Devils Advocate: Expose yourself to unfamiliar materials and open your mind to the alternative of the opinions you hold dear. Play devil’s advocate with yourself and develop an understanding, if not an empathy, of the contradiction of your own beliefs. By opening your mind to the antithesis of your thinking you can uncover holes in your reasoning. Only by understanding the problems can you improve and develop it. Never become so entrenched in your thinking that you will defend them blindly, by understanding the reasons against your argument you become cognisant of other people’s perceptions. Considering dissenting opinion lets you develop means to appeal to their sensibilities you would never have considered. This enables you to develop products, programmes or campaigns that appeal to the widest spectrum of people , or in such a way that doesn’t alienate potential partners or clients.
Share: Share your ideas relentlessly. Seriously, never stop sharing. You need to stop thinking people will steal them. It is essential you talk to people and get feedback as quickly and as widely as possible. If you have an idea test it as quickly as possible with as broad a spectrum of society as possible. If you’re not comfortable releasing an idea for wider public consumption share it with people you know. Understand how they use it, what they think and ascertain ways in which you can improve your thinking or product. External perspective will broaden the range of understanding you have, it will uncover faults which you are too close and emotionally invested in to see.
Question: Meet, reach out and talk to people; always ask questions and gain an understanding of their processes, inspiration and the path they have walked. Understand the obstacles they have overcome and the pitfalls you can avoid. I refuse to let somebodies reputation scare me into submission. I’m a vehement believer in the adage that if you never ask you’ll never know and find this particularly true of those people who have ascended to the highest heights. I’ve exchanged correspondence with everyone from Arianna Huffington, Bob Keiller, Gareth Williams, Adam Grant to name but a few. It’s worth remembering even the most successful among us are people too and almost universally everyone likes to help. If you are able to add value to them while asking questions that is even more powerful. Only by asking people who have achieved unprecedented successes can we understand their rigour. This can be used to challenge your thinking and assist you. It’s as simple as writing an email.
Time: Give yourself it. When was the last time you took an hour to just think? If you’re like the majority of people the answer is not very often and not recently. Without thinking how can you expect to develop ideas? Time, freedom of mind and a lack of constraints enable you to cultivate the conditions necessary to create. When we don’t feel creative it is incredibly easy to believe we are not the creative type but we are all equally creative if we allow ourselves the opportunity to be. Our potential is unlimited and can only be constrained by a lack of imagination. But our imagination must be trained consistently; constant use of any muscle enables it to grow and flourish and this can only happen if you invest the time to achieve it. So schedule free time to think, turn of your phone, and avoid all distractions.
Never stop learning: Whether that is reading a book, listening to a podcast or completing a MOOC online. You need to continue to take responsibility for your own learning and actively pursue means to improve. Read for 1 hour every single day. By reading one hour a day, regardless of your perceived level of knowledge, you can become a world leading expert in any subject in 7 years. Knowledge is broadened by stepping out with your comfort zone. It involves understanding and exploring topics that are foreign to you which enables you to link unrelated concepts in fresh innovative ways. Nobody who ever lived has your personal experience, so exploit the unique perspective you have on the world by giving yourself the absolute best opportunity to succeed. Inspiration literally couldn’t happen without a pre-formed effort to expand the knowledge you are able to call upon. By deepening your well of knowledge as much as possible and by widening the base on which you can draw new and unique conclusions you cultivate the conditions in which inspiration can occur.
The conventionally learned wisdom which has become the accepted reality is that ideas come from divine intervention, an instantaneous moment of clarity which happens in a single moment that changes everything. Although this may be true occasionally, or exceedingly rarely, more often than not it is something that can be cultivated, built upon and arrived at after time.
Ideas are not a product of impossibility. If you are willing to invest in yourself, understand why you might be wrong and chase something new a revolution is within your grasp.
Be the captain of your own fate.
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