How to Become More Creative

This post was previously published on the Crew blog.

How many uses can you think of for a paperclip in three minutes?

If you’re average, you’ll probably be able to drum up 10 or perhaps 20 different uses. I came up with 11. The somewhat famous paperclip test was created in 1967 by J.P. Guilford as a measure of divergent thinking. It’s part of a group of assessments known as ‘alternative use tests’ which measure creativity.

Incomplete Figure Start

 

The above example shows a common incomplete figure exercise. This test asks users to complete the picture in each window. This is another test of divergent thinking, the more creative you are the more interesting the results tend to be (see below).

Incomplete Figure exercise

 

Creativity is often viewed as something you either have or you don’t. But that’s not entirely true, according to a study completed by Harvard, creativity is 85% a learned skill. That means we can improve. The question is how?

[Read more...]

Define Success on Your Own Terms

That if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Henry David Thoreau

You probably remember Henry David Thoreau for his amazing literary works.

Chances are you haven’t heard of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.1

In 1839, Thoreau and his brother John made a boat and hiking trip from Concord, Massachusetts to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. When John ended up passing away a short time later in 1842, Thoreau set out to recreate the trip in novel form.

The only problem? No one wanted to buy it.

[Read more...]

How to Improve Your Reading Retention on Any Device

This post originally appeared on the Crew blog.

Last Tuesday, after running errands, sitting in traffic, and finishing a normal work day–I still had time to read for nearly 2 hours and 45 minutes. In just one day, I finished nearly half of Essentialism by Greg McKeown. With this kind of speed, my Amazon Wish List would be toast within weeks.

Now comes the confession: I wasn’t actually reading. I was listening. Essentialism was my first audiobook. It felt a bit like cheating, like audiobook listeners couldn’t really call themselves hardcore readers. Another problem? While I easily finished the book, I doubt I remember half of the information.

This led me to explore the science behind reading retention. It’s easy to blame technology for what appears to be our growing lack of retention. But perhaps we’ve been asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking on what we should be reading, we’re much better off solving the issue of retention by asking how we should be reading.

[Read more...]

How to Force Yourself to Improve

This article was republished on Thought Catalog.

Gary Cohn owes his first job on Wall Street to a cab ride1.

Cohn was twenty-two and working as a salesman for U.S. Steel in Cleveland. On one particular day, he found himself in Long Island and decided to venture down to Wall Street. While he was there, he decided he wanted a job.

The only problem? Cohn didn’t know anything about finance.

Since he had no connections on Wall Street and little experience that would qualify him for a job, he couldn’t pursue the ordinary route of handing in a resume. So, he went after a different angle. He stood outside of the commodities exchange until he overheard a well-dressed man catching a taxi to LaGuardia. Without missing a beat, Cohn asked if they could share a cab ride.

This gave Cohn an hour in the car with a higher up in one of the top brokerage firms on Wall Street.

Throughout their conversation, Cohn discovered the firm was entering the options business. However, the higher up didn’t know the first thing about buying or selling an option. He asked Cohn how much he knew.

Malcolm Gladwell recounts Cohn’s response in David and Goliath:

When he said, ‘Do you know what an option is?’ I said, ‘Of course I do, I know everything, I can do anything for you.’

That, of course, was a lie. Cohn knew nothing about options trading. But, he was able to score an interview. He spent the next few days reading books on options trading and landed the job.

Cohn knew the best way to improve is to commit to action before you’re ready.

[Read more...]

The Power of Posture & How to Improve It

This post originally appeared on the Crew blog.

When you read the title of this post, you likely sat up a bit taller or pulled your shoulders back just a bit.

As much as we tend to ignore posture during our normal day, the idea of perfect posture is ingrained in our heads since childhood. It turns out our parents may have been doing more than just instilling proper manners.

Posture has a great deal to do with how others perceive you in business situations. It can help convey confidence or portray weakness. Your posture can help you boost your income, ace that presentation, and, yes, even score your dream date. Let’s look at how you can use it to your advantage.

[Read more...]

Using Constraints to Make Better Decisions (Like Walking Away From $2 Million)

Could you walk away from $2 million? How hard of a decision do you think that would be?

If you’re Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, the decision is apparently easy. “Of course!” you might say. Stone now has more than a few million in the bank thanks to his role in the social sharing company. However, Stone turned down millions of dollars when he was still poor before Twitter even came into existence.

It was October of 2005, and Stone was working at Google1. He joined the team two years prior to work on Blogger, a blogging software built by Ev Williams.

Stone would need to put in two more years before his stock options fully vested. At that time, Google was skyrocketing in popularity meaning Stone’s options were worth about $2 million.

Yet, on that day in 2005, Stone was quitting his job ready to walk away with nothing in order to join Ev on his new venture, a company called Odeo, which would later become Twitter.

To Stone, the decision was actually quite simple. He had joined Google with one goal in mind: work with Ev Williams. Since Ev had left to pursue other projects, it was time for Stone to move on as well. As Stone put it to his wife, “We didn’t move out to California so I could work at Google. We moved out here so I could work with Ev.”

To make a hard decision, Stone asked a simple question: Is staying at Google accomplishing what I set out to do in California. The answer was obviously “No.”

Stone’s simple question is a type of constraint that helped to guide his decision making.

We typically think of constraints as a negative thing. In the land of plentiful options, constraints represent a step in the wrong direction. But, when used consistently and correctly, constraints can actually help simplify many aspects of your life from what to have for dinner to whether or not you want to walk away from $2 million.

[Read more...]

The Benefits of Doing Nothing (and Why You Should Do It More Often)

One might assume that Isaac Newton was hard at work in his laboratory when he stumbled upon gravity. Such a monumental discovery surely occurred in a room where he was surrounded by books, diagrams, and mathematical equations.

You’d be wrong of course.

When Isaac Newton saw the apple fall from the tree, he was sitting idle in his garden daydreaming. This wasn’t the only time either. In fact, Isaac Newton, a physicist and mathematician instrumental in helping us to get where we are today, made it a point to sit in his garden regularly and do nothing.

When was the last time you just sat and let your mind wander?

With our crazy to-do lists, digital devices, social networks, and social circles, we’re constantly trying to eek just one more ounce of productivity out of our day. The thought of just sitting down and staring off into space is so foreign it sounds ludicrous.

Isaac Newton was on to something early on. Those hours of sitting in his garden weren’t hurting his productivity. They were sparking original ideas and encouraging creativity. They’re crucial for keeping your mind healthy.

Let’s explore why doing nothing is more beneficial to your health than you would ever imagine.

[Read more...]

What A Workout Does to Your Brain

This post originally appeared on the Crew blog

I distinctly remember the sunrises during my senior year of high school. While my classmates were sleeping, I was on the roads racking up miles with my cross country team to avoid the Florida heat. We would hit the showers then shuffle off to class. At the time, I thought this was absolute torture. Getting up early in the morning was bad enough, but exercising on top of that?

That type of activity wouldn’t be anything new at Naperville High School in Naperville, IL. The school was profiled in the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and The Brain. Naperville encourages students to attend physical education classes and offers early morning options so they can get a workout in before the first bell. As one would expect, the students have a lower obesity rate, but they’re also seeing benefits in the classroom.

To improve mental performance, many individuals resort to hard work and repetition. In turns out, they might be missing out on one of the most powerful brain boosters in the world – exercise.

[Read more...]