The 2 Things You Can’t Google.

The 2 Things You Can’t Google.

Do you remember life before the internet? Back in the day, when you had a question, you just had to guess what the answer was. Or you could spend a lot of time searching for answers with primitive tools. Like books and microfiche.

Now, the detailed answers to our most random questions are literally everywhere. We have harvested all human knowledge and loaded it onto the internet like stacking hay in a barn. Anyone with a smart phone has access to that barn and all the information in it anywhere, anytime. Yes, the barn door is always open.

The Google

Today, if you have a question you simply google it. Where did Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall get married? (Lucas, Ohio). What was the first interstate school district in America? (Norwich, Vermont and Hanover, New Hampshire). What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? (African or European?) Curiosity, and the ability to satisfy it, is the driving force behind Google’s success.

Curious Mind

I recently read Brian Grazer’s book, A Curious Mind. He positions himself as a modern-day Curious George (my words, not his). The Graze (my word, not his) credits his curiosity, not his creativity, as the driving force behind his Hollywood success. His curiosity lead him to interesting stories that turned into blockbuster movies like A Beautiful Mind, Backdraft, 8 Mile and The Da Vinci Code.

Curiosity also led him to push the limits of what hair gel can do. He talks about that in the book too. But you can just look at the picture below to find the answer.410161296_hr

However, one of the most interesting elements of the book was Grazer’s, statement about where Google’s supreme powers stop. He writes:

There are two things you cannot google.

  1. Answers to questions that have not been asked.
  2. New ideas.

Unasked Questions

If you are the first person to ask a question, the best search engine to find the answer is you. Don’t stop because the answer doesn’t exist. These are the most important questions to answer. And once you do, you get to pitch the answer into the haymow of knowledge to benefit the rest of humankind.

New Ideas 

You can’t google a new idea. You have to invent it. You have to do the work, the thinking, the ideation yourself. Only the human brain can come up with valuable new ideas. There will always be a great need and great value for those who can create a new idea, not simply blow the dust off of an old one.

More importantly, there are new ideas that can only be created in your mind. Yes you. The person reading this. Just like no two snowflakes are alike, no two minds are alike either. Your mind is formed by your unique combination of thoughts, perspectives, experiences, readings, learnings, language, friends, physiology and chemistry. Which means that despite the fact that there are 8 billion people on this planet, there are ideas that could only possibly come from you.

As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am constantly wowed by the power of the human mind. The power of the new idea. The power to create new things, new thoughts, new connections. There is so much still to come.

It is up to us to create new innovations, new stories, new humor, new lessons, new solutions to old and new problems alike. Stay curious and you will discover the new ideas yourself. Those ideas, your ideas, have the power to change the world. Which means the world may soon be googling you.

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How to warm up your brain before you work, and why.

How to warm up your brain before you work, and why.

Your brain is the most powerful muscle in your body. Ok, your brain isn’t really a muscle. But it is so powerful it KNOWS that it’s not a muscle! Your most powerful muscles are actually your glutes or your quadriceps, depending on who you ask. And depending on whether or not you are keeping up with Kim Kardashian. You can strengthen these leg muscles doing squats, leg presses, lunges, deadlifts and by delivering refrigerators.

leg-muscles
This is what your legs looks like when they are more naked than regular naked.

Warming up.

However, you should never perform these leg exercises without warming up first. For two reasons.

  1. You could shred your muscles like pulled pork.
  2. You will not perform at your best.

You should warm up your muscles to recruit as many fibers and synapses as possible for the mission. It also loosens the muscles, gets blood flowing through the area and prepares them for action.

Your Brain

Your brain works the same way. When your alarm clock detonates in the morning your brain is cold.  That’s why so many people try to stoke some brainial heat with coffee or tea. But it takes actual mental activity to get your brain primed and ready for work.

I have a trick I use to get my brain ready to perform in the morning. It’s not a drink, a dish or a pill. It doesn’t make you sweaty, stinky or even raise your heart rate.

