How To Think Outside the Box

How To Think Outside the Box


Whether you punch the clock, are a serial entrepreneur, or are somewhere in between, you started reading this article because you are a dreamer and a visionary.

Ideas are powerful. People are making millions ­ billions ­ off the ability to come up with “the next best thing.” “Disruption” is the new economic buzzword. Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we define being social; Air bnb gives us cheaper and cooler options when ten years ago we thought Priceline.com was amazing; Uber is making taxis look like horse ­drawn carts and is a more reliable means of transportation in more ways than one.

And not only that ­ thinking outside the box allows us to come up with amazing narratives, cure diseases, and solve problems ranging from world hunger to simple household tasks. Here are a few steps to stretch those “mental muscles” and become a more outside the box thinker.

Step 1: Know What’s Inside the Box

Information is everywhere today. The Telegraph estimated a quarter of the world will be using smartphones by 2016. Use it! Using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and your web browser to stay up ­to-date on what’s going on, being invented and discovered is the bedrock of creativity. For instance: knowing the limitations of Google Glass compared to the Holo Lens compared to the Apple

Watch will get your mind thinking of what solution there may be to the problems that arise with accessible mobile data.Get inundated in your genre of interest, and the problems will almost automatically start turning into solutions in your imagination.

Step 2: Associate with Great Minds

As they say, “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” In a similar sense, the thinkers we most often associate with will rub off on us as well.

There are two kinds of thinkers we can “friend”: simply put ­ the dead or the living. Thanks to the written word, there is no shortage of books by the great thinkers. Read them! As for the living, we have the luxury of not only books but social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, podcasts, etc.) that allow us to follow and communicate directly with the great thinkers of our time. And then there is the non­media aspect: befriending and talking to smart people directly.

Seek out those events and activities around you where wise people go: where people that think recreate and go for enlightenment. Go there and talk to people ­ like minded and not. To paraphrase a wise saying ­ and not to be pretentious ­ but if you want to expand your mind and find you are the smartest person in the room ­ leave!

Step 3: Make a Habit of Coming Up with New Ideas

James Altucher writes for Forbes, WSJ, and TechCrunch. He co­-founded 20 companies and has made a boatload of money. He lost everything twice and yet made it back to the top. His book “Choose Yourself” is ranked on USA Today as one of the 12 Best Business Books of All Time. One of his key pieces of advice is to make a habit out of coming up with new ideas everyday.

Altucher writes that taking a few minutes a day scribbling out ideas ­ be it any topic directly practical to you or not ­exercises the mind in such a way that when presented with day to ­day business or personal problems, you are “mentally muscular” enough to tackle things creatively with ease.

It makes sense.

“No exercise of the mind is a waste of time.” ­ Sherlock Holmes

Whether it be over a notebook or a napkin, over 6AM coffee while you watch the sunrise or in between meetings: come up with new ideas everyday. 99 out of 100 of them may be total hogwash, but eventually, on this regime, flexing your mind’s muscles will be more often golden.

Step 4: No Limits

I recently interviewed Dr. Milton Mueller, one of the founders of internet policy who paved the way for how the internet works ­ something that impacts all of us and is so tightly woven into society. I asked Dr. Mueller towards the end of the interview where he thought the internet would be in future. His answer surprised me.

“I don’t think anyone can predict that,” he said, “You can imagine it will be one way, but in reality it turns out to be greater than you were thinking in the first place.” The most common sense, yet underused method to thinking outside of the box is just that ­ don’t limit your imagination. It’s a common notion with writers to limit yourself in order to be creative: meaning, giving yourself perimeters. For example: your main character is a young woman in her twenties who recently suffered the death of both her parents; she lives over the coffee shop she works at; now she has custody of her five year old brother ­ write what happens next. It’s a very restricted world but only in perception: the walls are determined but there is no ceiling to a writer’s creativity.

In order to really be creative, be able to pull all the stops and consider and evaluate at least as many options as possible. For example: everyone is trying to come up with the next best usage of the internet to disrupt business for the better (Uber, Airbnb, etc.). What if the internet didn’t exist? What is higher and better, comparable but
not? I don’t have an answer for you, but it’s questions like that that great minds dare to ask, and better minds can answer.Believe.

Maybe your name won’t be listed with Newton, Einstein, Marie Curie, Steve Jobs, or Jesus Christ; maybe your ideas won’t cure cancer or solve world hunger. But to think you can’t change the world for the better with your ideas means you absolutely have no chance in doing so (purposefully). To think oppositely opens up a world of indefinite possibilities. You can change the world. Think about it, everyday.

Article by Joe Cunningham.

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