Book Reviews

The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

9. The Accidental Creative - Todd Henry

Get it on Amazon

Rating: 7/10

Date of reading: 13th – 21st of February, 2018

Description: If there is one thing that creatives hate is when someone who is not creative tells us how we should be creative. Luckily, Todd Henry walks the talk (for over 20 years) and he knows what he’s talking about because of the results he and his company provided (and still provide). The concept in the book, when implemented, make you a professional creative instead of just an amateur who dabbles around.


My notes:




“On our best days it seems almost unfair that we get paid to do what we do, but on our worst days our jobs feel pretty much like any other” ( :9)

“For the traditional creatives, such as designers, writers, visual artists, musicians, and performers, this book will help you establish enough structure in your life to get the most out of your creative process. It will also teach you how to stay engaged and prolific over the long term, which is often a problem for artists who must produce continually on demand.” ( :9)

“If you want to deliver the right idea at the right moment, you must begin the process far upstream from when you need that idea.” ( :10)

“It’s not what you know that matters, it’s what you do. Regardless of what others may promise, there are no quick fixes or easy steps to supercharge your creativity. You will unleash your latent creative ability through regular, purposeful practice of the principles in this book. There are most certainly insights and “aha!” moments to be found in these pages, but knowledge alone won’t do the job any more than knowing the fundamentals of how to exercise will keep you physically healthy. You must be purposeful and intentional. The results are worth it.” ( :12)




“”create on demand.” You go to work each day tasked with (1) inventing brilliant solutions that (2) meet specific objectives by (3) defined deadlines. If you do this successfully you get to keep your job. If you don’t, you get to work on your résumé. The moment you exchange your creative efforts for money, you enter a world where you will have to be brilliant at a moment’s notice. (No pressure, right?)” ( :16)

“I’ve worked with have looked at me skeptically, and even angrily, when I talk about being more purposeful about where they spend their time and energy. To them, creativity flows freely from a spigot; they can work fifteen-hour days with little reprieve and no apparent side effects. But eventually this kind of behavior catches up to you. When you violate the natural rhythms of the creative process, you may initially produce a very high volume of work, but you will eventually find that you’re not producing your best work.” ( :16)

“Prolific + Brilliant + Healthy = producing great work consistently and in a sustainable way” ( :17)

“This is the most effective way to live and work. It means producing a large volume of high-quality work over long periods of time. In my experience, most creatives consistently perform very well in two of these areas, but are lacking at least one of them. For instance, Prolific + Brilliant – Healthy = Burnout” ( :17)

“Hard work is an absolute necessity if you want to do anything worthwhile. In fact, if you apply the principles in this book, you will probably end up working harder than you ever have in your entire career. But what you must avoid is the kind of frenetic activity that seems like productivity but is really more about the appearance of being busy than the actual accomplishment of effective work.” ( :17)

“Healthy + Prolific – Brilliant = Fired” ( :18)

“I had a sudden insight. I couldn’t see atmospheric pressure, so I hadn’t been aware of its power prior to this little experiment. I didn’t consider its potential influence until Dr. Miller’s karate chop showed me how it could be leveraged to accomplish a task—breaking a plank.” ( :19)

“”The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” —Orson Welles” ( :19)

“The reality is that we are not capable of operating without boundaries. We need them in order to focus our creative energy into the right channels. Total freedom is false freedom. True freedom has healthy boundaries.” ( :19)

“In fact, he wasn’t producing much work at all. The highly capable, broadshouldered manager had vanished, and in his place was a drifting, overwhelmed slacker.” ( :20)

“Focus, Relationships, Energy, Stimuli, and Hours. Let’s take a look at how Amos is affected by each of these five areas:” ( :21)

“one that is independent of the pressures and expectations you face each day.” ( :23)

“If we could harness the sum total of wasted energy each day in the workplace, we could probably power the earth for a year. There is so much ineffective work because there is often a lack of clarity around what we’re really trying to do.” ( :24)

“When you go “outside yourself,” it frees you up and unlocks latent parts of your creativity. If you want to thrive, you need to systematically engage with other people, in part to be reminded that life is bigger than your immediate problems.” ( :25)

“you need to shake yourself of our collective obsession with time efficiency and learn instead to focus on effectiveness.” ( :28)

“There are a nearly infinite number of possible solutions to any given problem, and if you explore long enough you will almost always uncover another one. In many ways, the creative process is a never-ending chase after the possible.” ( :29)

“”You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” —Jack London” ( :29)

“Organizations organize. It’s their reason for being. And organization is good, because it allows groups of people to leverage assets more efficiently and scale in ways that aren’t possible for individuals.” ( :31)

“the ideal of the lone innovator, slaving away in the garage or studio to bring a vision to life, the reality is that most of the time brilliant creations are the result of teams of people stumbling awkwardly into the unknown.” ( :31)

“Strong organization is critical for teams of people who want to accomplish great things in the world, and a critical element of that organization is the ability to lead by establishing a culture obsessed with execution.” ( :31)

“”History is made by passionate, creative people and organizations with the rare ability to lead others —and themselves.”” ( :31)

“This dynamic manifests itself in three tensions: the time-versus-value tension, the predictable-versus-rhythmic tension, and the product-versus-process tension.” ( :32)

“A worker exchanges a certain number of hours per week for a fair wage. If you are a good worker, you work hard all day long for your paycheck, and then at quitting time you go home and forget about your job for the evening.” ( :33)

“As a creative worker, you’re not really paid for your time, you’re paid for the value you create.” ( :33)

