It’s Blogapalooza season again!

If you recall Blogapalooza is a program we help coordinate through Max Utsler’s Innovation in Communications class at The University of Kansas. Blogapalooza provides an opportunity for Max’s students to have blog posts they write for class published on various blogs. Thanks to this semester’s participating blogs – Spiral16, The Pert Group, AlexanderG Public Relations, Bowden Communications, and BrandTwist.

This first Blogapalooza post is from University of Kansas grad student, Kellen Ashford. Kellen is a media research analyst with a media monitoring service, where he’s worked with clients in healthcare, IT, defense, and security industries. In today’s post, Kellen has another view of innovation from the Snowapalooza festival in Kansas recently! Here’s Kellen:

Beer Run Innovation by Kellen Ashford

Beer-InnovationTwo weeks ago, eastern Kansas was beset by large amounts of snow, and with it, the levels of public hysteria associated with intense weather in this region.After being snowed in on Thursday, I decided I needed to both dig my car out and stock my refrigerator with beer. But typically, I ran into two problems: I had no shovel to dig my car out and I had no car to make the beer run.

The second problem was a very easy fix.  I live in Lawrence, KS and everything is in walking distance from my apartment complex. But, said apartment complex also failed to have shovels ready for both their maintenance crews and residents.  I decided to kill two birds with one stone and walk to both the local Dillons grocery store and the neighborhood liquor store.

At Dillons, I acquired duct tape to fashion a broom and a dustpan into a shovel. Quite pleased with how this invention would work, I walked across the street to the liquor store and bought a six-pack of beer. The clerk was quite bored and was happy to see me. We had a good chat about the apartment complex, my car, and my snow removal innovation. He also mentioned to try a “pot or a pan” if my dustpan shovel didn’t work. “Point taken good sir,” I said while beginning my journey home.

The second the dustpan met the snow, it cracked. My heart sank. I stood up, dumbfounded and looked around distraught at my misfortune. At that instant, the words of the store clerk struck me, and I immediately thought about two cookie sheets I have. My uncle is a professional chef and had left me some quality bakeware when he moved. Most notably, I have two, heavy-duty cookie sheets.  I ran into my apartment, grabbed one, and started to shovel away. Success! In no more than 20 minutes, I had dug my car out and created a path to the car door. I was very pleased with this turn of events.

The Beer Run Innovation Lessons

The beer run innovation lessons of the story are quite simple.

First, you have to take chances in order to innovate. I took a chance with my dustpan-shovel invention and failed, but, I didn’t give up.  My second chance at innovation, the cookie sheet-turned-shovel, was much more successful.

The second point is inspiration can come from unlikely sources. If I didn’t have the conversation with my friendly liquor store clerk, I don’t know if I would have thought of those two cookie sheets. His “pot and pan” idea was the seed for the cookie sheet shovel design.

And for that, I am grateful.

Oh, and don’t worry. The noble dustpan is still in use. Nothing a little duct tape couldn’t fix. – Kellen Ashford


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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.


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It’s Blogapalooza time again! In partnership with students in Max Utsler’s Innovation in Management of Communications class at The University of Kansas, Blogapalooza provides an opportunity for Max’s students to publish blog posts they write for class here and at Alexander G Public Relations

Laura-BerryThe first post for this semester is from Laura Berry, a master’s student in Integrated Marketing Communication. Laura works in marketing for a global engineering and construction company that is working to bridge tradition with innovation.

5 Characteristics that Set Game Changing Ideas Apart by Laura Berry

Innovation starts with good ideas. But how can you separate good ideas from transformative, game changing ideas? If it’s a revolutionary idea, chances are it has several of these qualities.

1. It’s not your first idea.

Let’s face it: seven billion people live on this planet. Your first idea isn’t original. Inspiration might pop into your mind, but innovation looks more like a notebook filled with sketches and scratched-out notes. If you’ve pushed, reworked and redeveloped your idea, then you’re on your way to game changing ideas.

