I was watching a speech by the billionaire David Rubenstein, the founder of the largest private equity firm in the world. He said something really profound and useful that I would like to share.
He said that you cannot succeed in business by just copying other people because you will just be an echo or reflection. You have to stand out by doing something completely differently. Now, I’m not saying that you should never copy. Other successful people, like the founder of Costco, Sam Walton, and Steve Jobs, have emphasized the importance of copying when it’s a no-brainer better way of doing things. I am saying that there is a lot of value in coming up with new ideas and doing what’s been done before in a different, better way.
That’s why I want to talk about how to be more creative and imaginative. I have compiled some of the best advice out there from the world’s most successful creative people.
Respect Ideas That Aren’t Groundbreaking
Successful creativity does not require you to come up with something incredibly ground-breaking or unconventional.
An example would be the billionaires Fred Smith of FedEx or Jeff Bezos of Amazon. Warren Buffett said in a CNBC interview that they didn’t do anything crazy like discover a new molecule or come up with a great invention. Instead, they took ordinary things and combined them in imaginative ways.
Fred Smith took the airplane, delivery truck, and postal service and just put it together around a central hub and came up with a whole new industry. He made delivery a lot more efficient and with greater reach.
In the same sense, Jeff Bezos did the same thing with Amazon by combining big distribution centers and new technology with products (like books) that we already bought before the Internet was around.
The list goes on. Dominoes Pizza was built around a simple idea: selling a food we already love to buy (pizza) and promising efficient widespread delivery in 30 minutes or your money back.
I wanted to share with you my summary of a book written by the President of one of the most creative companies in the world, Ed Catmull of Pixar.
Have An Environment that Encourages Creativity
According to the book Creativity Inc., Pixar’s campus was designed by Steve Jobs so that employees were forced to walk around and meet new people to go to the bathroom. He did so that people would mingle from different departments and for cool new ideas to be formed.
Google has a campus that allows people to live there. They provide gourmet food, coffee, gyms, massage parlors, trains, and everything else. This allows employees to mingle, stay later, sleep overnight, and spur creative ideas.
I wanted to make this article about more than just a book summary of Creativity Inc. so here are 2 great videos on how to be more creative as a person:
Alone Time Is Useful
Although Pixar and Google seem to love to have campuses that encourage collaboration, sometimes this may not always be the best thing. Alone time is useful as well according to Seth Godin’s book Free Prize Inside!
He brings up a psychologist who has worked over 12+ years in creativity. He found that 4 people came up with twice the output of ideas when working alone rather than brainstorming together.
Embrace Restrictions and Deadlines
I have found that a lot of really creative people have used limited options to breed more creativity. There’s a successful Youtube channel with hundreds of thousands of subscribers. What he does is he films his son imagining these incredible scenes and playing in them. He then adds in visual effects to make it look real.
The point is that in an interview, he said that he purposefully limits the amount of exposure to media and entertainment (TV, Youtube, etc.) that his son gets because it makes him much more creative. The overexposure isn’t always a good thing.
There’s a great Ted Talk called talking about the paradox of choice that explains part of this. The more choices we have, the less happy we feel with our decision and the more paralyzed we are to decide.
I recently saw another Youtube channel express the same thoughts. The channel is called Brother Green Eats. They are semi-professional chefs and have a large budget to buy whatever they want. However, when they did a challenge of living off $3 a day recipes, they said that they created the most amazing, creative dishes they ever have because of the limited ingredients.
Embrace failure – it’s part of the process. Rejection only helps you if you can measure your work if it’s true and improve. Ask yourself if it’s true. Did you get the same feedback from multiple people. So that when you know it’s good, you keep going despite rejections. (When the illusionist was rejected by everybody, he had no doubt it was a hit and kept going)
Use Sensory Stimulation
In Robert Greene’s book Mastery, he highlights many masters of different fields from physics to music who used sensory stimulation to increase creativity.
In fact, some relied on it.
This included sniffing fresh apples, stroking a cat, and seeing nature.
