Let’s get this out of the way up front: Creativity is infinite. The more you use it, explore it and give it away – the more you create and possess.
So if you have any preconceptions that your creativity is limited, expiring or finite, lose them.
I just finished a few days masterminding with some friends. One of them in particular is someone I challenge to think more creatively. He works in a space that requires bold, daring and imaginative thinking and I believe he falls into a rut of habitual thinking. At dinner the other night he asked me for some suggestions on how he could change the way he thinks.
Stop here and think about that last sentence. Because what my friend did was breathtaking in scope. He took one of the most important steps to critical thinking, and arguably the single most important step in self- development and personal growth…
He asked how he could change the way he thinks.
There may be nothing more important for you, then coming to this stage of your life. The point where you become the thinker of the thought – and think about not only what you think about – but how you can change the way you think. Because when you change the way you think – you change everything.
The first thing I charged my friend to do is change his environment. And for him, you and I, that’s a code word for evaluate the people in your life. More specifically, the people you allow to influence you.
Everyone can speak into your life. The key is having the discernment to choose who you listen to.
You need a “sacred circle.” These are the people you intentionally and mindfully have chosen to bring close to you. Jim Rohn used to say that your income will be the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I’ll take it further: your health, relationships, marriage and overall happiness will be the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Most of us have surrounded ourselves with people who give us permission to stay the way we are. In fact, they sometimes demand it. After all, they like you just the way you are. That’s the good part.
The dark side comes when they are threatened by your growth, because they’re afraid of being left behind. If so, they may subconsciously try to sabotage every breakthrough you strive for. (Without even being aware they are doing this.)
You probably have negative people in your life. You may be married to one. It is what it is. You don’t have to forsake these people. (Although sometimes you might be better off doing that.) But you may have to regulate the amount of time you spend with them.
Don't disburse your relationship energy on a "first come, first served" basis. Be mindful of who you are spending time with.
If you have people around you who say things like:
Those are warning signs that you may be surrounded by people who are holding you back. (Or more accurately, that you are allowing to hold you back.) Be mindful because when we discuss unleashing your creativity, what we’re really talking about is ideas, and the intrinsic power they possess.
And ideas are fragile creatures when they are born.
They can be killed by a dismissive remark, a raised eyebrow, or a snarky review. You need someone in your life that nurtures your ideas.
Ideas feed upon themselves. Ideas build on other ideas to create yet more powerful ideas. Breakthroughs are usually not something new, but instead are the result of two existing elements that together produce a new concept. Bring me a good idea and I can then give you a great idea.
Don't be scared by new ideas. Be scared by old ones that have expired. Many breakthroughs come when you question the premise. Even someone with a limited intellect can spot a wrong answer. Intelligence is being able to spot a wrong question.
The second suggestion I gave my friend was to attend a couple conferences a year that are outside of his field, where he will struggle to keep up, and think in vastly different arenas. Every year I look for one or two conferences I can attend, where I’m the dumbest person in the room. Now it’s not easy for me to find conferences that meet that criterion, but they’re out there.
If you’re in retailing, go to something on Internet marketing. If you’re in Internet marketing, go to something on manufacturing. If you’re in leadership, attend a symposium on chaos theory, the unified field, or whether God exists.
To become a critical thinker, to become a creative thinker – you need to be challenged. You need challenges that cause you to think creatively, critically, logically and laterally. The last suggestion I gave my friend and I would give to you is to read (or reread) my Mad Genius book with an agenda. The agenda is to do some critical thinking about each of the scenarios I lay out in the book – cloning, designer babies, 3D printing, virtual reality sex, crypto-currencies, and all the others – and ask yourself how that development will impact in your area of expertise.
Obviously we have cultural norms, standard operating procedures, “best practices,” and lots and lots of rules. Rules are useful, and necessary. But remember this: all innovation, pretty much all human advancement, and almost every serious breakthrough has to be done outside the rules. Otherwise they would never happen.
You need to ask, ‘Why?’ on a regular basis. Because if you don’t – eventually someone is going to be asking, ‘Why you?’