There are two ways to get creative ideas, focus and genius. Focus is the practice of sitting down, defining the problem and churning out solutions. Genius is the creative spark that catches you off-guard, giving you great ideas when you least expect it. The question is, where does this creative spark come from?
I believe the sudden insights come from living a more creative life. This means exposing yourself to more randomness and regularly flexing your creative muscles. I believe this approach won’t only make you a better thinker, it will lead to a more interesting life.
Expose Yourself to Randomness
I like Ben Casnocha’s approach to handling luck – simply expose yourself to as much randomness as possible. The idea is that if you roll the dice enough times, you will eventually make a few big wins. Although casino gambling lays the odds against you, life randomness does not. There is minimal loss in creating more randomness and the payoff can be huge.
Routine activities will only give you the same inputs. Here are a couple ways I’ve been trying to add more randomness into my life you might want to try:
- Read different books. A few years ago I used to read a lot of personal development and business books. I’m trying to cut back on those now and focus on completely different books. Recently I’ve read The Bhagavad-Gita, The Prince and several novels.
- Meet different people. I found meeting people from many different cultures to be a great part of University. My best friend is now someone who moved here from India less than a year ago.
- Mix up your routine. Consciously do something different in your routine. Do a new workout, watch a different type of movie, eat different foods, anything to temporarily break a neutral habit.
Randomness isn’t enough. Often it requires a certain amount of confidence to step outside your comfort zone. To do that you need to start paying closer attention to opportunities.
Listen for Creative Opportunities
The things that will impact your life most in the future you don’t even know about yet. That may sound like an odd assertion, but I believe it is correct. The relationships, situations and events that will make a huge difference in your life are currently unknown to you.
Here’s just two of the finds I’ve made in my life that I didn’t expect:
- Toastmasters. I went to my first meeting on a whim. Seemed like an interesting idea. I had no idea that it would become a source of many friends, growth and fun.
- This Blog. Originally I set up this blog as a chance to practice my writing. I was hoping on making a line of interactive personal development products, like this one. The software was a dud, this blog took off. Go figure.
Listening for creative opportunities means learning to say, “yes.” Although we’ve all been told to learn to say, “no” to poor uses of our time, you need to invest a certain amount of time in randomness. This means saying, “yes” to opportunities that you have no way of judging their value in advance.
It’s hard because your busy. Everyone is busy. The busyness isn’t going to go away. Carving out just a few hours a week to try something new doesn’t just increase your opportunities, it makes life worth living.
Flex Creative Muscles
The final part of living a more creative life means applying your idea generating efforts to every aspect of life, not just work or a hobby. Find ways you can improve, tweak or hack anything.
Learning about new ideas helps, but the real value comes from creating your own ideas. I’ve found the best way to do this is to just loosen up your assumptions and experiment. I always like to be in the middle of at least one or two experiments.