Monday, February 27, 2017


We would all like to be creative; perhaps it is not so hard.
“Curiosity about life in all its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people,” noted the late Leo Burnett, outstanding advertising executive and founder of the firm that bears his name. If so, then by encouraging our own curiosity, we can become more creative.
Former journalist Harry W. Hoover’s recent little book Born Creative maintains that we all are born creative, but some of us don’t believe we are, and so we don’t exercise that skill.
Hoover cites a Harvard Business Review (HBR) study that found that those who think they are not creative, are not, and those who think they are creative, are. Inventor Henry Ford is credited with, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Perhaps your opinion correctly summarizes past experience, but Ford’s implied urging toward positive thinking supports Hoover’s view that however much we are innately creative, we can all do better.

Creative Mindset Test
Hoover offers HBR’s five-question test to gauge our “creative mindset.” It asks yes/no questions about
1.   Associational thinking: do you solve problems by drawing on diverse ideas or knowledge?
2.   Questioning: do you often ask questions that challenge assumptions?
3.   Observing: do you get innovative ideas by watching how people behave?
4.   Idea networking: do you frequently interact with a diverse set of people?
5.   Experimenting: do you try to create new methods?
HBR would rate you as “creative” if you answered “yes” to a majority of these questions, but even if you did not, Hoover proposes some approaches to exercise and improve your creative muscle. Hoover reports that a study found that the average adult thinks up two or three alternatives for “any given situation,” but the average child thinks of 60. No wonder kids find so many ways to get into trouble!

Embrace Change
A comment by David Norris helped Hoover realize that his time was more precious than his income, especially when he was spending a couple of hours a day commuting. He altered his career trajectory and now works from home.

Generate an “I Am” List
Hoover recommends this clever exercise: Leaving the first entry blank, write down 30 things you are good at. When all done, put as #1 “I am really creative.” Re-read it frequently, as auto-suggestion, self-hypnosis.

Don’t Be Like This Big Fish
Scientists ran an experiment with a big fish, Hoover relates, a fish that was initially given all the minnows it could eat, while it swam in its aquarium. Next, they encased minnows individually in strong, transparent containers, where they could swim, but the big fish could not get at them. Soon, it gave up trying. Next, they released the minnows from the containers, but the big fish did not try to eat them, having “learned” it couldn’t. This did not end well.

Make Creative Weather: Brainstorm
You are probably familiar with brainstorming, which Hoover praises. In an informal meeting, solicit ideas, and keep pushing for more ideas, while shielding each participant from criticism. Crucial elements are: proper preparation, a skilled facilitator, generating without denigrating, suspending judgment, quantity not quality to start, going “beyond reason,” and piggybacking one idea on another. Capture the ideas in writing.

Use SCAMMPERR for Creativity
To come up with novelty, Hoover uses SCAMMPERR to suggest the following approaches: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Magnify, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Rearrange, Reverse.

Steve Jobs has been quoted as saying that creativity is often the joining of disparate elements to make something new.

Psychologist Edward de Bono, author of multiple books on creative thinking, emphasized the value of comparing and contrasting dissimilar items to generate new ideas. De Bono also maintains that creativity helps make life more fun and more interesting.

Harness Your Creative Courage and Judgment
“Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep,” wrote cartoonist-author-entrepreneur Scott Adams. By being brave, we can risk making mistakes. “Art” may largely be a matter of taste.
You won’t know until you try.

How do you express your own creativity? What do you do to stimulate it?                                                                                        
Please join the conversation.

Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a former Harvard science professor. He still publishes, and he helps others write and publish their books via his coaching business website, His life's central theme has been his half-century romance with his wife, Tina Su Cooper, now quadriplegic for over a decade due to multiple sclerosis, receiving 24/7 nursing care at home, as discussed at their website here.


Published in a somewhat different form at

Monday, February 20, 2017

Becoming Outstanding, II

LEARNING: A Lifetime Pursuit

Continuing to learn is essential. Socrates is quoted as saying, “A wise man knows he knows nothing.” Late in his long life, Michelangelo wrote on one of his sketches, Ancora imparo, “I am still learning.” The late, great Nobel-Prize-winning physicist, Richard P. Feynman called himself a “curious character,” continually wondering “why?”

Shufeldt urges us to read, read, read, and take classes. I enjoyed his quote from Winston Churchill, “I began my education at a very early age---in fact, right after I left college.” The self-taught American writer Eric Hoffer [read his (Hoffer, 1966) The True Believer, if you get a chance], wrote, “The future belongs to the learners---not the knowers.”

OPTIMISM/ENTHUSIASM: Look on the Bright Side

Shufeldt claims to be optimistic, almost to a fault, but writes that it allows him to view difficulties as opportunities. Blind optimism would be wrong, but a rationally positive view helps keep us going.

