You may have seen ukulele phenom Jake Shhimabukuro’s YouTube video, shot in NYC’s Central Park, of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which has more than 11 million (!) views.

You might also have seen Jake’s TED video where he performs a masterful version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” all on four strings…:-)

I’m here speaking in Waikiki and chanced upon an excellent PBS-Hawaii documentary last night about Jake, a virtuoso who has “hit it big,” yet remains grounded in his values.

Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings

A favorite segment of the PBS special was when Jake played his ukulele in Sendai, Japan (ravaged by the 2011 tsunami), at a senior care center.

The expressions on these people’s faces, their tapping along with Jake’s strumming, was particularly poignant and profound.

Perhaps most powerful was Jake’s statement, “My goal when I play is to connect with my audience, to play music that moves them.”

Kudos to Jake. His goal deserves to be our goal as speakers and writers.

The goal of speaking is not to get a standing ovation. It is not to get a perfect 10 on our evaluations or to generate lots of “back of the room” sales.

The goal of writing is not to have a book that serves as a business card (gak). It is not to have a bestseller or to have “product” that drives our career.

Those are nice; those are welcomed; they’re just not the primary reason we speak and write.

The goal of speaking and writing is to connect with our audience members and readers; to share ideas, insights and stories that move them to feel something, to rethink something, to do something differently.

A participant came up after my presentation on Friday and said, “You just radiate joy. What is your secret?”

First, I thanked him and then told him, “I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak for a living.

To stay centered in my goal of genuinely connecting with participants and sharing something that puts the light on in their eyes; I repeat the following mantra to myself in the minutes before a presentation.

I am here to serve; not to show off.

I am here to inspire; not to impress.

I am here to make a difference; not to make a name.

Then, I start every presentation with Arthur Rubenstein’s quote … “I have found if you love life; life will love you back.”

I have found that if I center myself in that mantra and start off with Rubenstein’s quote, it grounds me in how much I love speaking.

And when we love what we do, people often love being around us and want to be part of it.

Any nervousness or self-consciousness disappears.

What takes its place is a sublime stream-of-consciousness where we’re swept up in an exquisite state of flow in which we’re one with our audience.

What mantra do you use to ground yourself in your clarity that the purpose of your speaking is to serve, not to show off; to inspire, not to impress; to make a difference, not to make a name?

When writing, I picture someone specific across the desk from me and write to that person. It could be one of my sons, a client or a friend, someone who could benefit from what I’m trying to get across.

It transforms writing from being an intellectual exercise, a brain dump of “What do I want to say?” to “What would put the light on in this person’s eyes?”

When I mentally reach out to a specific person, when my purpose is to write something that would resonate with them; the words flow out so fast my fingers can hardly keep up.

How about you?

Who are you going to speak to – write to?

How are you going to keep them top-of-mind by focusing on how you can reach them, resonate with them?

How are you going to center yourself in your intent to connect; which is the real reason we communicate?

Always has been. Always will be.

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“You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.” – Paulo Coelho

In the beginning, clients often tell me they think writing is hard work.

I tell them, “Not if you write when you’re flush with ideas.”

Do you know how flush is defined?

“A rushing or overspreading flow.

A sudden rise of emotion or excitement.

Glowing freshness or vigor.”

Wow. What writer wouldn’t want that?

Writing is only a chore or a bore when you over-think it.

From now on, don’t write when you’re grinding; write when you’re glowing.

Writing is joyous when you’ve just observed or experienced something different, something intense – and you’re simply transferring the aha’s running through your mind onto paper.

The thing is, many of us are busy so we set aside a time to write. We sit down at the appointed hour and expect flow to show up, on command.

Flow doesn’t like to take orders.

It has a mind of its own.

It happens IN THE MOMENT.

It happens when we’re one with something that just happened and the miracle of it is filling our mind, soul and spirit.

That’s when we need to sit down and write.

