Our brains are hungry for content. Human beings are curious by nature. You can see it small children. Their eyes are constantly wandering and exploring new things. They want to touch, tug and taste everything they come in contact with. They’re thirsty for knowledge about the world around them.
You can see this thirst for information in yourself. Your brain loves to be entertained. It loves to learn. It loves to experience new things. If you’re on a boring commute to work, chances are that you’re mind is itching to absorb information. You’re reading a book or a paper. You’re listening to music or a podcast. Or even if you’re doing none of those things, you’re observing the world around you. Checking out the landscape. People watching. Doing mental math on the timing of the rest of your commute.
You can feed your thirsty mind with the correct diet of content or the wrong diet. The main components of a creative diet involve ignoring comfortable, easy to access information. Don’t waste your time with mainstream media.
Mainstream media caters to the lowest common denominator. It caters to the popular opinion. Mainstream media caters to the mediocre. It’s speaking to the stupid. The stories in mainstream media are not designed to provoke thought. They are designed to provide you with an opinion. They make it easy, so that you don’t have to do the thinking yourself.
When you stop thinking, your creativity dies.
You have to keep your mind nimble by thinking. You have to take in raw information and form opinions. You have to see situations from different angles. That means not relying on one source of information. Don’t just read one newspaper. Don’t just read a handful of blogs that all express the same viewpoint. Get out of your comfort zone. Read something that you disagree with. Watch a show that makes you angry. Listen to a podcast that’s from a completely different area of interest.
One of the best podcasts that I stumbled across was something called the Naked Scientists. (It’s not as dirty as it sounds. Trust me.) Basically, it’s a group of physicians and researchers from Cambridge University who use radio, live lectures, and the Internet to strip science down to its bare essentials, and promote it to the general public. It’s fascinating. The first podcast was about how certain areas of the U.K. have high proportions of the population that are genetically resistant to H.I.V. due to their ancestors surviving the Black Plague. It was something that was totally out my obvious sphere of interest, but was amazing to learn about!
The best inspiration comes from when you expand your knowledge base and are able to connect to the creative problem you’re trying to solve. You’re not going to do that by just reaffirming the beliefs that you already have. So stay away from mainstream content. Dig a little deeper than the easy stuff. Learn about science, art, music, sport, business, innovation and history. Learn about it all. Because knowledge is what fuels your creativity.
A mystery person dropped a set of postcards from Nike on my desk. It could be the delusional inspiration of a Monday night or the fact that I was getting stared down by a postcard Mohammed Fara, but it got me thinking about the difference between dreams and goals.
Dreams are inspiring.
Goals are exhausting.
Dreams are irrational, free flowing and unexpected.
Goals are on purpose.
Dreams are fate.
Goals wrestle fate to the ground.
Dreams exist in your mind.
Goals are a reality.
There’s no failure when you’re dreaming.
You can fall short of a goal.
Dreams can change your life.
So can goals.
There’s a time for both. But if you’re stuck on doing just one, then you’re missing out on your creative potential. Dreams make you feel good. Feel inspired. They’re the crazy ideas that pop into your head. The ones that make you think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if …?” They give you something to look forward to.
Goals are the way that you make shit happen. They are the 15 shitty scripts you had to write until you finally got one that was good. They are the hours of training you put in to be ready for tryouts. They are the nights that you skipped the party because you had to an interview the next day. Goals make you put yourself out there. You take risks. And they give you a finite result – either you succeed or you fail.
Anyone can dream.
Not everyone has the stones to sweat for theirs.
This is the inspirational story of Simon Wheatcroft – an ultramarathoner. He pushes his body to the limit to run insanely long distances. Through his story, he describes the nature of the competition against himself and the drive to keep moving forward.
Some people look at characters like Simon and see craziness. Why would someone push themselves to do something so extreme? The answer is simple. Because when you push yourself that hard, you end up on the edge. You’re at the very limit of what’s possible. And that is where all of the fun stuff is.
There are certain days when you rediscover your heroes. For me, today was one of those days. It started at about 3:00 AM this morning when my mom texted me that the island that my dad was visiting in the Philippines was hit by an earthquake with a 6.8 magnitude. Naturally, I freaked out. I was shit scared, until my mind cleared up and I reread the message. My dad was in the epicenter of the earthquake, but was safe.
Alright, cool. I was sleepy, so I went back to bed. I woke up a couple of hours later thinking about it. My dad was on a medical mission there, helping people with their eyesight in a remote area of the Philippines. But due to the disaster, he’s now working with the trauma unit at the local hospital. And they’re working out in the parking lot outside of the hospital because the structure of actual hospital building is no longer safe. And then I came to a realization. Holy shit! My dad is a hero.
It’s one of those strange phenomenon that has come full cycle. You see, because when you’re a young boy, your hero is almost always your dad. He is all knowing and powerful. He can fix shit. He can chop wood and make fires. He can drive cars. He knows all the answers to your homework. And then there comes a time when you start to realize that your dad maybe isn’t the hero you thought he was. Maybe he isn’t awesome at everything. I remember that time very distinctly in my mind. I was around 10 years old and my parents had just gotten me a skateboard. My dad was trying to show me how to use it, at which point he tried to skate down a little hill in our driveway. He bailed, messed up his hand and swore profusely. And that was the point that I realized maybe he wasn’t the hero I thought he was.
But now he is again. And he has been for a while. He’s no longer the hero that you expect to solve all your problems for you. But he is the type of hero to guide and support you in what you’re doing. He is the type of hero that inspires. Sometimes he does it by kind acts. Sometimes he does it by listening. Sometimes he does it by saving lives. Sometimes he does it by calling you out on your bullshit. But he’s a hero. He makes a difference. He inspires. And he makes the people around him better.
When I in high school, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, my dad and I had a long conversation. We talked about doctors being heroes. They saved lives! Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that? But, my father brought up the fact that doctors can only save one life at a time. There’s a limit to the scale of what they can accomplish with their hands. However, creativity has the potential to save millions of lives. By challenging the system or solving a difficult problem, creative thinkers can change the world. They can improve the quality of life. They can make technology easily accessible to all. They can pull down repressive governments regimes. They can rally and inspire billions.
To think that we are unable to be heroic is foolish. It doesn’t take exceptional skill, intelligence or passion. All it takes is consideration, thoughtfulness and action. We all have the potential to be heroic. The key is to perform actions that inspire others.