Moments of Conception 010 — The Ives Scene from Steve Jobs

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today’s clip comes from the design scene in Jobs:

So, what did they do right?

Let your why drive.Apple stood for taste, humanity, heart and design. But somewhere along the way,
somewhere in the bloated space between the cubicle farms and copy machines and
shareholder meetings, that original vision got lost. Jobs realized his company
wasn’t a garage anymore. That’s why he asked his team the crucial question.Why are you still here?He understood
that what we create is just as important as why we create it.That the depth of meaning connected to the idea is
just as important as the idea itself. Armed with that vision, that running
imperative, that underlying nobility, the design team took on a new posture in
their work. Ive’s result was the iMac, a product that paved the wayfor
many other designs including the iPod, which changed the way we listen to
music; the iPhone, which changed the way we live and communicate; and the iPad,
which changed the way we work and learn. All because they remembered why.

Creativity is a
function of caring.
Jobs was a man on a mission. He cared more than anyone.
That was his ideal. That was the objective definition of his values. That was
the hallmark of his passionate craftsmanship. And he personally embraced and
internalized it to the highest order. Jobs famously commented in his
bestselling postmortem biography, “The idealistic wind of the sixties is still
at my back, and most of the people I know who are my age have that ingrained in
them forever.” Unfortunately, nobody changes the world by caring in a corner. Values
aren’t taught, they’re caught. And so, when Jobs returned to the company as de facto chief in the late
nineties, he started putting some calories behind his caring. He walked the
factory floors, infected his team with his vision, and together they gave
visual expression to his sense of life. Proving, that when sheer obsessive
caring about what you do drives you
, there’s no ceiling on what you can

Restructure the system around constraints.
In one of my favorite books, The Art of
Looking Sideways
, famed visual designer Alan Fletcher wrote that the first
move in any creative process is to introduce constraints. And not just lines
and borders and shapes and colors and physical space and time, but also
conceptual constraints. In this scene, Jobs tells his team to forget about
whatever they’re working on. To design something new. Something useful.
Something they cared about. Even if it’s technology. That was the constraint. The catapult that set them free. Their job
was to chase the ugliness away. And what was the result? Packaging became theater.
Computers became friendly. Technology became nondisposable. Innovation became
human. Customers became evangelists. Apple became iconic. Jobs became immortal.

What’s your favorite movie moment of conception?

A New Framework For Becoming Prolific

I’m currently working on a new project called Prolific, which is the art and science of collecting, creating and communicating your ideas.

The system I’ve built will eventually become a book, a curriculum and some kind of software application. Last week, I shared part one of the glossary, in case you missed it. 

This week, I have another collection of terms to help you rewrite your creative vocabulary. Each definition has a link to a related piece that explains it further. Enjoy.

Bacon. A
motivational currency that overrides your excuses, activates your natural
inclinations and moves you

Boundary moments.
Existential distresses or identity crises in which our motivation for doing
something is just to feel normal again.

Buffaloing. Keeping
all of our passions in play, investing in multiple containers of meaning, using our
strengths to do what we do best
and leaving no faculty unharvested.

Burning creative
Channeling your jealousy into something productive instead of
crafting your envy into something hateful.  

Content detachment.
The creator’s obligation to empty himself of any expectations, perceptions,
hierarchies and value chains attached to his ideas.

Creative Commitment. A theoretical constraint of treating your art as a daily practice, professionalizing your art and using daily momentum to keep yourself from feeling detached from the process.

Deep democracy.
Treat everything we encounter with fundamental affirmation and radical

Delayed gratification. Staying the course, risking today’s time for tomorrow’s treasure and believing that it’s only a matter of time before your   

your creative well.
Accumulating ongoing reference files for your
brain to work on through a passive, unconscious process.

Exhaling. The
creative season of content expression, or output, and shipping work out of the

Existential anchor. Portable,
purposeful and private sanctuary that brings you back to center to reconnect
with the self, the body, the spirit and the heart.

Framework for
Metacognitive, ritualistic or recreational tactics for finding
inspiration where no one else is looking.

Identity based
Tapping into your native endowments and limitations of
creativity, motivation, inspiration and intelligence and channeling them in the
service of making your ideas happen.

