My empty bucket

A blog by Adam Morris

Meditation and the right-brain view

Through focusing the mind or with determined observation, meditation increases self-awareness and provides a safe space of emptiness where creative thought naturally flows. Further reflecting on Jill Taylor’s video, this space of meditation seems to be similar to the right-brained state she describes.

This week, I am monitoring my thoughts throughout the day. After a 35 minute tube ride and 10 minute walk, I realized that I had barely noticed the past hour… my mind was busy racing through details, reciting e-mails to be written, checking of todo items, and thinking about what I need to get done. My mind doesn’t know how to take a rest.

After 45 minutes when I caught myself, it is as if I woke up to the world around me. The rain drops still on the trees, the stillness of a street at night. My walk became much more vivid. And my mind stayed quiet.

For a few minutes, at least.

Efficiency vs Mental space

checklist

My experiments with Getting Things Done have started. (Right-brained people of the world – don’t have a heart attack… it’s just an experiment.) Objective: to use this methods for reducing stress and to become more efficient by:

  1. Gathering all the thoughts on my mind
  2. Processing the thoughts
  3. Ensuring that items which need accomplishing have a clear, concrete next step attached to them
  4. Tackling one action at a time

“Supposedly” (i.e in some far-fetched theory) by getting vague thoughts out of your head and becoming clear on the next concrete action, mental space is created to get things done. More mental space = room for creative ideas to surface.

The catch is, if I become more efficient, and that raises other’s expectations… will I find myself taking on more responsibilities to fill the new found space? This could be a disaster in waiting.

Innovation with Brad Bird


Lamp

Being creative is more than letting people run wild with their ideas, as uncovered in an insightful interview with Brad Bird on Innovation lessons from Pixar, where the McKinsey Quarterly examined issues around creating a successful creative environment:

The Quarterly: How important is team dynamics to innovation and creativity?

Brad Bird: Making a film, you have all these different departments, and what you’re trying to do is find a way to get them to put forth their creativity in a harmonious way. Otherwise, it’s like you have an orchestra where everybody’s playing their own music. Each individual piece might be beautiful, but together they’re crazy.

Yea. Go big bird.

Hivelogic.com: offices and the creativity zone

Check out the insight from Hivelogic into Offices and the Creativity Zone. Dan discusses some reasons why the corporate work environment isn’t the right setting to be creative – through countless distractions and pressures to produce results.

Reminds me of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi… where too many demands coming from too many places, makes it impossible for us to be single-minded-ly focused on one task at a time. Although, central to the Flow concept is finding the right balance between challenge and skill level (if the challenge is to great, it causes stress, and if it is too low, it causes boredom). And I think achieving this balance is essential for accessing our most creative states.

Get over it

People tend to life seriously and make situations overly complicated. Or is that just me? Does drama ever do anything remotely useful?

One approach I find to be effective in combating this is Rule #6, from Ros and Benjamin’s Zander’s Art of Possibility. The story of Rule #6 is:

An executive is in meeting at another company with one of their managers. They are sitting in the manager’s office, when suddenly the door burst open and a man comes in upset and shouting about an urgent problem. The manager says, “Peter, Peter, please remember Rule #6.” Immediately Peter calms down, says thank you and departs.

Soon after, a young woman enters, hysterical, hair flying all over the place, carrying on in frenzy about her situation. He responds, “Mary, please — remember Rule #6!” She says, “Oh, I’m so sorry”, apologizes and leaves the room quietly.

Then it happens a third time. (It always happens a third time.) At this point the visiting executive can’t keep quiet any longer and says, “Sir, I have seen three people come into this room in a state of uncontrollable fury, and then walk out completely calmly. Would you be willing to share this, Rule #6, what it is?”

The manager says, “Oh yes, Rule #6, very simply put is, don’t take yourself so damn seriously.” And so the executive says, “Oh, that’s a wonderful rule. What, may I ask, are the other rules?” And he replies, “There aren’t any.”

So… whatever it is, get over it, and don’t take yourself so god-damn seriously.

Power of giving

During college, I spent the majority of my spare time volunteering: soup kitches, convalescent homes, half-way children homes, homeless shelters, charity drives, park cleanups, battered women shelters, tutorting kids – you name it I helped out.

At some point I realized the true value of volunteering was not in what we did, but in the individual connection made with people. In the mind-set of giving, that is a subtle message that other people matter.

In a world where people are obsessed with pushing others out of the way to grab the most satisfying life, there is an incredible power in putting others ahead of your own achievement… and ironically, the joy of helping others may be what brings you the most satisfying life.

Lifehack.org rejuvenating creativity

Recently, Lifehack.org posted 30 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Creativity submitted by their readers. Here are some of my favorites:

3. Expose yourself. Not after too much vodka. Expose yourself to new art – books, music, paintings – all the time. If you’re a rocker, listen to funk. If you’re a crime writer, read fantasy. If you’re a productivity writer, read something about slacking off.

8. Drink too much coffee sometimes (one of my favorite submissions).

15. Creativity is a muscle. Exercise it daily – if you only need to create once a week, your muscles may have atrophied if you don’t do it just because you don’t have to.

22. Keep a journal. It can get your mind working, and in a month, or a year, when you’ve gained some distance from what you’ve written it can give you new ideas.

28. Trash what you’re working on. Start again.

Intellect and intuition

The world we live in treasures the intellectual mind. From a young age we go to school – a structured environment where we are taught to follow instructions, process information and return expected answers in order to succeed. We are not encouraged to fail, nor are we given the freedom to define our own path.

This is the same in the workplace. We are expected to show up on time and follow the process we need to get the job done.

But the dark secret is that true value, both in our lives and in business, comes from creativity and new ideas. Creativity doesn’t come from intellect but from intuition – a skill few have taken the time to cultivate.

Choosing Possibility

Either you can see possibility in the world, or you can see the threats, problems and dangers. If you’re really talented, you will see possibility where others see a threat. This is called turning a problem into a challenge.

The magic secret is to understand that what you see is your choice. Do you notice yourself feeling defensive or mulling over issues? Then ask yourself:

  • What is the opportunity in this situation?
  • What is the challenge that lies in this problem?
  • How could I transform this into something good?