When those exquisite moments happen, we need to GO WITH THAT FLOW or it disappears.

Next time, you see something, feel something, understand something as if for the first time … and your mind starts racing with epiphanies … honor them.

Sit down (even though you have ‘other things to do) and get those thoughts out of your head and onto the screen or notepad … as fast as you can.

Without editing or critiquing.

Let what wants to be said come out in a vigorous rush … because what’s coming out is alive.

It may not be grammatically perfect … but it will have a voice, a passion, a pithy purity that only results when we’re swept up in what wants to be said.

When we do that, when we get out of the way and facilitate what wants to be said along its way, we collaborate with the muse.

It may sound grandiose, but writing those thoughts down in the moment is a way to render them immortal.

When we are in that pure state of flow, we are simply the conduit for whatever insights are blossoming within us.

We are merely the messenger and our role is to get those thoughts out of our head (where they serve only us) and into the world (where they have the opportunity to serve many).

You know you’re getting this “right,” when you look at what you’ve written and it’s better than you know how.

So, if you want writing to be a blessing instead of a burden; if you want to be at your intriguing best, write in the FLUSH of the moment to free up FLOW.

They don’t call them fleeting thoughts for nothing.

Next time you experience something that gets your juices flowing, get going.

Actually, sit down and let what wants to be said …. get said.

“Inspiration often emerges from our work; it doesn’t precede our work.” – Madeleine L’Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time)

A client emailed me to say she was having a hard time making progress on her book.

I sent her the following message – and thought it might have value for you if you’d like to get in that delightful stream-of-conscious state where the words are flowing out of your head so fast your fingers can hardly keep up.

(Name of client) . .. please keep giving yourself props for writing, writing, writing.

E.L. Doctorow was asked what it was like writing a book.

He said, “It’s kind of like driving a car at night: you can only see to the end of your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Keep driving to the end of your headlights.

Keep producing pages and getting your thoughts on paper.

They don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to be right.

Just getting your thoughts down will trigger more – which will trigger more – and before you know it, your book is out of your head and on paper.

THEN – you can go back and start cleaning it up.

Don’t try to think up what you want to say. That keeps you in your head. Blocked. Stymied.

Just get your thoughts written down. That keeps you moving forward. That produces a momentum where your writing takes on a life and pace of its own.

All the best-selling authors at Maui Writers Conference – from Mitch Albom to Frank McCourt to Nicholas Sparks to James Rollins to Jacquelyn Mitchard – agreed.

Ink it when you think it.

Jot the thoughts when they’re hot.

Muse it or you’ll lose it.

If writing is hard, it’s because you’re thinking too hard.

Free up the flow.

How do you do that?

Get out in nature. Go somewhere the sun is shining. Fill yourself with the fresh air of a beautiful day, the serenity of deep, calm water, the eternal beauty of green trees or a sweeping vista of towering mountains. Drink in the quiet but powerful energy of that place.

Now, ask yourself:

“What do I passionately believe?

What do I feel is important?

What have I learned – the hard way – that might have value for others?

Who is my target reader? What is that person’s name? What is their story? Man? Woman? Married? Single? Kids? Working 60 hours a week? Out-of-work? What are they going through? What’s keeping them up at night? What are their doubts, fears, hopes, dreams? What could I share that would keep them going, help them deal with their challenges, put hope in their heart?

Fill your mind with that person. Picture him or her in front of you.

Now, reach out to that individual with your words.

Put your pen to paper – your fingers to keys – reach down into your gut – and start writing to THEM.

Pour out your heart, mind, soul and insights to THEM.

Make writing a outreach to that man or woman.

No fancy language. No struggling how to say it just so.

Write and reach out to them with your words until you see the light go on in their eyes.

Writing is not meant to be an intellectual execise where you are in your head, thinking, “What can I say?”

Writing is meant to be a communication – a bridge between our experience and expertise and our readers. The question is, “What would they benefit from hearing?”