2. The idea is simple.

Some of the best ideas look obvious in hindsight. It might be complex to build, but it needs to be easy to understand. When you hear it aloud, it makes sense. Heads nod. A social networking website that makes it easy for you to connect and share with your family and friends online? Head nod.

In the Harvard Business Review article, “Get Buy-In for Your Crazy Idea,” Author David Burkus writes, “If you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny. In the same way, if you have to spend significant time explaining how your idea will work, it’s never going to win people over.”

3. It’s creative.

To create what doesn’t yet exist, you need imagination. Imagination asks the question, “What if?” Did you just create the most powerful bag less vacuum? (Dyson) Great. But what if I don’t want to push it around? (Roomba) Awesome. So now my vacuum cleaner runs by itself. What if my lawnmower did? (Roomba robotic lawnmower). “What if” questions stretch good ideas to new places.


4. It serves a purpose.

Thomas Edison said, “I find out what the world needs, and then I invent it.” Breakthrough ideas have an intrinsic human connection. Innovation often solves problems or meets needs. Are you old enough to remember running home to wait for a phone call or accessing the Internet through the piercing screech of dial-up? Thank goodness for innovators. When you understand the problems people face, you’re better able to help.

5. It took some sweat.

If innovation were easy, everyone would be doing it. To take an idea from good to game-changer, you have to nurture it. And that’s just a fancy way of saying it takes work. Your good idea could be a few “What if” questions from game changing ideas. Will you take it there, or will someone else? – Laura Berry


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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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2013-best-worstLast weekend, we published a list of the top 10 new Brainzooming blog posts from this year based on readers’ page views.

Today, here’s my list of thirteen favorites from 2013. And as has been the case in previous years, my list of favorites looks nothing like the most viewed blog posts. My list of favorites, as you’ll see here, is generally shaped by the stories behind the blog posts.

Before starting the list, thank you all for your readership, comments, and, suggestions throughout this year and previous years. Blog writing can be a lonely deal, so hearing your thoughts and reactions is wonderful. I appreciate it so much!

Special thanks to my Brainzooming business partner Barrett Sydnor for his contributions to the blog along with Woody Bendle, Randall Rozin, John Q. HarringtonBill Mullins, Professor John Bennett, Jamie Lacroix, and Max Utsler (along with Blogapalooza writers Jessica James, Kellen Ashford, and Judi Reilly ) for their guest blog posts this year.

Happy New Year, and here are my favorites from 2013 along with the stories attached to each of them.

1. Creating Strategic Impact – The Updated Brainzooming Manifesto

The original Brainzooming strategic thinking manifesto was comprised of the first five posts on the blog. When they were written, there wasn’t underlying content to link to, so this much delayed update provides greater more detail on how we approach strategy development for clients.

2. Creating Strategic Impact – Acting on a Strategic Opportunity at a Different Time

I appreciated readers on the blog and Facebook appreciating this opportunity to celebrate three important dates for my parents this year, even though I only made it to one of them in-person.

3. Creative Ideas – 30 Days of Creativity with Melanie Sklarz the @DoseOfCre8ivity

We don’t do nearly as much video content as we should, but this video was a delightful way to invite you to my in-person meeting with one of my favorite creativity voices on Twitter, Melanie Sklarz. We met up at the Cleveland airport (one of my old business haunts) before my flight back to Kansas City from speaking at Content Marketing World.

4. Creating Strategic Impact – 4 Factors for a Successful Annual Theme

If someone has checked in on the blog for any amount of time, you’re likely to have seen more of a spirituality theme the past few years. This post takes a personal lesson from my spiritual life and spins it around to a business perspective.

5. Staying Productive Working at Home in a Blizzard with no Power

When you don’t have any electricity, you forgot to charge your laptop and iPad beforehand, and you still want to publish a blog post, what do you do? For me, I hand wrote the blog post, took a photo, and published it with advice on staying productive during a power outage.

