Creative growth happens outside one's comfort zone. Creative people are well-rounded participants in a variety of activities. They constantly strive to experience new sources of enlightening input to stretch limits, broaden horizons, make new connections, and see in new ways. This allows them to increase the wealth of resources from which to draw inspiration and influence. Since a creative idea is a combination of previously unrelated ideas, the greater the wealth of ideas, the greater the chance of making new combinations.
Neurobics: neurons (the thinking cell of the mind) + bios (life).
Whereas aerobics increases oxygen to the blood through activity, neurobics increases life to the mind through new activity. A neurobics event should be something you do not ordinarily do (stretch your mind) and appropriate for creative mental expansion. When the mind is stretched, it never returns to its previous shape. Experience life with open palms, not clenched fists. Rekindle your childlike curiosity, awe, and wonder. Strive to be courageous, open, and participatory. Steer out of your ruts.
We are most comfortable operating within our personal safety barrier. The barrier resembles a big donut around us. Sometimes when we feel secure and comfortable, we lower the donut wall or make the walls thinner. When we are threatened or afraid, we make the walls thick and tall. We establish rules to guide us within this barrier. These rules, if you allow them, can be stifling to your growth. It is natural in our culture to want this guidance safeguard. Knock it off. Lower the wall.
Or at least minimize it. Learn to see from new viewpoints, challenge assumptions, question authority, and take risks.
The trick is to develop the security and comfort in your environment so the wall can be lowered with little loss of security and comfort.
Don't let rules become inhibiting barriers, they are just guidelines. Decisions are often based on what works, not what rules are followed. Here are two valid rules: do not harm anyone else and do not harm anyone elses property or possessions. Pretty simple. Pretty effective.
We grow up with rituals: school, the pledge of allegiance, thanksgiving dinner, and the same route driving to work. Traditions provide comfort, security, and stagnation. Rituals grease the operational maintenance of our culture. But, tradition and heritage stifle creativity. Andreas Vollenweider performs differently in concert "you can hear my albums, this is live, I'll make it different". Still a ritual but expanded, bent, and altered. He saw the ritual for its value (familiarity, but enhanced our experience by enhancing the ritual).
We all have bent the rules. Sometimes just a little, but still bent. We bend them to justify our position or attitude or to get what we want while feeling, falsely, that we are upright moral and have obeyed the rules. Were good. We sense our value of good on how we have kept the rules. But you haven't kept the rules. Isnt a bent rule a broken rule? Sure. A rule is either/or, black and white. If you bend it, even a little, you have broken the absolute of the rule. Congratulations. Keep it up.
Routines may be valuable in that they provide comfort and security. If your routine is to do laundry every Sunday morning, stop and go out to breakfast instead. Do it at another time. So what.
Be spontaneous. Sometimes don't plan, just do what your mind is guiding you to do.
All great people are nonconformists. (All nonconformists are not great people.)
Embrace your neurobic life with an open clear mind. Allow events to change you. Be willing to grow. Be open to new experiences and be willing to be changed by them. Learn something new, see new things, respect other people, network with new audiences, and enrich your life.
Get into the world, participate, and enjoy.
• Feed great inspiring new information to your brain.
• Enjoy and appreciate diversity.
• Broaden, stretch, and expand your creative thinking.
• Change your life: break out of ruts and grow.
• Spice up your life and have fun.
• Encourage you to get out into the world. Be a participant. Go for growth.
Experience life with open palms, not clenched fists.
Sample neurobic activities
• Become aware of your rules; write them down. Break some of your rules.
• Brush your teeth with your other hand.
• Eat a meal with chopsticks or your fingers or your less dominant hand.
• Do absolutely nothing, especially on a hectic day.
The world and your life will be just fine. Sleep late,
eat a late breakfast, sit on the patio, read silly stuff.
• Travel to a new place. Even just a day trip someplace - anyplace, just get outta town.
• Go to a seminar on an unfamiliar subject.
• Walk through the Toy section and see it as a child does.
• Explore the aisles of a home improvement, furniture, or fabric store.
• Learn a new dance.
• Learn a foreign language.
• Walk backwards for a day.
• Watch no TV for a full week.
• Move more: jogging, exercise, hiking.
• Change eating habits at the table.
• Choose a cuisine unfamiliar to you when eating out - try ethnic foods you've never tried.
• Drive into the country and witness the sunrise.
• Learn how to play chess.
• Solve a crossword puzzle and/or Sudoku each morning.
• Practice yoga or transcendental meditation.
• Spend some time with people from different cultures.
• Begin and continue to write in a journal.
• Turn familiar objects - pictures, clocks - upside down.
• Cover all your mirrors for a week.
• Drive a different route to work/school for a week.
• Do not access any Social Media for a full week.