Incrementalism. Building a body of work based on a practice of patience, delayed gratification and continuity.

Inhaling. The
creative season of content inspiration, or input, and listening for what wants
to be written.

Integration. Employing the whole of your personality, talents, gifts and experiences
to contribute the highest amount of value and firepower those around you.

Internal revolution.
Updating the identity story you tell yourself after spontaneously doing
something you didn’t realize you could do.

Making room.
Relieving your brain the necessity of remembering, freeing up your working
memory to opens your mind to receive new ideas.

Meaning context. Making motivation significantly easier by making an activity existentially painful not to do.

The opposite of ambition, the antitheses of labor, in which you leave the creative land alone for a given period of

An elegant excuse just to have ideas and
validate the process with a sophisticated piece of office technology, building
your confidence, commitment and competence.

Pausing. The
creative season of content intermission, or throughput, and managing your ideas
as an inventory system.

Preliminary trigger.Asimple, easy and incremental ritual thatkeeps creative production going andgrows your executional victory

Principal creation.Theprimarywork unit of your creative process that requires focus and craft,
i.e., putting words on paper or clicking the shutter.

Peripheral creation. The
secondary activities of your creative process where it’s more about speed and
less about skill, i.e., editing, formatting, social media and billing.

Regeneration. The creative product is subordinate to the creative moment, which is subordinate to the creative process, which is subordinate to the holistic creative life.

Safety container. A space without circumference where judgment can’t enter, a free venue where ideas can run free without the scrutiny of readers, critics, editors and yourself.

Seasonality. The three stages of
the creative process as modeled after the respiratory functions, i.e., inhaling,
pausing and exhaling.

Self Organization. Some form of global order or coordination arises out of the local interactions between the components of an initially disordered system.

Triggers for joy. Something,
anything, gives you
sustenance from the act itself and puts you back together.

Unfinishing. Approaching the creative process as a fluid experience, viewing each piece of output as a constantly evolving organism, within the ecosystem of my larger body of work.

Why work. Identifying the running imperative that drives your creative behavior, the nobility behind your work and the posture with which you approach your art.

Moments of Conception 009 — The Bathroom Scene from As Good As It Gets

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today’s clip comes from the bathtub scene ofAs Good As It Gets:

So, what did they do right?

Listen for what wants
to be written.
Simon is down on his luck. Assaulted and nearly killed
during a robbery, bankrupt from accumulating medical bills, estranged from his
disapproving parents and devoid of creative inspiration. It’s no wonder he
hasn’t created in weeks. Simon is a starving artist in every sense of the word.
Until one evening, the muse, with her trademark divine timing, materializes in
the form of a woman. I love the way it’s written in theoriginal
, “Instinct, sound and the faint glow of hope turns Simon
over so that he faces the bathroom, where we have sitting at tub’s edge, a bathing
beauty exposing a better than perfect breast.” In this moment, the tortured
artist comes alive for the first time in the film. Carol’s spirit infects him
with vigor and imagination. His face and posture and voice and attitude shift
with the speed of a cool wind’s turn. And before he knows it, his hand starts
moving across the canvas. Because the muse was hammering on a pane of glassing
yelling,can you hear me? And the
artist answered the call.

Don’t take your
lightning for granted.
Simon makes the crucial creative transition from
inspiration to momentum. He doesn’t just register the moment, he rides it.
Because he’s smart enough to know, if he doesn’t write it down, it never
happened. He’s humble enough to know, art comes through people, not from them. And
he’s mindful enough to know, inspiration comes unannounced, and you have to
capture it before it vaporizes. Meaning, in this moment, Simon’s job is to take
dictation. To stay with the muse, stay focused on the work, stay engaged with
the subject, and mine the vein until it’s out. Because moments like these don’t
come around all that often. That’s the price of admission. That’s the cover
charge he pays to plug
into this immense power source. And he respectfully reimburses the muse
with his time, talents and tenacity, lest she never darken his doorstep again.
It’s a helpful reminder to all creators, don’t stop while you’re ahead, stop
when your muse tells you the power source is dead.

