How to Expand Your Creative Mind
The first step to lateral thinking is expanding our creative mind to maximize the contributions we can make. We talked about that Steve Jobs quote, that the more that you have in your mind, the more connections you can make. I'm gonna talk a little bit about the brain science of creativity, and I'm gonna do it by telling a little bit about the history of LSD. So LSD, it's this chemical that was synthesized a long time ago in the 30s by this guys named Hofmann. And he made it because he was trying to do some experiments in blood pressure, I believe. And it was a chemical, he thought this molecule was gonna interact with blood to do some interesting things with blood pressure. And he made, didn't do anything with it, kind of left it on his desk for a while. And then a few years later he found it, and he grabbed it with his bare hands. And it absorbed into his skin, and then he started seeing magical shapes. And he closed his eyes and it was, you know. And he narrowed it down that it was ...
this piece of paper with this LSD that had absorbed through his skin. And then he incorrectly hypothesized that a dose of 250 micrograms would be the threshold dose where that kind of hallucinogenic effect would happen. Turns out, that's about three times as much as you should take if you wanna get the hallucinations. And so, he gets on his bicycle with his lab assistant 'cause he's freaking out and can't drive home, and he's seeing all sorts of things, and he has this huge anxiety event. And then he lays down at his house and he realizes that his ego has become detached, his sense of self has become detached from him, and that he is the universe, and all of these things that he normally thinks of as not part of himself are now connected to him, and he is all of this stuff. And he closes his eyes and he sees golden lions and whatever. So this was this sort of crazy thing that happened to this guy. And research went on into what this chemical does, and of course things came to a head in the 60s when the CIA thought they could use it against enemies to get them to all trip and be useless when they were being attacked, and then it became a band substance. And now, actually, there's a great new book, I believe it's called How to Open Your Mind, that's all about how LSD is now being used to treat people with psychological disorders. So it's kind of come full circle. What LSD does to your brain, is it takes down the walls that refuse to let certain parts of your brain make connections with each other. So it takes down the wall that prevents your brain from actually visualizing what's going on in your brain. So all these things, the electricity that is sort of moving around, synapses that are firing, could actually cause your eyes to see weird stuff if your brain didn't stop it. So LSD just tears that wall down and you start seeing stuff. So what you're actually seeing is your brain. The other thing that it does, it tears down the wall between your inner voice and the external world. And the more of it you take, the more you think those things are the same. Your brain basically says, no, this is separate from that. Outside world, inside world, my inner dialogue. As that wall starts to deteriorate and things start to come through, you make really interesting connections. This is why, during the 60s, a lot of people attributed LSD to some great ideas they had. A lot of people went way too far with it and kind of burned their brains out, but even Steve Jobs talked about how LSD was key to him opening his mind and becoming a creative person. Now, the summary of this CreativeLive class is not go do LSD, it is not, it is illegal, even if it is fun. But LSD, what it teaches us, is something that we didn't know before about our brains. If we do know that creativity is about connecting dots and connecting things that haven't been connected before, LSD shows us that our brains have a lot in there that can be connected, and there are ways to open these up. There's another thing that you can do that I don't recommend. It's called transcranial direct-current stimulation. Your brain is made of electric impulses, moving things around, moving information around, making connections. Turns out, you can encourage this by actually putting electricity into different parts of your brain. This is one of those crazy things that I decided to write about one time, so I got my brain electrocuted in three different ways. And the primary things that they do now that they know how to do, is they zap a certain part of your brain, and it can make you stay awake for a really long time. So it stimulates the part of your brain that normally would make you need to rest. I think that you die if you do that long enough, right? But it was really interesting, and they were using this for applications for when they have soldiers who need to look at like satellite images for really long periods of time, they can recognize when things are moving. So they're looking for, is the thing moving in this war situation, and they need them to be able to do this for like 48 hours straight. So they zap their brains and they have them do this. Another one that they use it for, and I got this one done, too, is the centers of your brain that help you to memorize words, process language. You throw more electricity into that, it can help you learn a language faster. There's this thing they have now, I wanted to bring it to this class but I couldn't get my hands on it in time. It looks like a pair of headphones. It has little electrodes that go all through your scalp, and Olympic athletes are starting to use this because it shoots little stimulation of electricity in your brain that basically excites the neurons and makes them more likely to connect with each other while you're learning some sort of physical task, and it helps you to solidify muscle memory into your brain's real memory. So we're learning all this stuff about how we can physically make people better and more creative by putting electricity or putting chemicals into our brains but, again, that's not what we're here to do, is to show you the hack, which ends up being tolerable but not safe, is how they describe both of these things. You can tolerate LSD, not necessarily safe in the long run. You can tolerate electrifying your brain, it's not necessarily safe in the long run. It's lots of work to do. But what this teaches us is it reinforces that there's actual neuroscience behind this idea that creativity is lateral thinking. So you can electrocute your brain, you can take acid, or, turns out, you can consume a ton of content across a ton of fields. Now, one my favorite new books that's coming out, actually, in a couple of weeks, is by a friend of mine named Allen Gannett, it's