A spouse or partner who gets you can help you find sensory stimulation that works for you. It was the wife of the master who realized he was most creative with fresh apples nearby and laid it out for him daily.
Usually, the stimulation is from a sense that’s different than the one you are trying to get creative in. Try using a different sense when you are trying to get creative in another.
For example, try to inspire your sense of smell, taste, or touch when you are trying to improve your auditory sense of music.
I read an article by the billionaire Richard Branson of Virgin that supported this. He said that he had walking meetings around nature and running water because it made him more creative.
In Greene’s book, he mentioned a mathematics expert who was challenged to a duel. This spelled sure death for him if he lost the duel.
The night before the duel, he wrote down all the mathematics theories he never was able to solve. That night, he was the most creative he had ever been and came up with things that were way ahead of his time.
The next day, he did lose the duel and die.
But his writings for that night revolutionized mathematics for years to come and people still wonder how he was able to come up with some of his ideas he wrote down.
Ben Franklin did something similar. He announced his ideas to the public and press before they had come to fruition or even gotten started.
This put some pressure for him to get going to start creating things.
Embrace restrictions – it helps you focus.
Meditation creates an equanimity that opens up the creative area of your mind. It opens up that area and helps separate the practical from the emotional area.
Watch this video of Ray Dalio explaining the science of meditation and how it helps your creativity:
Napoleon Hill’s Advice on Creativity
Napoleon Hill spend his entire life studying the world’s richest people thanks to his connections with billionaire Andrew Carnegie. Here’s what he had to say about improving creativity and imagination.
There are only two ways to be come up with a new idea.
The first way is through synthesis. This is when you combine old ideas and concepts in new ways.
The second way is through actually coming up with new ideas and concepts never thought of before. This is harder, but possible.
There are a few key techniques to stimulate creativity. Here they are:
- Hang out and talk to other creative people to get ideas.
- Travel. You will be inspired by new landscapes, people, and culture.
- Take notes. Write down any events or things that inspire awe or emotion.
- Read as much as you can. New stories and ideas will be revealed.
- Expand your interests. Many people discover new interests that they work into ideas that make them money.
Napoleon has a detailed process for triggering the creative mind. You can read more about it in his books, but in essence, you “channel the vibrations of infinite intelligence” using the best mind stimulants (love and sex energy of your partner). It may seem rather woo-woo. But he’s essentially saying that you can channel the love (sexual and/or romantic) of your partner as inspiration and motivation to capture ideas that seem to come from another world.
Use Your Subconscious
The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work. -Earnest Hemingway
Leave a little bit for your subconscious to work on it overnight. Let me show you how.
How the Subconscious Works and Why You Are Not As Creative As You Think
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, he cites a study that unearths how your subconscious works:
They had people try and figure out three ways to get ropes to connect that were hung a distance apart. The first two were obvious. The third required creativity. You had to swing one of the ropes to get it to touch another.
They found that people only discovered the solution when the experimenter would come by and “accidentally” brush a rope and get it to gently swing. But here’s where it gets interesting…
When they asked people how they came up with the third solution, the vast majority said they had come up with it themselves. They had all sorts of random reasons on how they were inspired. But that didn’t make sense because it was clearly the experimenter who inspired them.
Were they being egotistical? Were they trying to claim credit? Were they lying? Well, it turns out that they were so focused on solving the problem that they did not consciously notice the experimenter brush the rope. It was the subconscious, which is always on the lookout for ways of solving the problem, that picked up on it.
Since it wasn’t conscious, they really did not know what inspired them and backwards rationalized how they figured it out with their own reasons. The next time an artist tells you who or what inspired them, you might be reminded of this study because they could be wrong.
It also just goes to show you what a waste of potential it is when you do not set a problem for the subconscious mind to solve (which is what most average do). By having a definitive goal, you can set your subconscious on autopilot.