Inspiration is a
reciprocal transaction.
Collaboration built the world. Collaboration is how
most of our ancestors used to work and live. And the work of an artist is no
different. Carol claims that what she needed, he gave her. But let’s not
forget, what he needed, she gave him
too. It’s the third law of motion. We cannot hold a torch to light another’s
path without brightening our own. And that’s the delightful irony of this
scene. Simon is gay. Melvin even asks him earlier in the film, “Do you ever get
an erection for a woman?” to which Simon patiently shakes his head no. Meanwhile,
this moment of conception, this energy exchange, this highly sexual yet wholly
plutonic exchange between two consenting adults, is the hottest, most memorable
scene of the whole movie. Proving, that if we want to influence the people
around us, we ought to pay attention not only to what we do that gives us
energy, but what we do that gives others energy. Oh, and Helen Hunt is one foxy

Risking Today’s Time for Tomorrow’s Treasure

I started blogging over ten
years ago. 

And after over a million words written,blogging taught me was to adopt an incrementalist mindset. Because
it’s not about one key post that changes everything, it’s about performing day
after day, helping a few people a little at a time and trusting that the
accumulation of the work will bear fruit. And, because most blogs are abandoned
a few months after creation, maintaining continuity over the long haul
separates you from the pack. Proving, that the best way to beat the odds is
through massive output.

also taught me that every blog post is a product. Every post its own piece of digital merchandise, with
its own launch date, target market, social trajectory, leveragability and
profitability. Some blow up, some just blow. Some make a killing, some just
make a thud. But as long as you show up every day and post, you’re still in the
game. But if you never click the publish button, you’re just winking in the

It’s only a matter of time, as I like to tell myself.

I’m reminded of when Don
Marquis, the renowned humorist, journalist, author and playwright, famous said
that publishing was like dropping a rose petal down a canyon and waiting for
the echo.

What a perfect way to describe delayed gratification.

The problem is, delayed gratification isn’t sexy. Patience is not
a primary agenda item for most of the world. Especially these day, when our
technology tricks us into thinking that everything does, and should, happen
right now. And yet, it’s something all prolific creators have in common. Their
capacity for delayed gratification makes it possible
for them to aspire to objectives that others would disregard.

Bob Lefsetz, former
attorney, music industry analyst and critic, writes a prolific, insightful and
useful publication called The Lefsetz
. He explores a variety of themes, including the diminishing role of
the major record labels, grassroots artist activities, digital media
distribution, new business models for the music industry, and my personal
favorite, what it takes to become a successful artist.

In a recent issue, he made a
powerful case for delayed gratification:

“Stay in school. I know, some of the biggest legends of the
entertainment business never finished college, some didn’t even complete high
school. But that was then, and this is now. The sixties were different. We
lived in an homogeneous society. Social mobility was rampant. You could go from
middle class to upper class quite easily. Rich was within your grasp. But no
longer. And
the brightest stars of today’s
society know it. That’s why the graduates go into finance and stay there, while
the great unwashed star in reality television programs, get famous for a few
years, then slide back into obscurity when the trade on their fame has lost
most of its zeros. We know their names, but they’re footnotes, trivia
questions, if you think they’re rich, you don’t know what rich is.
Life is long. If you’re not prepared for
delayed gratification, you’re going to have a very rough ride.”

The point is, it’s not about
college, it’s about continuity. Staying the course. Delaying gratification. Risking today’s
time for tomorrow’s treasure. Believing
that it’s only a matter of time. And know that those who practice patience,
become prolific.

Moments of Conception 008 — The Chicken Wing Scene from Tommy Boy

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today’s clip comes from the diner scene of Tommy Boy:

So, what did they do right?

Anger is the ember of
Tommy nearly destroys his partner’s prized classic hotrod. Richard,
overwhelmed with anger and adrenaline, finally lashes out and calls him an ungrateful,
moronic, worthless, no selling waste of space, which leads to one of the
greatest fight scenes in comedy history. And yet, the outcome is much more than
a facial bruise the size of a pork chop. It’s an epiphany that changes
everything. Tommy, fueled by the fire of frustration and rejection, launches
into a hysterical, overdramatic outburst about his pathetic sales abilities. The
waitress looks at him like he’s just escaped from the psych ward. Ironically, this
performance taps into a business capability he didn’t know he possessed.Selling.He may not be able to sell a
ketchup popsicle to a woman with white gloves, but Tommy does know how to captivate
and entertain and connect with a complete stranger. And since sales is nothing
more than transferring emotion to another person, we realize he’s not as
worthless as we once thought. The point is, he didn’t take things personally,
he channeled them productively. Proving, that emotion is oxygen for the
creative fire.

