In the movie A Beautiful Mind (2001), Russell Crow plays John Forbes Nash. John Forbes Nash is a mathematical genius who has battled schizophrenia much of his life. In 1994 Nash won the Nobel Prize for his earlier work as a Princeton graduate student. In his college years, Nash feverishly searched for “a truly original idea” that would be his contribution to mathematics. Needless to say, he succeeded. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Forbes_Nash.
Why is it so hard to come up with, to think of, or to invent something new? Why are new, original ideas, or new ways to accomplish something so hard to achieve?
Was it the Schizophrenia?
Perhaps Nash’s mental problems allowed him to see the world in a way most of us don’t, or perhaps it just allowed him to avoid the traps of normality most of us fall into. Or, maybe his schizophrenia had nothing to do with his mathematical ability or his original ideas at all. I certainly don’t know the answers to those questions.
Peter Pan Syndrome?
I do know this: watch young children play and interact and you’ll see lots of original thoughts and ideas.
I know this too: as they grow older, for most of them, this ability goes away forever.
It’s almost as though we train our children to fail. Therefore, we as adults have been trained for failure as well.
Maybe Peter Pan was onto something: if you grow up, you can’t fly. We no longer remember that we have wings.
Funnel of Normality:
As each of us grows up and interacts with others, we’re almost forced through a funnel that shapes us to be normal, or at least somewhat conform to the known ways and laws of our society. Almost like the “Borg” in Star Trek Enterprise, you will be assimilated.
In our present day society, the media drives what’s popular. This creates cultural icons that are totally useless at anything but getting attention. You may be tempted to use this as an example and say the funnel I talk about does not exist, that there are all kinds of strange and crazy people having all kinds of strange and crazy ways about them. That’s true, but it’s not the good kind of being different, it’s the kind of being different that destroys society and brings everyone down to a more base level.
The kind of different I’m talking about is having the freedom of problem solving and thinking you had before you fell out of the small end of the Funnel of Normality.
Trained for Failure:
How many times a day do you see a problem and think of a solution? I’ll bet it happens a lot but you don’t even recognize it’s happened or realize that your brain has this ability. Sometimes you may actually, consciously think about whatever it is and then discount your thoughts because you’ve been trained to think along these lines:
- It won’t work,
- It’s too time consuming,
- It’s too expensive,
- Someone’s probably already done it,
- No one would buy it,
- I’m just one person,
- It’s too simple,
- I don’t know what I’m doing,
- I’m too old,
- I’m not smart enough,
- etc., etc., etc.
The list goes on and on. Luckily, there are some people who do not think this way; you need to become one of them.
Near Death = Young at Heart:
When you read about, or know, someone who’s had a near brush with death, they often have a renewed zest for life. They look at the world with young, renewed eyes and a young heart. Perhaps for the first time in years or decades. Some go on to accomplish great things that they never would have attempted, or possibly even thought of, before their narrow escape from the Grim Reaper. Some will find those wings that they long ago forgot they had!
Pumping Iron, Pumping Neurons:
Just like going to the gym keeps us young and in good physical shape, we have to exercise our brains too. If we don’t, our thought processes will turn to mush as well. The hardest part is maintaining a child-like enthusiasm and interest. It’s too easy to settle into a rut and leave well enough alone. It’s too easy to become jaded and apathetic. When this happens, you’ll never act on, let alone see, the truly original ideas and thoughts that you have. They’ll just pass by unnoticed.
Sow and Reap:
We must avoid becoming one of the Borg like zombies that fall out of the funnel and instead fight to maintain the innocent curiosity of the world around us, the belief in ourselves, and the courage to act on our thoughts like a 3 year old.
More importantly, we must train our children to do the same. Don’t tell them they can’t fly, but instead help them soar as high as they can go!
Until next time,