called the Creative Curve. And what he talks about in this book is how, when you look at the most creative people in the world, people who make hit after hit after hit, whether it's in music or any other field, they tend to consume the most content across a lot of industries. My favorite example from this book is when he interviews the guy who's in charge of Netflix's content. So originally, he was the guy that made the algorithm to suggest what you should watch next, and now he's the guy in charge of what should they make next and what TV shows and movies they should make. And this guy's backstory is sort of the perfect example of what leads us to be naturally more able to use lateral thinking and be more creative. Basically, when he was a teenager, he worked at a rental store, movie rental place, and he decided that he was going to watch every movie, so that when people came in and wanted to know what to rent next, he could recommend it to them. I can imagine this teenager like, I doubt he had friends, and maybe he made friends after he mastered the movie catalog, but he just watched tons and tons of movies. He watched all the movies in this little video store, and he didn't just stick to movies that he liked, he watched everything. Horror movies and foreign films, whatever it was. So when people came in, he could say, oh you like that one? You should watch this one. But he also started to recognize patterns of what kinds of movies were popular at different time periods, and the trajectory that different actors took, and he could start to predict what kinds of movies that were coming to the theaters were gonna flop or not based on this encyclopedia he had in his head. So he kind of became this sort of human algorithm, so you can imagine that's the guy who you want running Netflix's content. But this is a pattern that you see over and over and over again of people who are incredibly creative. So if creativity is about connecting things, as Steve Jobs said, the broader our understanding of the human experience, the more knowledge we have in our head, is actually one of the best things that we can do to help us be creative. But there's some more brain science behind this. Specifically, and I'll have a link up here for this in a second, I did a study last year based on the work of some professors who basically unlocked the key to open-mindedness. For years and years and years, we didn't know exactly and we argued about what open-mindedness was and how we could get it and how we became closed-minded, because there's no way to measure open-mindedness. Psychologists had no way to do it, so we kind of argued about it. And it turns out that, as of last year, there now is a way to measure open-mindedness, this assessment that some professors from Pepperdine University put together that basically is about intellectual humility. And when you combine intellectual humility with willingness to try new things, that's basically what open-mindedness is, and since we've been able to study that, open-mindedness is now something that we can actually track things that lead to it. One of the biggest things that lead people to be generally open-minded, which the five keys to open-mindedness are trying new things, respecting other viewpoints, not being intellectually overconfident, separating your ego from your intellect, and being able to revise your viewpoint. If you can do all those things, then you are the most open-minded person ever. And most people can do some of those, but we can now test for it. Well, it turns out that taking in fiction leads to more open-mindedness. So here's one of the charts that we generated from a study we did last year on this. They're intellectual humility scores, so those things, you're separating your ego and revising your viewpoint, goes up if you just read a book a month or more. Same thing happens if you watch fictional television. So watch Netflix, and it will actually help you to be a little bit generally open-minded. The theory, right now, of why this is, is like we talked about at the end of the last segment, is that stories are really powerful. Stories help us to care about people, they help to motivate us, they actually build relationships. And what is fiction, or what is fictional television, but taking in stories of people who aren't you? And this trains your brain to be more and more okay with their ideas. And it doesn't mean you will automatically be open to every idea, but it means that your neural pathways are forming that allow you to make connections between things, specifically someone else's way of thinking, or some creative idea that's novel isn't so much scary as potentially useful. So another thing that leads to this is living somewhere else, if you can. Part of this study, we looked at how much of your life have you spent living outside of the country where you spent your childhood, how many countries have you visited besides your own. These kinds of things, again, are encountering people and taking in the stories of people who are not like you, and they lead to higher levels of this open-mindedness. So this is the link I was talking about. Anyone who's watching, you can go to shanesnow.com/ih, and you can actually take this five factor quiz, find out what dimensions you are open-minded or less open-minded about and what you can do about it. I, in particular, have a problem with separating my ego from my intellect. So if someone has a viewpoint that's not mine that I don't agree with, I can respect it. But if they prove me wrong, then it hurts, it cuts me deep. That's something I need to work on, and I can work on. But the thing that can help you be more open to other people's ideas and more open-minded, more able to make connections, is actually just the same thing as the Netflix guy, taking in more and more. And the thing about being open-minded is that it's not, there's a difference between being open to new things and being open to revising your viewpoint and just revising your viewpoint all the time. It's not about waffling in the wind. It's about having enough information, being able to make connections that you can recognize when something is useful and when you should change, and you can also recognize when you shouldn't change. It's that sort of discernment that increases the more we take in. So basically, knowledge is power, is basically the summary of that. But that's the set up. The more we learn, and this is why I love things like CreativeLive, no one asked me to do this plug, but things like this where we can constantly be learning and not just sort of stay on the mountaintop that we've gotten to with our education. The more we learn across more fields, the more we set ourselves up for interesting connections. We'll talk a little bit more about that.