When you have a great idea avoid sharing it in a bad way.

I love ideas. In fact, I love them so much that I create new ideas for a living. And I can’t think of a better job. As a professional creative thinker my ideas help sell products and services. My ideas help name products, build brands and solve problems of all sizes and shapes, except hyperboloids.

Seek A Professional Opinion

In the same way a medical doctor is sought out to offer medical advice, businesses seek me out for creative advice. And I have written some pretty funky, yet effective prescriptions. Like filling a Prevost bus full of ping pong balls with Danica Patrick for Nationwide Insurance. And claiming that a Ski-Doo MX-Z snowmobile is so responsive it knows which butt cheek you’re flexing. And dressing 100 Argentinian men in pink bodysuits for Snickers.

Things I Hate

As much as I love a great idea I hate it when non-professional creatives share their ideas. You’re probably thinking that I am a typical creative A-hole who thinks no one else could possibly have a good idea. (See ‘The No A-holes Rule”). But, Au contraire, mon frère!

Where Great Ideas Come From

I know with 100% certainty that great ideas can, and do come from anywhere. And anyone. There is no monopoly on creativity in a creative department. No, what I abhor about non-creatives sharing their ideas is the way they typically do it.

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Just keep thinking. Just keep thinking.

You’re Doing It Wrong!

I know that probably sounds like I am judging people on their idea sharing etiquette. Or shaming people for the poor idea sharing technique. But that’s not what I am getting at.

What profoundly bothers me when non-professionals share their ideas is how they often discount the idea before they even unwrap it. Nothing takes the punch out of a great idea like introducing it with one of the following phrases:

  • ‘This is probably stupid but…’
  • ‘I’m not creative at all but…’
  • ‘Feel free to shoot this down…’
  • “I’m not the creative person here…’
  • “Here comes a bad client idea…’
  • “Ok, bad account person idea…’
  • ‘What if… no, never mind, bad idea.”

Share Without Apology

These type of apologetic disclaimers are poison to the creative process. Just as improv works on the ‘Yes-And’ Rule, meaning that every idea shared is embraced and built upon, a strong creative development process requires us to embrace fully-baked, half-baked and raw idea as they are presented. Because there is something to build on within every idea.

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Sharing your idea can impact others in profound ways. 

Connect The Dots

Creativity is about connecting disparate elements. So we should all throw our unique thoughts and ideas on the table. Not just the professional creatives and strategists. Clients, account people, media, technologist, sales, engineering and accounting can all add a very valuable perspective. Spouses and children who know the problem to be solved can too.

Loud and Proud

We all need to contribute our ideas without apologizing. Because when you eliminate the disclaimers, and stop unselling your work before you share it, you’ll get a much better reaction. Which makes everyone more comfortable exploring and sharing their ideas in the future.

Key Takeaway

Great ideas can come from everywhere. There is no monopoly on creativity in creative departments and creative businesses. Which means that no one should ever apologize for having a good thought. The best idea wins. It’s that simple. So share your thinking without discounting it. Encourage others to do the same. And let’s recognize and value all the disparate thoughts that helped us build to the best final idea. When you do that you create an environment that generates more great ideas. I should know. I am a professional.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

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17 inspirational quotes on the power of your imagination.

In a normal year my family and I would be heading to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina this week. Unfortunately, our family’s August vacation tradition looks like it has come to an end. Because our kids’ sports obligations have locked us at home for the month of August for the next 9 years. Boo.

Exploring Our Backyard

But when life gives you lemons you have to squeeze them for all they’re worth. That’s why we have been using our weekends to explore interesting attractions closer to home. In the past couple of weeks we have been to the Milwaukee Air and Water Show, The Milwaukee Zoo, The Wisconsin State Fair, The Chazen Art Museum and more state parks than you can shake a state park pass at.

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Devil’s Lake
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Doing what they are posed to do.
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Somewhere between the cream puffs and the fried olives at the Wisconsin State Fair.

The House On The Rock

This weekend we hit one of the most mysterious of midwestern attractions. The House On The Rock. I had heard about this place since I was a small child but really didn’t know what it was, other than the obvious information I gleaned from the name itself. Because I am smart like that.

Imagination At Work

The House On The Rock turned out to be extremely interesting, fun and weird. As the name implies, there is a house built on a rock. But there is a whole lot of interesting stuff housed adjacent to the rock that is hard to wrap your head around, or put into words. So I won’t attempt it here. Suffice it to say The House On The Rock is the product of an active imagination.

Meeting My Quota of Quotes

One of my favorite spaces at THOTR was a room full of inspirational quotes focused mostly on the power of imagination. As an advertising creative I have spent my entire career mining my own imagination. As an entrepreneur I have seen how an entire business can spring from the blueprints of our imagination. So I am sharing some of the quotes I found here. I hope there is something that resonates with you.