“completion anxiety. Because we’re capable of working at all times—our mind goes with us everywhere, after all—we continue working on our projects for as long as we possibly can. We’re never really certain when we’ve done enough.” ( :33)

“In spite of the increasing flexibility that many workplaces are introducing and the growing number of freelancers, many of us are actually working more hours than ever because it’s so difficult to draw the line between work time and nonwork time.” ( :33)

“As a creative, you probably have latitude in defining your course of action on your projects. You may have a general sense of direction or some objectives, but you continually face the question: What do I do next?” ( :34)

“because there is tremendous opportunity cost associated with getting it wrong. It’s possible to spend hours or even days heading down the wrong trail if you make one bad choice about where you should be spending your time and energy. This pressure can be paralyzing, especially when you’re working on critical and timely work.” ( :34)

“As we backed our way through the previous instructions, we realized that we’d been off by a few degrees in one of the first few steps. Now that we were several instructions down the list, the compounding effect of that one mistake had led us significantly off course.” ( :34)

“”Fe w things in life are less efficient than a group of people trying to write a sentence. The advantage of this method is that you end up with something for which you will not be personally blamed.”” ( :35)

“It takes an incredible amount of willpower not to work when we are technically off the clock. Additionally, many of us love the work we do and would probably rather be working than doing any of the many other things we could be doing. We’re actually choosing to work perpetually! We’ve adopted a working lifestyle. It’s as natural to us as blinking and breathing.” ( :35)

“Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes, “One thing about creative work is that it’s never done. In different words, every person we interviewed said that it was equally true that they had worked every minute of their careers, and that they had never worked a day in all their lives. They experienced even the most focused immersion in extremely difficult tasks as a lark, an exhilarating and playful adventure.”” ( :36)

“After all, how can we predict when business-changing insights will occur? How do you create a system that ensures that only the best ideas are executed, and that the not-so-good ones fade away? Because these problems depend on the discretion and insights of individuals, tension is inevitable” ( :37)

“Eve ry organization begins as an advance force and ends up as an occupying force.” ( :37)

“But over the long term, a healthy, rhythmic creative process is capable of creating an exponential return on resources. The problem is that we often don’t experience these exponential returns because we—or the organization—are not comfortable with the sometimes less productive times in the short term. In other words, in the effort to cut off the troughs we inadvertently cut off the peaks as well.” ( :37)

“Imagine that, at some point in the next week, I show up randomly at your workplace and take a photo of you working. You don’t know when I will appear, but I am going to base your salary and next promotion on the content of that snapshot. If I catch you at a time when you are especially productive, things will work out well for you. If I happen to catch you on a coffee break, you might want to start packing your things. Does this sound a little silly and arbitrary? Of course. But a very similar thing happens within organizations.” ( :38)

“Many managers subconsciously take a snapshot of how someone is doing right now and use that as the metric for the worker’s overall performance. What is potentially devastating is when the organization catches the creative at a peak of productivity.” ( :38)

“Over time, as a matter of self-protection, creatives begin to conserve their energy and take their shots where they seem most effective rather than pour themselves fully into their work, because they don’t want to have to sustain such a high level of output over time. As a result, they plug along, meeting their objectives, but knowing deep down that they could do better work. This can cause them to feel disconnected from the work, from their coworkers, and from the organizational mission.” ( :38)

“• Do you know what’s expected of you right now? Tell me what you think are your top three priorities. • What expectations do you have of me, and am I meeting them?” ( :39)

“The organization is primarily concerned with the finished product, but 99 percent of what we do as creatives is process.” ( :40)

“”never knowing what’s over the next hill.” She said that she’s more than willing to work hard, but that it’s difficult to fully expend herself creatively when she’s not certain that her work will result in approval, especially when objectives are less than clear.” ( :40)

“Because many organizations spend a lot of energy both on generating ideas and vetting the finished product, but very little time and effort creating healthy systems and expectations around the bulk of the work, which is the long process between idea and product.” ( :41)

“Working in the create-on-demand world, expected to be constantly on, you probably experience each of these side effects on a regular basis. Just like your car may continue to run for a while in disrepair, you can be very effective in short bursts, even violating your natural rhythms for a time, but eventually the negative side effects will catch up to you in the form of these symptoms.” ( :43)

“One of the tools that film composers use to create this effect is dissonance. Dissonance is a musical term used to describe two notes played simultaneously that seem as if they don’t belong together and don’t resolve.” ( :44)

“”Some time s the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” —Dr. Seuss” ( :44)

“dissonance within organizations exists when the “why” of our work isn’t lining up with the “what” of our day-to-day activity.” ( :44)

“”We deliver innovative solutions to clients!” (But just give the clients whatever they ask for.) “We value team and collaboration!” (But really, just do what we tell you and don’t ask questions.) “We value our people!” (But we’re going to have to ask you to work again this weekend.)” ( :44)

“1 + 1 = [ [ (9 × 3) / 3 ] / 3 ] – 1” ( :46)

“”Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” —Charles Mingus” ( :46)

“We make things very complex in order to mask the reality that, deep down, we’re confused about our true objectives. Some of us (myself included) use unnecessary complexity as a mask for insecurity. (If we aren’t certain we can nail the project, we’ll at least confuse the heck out of them and show them how smart we are.) This is” ( :46)

“a waste of creative brainpower and does nothing to get us closer to our objectives.” ( :47)