To shove people is to
love people.
Richard is, as one customer suggests, a smug, unhappy little
man who treats people like they were idiots. But he’s not immune to teachable
moments. At the restaurant, he recognizes Tommy’s chicken wing epiphany. But
instead of shrugging it off, he pauses to recount the moment, probes to
discover the motivation behind the moment and assures that his partner
understands the significance of the moment. Turns out, Tommy actually possess
tremendous business acumen. He just needed someone to hold up a mirror to his
abilities. Maslow dubbed this phenomenon a our unconscious competence, wherein we has so much practice with a
skill that it becomes second nature and can be performed easily. The challenge is, we’re always
the last ones to recognize our own value. We’re simply too close to ourselves. We
rarely have the eyes to see our highest talents. That’s why we need people in our
life to be mirrors and witnesses and encouragers. To make sure our potential
doesn’t go to waste. Otherwise we’re just eating sugar packets in the dark.

Ain’t no thing but a
chicken wing.
Tommy’s interaction with the waitress comes back into play a
later in the movie. The phrase chicken
becomes a neurolinguistic anchor––a stimulus that calls forth certain
thoughts and emotions­­––that he can later use to produce the appropriate state of mind needed for a given
situation. Richard knows this intuitively. And so, a few scenes later, when
the time comes to make a sale, he whispers the phrase chicken wings into his Tommy’s ear. And that anchor

activates the sales subroutine in his head, snapping him into appropriate state
of mind to sell brake pads. This is a huge lesson in personal motivation.
Whether you’re running a business, writing a book or performing a concert, part
of your job is to build an arsenal of associative
triggers, aka anchors, which allow you to enter into your creative zone.
Personalized workspaces, curated playlists, sacred objects, daily meditation
rituals, these are your chicken wings. And once you tailor make these triggers
to your obsessions, compulsions, preferences and idiosyncrasies, there’s no
stopping you.

What’s your favorite movie moment of conception?

How to Rewrite Your Creative Vocabulary

The adjective people have always used to describe me is prolific. 

It makes sense. As author, blogger, public speaker, video producer, consultant, columnist, strategist, storyteller, filmmaker, publisher, musician and songwriter, I’ve spent the better part of my life as a collector, creator and communicator of ideas. 

And so, in the past year, I’ve been researching and writing and experimenting extensively on this topic. I’ve also been reverse engineering my own creative process, cobbling together the world’s first comprehensive framework for becoming prolific. 

It’s the art and science of collecting, creating and communicating your ideas.

Imagine The Artist’s Way meets Getting Things Done meets Behind the Music. That’s the best way to describe it. The goal is to change the way you think about the way you think. But it’s more than just a collection of exercises; it’s a rubric for operable behaviors at all stages and levels of the creative process. 

My hope is that it will help you:

*Eliminate creative blocks for life with daily routines, rituals, postures and disciplines.

*Create rigor around your intellectual property and knowledge management.

*Tighten up your systems with infrastructure to produce high levels of output

*Fully flesh out your thoughts and messages for maximum impact.

*Strategically publish and position your body of work as a crafter of compelling content.

*Build a personalized content management system for collecting, creating and communicating your thoughts.

The system I’ve built will eventually become a book, a curriculum and some kind of software application. For now, I wanted to share a glossary of terms to help you rewrite your creative vocabulary. Each definition has a link to a related piece that explains it further. Enjoy.

Active listening. Tuning
into the muse and the situation and the gleams of light that flash across your
mind, trusting what the world is trying to tell you.

Arbitrary sorting
An organizing principle, free of judgment and expectation, which
allows you to notice patterns in your ideas and inspiration.

Associative trigger. Personal
patterns and physical
objects, from music to visual stimulation to desk style, that echo the habits
of action and allow you to enter into your creative zone.

