:

Spelling may, in the end, not be a very reliable indicator of intelligence, and it is certainly possible to imagine very intelligent and articulate people who lack the skill. But society has agreed that it is significant, and there is no doubt that people, at some point in their lives, will be judged partly on the basis of whether they can spell or not. It is simply the job of education to teach that skill, and it is incredible to hear professional teachers sneering at the notion.

I fear that this attitude is not all that unusual, however. A couple of years ago, I agreed to teach a residential course for sixth-formers who were interested in becoming journalists. They were from a disadvantaged part of London, but I would say they were intrinsically bright and capable. I set some written work: it arrived: I held my head in horror. Not one of them was capable of writing 20 words without making a mistake in spelling, and sometimes an elementary one.

The point here is not that they lacked ability, but that their education had never impressed on them the importance of accuracy. It seemed perfectly plausible to them, and to their teachers, that native ability and enthusiasm would be enough to qualify them to write prose for a living. The idea that accuracy might be needed had literally never occurred to them.

One interesting yet seldom-mentioned fact is the converse of this idea that poor spelling is an indication of inferior intelligence, that is, good spelling is NOT necessarily an indication of intelligence. A person may have strong memorization and/or language skills without possessing comprehensive intelligence across all subjects.

Beyond spelling, another consideration is the fact that not all of us are inherently strong in verbal/linguistic skills. Renowned social scientist Howard Gardner developed a model known as multiple intelligences, meaning that although each of us has many ways in which we learn and perceive information, we generally have one primary area where we excel. The eight intelligences Gardner identified are: Verbal/Linguistic, Logical/Mathematical, Visual/Spatial, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Musical/Rhythmic, and Naturalistic.

Although verbal and linguistic may be perceived as the most commonly emphasized of the eight intelligences, there are seven other skill sets at which a person may excel. Verbal/linguistic may be my personal strengths, but just ask my niece about my fiasco as a sub, teaching math to her 6th grade Montessori class.

What it comes down to is this: in business in particular, heighten and hone your natural skills and leverage them as far as you can – but HIRE OUT your weaknesses. Don’t worry that you don’t do it well as you hand over the project to your outsourcee – that’s why you’re hiring them!

My client who said she needed to rewrite her article before she sent it to me reminded me of those people who feel they have to clean their houses before the housekeeper arrives. That one also baffles me. Rather than focus on her imperfections, I wish she could celebrate her wisdom in reaching out for help. If we could all just get past our shame about our deficiencies and instead focus on the things we do well, life would be so much easier.

Laura

Originally posted on March 31, 2007 as “There’s No Shame in Being a Bad Speller/Poor Grammarian” on the blog Communication Made Easy, by Marcie Brock creator, Laura Orsini.

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