“After many arguments and near brawls, we had to explain to the kids that it might be a good idea to clarify the rules of the game before they start playing. If they don’t, how will they know what “winning” even looks like?” ( :48)

“It’s astounding to me how often I encounter people who are stuck on a creative problem and can’t articulate what they’re trying to accomplish. They have no idea what a “win” will look like. They’re just running around in circles and waiting for someone to declare that the game is over.” ( :48)

“This problem stems from our difficulty parsing project strategy from creative strategy. Project strategy boils down to the five W’s: Why? Who? What? When? Where? The creative strategy lies in how we plan to accomplish these objectives.” ( :48)

“For every project, answer the following questions to determine the project strategy: Why? Why are we undertaking this work? What purpose does it serve? Who? Whose approval is required? Who needs to be involved in the work? Who are we reaching? What? What are we really trying to accomplish with this project? (No consultant-speak. Be very concrete.) When? What are the hard (and soft) deadlines for the work? When will it be implemented? Where? Where will the work be done? Where will the results of work appear? Finally, once—and only once—we’ve established the project strategy we can work on the creative strategy:” ( :48)

“How? How will we accomplish these objectives? What is the most appropriate way to solve these problems?” ( :49)

“Because so many teams begin with execution (creative strategy) and skip over the objectives (project strategy), dissonance creeps into the work. We must make certain that the why (project strategy) and the how (creative strategy) line up.” ( :49)

“Overall, though they’re initially suspicious about this objectives-clarifying process, clients are typically thrilled with the results.” ( :49)

“five W’s: Why? Who? What? When? Where? Or are you starting with execution: How?” ( :49)

“As a result, we can spin our wheels trying to solve a problem without a true understanding of what we’re really being asked to do. These little incongruities affect our creating, clouding our thinking. The more opaque the decision-making process, the more likely that misinterpretation and misalignment will follow.” ( :50)

“often be vague and unsupported requests to “clean this up” or “make that element slightly more dominant.” This created a lot of dissonance for the junior designers as they attempted to do the work without understanding why they were being asked for specific changes. I helped these leaders understand that being more specific about the reason for their direction—for example, “The client thinks the design is too busy” or “The client wants this to draw more attention to itself”—would help clarify the objectives and allow their designers to introduce other potential solutions.” ( :50)

“If you can better align the why and the how in your life, you will experience more creative accidents.” ( :50)

“Sound familiar? It’s often the case that because of a fear of what might happen if they make a mistake, creatives play it safe. They elevate the potential consequences of making a mistake to unhealthy (and unrealistic) levels and, in order to avoid those consequences, do mediocre work.” ( :52)

“Do I really want to knock this one out of the park? Do I really want to set myself up for that kind of future expectation? What will everyone else think? Will I be able to continue to sustain that pace? Can I continue to provide creative insight at that level? Maybe I should pace myself instead.” ( :55)

“improvisational violinist Stephen Nachmanovitch writes, “It’s great to sit on the shoulders of giants, but don’t let the giants sit on your shoulders. There’s no room for their legs to dangle!”” ( :60)

“improvisational violinist Stephen Nachmanovitch writes, “It’s great to sit on the shoulders of giants, but don’t let the giants sit on your shoulders. There’s no room for their legs to dangle!” In other words, there is a form of oppression that emerges when we allow the work of our influences or competitors to drive our creating in an unhealthy way.” ( :60)

“We often reject ideas that seem too simple or too obvious out of hand. If something is simple, the thinking goes, it must be ineffective. But the greatest performers across a wide spectrum of fields understand that the most basic and fundamental practices ultimately lay the foundation for brilliant results.” ( :62)

“Coach Lombardi understood that the foundation of every great work is a solid grasp of the fundamentals. He was sending a message to his team that no matter how great their accomplishments, and no matter how talented they are, the only path to consistent, long-term success is to maintain focus on the basics as the foundation for everything you do.” ( :62)

“Remember that common sense is not common practice, and that people who succeed are often those who do the little, everyday things that others won’t.” ( :62)




“lock in on the heart of the problem quickly (define), establish your game plan to center your activities around the most crucial priorities (refine), and organize your work so that you’re minimizing distractions and staying on course (cluster).” ( :64)

“What my son experienced is something we must guard against in our creative work. Our minds are excellent at solving problems and forming patterns. It’s the primary reason we’re able to survive past the age of two. We learn from our experiences, and some of those lessons keep us from making mistakes that could significantly harm us, like touching a hot stove or punching someone bigger than us. But this ability to connect the dots can also cause us to adopt false assumptions about cause and effect.” ( :65)

“assume that because something has always been done a certain way, that must be the one and only right way to do it.” ( :65)

“Any good statistician differentiates between causality and correlation. There’s a critical difference between “these two things happened at the same time” and “this thing caused that thing to happen.”” ( :66)

“One manager I encountered had developed a ritual for getting to work very early in the morning as a way to get a head start on the day. This practice was remarkably effective for a while, but over time his productivity in these times began to wane significantly. His solution? Get up earlier! Get to work sooner! But this didn’t improve his performance.” ( :66)

“I despise spiders more than just about anything else in the world. After ushering him into the spider afterlife, I practically took the office apart looking for any of his eight-legged colleagues before resuming my morning study routine.” ( :66)

“Here’s the thing: every single morning thereafter, I inspected the cushions for unwanted guests. That’s 1 minute per day for 365 days, or about 6 hours a year of wasted energy trying to prevent something that hadn’t happened since. I developed a permanent system to protect against something that had happened once. (I’ve since realized the error of my ways and stopped the ritual.) This was significantly misplaced focus and energy based on a one-time negative experience.” ( :67)

