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“Smart people are a dime a dozen and often don’t amount to much. What counts is being creative and imaginative. That’s what makes someone a true innovator.”

In the introduction of Jeff Bezos’ new book, Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos, Walter Isaacson, Author and Biographer of Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Ada Lovelace, Steve Jobs, and Albert Einstein. Walterson shares some great insights on some of the qualities that made these men creative and imaginative. He writes:

“Smart people are a dime a dozen and often don’t amount to much. What counts is being creative and imaginative. That’s what makes someone a true innovator.”

“So, what are the ingredients of creativity and imagination, and what makes me think that Bezos belongs in the same league as my other subjects?

Passionately Curious

The first is to be curious, passionately curious. Take Leonardo. In his delight-filled notebooks we see his mind dancing across all fields of nature with a curiosity that is exuberant and playful. He asks and tries to answer hundreds of charmingly random questions: Why is the sky blue?

What does the tongue of a woodpecker look like? Do a bird’s wings move faster when flapping up or when flapping down? How is the pattern of swirling water similar to that of curling hair? Is the muscle of the bottom lip connected to that of the top lip? Leonardo did not need to know these things to paint the Mona Lisa (though it helped);

He needed to know them because he was Leonardo, always obsessively curious.

“I have no special talent,” Einstein once said. “I am only passionately curious.”

 That’s not fully true (he certainly did have special talent), but he was right when he said,

 “Curiosity is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

Connect Art and Science

A second key trait is to love and to connect the arts and sciences. Whenever Steve Jobs launched a new product such as the iPod or iPhone, his presentation ended with street signs that showed an intersection of Liberal Arts Street and Technology Street.

“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough,” he said at one of these presentations. “We believe that it’s technology married with the “humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.”

Einstein, likewise, realized how important it is to interweave the arts and the sciences. When he felt stymied in his quest for the theory of general relativity, he would pull out his violin and play Mozart, saying that the music helped connect him to the harmony of the spheres.

 From Leonardo da Vinci, we have the greatest symbol of this connection between the arts and sciences: Vitruvian Man, his drawing of a nude male standing in a circle and a square, a triumph of anatomy, math, beauty, and spirituality.

Curiosity

In fact, it helps to be excited by all disciplines. Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin wanted to know everything you could possibly know about everything that was knowable. They studied anatomy and botany and music and art and weaponry and water engineering and everything in between.

People who love all fields of knowledge are the ones who can best spot the patterns that exist across nature. Both Franklin and Leonardo were fascinated by whirlwinds and swirling water. That helped Franklin figure out how storms move up the coast and to chart the Gulf Stream. It helped Leonardo understand how the heart valve works as well as to paint both the water rippling by the ankles of Jesus in the Baptism of Christ and the curls of the Mona Lisa.

People who love all fields of knowledge are the ones who can best spot the patterns that exist across nature.

reality-distortion field,

“Another characteristic of truly innovative and creative people is that they have a reality-distortion field, a phrase that was used about Steve Jobs and comes from a Star Trek episode in which aliens create an entire new world through sheer mental force.

When his colleagues protested that one of Jobs’s ideas or proposals would be impossible to implement, he would use a trick he learned from a guru in India: he would stare at them without blinking and say, “Don’t be afraid. You can do it.” It usually worked.

 He drove people mad, he drove them to distraction, but he also drove them to do things they didn’t believe they could do.”

Think Different

Related to that is the ability to “think different,” as Jobs put it in a memorable set of Apple ads. The science community at the beginning of the twentieth century was puzzling over how the speed of light seemed to remain constant no matter how fast the observer was moving toward or away from the source.

At the time Albert Einstein was a third-class patent clerk in Switzerland who was studying devices that sent signals between different clocks in order to synchronize them. He came up with an out-of-the-box thought based on his realization that people who were in different states of motion would have different perceptions of whether the clocks were synchronized. Perhaps the speed of light is always constant, he theorized, because time itself is relative depending on one’s state of motion. It took the rest of the physics community a few years to realize that this “theory of relativity” was right.

Sense of Wander

One final trait shared by all my subjects is that they retained a childlike sense of wonder. At a certain point in life, most of us quit puzzling over everyday phenomena. Our teachers and parents, becoming impatient, tell us to stop asking so many silly questions. We might savor the beauty of a blue sky, but we no longer bother to wonder why it is that color. Leonardo did. So did Einstein, who wrote to another friend, “You and I never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” We should be careful to never outgrow our wonder years—or to let our children do so.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

One of the core tenents of Jeff Bezo’s thinking at Amazon is “It is always Day One,” which is a philosophy on staying nimble, having a small business mind with a big company heart. It involves maintaining a customer-obsession and focusing on the needs of the customers. Amazon strives to be the most customer-centric company in the world.

In a conversation he had with David Rubenstein, club president of The Economic Club of Washington on September 13, 2018, Jeff said:

It’s Day 1. Everything I have ever done has started small. Amazon started with a couple of people. Blue Origin started with five people and a very, very small budget. Now the budget of Blue Origin is over $1 billion a year. Amazon literally started with 10 people; today it is over 750,000. That’s hard to remember for others, but for me, it’s like yesterday. I was driving the packages to the post office myself and hoping one day we could afford a forklift. So for me, I’ve seen small things get big, and it’s part of this Day 1 mentality. I like treating things as if they’re small. Even though Amazon is a large company, I want it to have the heart and spirit of a small one.