Write to connect.

Write to share what you know, beleive and feel in a way that might add value for anyone reading your words.

When you do that, you free yourself up to to serve.

Writing is simply a way to pour out, “Here’s what I’ve experienced, observed, learned . . . and I’m sharing it with you in the hopes it might be of benefit.”

Write on.

Everyone is a genius at least once a year; a real genius just has his original ideas closer together.” – G.C. Lichtenberg

Has your creative project come to a screeching halt? Are you staring at your computer and the words won’t come?

Rest assured, there is a way to get your ideas a little closer together.

I love to generate ideas. There are many times when my mind’s on fire and it’s a joy to have my fingers flying on the computer keys, trying to keep up with the flow of thoughts pouring out of my head.

It was a surprise then, when working on my book Tongue Fu! for School, that the flow of ideas dried up and writing became hard work. I was grinding it out because I had to turn my manuscript in to my publisher at the end of the month, but I wasn’t liking what I was producing.

I would re-read what I had written (I know, a fatal error) and would go “Yuck.” I knew it didn’t sing, knew it wasn’t “alive,” but I kept slogging it out because I had a deadline to meet.

I was creatively procrastinating one morning (reading the newspaper instead of writing) when I came across a fascinating article in USA Today about David Kelley, Hollywood’s former “Golden Boy.”

The article pointed out that, for a while, writer/director Kelley could do no wrong. He was the first person to receive an Emmy for Best Comedy (Ally McBeal) and Best Drama (The Practice) in the same year. Incredibly, Kelley was writing and directing BOTH shows at the same time – a grueling, almost unimaginable feat.

Then, for some reason, his pilots weren’t getting picked up and his shows started tanking in the ratings. The reporter’s opinion was that his plots were becoming increasingly bizarre and viewers were having a hard time relating to the unrealistic story lines.

A TV critic postulated why, “He’s lost his common touch. He lives in a 15 million dollar home, he’s married to Michelle Pheiffer and all he does, 24/7, is write, drive to the studio and direct and drive home. He’s become disconnected.”

A light bulb went off in my head. Here I was trying to talk about what it was like to deal with difficult people in schools – and I wasn’t spending any time in schools. I had lost touch with my audience and idea-generation had become an intellectual exercise. I was trying to “think up” my material instead of accessing my target audience and asking what THEY thought, what THEY wanted to learn, what THEY encountered on a daily basis.

I got up from my chair, drove to my sons’ school, and interviewed teachers, the principal, a guidance counselor, and a few of Tom and Andrew’s friends. By the end of that day, my mind was filled with the trials, tribulations, triumphs and mixed feelings of pride and powerlessness that are a fact of life for many educators and students.

I sat down to the computer that night and the incredibly compelling stories I had heard poured out. One afternoon of re-connecting with my intended audience renewed my passion for my project and brought it alive – because I had gotten out of my head and into the world of my target audience.

If your creative project is DOA; perhaps you’ve allowed it to become an intellectual exercise. Maybe you’re grinding it out because you’ve got a deadline and you’ve become completely detached from your topic, audience, and purpose.

That doesn’t work because that’s isolated creativity. That’s simply purging what’s in your head – without intent. If your intent is simply to finish your project, you can accomplish that – but that won’t make it sing. You will have a completed book, but, chances are, it will be lifeless and working on it will be joyless.

For creative work to become transcendent, we must have a clear intention of how it will deliver tangible value for people. We need to visualize individuals in our target audience and imagine how this project or program will solve a problem they’re facing. We need to get up from our chairs and go out into the field and talk with our intended audience and ask what they think. Find out what keeps them up at night and then go back to work with their voices and issues in your mind so your project, program or product reflects and meets their needs.

Email us at info@SamHorn.com with “IDEA Book” in your subject heading and we’ll send a discount coupon to be used towards my recently completed IDEA Book that features 25 Ways to Monetize Your Mind.