“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” – Albert Einstein
I was talking with Richard the other day when he shared a story from one of his mentors from years ago. From time to time Richard would take a thought or idea to his mentor. His mentor was never critical, but when he was less than enthusiastic about the idea, he would reply, “That’s an idea.”
“That’s an idea.” I smiled, thinking about the subtlety of the response. Earlier in my life/career (when I was trying to prove myself) I would have been more likely to say, “That’s not a good idea!” Fortunately, my evolution has taught me to ask more questions to understand than to make judgments.
Next, I became curious as to how DO we generate great ideas? Where does creativity come from? That is the subject of our exploration for this month.
As always, thank you to those of you that responded to my post on positivity. Hearing from you always adds something to the discussion, as you share your own thoughts and stories.
As we enter the fall season, I hope the turn of the calendar to October will bring you a sense of hope for this holiday season – that you will find areas you are grateful for, that give you a sense of hope. It has been a year of a great deal of change that we’ve had to adapt to. I have found ways, however, that my life has simplified, and it is a good thing.
Do your best and be well…
Do you have a ‘process’ by which you generate great ideas? What is the difference in the process between your great ideas and your brilliant ideas? You know, the ones that can change your business, or lives.
One observation I’ve made over the years is that we don’t change very much if most of what we know comes from our friends. There is such diversity in the world. It is FULL of different geography, people, customs, ideas. Great ideas get generated from making our world ‘bigger’. How do we do that? There are a variety of ways to ‘generate’ a spark in us that contain new ways of doing things: read a lot on a broad range of subjects; travel. Make it a point to meet new people as often as you can. I’ve always been thankful that part of me is like my mom, and she didn’t know a stranger.
Listen and observe. Notice what others are doing and saying. Engage your whole self—your physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual self—in viewing your world and the world at large.
Look for problems. What difficulties do you encounter daily that need a different solution? Too often we get inured to problems. We metaphorically walk around the heap of laundry in the middle of the room rather than move it into a laundry basket, or better yet wash it. Give yourself full permission to get negative. What bugs you?
Welcome change. When we fear change, we find ourselves stuck in the most deadening of ruts. So often our world becomes smaller over time – same friends, same habits of what we do or don’t do, including what we read. Nothing new comes from this place, much less incredible ideas.
Don’t assume. Check out your unconscious thoughts. Do you believe that something is no good if it’s not already being done or hasn’t been created? Or the opposite: Do you say, “That book’s already been written,” instead of “How can I add my unique perspective to this body of knowledge?”
Indulge your interests. What are you passionate about? Making time to do what you love not only keeps you enthusiastic about life, but also becomes the source of wonderful ideas that can take you in directions you’d only dreamed of in the past.
Ask for feedback. Don’t isolate yourself, worrying that someone will steal your idea. What would the world have missed if Luciano Pavarotti or Whitney Houston had sung only in the confines of their own living room?
Keep a Regular Journal. A Journal can be a valuable place to help you keep track of your thoughts and feelings over time. Depending on its intent, the journal can help you unlock new thoughts and ideas (see Morning Pages below).
Morning Pages. I used to engage in a process called “Morning Pages” that came from the book, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Julia worked with artists who were ‘stuck’ in their creative process. This exercise was simple. Write for 30 minutes or 3 pages…about anything that was on your mind. Some days it was a grocery list; some days a problem would emerge that I wanted to solve. The topics varied widely, as did what was revealed. Three days a week this is how I started my day. It never ceases to amaze me, even now, what emerged that I hadn’t thought of when I started writing.
Be flexible. Sometimes a fabulous idea doesn’t always reveal itself immediately. Or it may first come in disguise. Flexibility will allow the idea to morph to its full potential.
Cultivate curiosity. Play games with yourself to wake up your curiosity. Why is that building painted green? What do people your age on the opposite coast like to do on Saturday afternoons? Sometimes I will grab my camera and get outside. What do I ‘see’ that I haven’t seen before? Sometimes there are macro pictures of the inside of a rose; a sunset or panorama of the landscape. Those times help raise my curiosity. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat; it gave him his nine lives.
Take a Walk. Exercise can be the catalyst that stimulates your thinking. Sometimes I have something I’m working on and I’ll ‘ask’ myself, “Where am I struggling/stuck” and I’ll go for a walk. I often get a better sense of direction from ‘walking’ away for a few minutes.
Sit in Silence. Some people might call it meditation; some might call it sitting in silence. I call it a chance to allow things/ideas to emerge. We live in a world with a lot of ‘noise.’ We are not used to being silent. To seek a place where our ‘brilliance’ has a chance to ‘percolate’.
I’ve not always done this consistently but keeping an ‘idea’ notebook with you at all times is a good plan. You never know when you might need to capture a great thought or insight.
What emerged for you while reading this? What emerged for me is that most great ideas come from a combination of mental disciplines and physical disciplines. When I think about ‘emerging’ almost anything it helps me to create the space for whatever to emerge. That space is about time and place. It is not about ‘doing’, it is about being open to what shows up. That can be the hardest. It requires time and patience.
Have you ever had a great idea or solution to some problem that ‘appeared’ just as you were moving from sleep to awake? When it happens to me, I’m a little ‘freaked’ out by it, yet, it is also instructive of how some of our best ideas happen – when we aren’t ‘doing.’
Do you have a ‘best practice’ that you like to use when you are ‘creating’? I would love to hear from you.
I have a final thought, but it needs to wait until next time because it’s more expansive than what I ‘thought’ it would be.
Toward a better you…
Of Interest: Sparking great ideas