HOW CAN ONE BE MORE CREATIVE?

anhoff ‏@ivanhoff: Is there a correlation between creativity and trying new things (visiting new places, meeting different people, etc).

Answer:

Tomorrow is Labor Day and I assume I will be busy doing Labor Day things. Then this week I’m going to try a new thing. I’m going to go to LA on Wednesday (after three meetings on Tuesday, all exploring new things), and I’m going to go to a press conference Amazon has invited me to attend on Thursday and then I’m going to spend Friday coming home. Then a weekend with kids (doing new things), and a Monday at a meeting and then dinner with some new people I’m doing business with.

Time for creativity: zero.

Perhaps new things will give me fuel to write. Will give me insight into ideas or human nature that will form the basic building blocks that will create either a new opportunity for myself or give me some new things to write about. I don’t regret doing new things. In fact, I am choosing to do them. I never do something I don’t want to do. (At least that is my mantra and I usually stick to it).

But time for creativity (again, as a reminder): zero.

If I spent this next week (since I just described a period of about eight days until I am next able to really relax at home) thinking, reading, and writing, I’d probably be a lot more creative. I have some talks to prepare (giving two talks in October, two in November, a big weekend thing in January, and two talks next March), I’d get together another book of material (“James Altucher’s Guide to Parenting”) and spend more time thinking about the intersection between creativity and failure.

Which brings me to, what is creativity correlated with:

– Time. Yesterday, on a Saturday right before Labor Day, what you would think would be the slowest day of the year on the Internet, I tried an experiment. I’ve been avoiding using LinkedIn for about five years or so. Or whenever it was created. I don’t know. 100 years ago. I let LinkedIn come in and peek through my gmail, match it with all the email addresses that were related to LinkedIn accounts, and sent out about 1030 LinkedIn requests. This was around 7am or 8am Saturday. Within an hour maybe 800 people had responded. (maybe everyone had responded but the Internet has evolved into this gigantic beast that never lets you know when people are saying “Heck NO, I don’t want to be friends with that guy”). So this tells me two things:

i) Why are we all on the Internet at 7am Saturday right before Labor Day. Aren’t we buying charcoal or fishing or something? No. Not me either. I was on the Internet from 7am to 2pm yesterday, and then on and off for the rest of the day after that.

ii) LinkedIn: why are you only looking at email accounts? Shouldn’t you also be looking at twitter and Facebook?

iii) I go back to my trading days. If everyone is doing something then perhaps the right thing to do is the opposite.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Internet. I’ve been addicted to playing online chess since pre-web. I’ve been addicted to newsgroups since 1987. I’ve been addicted to reading other people’s email accounts without their permission since about 1988.

Most of all, I don’t know the people who live on my block. And thank god. One woman with a tiny baby has the police regularly called on her whenever she and her boyfriend get in a fight. My choices: become friends with her OR make another new, positive, uplifiting connection, among the billions of people on the world wide web. It’s an easy choice and I make it every day. I love my friends who I’ve made on the Internet. Part of the emotional component of what I call “the Daily Practice” involves getting rid of the negative people in your life and adding in positive people. People who will inspire you and uplift you. We used to be limited to the people who lived right near us and grew up all of our lives with us. Then “moving” became possible and we became limited by the people who lived near us and people who we worked with.

Now we are not limited at all. I just made 1000 LinkedIn connections yesterday. Who knows which of those 1000 I will eventually become further friends with? There’s no limits? I can choose new positive people every day or interact with the friends on the Internet I have already made. This, to me, is the cultural and universal success of the Internet.

BUT….I need to spend less time on it. This goes along with less time reading news and less time socializing at night. Not that these activities are bad. But they do get in the way of creativity.

Let’s go back to the Bible for a second because it contains a metaphor for creativity. Somewhere in there it says we are created in the image of God. Let’s take a scientific version of that and assume that the laws of the Universe apply at the macro level and somewhat at the micro level. We are created in the image of the Universe. The Universe was a ball of light (or something, we don’t know) in some area before time and space that was completely NOTHING. It was so much nothing we can’t’ define it. And out of that was created stars, galaxies, quasars, pulsars, quarks, and LIFE. You and me. The ultimate in creativity.

Applying that on the micro level, since we operate by the same laws the Universe operates, it’s clear what is correlated with creativity:

A) doing nothing. NOTHING. Give yourself time for that. I don’t mean give yourself time to think. I mean do NOTHING. Sit. Whatever. Walk.

B) combine things. The next thing that happened in the universe was that hydrogen started combining with itself to create new types of atoms. Ultimately, the basics of life were created by combining helium atoms together (three equal carbon) then combining the results of that together, then that together, and so on. Sit down and list things that you know (which implies you should spend some time reading in order to learn things – and reading will give you a lot more learning than doing although doing helps also) and combine them. I KNOW that facebook exists. I KNOW that companies, in general, do not know how to take advantage of new technologies. So it’s a slam dunk that a basic lifestyle business one can create is to help companies figure out their facebook presence.

I’m not saying that’s a company everyone should start. But it is a method that can be used for creativity. Combine two things that work (or that don’t work – go for it!) and see what the new thing that is created is. In the 1970s everyone was fascinated by astronauts. People throughout history have been fascinated by mythology. And, we all love a beautiful woman (men and women love beautiful women). So what was created: “I Dream of Jeannie!” one of the most popular TV shows ever.

Creativity then is correlated with the lows of the Universe. How does the Universe operate? Follow it and you will be able to create also. Your mind is like a mini-Universe.

Which brings me to one final thing creativity is correlated with. Cue broken record….

C) The Daily Practice. The Universe is healthy. It’s expanding constantly (the Big Implosion is most likely debunked). You need to be healthy also. And not just physical health. But emotional healthy. Mental health (your idea muscle must be exercised every day) and Spiritual health (cultivating a sense of surrender to your current situation, feeling gratitude to the abundance both inside and outside of you). Some people have said to me that in my original post on the topic I suggested too many things for health. This is correct. I will have a follow up post soon about this. Or in my newsletter.

I’m looking forward to doing new things this coming week. To seeing friends and making new ones. To traveling to LA (I haven’t been there in a billion years) and then seeing my kids and then meeting with a new opportunity. But then I’m already looking forward to 8 days from now when I can sit and do nothing. Bliss.

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