Awareness plan. A
metacognitive procedure or mental recipe for perceiving and thinking about the
environment around you, a lens for interacting with the world.

Cognitive richness.
The sense of agency and competence you experience during the process of manual
or analog work.

Commitment device. A
physical object or prototype that makes the effects of your work real and
visible for all to see, even in the early stages of production.

Constant. Muscles
to count on, places to return to, rituals to abide by, people to confide in,
rocks to anchor to, practices to rely on, structures to lean against, that keep
your creative life stable and fruitful.

Creative kindling. A
source of inspiration that reignites your original enthusiasm and the impulse that
initially fueled
your artistic energy reserve.

Creative limbo. A
lack of excitement around not having discovering something worth doing, a
knowledge that you’re on the verge of a fiery new artistic pursuit, but an
inability to turn yourself over to some pressing, meaningful creative demand.

Creative on ramp. A
ritual that prompts a work mindset, a moment that merges you into the creative
process, an environment that sets a tone that says work happens here.

Creative subroutine.
Using a ritual that brings up your energy and snaps you into the appropriate
state of mind to do your work.

Doable, less threatening strategies to enable your ideal mental, emotional and existential space
from which to create.

New ideas that arise from combining many disparate pieces of
information or concepts over an extended period of time.

Ember of initiative.
Instead of taking things personally, you channel them productively, using
emotion as oxygen for your creative fire.

Faithful force. Routines
that keep your creative life stable and fruitful when circumstances get a
little too overwhelming.

associative process.
Creating ideas in a piecemeal, nonlinear fashion,
without the constraints of chronology, sequence, rational order and narrative.

Going perpendicular.
Intentionally walking away from your current work to engage in something
unrelated to the flow of activity.

Rejecting the notion of the elusive eureka moment and
practicing an existential andholisticapproach to a creative life, living your life in a way that your art gets done over and over.

Gravitational order. Using motion to create equilibrium so your work finds its place in the universe,
thus conspiring towards some unifying geometrical situation.

Ground zero. The
entry point into the creative processing workflow, the primary location for
offloading raw materials into your idea factory.

Whatever little world you investigate to a great, high level,
something that fascinates and ignites you.

Limitation leverage. Identifying your deficiency,
deciding how to exploit it and then restructuring everything in the creative
process around it.

Medium agnostic. Instead of forcing our own
expectations upon the work, you allow patterns to emerge and open our work to
becoming more dimensionalized, in whatever form it needs to live.

Module. Treating each thought as an
uncategorized chunk of creative material, an objective, portable piece content
that accumulates and categorizes into its own structure.

Moment of conception.
The single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost
screaming to you, something wants to be built here.

Movement value.
The discipline of recognizing conceptual beginnings, witnessing ideas in their
nascent state and spawning as many creative offspring as possible.

a more visceral and spontaneous contact with your work by designing systems
and structures that invite nature as your collaborator.

Organizing principle.
The core assumption, central reference point or guiding pole, which governs
action and allows everything else in its proximity to derive value.

A problem solving technique whereby working in
unusual settings helps you see patterns you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

Polyamorous creation. Pursuing relationships with multiple
creative projects, with a full
knowledge and consent of all partners involved.

Primary creative
essential environment asset that reflects who you are and what’s important to
you, so that the ideas flow as a natural consequence of that workspace.

Portable creative
Any alternative workspace that functions as a transportable lightning
rod, tailor made to your artistic tendencies, which enables you to snap into
work mode and make the word flesh.

Premature cognitive
people become
emotionally or intellectually bound to a course of action,
a form of mindlessness that results after a single exposure to an idea.

Viewing your mind as idea processor, waiting at your beck and
call, begging you to assign it a problem so it can immediately go to work for

Prolificacy equation.
An incrementalist, easy does it approach to creating a body of work, which
is everything you create and contribute and affect and impact.

Prototype. Something
that gives your mental obsession a physical expression, a physical thing that adds energy to the system, moves the creative ball
forward and gives
the creator the psychological pat on the back.

Ritualized vomiting. A
daily ritual of emotional release where you metabolize your experiences,
make serious mental headway into your ideas and get the creative faucet

Runway. Your
first creative output that builds momentum, paves the way for prolificacy and does the talking for you.