“The Ping even has a life philosophy for me: “Something out there is more important that whatever is right here.”” ( :68)

“Author Linda Stone coined a term for the way many of us are living: “continuous partial attention.” We’re always kind of here, and kind of somewhere else. (We’ve had to pass laws to prevent people from text messaging while driving with their knees at 65 miles per hour!)” ( :69)

“Drivers have a very strong sense of what they’re trying to do, and they typically follow a prescribed system for accomplishing their work. But in their effort to drive to the end objective, they often overlook or discount opportunities. Drivers have a narrowfocus horizon. They are too microscopically focused on the objective (as they saw it from the beginning) and are often reluctant to redirect their energy when new opportunities emerge in the course of their work. They’re simply too busy trying to get through the project to respond to new insights that—they fear—could lure them off track.” ( :70)

“Inventor Charles F. Kettering famously said that “a problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.”” ( :72)

“• What are the key functions teams need to collaborate online? • How do we enable remote creative direction for leaders? • How can team members share inspiration for projects? • How can team members most effectively share opinions and collaborate around ideas? • How do we give leaders a quick look at their team’s progress?” ( :73)

“• Separate your conceptual/creative time from your concrete /task time. When you fragment your day with fifteen minutes of design or writing, ten minutes of invoicing and time tracking, five minutes of e-mail, et cetera, you are paying a significant task-switching penalty. Try to give yourself—as much as you are able—no less than a half hour of uninterrupted time whenever you are doing design, writing, or other largely conceptual work, and an hour is preferable. If the projects don’t require that much time, try to cluster a few together. Not only will this help you stay focused longer, you will also regain a significant amount of time wasted by switching programs, moving windows around on your screen, and quickly checking that funny little headline that caught your eye.” ( :78)

“The key to cultivating creatively stimulating relationships is threefold: you need relationships in your life in which you can be real, you need relationships in your life in which you can learn to risk, and you need relationships in your life in which you can learn to submit to the wisdom of others.” ( :80)

“two critical elements of any successful relationship: intimacy and generosity.” ( :82)

“”Anyone can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success.” —Oscar Wilde” ( :82)

“The other crucial element of successful relationships is generosity. The creative process is an inherently generous act. Whether we are developing a strategy or crafting a piece of art, creating is primarily about sharing our insights and perspectives with others.” ( :82)

“But there are other people who derive their energy from filling other people’s buckets. They love the thrill of seeing other people come alive, of collaborating, of giving away their ideas and subsequently the credit they deserve. They recognize that more ideas will always come, but investing in relationships and maintaining an ethic of generosity yields results we can’t gain when we hold tightly and selfishly to what we think we deserve.” ( :82)

“are not wired to do life alone; the more we can network ourselves with others, the better. In his book The Neuroscience of Human Relations, professor and clinical psychologist Louis Cozolino says that “without mutually stimulating interactions, people and neurons wither and die.”” ( :84)

“transformative in a small group. I find it incredibly enlightening to hear what is inspiring the hearts and minds of those I admire; this question is the one that generates the most additions to my list of items to read or experience, because each time I ask it I end up with at least a few (or a few dozen!) books, magazine articles, or movies to experience.” ( :86)

“For example, one aspiring writer I met with was concerned that he wasn’t producing good enough work and that he was instead just cranking out drivel. As a result, he found that he wasn’t writing as often as he should have been, in spite of my advice to write no less than a thousand words per day, every day.” ( :87)

“By acting, we make things concrete; action breeds motivation, not the other way around.” ( :88)

“I have multiple people in my life with whom I’ve practiced these head-to-heads. One of them, Keith, is a neuroscientist, and though both our jobs require us to travel, we try as often as possible to get together to share our latest insights about creativity, science, and the brain. I have had numerous eureka moments sitting on Keith’s porch as we shared what we were learning from the latest book we’d read, the latest research paper we’d seen, or the latest conversations we’d had with others in our network. Many of our conversations have been formative in how I understand the creative process and have helped me significantly in my day-to-day work” ( :89)

“What are you currently interested in or curious about? What have you read or experienced recently that you think the other person knows very little about? What new insights or thoughts have you had that are ripe for application? These are all good topics for your head-to-head time.” ( :90)

“I give quite a bit of latitude to certain people in my life to speak truth to me. Sometimes it stings, but the temporary sting of unwanted truth is much easier to bear than the harsh sting that comes after a prolonged period of living in a world of imagined invulnerability.” ( :91)

“If you are meeting for breakfast, coffee, or drinks, you should always pick up the bill. There are people in my core team who make much (much!) more money than I do, but I always pay any expenses related to our meeting. Why? Because I need to remind myself, and them, that I see this as an investment in myself and in our relationship. By picking up the check I am ensuring that I maintain the mind-set that my core team’s time is valuable and that my time with them is an investment.” ( :92)

“Choose visionaries. At least one member of your core team should be someone who is a dreamer or a visionary. You want the kind of person who makes others nervous with the intensity” ( :92)

“and scope of his ideas. You want at least one person who will push you and challenge you to think uncomfortable and challenging thoughts.” ( :93)

“Take your relationships seriously and treat them with purpose. You will be rewarded many times over.” ( :93)

“Each and every second, we encounter millions of stimuli in our environment, but we are conscious of only a few at any given time. Right now you are likely feeling the weight of this book (or your ereader) in your hands, the pressure of your chair on your rear, and the temperature of the air around you. But chances are you weren’t thinking about any of these before I called them to your attention. That’s because the only way you are able to survive as a human is by selectively ignoring stimuli that aren’t immediately relevant.” ( :98)

“As mentioned above, each choice you make to do something is a choice not to do something else. I’m often reminded of something my father-in-law used to tell my wife when she was a child: “You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.” That’s opportunity cost in a nutshell.” ( :104)

“Rather, the keeper removes young, unproductive branches so that much-needed nutrients can get to the older, fruit-bearing parts of the vine. If the young growth isn’t pruned back, the vine will bear less fruit and eventually produce none at all.” ( :105)

“If the young growth isn’t pruned back, the vine will bear less fruit and eventually produce none at all.” ( :105)

“things we need to prune from our life are very good things. They are projects we enjoy, new ideas we are excited about, or relationships we would prefer to continue. It can be difficult to eliminate things from your life that are giving you immediate joy and seem to be doing no harm. In fact, it can seem downright sadistic to deny yourself the pleasure of working on a project that you love and to which you can add unique value.” ( :106)

“In many ways, you are defined by what you say no to. In design, they call this “negative space.”” ( :106)

“This is like a football team’s deciding not to block because they’re so close to the goal line.” ( :107)

“Activitie s that feed your energy, such as adequate sleep, exercise, or spiritual practice. While these should be obvious inclusions in every season, they are often significantly neglected during the busy times. But these are just the times when we need them the most. This is like a football team’s deciding not to block because they’re so close to the goal line. It’s selfdestructive to ignore the fundamentals when you are at your most busy and critical times professionally.” ( :107)

“• Is this having a negative impact on my red-zone efforts or my overall ability to stay energized in my life and work? • Has this become more obligation than opportunity? Have I lost my passion for and interest in this? • Could this be deferred until later and have a greater effect? • Am I unhappy with my current results? • Do I have a nagging sense that I need to go in a new direction with this project?” ( :109)

“It’s likely that something you say no to today will become one of your top priorities next month.” ( :109)

“David Allen teaches a principle in his book Getting Things Done called the “Someday/Maybe”” ( :109)

“single greatest determining factor in whether you are the superstar who burns out on the altar of short-term productivity or the one who thrives for a lifetime.” ( :110)

“Brown went on to show viewers that the taxi ride to the office building had strategically featured several items designed to draw the attention of the ad execs. These items, such as a conspicuously placed lyre, a poster with the phrase “The Best Place for Dead Animals,” and a trip past the London Zoo, had made subconscious impressions that were quick to reemerge as they scrambled to generate concepts.” ( :111)

“There is an old saying about health and nutrition, that “you are what you eat.” This means that the kinds of food you put into your body will ultimately affect your physical being and your mobility and interaction with the world. If you regularly consume junk food rather than healthy, nutritious food, your health will eventually fail. If, however, you ensure that the staples of your diet are healthy and nutritious, you can occasionally snack on junk food with little concern. It’s all about choice and following healthy principles with regard to diet.” ( :113)

“Why would you go to the museum of art to learn more about a steak restaurant? Because it led to a breakthrough idea for turning a place you eat a steak into a place where you experience the finer things in the world.” ( :113)

“I’ve learned from Accidental Creative that you are what you take in, so as a team we always try to take in the best.”” ( :113)

“A good rule of thumb is that every single day should include some kind of stimuli that is directed at your personal growth (working through a book, studying a skill or technique, et cetera) and some kind of stimuli that you’ve sought out for purposes of advancing your work (an industry trend report, a research study, a trade magazine).” ( :114)

“”I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.” —John Adams” ( :116)

“Benjamin and Rosamund Zander write in The Art of Possibility, “The frames our minds create define—and confine—what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every deadend we face in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.”” ( :117)

“Whe re are you lacking information that you will need over the next three months?” ( :118)

“Your personal curiosities can range from broad subject matter (mathematics, physics, ancient Rome, the Revolutionary War) to specific skills you’d like to learn (cooking, gardening, woodworking). Pursue these subjects because you’re personally passionate about them, not out of obligation. These are your guilty pleasures, although there’s nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, this category should make up about half of your study plan.” ( :118)

“In his book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, author and USC president Stephen Sample suggests that we spend the majority of our study time focusing on what he calls the “supertexts.” These are the works that have stood the test of time—Sample uses the examples of Machiavelli’s The” ( :118)

“Prince, various religious texts, and Plato’s Republic—in other words, texts proven by longevity to speak to the deeper human condition.” ( :119)

“Rather than reading the derivatives, Sample believes that we’d be better served to go directly to the sources.” ( :119)

“Once you have determined the items that will be a part of your study plan, you may want to keep a Stimulus Queue. This is a place where you keep a list of items you plan to read, experience, or study. The most effective practice is to establish regular times for study in your schedule, then to work through your queue in sequential order during those times.” ( :119)

“The danger in this is that we stop thinking “what’s best?” and instead worry only about “what’s next?”” ( :120)

“The goal of study is not simply to absorb a lot of new information. You want to process and assimilate it, then apply it to your life and work. If you don’t cultivate insights from what you take in, then the value of stimuli in your life decreases dramatically. Taking good notes on your observations, insights, and experiences with a reliable thought-capture system prevents them from disappearing into the ether.” ( :121)

“How many times has a solution to a problem suddenly popped into your head and seemed so obvious that you thought there was no way you could forget it, and then you almost immediately did?” ( :121)

