Less is More

Yesterday I talked about boosting your creative juices by forcing yourself to think like a child.  My intent is to get you to think more freely… and not worry that your idea or creation is too dumb to pursue.

Today, I would like to tell you about a report from one of the world's great newspapers, The New York Times.

On April 30, 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood before 200,000 people in Flushing Meadows, Queens to open the '39 World's Fair.

One of the exhibits at the World's Fair showcased something called a television.  And, Roosevelt's speech was broadcast to the few hundred TV sets that existed in New York City in 1939. 

Here is what the New York Times thought about that:

"Television will never be a serious competitor to radio. . . . People must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen.  The average American family does not have time for it."

Hmmm … I hope that reporter got fired, but probably not because at the time, television was new and strange and not broadly accepted.  So, the people who created the television were (at first) essentially scorned by "great thinkers."

Here's one of my favorite quotes from a German philosopher named Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860): 

"All truth passes through three stages:  First, it is ridiculed.  Second, it is violently opposed.  Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

Think your idea or creation might be "dumb"?  Maybe that's a good thing! 

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills.  Randel's books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best-selling e-books in China.  One of Randel’s books is The Skinny on Creativity. 

In my book, The Skinny on Creativity, I suggest that one way to enhance your creative powers is to, at times, think and act like a child.

What I am trying to get my reader to do is to loosen the reservations and limitations most adults have on their own ideas, concepts, and possibilities. Too many of us, as we get older, tend to lose our sense of possibility. We fear rejection and so we sometimes keep our creative thoughts in a box.

Children do not do that. They do not worry about looking stupid. They just do. They run, they play, they shout. They spew out stuff that may be totally nuts… but, who cares?

Not all ideas or creations are good ones, of course. But, worse than a bad idea is an idea that had possibilities but was stopped in its tracks by an adult doubting his/her abilities.

"Most children think they're highly creative; most adults think they're not. . . . Young children are buzzing with ideas.  What happens as we grow up to make us think that we are not creative? . . . My starting point is that everyone has huge creative capacities as a natural resource of being a human being.

"Picasso once said that all children are born artists: the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.

"I believe profoundly that we don't grow INTO creativity; we grow OUT of it."

                                                            Out of our Minds:  Learning to be Creative

                                                            Ken Robinson (Wiley, 2011)

So, next time you are stuck, and you are searching for a solution, an idea, a creative approach, muss up your hair, stick out your tongue, make silly noises, act goofy -- and maybe, just maybe, your inner child will appear and help get you unstuck.

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills.  Randel's books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best-selling e-books in China.  One of Randel’s books is The Skinny on Creativity. 

In prior blogs we have addressed how the brain sometimes works best when it is in the “off” switch . . . when one stops pressing for an answer to a problem, for a solution to writer’s block, for a way to break some kind of gridlock.

We discovered that the brain keeps trying to produce ideas, even when our conscious thought is elsewhere.

“The brain has more on its mind than conscious thought.  A good deal of the brain’s activities are not apparent to the conscious mind.  Much of its work is silent traffic within the rest of the body’s automatic functioning . . . conscious thought accounts for only a proportion of what the brain is doing at any given moment.”

                                    Out of our Minds:  Learning to be Creative

                                    Ken Robinson (Wiley, 2011)

Today I want to talk about doodling – about the process of sitting in semi-mindless daydreaming – sometimes manually drawing or typing or just doing nothing. 

This activity can oftentimes be the start of the creative process – a way of planting and cultivating new ideas:

“In the early stages, being creative may involve playing with an idea, doodling or improvising around the theme.  It may begin with a thought that is literally half-formed:  with a sketch, a first plan or a design; the first notes of a melody or the intimation of a solution to a problem.  There may be several ideas in play and a number of possible starting points.”

                                    Ken Robinson (above)

There is NO ONE RIGHT WAY to begin the creative process.  Sometimes it is just the act of daydreaming … putting aside your immediate needs and concerns and letting your mind run free. 

In subsequent blogs I am going to speak to the importance of the unfettered mind and how that has led to some of the greatest ideas of our generation.

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills.  Randel's books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best-selling e-books in China.  One of Randel’s books is The Skinny on Creativity. 

I am going to diverge today – from the topic of creativity – and speak to why I am writing (and committed to writing) a daily blog post.

Here is what I believe:

We all have great potential. Not all of us maximize that potential. I want to bring my readers the best thinking on maximizing one’s potential – in a condensed and simplified format.

