REACH FOR IDEAS
The creative person realizes that his mind is an inexhaustible storehouse. It can provide anything he earnestly wants in life. But in order to draw from this storehouse, he must constantly augment its stock of information, thoughts, and wisdom. He reaches out for ideas. He respects the mind of others -gives credit to their mental abilities. Everyone has ideas -they’re free -and many of them are excellent. By first listening to ideas and then thinking them through before judging them, the creative person avoids prejudice and close-mindedness. This is the way he maintains a creative “climate” around himself.
Ideas are like slippery fish. They seem to have a peculiar knack of getting away from us. Because of this, the creative person always has a pad and a pencil handy. When he gets an idea, he writes it down. He knows that many people have found their whole lives changed by a single great thought. By capturing ideas immediately, he doesn’t risk forgetting them. [Note: a great way to save ideas easily is to Text-Message them from your cell phone to your main email account. You are rarely without your cell phone, and this allows you to record your idea for later review and action.]
Having a sincere interest in people, our creative person listens carefully when someone else is talking. He’s intensely observant, absorbing everything he sees and hears. He behaves as if everyone he meets wears a sign that reads, “My ideas and interest may offer the hidden key to your next success.” Thus, he makes it a point always to talk with other people’s interest in mind. And it pays off in a flood of new ideas and information that would otherwise be lost to him forever.
Widening his circle of friends and broadening his base of knowledge are two more very effective techniques of the creative person.
The creative person anticipates achievement. She expects to win. And the above-average production engendered by this kind of attitude affects those around her in a positive way. She’s a plus-factor for all who know her.
Problems are challenges to creative minds. Without problems, there would be little reason to think at all. She knows it’s a waste of time merely to worry about problems, so she wisely invests the same time and energy in solving problems.
When the creative person gets an idea, she puts it through a series of steps designed to improve it. She thinks in new directions. She builds big ideas from little ones and new ideas from old ones: associating ideas, combining them, adapting, substituting, magnifying, minifying, rearranging and reversing ideas.
BE CREATIVE FOR YOURSELF
Creative and productive people are not creative and productive for the benefit of others. It’s because they’re driven by the need to be creative and productive. They’d be creative and productive if they lived on a deserted island with no one benefiting or even aware of what they were doing. They experience the joy of producing something. That others benefit from it is fine, but only secondary.
This is a story of the painters who were before their time. Renoir was laughed at and rejected not only by the public but by his own fellow artists, yet he went right on painting. Even Manet said to Monet, “Renoir has no talent at all. You who are his friend should tell him kindly to give up painting.”
A group of artists who were rejected by the establishment of their time formed their own association in self-defense. Do you know who was in that group? They were Degas, Pissaro, Monet, Cezanne, and Renoir. Five of the greatest artists of all time, all doing what they believed in, in the face of total rejection.
Renoir, in his later life, suffered terribly from rheumatism, especially in his hands. He lived in constant pain. And when Matisse visited the aging painter, he saw that every stroke was causing renewed pain, and he asked, “Why do you still have to work? Why continue to torture yourself?” And then Renoir answered, “The pain passes, but the pleasure, the creation of beauty, remains.” One day when he was 78, finally quite famous and successful, he remarked, “I’m still making progress.” The next day he died.
This is the mark of the creative person … still making progress, still learning, still producing as long as he or she lives, despite pain or problems of all kinds. Not producing for the joy or satisfaction of others, but because he must. Because it brings pleasure and satisfaction.
Four Techniques for Creative Revolutions
To spur your mind to new action, think combination, adaptation, substitution, and rearrangement.
What are some of the best techniques for using our creative faculties more effectively to solve problems, make decisions, achieve goals, and better fulfill our ultimate human responsibility, which is to think? Here are a few I have learned:
Everything you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell during the day offers you the opportunity to consider new combinations. When you brush your teeth, you might think of a toothbrush that contains the toothpaste in the handle. You might combine your mirror with a motto reminding you to start the day right. It might read, “How can I increase my service today?” or “Have no small dreams!” That’s thinking combination. A simple pencil is a combination of wood, carbon, rubber, paint, and metal. You can come up with great ideas that can lead to profits, patents, and even billion-dollar companies by finding new combinations yourself. Here are a few ways entrepreneurs have profited from thinking combination.
Velcro was created through adaptation. In 1948, George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, returned from a walk through a field of weeds one day and found some cockleburs [burrs] clinging to his cloth jacket. After studying one of the cockleburs under a microscope, he noticed it was a maze of thin strands with burrs (or hooks) on the ends that cling to fabrics or animal fur. He then recognized the potential for a practical new fastener. It took eight years to experiment, develop, and perfect the invention, but now Velcro is a well-known, incredibly useful product. Velcro has even been further adapted for making all kinds of products better – from shoes that use Velcro instead of laces, to adjustable Velcro wrist straps on boxing gloves.
During the next year you are going to see the result of people thinking adaptation and coming up with ideas worth millions of dollars. Why couldn’t one of these people be you? The only limit to what you can achieve by adapting old products to new uses -old methods to new applications -is the limit of your own creativity.
When you think substitution, ask yourself how you might substitute a different idea, product, or material for the one now used. For example, soy burgers are the vegetarian’s substitute for meat products.
You can also take an existing product and make it better through thinking substitution. Take, for instance, luggage with wheels. This was a wonderful invention because it eliminated the need to carry luggage. But, for years the wheels were made of cheap plastic, often only a step better than dragging your luggage on the ground. It wasn’t until recently that someone decided to replace these cheap plastic wheels with the high-speed ball-bearing efficient wheels from Roller skates. This substitution created a better wheeled suitcase and made for happier travelers.