6. Career Success – 7 Ideas If You Don’t Care About What You Do Anymore

This post had been sitting in an upcoming blog file for quite some time. We finally ran it in December and received an email from a friend who said it was just what he needed that day to deal with some job frustrations. A large part of good timing is admitting you have no clue and simply “listening” for when you should do something.

7 and 8. Strategic Leadership – 18 Learnings from a Personal Strategic Tapestry and A Personal Strategic Tapestry by Professor John Bennett

The idea of living by a strategic tapestry is one I’ve thought about for some time given I avoid wild swings in direction professionally and personally. A tapestry of learning much more closely suits my strategic thinking. I was tremendously honored when the concept resonated with Professor John Bennett who followed the original post by sharing his own strategic tapestry with Brainzooming readers.

9. You Just Might be a Thought Leader by Woody Bendle

I love a good Woody Bendle rant, and this one, originating from a frustrating conference experience Woody sat through this year, is my favorite one so far.

10. Business Innovation – R.I.P. Failure by Jamie Lacroix

I loved the concept of having a funeral for failed ideas that Jamie Lacroix shared as a participant on a webinar given by branding expert Julie Cottineau. Jamie was gracious enough to share the concept in greater depth with Brainzooming readers, along with photos of the tombstones commemorating failed ideas at her organization.

11. Creating Cool Product Names for a New Product Idea – Creative Thinking Mini-Poster

This was our first blatant attempt at creating an infographic from Brainzooming content. It’s something we’d like to do more of given the time to do it well. Solid infographics are definitely not quick to complete!

12. Creative Ideas – What’s The Biggest No You Ever Received?

It’s not often you are asked a completely new question during a presentation, but this was one about the biggest NO I’d ever received. I thought I gave the correct answer at the “Taking the NO out of InNOvation” presentation for an IT consulting company in Nashville. Upon further reflection, I realized the answer was wrong; here’s the right answer.

13. Creative Ideas and Diversity – The Brainzooming TEDx Talk at TEDxWyandotte

While there’s not a lot to the text of this post, it contains the video of my TEDxWyandotte video. If you want to see a TEDx talk that wasn’t tightly scripted, check this out. Audience members got to pick their own preferred path through this TEDx talk on a creativity community.  – Mike Brown

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Blogapalooza veteran Jessica James is back today with her message that stress is a choice, along with 4 ways to decompress that she’s using amid a clearly busy life. Not only does Jessica work for one of the world’s largest casual dining restaurants, she’s also completing her master’s degree in journalism from The University of Kansas. Here’s Jessica:


Stress is a Choice by Jessica James

Stress-YourselfA full-time job, parenthood, married life, graduate school, a social life and the occasional volunteer opportunity– with all this going on, I’ve somehow managed to maintain my sanity.  It’s not something I ever thought about until recently when a close friend commented on how she couldn’t believe I wasn’t medicated.

She openly takes medication to help her cope with the stress and anxiety in her life.  I do not.

I Get it, You Are Busy…

This is not to say that I am not stressed out beyond belief right now.  My husband is a second-year law student who studies around the clock, I travel out of town for work about 30 percent of the time (which is incredibly disruptive to my toddler’s home life) and I am wrapping up my capstone project and presentation in just over a week.

4 Ways to Decompress

In the last three months, l have experienced more stress than ever before.  If I could find the time to go to thy gym, some of this might be alleviated.  However, I have managed to find little moments throughout my day to decompress.

1. Have a Morning Routine

My mornings are hectic, yet predictable.  My 30-minute commute from home to daycare to work consists of morning radio and a large cup of freshly ground and brewed coffee.  Without it, I am lost.  This daily ritual sets the tone for the rest of my day and helps me focus on what’s ahead of me.

2. Keep Your Priorities Straight

It never fails that as I ease into the day at work, my ‘to do’ list for the day gets high jacked by other, more pressing things.  I’ve learned to adjust to this and not become overwhelmed by focusing on what REALLY needs to get done for the day.  My industry is food, not rocket science, and most of the time, things can wait an extra 12-24 hours to be completed.

