How to become more open minded
May 25, 2012 8:06 AM   Subscribe

How to have more ideas, find the opportunities in times of crisis, and be more creative overall?

I used to be this really imaginative kid who could think of a thousand different ways to do and tinker with things. The years passed, and as I went to school then college then corporate world, I became a lot more conservative. I don't mean conservative as in "Republican", but more in terms of well-adapted to the system. I made all the "correct" career choices, learned the right skills, am always in the "hot" technology field that pays reasonably well.

That mindset took me far in life, but I have seen many friends who are at the same level get laid off recently, and after some years of being corporate drones, they lost their enterpreneurial spirit and the ability to do something else other than working for big companies. Adding insult to injury, as they are relatively senior people, they made good money and as such have a harder time getting another job then when they didn't have the big paycheck.

I'm anticipating something like that can happen to me in the near future, and I don't want to be stuck in the same loop as they are. But after years of working on the same thing, I feel I lost the entepreneurial spirit, creativity, and the ability to find opportunities in times of crises. Before disaster hits, I'd like to get those back - I will need them to survive, but most importantly, I will be happy with myself for being less fearful of what fate will bring me. People I admire (Bill Gates, Jobs, Andy Grove, etc.) never seem to have lost that spark the way I have.

How do I get the spark back?
posted by dcrocha to Work & Money (10 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Just do something. Start a project. Program an LED matrix, whittle something, return to your banjo, tinker once more. Create something small, the idea is not to re-invent the wheel, just to re-energize your creativity and to gain some pride in having made something yourself. Don't approach this in a complicated way, just go forth and do.
posted by Katine at 8:12 AM on May 25, 2012

PS: I guarantee all of your heroes at some point felt they had lost the "spark." Losing the spark is part of the deal. Being motivated to get it back is often what propels big leaps in a person's creativity.
posted by Katine at 8:17 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is hard not to make this a big answer but I will try to be succinct.
Creativity: read "Where Good Ideas Come From" by Johnson and "Imagine" by Lehrer.
Actual creativity techniques were collected and itemized on this website. I will find the thread and repost for you.

Stress is very much an inhibiting factor so I suggest you try meditation: it will help with keeping your mind clear and many people find it improves their creativity enormously.
There is a recent book out by a fellow from Google called "Search Inside Yourself" which discusses the in-house program at Google that targets both aims. A fast read.

You might need to look at some of Barbara Sher's books : "Wishcraft" to figure out what you really want to do and "It's only Too Late If You Don't Start Now" which addresses all the excuses we throw up. Very good for people changing careers.
posted by PickeringPete at 8:30 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have to let your ideas wander. The biggest thing a lot of people do is go "What? That's stupid/impractical/bad" when they get an idea, which is basically saying "Shut up, brain, don't give me ideas anymore." You have to let your mind wander and play and not discipline it for doing so, be willing to entertain ideas even if they're outlandish. If you're conservative, you probably got out of the habit of entertaining impractical and far-fetched ideas in favor of what's practical/money making/whatever.

For example, I do some writing. I had an idea for a story and went "But that's pretty much Chinatown." A lot of people I know that want to be writers would go "Oh, that's not original" and stop thinking about it and then wonder why they never get ideas. I went "Okay, so what?" and thought about it for a while and finally turned it into a publishable piece that's pretty far from Chinatown.

Keep an ideas file/folder/notebook/whatever, start a lot of projects to see where they go with no expectation of them ever turning into anything, and let your mind wander.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:33 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check that metafilter thread for actual creativity resources.
posted by PickeringPete at 8:33 AM on May 25, 2012

Response by poster: @PickeringPete Great thread, thanks a lot.
posted by dcrocha at 8:37 AM on May 25, 2012

Throw away your TV or put it somewhere uncomfortable.
Start taking a lot more long walks.
Don't browse Reddit, or any other websites where it's possible to spend an infinite amount of time for a very low payoff.
Find yourself a wider variety of unusual friends, particularly the creative and entrepreneurial kind.
Schedule yourself a repeating task to go find something new to learn about. Go to classes, volunteer, shadow the lighting person for the local am-dram society, go kite buggying, buy a book on some obscure but interesting topic and read it.
Watch out for opportunities that appear in your life and make sure that you notice them and that you don't reflexively discount them and continue in your present rut.
posted by emilyw at 8:41 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm reading The $100 Startup right now and I'm finding it very helpful for getting my mind back in that start up / new idea / problem solving frame of mind. After a career in tech sales I don't want to be that 50 year old guy starting over in a new sales gig cold calling for appointments. If I'm doing that at 50 (6 years) I want to be doing it as CEO of my own gig.
posted by COD at 8:48 AM on May 25, 2012

Feed your areas of excitement. If you have a little interest in something offbeat, filter more of your energy into it than you might otherwise. It's okay if this feels fake at first -- that will change.

Notice when you react against something. Take another look, reconsider, see if you can look at it another way.

Seek out cross-cultural or offbeat events. Expose yourself to "weird" ideas.

Play brainstorming games.
posted by rosa at 9:05 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

To build on rosa's suggestion: Go places you would normally never go and practice observing without judgment, just soaking in things that are very different. This seems to help me welcome new ideas without rejecting them. Maybe (guessing wildly):

- Evangelical service at that big mega-church
- Walmart at 1 AM
- Hassidic neighborhood
- Historical re-enactment campout
- Special-interest conventions, like for knife makers or people abducted by aliens
posted by ceiba at 11:03 AM on May 25, 2012

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