In short, don’t assume because a particular thing has always been used in the past, that you have to use it now. Perhaps there’s a substitution that will work better or last longer, or cost less, or be lighter, or more colorful, and so forth. Think substitution.
How about turning something upside down? What’s the problem with typical ketchup, mustard, and salad dressing bottles? It’s hard to get the contents out, especially when the contents are running low. The solution? Manufacturers are now creating the bottles to stand upside down so the contents are always easy to get out.
What do you work with that can benefit from this kind of thinking? What can you turn around … revolutionize?
Rearrange things, change pace, alter sequence, start from scratch. This type of thinking works for everyone. For instance, salespeople can use these creative techniques to discover new applications for products or services, new ways to emphasize customer benefits, new ideas or product combinations to solve customer problems, better ways to organize their time and effort.
If you want to spur your mind to new action, think combination, adaptation, substitution, and rearrangement. You’ll be amazed with the ideas you’ll develop. Before long, you’ll be thinking in each of these ways as a matter of daily course. This kind of thinking increases the scope of your mind power and enables you to achieve fuller use of your mental capabilities. Let your mind work for you. Take nothing for granted. Everything can be changed, improved. The only thing you can count on for certain is change. Don’t wait for it -be an agent of change. Help bring change about.
Follow Your River
Are you immersed in your “river of interest” or simply watching your life from the shore … afraid to get your feet wet?
There are two distinct kinds of successful people. There are what I call the river people and the goal people. Let’s take a good look at the river people. River people are those fortunate people who find themselves born to perform a special task. Mozart and da Vinci were river people. There are thousands of river people living today. They’re the people who know from childhood what they want to do with their lives.
River people seem born to spend their lives in pursuit of their interest. And they throw themselves into their rivers 100 percent, busying themselves with whatever it happens to be. They don’t tend to think about the idea of success or the making of money; they simply spend their lives doing the best they can in their river of interest. And they’re often responsible for some of the largest achievements and institutions on earth.
We all know the stories of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. The businesses that have grown from their inventions encircle the globe and are among the largest on the planet. Einstein was such a person, of course, but there are thousands of them that we never hear of. They are people who would be perfectly content in their fields of interest with only a modest maintenance diet and a roof over their heads. Their work is everything. But because they usually render a very valuable service in the performance of their work, be it in the arts or sports or commerce, they’re usually well rewarded for their efforts, though they may struggle for years before recognition and success come to them.
Dr. Abraham Maslow talked about such people. He said, “One could say a good match is like the perfect love affair or friendship in which it seems that people belong to each other and were meant for each other. In the best instances, the person and his job fit together and belong together perfectly, like a key in a lock, or perhaps resonate together like a sung note which sits in a sympathetic resonance, a particular string on a piano keyboard.” And Maslow said, “Simply as a matter of the strategy and tactics of living well and fully, and of choosing one’s life instead of having it determined for us, this is a help.”
It’s so easy to forget ultimates in the rush and hurry of daily life, especially for young people. So often, we’re merely responders, so to speak, simply reacting to stimuli, to rewards and punishments, to emergencies, to pains and fears, to demands of other people, to superficialities. It takes a specific, conscious effort, at least at first, to turn one’s attention to intrinsic things and values. Perhaps seeking actual physical aloneness. Perhaps exposing one’s self to great music, to good people, to natural beauty, and so forth. Only after practice do these strategies become easy and automatic so that one can be living totally immersed in his or her river.
I believe that each of us, because of the way our genetic heritage is stacked, has an area of great interest. And it’s that area that we should explore with the patience and assiduity of a paleontologist on an important dig where it’s a region of great potential. Somewhere within it, we can find that avenue of interest that so perfectly matches our natural abilities, we’ll be able to make our greatest contribution and spend our lives in work we love.
If we can find our river of interest, we need only throw ourselves into it, fully committed, and there spend our days learning and growing and finding new emerging fields of interest within its boundaries.
The River or the Goal
For some, the river may be a particular branch of science; for others, one of the arts. There are some physicians, for example, who are so wrapped up in medicine that they hate to leave; even after a 16 hour day, they can’t wait to get back to it.
These people are happiest and most alive when they’re in their river -in whatever business or career or profession it happens to be. And success comes to such people as inevitable as a sunrise. In fact, they are successes the moment they find their great field of interest; the worldly trappings of success will always come in time. Such people don’t have to ask, “What will I do with my life?” Their work is a magnet for them, and they can’t imagine doing anything else.
We all know such people, or about such people. Doing what they do is even more important to them than the rewards they earn for doing it.
The second group of successful people are those who are goal-oriented. These people have not found a particular river, necessarily, and can be quite happy doing a number of things. It’s the goals they set that are important to them, and they’re quite aware that there are many roads that can lead to their goals.
Someone once said, “Americans can have anything they seriously make up their minds to have. The trouble is that most of them never make up their minds about anything.” Goal-oriented people do make up their minds about what they want, and they keep their eyes and their enthusiasm on the goal they’ve established until it becomes a reality in their lives. Then they set a new goal, if they’re wise.
One of the problems with this latter group is that after achieving a number of goals and becoming quite successful, they can run out of goals and become listless and unhappy. But not the river people. Their interest in what they’re doing never fades.
So if you’re going to be a big success, chances are you need to be a river person or a goal-oriented person, or both -the two groups are not mutually exclusive.