There are plenty of successful people other than Ernest Hemingway and Napoleon Hill who have stumbled on the power of the subconscious. Here is a video of Brian Koppelman, filmmaker to big movies like Ocean’s Eleven, talking about it.
The subconscious mind is a scientifically-proven real part of your brain. Therefore, you should use it. It can be as simple as taking a break for a few days from a problem and coming back to it. In that time, you are giving your subconscious, which is similar to a computer’s background programming, time to work on the problem in the background. Hemingway did this often with his writing.
Napoleon Hill emphasizes this often and has many stories in his books about wealthy people successfully using this.
Will Smith: Patience, Writing Things Down, Walking Away, and Coming Back
Will Smith, the most famous actor on the planet, agrees with this in an interview for the Nearly Everything Storytelling convention. He says a major aspect of creativity is endurance. One of his most successful movies, I Am Legend, took ten years to create. Another one of his films is also projected to be ten years in the making and he’s in year seven.
Similarly, I’ve noticed other film successes, like Avatar and Inception, have taken ten years to make. James Cameron, creator of Avatar, revealed in an interview with Whoopi Goldberg, that he comes up with a lot of ideas in dreams and came up with the bio-luminescent forest in the film from a dream he had at the age of 17. Avatar came out when he was 54; that’s 34 years in the making.
You have one thing you’re working. Keep yourself inspired at all costs. Writing something down is a valuable part of the creative process. Walking away from it for a period is part of the process too. Do something else, like going to see a play. At some point, you have to come back to it though to work on it.
Ask Yourself, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice If…?”
Garry Kasparov is widely regarded as the best chess player of all time. Chess requires a good deal of creativity because there are more possible moves in a game than atoms in the universe or seconds since the Big Bang.
In his book How Life Imitates Chess, Garry says that you sometimes should ask yourself, “Wouldn’t be nice if this were possible?”
One time, Garry playing an important match. His standard responses to his opponent’s pressure on his Queen would have revolved around making the queen escape. But then, he wondered if he could achieve the same result without moving his queen? He ended up moving the weakest piece on the board, the King, forward instead. It turned out to be a move that completely threw his opponent off guard and put him into a stronger position that won him the game.
It Comes From … God?
Arthur M. Abell took great pains to get some of the world’s greatest music composers to reveal their secrets of success.
Johannes Brahms is considered one of these greats. While he was alive, he was compared to the greats, like Bach and Mozart. It took Abell four years tot convince Brahms to reveal his methods — and it still only happened because Brahms thought he was going to die soon. On top of that, Brahms made him swear to wait 50 years before he published what he found.
In Abell’s book Talks with Great Composers, all is revealed.
Brahms said he models Beethoven’s reverence of God. They both credit all their inspiration to a divine source.
What I found out most interesting was that he didn’t agree with others who credited their subconscious for their creative ability. He said the word “subconscious” doesn’t give enough credit. Rather, he said “superconscious” would be a better word.
In the same book, they found an account of Beethoven demonstrating similar faith. An old violinist named Gruenberg used to play in Beethoven’s orchestra. One day, his concertmaster, Schuppanzigh, complained to Beethoven that a certain passage was almost unplayable for the left hand. Beethoven screamed back that he was inspired by God Almighty when he wrote the passage and asked him if he considered his puny, little fiddle when God spoke to him.
Whether or not this is true, I think the point is that Beethoven respected the limitless potential creativity that he ascribed to an infinite source and pushed the limits of what a human hand could play.
Brahm’s Creative Process
To speak with God and generate amazing ideas, Brahms has a specific process. You first need to master the technical skills of your music craft. Then, you must realize you are one with the Creator. He acknowledges that before beginning.
Next, he formulates a definitive purpose: to compose something of permanent value to uplift and benefit humanity. He asks his creator three questions, “Whence, whither, and wherefore?” (In modern English, “From where, to where, and for what reason?”)
Immediately, he gets thought vibrations and distinct mental images of what to do.
What’s interesting about this is that it’s eerily similar to Napoleon Hill’s advice in creativity in his books.
Views – 1151