• Eat alone in a restaurant during lunch hour.
• Do not talk for a week.
• Take a road trip with no agenda.
• Shower with your eyes closed.
• Read more. Reading not only informs, it also increases your capacity for learning, thereby increasing your intelligence. Knowledge is the foundation of intelligence, so it's crucial to cultivate the joy of reading. A few suggestions:
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers
The Cheese Monkeys, Chip Kidd
The Learners, Chip Kidd
Blink, The Tipping Point, or The Outliers, anything by Malcolm Gladwell
The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman
Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
Re-Imagine, Tom Peters
Examples of activities to attend
• Professional programs.
• Museums: Art, Science.
• Live professional theater.
• Regional zoo.
• Museums and events at universities.
• Symphony/Philharmonic concerts.
• Art Festival - eat snacks, and listen to entertainment.
• Ethnic, historic, or neighborhood Festivals.
• Watch films
Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized by Gary Hustwit. Great info and great interviews.
Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, & Naqoyqatsi
The word neurobics was created by James Robert Watson, PhD, Copyright: 1988
Inspirations from others
People cannot discover new lands until they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
I like to step into areas where I am afraid. Fear is a sign that I am going in the right direction.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?
Grace Hopper or John Shedd
A ship is safe in a harbor. But a harbor is not what a ship is for.
As designers, we are the interface. Trying to make things understandable. That requires involving oneself with what's going on in the world. One must understand what people are, what they're up to, what they care about, how they feel.
You have to motivate yourself with challenges. That's how you know you're still alive. Once you start doing only what you've already proven you can do, you're on the road to death.
It's all a game. To play is to win. To not play is to lose.
The simple act of trying raises your chances for success immediately. Not trying guarantees failure.
Strive to control your mental attitude, your attitude controls your behavior, and your behavior controls your environment.
You have the greatest chance of winning when your first commitment is to a total and enthusiastic involvement in the game itself. Enthusiasm is what matters most.
Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines; sail away from the safe harbor; catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover.
Keep open to new influences, go out and actively look and explore the world and let yourself be inspired by it. There's so much amazing stuff around that it shouldn't be too hard.
The greatest attribute for a professional designer is curiosity and to remain in a state of inquiry.
Those who are afraid of being different will never make a difference.
You are the single biggest influence in your life.
The life which is unexamined is not worth living.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (or not?)
Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
This is an exciting world. Great moments wait around every corner.
To be a good designer, you would need to have deep and far-reaching interests outside of the profession.
Looking cool is the easiest way to mediocrity
I constantly get out of my comfort zone. Once you push yourself into something new, a whole new world of opportunities opens up. But, you might get hurt. In fact, you will get hurt. But amazingly, when you heal - you are somewhere you've never been before.
Seek the lofty by reading, hearing, and seeing great work at some moment every day.
You miss 100% of the shots you never take.
If your hands aren't sweaty, you're not in a big enough ballgame.
Don't wait for your ship to come in; swim out to it.
I've learned that no matter how much I care, some people are just assholes.
You shouldn't compare yourself to others - they are more screwed up than you think.
Neurobics goes mainstream • 25 years later
Left: Ad from Reader's Digest, 2017, Neurobic exercises are like cross-training for your brain.
Right: a book of "copyrighted material" on Amazon, 2014 - Keep Your Brain Alive, by Lawrence C. Katz, PhD, and Manning Rubin. Blurb from Amazon description: Neurobics are simple, unique brain exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime. Based on leading neurobiological research, Keep Your Brain Alive introduces a regimen of mental cross-training - a series of deceptively simple exercises that help stimulate the production of natural growth factors called neurotrophins, which in turn grow brain cells and keep the brain younger and stronger. And nothing so easily stimulates the brain as breaking routines and using the five senses in new and unexpected ways.
Neurobic activities project
Download, print, and cut in half the Neurobics form. Fill it out and turn it in at the beginning of each Monday's class between now and the end of the semester. You won't have to make an oral presentation. Enjoy the activity, don't worry about taking notes.
Instructions for the form
Print the name, place, and date of each neurobic event; a thorough explanation of how or why this event qualifies as a neurobic event (never done it before, afraid of doing this, etc); and an explanation of your response to the event: how you grew, what you learned, or how it will affect you.
• Use only the form provided.
• Print clear explanations only on the front of the form.
• Proofread for correct spelling and grammar.
• Meet each deadline.
• Each neurobic activity must:
1. Have occurred during the week before turning in the form.
2. Be self initiated. You decide to change your life.
3.Be significant and impactful.
Follow the specs and you will earn 85 points. You will earn more points if the neurobic activity is particularly noteworthy, announced in class, design oriented, high culture, or extra special. You will lose points for misspelled words or poor grammar, if its not impactful, and if you did not initiate the neurobic.