If at the end of a year, I have given you ideas to push your chances for personal success forward, then I have done my job.

There are many quotes from great thinkers about the potential in each of us. Here are two of my favorites:

“Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his/her limits. He/she possesses power of various sorts which he/she habitually fails to use.”

William James, The Principles of Psychology (1890)

“In my experience, many, perhaps most people have no idea of their real capabilities and talents. Too many people think they have no special talents at all. My premise is that we are all born with immense natural talents but that too few people discover what they are and even fewer develop them properly.”

Ken Robinson, Out of Our Minds (Wiley, 2011)

Both Dr. James and Sir Ken Robinson are widely-respected thinkers on the subject of human potential.

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills. Randel’s books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best-selling e-books in China, and The Skinny on Time Management is #10 on the best-seller list.

I want to address how you might enhance your arriving at the “Aha” moment – when the answer to your creative block suddenly appears.

In today’s post, I am going to speak to something called the Zeigarnik Effect.

It is the 1920’s in Berlin. Bluma Zeigarnik is having dinner with her professor and several others. She notices that the waiters do not write down any of the orders, yet each order comes perfectly. After dinner she leaves the restaurant but returns to retrieve an umbrella. She asks her waiter how he was able to remember every order perfectly. To her surprise, the waiter has no recollection of even waiting on her party.

This starts Bluma’s thinking. Are our minds programmed in such a way that we can focus on one goal but once this goal is achieved, it is immediately forgotten?

Studies done by Bluma and others suggest that this may be the case: that until a project or goal is completed, it lingers in the mind. But, that once done or realized, that goal often disappears from our memory.

A corollary of the Zeigarnik Effect is that unfinished tasks keep bubbling just below our consciousness and may, in fact, diminish our creative potential.

One way to negate potential interference from the Zeigarnik Effect is to make “to do” lists.

There are a hundred different ways to record your goals or tasks – the method does not matter. What matters is that by making some record of what you need to accomplish, your mind reacts (“OK that is done”) and just may free up bandwidth. The result may be enhanced creativity.

I do not have studies to back up my theory. But, I can tell you that of the hundreds of successful people I have interviewed, there is a universal consensus that “to do” lists are a critical factor to success. I believe this is more than just about organization and time management, and just as much about clearing your head from the niggle of unfinished work – to make room for big and powerful ideas.

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills. One of his books is The Skinny on Creativity.

Randel’s books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best- selling e-books in China.

In yesterday’s blog post we talked about sleep’s aid in the creative process, the theory being that when you are asleep your mind is still working to connect problems with ideas.

This is not just theory, however. There have been studies that confirm the brain’s activities during sleep. For example, in a 2007 study, researchers at Harvard and McGill universities tested student’s recollection and analytical abilities before and after sleep.

The students were shown lots of colored and decorated eggs with each egg ranked in terms of an arbitrary hierarchy. So, a red egg with a green band might be higher than a blue egg with white speckles, but the blue, speckled egg might be higher than a red egg with a yellow band.

The students were divided into two groups – one that studied the egg hierarchy in the morning and one that studied in the evening. Then, 9 hours later both were tested on the hierarchies – the test required both recall and analysis.

The group that studied the eggs in the morning did not sleep between study and test. The group that studied the eggs in the evening took the test after a night of sleep. Result?

Those who studied in the morning (no sleep before test) scored 69%. Those who studied in the evening (sleep before test) scored 93%. A very large difference.

Upshot? A night of sleep had a dramatic impact on the students’ ability to recall and analyze. This was not about fatigue. The students who did not sleep were not past their normal bedtime. This was rather about something that occurred in the brain while students were sleeping. Something that embedded the egg hierarchy in one’s mind and helped rank the eggs in a logical order – the essence of analytical and creative thinking!

Here’s some more interesting news: napping may be as good as sleeping.

In experiments done at the University of California, researchers have shown that people who take a nap of 1 hour to 1.5 hours during the day do 30% better (than those who don’t) on pattern recognition, comprehension, and retention tests. Here is what the head of the research team said:

“With naps of an hour to an hour and half, we’ve found in some experiments that you get close to the same benefits in learning consolidation that you would from a full eight-hour night’s sleep.”

That’s it for today … time for me to go take a nap …

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills. One of his books is The Skinny on Creativity.

Randel’s books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best- selling e-books in China.

 

Pages