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Is the right brain truly a sight for invention?

Is the right brain truly a site for invention?

To assess your individual or corporate viability in the current economy, ask yourself three questions:

1. Can what I do be done cheaper overseas?
2. Can what I do be done faster by a computer?
3. Am I offering something that satisfies the nonmaterial wants of an abundant age?

If your answer is anything other than “no”, invest some time in Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind. Even those who can answer “No” will extract value from the stories, methodology and commentary of a broad range of innovative people and organizations including GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, product innovation and design consultancy IDEO, MIT’s Nicolas Negroponte, writer and social commentator Pat Kane and designer Karim Rashid. Although the causal premises are well established, Pink’s research and perspective is both uniquely personal and broadly applicable.

True to our times, A Whole New Mind is a bad news-good news story. The bad news for analytical types including accountants, engineers, lawyers and MBAs is that the primacy of the knowledge worker is a thing of the past. The Industrial Age is history; our challenge is to how to thrive in what Pink terms the Conceptual Age. From a marketability standpoint, there has been a shift in valuation from left-brain or systematic thought to right brain or empathetic thought. What is currently in demand is an integrative perspective that is “high concept” (integrative) and “high-touch” (empathetic).

The good news is that the high-value abilities of the 21st century are not necessarily a function of one’s IQ. They are fundamentally human attributes that can be cultivated. The essence of this book is the why and how of cultivating A Whole New Mind.

To put this shift in context, Pink documents how three socioeconomic factors–abundance, Asia and automation–are transforming both the nature of work and society. Abundance has enabled a shift in the hierarchy of needs from material accumulation to higher criteria such as beauty, emotion and meaning. Asia is a generic reference to outsourcing and off-shoring knowledge work to high-aptitude/low-cost countries including China, Hungary, India, the Philippines, Russia–anywhere but Europe and North America. A 2003 Reuters report noted that “one out of ten jobs in the U.S. computer, software and information technology industry will move overseas in the next two years [by 2008].

One in four IT jobs will be off-shored by 2010. Finally, technology has rendered those activities reducible to a series of processes virtually obsolete. These factors are driving a transformation of the entire value creation process. To quote Pink, “In an age of abundance, appealing only to rational, logical and functional needs is woefully insufficient–mastery of design, empathy, play and other seemingly soft aptitudes is now the main way for individuals and firms to stand out in a crowded marketplace.”

According to Pink, achieving professional success and personal satisfaction in the Conceptual Age is dependant on our ability to deploy six essential aptitudes or “senses”: design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. For maximum impact, we will need to complement L-Directed reasoning with the six essential R-Directed aptitudes to yield a holistic mind.

To highlight the difference in the two perspectives, Pink poses the dynamic this way: “Not just function but also DESIGN. Not just argument but also STORY. Not just focus but also SYMPHONY. Not just logic but also EMPATHY. Not just seriousness but also PLAY. Not just accumulation but also MEANING.” Karim Rashid captures the essence of this sensibility in his exhortation to “Think extensively, not intensively.”

This is not a theoretical book; it’s a call to action. The emphasis throughout is on maximizing your personal impact. The Portfolio sections at the end of each of the “six senses” chapters provide multiple options for assessment and application. References range from texts to tests, hands-on exercises to meditative explorations–in short, something for everyone regardless of brain dominance.

For example, the “Channel Your Annoyance” exercise in the Design section is an effective creative outlet for venting frustration with everything from ads to web site usability. Pink’s participation in a “Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain” class is proof of effectiveness: the difference between his before and after portraits is astonishing. For a common sense approach to empathy, apply IDEO’s Learn, Look, Ask and Try methodology.

Finally, as an acid test, the 20/10 test in the Meaning section is spot-on: if you had $20 million in the bank or only 10 years to live, would you live your life differently? That is, indeed, the pivotal question. If you would live your life differently, this book is a kick-start. The final point in Rashid’s 50-point guide to life is “Here and now is all we got.” A Whole New Mind helps you make the most of what you got.

Find Nina Burokas online!

And, if you want a supportive and empathic kick-start on creating a more satisfying life and livelihood, checkout my website!


Creating Your Own Destiny:  How to Get Exactly What You Want Out of Life, written by Patrick Snow, is my favorite self-improvement book this year.  Such praise proffered is saying a great deal because my blog, “Helpful Books,” reflects my very choosy appetite.  

As a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology and Religion, I think I’m able to separate the bogus self-schleppy, New Age fluff from the wisdom of the ages. I can tell when a person is pushing candy and when they’re sharing real life experiences that offer authentic encouragement to the reader. Creating Your Own Destiny is of the latter ilk. 

All 16 chapters of his book are chock-full of wisdom (both ancient and “kitchen-table”)—most of it drawn from Snow’s direct experience as an employee, husband, father, son, and entrepreneur.  He also mines his favorite inspiring quotes from those admirable people he’s tried to emulate (including his own parents).