A great way to warm up you brain.

I am a professional creative thinker. I own an advertising and idea agency, called The Weaponry, where we try to stretch our thinking as far as possible every day. To prepare for creative thinking, I use several different techniques to get my brain warmed up. One of my favorite techniques is to spend a few minutes working on brain games.

I like a challenge that forces me to think through questions from multiple angles, spot interesting connections, or evaluate at a level that goes beyond the obvious. I do this in a variety of ways. Here are 5 options that you can try tomorrow morning before work.

5 Warm up techniques that recruit your brain cells.

IMG_7284
This is a picture of two books on a table. Sorry this caption wasted your time.

Brain Challenges: My go-to morning stimuli are my Mensa Mind Challenge books. (I’m not a member of Mensa. I just play one at the bookstore.) They contain a range of
puzzles, math problems and brain teasers. Discovering the answers opens my mind and helps me view the problem, and thus the world, through a different lens.

Soduko  Puzzles:  These number sequencing puzzles are moronically simple, yet complex at the same time (like me). I really like the fact that I can keep switching my focus to get to the ultimate solve. I’ll hone in on a single number for a while. Then I might focus on a small box. Then a line. I like the fact that I never guess at Soduko. I focus on one small point until I know the answer with certainty before a I declare an answer. This works differently than the Mensa challenges because there is one simple, clear answer for each box, hiding in plain sight. I simply have to force it into focus.

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Great question.  Probably the same person who let the dogs out.

Mazes: These were my childhood favorites. I love the fact that you can think you know where you are going and suddenly you come to a dead-end and have to look in another direction. Many of our life challenges are like this. We think we are on the right path until we know we are not. Then we have no choice but to reevaluate our choices and perspectives. Someone should write a book about this phenomenon. Oh wait they did. (Who moved my cheese?)

 

 

Crosswords: These classics are great because they force you to dig into your broad knowledge base. But they also enable you to employ strategy and technique to help you fill in your knowledge gaps, using what you know to offer clues about the things you don’t know.  Here you can guess the answers without inducing catastrophic failure (see Soduko). I appreciate that they let you develop increasing levels of certainty on your hypothesis as you progress. They also reward you for knowing Tom Jones songs. So there’s that.

Memory Games: I have become increasingly interested in memory challenges. I come from long-lived people (I currently have 198 years worth of grandmothers). So maintaining my memory is going to be an important life skill. The power of the mind to develop visual codes to remember number sequences is fascinating to me. Over the coming years I expect memory games to become a larger part of my routine as I work to fight off dementia (I was born with as much dementia as I will ever need).

IMG_7268
There are many types of great brain games to warm up your thinking. Even ones with pixelated puppies.

The benefit of a warm brain.

Puzzles in the morning get your brain firing. You will feel like you have recruited more brain cells. You will feel alert and ready to think better, faster, stronger, and probably for longer. It’s like Viagra for the brain. Kinda.

Even though I am a naturally creative thinker, these puzzles, games and challenges help me stimulate my brain in a way that reduces creative blind spots. It is easy to fall into a mental rut and use the same type of creative processes, tools and paths over and over again. The morning puzzles can be like opening a mental tool box of problem solving devices. When you see the tools you could use, the tools themselves reveal the paths to various solutions.

Conclusion

I like the way the puzzles stretch your thinking. They help you see different angles and perspectives.  This pays off as you try to solve other business (or life) challenges the rest of the day. The puzzles and mind challenges ensure that your mind is alert, stretched, primed and fully powered to find new possibilities.

These puzzles are also fun. Starting your morning with a bit of fun and play makes your morning more enjoyable. That mood state alone contributes to more creative thinking.

If you are more math oriented consider this: if you could expand the power of your problem solving or creative thinking by just 10% by readying your mind, you will significantly expand the circle of solutions you can uncover.

