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Love your ideas

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Do you love your ideas?

Sure, you love your good ideas and the ideas that make you money and the ideas that make you laugh, but do you love all your ideas?

Whatever that mysterious force inside us is that lets us connect things together in a way they never have been before, well, that force doesn’t know if an idea is good or not. It just pumps out idea after idea, spraying them all over the place in an endless geyser.

The only way to stop this force is to tell it it’s doing a bad job. To tell it that it’s not making sense and couldn’t it come up with something more useful?

It doesn’t even have to be you saying it, someone else telling you that your idea is stupid can do it. In fact, hearing someone else being told their idea is stupid can shut it off if you aren’t careful.

When that happens the geyser dries up and we find ourselves begging it to start back up again. We just need an idea, any idea, but all we get is a bunch of dust and nothing.

Here’s a way to get around that.

Love every idea you have for just a moment. No matter how silly, stupid or how many copyrights it breaks, just smile and enjoy your idea before you let it go.

I’m not saying that you have to pretend it’s a good idea, just that you enjoy it. Smile it at it. If it’s good, write it down or say it out loud. If it’s bad, just enjoy it like you would a bad movie or a child’s joke.

Every idea thinks it deserves to be enjoyed and loved.

In fact, why not go one step further than just enjoying the idea and actually add to the bad idea. If it occurs to you that the mechanical horses in front of grocery stores should be transformed into highway-ready ecologically friendly vehicles, don’t toss it aside as unworkable. Instead, start designing a way to hold all the rolls of quarters you’re going to need to get to work and back.

Let your ideas start to get connected, then you won’t have to release them. They become part of a web to build a better idea. Instead of throwing things away, you’re using them as a foundation for something else.

Appreciate, smile, enjoy and cherish every single idea you have. Just don’t act on all of them.

Do this and they’ll keep coming.

In fact, you’ll have so many ideas they might start to get irritating.

Not to you, but to all the jealous people around you who struggle to have any idea, even a bad one.

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Inattentional blindness – see the gorilla!

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Inattentional Blindness got a lot of media attention last year. It’s the idea that if we lack an internal frame of reference for something it is more than just confusing, our brain actually refuses to even see it. In other words, if you aren’t expecting to see something, you literally won’t see it even if it’s right in front of you.

In the original experiment, people were shown a video of people passing a basketball back and forth and told to count the number of passes. In the middle of the video, a person in a gorilla costume stepped to the middle of the screen faced the camera and then left. After watching the video, the participants were asked if they saw anything unusual and 50%(!!!) of the people did not report the gorilla!

Think about that, half the people didn’t notice a person in a gorilla suit. Everyone I’ve talked to about this says that, of course, they would have seen the gorilla. But, aren’t there obvious things we all miss all the time?

Sometimes, an idea or solution is standing right in front of you, but no one is seeing it. What if you, when faced with a problem, train yourself to look for the gorilla.

If everyone is focussed on the top of a problem, look at the bottom. Look for the gorilla! In fact, if everyone could see the gorilla, you wouldn’t need to be there.

If you know there’s a gorilla wandering around and you can’t see it, call someone else in to look for it. Remember half the people couldn’t see it in the experiment, finding someone with a different perspective might make it more visible.

Isn’t a new idea just a gorilla that no one has seen before?

A James Lipton of your own

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I was watching Inside the Actors Studio the other day and it struck me that even though its host, James Lipton, is sycophantic to the extreme, it’s certainly not surprising that people want to do his show. After all, people in the public eye are constantly judged, critiqued and have their work diminished. Instead of feeding already huge egos, don’t you think that some of the actors almost look at doing the show as a vacation from their own inner-critic?

We could all use a break like that. I had a thought. Why not make up your own little James Lipton and let him live in your head? You don’t have to talk to  him all the time, maybe you can imagine him a little one room apartment to wait in until you need him. But, when you need him he’ll be there.

At your darkest moment, call him forth. He’ll appear with his stack of cards and list of adjectives to describe how fabulous you actually are. Fantastic! Amazing! SUPER! In fact, your little James Lipton can’t help but think that you are perhaps the most amazing person he has ever met.

And those cards, such information! He has every single thing that you have ever done that he admires. There are things on those cars that you’ve forgotten or might be slightly embarrassed about, but he’s there to make you forget any nervousness. Remember, in his eyes you are fantastic.

