Experiment your way to creating like Thomas Edison
Published on July, 30th 2018
By Greg Wells
Here’s an informal experiment I ran recently that you should try.
I went for a walk downtown in Toronto, where I live, through the financial district where I was meeting a buddy for lunch. As I did, I made a decision to not pull out my phone while I was walking. I just watched people.
It was unbelievable. About 80 to 90% of them were walking with their faces down in their phones.
Then I rode the streetcar home. It took about an hour. I deliberately sat there and did not use the devices in my pocket. It was so hard not to reach in and grab my phone. I use social media for work. I use it to push out content. I help people by getting content out there. So I love to check what is and is not resonating with people. But it means I live with that urge to check three, four, five, six, seven, ten times a day.
Try some “no phone time” for yourself. See how you feel. See if, like me, you have a low-level addiction going. Then do something about it. Create conditions that allow you to be deeply engaged. Block off a day for an important project. Turn off the WiFi. Turn off your phone. Go deep.
In short, channel your inner Edison.
Thomas Edison is famous for his prolific capacity to invent – to generate solutions that no one else could dream up. One of the techniques he used was to create a space inside Menlo Park where he would go to do his thinking. It included a bedroom, so he could nap, a small kitchen, where he could make some food, and a zone where he could do creative work. And he set up a culture where everyone in the organization understood that if you disturbed him when he was in there, you were fired – out the door and never to be around again. This was Do Not Disturb to the nth degree.
It’s similar to the tradition of writers disappearing into the wilderness to create. For me, that place is in Central America. No Internet, jungle and ocean everywhere you look, and a house I can rent that is unplugged. My family and I go there for two weeks at a time. That’s where my deep thinking takes place. That’s where I recover and regenerate. But it’s only two weeks at a time. It doesn’t address my ongoing need for a space that supports creativity.
When Robin Sharma and I were coming home from the Titan Summit, we got talking about a presentation from Steve Wozniak, who talked about deep creativity. Right then, I committed to dedicating a section of my home to the Menlo Park scenario.
My space is pretty simple. It’s a room at one end of my home in Toronto with everything I need: art on the walls that I find beautiful and stimulating; a concert poster signed by two brilliant musicians I adore; an amazing piece of work by Jane Waterhouse right beside my desk; comfortable furniture; a computer; access to inspiring music; and a view of the park outside if I need to stare into the trees.
Whenever I need to go deep, this is where I go. The space pulses with creative energy for me. That’s where my inventive and imaginative work take place. And the more I go in there, the more my mind learns that this is the place it can run. I get more and more creative. Then, I take those ideas and head out into the world – to the university, the hospital, WeWork, wherever. Places where I am surrounded by people and can engage in the types of productivity and creativity that happen in a group.
Find a way to create your own micro-Menlo Park and get ready to go deep.
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