“Many great and creative minds of history have made a practice of voracious note taking as a way of sorting their thoughts and processing their experiences. In his acclaimed biography of John Adams, David McCullough writes of Adams’s habit of making notes in the margins of his books. “At times the marginal observations nearly equaled what was printed on the page,” he explains, “as in Mary Wollstonecraft’s French Revolution, which Adams read at least twice and with delight, since he disagreed with nearly everything she said. To her claim that government must be simple, for example, he answered, ‘The clock would be simple if you destroyed all the wheels . . . but it would not tell the time of day.'”” ( :121)

“Are there any patterns in what you’re experiencing (or reading) that are similar to something else you’re working on? Often the solutions to your problems will come in the form of analogy or metaphor. If you look for similarities between your day-to-day experiences and the problems you’re working on, you may find unexpected connections.” ( :122)

“”The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function,” F. Scott Fitzgerald” ( :122)

“”One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”” ( :122)

“Author Keith Ferrazzi told me in an interview that he spends an average of an hour each day thinking about and processing information that he’s taken in the previous day. He believes that the processing of information is as critical as the information he takes in.” ( :123)

“If I hadn’t developed the practice of notation, it would have been lost forever.” ( :124)

“pages 77 – 78 of your notebook, you would proceed to the index and record “pp. 77 – 78 /” ( :126)

“Re gularly reviewing your notes is critical to staying alert to potential ideas.” ( :127)

“Remember: the goal of taking notes is to extract potentially useful connections and ideas.” ( :127)

“Again, without regular review, the practice of note taking is fairly useless. It’s not about recording” ( :127)

“what’s happened; it’s about how what’s happened has affected or inspired you. By reviewing them regularly you increase the likelihood that they will be useful to you and that you won’t forget critical insights when things get hectic.” ( :128)

“More than once I’ve told certain members of my team to get out of the office. Leave, and don’t come back—until you’re refreshed. While this seems unproductive on the surface, we’ve often seen breakthroughs for key projects come as a direct result. Team members will come back with excited looks in their eyes and say, “I was walking around a bookstore and saw . . .” or “I was in the park and I thought . . .” The value that results from these small breaks is immeasurable, whereas having a team sitting around pushing pixels in the attempt to look productive is actually significantly less productive.” ( :129)

“The goal is to stretch yourself, to resist the temptation to gravitate toward comfort. In so many ways, comfort is the enemy of creativity.” ( :130)

“Making a break from thinking about ourselves and our problems for a while often frees up insight that is lurking just beneath the surface.” ( :130)

“Much has been written on this subject over time, but common sense is not common practice. Some of the very things that are most helpful to our creative process seem like common sense, but we must not make the tragic mistake of dismissing them because of that.” ( :130)

“”We say we waste time, but that is impossible. We waste ourselves.” —Alice Bloch” ( :131)

“Warning: In the rest of this chapter I will be asking you to commit time to specific practices that will make you more effective. You will be tempted to think, There’s no way I could do this stuff—I don’t have the time. I’d like to challenge you to focus on how you can incorporate these disciplines rather than on all the reasons you can’t.” ( :133)

“We must learn to spend our time effectively rather than obsessing about efficiency. To spend our time effectively means that we are willing to view our time as a portfolio of investments, not as a slot machine.” ( :134)

“In every talk I give at conferences or companies, I ask the question, “How many of you would say that great ideas are critical to the future of your career or your business?” Without hesitation, nearly every hand in the room goes up. I immediately follow with the question, “How many of you had time on your personal calendar this week dedicated exclusively to generating ideas?” Crickets. Nothing. Maybe an occasional hand or two goes up.” ( :135)

“No matter what you say about your priorities, where you spend money and your time will prove them out. As the old saying goes, if you want to know what’s really important to you, take a look at your bank statement and your calendar.” ( :135)

“A method that we’ve found especially helpful to process-oriented creatives is to surround it with a series of questions to stimulate new ways of seeing the problem. Future. What would a solution to this problem look like? What would it feel like? What is the ultimate state that would describe that the problem has been solved? Write a few words, then start generating ideas off of them. Past. What are some assumptions that are presently keeping us in gridlock around this problem? Are there any assumptions that need to be challenged or that could serve as a starting point for idea generation? Try to challenge one of these assumptions by generating ideas designed to disprove it. Conceptual. What are other problems and corresponding solutions that I know of that are similar to this one? Are there any learnings from case studies or other items I’ve been exposed to that could apply to this problem? Try to force a connection between something you’re familiar with and the problem you’re currently working on. Concrete. What are the specific and concrete attributes of the problem? Can the problem be broken down into three words? If so, do these words give me a new way of perceiving or” ( :137)

“attacking the problem? Free-associate new words off these concrete attributes and see if they spark any new ideas.” ( :138)

“Future (a few words indicating what a solution could look like): game, surprise, show, competition, entertainment, thrill, et cetera . . . Past (a few assumptions about what air travel is like): challenging, boring, inconvenient, expensive, rude, uncomfortable, et cetera . . . Conceptual (solutions to similar problems): cruise director, prizes, program director, Disney World ride lines, et cetera . . . Concrete (specific attributes of the problem): delays, cramped, boring interior, bad food, et cetera . . . Once you’ve written ten to twelve words per column, start choosing two words, each from a different column, and see if an idea is sparked. For example: Cruise Director + Surprise = Have special celebrity “hosts” for random domestic flights. s in which they can compete for prizes. Thrill + Boring Interior = Install a projection surface in the aisle of the plane, and a camera on the bottom exterior, then make the aisle look transparent to passengers by projecting a live image of what’s underneath the plane at any given moment.” ( :138)

