Tag Archives: Creativity

Darling, You Are One In 107 Billion

Congratulations! You are the 107,000,000,000th human born on Earth!

Click here to redeem your prize*

* Your prize is the BBC article from which I got this estimate.

BBC

My first job was as a Runner at the BBC World Service. Amazing and inspiring – Bush House corridors lined with UN Sec-Gens telling stories about how their lifeline, their connection to the world, was the WS.

I vox-popped members of other services to get an international view on stories for Outlook (which in the late 90s was a live, daily, 1hr magazine show) – and ruined the tapes by saying ‘Hmm’ and ‘Oh, right’ in the background instead of leaving the vox pop recordings clean.

I opened the post for Steve Wright’s show and read about a Ugandan factory worker who was 5 mins late every day because he couldn’t miss the end of the show – and when his boss finally challenged him about it and he confessed the reason, the whole company got free breakfast if they came in early to listen to the show on the canteen tannoy.

This all was an inspiration. But most of the people I worked with then are gone – cut. The craft has gone with them. But for me, still at school yet able to go back 4 summers in a row, it was the start. That was the experience that got me into FremantleMedia (worked on The X Factor, Got Talent, etc), and now I’m in Stockholm working in games, running Candy Crush Saga.

I really doubt this would have happened without that experience at the BBC – it gave me a feeling and a love for how something can be made from nothing and can mean so much to so many people around the world.

From our hands, to their minds.

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Laters ~ Todd

Firing Einstein: Unoptimise Your Life

We should definitely fire that Einstein guy. And Newton, slacking off under that tree over there. And as for Archimedes – man, what a waster. Get out of the bath and back to work, ffs.

Inefficiency is the serpent in the garden of our techo-paradise. There’s a crusade against it. Its soldiers ask us: how do we minimise waste, increase output, prioritise correctly?

But necessity is not the true mother of invention – it’s the wicked step-mother, hassling and stressing you out. To invent, you require a little inefficiency.

The Romans had a concept called otium. Senators did it. It means spending time mixing business and pleasure. Cicero, Horace, Livy and Seneca would withdraw to their villas to practice a mixture of relaxing, writing letters to friends, patrons and clients, conducting research, composing works of art and science.

This was unoptimised time. Unoptimised time that produced some of the greatest works of the ancient world. Cicero was an archetypal orator, Horace wrote beautiful poetry, Livy was one of the fathers of history, Seneca wrote the beautiful On The Shortness Of Life (just finished reading it; highly recommended).

For St Augustine, otium was a requirement for creativity. It means making the time and space to think. It’s hard to find, and hard to justify to others. But it will get results.

Unoptimise your life.

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Picture by Jill Heyer, via Unsplash

Read next:

I Quit 200 Hours Too Late

To-do lists

A Couple Of Zeroes

Slides: How Data Can Make You More Creative

Slides from a talk I gave to the 3rd-year media students at Regent’s University in London a few days ago. Lots of examples from TV and from my own experience.

Aim is to offer advice to anyone who is working in / wants to work in a creative industry.

In short, data is important.

Did you make anything today?

Isaac Asimov wrote and edited over 500 books, plus 90,000 letters and postcards.

Did you make anything today?

The best bad singer in the world

I was dating this girl and I wanted her to know how cool I was, so I made her listen to my favourite song at the time, The Beat That My Heart Skipped.

She clearly didn’t like it but she was too polite to say so. So instead she said she thought it was cool that the guy’s voice cracked a couple of times as he sang.

Maybe she thought he was a crappy singer, but so what? Bob Dylan is a crappy singer too – seriously, the guy can barely hold a tune – but I think he’s great and he’s one of the greatest musicians ever. How did that happen?

What Bob Dylan knows is how to get across his emotions. It’s not polished stuff, and nor is The Beat That My Heart Skipped. But it’s raw and open and honest and that’s how you communicate in a way that makes people care.

