Creativity

The Secrets to Having More “Eureka!” Moments

Joseph Guinto, writing in the American Airlines magazine, shares the secrets to having better “aha!” moments. I’m a big believer that real, long term creativity is a matter of showing up every day and doing the work. However, there’s no question that “Eureka!” moments happen, and as Guinto says, we can create an atmosphere where they tend to happen more often.  Along with Guinto’s advice, here’s a few keys that have helped me discover more creative breakthroughs:

1) Notice everything.  I’ll never forget driving outside Dallas with a friend a number of years ago. I noticed a strange light sculpture far in the distance and mentioned it. My friend said, “One thing about you is that you notice things nobody else sees.” For creative breakthroughs, open your eyes and start seeing the world that no one else notices.

2) Write it down.  I often tell the story of a business man who had a breakthrough idea while he was shopping with his wife. He quickly wrote down the idea but was distracted and promptly forgot about it. Six months later he put on the same jacket and found the written note in the pocket. He acted on it, launched the start up, and within ten years, sold it for $70 million. Had he not written it down, he would have completely forgotten about that life-changing idea.

3) Ask questions.  There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “”He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask a question is a fool forever.”

4) Do nothing.  Sometimes our “busyness” clutters our lives and fogs our brain. Don’t forget to take the time to pause and reflect. Over my career, most of my best ideas came to me when I was bored out of my mind. There’s just something about quiet reflection that makes remarkable mental connections happen.

5) Read more.  I’m amazed how often I sit next to people on plane flights that either do nothing for hours, or play video games. Nothing wrong with video games, but sometimes you need to feed the creative engine inside. What are you reading? Is it “People” magazine, or something that can impact your life and career? And don’t shy away from longer books. Sometimes it takes time to develop a powerful idea, and if all you’re reading is short posts or magazine articles, you’ll miss much of the richness of deep thinking.

Breakthrough ideas and eureka moments seem like they “just happen,” but the truth is, people who have them, have created the atmosphere where they happen more often.

When was the last time you had a breakthrough idea?   Tell us about it.

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10 Comments

  1. I have so many breakthrough ideas I can’t remember them all. Remember that phrase: “he’s a legend in his own mind”? LOL. This may not sound like much of one to many of your readers, Phil, but I made a decision in the last quarter of 2014 to preach through Galatians in 2015. I wrapped up 9 months this past week. It has been phenomenal for me (and hopefully for the people).

  2. I have experienced that when I regard my “aha” moments more loosely it helps me to encounter more of them. The second that I feel the need to turn every idea into a feature film is when I spiral downward and abandon the notion that there could be other “aha” moments. These days I actually feel more “inspired” when I’m cognizant of the fact that I have more ideas than I could possibly act upon. The cream will rise to the top and become the mission.

    1. Excellent point John. Someone once said that the key to having GOOD ideas is having a LOT of ideas. In my case, for every 10 ideas I have, 5 stink, 2 are OK, 2 could potentially work, and 1 is actually pretty good. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the article Phil! I have most of my ideas while driving or doing mundane work. I actually have more ideas than I know what to do with and could live 10,000 years without getting bored…..maybe, lol

  4. Regarding Point 2, Habakuk may have said it first and best when he wrote: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” Scientist, musicologist, & co-inventor of the Moog synthesizer–David Van Koevering–says when we write something down, it amplifies our mind’s capacity to retain the information by 700 times more than if we only hear it. Business coach, Glenn Dietzel says, “Writing is the doing part of thinking.”

  5. Writing it down is also important when you wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea. If you don’t capture it then, chances are you won’t remember it in the morning.

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