“Often the first fifteen to twenty minutes of Idea Time will seem fruitless, but as you push through the temptation to check your e-mail or do something on your task list, you will find yourself gaining traction on the problem. It takes our minds a bit of time to adjust and focus on what we’re really trying to do.” ( :138)

“Putting time on your calendar to generate ideas is worth it. It will change your life and your career. Remember: Successful, consistently brilliant people do the little (too obvious, too simple, too commonsensical) things that no one else is doing. This is what will set you apart, too.” ( :139)

“One benefit of Unnecessary Creating is that it gives you the opportunity to regularly experience the phenomenon referred to as “flow.” This is a term coined by researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to describe the sensation of “getting lost” in your work. One of the main contributors to flow is doing work that challenges your skills and requires your full” ( :142)

“You cannot separate your on-demand creating from your personal creating. When you develop skills during your Unnecessary Creating time, you gradually find those same skills and experiences being unleashed in your on-demand creating.” ( :142)

“The phrase “I don’t have time” really means “There are things that are easier/less threatening/more comfortable that I’d rather spend my time on.”” ( :143)

“”Many have gone astray through not understanding how to continue a good beginning.” —Søren Kierkegaard” ( :144)

“with regular analysis of what’s on the horizon. This is the most effective way he’s found to maintain sanity in the midst of chaos. He sets regular reviews of his rhythms, and whenever something seems awry in his life or work, his first question is “Is this a rhythm problem?”” ( :144)

“You probably don’t care about the pipes running through your walls (unless you’re a plumber); you just want the water they deliver. Similarly, you need to be mindful enough of your practices only to ensure that they are present and functioning properly, but remember that they are there to serve you, not the other way around. Any system tends to become more and more cumbersome to maintain over time, and that’s exactly what you must avoid. Simplicity is key. Simple rituals become habits, and good habits yield results.” ( :145)

“Focus: Challenges, the Big 3, Clustering Relationships: Circles, Head-to-Heads, Core Team Energy: Whole-Life Plannin, Pruning Stimuli: Study Plan, Notation, Purposeful Experience Hours: Idea Time, Unnecessary Creating” ( :147)

“The Monthly Checkpoint is an hour per month, preferably at the very end of a month (to plan for the upcoming one). The goal is to recognize trends in your work and to do some strategic thinking about which types of practices will help you most in the coming weeks.” ( :151)

“People are brilliant at developing permanent solutions to temporary problems. Though you may not often recognize it, you probably see this all the time in your organization. This is why we often see big, cumbersome bureaucracies within companies. Many of those bureaucratic systems were developed to deal with pressing problems at some point in the past and have now become energyzapping dinosaurs. It also happens in our personal life. We develop habits to resolve problems, such as e-mail inundation, lack of energy, or a desire for relational connection, but then these habits live on once our needs have been met. The Checkpoints ensure that these personal bureaucracies don’t take over your life and kill your best work.” ( :154)

“It’s like climbing a really tall tree to get your bearing and take a look at the upcoming terrain. It may seem like a temporary diversion, but this can make you much more effective as you continue your journey.” ( :154)

“One additional exercise that has been effective for me is one I learned from my friend Lisa Johnson. She told me in an interview that once every several months she makes a list of all of the things that would “blow her mind” if they happened. For example, big business breakthroughs, people she’d like to meet or work with, or goals she’d like to reach. She relays that many of the items on these lists have actually happened, and she attributes this to the focus she gains from simply writing them down.” ( :158)


“Some may be tempted to ignore this advice because it seems too obvious or irrelevant. I’d like to challenge you that life is too precious to allow for even a week of effort wasted due to being absent from the wheel. Once you get off course, a lot of energy and extra focus is required to bring you back to where you want to be.” ( :159)

“Once you’ve established deep patterns in your life around the practices, you’ll likely notice that insights and ideas are emerging that you’d not expected. This is because you are no longer living reactively but are instead filling your life with more of what really matters to you and piques your interest.” ( :159)

“Over time, many of the practices in this book will become second nature. They will simply become intertwined with your lifestyle and creative process. But like anything else worthwhile, your first efforts will require a tremendous amount of forethought and follow-through.” ( :160)

“creative process and structure your life around them. This will require intentionality, choice, and discipline.” ( :160)

“Intentionality means that you are approaching your life in a systematic way and not haphazardly. You know what you’re about and you’re working a system to make it happen. It means that you must constantly remind yourself of not only what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it (Checkpoints).” ( :160)

“Choice means that by saying yes to a set of practices, you are inherently saying no to a lot of other things. You can do almost anything you want, but not everything you want. What you choose to include in your life has consequences and immediately limits your other choices. Therefore, you must be careful when making commitments so as to not unintentionally limit your opportunities for engagement.” ( :160)

“Remember: Comfort is frequently the enemy of greatness. When you choose to default to comfort, you are choosing to be less effective in your life.” ( :161)

“Discipline involves establishing and hitting specific marks and doing what needs doing regardless of how you feel in the moment. It means that you make decisions when you have clarity and sufficient energy, then you follow through on them regardless of how you feel in the moment.” ( :161)

“The time to decide to go on a diet is not when you’re craving chocolate and the desert tray is waved in front of your face; it’s when you’re in a place of contentment and are able to rationally decide that you’d like to lose a few pounds. Similarly, the time to choose to study, or to build into relationships, is not when we realize you’ve come upon some unexpected free time; it’s when you’re strategically planning your life.” ( :161)