The story is told about writer and editor Norman Cousins, who overcame cancer largely through his unwillingness to acknowledge defeat and his focus on humor and laughter. Many other examples are presented, including that of the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale (1952), author of the best-selling guide, The Power of Positive Thinking, who distinguished between the “energetic optimists” and the “purveyors of gloom.” Dr. Peale founded Guideposts, an inspiring monthly magazine with a circulation of over two million.

Shufeldt writes, “enthusiasm is infectious---spread it.” Science fiction novelist Robert A Heinlein, one of my favorites, notes that even if pessimists were right more often than optimists, being optimistic is more fun.

PERSPECTIVE: Changing It Changes Everything

It has been said, “Where you stand depends on where you sit.” Our cherished positions are often determined by our “points of view,” our perspectives. Dr. Shufeldt maintains that the most important lesson life has taught him is that life is about perspective: changing your perspective changes everything.

Southwest Airlines’ phenomenal success is accredited largely to their philosophy of putting their employees first, on the theory that happy employees will treat customers right. One guru has advised, “You choose to worry or you choose not to.”  Another enjoins us to focus on the journey, not the destination. My favorite quote on the topic is, from Horace Walpole, “Life is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.”

INDEFATIGABLE: Empty the Tank!

When you are engaged in something worth doing, do it all the way.  Go the extra mile. Use up all the gasoline in your tank. We can do more than we think we can. Run your marathon flat out. Go all in, beyond your comfort zone.

Shufeldt cites one of his favorite movies and mine, Chariots of Fire, which starts with beautiful footage of British runners in training, doing their utmost. He reminds us of the brave passengers on United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, who, led by Todd Beamer and inspired by his “Let’s roll,” overcame the hijackers intent on crashing the plane into one of the government buildings in Washington, DC. They indeed gave their all.

As Kipling wrote, we are to “fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.”

Digresssion: “Do you like Kipling,” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied. ”I’ve never kippled.”

EFFICIENCY: Doing Better What’s Being Done

Theodore Roosevelt lived only 59 years, yet achieved amazing feats, as a warrior, explorer, statesman, writer, the youngest man inaugurated as President, and he served two terms. He lived life to the fullest and did so efficiently.

Management expert Peter Drucker is cited, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Both are important. Shufeldt advises us to have goals that we put into writing: “S.M.A.R.T. goals, goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.” Then we must act on them.

 Have a “to-do” list and work on it. Your daily list should likely have only a few, most important, elements. The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, is credited with having found a new way to conduct a retail business. Bezos emphasizes that Amazon is “customer-centric.”

INTEGRITY: A Priceless Commodity

“Simply put, integrity is doing what you say and saying what you’ll do,” Shufeldt writes. “Integrity” is derived from the Latin word for wholeness. Cheating is anathema to those with integrity. Examples of integrity in sports, such as golf, where players have cost themselves victories by calling fouls on themselves, are given.
Former U.S. Senator from Wyoming Alan K. Simpson stated, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”

INTUITION: Your Guts Don’t Lie

While the preceding discussion has emphasized accentuating the positive, there are times when fear is appropriate, and you must “listen to your gut.” Our “fight or flight” response may be needed and we must avoid “freeze.” Whether you are walking in a strange area at night or surfing an unfamiliar site on the Internet, you need to be cautious.

Shufeldt notes there is an organization named “Heartless Bitches International” that has a web site listing hundreds of “red flags” people should heed in developing relationships. Sexy actress of the last century, Mae West, is quoted, “Don’t marry a man to reform him. That’s what reform schools are for.” Google uses a “red flag” for myriad sites with warnings. Lies are red flags, as are rudeness, arrogance, laziness, negativity, tough pre-hire negotiation, callousness, excuses, misspellings…. Shufeldt warns, “In my experience, women have better gut instincts than men, but are less likely to follow them.”
Finally, Dr. Shufeldt advises:

THE RARE FIND: Become the One of a Kind

Actress Bernadette Peters is quoted: “You’ve gotta be original, because if you’re like someone else, what do they need you for?” Don’t try to be just any kind of unique, but uniquely good. American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, a favorite of mine, wrote, “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” It’s lonely at the top, sometimes, but the air is clean and the view is terrific.

Dr. Shufeldt acknowledges that much of this we have heard before, but it is worth repeating. In just under 200 pages, he includes his own observations and anecdotes along with those of many other successful people and students of success. The work is a virtual handbook for those who hope to be outstanding, like you.


