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Embracing Nature

Lesson 5 from: Design Systems That Fuel Your Creativity

Srinivas Rao

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Lesson Info

5. Embracing Nature

Lesson Info

Embracing Nature

Let's move on and let's talk about your nature environment. So for the longest time I was convinced that spending time in nature was basically for REI-wearing granola hippies until I became a surfer and a snowboarder and I started to really understand the benefits of spending time in nature. So how many of you get your best ideas when you're sitting in front of a computer? Exactly, so where do you get your best ideas just out of curiosity? When I'm at the gym. Yeah, okay. At the gym working out. Great, Mark? I like to walk to work sometimes and it seems like on those walks I solve a lot of the huge problems that are pressing but not while I'm sitting at a desk. What about you guys? Waiting for my car while my oil gets changed. Yeah, so. I live by the beach so that's what I do. And I can absolutely related to that as a surfer. So the thing that's interesting is that when you are in nature, this woman Florence Williams, she wrote a book called The Nature Fix. And what...

she started to find was that people who are in vast nature scenes end up having these very sublime experiences that often end up inspiring creative ideas. And not only do they inspire creative ideas, they've found to be incredibly therapeutic and healing. Apparently walking and gardens can be really, really therapeutic. They actually do something in Japan called tree therapy where they have people literally walk through forests to reduce stress and anxiety. And it does wonderful things. I think the thing that happens when we're in nature is that it allows us to let go of rational, logical and linear thought patterns. Because when you're sitting in front of a computer or you're working at a desk or typically doing your creative work what you tend to do is you tend to think in linear, logical and rational thought patterns. We make our to-do lists, we decide what time we're gonna do something and we basically enter this whole thing with a plan of attack. And that's great, it's necessary. The problem is that the real sparks are not going to actually come from that. That creates the structure but you actually have to find a source for where you're going to get this creative flow. So I don't think it's a coincidence that my surfing and my writing journey are parallel almost to the day. Because all of my best ideas have always come from days when I've been on the mountain for hours on end doing 40 mile an hour runs on a snowboard or spending days on end in the water. Almost always if I can't come up with an idea or if I can't solve a problem if I go out for a surf session or if I go to the gym, when I come back that problem for some reason is suddenly solved. And it's solved ironically by not trying to solve it by going and doing something that is completely unrelated to the activity itself. So the funny thing is that what happens when you immerse yourself in nature is you're effectively tapping into the power of your subconscious mind. Couple years ago I had a chance to speak with a guy who was the creator of MacGyver. And had this idea called the MacGyver method. And MacGyver apparently, for those of you who are too young to know what MacGyver is, it was a TV show where there was this guy and he basically could do things like make a bomb out of a stick of gum. And he was basically this modern-day superhero back in the 80's. And the creator of MacGyver because of the fact that the show was on the air so much and it was being produced so regularly, he had to write new episodes on a regular basis. And one of the things that he did was what were known as incubation activities. He would say why would I depend on the power of my conscious mind when I could go and work on some sort of incubation activity. And he'd say you know what, I need an idea and then he would go and he would work on puzzles. And do something completely unrelated to the activity. And he would come back to it a few hours later and he would be able to map out an entire story. And I think that that is often what happens when we spend time in nature. So fortunately to spend time in nature it doesn't have to be as extreme as 40 mile an hour runs on a snowboard or paddling out to the ocean for near death experiences. You can do simple things like taking a short walk. Everybody from Steve Jobs to Mark Zukerberg have all sworn by the power of walks and many of them do their meetings in walks. In fact when you meet people like my friend Jonathan Fields in the city, will never actually sit down for a meeting. It's always let's walk around the city or let's walk around Central Park. Any time I'm in New York and I'm meeting a friend I always insist that we meet at Central Park so that we can walk around while we're talking. You can go sit under a tree. This is something as simple as that can have a really profound impact. Now one thing I will say, there's a caveat here to incorporating nature. If you go and do all of these things and you spend all your time on your phone, you're completely defeating the purpose of doing it. Because effectively what you're trying to do by being in nature is to shut off the noise and to unplug. You can go and gaze at a river. So a couple of years ago I had a chance to speak to a marine biologist slash neuroscientist named Wallace Nichols who talked about the power of water. And just the sound of water apparently can have a huge impact on people. So just by sitting at a fountain or near a river or anything like that can be incredibly therapeutic and can really kind of spark our creativity. [Male With Glasses] Trey, I'm just gonna jump in with a quick question if that's okay. Absolutely. So you're a nature guy. Yeah. And I know we're gonna talk about this a little bit later but can you give us an idea of your personal favorite when it comes to nature? Like is it a sports-related thing or where do you gain that inspiration? For me more than anything I think it's the ocean. The ocean and mountains. I have apparently this pathological need to do anything that involves boards under my feet and going at really high speeds. And I think the reason for that is that my mind races really, really fast. I have a hundred ideas at a time and I have to be able to slow it down. And when you're going 40 miles an hour on a snowboard if you don't slow down your mind and focus on exactly what you're doing, the consequences are severe. You're gonna end up getting hurt really badly. And so as a result it tends to shut down this sort of idea of logic and linear thinking and you're just in the zone. And it's funny, I've often literally just hit the end of a run and suddenly an idea comes to me like that when I get to the bottom of a mountain. Or if I'm in the water I drop into a wave and the moment I drop into the wave, like everything goes silent. But then I'm done with the wave and suddenly I have this idea for something I wanna write about. And I get back home and I can write about it. And I've often found not only does it help with coming up with ideas, but when you return to your working environment you're able to focus much more easily. You tend to be much more zen-like. And I think part of it is because of the fact that you've chosen to unplug and effectively shut off the flow of information. So when you slow things down in your physical world you also slow things down in your mental world and so as a result when you come back to your working space you're able to so more effectively.

Ratings and Reviews

Melissa Dinwiddie

What a fabulous class! Srini covered one actionable idea after another that can be implemented immediately to fuel creativity right out of the gate. And the beautiful thing is that each tactic builds on all the others, so every little step you take will improve your overall systems. I loved the stories from his podcast and the guest speakers, too. My only complaint was that some of the slides had a lot of text on them -- too much to read. Other than that, it was well-organized, thoughtful, and super useful. I've already recommended it to several people in passing.

Kathryn Kilner

This is a great course for anyone pursuing creative work. It is easy to get distracted in the modern world and Srinivas provides practical insights and tested systems for empowering creatives to focus and get more done. Although I've read a lot about how to optimize my habits, I was challenged in this course to think differently about how I structure my time and my work space. The changes I've made have helped me be more productive.

a Creativelive Student

I've watched many CreativeLive courses. While I find many interesting, there are only a handful that capture my attention from beginning to end. This was one of those. The speaker mentioned countless gems that were applicable not only to creativity and productivity, but to how one lives daily life. There were multiple "deep thoughts" and several practical ways to alter one's environments (including physical and mental) in order to enhance productivity and general well-being. I've already implemented a few suggestions, and am anxious to revisit my notes on this course repeatedly.

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