While he’s there, you can ask him about anything you’re working on. He will love it. He will think it’s amazing. You have topped yourself!

Then, when you feel your butt has been suitably kissed and your ego stroked, he’ll ask you a few questions and then go back to his little apartment. (What is your favorite curse word? What turns you on?) Then, refreshed and confident you can go back to the harsh realities of the real world.

Right now, my little James Lipton is sitting in his apartment wearing a bathrobe, eating crackers and watching soap operas. He’s waiting until I need him again.

Overcoming obstacles: mental parkour

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Parkour is the art of overcoming obstacles using only your body with the objective of getting from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. Watching it is almost like watching a dance or circus acrobat’s routine except it’s in the middle of city using found spaces and objects.

Here’s a video of it, skip the first minute or so to get to the good stuff:

What interests me about it is that practitioners report a mental change when they become experienced. Their world ceases to be walls, buildings and fences and becomes an easily navigable landscape. The physical world changes for them because obstacles are no longer obstacles, but tools that they can use to launch themselves. After a while, they start to think that way as well.

Here is a quote from Andreas Kalteis as it appears on Wikipedia :

To understand the philosophy of parkour takes quite a while, because you have to get used to it first. While you still have to try to actually do the movements, you will not feel much about the philosophy. But when you’re able to move in your own way, then you start to see how parkour changes other things in your life; and you approach problems — for example in your job — differently, because you have been trained to overcome obstacles. This sudden realization comes at a different time to different people: some get it very early, some get it very late. You can’t really say ‘it takes two months to realize what parkour is’. So, now, I don’t say ‘I do parkour’, but ‘I live parkour’, because its philosophy has become my life, my way to do everything.

Imagine if all your problems and obstacles were just a playground for you!

We can treat our mental landscape as they treat the world. Sliding, twisting, jumping and ignoring what has been set up before us. Instead of a mental block against something, it becomes a springboard for a backflip. Instead of taking the safe route to a conclusion, what if we just repel down the side of it.

Mental parkour can be a powerful metaphor. I am going to experiment with it for a few days and see if anything happens. Anyone want to join me?

Allow yourself a moment of stupidity

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I know. You are a super genius and I respect that.

However, did you ever notice that a lot of good stories start with a moment of stupidity? A poor choice or easily avoidable mistake is made by the lead character which leads to amazing adventures.

After all, your better judgment is designed to keep you safe and secure. Going against it leads to new experiences. Keep the stakes low, no need to drive 150 MPH on the freeway or try cliff diving. Try going someplace without a map or definite directions or talk to that guy on the bus.

You can sit back and wait to have adventure thrust upon you, or you can chase after it by saying to yourself, “I know that I probably shouldn’t be doing this, but…”

Work at the top of your intelligence: creativity tip

Here’s a rule from improvisational theater that I think applies to everything you do.

Always work at the top of your intelligence.

Don’t talk down to your audience. Don’t feign ignorance or actively ignore what you know. Don’t pretend that you’re saying something deep when you know it’s just repeating a casual observation you heard on NPR. Always use everything you know and every bit of your understanding when you’re working.

Bring your unique perspective to everything you do. Every experience. Every opinion. Everything that makes you who you are.

Also, admit to not knowing things. Sometimes exploring your own gaps in knowledge produces great revelations and interesting work.

Always working at the top of your intelligence is the key to producing things that you are proud of.

Pay attention! For a minute: creativity tip

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The New York Times had an article on a man,Christopher DeLaurenti, who recorded the intermissions of classical music concerts. He’s going to release a CD of them and defends them as interesting collections of sound.  To him they are a kind of avant-garde music.

There’s an interesting quote from him when he explains how he sneaked into concerts with recording equipment and escaped detection:

He honed a technique of often shifting his posture and moving around. “Most people are not observant and rarely look at one thing for longer than 10 seconds,” he said.

I know that isn’t a scientific observation, but it strikes me as about right. Most people don’t look or think about any one thing for more than about 10 seconds. In our modern age, bouncing from page to page on the internet, 10 seconds feels like an eternity.

Her is my challenge to you. Every single day find something that you have never paid attention to before and give it a full minute of your time. There’s a lot you can do during that time. Make a list of distinguishing characteristics. Sketch it. Try and figure out the story behind it. Try and imagine what the design team was thinking when they designed it, if it’s human made, or what purpose it serves, if it’s natural.