3. Quantity of Time Spent at Work is NOT > the Quality of Your Work

I refuse to fall into this trap.  So many of my peers at work, along with some leadership, value how long people show their faces at work and not how good the work actually is.  I am a consistent eight-to-fiver.  I excel at my job, always meet deadlines and pride myself on being a reliable and timely source of information for my peers.  As a result, I am able to spend a fair amount of time with my family in the evening and still have some time left for myself.

4. Put Yourself First…Sometimes

Working, going to graduate school and having a family is pretty common these days.  A lot of men and women do it.  I am able to because I am not afraid to do things for myself.  I’ll take a Friday off a couple times each year to shop, have lunch by myself, get caught up on laundry and catch up on my favorite TV shows.  It’s amazing how a few daylight hours to myself really rejuvenates me at home and at work.

Make a Choice to Take a Step Back

So before you let your friends talk you into medicating your stress and anxiety with prescription drugs, take a step back, and evaluate where you might be able to trim some stress out or bring some routine and predictability into your day.  And remember, the choices you make have a direct correlation to the stress in your life. – Jessica James


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Yesterday’s Brainzooming blog post was about 7 easy ways to get one or two more blog posts weekly by improving your social media productivity. Today’s post takes it one step further to answer a question that came up with Max Utsler’s Blogapalooza group last week: How do you keep yourself and your blog content fresh when you are blogging daily?

Blog-About-Today7 Keys to Keeping Your Blog Content Fresh when You Are Blogging Daily

With the limited time to answer during the class, here is a more in-depth answer on 7 things it takes to keep blogging daily:

1. Self-discipline

There has to be a reason your daily publishing deadline is meaningful and motivating. The answer will vary by blogger. For me, making a public commitment  years ago to blog daily has been the ongoing personal motivator to keep producing daily content.

2. Developing more blog topic ideas than you need

You always want to have choices when it comes to the blog you plan to publish. When you have multiple blog post possibilities, you can select the best option from among a few topics instead of being in the position of having to run the only blog you have close to being done.

3. Improving your communication skills all the time

If you’re signing yourself up for daily blogging, you need to be getting better and faster at producing and publishing content all the time. If you stand still or go backward in the effectiveness and efficiency of your communication techniques, you’re doomed.

4. An audience that cares

Even if it’s only a few people, you need to feel (or better yet, know) somebody will notice whether or not you publish a blog post on any given day. That’s why I so appreciate those of you who have reached out over the years to say you look forward to reading the Brainzooming blog daily. That’s huge information for any daily blogger you enjoy to know.

5. Flexibility in some way, shape, or form

If your publishing commitment is going to be unwavering, something else has to be able to waver in your life if need be. Making any type of daily commitment is about both discipline AND compromise. Make sure you know where you can compromise when you need to in order to sustain a daily blogging schedule.

6. Comfort with brevity and incompleteness

When you’re producing daily content, you aren’t going to want to write a novel or shoot a feature length video blog post every day. That means you have to be comfortable with and good at editing liberally, leaving things out, and revising and tweaking what you publish later.

7. Tools to make you better than you otherwise would be

There are many moving parts behind a blog. It’s not just writing or shooting a video. It also involves editing, making SEO adjustments, creating graphics, scheduling posts, and social sharing, to name a few activities you’ll be doing. Tools that are both effective and work well with your style are vital to blogging. daily.

That’s my formula for keeping blog content fresh when blogging daily

I hope you agree our content here is fresh! And if you’re doing a daily blog, what is your formula for doing it successfully?  – Mike Brown

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We’re back with another Blogapalooza post from a student in Max Utsler’s Innovation in Marketing Communications class at the University of Kansas.

Today, Judi Reilly, a seasoned marketing professional, highlights reverse innovation as a way to not only bring new products to first world markets, but to power a March Madness team to victory with a strong contribution off the bench. Stumped for how those two connect? Read Judi’s post and see if you can solve the riddle before the closing seconds of her post! Here’s Judi:


Reverse Innovation – Winning March Madness from the Bench by Judi Reilly

Judy-ReillyIf you are among the millions of rabid basketball fans intrigued by both March Madness and innovative business ideas, take note of something beyond the fast breaks, slam dunks, and buzzer beaters. Look for a dominant force sitting on the bench and leading teams in assists that also happens to be a successful outcome of reverse innovation.

