Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman!

I’ve had this book on my shelf for quite some while. I actually started reading it while in Dublin on a business trip some 6-8 months ago – got very amused by it, but at the time I was in the midst of two other books so had to leave it for some while and finish the others first.

A few weeks ago I picked it up again – and what a book! It is very much on course to be the best and most entertaining book I have read all year. There are some hard contenders in the pipeline but in terms of overall entertainment- and take-away-value I think this book is hard to beat.

I think I can describe Mr. Feynman pretty accurately with just one sentence:

The oldest and most knowledgeable child who ever lived

The full title of the book is: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) and especially the subtitle sure does describe Mr. Feynman accurately. His way of looking at the world is just so incredibly inspiring. He really sees the world through the eyes of a newborn child. He can’t encounter anything without having to know how it works. This thirst for knowing how and why things work inspire you to look differently at the world.

He underlines the importance of this several times throughout the book and especially in regards to education. At one point he joins a special advanced biology class, having no prior specific knowledge about biology. He gets a paper assigned which he reads and then has to give a presentation about in front of the class. It’s a paper about muscles, extensors and flexors which uses a cat as an example – there is one problem however; he can’t figure out where they’re located in relation to nerves or the cat itself for that matter. So he finds a “map of the cat” as he calls it and starts his presentation by outlining where all extensors, flexors and nerves are located on the cat. The class interrupts him and says: “Stop, stop – we know that already!” To which he answers:

Oh! – you do? Then no wonder I can catch up with you so fast after you’ve had 4 years of biology.

They has wasted time learning and trying to remember facts that they could have looked up in maximum two minutes time… This analogy is just so important! Why waste your time learning things that you can look up in two minutes? Why not save your precious memory space for knowledge that can actually help you understand both problems and the world in general. Later he also highlights a potential error with this type of learning because it makes you remember certain words, but not understand the underlying principles. This is great for passing an exam but bad for actually applying your knowledge to anything useful.

He also spends quite a lot of time explaining the importance of and joy of teaching others which to him was one of the most important activities of his life. He was by no means a guy that wanted to brag about his knowledge but at the same time he wasn’t afraid to speak up and display how knowledgeable he was either. Applying his curiosity of how things worked made him incredibly capable of applying his knowledge across all domains. This philosophy is exactly what he wanted to come across as he taught classes and had students challenge his beliefs. His Lectures on Physics has for a long time been on my wishlist and has just been amplified by the reading of this book – if only they weren’t so damn expensive!

I could write and highlight so many important points from this book. There are invaluable advice on learning, science, living; even entrepreneurship and how to deal with women – which I found especially amusing and surprising to find in this book. There are so many reasons to pick up this book and the fact that it at times makes you laugh out loud just adds to this.

But to finish of, if you are still not convinced, aren’t sure who this Mr. Feynman actually is or just haven’t seen this before, then please watch this interview with him:

Cleaning up your procrastination

This may come of as a very unconventional tip for breaking procrastination or even hard to believe – I found it that way when I first read it somewhere – but again and again it somehow works for me, so it might work for you.

Even though I keep my productivity in close check and am very much aware of when it starts to drift, I still from time to time find myself struggling with procrastination or trying to fight my way through thick layers of “bran fog”. Sometimes work and creativity just comes easy. Getting in the zone and banging out several hours of creative work just comes as second nature – but then at other times this “zone” just seems to have disappeared altogether.

My usual ques to get into the zone, as for instance the same hour long mix played through earplugs, just do not seem to have any effect. And even the act of sitting down and put on the music is a feat in of itself. As though the body or the head somehow resists putting up the work. This is where this little tip more often than not have helped me tremendously.

Whenever I find myself in this deep hole, walls covered with brain-fog and with a heavy lid of procrastination on top, I clean my shit up.

Quite literally – whenever I end in this situation I will clean up my room/apartment. Whether it being putting everything back to its intended place, cleaning off dust or vacuuming – it just has to look mint again. The reason why this works for me might be that I make these small unconscious notes of where things are not in order or where in the apartment it needs cleaning. They are of themselves not that big of a deal, but they seems to pile up inside my head and at some point they tip over.

You need to clean up at some point anyway and if you are procrastinating you are not getting anything done anyways – so you might as well try cleaning your home.