Try warming up with some puzzles this week. Let me know how you feel afterwards. If you have a type of puzzle, quiz or test you use to keep yourself sharp please share it here. I could use all the help I can get. Especially in the morning, when I am delivering refrigerators.

My life-altering first lesson in professional problem solving.

My life-altering first lesson in professional problem solving.

When I was in college I spent my summers at home in Vermont working for a party rental company. I set up huge party tents with other college athletes, a few rugged high schoolers and a handful of experienced veterans who had real jobs, but would help set tents on the weekends for extra income (and presumably to show us what brands of jeans were cool a decade ago).

There was lot of beef on that crew. You had to be strong because the job entailed lugging tents that weighed more than you did and carrying all the tables, chairs and dance floors needed to get your party on.  You also had to be able to hammer 40-inch steel spikes into the granite of Vermont and New Hampshire.  This was not a job for the chess club.

Learning the ropes.

The first few tents I set up were in idyllic settings on lush, sprawling lawns. The tents were erected (snicker) in textbook fashion.  You laid the tent out flat. Pulled the ropes straight out from the tent. At each rope you drove a spike into the ground four feet from the tent. You tied the ropes to the spikes. Then you set up a side pole at each rope to support the perimeter of the tent. Finally, you set up the tall center poles in the (surprise…) center of the tent.  I was a pretty smart kid. I caught on quickly.

Then I went on what I thought would be a really easy assignment.  I was sent to set a small 20 foot by 20 foot square tent in a woman’s front yard with one of the veterans. I thought we would be done in twenty minutes.

Then came the problems.

When we got to the house I immediately began to worry.  There was no large field of green. There was what amounted to a small rug-sized lawn squeezed in front of a small house.  There was no 20′ X 20′ space to be found. There was no way to place the spikes back 4 feet from the tent so we could tie the tent down and anchor them properly. In one corner of the yard the porch of the house prevented us from driving any spike at all.

This was not good. A woman was expecting a tent for her party, but we weren’t going to be able to set it up in this space. The backyard had even less lawn. So that wasn’t an option either. I turned to Dave, the veteran, and said, ‘This is bad! We can’t set the tent. It doesn’t fit here.’ Dave was completely unfazed. He said, “Come on Greenhorn.  Let me show you how it’s done.’

The Eye-Opening Transformation

What happened next changed me in ways that will impact my clients for the rest of my career.  Dave found solutions for every single problem. Instead of setting the tent in the standard, follow-the-manual way, he set it in the way the situation allowed.  Dave mapped out a plan that I had completely missed.  He tied the tent ropes, that normally get tied to spikes in the ground, to anything that would hold them.  We tied ropes to the fence. We tied ropes to trees.  We tied ropes to the railing on the front porch of the house. The bushes and flower beds I thought prevented us from setting the tent in the front yard simply ended up under the tent, adding ambiance. And everything looked perfect.  The tent pulled straight and tight and clean, despite the fact that half of the anchor points had been improvised to accommodate for the environment.

It felt like my brain grew 500% that day. I quickly learned to love the challenges of compromised conditions. Over the next three years I became so adept at problem solving I believed there was no problem I couldn’t overcome.

 

Putting the lessons to work.

Today I use the mindset I developed setting tents in my advertising career. At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, we deeply believe there is a solution to every problem. We don’t focus on what we would have done in the best case scenario.  We explore what can be done given the reality. What can be done with the hand we have been dealt.  That means no excuses. We always work to maximize the outcomes given the current situation. Because the key to life is a good plan B or C or D.

Don’t spend a moment thinking about how things should have been done if the situation were different. Focus on how to bake the best cake with the ingredients you have right now. It’s the only way.  Put all of your time, thought and energy into solving the problem in front of you. Recognize your assets. Make them work for you. Just like Dave showed me how to make that tent work in that small yard back when I was just a Greenhorn.

 

Great news! Robots are coming to take your job!

Great news! Robots are coming to take your job!

The robots are coming!  The robots are coming!  

