Becoming an Inexhaustible Creative Contributor
I wanna talk about Drake. I don't know if you could predict that I would do that, but we're gonna talk about Drake. Drake, many of us knew him from Degrassi, but Degrassi, Degrassi, however you say it. But most of us actually know Drake from his four first studio albums, which went to number one. So Drake, when they draw the map of who's the most popular musician in every state, Drake is like three fourths of the states right now. He had three mixtapes that went to number one, as well. His latest song, Nice for What, just kicked out his last song, God's Plan, out of its number one spot on Billboard. So this guy produces music that goes to number one that then his next song pushes down from number one. He's known as being this, obviously, great musician, but he has a secret or two and we're gonna talk about that. He's not just incredibly creative, but his output is inexhaustible, like he just keeps putting stuff out. And he keeps getting invited, just like we were talking about last tim...
e, to be on other peoples' music. Turns out that Drake is an incredible creative contributor. He's an incredible, creative collaborator. So I wanna talk about how we can do that too, how we can increase our range of ideas, our range of output so that it feels like we never run out of creativity in the collaborations that we do. And where this starts, and I think that Drake is incredibly good at this. Starts with the art and science of something called lateral thinking. I'll start this with a hypothetical scenario that I love. You're on a dark and stormy road. So you can close your eyes and imagine if you want, or you can not, but you're on a dark and stormy road. And it's raining, and you're in a really nice car. You're in a two seater, we'll call it a Tesla. Really nice, brand new car, and you're coming around a bend in the road in the middle of the woods in this rain storm, and you're a few miles away from where you're trying to go, from town. And around the bend, you see on the side of the road, a figure, a shadowy figure, kinda standing there with no umbrella, just getting soaked in the rain. So you slow down, you're already driving slowly, but you slow down ever further to see who this person might be out here in the middle of nowhere. And then, to your surprise, you recognize them. Turns out that this is someone who saved your life years ago, and so, you say, "Okay, why, what is, wow, alright." So you pull over to pick 'em up, and then you notice there's actually a second person next to them. And you didn't notice her because she was sort of in that first person's shadow. It's a little old lady, she's stooped, she's got a cane, no umbrella, and she's clearly not walking back to town on her own. So they're standing there together. You start to process this, and then you notice, to your surprise and delight and horror, that there's a third person. And to your surprise and delight because this turns out to be the man or woman of your dreams, which is obviously exciting. But to your horror because, for whatever reason, you realize that this is your once in a lifetime chance to meet him or her. And you look, and you realize you only have one spare seat in your car. So the question is, "Which one of them do you pick up?" So you have three people, one seat, three very good reasons. You have the payback of the person who saved you from death. You have the generosity of the little old lady who needs your help, and then, is it that horrible to imagine the future that you could have with the man or woman of your dreams? I guess we could sort of poll the crew and the studio. Who would pick the loyalty, the payback of the person who saved your life? Yeah, alright, we have some loyal people. Who would pick the little old lady? Alright, we have one generous person. Who, alright, we're honest, yeah. We got two honest people in this studio. Well, it turns out that we're wrong, and actually, you're right. You should, of course, pick the old lady, but then, what you should do, you should give your car keys to your friend so they could drive her home. Then, you stay for a romantic evening in the rain with the man or woman of your dreams, which I love this puzzle for a lot of reasons. But I also love imagining being like 85 years old and holding hands in the rocking chairs and being like, "Remember how we left that old lady "to her death in the rain storm, so glad I met you." So the solution to this problem is an example of what's called lateral thinking. And lateral thinking is basically about approaching problems from different angles. It's like that cake puzzle, right? Where if you happen to be at this level, if you're a kid, you immediately see the answer to the problem. But you turn the problem around, lateral thinking is about finding new approaches to solving problems. And this is sort of a culmination of this idea we've been talking about, about combining different heuristics and perspectives in your head, which is what I would pause it. Drake is very good at with music. So lateral thinking, it's about finding new solutions to problems by looking at them from different angles, approaching them differently, but it's also, a key component of it is stripping away the assumptions that don't matter in this problem. It's boiling down, what's the thing that really matters that you're really trying to solve. So in this case, I set up the question in sort of an unfair way. I said there's three people, one seat in the car, implying, but not explicitly stating, that you can only help one person, right? I also set it up so that it was implied, it was assumed that you have to stay in the driver's seat in order to solve this problem. And yet, when you strip away those assumptions, and you get out of the car, and then you look at the problem from that fresh angle, suddenly new possibilities emerge. Lateral thinking is about this idea of breaking things down and then combining them in different ways so that you can approach problems in a new way. This is an example of this that I love in the animal kingdom. This is a cheetah, one of my favorite animals. One of the most deadly animals out there. The antelope are really scared of this thing, and the cheetah is also the fastest animal on land. It can go 75 miles a hour, which is absurd, right? That's fast within a car, as fast a car, 75 miles a hour. But when you ask zoologists what makes a cheetah so great as a predator, they won't say speed. In fact, the cheetah could run 40 miles a hour and not be a worse predator. It could run a hundred miles a hour and not be a better predator. It turns out that the cheetah is so good at its job because it has an incredible turning radius. The cheetah can jump sideways at 75 miles a hour. So when the antelope split, and they jump in different ways, the cheetah can just jump right in the way and get 'em. It's the cheetah's flexibility that makes it so good at its job as a predator. The other thing that's important about the cheetah is when you're putting together Power Point presentations, you're looking for stock photos of cheetahs, it will immediately recommend baby cheetah as like a diversion that is meant to suck you in for a hour. 