“Once he’d discovered this, he began to align his life with his strengths rather than with what was most comfortable.” ( :161)

“I’ve heard the phrase “busy as a beaver” at least a thousand times in my life, but I don’t think I ever really connected with its meaning. Every day a beaver simply does what it’s wired to do. It diligently performs the task of cutting down trees and moving them around to create dams. While the day-to-day work a beaver does may be relatively unnoticeable, over the course of its lifetime, a small family of beavers will affect the environment around it more than any other creature (except humans). Simply through the process of building dams, which it uses for housing and sustenance, a beaver can (and often does) turn a river into a meadow, or farmland into a lake.” ( :162)

“This is not its intent. It is simply doing what it does, day after day after day, and the ensuing environmental change is simply a result of its activity. The beaver is just being a beaver, and it changes the very world around it.” ( :162)

“We want to know how and when something is going to pay off from the very beginning. But how many of us, like the beaver, would be willing to work a little bit each day on something, all the while not knowing when and whether we will see the results of our labor? This is the benefit of having practices in our life.” ( :162)

“”Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.” —Steve Jobs” ( :162)

“”The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose.” —John Mason Brown” ( :165)

“”What work I have done I have done because it has been play…. Cursed is the man who has found some other man’s work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world. The fellows who groan and sweat under the weary load of toil that they bear never can hope to do anything great. How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains? The product of slavery, intellectual or physical, can never be great.” —Mark Twain” ( :166)

“Some of us believe that if we could only find the perfect job or work for the right company, many of our issues related to lack of fulfillment or occupational frustration would simply vanish. I’ve had this conversation, too many times to count, with creatives considering leaving their job to find something that’s a better fit. While there’s nothing wrong with seeking work that’s fulfilling and that matches our personal skills and goals, often these conversations are less about the job itself and more about unrealistic expectations toward the employer or an overall lack of self-knowledge. Upon leaving their job, many workers find that they are right back in a place of dissatisfaction within a matter of months after taking a new one.” ( :166)

“Our vocation, on the other hand, is what we’re inherently wired for. It’s less likely to consist of a set of tasks and more likely to consist of a set of themes. For example, an accountant may technically describe his job by saying that he balances the books, but what really drew him to his job and continues to drive him to do great work is that he loves bringing a sense of order to the company’s finances. It’s likely that this drive to bring order plays out in areas of his life other than his job. Similarly, a manager may say that he strategizes, resources, and mobilizes his team, but the deeper theme that drives him is seeing people’s potential unleashed. He is likely to seek out opportunities to unleash the potential of others through community service or mentoring programs, though he may not have thought much about why this is the case.” ( :166)

“”vocation” comes from the Latin word vocare, which means “to call.” As we each have” ( :166)

“a unique voice, we also each have a unique way of expressing ourselves through our work. It’s” ( :167)

“Similarly, when we do our work in a way that is aligned with our vocation, we often find that the tiniest effort on our part can have tremendous results. Our vocation is like the “resonant frequency” of our life. While we may never have thought about why, there are certain aspects of our life and work that just seem naturally energizing. By tapping into the resonant themes in these areas, we can unlock a whole realm of creative engagement that can be applied to the tasks we do each day.” ( :168)

“One helpful practice that we initiated on the Accidental Creative site was encouraging our visitors to write a “7 Word Bio.” This is a quick, seven-word statement that expresses the deep passion in their life or work. Some examples of 7 Word Bios on the site include the following: “Help others see the ordinary as extraordinary.” “Using paint to capture amusing social interaction.”” ( :168)

“”A storytelling approach to life and work.” “Imaginatively blending structural elements into the land.” “Sharing my life stories, hoping you relate.” “Igniting people to thrive in their purpose.”” ( :169)

“As author André Gide wrote, “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”” ( :170)

“As author André Gide wrote, “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” This is not to imply that there’s anything wrong with imitation. In fact, it’s one of the critical phases of creative growth. We need to feel free to imitate others as we learn and develop our skills. But it gets tricky when we start making money based solely on our ability to imitate the creative work of others.” ( :170)

“There is no greater reward than that of knowing that you are free from the need to be defined by pay or prestige, and are instead motivated by the very process of doing your work each day. This is how we begin to see the seeds of greatness spring up in our life.” ( :171)

“I once heard a South African friend share the reason behind the urgency with which he approaches his work. He said that many people believe that the most valuable land in the world is found in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, the skyscraper-lined streets of Manhattan, or the diamond mines of South Africa. His contention, however, is that the most valuable land in the world is not in any of these places, but rather in the cemetery, because it is there that we find buried the unsurpassable value of businesses never started, novels never written, and dreams never pursued. He challenged listeners to “die empty.”” ( :172)

“This prompted me to write the words “die empty” on the inside of my notebook and to affix them to the walls at work and home. My goal, each and every day, is to get out of me whatever is inside that is of value to others.” ( :172)

“brand expert Kristian Andersen said, “It’s important to realize that you will be known for what you do, so you’d better get busy doing what you want to be known for.”” ( :172)

“A short list includes Thomas Merton, Steven Pressfield, Seth Godin, Søren Kierkegaard, Parker Palmer, Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, C. S. Lewis, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and Abraham Joshua Heschel.” ( :173)

Check out more book notes at How I Read 90 Books In The Past 2 Years By Reading 20 Pages A Day

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