If you’ve read anything about technology trends lately, you know that R2D2, C-3PO and their posse are rolling into the workforce like the next generation of whippersnappers, ruining things for the old guard. This is really freaking people out. Most workers respond to all this robot-revolution talk with one of two standard reactions:

  1. Robots can’t do MY job!
  2. This is terrible!

These reactions are both wrong. Eventually almost every job will be improved, if not replaced, by robots. Seriously. Lawyers, real estate agents, actors, doctors, truck drivers and singers. Don’t believe me? Let’s try a little imagination.

Robot Lawyer

A computer-brained robot can tap into a database, find and learn all of the relevant legal cases necessary to defend or prosecute a case. They can learn which arguments work most effectively, most often, by studying data. The robot’s facial recognition software will allow it to respond to witnesses and jurors. Thus, it can, and will adjust its delivery to the most impactful style, based on data. Best of all, the robot will actually listen to the human feedback, because it has been programmed to do so.

Robot Doctor

Your surgeon, who must perform incredibly precise maneuvers will be out-precisely maneuvered by Sparky the Surgical Robot, who isn’t impacted by an itchy nose, an aging body, and a crummy night of sleep. Oh, and this is alreay happening.

 

Robot Redford

There will no longer be an interpretation gap between directors and actors. Or casting sessions. The precisly-programmed robot actors will generate the perfect emotion on take one. Cut. That’s a wrap.

So yes, all of our current jobs will be impacted. If you can’t imagine how your job or your industry could be handled by a robot, I encourage you to use my imagination. I will walk you through the possibilities.

But this is good news.

In the beginning of humanness there were only 2 jobs:

  1. Hunter & Gatherer
  2. Home Maker

We had to find a way to free some people up to do more important work.  The key was agriculture. As soon as cave-men started cultivating crops, domesticating animals and wearing FFA-jackets, many more people were free to do non-essential work.

200 years ago, 90% of Americans lived on farms and grew their own food. In the year 1900, 40% of Americans worked in agriculture. Today, due to advances in technology, only 2% do.

Yet over the past 117 years we didn’t experiencing a rural apocalypse. Previously farm-bound Americans were freed to pursuit other interests. So they did. They went to college and created plastics and silicon and vacuum tubes. Then they created computers, rocket ships, microchips, smartphones and robots. Someone also created the Pet Rock. So it hasn’t all been useful.

At The Weaponry, we believe that the human mind is the most powerful weapon on Earth. Our minds will always reign supreme on this planet. We will continue to mechanize and automate the jobs that can be performed as well, or better, by machines. So that we can rise to an even higher standard of living, quality of life and take on even greater human challenges. We will never run out of things for humans to do. So don’t be scared. Be excited. The best is yet to come.  Isn’t that right R2?

What Groundhog Day teaches us about making things up.

What Groundhog Day teaches us about making things up.

There are two types of holidays: meaningful and made up. The meaningful days include The 4th of July, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and religious holidays. Made up holidays include Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day and February 29th. It seems February needed a little spicing up. Since today is Groundhog Day, let’s take a moment to reflect on its significance.

Hmmm. Like a groundhog on a cloudy day, I see nothing when I reflect. Because there is nothing to reflect on. There is no meteorological reason to focus on groundhogs. Forget the meteors, there are no logical reasons to focus on groundhogs.  Yet we do.

I’m not writing to pooh-pooh Groundhog Day.  Quite the opposite. I think it stands as an amazing symbol of creativity, and possibility, and making something out of nothing. If a nation of over 300 million people can recognize this fabricated rodent day, you can bring your vision to life too.

MLK Jr. Day, Small Business Saturday and Earth Day are all holidays that were born during my lifetime-ish.  These are all great ideas, made real by someone’s vision, imagination and effort. I’m not saying you need to make up a new holiday, but you could.

The important thing to recognize is that if you want something to exist that currently does not, you can make it happen. If you have an idea that is useful or fun or important I strongly encourage you to write it down, sketch it out and give it as much detail as you can. Then work hard to bring it to life. It could be a product, business, charity, service or event. Heck, it could be a home, a support group, a marketing campaign or a better groundhog trap.  All ideas come to life through the same simple process.

