Labeling thinkers like Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs as "other" may be stifling humanity's creative potential.
- Revolutionary ideas and culture-shifting inventions are often credited to specific individuals, but how often do these "geniuses" actually operate in creative silos?
- Tim Sanders, former chief strategy officer at Yahoo, argues that there are three myths getting in the way of innovative ideas and productive collaborations: the myths of the expert, the eureka moment, and the "lone inventor."
- More than an innate quality reserved for an elite group, neuroscientist Heather Berlin and neurobiologist Joy Hirsch explain how creativity looks in the brain, and how given opportunity, resources, and attitude, we can all be like Bach, Beethoven, and Steve Jobs.
There is no success without failure, but the fear of the latter is what's really keeping you from achieving your goals.
- What does it mean to be a failure? Failing is typically seen as moving in the opposite direction of a specific goal, when in reality, most achievements in history were made possible by a series of non-successes.
- "The very concepts of success and failure are words that never really meant anything," says astronomer Michelle Thaller. She and others argue that successes and failures are inextricably linked, and that how we define them for ourselves is what matters.
- As Ethan Hawke, multidisciplinary filmmaker Karen Palmer, entrepreneurs Steve Case and Tim Ferriss, executive coach Alisa Cohn, and others explain, finding personal success means taking risks, being willing to fail, and recognizing when—and why—things are not working. "Most things will fail, but that doesn't mean you're a failure," Steve Case says. "That just means that idea failed. And what can you learn from that idea and then move forward."
It's insidious and destructive, but there are some things you can do to develop a healthier relationship with material things.
The Oxford Dictionary defines materialism as "a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values." Most people realize it's a losing proposition. Still, with 24/7 appeals to buy, buy, buy, it's easy to become preoccupied with the pursuit of material possessions without even realizing it.
But it's never enough, and we may fall into thinking less of ourselves based on how we measure up to those with more money and stuff.
Obviously, ignoring one's material needs altogether in a money-based society doesn't work: Just try not having to be materialist all the time when you're broke. This leaves materialism as only a problem for those with fundamentally sufficient economic resources. So, lucky you. Nonetheless, there's a healthy balance that should be struck. And there are ways to break out of a destructive materialistic mindset.
De-programming your mind
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1. Get mindful about advertising
Face it: You're surrounded. On TV, in apps, on web pages, on the streets, it's everywhere. People want you to buy their products. You may be able to minimize the impact of this 360-degree brainwashing by taking conscious note of your exposure to it. Stillman suggests that you can gain a better appreciation of its insidious effect—and build up resistance—by listing every ad to which you're exposed for four days. Spoiler alert: It's going to be a lot of writing and a jaw-dropper.
2. Inventory your actual values
Take a time-out to thoughtfully write out all the things you really consider important, such as loved ones, feeling healthy, and so on. Don't be disappointed if the list seems trite. These things are often cited as having value because they really do. Want to be happier? Consider the acquisition of these things your new goal.
"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city." — George Burns
Take a moment to explore whether your behavior lines up with these things, and consider how it might.
3. Track your spending
No, we're not talking about budgeting yourself so much as having a look at where your money is going. Is it being spent on helping you attain your real goals? Or are you buying things to impress others or keep up with what others around you may have so you don't feel like a loser?
"Every time I feel lame, I'm looking up." — Sheryl Crow
This is how you’re being manipulated
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Leo Babauta digs down a bit deeper into the whole brainwashing thing.
He recommends stepping away from activities in which many of us engage by default and which keep us up to our eyeballs in ads. He warns about over-consumption of TV, the news, internet blogs, magazines as opposed to books, frequent trips to the mall or superstores, and keeping watch on the buying impulses they trigger.
Babauta suggests a 30-day test you can use to identify the things you might not really need. Ask yourself, "If I had to wait 30 days to buy this, would I still want it?" He also proposes the consideration of buying things used — is it the "shiny new" aspect you covet, or the thing itself?
Finally, there's a Zen beauty in the simpler, de-cluttered home you can get by getting rid of possessions that don't give you joy, as Marie Kondo says. Things you really don't care about serve as examples that can stay your hand when you're considering buying more, well, junk in the cosmic scheme of things.
Refocus your principles
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- You aren't the things1 you own — Your value is in who you are and what you do, not what stuff you've amassed.
- Relationships are about doing, not having — Being in a relationship is a state of being. You haven't acquired, nor do you own, the other person.
- Create a system of goals and challenges — Since materialism steps in when there's a void to fill, find yourself some worthwhile goals to occupy that empty space.
- Serve — Want to feel good about yourself? There's no better way than doing something good for someone else. It's the best selfish secret there is.
- Trash it — We've mentioned the value in decluttering above. Clear away crap you don't care about.
- See wealth as a challenge not a result — As Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert told CNN in 2006, research indicates, "By and large, money buys happiness only for those who lack the basic needs. Once you pass an income of $50,000, more money doesn't buy much more happiness." (The figure's likely a bit higher in 2021.)
- Experience over objects — These's nothing more valuable than the precious time that keeps whizzing by. Are you spending this rarest of possessions well?
- Build intangible assets — It makes a lot more sense to invest in becoming a smarter, better person than focusing on material goods.
- Use money to free, not chain, yourself — Once you've got enough to meet your true needs, you're done. Becoming obsessed with getting more and more money is nothing more than a trap that keeps you from more valuable pursuits.
