The bibliography for this book has been many things: Life in general. Studying other high-achieving people. Plus a few books I've read about creativeness. A suggested reading list in the Appendix contains some very interesting material, some of which agrees with and some of which diverges from concepts in this book. Most of them are quite cogent. Creativity having the elusive nature that it does, there is certainly room for opposing viewpoints, all of which can be valid.
When people ask me for the titles of some good books about creativity, besides the usual reading list (see page 258) I often recommend biographies.
Biographies are about high-achieving people. You very rarely have to worry about picking up a biography about a complete loser. Maybe there are some autobiographies in that area, I'm not sure. Biographies generally deliver more than just life stories of high-achieving people. I find that high-achieving people tend to be pretty conscious of what they do and how they do it and are therefore often good teachers. Everyone has brilliant ideas from time to time. Those who consistently have brilliant ideas are frequently very attuned to their own thought patterns and habits and limitations and how to get beyond their barriers to big thinking. So even though you may not be interested in warfare, I highly recommend that you read the biography of Ulysses S. Grant. And even though you might not be interested in science, you may want to read a biography of Einstein. It's not that you want to repeat what they did, but that you can be inspired by their creativity and learn useful lessons from their methods.
I've been touting the value of biographies for years and recommending them to people as a source of creative inspiration. Well, my theory was tested a number of years ago when I came across a biography in a little country inn where my wife and I were staying in central Massachusetts. On the bookshelf was a biography of Ed McMahon. With all due respect to Ed McMahon, who certainly has achieved a great deal in his life, I wouldn't have thought of him necessarily as biography material. I mean, he was second banana to Johnny Carson. Star Search. Bud-weiser commercials. Do you get my point? That said, I took the book to my room and decided to delve into it. Wouldn't you know, very early in the book (around page 3) I found one of the secrets to Ed McMahon's success. It was some advice his dad had given him early on in life: "When you walk into a room, act like you belong there."
For some reason that resonated with me. When you walk into a room, act like you belong there. Then it occurred to me that my humble little ad agency in Providence, Rhode Island, which I started in 1978, had, by the mid-1980s, achieved national if not global prominence as one of the most highly awarded advertising agencies in the world. It occurred to me that an important turning point in our growth was when a young copywriter right out of school asked me, "Who's the competition?"
Here we were, a small ad agency in Providence, Rhode Island, in the shadow of Boston, which was in the shadow of Madison Avenue. We could have seen ourselves as a local agency, but we thought a little bigger, as a regional agency. When we opened our doors, we decided to compete against the largest agencies in Boston, at that time Humphrey Browning McDougall and Hill Holliday. When this wet-behind-the-ears kid asked me who the competition was, that was my answer.
Not satisfied with my answer, apparently, he said, "What about the best advertising in the world? What about the best advertising of all time?" The Doyle Dane Bernbach, the Scali, McCabe, Sloves, the Ally & Gargano stuff. Those brilliant guys in California, Chiat/Day. Those guys
"Yes, grandson, I was the one who thought of that big idea so many years ago."
"Yes, grandson, I was the one who thought of that big idea so many years ago."
_[The Lobotomy Files f
Intergalactic Improvements in Customer Phone Support
We addressed an important phone support issue using Intergalactic Thinking. In the "farming galaxy" we used the crop-rotating model to inspire a concept where we train only a portion of our hundreds of phone support staff on each new consumer product release. By doing this we lowered our training costs substantially and put a specialist rather than a generalist on the end of the line.
Customer Service Executive Major Computer Manufacturer Lobotomized 1998
For more on Intergalactic Thinking, see Chapter 9.
in Minneapolis (where Fallon McElligott was getting started). "Aren't they the competition? Doesn't our work have to compete for the consumers' attention against the best work coming out of the best agencies? At the awards shows, isn't that the competition?" The kid got me thinking. When our little agency in Providence made that shift in our mind-set and we decided to compete at that level, when we decided to walk into that room and act like we belonged there, within two years we were there.
I remember in 1984, the first time we entered Communication Arts, one of the most prestigious award shows. We cracked the top 10 out of over 500 entrants from around the world. I got a phone call from Dick Coyne, the founder of Communication Arts and its editor and designer at the time, who said, "Who are you guys and where have you been?" Well, we're here now. We went on to have a great run for another 10 years. We walked onto the national ad scene and acted like we belonged there. We took Ed McMahon's dad's advice.
The fun postscript to this story is that, as I write this book, that snotty-nosed kid from my creative department, David Lubars, is now president of one of the world's top ad agencies, Fallon McElligott in Minneapolis. David, I'm sure, subscribes to many habits of high-achieving people. He's entered the international advertising arena and made himself a part of that in no uncertain terms.
The bottom line is this: You can be inspired by anyone, draw lessons from anywhere. And I have the utmost respect for Ed McMa-hon for consciously picking up such a great lesson from his dad.
Cheat Notes for Chapter 21: The Real Bibliography
Life is the bibliography—be conscious, be aware.
Biographies offer great reading on creativeness.
Study high-achieving people. They tend to be more realized creatively.
High-achieving people tend to be more conscious of their abilities and are great teachers.
Readings on creativity (see the Appendix for my recommended list).
I wish I could say I learned the preceding quote from my ardent study of the great philosopher's work. Alas, I must admit, I read it in a book about baseball's Boston Red Sox and their 1967 pennant drive, in which former pitching great Jim Lonborg, a legitimate intellectual in his own right, quoted the deep Greek.
"Gentleman Jim," as this Red Sox star used to be called for his mild demeanor, quoted this pithy line in an interview in the Saturday Evening Post in 1967 in defense of his uncharacteristic aggression on the pitching mound, throwing so close inside to batters that he actually hit them.
Passion overriding reason.
It's why otherwise good citizens loot during riots.
It accounts for many poorly matched couples who end up divorced.
It's why it's almost impossible not to pay more than you intend to at an auction.
But this passion-overriding-reason thing can also be constructive.
It's why soldiers lay down their lives for their country. (Did I say constructive?)
It's why athletes go above and beyond for the team.
It's how creative thinkers can pull out of the gravitational field of conventional thinking and dare to consider new ideas.
As we discussed earlier, new ideas don't always make a lot of sense. New ideas are often the targets for all kinds of flak. So you better have a great deal of passion in your effort to find new ideas and defend them. You're going to need it.
How do you gain and maintain the passion? Louis Armstrong, when asked by a Parisian reporter to explain American jazz, is reputed to have said, "If you gotta ask, you ain't never gonna' know."
Some people might say you either have passion or you don't.
Well, I believe everyone has a certain amount of enthusiasm for new ideas. I also believe it's easy to lose touch with that fire at the core. Our educational and societal programming has dulled much of our eagerness in this area, as has the judgment of superiors and peers and the pressure to be "right" in business.
Here are some tips to help you keep the flame burning.
Surround yourself with people who have passion for creative pursuits.
Become a student of creativeness. It is, after all, the stuff that accomplishment is made of. When my wife drags me to a ballet (sorry, Honey), I applaud the creativeness of the choreographer more than the talent of the dancers. When watching a football game, I wonder why the coach called this or that play. I don't just sit there and accept everything.
Celebrate your own successes in creative pursuits. Don't sit around waiting for the approval of others. If you have a new idea that you're excited about, don't hold back your enthusiasm. And don't listen to the naysay-ers. What do they know? They're the ones stuck in the old ways of thinking and attached to the old ideas.
What if Einstein had listened to the scientific community of his time? He would have thought their way and not a whole new way. What if Elvis had listened to the musical establishment, those people burning his records and calling him evil? Where would contemporary music be today?
Study, study, study. I recommend that you read about creativity and creative accomplishment as much as you can. Read books about creativity, and read as much as you can about high-achieving people. Because achievement is creativity in action.
Play in greener pastures. I heard an expression years ago. I don't know who originally said it. "If you're green, you're growing. If you're ripe, you're rotting." Put yourself in areas where you don't have all the answers so that you can wonder more, so that you can make up the answers, so that you can create.
To the latter point, how can you leverage your lessons from this book?
Practice, practice, practice. The theories and tools covered in this book might make sense as you absorb them from the comfort of your armchair. But when the heat is on to come up with a new idea, you can forget everything you've learned and revert to your defective programming if the new thinking muscles aren't in shape.
Yogi Amirit Desi, who taught me a great deal years ago, says that, according to ancient Indian understanding, ignorance does not mean acting without knowledge (how can you ignore what you never knew?), but true ignorance means having the knowledge and still ignoring it. If you hadn't understood creativity well before you read this book, then you weren't acting out of ignorance when your attachment to old ideas and old methods of thinking held you back. You just didn't know any better. If you've learned and understood the fundamentals put forth in this book and you don't lobotomize your old ideas and your old ways of thinking, then you are ignorant according to the ancient definition.
Use this stuff tomorrow. As with golf, tennis, or piano lessons, if you wait a few days to apply what you learned you might as well not have taken the lesson at all, because you'll remember only half of what you learned (if you're lucky). And when you wind up practicing wrong, it makes it that much harder to correct the new bad habit the next time.
Use the cheat notes at the end of each chapter to give you the quick lowdown on the high points of each fundamental or thinking tool. I suggest you do it right now, even before you put down this book. Do one last review to really help the lessons sink in.
Merchandise your success with this material. When you get a great idea, tell others about it. Tell them how you used Intergalactic Thinking or 180° Thinking to solve this or that challenge. When you become a champion for this type of thinking, it obligates you in a strong way to use the stuff. A little obligation may be all you need to stick with some of these new thinking methods when the deep memory of old patterns or attachment to old ideas tries to override even your most sincere efforts to be a fresh thinker.
Know that creative thinking is the only way to make anything better. And know that every big thinker in every area of endeavor had to break through the inertia of stagnant thinking to come up with a new idea.
I believe that true immortality comes about in two ways: through our children and through our new ideas. And in either case passion is the stuff that helps provide the spark.
"Grandpa, what did you used to do for a living? Grandpa, those aren't tears, are they?"
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