This time last year my advertising agency, The Weaponry, only existed in my head. A year later it is as real as it gets. Like IRS-real. In fact, we have already worked with 11 clients in 6 states and 2 countries.  If I can do this, you can do it.

So what is your Groundhog Day? I know you have something in your head that you wish was real. From now on, when you hear or read Groundhog Day I want this invented holiday to make you think of the things you want to create. Let it inspire your ideas that could have a bigger impact on life than a rodent in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania or Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. You can do it. I believe it beyond a seeing-your-own-shadow of a doubt.

An easy way to have a game-changing creative idea tonight.

An easy way to have a game-changing creative idea tonight.

There is nothing more valuable than a great idea. Powerful ideas can make you rich. They can make you famous. They can separate you from your competitors. Heck, they can convince people to buy a pet rock. But our lives are so freakin busy that it can feel impossible to dedicate enough time to the kind of focused thinking that will land you on TechCrunch, the cover of Forbes, or the prime slot on The Home Shopping Network.

When thinking time becomes scarce there is a technique I use for nighttime ideation. The solution is so simple it is almost laughable. I can confidently say that you’re going to enjoy it more than diet and exercise combined. My ancient-Chinese-secret ideation technique is…

Go to bed 30 minutes early.

Most of us push bed time to the very last-minute. Or beyond. We either have tasks we want to accomplish before we throw in the towel on the night. Or we work so hard the rest of the day that we finally want a little time to binge watch all the shows everyone else is talking about. Suddenly, the latest surprise on The Story of Us, Stranger Things or The Real Housewives of Sandusky robs us of our sleep. Thanks a lot Andy Cohen.

But when I really need more thinking time, I go to bed early. It’s counterintuitive, I know.  But an amazing thing happens when you get your personal go-to-bed timing right. You will find that you are not so tired that you fall asleep immediately. You’ll also find that it isn’t so late that you stress about falling asleep before the alarm pounces on your head early the next morning. Instead, you are able to relax and enjoy the peace, calm and comfort of your bed. And in that state, once you get good and quiet, the ideas come out to play.

To guide your creative thinking in that relaxed, pre-sleep state, gently grab the topic you want to think on, and softly place it at the center of your mind. Then follow the inklings. They are the faint pathways that connect your central topic to new ideas, plans and partnerships.

Remarkable solutions and innovations are birthed in that quiet time if we listen.  To avoid distraction it is important to leave your phone or other digital distractions in another room. An ill-timed push notification from Groupon about a sweet deal on Naked Skydiving And Go-Karting For Four! can interrupt your flow and kill an idea in the embryonic state. Instead, keep a notebook and pen on your nightstand to capture your ideas before they escape into the darkness.

Of course it would be great if I could share an example of a real world, bed-born idea that made a major financial impact. So here it comes.

Ski-Doo snowmobiles was one of my favorite clients of all time. A problem that plagued the snowmobile industry for many years was the reverse mechanism that enables a snowmobile to go backwards. The additional feature added cost and weight to the sled. But one night, while lying in bed, one of the Ski-Doo engineers had the thought that if you simply reversed the wiring on the engine, the engine would run in reverse, as would the rest of the machine. When he rushed in to work the next day to see if that actually worked, he was delighted to find it worked exactly as he had envisioned, and thus Rotax Electronic Reverse (RER) was born. Suddenly Ski-Doo could offer a reverse feature on all of their snowmobiles without adding any additional weight or expense to the machine. This was a clear differentiator and competitive advantage that came from the bedroom. Not the boardroom.

The challenges of life and work can seem relentless. They come at us like chocolates to Lucille Ball. But game-changing ideas are out there waiting for you. To catch them tonight, you may just have to lay down, be quiet, and let them come to you.

(featured image by Andri Iskander:)