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I love the way a good quote can sum up important, yet complex thoughts in a simple, memorable way.
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This is me in a nutshell. Only without the nutshell.
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Less about imagination. More about acting. Or is it smallness? Or getting wasted?
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Call the patent office, because I just invented the future!
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I see what you did there Grant!
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How the ninja turtle saved an angel from a rock.
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This is why so many Moms choose to be Jif.
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More windshield. Less rear view mirror.
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This quote came from someone in a long line of anonymous people.
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He said but.
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This is why Fletch put the bill on the Underhill’s account. #FletchLines
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I think this means Shakespeare wishes that you buy your dish soap at Costco.
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Imagine all the people.
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Satchel thought like Hugh Hefner.
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Apparently I made up my mind to crop this photo too tight.
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Isn’t it ironic how much of Unknown’s work is totally known?
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This was said right before Lewis & Clark stuffed Marcel in a locker.

Key Takeaway

Your imagination is your most valuable asset. It can help you create wealth, happiness and comfort. It can get you into the places you want to be in. And out of the places you want out of. Use it. Protect it. Value it. Build your life on it. Like a house on a rock.

*If you know someone who could use some inspirational quotes (#everyone) please share it with them.

Why I now have a curiosity curfew.

I am a self-proclaimed Early Owl. This rare avian species is a cross between an Early Bird and a Night Owl. Which means I love to go to bed late AND get up early. It’s how I am squeeing* as much as I can out of life. (*Squeeing is just squeezing without the required Zzz’s).

Night School

I don’t sleep nearly as much as I should. But I recognize the value of good sleep. Whenever I force myself to get a little more of that night magic I feel even better. Lately, I’ve been going back to school on the power of sleep. My coursework includes the writings by born-again sleep evangelist, Ariana Huffington, including her books Thrive and The Sleep Revolution.

I have learned that only 27 percent of American grown-folk get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night during the week. Only 10 percent prioritize sleep over other daily activities. And I want to be in that number, when the saints come marching in.

Your Best Bet Is A Better Bedtime

The key to getting more sleep is going to bed earlier. In fact, going to bed early is the adult version of sleeping in. Historically I have had serious trouble with this. And I have identified the main cause.

My late nights are not a result of drugs or alcohol. I never found the on-ramp to either of those hobbies (although they look fun). I don’t stay up late playing video games or studying pornography (although they both look fun too). I don’t guzzle coffee or energy drinks. Unless you consider chocolate milk an energy drink. I just call it delicious.

My Problem

My sleep problem is a result of a chronically curious brain. At night, when my wife and three children are in bed, my curiosity and I are ready to party.  I love to read. I gobble up books, magazines, and online articles like a turkey. My curiosity helps me chew through online videos, social media posts, and Netflix programing like a starving goat. My curiosity will devour everything and anything. The whole world is interesting to me. Which makes my curiosity the #1 enemy of my sleep.

If my curiosity is allowed to run feral, it will sprint past midnight, and well into the early morning hours. But my alarm is always set for 6am, whether I go to bed at 10pm (never) or 2am. I typically get under 6 hours of sleep. But I am working hard to up that to 7 hours.

The New Plan

I have come up with an idea to help me sleep more. It is borrowed from an idea that has been around since the invention of the teenager. I have implemented a self-imposed Curiosity Curfew. As of 11pm on weeknights, I have to put the books, magazines and iPhone down. I turn my TV/Netflix/Internetting device off. If I have work to do I can still do it. But no more exploring the world. It is the best thing I can think of to get my head to bed earlier.

Key Takeaway

Sleep is important. It’s how you refresh, recharge, rebound, reenergize and regenerate. If you are going to bed too late, identify the cause, and implement a curfew on the offender. It will help you increase your overall sleep. And getting enough sleep is both a health and quality of life issue. As good as you may think you are with little sleep, you are always better with more.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. 

How to collect more points for creative thinking.

Creative thinking requires you to fill your head with interesting stimuli. This takes effort. Because life’s most interesting elements don’t just show up on your doorstep like Ed McMahon, with a giant check, balloons and a camera crew. That’s why I make a regular point of visiting museums.

Long before social media and hipster shopping sites made curation seem like a cool new idea, museums around the world began curating facts, images, stories, ideas and experiences. Museum-style binge-learning helps you stretch your mind in unexpected directions. This is good for everyone. But essential for professional creative thinkers, like me.

My Kind of Museums, Chicago Has.

Over the past 2 days I have visited some of the greatest museums in the world. The Field Museum of Natural History, The Museum of Science and Industry, and the Shedd Aquarium, all in Chicago.

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My family and I hit the museums hard in Chicago this weekend. Not to mention the pizza, hot dogs and donuts.

I visit the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry at least once a year. But there is so much to see that I always find new things to tickle my brain. Here are a smattering of things that caught my attention this weekend.

