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Innovation Lessons from David Bowie

Don’t get comfortable. Bowie never stopped reinventing himself, no matter how successful he was. And he understood the dangers of pandering. “All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience,” he said in 2003.

Know that failure isn’t fatal. Consider the way Bowie handled his cocaine addiction. He hit rock bottom, but then escaped to Europe, where he recovered and, in the process, put out his extraordinary Berlin Trilogy: the albums Low, Heroes, and Lodger.

Look to the future. Bowie’s ability to sense the shape of things to come kept him evergreen no matter how the music business changed. In 2002, for example, he presciently advised his fellow musicians to “be prepared for doing a lot of touring”—because in time technology would make recorded music as readily available as “running water or electricity.”

A longer version of this article appeared in the Washington Post.

Launch an Encore Career

Search your soul. Finally you can think about what you really want to do, not what might prepare you for some elusive next job. So what are your passions? What makes your blood boil or your heart smile? What skills do you have that you want to apply? And how far out of your comfort zone do you want to go? Do you want a whole new career or simply a chance to pursue your old one in a new way?

Search the web. It could be as simple as Googling “volunteer” plus a term related to the kind of job you’d like. You’d be amazed—there’s even a Plumbers Without Borders. Then study the websites of the organizations you find. Follow them on social media. What could you, with your particular skills and experiences, contribute?

Connect. Might your colleagues, family, or friends have contacts? If so, network. Otherwise email an introduction to an executive at each organization. Try to talk or Skype with them. And, if you can afford to, offer to volunteer on projects.

Preparing Junior for a New Sibling

Don’t build up excitement too soon. When you spend six months getting a two-year-old ready for a new baby, your words lose impact. Wait until two months before the due date.

Introduce the new role. Spending time with baby cousins or neighbors can help children learn how to interact gently with their sibling, as can playing with a baby doll. Reading “big brother” or “big sister” books is also beneficial.

Buy some gifts. Have a wrapped present for your older child in the bag that you take to the hospital. After the birth, when the older child comes to visit, you can say this present is from the new baby. And have more wrapped presents at home, in case visitors come by with gifts only for the newborn.

Expect some regression. Don’t be surprised if, for example, a young child returns to asking for a bottle, or regresses on toilet training. After all, your bottle-guzzling, diaper-wearing infant is getting a lot of attention.

Don’t let the kid get lost in the shuffle. When the baby is sleeping, spend time with the older sibling. Another idea is for one parent to focus on the older child while the other is tending to the newborn.

A longer version of this article appeared in baystateparent.

Be a Twitter Game Show Host

Get ahead. Create a large buffer of game content. Occasionally, something may go wrong and you’ll need backup content. A buffer also gives you the mental space you need to think about the experience players are having.

Think about your setup. Once you’ve figured out the game you want to launch, establish a schedule for it. According to the game designer Mark Rosewater, people like comfort, surprise, and completeness. A schedule provides comfort and completeness, and you can still change things up enough to keep them interesting. My own schedule involves tweeting the previous week’s scores on Monday, the previous week’s answers on Tuesday, and clues for the next round of play on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Acknowledge your players. I post score updates twice a week. I also post an “I miss you” list of players who participated the previous week but not during the current week.

Interact. Be online when you give your clues. I myself participate in #BoardGameHour every week as well. I give my clues immediately afterward so that people who discover my account through our conversations can quickly become players.

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