The Secret Ingredient of Being Brilliant

steve jobsEveryone I know wishes that they could harness the creative genius and innovation that Steve Jobs had. He inspired many with his extreme ideas, but there is one secret that I believe greatly contributed to his success – he explored his interests.

During a speech at Stanford, Jobs talked about a calligraphy class that he took:

“I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to [learn calligraphy]. I learned about serif and sans-serif typefaces, about varying the space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture.

None of this had any hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would never have multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

Jobs wasn’t always working on the iPhone, he made sure that he explored other interests outside of it.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

Unsurprisingly, this has been found true in other industries outside of tech. Apparently, fashion designers that spent time traveling abroad had the most creative designs. Something as simple as “new sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights” sparks different synapses in the brain and boosts innovation.

When you are an entrepreneur, it is easy to have tunnel vision and all you can think of is completing each of the million to billion tasks that you need to accomplish to make your business succeed. However, new experiences directly correlate with innovation and success, even if it’s not apparent at all how they do so.

However, maybe you can’t go travel or take a seemingly useless course. Try one of the following instead:

Take a Walk

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner regularly hold walking meetings  because walking boosts creativity, backed by research conducted by Stanford University. Even if you feel yourself falling into a rut in the middle of the day, get outside and take a few laps around the building.

Take a Risk

As Mark Zuckerberg put it, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.” If you find yourself just treading water, that probably means that you need to make a move that involves some risk. It’s too tempting to only focus on “surefire” projects and ones where the payoff is incredibly apparent. However, it’s beyond important to take those riskier leaps, even if they scare you.

Take a Class

No, not actually – but you are going to treat your own business as such. Ask questions about everything you’re doing. Ask if you’re finding the quickest route from point A to point B. Ask if your approach will produce your best and greatest work.

You should be constantly challenging yourself, creating new problems, learning how to find new solutions. Incorporate at least one of my suggestions into your life and let me know what happens, I’m sure you’ll be surprised.

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