Jeff Bezos’ expansiated on the concept of “Day One thinking at Amazon” in his 2016 Shareholder Letter and 1997 Shareholder Letter.

Jeff Bezos was recently asked at a recent all-hands meeting at Amazon: “JEFF, WHAT DOES Day 2 look like?” His response:

That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

“Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job you can make a living, but if you work hard on yourself you’ll make a fortune.” – Jim Rohn

The seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen R. Covey is one of my favorite personal development book of all time. The book had a great effect on me with various lessons, anecdotes, insights, and principles which is a core of my daily values.

The 7th habit is “sharpen the saw” in which covey advocates preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–YOU. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Here are some examples of activities:

Physical:Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting
Social/Emotional:Making social and meaningful connections with others
Mental:Learning, reading, writing, and teaching
Spiritual:Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service

“Sharpen the saw” basically means expressing all four motivations. It means exercising all four dimensions of our nature, regularly and consistently in wise and balanced ways.”

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” —Abraham Lincoln

Privacy is not keeping things secret; it is deciding who to share what information with, at what time, and in what context. 

Jennifer Golbeck is a Professor in the College of Information Studies and Director of the Social Intelligence Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park. She received an AB in Economics and an SB and SM in Computer Science at the University of Chicago, as well as a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. 

Professor Golbeck began studying social media from the moment it emerged on the web, and she is one of the world’s foremost experts in the field. Her research has influenced industry, government, and the military. She is a pioneer in the field of social data analytics and discovering people’s hidden attributes from their online behavior, and she is a leader in creating human-friendly security and privacy systems. 

Here are my favourite takeaways from viewing Dr. Jennifer Golbeck’s Great Courses Class:

The Johari window was created by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955 as a way to better understand yourself and the communication between you and others. It is a model for soliciting and giving feedback. It is a communication model that has four quadrants and two dimensions (Myself and Others)

The model is a 2x 2 grid which represents things that a person knows about themselves on one axis and things that others know about them on the other axis. By plotting the levels of self-knowledge and the knowledge held by others the person can develop a greater understanding of their personality and how they are perceived by others.

In 1969, Management trainer Martin M. Broadwell, describes the Four stages of competence in a Gospel Guardian article titled: the four levels of teaching, he writes:

A few are gifted with the ability to teach well without working at it. Others must learn the skill. For most of us, learning how to teach means studying and practicing and seeing what we did right and wrong. According to Broadwell there are four levels of teaching:

Unconscious Incompetent.

This poor creature who is a very poor teacher, but doesn’t know it. He goes on in the same old way, perhaps lecturing in a dull, monotone manner, unaware that he is wasting his time and the students’. We can do nothing towards improving this fellow, because he can’t be changed until he reaches the next level, which is the “Conscious Incompetent.”

Steve Jobs, ex-CEO of Apple Computer & Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005, delivered one of the most inspiring commencement speech at Stanford University.

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid – Epictetus

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish excerpt from the 2005 Steve Jobs Commencement Speech

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters. Don’t wish to seem knowledgeable, and if some regard you as important, distrust yourself ~Epictetus.

remind myself every morningNothing I say this day will teach me anythingSo if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening. – Larry King

I am not the best of listener, it is a weakness am taking conscious effort in trying to remedy. It is a constant battle for me to stay silent when someone is speaking. It is a life long journey, just like any habit. You can Learn and Unlearn any thing you put your mind into.

I am committing to Listening for a change. Here are some thoughts and insights on Listening that could help:

In the Contranian’s Guide to Leadership, Steven B. Sample wrote :The average person suffers from three delusions:

  • That he is a good driver
  • That he has a good sense of humor
  • That he is a good listener

The biggest mistake you can make in trying to talk convincingly is to put your highest priority on expressing your ideas and feelings. What most people really want is to be listened to, respected, and understood. The moment people see that they are being understood, they become more motivated to understand your point of view. – David D. Burns (Psychiatrist and Author)

John Maxwell in his Book, the leaders greatest return, shares a joke about listening:

We hear half of what what is being said, listen to half of what we hear, understand half of that, believe half of that, and remember only half of that. If you translate those assumptions into an eight hour workday, here is what what would mean:

  • You spend about four hours listening
  • You hear about two hour of what is said
  • You actually listen to an hour of that
  • You understand only thirty minutes of that
  • You believe only fifteen minutes of that
  • And you remember only seven and a half minutes of it.

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.


Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend
. ― Bruce Lee

How do you answer the question: What do you do? Do you answer with your present/past Job Description(s). For Example:

The above responses are what have done in the past/presently doing but they are not who I am because I am constantly re-inventing myself like we should all be doing. We need to constantly be in Permanent Beta Mode.

Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes. – J.K.Rowling

In the The Start-up of You, Reid Hoffman notes:

Technology companies sometimes keep the beta test phase label on software for a time after the official launch to stress that the product is not finished so much as ready for the next batch of improvements. Gmail, for example, launched in 2004 but only left official beta in 2009, after millions of people were already using it.

One of my favourite quote from a movie is from “Akeelah and the Bee:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

I developed my keen interest in playing various board games such as Scrabble,Monopoly and Chess after watching the Akeelah and the Bee Movie.

Our deepest fear quote is originally from Marianne Williamson, I agree profoundly with the statement.

Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.  – John Wooden   

We give ourselves various excuses/reasons and we talk ourselves out from achieving our greatness by saying things like : I am too young, I am too old, I am too skinny, I am too fat, I am too dark, I am too this I am too that.