'Cause look at how they think they're like ferocious like their mom. They're like, "Yeah, look at us," but they're not, they're just cute. Whenever I'm sad actually, I'll go to Google, and I'll ask Google to show me pictures of baby cheetahs and baby lions and baby coyotes. If you get nothing out of this class, like life sort of advice, baby cheetahs are the way to go. But when you think of cheetah, when you think of baby cheetahs, think about this principle that lateral thinking is about flexibility. It's not about strength or speed or smarts. A few years ago, I did a bit of a study of leaders, fortune 500 CEO's and presidents of the United States and how successful they were, both at getting to that position, and then after they got to that position, how successful they were at the job. Turns out that those two things are not correlated in either case. Getting to the position of top executive or president is not correlated with the ability to be good at it, but the thing that helps with being good at it is actually cognitive flexibility. It's being able to change your mind. It's being able to twist things around in your mind 'cause the job as the leader of a giant company or the leader of a nation is to sit there and have people come into the room and talk to you about farming and then be able to make a decision. And then, have more people come in and talk to you about nuclear energy and be able to make a decision. Your job is to connect dots and to synthesize things very quickly so the more the flexible you are, the more that you can turn things around and see them from different perspectives. The more that you can seek out the different perspectives, the better you are at that kind of job. And like I said before in the last class, leaders at these high, in the last segment, leaders at these high positions say that creativity is the number one thing that leaders in the future need. So we underestimate the role of creativity in leadership for making the world better, making our companies better. The same thing applies in any of the creative work that we're doing. So lateral thinking I think is the skill that we can learn to develop inside of our own brains, and it's building off of everything we've talked about in the last segment. So psychologists in the 1970's coined this term lateral thinking, and this really is just something that they identified that was a pattern that you see in history. Anytime the world has changed, anytime there's been a game changing breakthrough in the arts or science or society or politics or whatever it is, it was because someone used lateral thinking to not just play the same game but to the change the game. So in the 70's, psychologists caught wind of this. In the 80's, Hollywood caught wind of this. MacGyver is the sort of perfect example of someone who uses lateral thinking. I don't know how many of you have ever tried to diffuse a bomb using the instruction manual. It takes a long time, and sometimes not enough time. But MacGyver used a paper clip, right? He was really good at re-purposing tools that were meant for one thing and using them on another thing. It's a classic example of lateral thinking. The exercise even of how would I use this tool that's meant for one thing and apply it to another thing is actually a very good way to kickstart your own sort of personal brainstorming process like we talked about last time. So in the 80's, MacGyver was all the rage. In the 90's, I think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were examples of leaders in business who had a lot of creative output in their companies, and lateral thinking was sort of core to how they designed their products and their companies. And then, if it's psychologists in the 70's, MacGyver in the 80's, Apple and Microsoft in the 90's, then I think in the aux and the teens, it's Drake. And hear me out, you look at Drake's songs, especially as he's gotten more popular and as he's put out more music. Drake is constantly adapting, he's constantly changing. People complain every time you put something new out, and it doesn't sound like the last thing that they loved. And yet it's still good, and it's actually usually better. So this latest song that's, at the time of this class, Nice for What. His latest song that's number one. When you break down what happens in this song, it's a perfect example of what he's done throughout his career, and actually, I did a big study of Billboard charts in the last 40 years. And the songs that have increasingly tended to be at the top of the charts for the longest amounts of time do this sort of thing. So the first ten seconds of this song, Drake, not only do you hear this New Orleans bounce beat, which is sort of this, bounce music is this sort of style of music that comes from New Orleans. It has this New Orleans bounce thing and like this trigger beat. I am not gonna attempt to like make this sound with my mouth, but it's a thing that you don't normally hear in a hip hop song. And you also have this Lauryn Hill sample where she's doing this sort of crooning thing underneath it, and then Drake starts rapping. And he mentions like 15 things in the first ten seconds. He drops references to the city of New Orleans, to other rappers, to cars, to like a whole bunch of things. And when you analyze the lyrics, he's just making a potpourri of interesting stuff. He's making connections and doing sort of lyrically fun things by connecting these things that he didn't make up. He throws in numbers, or there's numbers of athletes' football jerseys, and lyrically, it's really fun, even if you have no idea what he's talking about. But that's what he's doing, he's assembling all of these pieces, and this song is so cool. It's doing what a lot of his hits have done where he's taking another genre of music-- So I think of One Dance, which was his number one song for a long time. It's combining this sort of-- And I'll get it exactly wrong. To me, it sounds like a reggaetone beat, but it's actually this sort of more tribal, African-- (beat boxing) That sort of thing, and he puts Drake on top of it, right? And he has other singers, so many of his songs have other collaborators that he brings in to sing the hook. This is something that's been popular in hip hop for a long time, but it's precisely this combination of ingredients. This making these new recipes that then make these songs that people love, and it's introducing people to genres of music or pieces of genres of music that they maybe hadn't been exposed to. So I like to say that Drake thinks sideways, and this is what makes him so good at collaborating. He pulls in things, he spends a lot of effort to pull in things and combine them in interesting ways, kind of like a chef. And kind of like a baby cheetah, so Drake is like a baby cheetah. No one's ever said this before, I am coining it.