Excerpted from my Write Your Book with Me, published last year by Outskirts Press and available from online booksellers like and See

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Be Outstanding, I, from WYBWM


Life can only be lived forwards,
but it can only be understood backwards.
Soren Kierkegard


In his recently published The Ingredients of Outliers, physician-lawyer-businessman John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA, has written a succinct recipe book for personal achievement, for becoming outstanding, an “outlier,” in your field. In statistics, an “outlier” is a rare case, and in life, outstanding excellence is rare and treasured.

Dr. Shufeldt’s section headings and my comments follow:

HUMILITY: The Root of Success

Dr. Shufeldt gives examples from his life of instances where ego has gotten in the way of success. Teachers will tell you that you cannot learn what you think you already know. The Bible admonishes, “Pride goeth before a fall.” “Egotism is the glue with which you get stuck on yourself,” according to writer Dan Post. Inspirational author Vernon Howard advised, “Extinguish the ego.” Poet Rudyard Kipling urged us to view seeming success and seeming failure as two “impostors,” and not be swayed by them.  An unrealistic view of ourselves is unattractive and can lead to serious miscalculations.

FAIL FAST: The Gift of Failure

“All successful people were failures along their journey---the only difference is that they learned and persevered,” writes Dr. Shufeldt. Recall that Abraham Lincoln lost several elections before becoming President of the United States. If you are always succeeding, you are probably not challenging yourself enough, not reaching for sufficiently high goals. We can learn from our failures but not from inaction.  Marian Wright Edelman is cited as noting, “Failure is just another way to learn how to do something right.” The more you try, even if failing, the more you learn, and quicker is better.


Dr. Shufeldt begins this section by recalling the courageous persistence of George Washington and the Continental Army in its War for Independence from Britain, during most of which conditions were brutal and defeat seemed likely. Billionaire industrialist is quoted as H. Ross Perot lamenting, “Most people give up just when they are about to achieve success. They quit on the one-yard line…just a foot from a winning touchdown.” I love the quote from American essayist Christopher Morley, “Big shots are only little shots who keep on shooting.” Steve Jobs is cited as indicating that half the battle in being successful is simply perseverance.

PREPARATION: “When the Wind Blows”

The story is told of a farmer’s helper who was newly hired despite his puzzling comment that his greatest strength was that he “can sleep when the wind blows.” Not long after, a severe storm blew in, and when the farmer went to get this lad’s help, he found him soundly asleep. Awakened, he stated, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” In the morning, when the storm had passed, the farmer found that all his animals and property had been secured without suffering any damage, as the helper had prepared for the storm so that he could “sleep when the wind blows.” 

American Boy Scouts have as their motto, “Be Prepared.” The U.S. Coast Guard has essentially this as their motto, too, in Latin: Semper Paratus, “always prepared.” For most activities a great way to insure you are prepared is to have a check-list, just as airplane pilots and astronauts use to prevent overlooking anything important. Benjamin Franklin is quoted, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”


Dr. Shufeldt quotes playwright and essayist George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” 

To communicate successfully, we need to check and re-check that our audience has heard and understood our message. In college I was told that in giving a speech, you should “tell them what you are going to say, then say it, then tell them what you have said.” 

Speak and write simply where possible. 

Don’t cross your arms or clench your fists, nor roll your eyes in response when spoken to. Maintain eye contact. Don’t speak and run, commenting as you fly by. Use proper grammar and spelling. Avoid empty sounds, like “uh” and “you know.” 

If someone stops listening to you, stop talking. When others talk, listen carefully, as listening well is a key to understanding and successful communicating.


In his poem If, Rudyard Kipling advises, “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…trust yourself when all men doubt you….” In a crisis, calm is key; one must make haste slowly. One does not want to be like Chicken Little, who thought the sky was falling and ran around alarming the other farm animals. Dr. Shufeldt quotes the late Reverend Norman Vincent Peale (1952): “The cyclone derives its powers from a calm center. So does a person.”

TOLERATING RISK: Being a Doer, not a Dreamer

Dr. Shufeldt emphasizes that entrepreneurism is risky, quoting the joke that “the way to make a small fortune in business is to start with a large fortune.” 

Sure, most new businesses go broke, but some succeed and some make it big, which may appeal to you. Shufeldt has been involved with successes and failures and knows “try, try again” has got to be balanced against “don’t beat a dead horse.” As the song goes, “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” There is a life cycle in new businesses: innovator, imitator, idiot. 

If you want to run a business, let me recommend you read Kevin D. Johnson’s  (2013) The Entrepreneur Mind, with his discussion of 100 characteristics of the successful entrepreneur. You have to be a visualizer and an actualizer.

KINDNESS: The Art of Paying it Forward

Dr. Shufeldt gives several examples of lives changed by simple acts of kindness, including that of Frederick Douglass who became outstanding writer, publisher, and orator despite being born into slavery. We are urged to go beyond WIIFM [What’s In It For Me]. Dr. Shufeldt maintains that his own acts of charity have in fact ended up benefiting him even more. Mark Twain is quoted, “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can read.” 