Snow is a formidable optimist and a transparent truth-teller; he shares what works and the exact techniques he’s used (and still uses) to thrive as an author, speaker, book coach and business consultant.

Like those other “Honest Abe’s” in business—Stephen Covey, Martha Beck, Brian Tracey, Warren Bennis, Oprah and Laurence G. Boldt—Snow isn’t “selling” this idea of “creating your own destiny” as if it’s easy. He testifies to how hard won it is to be diligent in your aim to “follow your heart’s desires.” He humbly describes his own sense of failure and the lessons that came all along the way.

At one point Snow had a paper-route (as a second job!) to make ends meet and he often encourages readers to keep their current job while building up their own business and getting out of any debt. In no way does Snow promote a “wish-based” or “day-dreamer’s” reality. He invites people to dream big and to take action on their dreams or they will be living in a nightmare. 

It is clear to this reader that Snow is a person of integrity, fairness, service and faith. One cannot help but feel his passion for giving away his secrets of success—specific methods from his own past achievements and current dreams.

All of what Snow makes plain throughout this book reiterates these four winning elements:  Let yourself have a vision (dream); Put it down on paper within a realizable time frame (plan); Step up to the plate and live into the dream, (execute); and reap the benefits of your hard work and tenacity (soar)! 

Snow believes in his principled technology because he has been experiencing its benefits ever since he was a young man. His father encouraged him to write down what he wanted to see happen in his life (check back in on them and be grateful for the miracles that follow). This method has been working for Snow ever since.  

Snow clearly believes that his most profound learning has come from clarifying his aspirations, taking bigger risks, overcoming his greatest challenges–including what the naysayers may say–and getting clear on who it’s all for. His ultimate motivator is adding to the wealth of love embodied in all his relationships—especially his immediate family).

Many people gripped by financial fear and psychological insecurity do not think, “family first!” when it comes to creating wealth or insuring happiness. In fact, the pursuit of “abundance” can sometimes be a red herring for the rotting fish in one’s personal life and relationships. In fact, when one looks to Wall Street, popular culture, or even the outgoing administration (in 2008), we can see that principled solutions to most of our current crises are perceived to be a thing of the past. But, there is hope.

My favorite tenets of this book that are like no other, include the following:

1.  Unique questions about your inner-direction, priorities and past practices and plenty of room to fill in your own answers.

2.  A plethora of wonderful quotes to inspire the reader—I’m talking more than 321 of them.

3.  Humor and humility in equal measure.

4.  Honesty about the marketplace and the greed and ignorance that can rule when profit comes before people.

5.  Placing one’s priority on happiness within relationships, not just as a “successful” individual. So many “self-help” books begin and end with the “self” thus fueling the unhappy illusion that we are rocks, Islands, and legitimate narcissists.

6.  Though Snow is a “born again” Christian, he doesn’t push what guides him, in a religious sense. His advice seems to come from an open mind, one committed to leaving readers to find their own understanding to “destiny” and purposeful living.

7.  He urges those who want to make money to look at their spending, saving and investing habits and asks readers what they believe “more money” will do for them. I love the idea that people who make more money often spend more money and feel just as fearful about money-lack as the rest of the middle class. Money smarts doesn’t necessarily come along with a better income.

8.  Though Snow is an optimist, in no way is he naïve. He has clearly suffered many losses:  his childhood home was nearly burnt to the ground, his agility after a back injury at 18, his dream of becoming an NCAA football player for Michigan, his first few jobs after college,  a custom-designed dream home (in order to get out debt); and hearing initial reviewers of his CYOD manuscript tell him, “Don’t quit your day job, you’ll never make it as an author!” I’m sure he’s laughing all the way to the bank after selling more than 125,000 copies of his book (now in its 9th Edition).

9.  His nature as a person comes straight through his inspirational writing. He is clearly a person of great character –  true blue – not just red, white and blue (though he is that, too).

10.  He values loved ones and knows that he would not be here without those special mentors, teachers, leaders who’ve paved the way. Snow is clearly driven to make the world a better place by having more “enlivened-by-their-work” human beings truly living in it.

As you might have guessed, I strongly recommend this book and so do his readers–some from Nairobi, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Pakistan, India and Iraq. This book has been translated into many languages and appreciated by people of all ages.

It seems the perfect time to get inner direction, regardless of your context.

The sweeping changes in North American society would give any conscious person pause when considering positively affecting their future. Yet, the notion of counting on a secure marketplace or reliable employment is even more fanciful. 

Asking ourselves Snow’s important questions could not be more relevant for the 21st century. That his writing speaks to so many people outside the U.S. tells us that these principles are universal, timeless and enduring.

Snow did not invent his recommended methods nor does he take credit for them. He has simply identified, experimented, and organized them into a framework that nine to 109-year olds can test for themselves.

To order his book, go directly to his website.

If you like this book, you’ll like mine too: Check it out for yourself:  Manlowe’s Books!