When Jill and I started our Story Mode program, we easily landed on our motto/tagline/hashtag:
Refuse To Be Boring.
This phrase is our “way.” It’s our constant reminder and also an apt description of how we think, act, talk, create, work, relate. It’s how we live.
We spend so much time refusing to be boring, we long ago surpassed the 10,000 hours required to make this mindset an automatic impulse. Is boring an option for us? Hell no!
But what happens when we turn the phrase on others?
We do this every day. Refuse To Be Boring is our call to action for every person we have occasion to influence. The leaders we advise. The creators we coach. The teams we teach and inspire. The friends and family who seek our input (God love them). The strangers we meet in checkout lines.
“Refuse to be boring,” we tell them. Occasionally, the answer comes back a hearty “Hell yeah!” But more often, the response is a “What the hell?” sentiment that registers on the person’s brow. One raised eyebrow of curiosity, two raised in surprise, or a fully furrowed brow of confusion or concern.
To smooth those foreheads, we get specific about what “boring” means.
Here are three examples I’ve encountered in the past month:
Tired templates for professional bios and job postings. The purpose of these documents is to get people fired up about a chance to work with you or for you. Why then, would your opening words be a blasé phrase like “Based in Anytown …” or “The Team Manager is responsible for …” That’s boring.
Predictable approaches to pitches and presentations. Working on a PowerPoint? Let me guess what’s on your first two slides. Slide 1 is a title slide, where the words and imagery are obsessed with your business. If your audience gets any love, it’s a mere mention in a heading or sub-head. No biggie, because the title page is a throw-away, right? Your audience will be enthralled by what comes next. Uh-oh. Slide 2 is an agenda, with super-sexy items like “introductions,” “objectives,” and “next steps.” That’s boring.
Formulaic interviews that fascinate no one. Any conversation suffers when the give-and-take is dull. Often, the fault goes to the interviewer. I want sideline reporters to run laps when the best they can do is, “How does it feel to be the winner/loser?” And if you’re interviewing someone for a job, podcast, or panel discussion, please tell me your question list does better than, “Tell me about yourself.” That’s boring (and super unhelpful to the person who has to answer).
If any of this sounds familiar, then you’ve encountered “boring.” You might even be guilty of boring some colleagues or customers of your own.
What to do?
Stop being boring. Simply refuse to let it happen.
Perhaps you can borrow some strategies from self-help gurus, motivational speakers, and change-your-life systems:
- Make Refuse To Be Boring your mantra.
- Paint Refuse To Be Boring in lipstick on your bathroom mirror.
- Weave Refuse To Be Boring into daily affirmations: “I refuse to be boring, and gosh darn it, people like me.”
That should do it.
Just kidding. If breaking the boring cycle were that easy, Jill and I would be out of a job.
Adopting the mindset is the first step. You still have to do the work.
What that work involves will be different for each of you. But in my experience, most people benefit from one or more of the following actions:
1. Let yourself wonder.
Ask “what if.” Envision just how many ways you could get from point A to point B. Question what might happen if you tweak this or overhaul that. There’s no harm and very little risk in letting your imagination run wild. Let these mental exercises lead you to discover something new (and keep from boring yourself).
2. Experiment with new routines.
Even a small tweak in your process may generate wildly different results. Take editing, for example. Instead of reviewing your own work, hand it to someone and ask them to read it aloud to you. This single adjustment is a game changer for clients who join our Story Mode Writers Rooms. Minds blown.
3. Move beyond the obvious.
If you want to avoid “same old same old” syndrome, force your brain or your team to find new angles. Instead of settling for the first good idea that surfaces, engage the Power of 39 to generate a lot of ideas—even if some of them suck. And don’t stop there. Once you have 39 ideas, start mixing and matching them in unexpected mash-ups. This is a sure fire way to set yourself apart from others and from “the way we’ve always done it.”
4. Set a timer.
Do you assume that truly innovative work requires a solid block of hours to get something done? Not necessarily. Inspiration often comes in a flash. When you have a problem to solve or a topic to explore, set a timer for three minutes. Write or record yourself talking until time’s up. Look at that! You have something to go on.
5. Start from a blank page.
Resist the urge to open a template, repurpose existing content, or follow a formula. Instead, pull a few sheets of paper out of the recycle bin or snag a stack of sticky notes. Jot down everything you think or know (or don’t know) about your idea, project, audience, goal, whatever. After 10 minutes of work (another good use for a timer), stand up and look down on your progress. What have you got?
6. Create every day.
Write something or make something. Every damn day. You’ll rack up tons of practice time generating and expressing ideas. Plus, you’ll have to be a beginner, day after day. Beginners don’t get bored; we get absorbed. Learning a new skill or starting a new project (even if it’s just a new journal page or post-it-sized doodle) forces you to tune out distractions and pay attention to the here and now.
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These six actions will go a long way to erase “boring” from your work and your life. Bonus: If you’ve been feeling ho-hum, these steps will ease your own sense of boredom, too.
If you’re serious about shaking things up, please contact me so we can create a targeted Refuse To Be Boring plan for you, your team, or your whole company.