Excerpted from my opus, Write Your Book with Me,  published in 2016 by Outskirts Press, available from OP and online booksellers like and

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Ghostwriting Defended (Carter, 2015)

Mine may be a minority view, especially among writers, so I asked my British writer friend, Ginny Carter, if I could quote her recent letter sent to those on her mailing list, concerning how and why she ghostwrites. It follows:

Working with a book ghostwriter – the how and why

I’m sure you’ve heard about ghostwriters. They’re those slightly mysterious creatures who pen other peoples’ books for them, writing their content in their voice. They don’t have their name on the book (that accolade belongs to the author), but they do get to talk to a lot of interesting people. Maybe you’ve thought of hiring one yourself, or possibly you feel a bit suspicious about the whole thing and wonder why someone wouldn’t write their own book.

I’ll admit, when I first started my ghostwriting and book coaching
business, I wondered too. Would people would be ok with the idea of
asking a professional to write in their voice? It turns out, they would!
That’s because there are some serious advantages to this particular way of creating your book.

As an aside, many of our most well-known and most loved business books contain acknowledgements for ghostwriter assistance. Examples are: Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People/, Donald Trump in The Art of The Deal, and Richard Branson in Losing My Virginity.

Why use a ghostwriter to write your business book?

For a start, it saves the author time. Time they can spend more
productively on the business tasks only they can do. They don’t have to get up at 5am every morning to fit in a thousand words before breakfast – they can simply hand the heavy lifting to someone else to do it for them. This means they can focus on preparing the marketing for their book launch, and planning how they’re going to make the most of their book to build their expert reputation once it’s published.

In other words, hiring a ghostwriter might be the difference between a
book being written, and it staying in the author’s head (where it’s not
a lot of use to anyone).

Secondly, for many business people writing isn’t their main strength –
and why should it be? Worrying whether your sentences are flowing and your ideas are coming across clearly and persuasively can feel like a chore. I’m a big believer in outsourcing whatever you can. For instance, I’m terrible with numbers so I’ve always had an accountant; she saves me hours of time and makes sure my figures add up correctly, so I can sleep at night knowing they’re being taken care of.

Most folks are comfortable with the above, but sometimes it leads to the next question …

Isn’t using a ghostwriter a bit like cheating?

Here’s the thing. As a ghostwriter, I can (and will) only write my
author’s own thoughts, ideas and opinions. I’ll also write them in the
way they’d most like them expressed. Sure, I’ll add my own creativity
and writing skills into the mix, making sure their train of thought is
expressed in the best possible way. And I’ll speak up when I see things going off track. But the book comes from the author, not me.

In fact, the very process of working with a business book ghostwriter
means my clients have to get crystal clear on their core message and why it matters (something I help them with as we plan the book).

Are there any disadvantages to using a ghostwriter?

For some business owners, writing their book themselves is really
important to them; they want the personal satisfaction that comes from being both author and writer. The DIY approach can be a great learning experience and very rewarding, and also entails a lower financial investment.

So how does using a business book ghostwriter work?

I can’t speak for all of us ghostwriters, but this is my process:

1)I sit down and work out the book’s strategy with my client: what the
book’s big idea is, who it’s for, how these two factors fit together,
whether there’s a market for the book, and most importantly how it’s
going to help their business.

2) We work out an outline, using their content as a starting point.

3) I interview them via Skype. In these interviews, I draw out the story
from my client that’s bigger and better than the one they would have
found within them. Having a warm and trusting relationship is key for
this, and it can be an enjoyable part of the process for the author.

4) The calls are recorded and transcribed. These transcriptions, together with any written or audio material my client already has, form
the raw material for the book. The recordings and transcriptions
also help me to capture the tone and language used, so I can write in
their voice.

5) I write each chapter, sending them for feedback as we go along.

6) We both review, creating around 3 drafts in total.

7) The manuscript is proof read and handed to my client. If he/she
wants, I help them publish and market it as well.

And that’s it, really. It seems pretty simple now, doesn’t it? Have you
ever thought of working with a ghostwriter to create your book? How
would you feel about it?

Ginny Carter
“The Author Maker”

         Having read Ginny’s explanation of what she does, I must admit that, as she has written to me, I am “closer to being a ghostwriter than [I] think.”  Since the famous authors she cited seem to have mentioned their writers in their acknowledgments, my biggest objection was met: they publicly did give some credit. Getting one’s name on the cover and title page is more valuable still, but now we are talking about degrees of recognition.  Thank you, Ginny.


From my book, Write Your Book with Me, published in 2016 by Outskirts Press and available from OP as well as from online booksellers like and