9 Things That Stretched My Brain

1. Sea Dragons

These beautiful little dragons don’t breathe fire. But they do look like bigger, more elegant versions of sea horses. What really fascinated me were the almost invisible fins near their bums, and behind their heads, that provide propulsion and change of direction. The Mother of Sea Dragons should be very proud of her intriguing little offspring.

2. The Helicoprion

Check out that lower jaw!  That thing is ridiculous! It is like a weaponized dip-lip. Wait a minute, maybe these sharks chewed tobacco, got mouth cancer and that’s why they went extinct.  #truthsleuth

3. Vertical Farms

I learned how vertical farms in sky scrapers could help us feed urban populations, close to home, year round, without weather reliance or threats of drought. I also like the idea of growing popcorn at high enough elevations that it pops itself.

4. Our Proximity to Space

The quote above is a novel thought to me. Evel Knievel and Bo and Luke Duke were more like astronauts than I ever knew. In fact, we are often closer to outer space than we are to neighboring states. It makes me want to stop by to borrow a cup of space sugar.

5. Zheng He’s Treasure Ship

Holy Ship! Check out this beautiful Chinese vessel! I had a hard time wrapping my head around how big the actual ship was, based on how long ago it was built. Read the story below for more. 

 

6. The Rate of Extinction

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This is a frightening number. Although it also makes me wonder how many species are created every day. Oh, and when the asteroid that killed the dinos hit, it also wiped out half of the other species on Earth. #NeverForget

7. The Tiger River Stingray

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I was fascinated by the pattern on these rays. It made me wonder which came first, the tiger or the tiger ray? This species should get its own breakfast cereal. Tony-Ray, The Tiger River Ray, would make a Grrrrrrreat spokesperson.

8. How Sue Got Its name

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Sue, The T-Rex, is the most famous dinosaur in the world. Ok, maybe it is just the most famous dinosaur in my world. But I never knew why it was named Sue. It was actually discovered by Sue Hendrickson, an explorer and fossil collector in South Dakota. And hence the name. Although scientist don’t know if it was a male or female. (Don’t you just look at it’s private fossils?)

9. How They Got The Boeing 727 to The Museum

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I have been on this airplane at the MSI many times. But I never thought about how it arrived at its current location. There is a fun video that plays nearby that tells the story. Highlights: It was flown to an airport on the lakeshore. It was loaded onto a barge, and then driven/pulled across the beach, down the street and into the parking lot. Then, one of the museums massive columns had to be removed to bring it into the building. When it was finally in place there was a huge celebration with tiny little bags of peanuts.

Key Takeaway

If you want to think in new and more interesting ways, you have to continue to feed your brain new and more interesting food. There is no better way to expand your thinking than exploring a museum. I encourage you to find one near you with a reciprocal membership that offers access to museums in other cities. That way you can see great museums whenever you travel. Or better yet, you’ll have great new reasons to travel.

Bonus Points: Can anyone name the art museum in the featured image at the top of this post? Leave your guesses in the comment section!

Why the right-brain vs left-brain talk makes me want to scream.

When I was a child I was fascinated to learn that the brain is not one solid organ. The brain is actually divided, down the middle, into two hemispheres un-creatively known as the right brain and left brain. The brainispheres have different job assignments. Essentially they work like a great team, dividing the responsibilities of braining for humans into separate but equal parts. Which means your brain works like Siegfried and Roy, Abbott and Costello or Dumb & Dumber.

Choosing Sides

People often talk about being either right-brained or left-brained. If you have not heard such talk, it goes like this: The right side of the brain is thought to control your creative and artistic thinking. While your left brain controls your logic and rational behavior. As with politics, when it comes to braining, people often identify with one side or the other.

I have spent my entire career as a professional creative thinker. I started out as a Copywriter and progressed to the title of Chief Creative Officer. Every title I had for 20 years had either the word writer or creative in it. So it’s natural to sort me into the right-brained team. People do it all the time. In conversations I hear people say ‘You right-brained types…’ or ‘Us right-brained types…’

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Lookie there! Your brain has a coin slot too.

However…

I have never thought of myself as being right-brained. Not once. Ever. I have never thought of myself as being primarily a creative thinker. It’s not that I don’t think creatively. I know I do. But I also use careful analysis and logic every day. I love the scientific method and the absoluteness of math. I enjoy calculating my taxes. But I don’t enjoy stereotypes. Except for Bose. Those guys make great types of stereos.

Business Thinking

The latest role in my career has been as an Entrepreneur. As the Founder & CEO of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry, I am required to use all of my brain at work. While our service offering is unquestionably creative, everything else about the business is decidedly based in the left brain. I have to think about our accounting, finances, benefits, and human resources. I have to establish processes for project management, account management, and invoicing.