As U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McCraven says in his commencement speech:

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed”

And then goes on to say:

“Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

The full commencement speech is here if it caught your interest:

Give it a shot – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Constraint inspires creativity – tiny houses documentary

Saw this documentary the other night. Apart from a lot of racing towards the smallest space to live in, I think it was quite inspirational. Of course as the title suggests it preaches minimalism and simple living. The easy part is just to wave them of the table as crazy individuals, but if you stray from that initial impression, I think they are somewhat on to something. The tiny spaces means that they are forced to think quite creatively. It is quite fun to see exactly how creative solutions some of these people have come up with.

My personal favorites is the french guy who lives in an old garage – that solution is just pure genius! I am really impressed by people who can look at such an old and on the face of it; useless place and see those possibilities. Perhaps a close second is the old Spanish tool shed. But just living in those surroundings would make a lot of people happy.

Apart from a lot of people wanting to live more minimalistic, a lot of people are forced to live in rather small spaces because of cost of living in big cities etc. I myself live in a 12 square meter room in Copenhagen in a shared apartment. Before I lived in a 10 times as big house with a 2 story garage of the same size – but I miss absolutely nothing of it. Living small and minimalistic is just as nice with the added upside of less cleaning and less stuff, you are somewhat forced to consider most of your belongings, which I really like. Moving out of that big house and garage was such a nightmare with all the stuff I had managed to gather – without really trying actually, but there was always room for whatever I seemed to stumble upon. Deciding to get rid of it sure was worse than if I had been constrained to not acquire it in the first place.

I would really encourage you to watch the documentary, there are so many fun solutions to storage, that I will almost promise you that you’ll end up inspired to change something at home.

How to be creative and get new ideas

If only I had the right idea.

Where do people get all those ideas from!?

A few of the statements that gets thrown around a lot by people who can’t seem to get their creative mind flowing. They would love to start a new business, find a new way of doing something they love or perhaps find a creative way of re-decorating their house.

They just don’t have any ideas.

The easiest way to keep getting the results you have always got is keep doing what you have always done. Meaning that if you’ve never feel like getting any new ideas, then the easiest way to keep it this way, is keep doing whatever you are doing.

Okay, that is what you are NOT supposed to do. But then the $100 question is – what ARE you supposed to do?

First of, make changes. If you have always driven the same road home from work – try taking another every once in a while. Start reading articles on topics you perhaps otherwise would have avoided. Take up a new hobby, meet new people. Do just about anything differently.

Of course the obvious answer is; that if you are looking to start a new business – start following news about start-ups – see what others are doing. And try not to think of only completely new inventions as possible business ventures. Most innovations are actually spin-offs of something already in existence or knowledge transferred from one domain to another.

But ideas can flourish from just about anything. I have read a great number of business books, but perhaps half of the great business related ideas I have had, came to me while reading fiction or something completely unrelated to business. But if your mind is used to transferring knowledge from one domain to another then your ideas can spawn from just about anything.

Then get into the habit of writing ideas down – whether physical in a book, dictating and recording onto your phone or whatever you’re comfortable with. At first perhaps your ideas are not that great – no matter – you have to start somewhere. What matters is that you get into the habit of recording them.

This has two effects. One obvious of course is that once you get a good idea, you won’t end up forgetting it. But the other perhaps even more important is that ideas form on basis of things you perceive. The more different inputs the more data for your brain to connect and form new ideas upon. When looking through your recorded ideas, what might 2 weeks ago, seem like a totally silly idea, will now with new eyes and knowledge, seem like the best idea if only applied to another domain. So record your ideas – even the shitty ones.

Then finally. Give yourself time to think. Give your mind room to process all the data and connect the dots. If you always keep your mind distracted by watching TV, reading, playing with your phone and never just go for a walk, leaving your phone behind or just sit and let your mind do whatever it wants, then your mind will only react to incoming information and never really have the time to process what’s already there.

Following these steps won’t guarantee that you get your million dollar idea. But as stated previously. If you keep doing what you have always done – you will keep getting what you have always got. Therefore use this as a kick in the butt to start doing things differently, whether this means a new hobby, new travel route or anything in between. Creativity is about connecting impressions, information and experiences – so get out there in the world and experience!