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Labels are important

Labels are important

But they are also harmful if we use them incorrectly. When it comes to categories like science and art, we tend to presume mutual exclusivity.

Albert Einstein inspired a paradigm shift in modern physics as an artist, not as a scientist. His success was attributed to his creativity and the new way of looking at things.

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Breakthroughs are seldom made through sudden inspiration. Insight is the result of action. Doing creative work is about setting a schedule and getting on with it. Eventually, the combination of your effort will energize the push towards a final result.

Albert Einstein worked at a Swiss patent office, a rather uninspiring place relative to his interest in physics. Between the hours he spent on the job, he also dedicated hours to scientific work. He was deliberate in his commitment to creation, which led to the formulation of the two fundamental theories in physics: general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Creativity is not equivalent to originality. Creativity is just a new way of combining old ideas.

Albert Einstein saw invention as a product of "combinatory play." He would separate his existing ideas from language, so he could freely visualise and mix these known elements of information to arrive at some new logically connected concept.

The only way to master creativity is to put in the work. At the beginning, your work will be subpar and all the more daunting because the result is a tangible output, like a painting or a research paper.

One way to overcome this difficulty is to realise that a genius worked on more than one piece before they created a masterpiece. Einstein published over 300 scientific papers and more than 150 non-scientific papers. His non-published work contained more than 30,000 unique documents, and he wasn't always right.

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RELATED IDEAS

Elon Musk shows the world how big, audacious goals can be achieved by dividing them into smaller milestones and embracing failure and negative feedback.

His goals are not something he is doing for the media circus, but something in which he is emotionally committed. Goals work when they are bigger than ourselves, enhancing our commitment and responsibility towards them.

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IDEAS

  • When novice players play chess, they focus on what to do with the pieces. They may try and visualise a few steps ahead, but mostly just react to the board without considering the reasons behind the pieces.
  • Professional chess players focus on how their opponents think. They seek to ask the right questions to understand their opponent's process.

Whether in chess or life, don't be fooled by what's on the surface. The best approach is to have a framework in place to trim the fat and focus on what matters. Ask enough pointed questions to lead you to clear answers.

There are three main elements that lead to a certain outcome when it comes to individual productivity: energy, information and creativity.

The first two go together very well, as we need energy in order to be physically able to work, while information is what guides us in regards to how to make better use of our energy and time, in order to reach a certain goal. Creativity, on the other hand, can be perceived as a unique feature, as it enables us to be more efficient while also discovering new ways to do things.