There is not an element of business that I don’t I feel comfortable with. I understand, appreciate and enjoy all of the thinking that goes into starting and running a business. I see it all as a big system of constants and variables. Some disciplines require more creative thinking. Others require very practical analysis. I am thankful that my brains get along like Bert and Ernie. Their daily cooperation helps me function as one whole person.

Unlabeling

It is limiting, if not damaging to label people, including yourself, as right-brained or left- brained. According to Dr. Daniel G. Amen in his book Making A Good Brain Great, it is a myth that we only use 10% of our brain. Our entire brain is on and working our entire lives, even when we sleep. If you were born with, and still have, both hemispheres of your brain, use them. Some skills and processes may come more naturally. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t work to develop the others.

Key Takeaway

The danger in the right-brain, left-brain labels is that you will start to believe that you can’t do things. Then you won’t take on tasks or challenges, because you have told yourself you are no good at them. But you can be. You just have to make sure you are not limiting your thinking.

6 things I didn’t do on my trip to India that will surprise you.

My childhood friend, Marcus Chioffi, once made an interesting statement about me. He said,

‘Adam would be the best person I know at solitary confinement. He would just entertain himself.’ -Marcus Chioffi

I was reminded of Marcus’s statement on my recent work trip to Bangalore, India. I had two 24-hour travel days: one going to India and one coming back (you probably could have guessed that, but I didn’t want any confusion). I had back to back 10-hour flights each way. And what I did on those 10-hour flights is not as interesting as what I didn’t do.

6 Things I Didn’t Do On My Travels To India.

  1. I didn’t watch any movies.
  2. I didn’t watch any TV.
  3. I didn’t listen to any music.
  4. I didn’t play any games.
  5. I didn’t do any puzzles.
  6. I didn’t mind the travel at all.

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Solitary And Confined.

The long flights gave me a lot of time to think, which is one of my favorite hobbies. I watched the flight tracker on the screen in front of me, and I looked out the window.  Combined, those two activities provided me with plenty to think about.

I connected dots about global geography. I flew over beautiful places like The Netherlands. I flew over inhospitable places in the Middle East that have been boiling with cranky people. And I realized that I may be cranky too in such a desolate environment.

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Reading

I finished reading the book Thinking Fast and Slow, about behavioral economics. I read Yes, And…, which is about Second City, and what we can all learn about life and business from improv. My friend, and regular Weapon, Tony Sharpe gave me the book. Thanks Tony.

I also read the body laungauge of a couple of seatmates that said, ‘Don’t talk to me you smiley American! It’s the middle of the night!’ So I didn’t talk to them. Their loss.

Work

The Weaponry has several exciting projects going on right now. So I had a lot of enjoyable work to do. I even texted a project estimate to a new client just after takeoff, because sometimes client service and FAA rules are in opposition.

Writing

I also wrote. (In fact, as I write these words I am flying over Thunder Bay, Ontario). I wrote a lot of notes about my trip and my experience. I found almost no time to write when I was in India because my sleep-eat-work* schedule was so dense there was no time for anything else. (*not to be confused with my Eat. Pray. Love. schedule.)

Key Takeaway

I enjoyed my flights to the other side of the world and back a great deal. They never felt painful, prisony, torturey or claustrophobic. I never felt like I needed to be entertained. I loved having so much time to think, read, write and observe. Most importantly, I never felt like I was killing time. I felt as if I was using the time I had. Which is what I hope to do if I ever do end up in solitary confinement.

Do you know that your smart phone is robbing you every day?

Digital devices are amazing. They enable you to find the answer to virtually any question, any time. They help you fill in knowledge gaps like grout. Or mortar. Or caulk.

So we end up filling our free time by answering questions: What is the weather like tomorrow? Tap. What’s the balance in my bank account? Tap. What is Debbie doing? Tap. Is she still in Dallas? Tap. What was Gregory Hines famous for? Tap. What do you call water from the faucet? Tap.

The Dark Side

But these omnipresent digital devices have a significant downside too. They are depleting one of our most valuable resources: our free time. That precious time when we can let our minds wander in empty space. The time we can use to imagine exciting new ideas is disappearing at an alarming rate. In fact, the planet is losing free time faster than we are losing rain forest (acutally I just imagined that fact in my free time).

If we are not careful we will squander our most fertile time to invent, improve and inspire. That time lost can never be recovered. Not even with LoJack.

The world needs more great ideas. So do businesses, communities, schools and households. Great ideas are born in the quiet spaces in between. Those spaces that are now being filled in with screen time.

Key Takeaway

Starting today, take back some of your thinking time. While you are waiting for something to start, or something to end, or someone to show up, keep your smart phone in your pocket or purse. Instead, let your mind go wherever it wants. If you give it enough time it is sure to arrive somewhere exciting and new. Once it does, pull out your phone and tell me all about it.

*If you know someone who could benefit from more free time and less screen time, please consider sharing this post.