With spring is in the air (in Europe, at least), some thoughts on time travel, the roots of creativity, multi-tasking, the importance of water and the power of surprise.
1: Invitation to time travel
Is time travel possible? Yes! Well, at least virtually. At Stanford University a researcher had young people virtually experience old age and asked them to decide what they'd do if their current (younger) selves were given a thousand dollars. According to Psychology Today, those with the elderly avatar put more than twice as much into long-term savings.
What advice would you give your twenty-year-old self? What advice do you think you'd get today from the twenty years older version of yourself?
To find out, set up two chairs facing each other. When you sit in the first one, you are your present self. Then move to the other one and imagine this is the twenty-years-older version of you. In this chair, what do you want to tell the current you?
ACTION: Give this exercise a try. You can also experiment with different time periods - what would the one-year-older you have to say? How about the five-years-older you?
2: To be more creative, move to the border
Cambridge professor Alan Macfarlane is studying the lives of 100 modern scientists, historians, and explorers to try to find out what conditions created their "Eureka!" breakthrough moments. The study won't come out until next year but for now he says that creativity is often found in "people who live on the margins or the border between different cultures."
Is there a way to create this condition? Certainly travel seems to prompt new thoughts, and maybe you could get the same effect by attending different cultural events, listening to different music, learning a new language, or even just reading online news from sources outside your country.
ACTION: What small step can you take this week to move a little outside your traditional habits and comfort zone?
3: Still Multi-Tasking? Consider this
In the book, "The Power of Impossible Thinking," Yoram Wind and Colin Crook cite a study sponsored by the US Dept. of Transportation. It exposed test subjects to phone calls, automated directions, and internet newscasts. At the same time, they were given a very simple math problem to solve.
The results: "One in six drivers missed their turn, some didn't answer the cell phone and many failed to answer the simple problem. Only two or three of the 36 test subjects went off the road..."
ACTION: If you're still multi-tasking, try a day during which you focus on only one thing at a time. At the end of the day, check: did you get less done, or more? Do you feel more stressed, or less?
4: Do you have a STAR moment in your presentations or pitches?
The people at Duarte, who helped Al Gore create his "Inconvenient Truth" presentation and all the TED talks, teach what they call S.T.A.R. Moments (registered trademark! - it stands for Something They'll Always Remember). It's the moment that surprises people and that they talk about afterward.
Bill Gates had a great one recently when he talked about malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. He said, "I brought some here so you could experience this." He took off the lid of a jar and released a swarm. "We'll let these roam around the auditorium a little bit," he said. "There's no reason that only poor people should have the experience."
Notice that it's not shocking or nutty for the sake of it - the best moments add meaning as well as surprise.
ACTION: If you have a presentation or pitch coming up, what STAR moment can you create?
5: To be smarter, have a drink
A drink of water, that is. A study at the University of East London showed that kids (seven to nine years old) scored significantly better on various tests if they drank a glass of water first. The primary researcher, Dr. Caroline Edmonds, said it's possible that water improves the flow of information between brain cells. Previous studies showed similar results with adults.
ACTION: Keep a bottle of water handy and sip frequently when you're working.
6: And a quote to think about:
"Work is a protective canopy from dark thoughts about the flying time. Creativity creates energy, and energy stimulates the feeling of life." - Federico Fellini