The famous 1997 "Think Different" campaign by Apple tried to encourage us to be creative by thinking differently. It featured old footage of famous and brilliant people. It was a fresh, inspiring message. But it didn't really enlighten me as to how these people started their journeys of being different, creative and brilliant.
My wife and I attempt to have a date night every other Saturday night. We take turns planning something creative. We generally come up with some fun and wacky ideas - like taking silly photos of ourselves, or motorbiking to a new romantic location in the city. But the part I get excited about is going out for dinner after our activity. So what's so exciting about going out for dinner – the same lame idea that everybody does? The difference is choosing different. We overdose on new exposure. We eat at a different place every time, and it's usually something exotic and ethnic.
Now many of our friends do not find this appealing at all. They love to go to their favourite restaurants week in and week out. They call it comfort food. The restaurant chains will never go out of business for this reason alone.
Some of our picks are winners and some are losers. Every pick, however, increases our exposure to life and is a positive experience overall. That's because we become richer people and gain a greater depth of experience and emotion from sampling as much out of life as possible. These are opportunities to visit new places and meet new people. We observe the staff's practices that have contributed to their success, or in some case, failure. We always ask our servers to tell us their story. We meet people from all walks of life.
This is much more than a date idea for me. It's a way of living that makes life so much fuller. What I've gained over years of living this way is a much greater experience of my world around me, and as a result, some great discoveries. On one date at a bad Jamaican restaurant, we had lamented on how we drove across town only to eat dry stew meat and rice. Upon leaving the eatery, we discovered a little grocery store next door that was jam packed with fresh produce and prices that were less than half of the supermarkets. To top it off, it had many kinds of exotic fruits that I had never seen before.
Cultivating a creative mind involves much the same way of living. It's an active choice to consistently add variety to life. No question, it's more work than just doing the same old thing or following the masses. But that's what creativity is all about. We can, with minimal effort, gradually build a massive idea foundation. The alternative approach is research and dig like a mad man when the occasion suddenly calls for it. Sure, you can do a marathon of Youtube consumption. There's lots to be learned online for sure. But nothing can replace authentic real life experiences. It's like your brain and your heart know the difference. To test this theory, just watch the "Think Different" video, or some other video of someone inspiring. Then go for a coffee with a friend who is absolutely passionate about what they do and is willing to share that passion. You will experience a clear, and motivational difference.
If you ask me where my ideas and creative inspirations come from, it is not generally from other people's work. Though there's a great deal of inspiration from others, there is even more from unique experiences. Rich experiences generate deep emotions in the heart. Our soul longs to share these wonderful moments with others. Out of all this, something spurs our minds to new ideas and states of creativity.
My creativity comes from a remote Honduran village celebrating their newly constructed church, canoe trips on quiet rivers, a simple meal at an African restaurant, visiting a seniors home, writing to a poor rickshaw driver in Vietnam, playing with children in my neighbourhood.
Thinking different isn't a mysterious thing. It just needs you to try something different. You can't think differently if your life is always the same. Is your world full of the same faces and places? Go out for an exotic dinner this weekend and chat with your server. Stroll through some new neighbourhoods and ask people what they like about their neighbourhood. On your next vacation, get out of the all-inclusive and visit some of the real local people living outside. Brainstorm some strange and new ways you can spend some of your free time this year. Just don't always do the same boring thing.
Gil Ngai – Chief Storyteller, Day One Media