Do This 1 Thing to Write Chart-Topping Hits

We Americans love to talk. It makes us a wonderful and lively bunch in many ways. Still, from all the chatter we can become hard of hearing. And no matter how well we multi-task, it’s impossible to speak and listen at the same time.

Lamont Dozier, songwriter and producer extraordinaire, knows this well. He’s responsible in part for hits recorded by Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Alison Moyet and other luminaries.

He recently spoke with the Trojan Family Magazine about his work, and shared with writer Allison Engel the one thing that primarily influences his songs:

A lot of the songs and ideas come from me being very observant and listening to people. I used to go into restaurants – I still do – and eavesdrop on people having conversations. I see lovers having quarrels and everything. Being a songwriter, I can’t help but listen. It gives me great material.

Yes! Active listening. He continues, about what it takes to teach songwriting:

First you have to be a good listener and an observer. A lot of people don’t know how to listen. They’re too busy trying to tell you about themselves. Also, I find myself opening my window early in the morning to listen to the birds. And you know some of the sweetest melodies and counter melodies come from birds chirping and tweaking little rhythms and things… I think all songwriters have listened to birds.

While we’ve poked fun at this underrated skill, here we see that listening is valuable in so many disparate careers, including penning songs.

It’s also a core component of bringing your whole self to work. Listening to what’s going on in your environment can help you identify how to relate the various parts of your self to the context of your work.

Dozier is currently teaching at USC, in the Thornton School of Music popular music performance program. His insight about the world of popular music probably sends his students soaring.

What do you hear when you engage in active listening at work?

Read the full interview here.

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5 New, Must-Have Skills for the Rough and Tumble 2010s

Speaking of makeovers, the definition of human capital is getting a much-needed refashioning by David Brooks, author of the just-published The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement.

He describes a “new humanism,” and breaks it down into 5 poetic-sounding terms: attunement, equipoise, metis, sympathy and limerence.  From his op-ed piece of March 8, 2011:

Attunement: the ability to enter other minds and learn what they have to offer.

Equipoise: the ability to serenely monitor the movements of one’s own mind and correct for biases and shortcomings.

Metis: the ability to see patterns in the world and derive a gist from complex situations.

Sympathy: the ability to fall into a rhythm with those around you and thrive in groups.

Limerence: This isn’t a talent as much as a motivation. The conscious mind hungers for money and success, but the unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away and we are lost in love for another, the challenge of a task or the love of God. Some people seem to experience this drive more powerfully than others.

Trip out, right? These sound like traits of godliness. They also sound somewhat similar to emotional intelligence and social intelligence. The question is, if you’re not the Dalai Lama, how might you develop these skills? Brooks refers to them as “deeper talents,” which suggests that some people have more of a natural ability in these areas than others.

The first step is to identify that these skills are something you wish to develop. Then, considering their complexity, you might benefit from working with a professional guidance counselor like an executive coach or psychologist.

Which is to say, talking about your self relative to acquiring more limerence, metis and equipoise is a helpful way to equip yourself to navigate the world of work in the 2010s, and beyond.

Do you identify as having any combination of these 5 skills? Which ones, and how?

Celebrity Career Makeover: The Inauguration

Sometimes it’s annoying to focus on public figures, and yet it can also be fun. On our TV show “Career Talk Live: And What Do You Do?”, we’ve had a segment called “Celebrity Career Makeover” in which we fashion a new career for a popular performer. And now we’re bringing it to!

In this feature, we take a look at a relatively famous person, consider their transferable knowledge, skills and abilities, and thus propose a more accessible occupation for them. Since fame is often fleeting, it’s useful to be prepared for any circumstance.

For this inaugural post, we have a story about actors with actual dual career tracks. They don’t need a makeover, because their backup work plan is already established — in the field of science, no less! For your consideration, from the New York Times “Science” section dated February 28, 2011:

Mayim Bialik, currently in “The Big Bang Theory”:

Dr. Bialik has a Ph.D. from U.C.L.A. in … neurobiology. “I tell people, I am a neuroscientist, and I play one on TV,” said Dr. Bialik.

Natalie Portman, recently anointed an Oscar for her work in “Black Swan”:

She went on to Harvard University to study neuroscience and the evolution of the mind.

Hedy Lamarr, best known for “Samson and Delilah” (1949):

[Lamarr] was a rocket scientist on the side, inventing and patenting a torpedo guidance technique she called “frequency hopping,” which thwarted efforts to jam the signals that kept the missiles on track.

And our favorite, Danica McKellar, who played Winnie Cooper on “The Wonder Years”:

[McKellar] graduated summa cum laude in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she helped devise a mathematical proof for certain properties of magnetic fields — a theorem that bears her name along with those of her collaborators. She also writes popular books about math with clever PG-13 titles like “Math Doesn’t Suck” and “Kiss My Math.”

When you work to access the full spectrum of your intelligence, you can be a star, and study the celestial stars.

Which celebrities’ careers would you like to see made over?

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Is Active Listening Overrated?

America’s Career Information Network–one of our favorite online resources, sponsored by the US Department of Labor–defines active listening as:

giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Which basically means knowing how to keep quiet and use your full wherewithal to tune-in to what somebody’s saying. This type of acute listening leads to understanding people more truly, and making clearer sense of the world around us. It seems our friends at The Onion aren’t having it, though.

The article “Open-Minded Man Grimly Realizes How Much Life He’s Wasted Listening To Bullsh`t” equates active listening with listening to garbage. And the effect of such receptiveness can amount to hours of listening to:

* grossly uninformed political opinions
* both sides of pointless arguments, and
* parents’ bullsh’t about how important it is to be open-minded.

We laughed out loud! In the end, the news piece concludes with a quotation by “the open-minded man’s” colleague. He says “[my colleague] is such a good listener. A lot of people are closed-minded and self-absorbed, but [he] always makes an effort to hear where I’m coming from. The world could use more people like him.”

Heartened, we agree that the more people exercise their inherent active listening skills, the better the workplace becomes. Hear, hear!

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