Calling time out to better understand reverse innovation makes solving this riddle easier.

Vijay Govindarajan, considered a superstar on the subject, describes reverse innovation (sometimes called trickle-up innovation) as “any innovation that is adopted first in the developing world” and then introduced in industrial nations with consumer demand and a willingness to pay more for the product.

Successful Stars of the Reverse Innovation Game

There are a variety of successful reverse innovation products more likely to be advertisers than sitting on a March Madness bench that illustrate how developing ideas in the developing world can open up new first world markets:

  • GE portable ECG machine – These machines, manufactured in India for $1,000, provide mobility in taking the hospital to the patient. GE subsequently introduced a similar product in the U.S. for use on ambulances.
  • Mahindra tractors for small farmers – Mahindra first manufactured these tractors in India to assist poor farmers in tending crops and as a means of transportation. They came to the U.S. targeted at hobby farmers, opening up a new industry category.
  • Solar-powered charging unitSocial-conscious entrepreneurs created these products as power stations for multiple cell phones in remote, energy-deprived areas of India. In the U.S., the power products thrilled the audience of tech-savvy, outdoor enthusiasts wanting to remotely charge cell phones and tablets.

A Winning Game Plan for Competitive Reverse Innovation

Previously, reverse innovation was the exception rather than the rule. The phenomenon has now started to capture the attention of multinational corporations seeking to be more competitive. C.K. Prahalad, author of “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits,” (affiliate link) provided five early reasons for why developing nations can beat potential challenges to create reverse innovation layups.

  1. Product pricing – People in developing countries reject high prices for products from Western markets. Innovation in developing countries requires affordable products to the masses.
  2. Cutting to the chase – Developing countries don’t focused on trying to catch up with outdated 20th-century technologies. They embrace “leapfrog” technologies, such as mobile phones and solar energy that are brand new.
  3. Service “ecosystems” – Collaboration flourishes more readily between entrepreneurs in developing countries, with start-ups realizing they need each other for survival.
  4. Built to last – Third world environments lead to the development of gadgets that stand up to extreme conditions.
  5. Don’t spend what you don’t have – With limited financial resources, people in developing countries creatively find alternative and new uses for existing products.

Spot the Omnipresent Reverse Innovation at March Madness Yet?

Basketball-GameNow, back to March Madness. Have you spotted the reverse innovation winner on all the competitors’ benches yet?

Here’s one final hint: Rick Newman, a U.S. News.com blogger, says the innovation’s origin dates back to a home remedy mixture of water, sugar and a pinch of salt used in Bangladesh decades ago to battle complications from cholera.

You guessed it! I’m talking about sports drinks, such as category-leading Gatorade and Powerade. They contain a blend of water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes used to rehydrate athletes. In layman’s terms, sports drinks contain water, sugar and salt. Researchers brought the innovation to the U.S. because of consumer need, and it now represents a $4-billion industry.

Until next time, cheer your top pick to the Final Four while pointing out the product of reverse innovation on the sidelines. Score big points with your winning prognostication skills and knowledge of little-known sideline facts. – Judi Reilly 


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.


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Today’s Blogapalooza guest post is from Jessica James. Jessica has been working for one of the world’s larget casual dining restaurant chains since 2006. She is currently working on completing her master’s degree in journalism from The University of Kansas. We’re excited to share Jessica’s seven lessons for creative success – lessons that are a valuable guide to creating no matter the industry in which you work!

Creative Success – A 7 Lesson Guide to Creating by Jessica James

For 15 years, I have been in the business of creating new products and ideas. The first eight years were formative; learning my craft, sharpening my skills, networking, and building a reputation – finding my way in an all-consuming industry.  The last seven years have been innovative – a culmination of what I have learned, whom I’ve had the opportunity to know, and the creative success challenge that comes with maintaining relevance everyday.