Don’t let your attention shift to something else until a whole minute has passed. Break that 10 second barrier and give more attention to the world around you. You can unearth amazing things and notice incredible dramas unfolding all around you.

And, if you’re lucky, you’ll notice a guy with a chest full of recording equipment taping an intermission. Don’t stop him though, he’s making music.

Link to Christopher DeLaurenti’s site with free mp3 of an intermission

The question that makes you smarter

Have you ever been discussing a problem with someone and hit a dead end? Neither one of you can come up with any possible solution. Then, one of you says, “You know, if we were smart we’d just (insert solution here).”

Notice the phrase “if we were smart”. Now, obviously the solution to the problem came from the person making the statement, but they don’t feel like it did. They feel like it came from outside themselves. Most of the time people stumble on answers like that, but how do you make it happen?

Here’s a question that does wonders. Just ask yourself:

What would I do in this situation if I were smarter?

This question depersonalizes your problems and removes any self-doubt you might have. The answers that come from the question are often shockingly straightforward and obvious. As if you knew the answer the whole time and were just refusing to acknowledge it.

There’s a great visualization exercise for doing this as well. Imagine that inside your head there is a deeply buried bunker with nothing it in but a computer.  This computer contains all the answers and information you need, all you have to do is sit down in front of the computer and type your question in. Seconds later, the response will appear on the screen.

If you prefer, another extension of this exercise is to depersonalize the answer even further and ask, “What would I do in this situation if I was Albert Einstein?” Not that you have to use Einstein, pick someone who you admire and who you are familiar with.

This question gives you access to abilities and resources far beyond what you think you have. In fact, it might prove once and for all that you are smarter than you think you are.

Could it be that you are already a super genius?

How to make yourself smarter: why does this blog exist?

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I wanted to take a moment and let you know why I started this blog. I started it to find other people who were interested in creativity and genius. Not in the same sense those words are always used. Like a lot of great words, they seem to have been co-opted by businesses. Just the other day, Apple Computers applied for a trademark on the phrase “genius bar.” Today I wanted to explain the specific way I use those words.

I have to admit that my view of genius and intelligence was heavily swayed in my teenage years by several radical thinkers. One of those people was Timothy Leary. He defined being smart on my different levels and tied in concepts that aren’t usually linked to intelligence. At least they aren’t tied in if you go by the usual dictionary definition, something like “The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge.” Survival, adaptation and happiness are all part of his idea of intelligence.

In his book The Intelligence Agents, Timothy Leary lays out three rules to follow if you want to be constantly increasing your intelligence.

Here is my paraphrase of them:

  1. Always be searching for new information and new sources of information.
  2. Constantly revise your perspective and view of the world and seek new metaphors about the future to understand what’s happening now.
  3. Don’t spend all your time by yourself. Use social interaction as a method of intelligence increase. In particular, spend all your time with people as smart or smarter than you.

Leary also had a wonderful way for you to tell if your intelligence was increasing or decreasing. Again, to paraphrase, if your world seems to always be getting bigger, brighter and more interesting, your intelligence is increasing. If your world seems to be getting smaller, darker and less interesting, your intelligence is decreasing.

Think about what that means. If you accept that definition, it means boredom and disinterest are signs of encroaching stupidity. Action is better than depression. Hope is a sign of intelligence. Being interested and interesting are signs of intelligence. Looking forward to the what the future will bring is a sign of intelligence.

I want to use this blog to explore all three of the rules for intelligence increase listed above. I’m especially interested in creating a community of smart people who are accomplishing things. To that end, if you have a link or thought you would like to share just email me at david(at)creativecreativity.com. Also, email me if you have a creative project with a web presence that you would like me to link to in a post.

You are a genius!

Learn faster, deeper and better: hacking knowledge

From Online Education Database, not satisfied with those piddly 5 or 10 hint long lists of ways to learn faster and be more creative? Well, this is a list of 77 ways to improve your ability to learn (and just think). They get a bit weak toward the end, but there’s a ton of great stuff here. Health, Kinesthetic, Verbal and Self-Motivation are all covered.

Some tips are obvious, like Use Post-It Notes, or odd, like Learn What You Do Know And What You Don’t, but I suppose a list this long has to have something for everyone.

See all 77 tips here

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