This year will be different

A new term offers a chance to take a new approach to old problems, says Jurgen Wolff

School is full of challenges. The names and faces may change, but these challenges vary only slightly from year to year.

The question is whether over the coming year you will respond to them the same way you did last year, the year before, and the year before that. If your solutions were effective, that's a good strategy. If they left something to be desired, then it's time to do something different. Here are three strategies for doing that:l Get endorsed. Most people hate risk. They don't want to do something until an expert has said it's a good idea. An example from the world of books: the publisher of Dava Sobel's book Longitude got the established novelist Patrick O'Brien to endorse the book. It's unusual to ask a fiction writer to endorse a non-fiction book, but he figured that since both authors were writing about the sea, there would be a crossover. Longitude went on to become a bestseller. If you are advocating something new, consider who you might get to endorse your idea to give it additional credibility.

* Dare to ask. If you need help, be prepared to request it. As your mother may have told you, "The worst that can happen is that they say no", yet most of us hesitate even to ask.

An example of someone who boldly asked: a recent college graduate in the United States, Don Mellinger, wanted to get into the computer business so he phoned the 30 most prominent chief information officers in the country and asked each of them to be his mentor. Fourteen said yes. With their help, Mellinger started a company that, four years later, was grossing $10 million a year. First ascertain what you need that you could ask for. Then consider how to make it a win-win proposition for the people who could help you.

* Be contrarian. When Nelson Mandela was elected president of post-apartheid South Africa in 1994 having spent a quarter of a century in prison, many people expected - or feared - a period of recrimination and revenge. Mandela instead embarked on a process of reconciliation, and South Africa's transition to peaceful multiracial democracy has been hailed the world over. All because one man had the courage to do things differently.

When you have a challenge, look at what people are not doing, at what seems to be the opposite of the right thing to do. That is exactly where the answer may lie.

Perhaps it's no accident that the examples for these principles come from the US, where being different and daring is generally rewarded (admittedly, sometimes too much). These strategies can be just as useful here, maybe even more so because fewer people use them.

In this coming year, when you want a different outcome from the one you've had in the past, try applying the principle of doing something different. I hope this idea, and the others we've explored in this summer series, have been helpful.

Jurgen Wolff is a hypnotherapist and writer. His most recent book is 'Do Something Different', published by Virgin Business Guides. His free monthly creativity e-bulletin, Brainstorm, is available from

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