Creative Cliff Illusion, Lessons from a Father, & More
Today at a Glance
- Question: The tiny things you're thankful for.
- Quote: Dare mighty things.
- Framework: Creative Cliff Illusion.
- Tweet: Lessons from a father to his kids.
- Article: Failure into success.
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Question to experience new gratitude:
What tiny things are you thankful for?
American author Kurt Vonnegut delivered a beautiful commencement speech at Rice University in 1998.
In the speech, he closed with a story I love:
Up to this point this speech has been new stuff, written for this place and this occasion. But every graduation address I've delivered has ended, and this one will, too, with old stuff about my Uncle Alex, my father's kid brother.
A Harvard graduate, Alex Vonnegut was locally useful in Indianapolis as an honest insurance agent. He was also well-read and wise. One thing which Uncle Alex found objectionable about human beings was that they seldom took time out to notice when they were happy.
He himself did his best to acknowledge it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and he would interrupt the conversation to say, "If this isn't nice, what is?"
So, I hope that you Adams and Eves in front of me will do the same for the rest of your lives.
When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud: "If this isn't nice, what is?"
There are a lot of tiny beautiful things in life that are easy to miss if you're moving too fast to appreciate them. When we recognize them—when we lean into gratitude—we find new joy and happiness in our lives.
Here are a few tiny things I'm thankful for:
- The moment the sun breaks through the clouds and hits your face on an otherwise cloudy day. Like it has chosen you to be touched by its warmth.
- Driving on a quiet backroad during the peak of New England autumn foliage. Colors so beautiful that you could be looking at a painting.
- When your favorite song comes on the radio by chance. Bonus points if it's on a nice day and you can roll down the windows and sing it out loud with the wind in your hair.
- Getting into bed at 6:30 PM on a Friday night after a long week.
- When the airplane WiFi actually works on a long flight.
What about you? What tiny things are you thankful for?
Reply to this email and spread the goodness.
The courage to stand in the arena:
"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt
Always stand in the arena. Dare mighty things.
The truth about unlocking creativity:
The Creative Cliff Illusion
When researchers asked study participants to predict their creativity level over the course of a brainstorming session, their responses were remarkably consistent:
People believe that creativity peaks at the very beginning of a session and then declines precipitously with time.
The participants were then placed in a brainstorming session to assess their actual creativity against these consistent predictions.
The results were fascinating:
Creativity actually increased during the course of the session, leveling off in the latest periods after rising steadily in the earlier periods.
We assume we will get less creative as time goes on—that we will hit a "creative cliff" in our session—but the reality is very different.
Quoting from the study:
We demonstrate that people systematically misunderstand their own creativity across an ideation session. Eight studies found that people expect their creativity to decline across an ideation session when it, in fact, tends to improve or persist (we call this misprediction the creative cliff illusion). These beliefs are consequential because they lead people to undervalue ideation: They exhibit less task persistence and lower creative performance.
The most creative ideas emerge when we give ourselves the freedom and space to sit in the creative mud long enough.
If you are feeling creatively stuck, avoid frustration and allow yourself to persist. Scientifically, sticking with it may be what is required to feel that "a-ha!" moment of clarity.
Life lessons from a father to his kids:
This stopped me in my tracks. It's a letter from a father to his young children, written just before he passed.
So many gems, a beautiful compass for navigating life's waters.
Join me in sending love and warmth to Samantha and her three children.
How to turn failure into success:
This article covers the interesting story of how a research "failure" led to the discovery of psychological safety (and its importance in the world).
My most important takeaway was that there are two kinds of people:
- People who respond to unexpected failure by sulking, blaming others, or bemoaning their bad luck.
- People who respond to unexpected failure by digging in, getting curious, and learning more.
Some of history's greatest success stories come from Type 2 people who dive deeper after an unexpected failure.
Be a Type 2 person!