From these innovative years, I have identified seven lessons for creative success that are my guide to creating.

1. Take Notes…and Use Them!

I use the Notes app on my iPhone everyday.  Perhaps I’m a bit OCD, but I have lists for everything.  Ideas for my house.  Ideas for upcoming projects.  Wines I need to try.  Places I need to go.  Anything that might be useful for inspiring creativity down the road gets logged into notes.

iPad-NotesI read the notes a few times a week, usually at night when unwinding.  I use this time to focus on something that may have grabbed my attention earlier and think about how it might apply to things I’m working on now. This process is very helpful in balancing my decisiveness and impulsiveness with my desire to present researched and thought out ideas.

2. Read All the Time

This ties to the first creative success tip.  If you’re taking notes all the time and generating lists, chances are, you’re reading things that are interesting and relevant to your personal and professional life.

I try to read a mix of things— parenting magazines, fashion magazines, cooking magazines, trade journals, blogs, websites, social media outlets, news magazines, Twitter, and the occasional ‘trash magazine.’ A mix of information will keep your ideas fresh and give you a perspective and creative success you would not otherwise have.

3. Focus on the Fix

When creating things, it is inevitable people will challenge your products or ideas, valid or not.  Don’t minimize your creative critics.  Pay close attention to your critics and what they are saying.  Be discreet about it and you will stay ahead of them.

Think about how things might go wrong and focus on how you would fix them.  Do this all the time – not just when something is near completion.  Have the voice of your creative critics in your head and use it to fine-tune your work.

4. Stay Organized

I read once somewhere (affiliate link) that creative people tend to achieve their best creative success in environments described as organized chaos.  To the contrary, analytical left-brained people work best when things are tidy, organized and maintained.  I relate to this.  My desk at work has piles of things that haven’t moved in a month or so, but I could tell you the contents of every pile. It’s a mess, but it’s organized.

Keeping your ideas and projects in organized and accessible piles or files will help you prioritize and shift gears quickly from one project to the next if needed – something critical in today’s world of news updates by the minute.

5. Do Things You Hate to Do

Hate-FistThis is nothing new.  You should do things that make you uncomfortable.  It helps to vary your perspective on your life and work.  It makes you stronger.  Most importantly, doing things you hate to do builds character and makes you more interesting.

I recently joined my undergraduate university’s alumni association.  I was not involved on campus at all when I was there.  I was a non-traditional student who lived off campus and attended classes a few nights a week for three years.  I joined the alumni association to feel more connected to the hundreds of dollars per month I am about to start paying back as a result of student loans that funded my private, Jesuit-school education.

I don’t really enjoy my time spent with the association.  The monthly commitment is always preceded by me trying to think of how I can get out of it. The people are nice; they are just nothing like me. They are Catholic, very connected to the university, know one another, and are all adverse to taking risks or creating conflict.  They are homogenous and tend to surround themselves with people just like them. Needless to say, this experience has given me a better understanding of how to interact with people comfortable with status quo.

6. Consult a Consulate

It didn’t take me long to realize my creative success was tied directly to the success of others and their willingness to aid me when I needed it.  The half a dozen or so people I rely on most are a motley crew of experts, inside and outside of my industry.

Being nimble and being able to rally others to help you make things happen is critical to the creative process.  I’m connected with lawyers, artists, tech-guys, photographers, producers, entrepreneurs, writers, police & firemen, and educators.  You never know who will spark an idea or make a connection to redirect your path to success.

7. Fail

Being creative comes with a lot of failure.  I generate over five hundred ideas every year; half of those might be shared with other people and only a dozen or so might come to fruition.

A lot of creative success comes with a lot of failure.  Don’t be afraid to fail; fear will only hold you back. Each time you fail, you should learn something.  Each failure should change your perspective.  Creative success is built on a foundation of failure.

And what does creative success look like?

What’s the theme that ties together this seven lesson guide to creating? Always remember that creative success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm!  – Jessica James


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