I read a book by St Augustine in which he says that ‘Words are like feelings dragged through a hedge backwards’ (or something like that, it’s ten years since I read it). The idea is that actually communicating what you think and feel is really difficult. It’s a long way from the brain to the mouth or hand.

The very best writers and speakers and singers and artists find a way to cut through the confusion and clutter. They speak straight to your head and your heart.

It’s like they cut themselves open and let you see what’s really inside of them. And that makes you listen because actually you’re the same.

Underneath all the worries and fears and money and booze and status everyone looks the same. My favourite writers are the ones who remove all those crappy upper layers and let themselves flow out onto the page.

And when someone does that the audience is captivated. They remove their layers too so that they can absorb as much goodness as possible. All we want is to feel connected and to know there are others out there like us so that we know we’re not alone.

So let people see that you’re the same as them.

Don’t worry about polishing and perfecting every last note. Cut through the upper layers. Let your voice crack a little.

Roll the dice

(Russell Westbrook slams it)

 

My girlfriend Emma told me that sports photographers use cameras that take 11 photos per second.

 

(Carmen Basilio beats Tony DeMarco 1955)

 

That’s because everything happens in a split-second, and they don’t know exactly which will be right shot.

 

(Wladimir Klitschko – BOSH!)

 

So instead of taking one shot and hoping it works, they press the button and spread their bets. It’s a focused scattergun approach – you’re taking many shots, but you still need to be in the right place, press the button at the right time, and nail a really great shot.

 

(Bob Beamon breaks the long jump world record in 1968)

 

It’s hard to make something great. But if you roll the dice over and over again, you are loading them in your favour.

 

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A beautifully concise mind

John Nash‘s Princeton PhD dissertation was only 28 pages long, but it produced four seminal papers on game theory and they earned him a Nobel Prize.

Quality over quantity.

The Gap

When you do creative work, progress is neither linear nor inevitable.

Sawyer Hollenshead made a poster out of Ira Glass’s description:

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So I applied to be an astronaut

My life’s ambition is to go into space, so a few years ago I applied to be an astronaut.

At the time anyone could apply to ESA (the European Space Agency), so I went to the doc and to the hospital, had a bunch of tests done, filled out the application form and sent it off.

There was little chance I would succeed. But it made perfect logical sense to try.

There are two ways of getting into space: (1) become a billionaire, or (2) get hired as a professional astronaut. Maybe one day I’ll be a billionaire but I don’t want to count on it. So I just applied.

Actually, all my best decisions are made when I ignore the chances of failure and just do it.

  • Want to learn how to code? Ok, build a website.
  • Want to try building a business? Ok, start one now.
  • Want to find out if teaching would be a good career move? Ok, do it part-time and see whether it’s fun.
  • Like that girl a lot? Ok, ask her out.

These simple decisions are the best.

A) You can’t regret them

If it doesn’t work out, no big deal. You did the logical thing and tried. Your mind is at rest. Ssshh now little brain.

B) You know exactly why you made them

It’s a simple formula. You won’t get confused about your motives. Want something? Ok, have a go.

C) You always gain something unexpected

Building a website taught me how the internet works. Starting a business taught me a million things that I put into a recent post (How I lost £1,500 when I was 23). Teaching part-time right now is making me 10x better at explaining stuff and speaking in public. And the last girl I asked out is going to become my wife next summer, so that one worked out pretty well too.

Worrying about failure kills good decisions. Whenever I worry I lose the magic power to make simple logical decisions and I waste my life fretting. I’m glad that didn’t happen with applying to be an astronaut.

The physical tests and most of the application form were ok, though I couldn’t really disguise my lack of a PhD in astrophysics or biology. The weakest bit though was when I had to describe my experience in radio communications:

I did hospital radio for two years when I was at school. I was a presenter and had my own weekly show.

But since I haven’t actually heard back from ESA, I assume they’ve got me on the reserve list.

Hopefully someone will drop out soon.

 

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