- Go basic — If you live a bit less extravagantly, you'll buy yourself slack to mentally relax. Simpler can be easier, you know.
- Avoid the status game — Cultivate a personal community of people from a variety of economic brackets so you're not so tempted to compare.
- Judge yourself by your ethics and your understanding — If you need to judge yourself at all, consider the kind of person you are, and how well you're achieving your ethical goals. It's not about what the world thinks of you: It's what you know about yourself.
- Let go — Yes, you live in a material world, but you also live in a spiritual one, regardless of whether or not you're the religious type. Guess which one makes you happier.
- You can't take it with you — When you're tossing out stuff, make sure to lose the "He who has the most stuff when he dies wins" t-shirt. It's hard to imagine that in your last moments you'll be thinking about that flatscreen and not the experiences you've had and the people you've loved and who've made you feel loved.
Do it for your mental health
Scientific American reports on the largest study ever on the impact or rampant materialism on individuals. It found that shifting one's focus away from money and things and toward intrinsic goals leads to greater contentment. One of its authors, psychology professor Tim Kasser, explains, "Intrinsic goals tend to be ones that promote greater well-being and act as a kind of 'antidote' to materialistic values."
If you're reading this, you're probably already thinking about materialism in your life. You're not alone in being concerned, and you may be able to find other people you know with whom you can work make a change in your lives. "It is important to find some like-minded folks who want to join you in shifting away from materialism," says Kasser. "They are out there, I promise."
Being a leader is about more than the job title. You have to earn respect.
- What does it take to be a leader? For Northwell Health president and CEO Michael Dowling, having an Ivy League degree and a large office is not what makes a leader. Leadership requires something much less tangible: influence.
- True leaders inspire people to follow and believe in them and the organization's mission by being passionate, having humility, and being a real part of the team. This is especially important in a field like health care, where guidance and teamwork save lives.
- Authenticity is also key. "Don't pretend, be real," says Dowling. "Accept your vulnerabilities, accept your weaknesses, know where your strengths are, and get people to belong."
Words of wisdom from H.P. Lovecraft, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Dr. Temple Grandin, Hannah Gadsby and more.
- Autism (commonly referred to as ASD, autism spectrum disorder) refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.
- The effects of ASD and the severity of symptoms can be very different in each person. Additionally, these things can also change over time. This is why it's considered a spectrum.
- Many people with ASD gift the world with inventions or new ways of thinking. Judy Singer, for example, is the woman who coined the term "neurodiversity" in the 1990s.
What is autism?
Autism (commonly referred to as ASD, autism spectrum disorder) refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is the concept that there are many different variations of human functionality and that each and every variation needs to be better understood and respected.
Previously (and in some places, currently), neurological differences such as autism or ADHD were considered medical deficits. They were classified as things that need to be treated and cured.
Neurodiversity is an alternative approach to learning and disability that shifts the focus from treatment and cures to acceptance and accommodation. The neurodiversity movement began in the late 1990s, when sociologist Judy Singer (who is on the autism spectrum), came up with the word to describe conditions such as ADHD, autism, and dyslexia. This ideology recognizes that neurological differences are the result of natural variations to the human genome.
What does it mean to be on the autism spectrum?
The "official" term for the diagnosis is ASD (autism spectrum disorder). While the days where things were viewed as black and white aren't too far behind us, the world is slowly gravitating towards understanding that many things (from mental health conditions to gender) can land on a spectrum. The effects of ASD and the severity of symptoms can be very different in each person. Additionally, these things can also change over time. This is why it's considered a spectrum.
There are several people throughout history who have been rumored to be on the autism spectrum, from infamous author Lewis Carroll, to iconic mathematician Isaac Newton. Many people with ASD gift the world with inventions or new ways of thinking. In fact, the first entry on the list is the woman who coined the term "neurodiversity" in the 1990s, Judy Singer.
"I think the concept of Neurodiversity has been world-changing, by giving us a new perspective on humanity, but it needs to mature to the point where we see that human nature is complex, and nature is beautiful but not benign."
- Judy Singer to Autism Awareness
"There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself."
- Hannah Gadsby, Marie Claire
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"And I know that the younger generation is doing things that are so ingenious. And for them it's not a matter of a political belief or an environmental stance. It's really just common sense."
- Daryl Hannah, NBC News
"There are enough people in the world who are going to write you off. You don't need to do that to yourself."
- Susan Boyle, "The Woman I Was Born to Be: My Story"
"We float around and we run across each other and we learn about ourselves, and we make mistakes and we do great things. We hurt others, we hurt ourselves, we make others happy and we please ourselves. We can and should forgive ourselves and each other for that."
- Dan Harmon
Dr. Temple Grandin
"When I was younger I was looking for this magic meaning of life. It's very simple now. Making the lives of others better, doing something of lasting value. That's the meaning of life, it's that simple."
- Dr. Temple Grandin, WECapable
"Recognizing and respecting differences in others, and treating everyone like you want them to treat you, will help make our world a better place for everyone."
- Kim Peek, All That's Interesting
"What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"
- H.P. Lovecraft
"I would play with numbers in a way that other kids would play with their friends."
- Daniel Tammet
Sir Anthony Hopkins
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"My philosophy is: It's none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am, and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier."
- Sir Anthony Hopkins
John Elder Robinson
"It does not matter what sixty-six percent of people do in any particular situation. All that matters is what you do."
- John Elder Robinson, "Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers"