Three Adventures

Author: Ury Smirnov. Category: Let's be smarter. Date:29.03.2013, 7:32.

The magazine “Zhit’ interesno!” (Life is interesting!) asked me: where do, in my opinion, the ideas and forecasts come from? For me the idea generation and forecasting, creativity and intuition are the same thing. I think out the ideas and try to see into the future in the same way and feel the same feelings. In the words of Nobel laureate Denes Gabor: “The future can not be foreseen, but you can invent it”.

But what are these feelings and how I learned to cause them at myself? Let me tell you about three intellectual adventures that I experienced at different times, and that helped me to know better myself, my possibilities and limitations.

First adventure or: How I “hacked” the subconscious

Tricks of perception (click on picture)

Tricks of perception (click on picture)

I became interested in journalism in school (it was at the height of the Brezhnev stagnation). Because there were no youth editions in my hometown I had to work with a solid regional party newspaper.

My first teachers took my intention seriously and sent me to interview the serious people: plant managers, secretaries of district committees, architects of the cities, prosecutors and inspectors, etc. And those (I must pay tribute to the setting-up of the party) without a shadow of a smile patiently gave answers to the beardless young correspondent.

Alas, my experience and knowledge in the sum were equal to zero. I did not understand half of what they tell me. Therefore I tried to fix every word in the notebook.

I went out after the interview with sweaty backs and went to the library to hot pursuit clarification of the meaning of confusing terminology and processes. And then ran home, cut the sheets on dozens of squares, wrote out from a notebook on each square one fact or colorful phrase or observation – and spend hours shuffling those bits of paper on the desk, trying to build one logical, convincing scheme.

Only when, according to my feelings, it went right – I ventured back to my young correspondent duties. It looked like the results were good for the editor: every time I was given more and more complex tasks. And often I was praised for my creativity. But I already knew that the basis of creativity is a large amount of accumulated data and continuous efforts on its comprehension. 🙂

About seven years later, by the end of journalism faculty, life experience I had noticeably increased. But invented in my youth “living flowcharts” continued to help out. The fact is that I was lucky enough to start a career in a very good “junior” – the third in terms of circulation among the youth USSR newspaper. And, I think, it was the second in the quality of journalism school. A good literary style here was the requirement by default. But even more were appreciated here articles containing a certain discovery, synthesis, an unexpected solution of the problem, unconventional look at the people, events, processes. I tried my best. And, in search of the next opening, I was shuffling the squares on the table, sometimes for days.

But once I got into time trouble: it was necessary to pass in the morning the text of incredible size. There was no time even to just move on squares “squeeze” out of many meetings, read documents, proven facts. What was all this about? In desperation, I tried to summon up the feeling of delight, which previously experienced when successful thoughts and phrases came into my head.

Tried – and I succeeded! I still remember in details this great moment. Within a few seconds became clear the second, deeper meaning of the events that I have encountered in the course of journalistic investigation, and then came to mind killer headline, followed by “internal screen” where a detailed block diagram of a future article has emerged.

Only after some time I was able to understand the mechanism of this insight.

So our subconscious mind is not just the dark abode of Freudian monsters. It at high speed produces a lot of useful (to use the language of IT – parallel) calculations, comparing the external signals, internal reaction and the accumulated data. Some of the results we are aware of. And some – perceive in summary form, as an emotional backdrop. Be mindful of your emotions – they are hints of your subconscious!

But the main thing is in other: emotions can be the key to the subconscious.

Since then, I always use emotions as a tool for feedback from my hidden resources. Formulating the problem, I “remember” the state of inspiration or creative flow – and very quickly (often – at once) get the answer: some original idea, which it is possible to realize with usual logical methods.

Yes, that’s so easy. But, I think the difficulty is. First, the brain must already be loaded with necessary and sufficient information: ideas are not born out of the void. Second, you must have experience in analyzing information. To put it without sentimentality: to have the practice of “milking” of creative ideas from yourself with purely logical, constructivist methods. The brain must already be trained for rapid computation of the “resultant ideas” – the main vector of all your recorded forces and factors.

You may ask: is it always working? No, not always (in this case under my arm there is an open “trunk” with a collection of popular methods to stimulate creativity – such as SCAMPER, the strategy of the “blue ocean”, a method of focal objects, etc.).

But I must say that the emotional feedback tool you can always adjust again. After all, the reason for its failure – or the lack of information / practice, or, again, the emotions: anger, fear, stress, resistance to change, etc. That is, to bring inspiration – I still have to deal with my emotions as the keys to the old habits, attitudes, and the like.

Second adventure or: How I looked into the future

"Flat" cube (click on picture)

“Flat” cube (click on picture)

Five years later, I was in a strip of continuous conflict on all fronts. By and large, it was a simple story, when the external career and internal development were in conflict. But I understand it now. And then it seemed like I was surrounded on all sides by malevolent.

In the midst of those events, I drew attention to regularity that amazed me. If I wake up in the morning in a painful and disturbing mood – for lunch or in the evening another conflict certainly came (even I learned gradually to calculate according the strength of emotion approximate time when it would happen.) A lack of negative emotions meant that the day would pass quietly.

This pattern seemed impossible, but day after day, month after month it was confirmed with one hundred percent. Rotten mood in the morning presaged conflict throughout the day. Morning composure lasted an entire day. I could not change the balance in my favor, avoiding conflict people, themes and areas. Sure someone dealt a blow from the unexpected, as it had then seemed, side.

It was the time to hit in mysticism. Fortunately, the accumulated stock of common sense kept me from making personal totalitarian sect. 🙂

I started to analyze my relationship with people – and I discovered the sad picture. Namely – the mountains of my own forgotten promises, provocative hints, ignored requests. I drove all these out of consciousness but the brain continued to store and process this data in the subconscious. And it warned about the pressing conflicts with emotion – that was on the channel, which was already well trained by regular generating ideas. After a while, I returned to balance my relationships with others – and I regained inner balance.
I think the word balance is closely related to the prediction of the future.

Do you know how the vestibular system works? In the cavity of the inner ear there are three semicircles filled with fluid and with the sensory receptors. One semi-circle signals the brain about the position of a person in a horizontal plane, the second – in the vertical, the third – reports the movements back and forth. One who uses a smart phone with an accelerometer and a gyroscope will quickly realize this. 🙂

The dramatic consequences of damage to the vestibular apparatus (for example, due to illness or drug abuse) Dr. Norman Doydzh describes in his book “The plasticity of the brain”. The man not only loses the ability to walk normally, but even after being seated on a chair, helplessly falls from it. And in the lying position – feels continually falling into a bottomless abyss. This condition literally makes patients crazy, and brings some of them to suicide.

I think each of us has the ability to maintain balance in the way to the future.

The fact that the human brain is constantly predicting the future (calculates the consequences of certain actions and options for external events) science had known long ago. Moreover, many neuroscientists believe that the mystery of human consciousness is related with the predictive ability of the brain.

But at the same time, the state of affairs in the world shows that most people have the forecasting horizon which is not very large. Minute, day, week… and it’s necessary more, much more for life to come into balance.

When a person:

  • takes into account the interests of the growing number of people;
  • tries to understand more and more events and phenomena;
  • relies not only on the authority of ideologies, concepts and traditions that have a tendency to become outdated, but also on his inner sense of balance;
  • – then the person feels better the direction in which future goes. And may do something.

    Fortunately, such people appear more and more. At the very least, it tells me the proper sense of balance. 🙂

    Third adventure, or How I changed other people’s talents to my

    "Moving" gears (click on picture)

    “Moving” gears (click on picture)

    Another five years later I ran into an unexpected creative challenge.

    Before – I never complained about the lack of wit: it was enough to me to focus on a certain subject – and almost immediately “shot” with ready aphorism, generalization. And now I noticed that short apt phrase are more and more difficult for me.

    Finally, the time came when I could be tormented for 10 and 15 minutes and half an hour on coming up with killer phrase that was necessary in the culminating point of the article. I backed to this passage several times in a day – but could not give birth for nothing special.

    Of course, by that time I became a much more skillful craftsman in many ways, than in my youth, but some stunts suddenly became unavailable for me.

    First thought was: that’s old age had come. 🙁 Not for nothing do they say that the human brain develops after 20 years in only one direction – toward degradation. And I was already over thirty.

    I made several targeted attempts to regain lost skill. And once in the course of these experiments, the idea so bright had come to me that my brain has ceased to be for me a “black box”: I understood how it works.

    I realized that I demand from my brain something impossible. Something that now it is physically not capable, because it physically has changed. I realized that we are changing not only because we gain new experiences, and forget some of the old one. We are changing not only because sclerotic plaques appear in the brain and nerve cells are dying. Most importantly, neuronal, and hence associations links influenced with our thinking change. And it opens the way for us to come up with some ideas, and at the same time – makes us unable to generate other ideas!

    In this sense, every one of us dies and is born as a new person a few times in a lifetime.

    I suddenly saw clearly how the leaving for business journalism influenced me. I became stronger in the specifics, in details, the system step by step presentation of technologies. But, at the same time, ability to generalize almost atrophied. And in dealing with people I stopped to see general because of the details.

    I did not like this discovery. I tried to change the way of life. I changed the subject, form and style of my publications. They became to have more second and third meanings and less instruction.

    And the ability to generalize partly backed. To the extent that I was satisfied. I even again started to invent aphorisms (some of which are now saved in my tweets).

    It was many years later that I learned that the guess was correct. That scientists discovered the phenomenon of neuroplasticity – the amazing ability of the brain to change its structure under the influence of experience. It was found that the conventional wisdom about the inexorable degradation of the brain after 20 years is an ignorant myth. Man is able to develop his brain for life and keep a clear mind in old age. Healthy parts of the brain can take over the functions of damaged. The solution of complex intellectual tasks leads to physical increase of hippocampus and other important brain structures, as well as to the creation of new neural links. As the American writer and scholar Stephen Johnson aptly put: “A new idea – this is a new network of neurons, the new configuration, which has never happened before”.

    But along with the “germination” of new neural networks unused ones disappear. The emergence of new skills can lead to a redistribution of resources and the weakening of the old skills. For example, the development of reading skills is at the expense of the visual memory. And vice versa.

    All this means that we are responsible for our thinking.
    They say a man is what he eats. For example, the consumption of fish with lots of omega-3 stimulates intellectual activity.

    But in the same way a man is what he thinks.

    Each of us is responsible for what newspapers and books he reads, what movies looks at what training goes, what projects reclassifies as “important and urgent”. For the fact he is talking to whom, what does he do in the social networks, how much time he rolls in his mind the same thoughts, and how much he is meditating.

    In fact, we think in order to open up the door to new ideas. And in the end – or we invent in our dream our periodic table, or peruse in reality the repeat of one and the same bad dream.

    I thank the editor of the magazine “Life is interesting!” Armen Petrossian , managing editor Anna SHTAYER and designer Anastasia Lesnikova for the invitation to the company of searching creative people, for the opportunity to think about what is usually no time to think – and speak out! And I invite you to join the readers of this wonderful magazine that with his every number proves that “Life is interesting!”

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