Using rhythmic, repetitive exercise or action to clear your
mind, stabilize your emotions and increase the production
and release of endorphins to
pump the well of creativity.

Thievery muscles. Respectfully and ethically other people’s ideas as sparks to superimpose your own meaning and take
the idea somewhere else, somewhere different, somewhere better, until the
original idea can no longer be identified.

Allowing your inner mind to get to work mulling over, sorting
out, organizing and categorizing material that has been previously absorbed,
ultimately generating an idea at a time when the mental spotlight isn’t on it.

Walking the factory
Creating the ritual of an established parcel of structured curiosity,
whereby you casually and thoughtfully peruse every idea you’ve recently

There will be a quiz next week.

Moments of Conception 007 — The Hospital Scene from The Rainmaker

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

Jolie Holland once said that the creative process was like you’re walking around eating poetry
and then you throw up a song at the end.

wherever you look, there’s something to see. Your mind trains itself to
have a very sensitive radar, which tees up a part of your awareness to be more
focused on potential value. And by acting as if there might be value, suddenly,
it feels like the world has arranged itself for your work. This allows ideas to just fall out of you, since
you now have the frame.

And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today’s clip comes from the hospital scene of The Rainmaker:

So, what did they do right?

Every creator needs a
good low.
Rudy finds himself on the verge of bankruptcy, living out of his
car, working out of a hospital cafeteria, reduced to the corrupt world of
ambulance chasing and fighting against a competing firm of experienced and
devious lawyers who would stop at nothing to crush him. Talk about necessity
being the mother of invention. Rudy’s
situation forces him to marshal his creative resources and persist in the face
of incredible odds. But this isn’t uncommon for most creative professional. I
remember watching this movie when I first started my publishing business. At
the time, my life situation was in desperate need of a change. I was making
zero money and still living with my parents. Interestingly, this very scene
inspired me to start taking my laptop to the neighborhood grocery store to put
in a few extra hours of work on the weeknights. The environment was perfect. The
store had a twenty four hour café with free wifi, tons of great signs, snacks
and smells, and plenty of interesting people to interact with. I even wrote a
popular article
about my experience. Proving, that creativity doesn’t just come from getting
high, it comes from getting low. Lesson learned, next time life hands you a
pile of shit, try to grow something.

Go fishing for
. Rudy could have studied for the bar exam anywhere. But his
mentor helped him understand that best way to increase the probability of
success was by putting yourself in the way of it. To find your pool of
prospects and start swimming there regularly. Of course, this is useful advice for rainmakers of any
professional services firms. But it’s also an intelligent strategy for
collectors, creators and communicators of ideas. Inspiration, after all, isn’t
something you find, it’s something you beguile.
And part of that creative process is being strategic about your physical
surroundings. Because the exciting part is, when you put yourself in the way of
finding what you seek, you often discover more and better than what you sought.
Rudy was merely hoping to sign up a few new prospects for his personal injury
practice. But through the magic of proximity and serendipity, he encountered Kelly,
who kicked open the door to the world of civil litigation. Rudy caught a
bigger, truer and more beautiful fish than he ever anticipated. All because he showed
up at the right pond every night.

Those who lose their
virginity, win.
Rudy, fresh out of law school, naively believes criminals
are entitled to a defense and have a right to their day in court. But when he
encounters Kelly, the battered wife whose husband savagely attacked her with baseball
bat to the point of hospitalization, his perspective starts to shift. Not
because he read some hypothetical case study in a textbook, but because he sat
down with a devastated soul in hospital cafeteria on a dark night and listened
to a real story from a real person. In this moment, Rudy loses his professional
virginity. He enters into a new level of awareness and maturity about himself
and the world in which he lives. Yes, it’s the end of innocence, but it’s also
the beginning of opportunity. This crucial conversation sends his character on
a trajectory, one that ultimately allows him to win his one and only case as a
trial lawyer. And after that experience, Rudy abandons his law practice and
pursues a teaching career with a focus on ethical legal behavior. Interesting,
considering he initially imagined spending his days in a courtroom. Perhaps
creative careers come with their own agenda.

What’s your favorite movie moment of conception?

Working With a Shovel and a Rake

The formula for being prolific is simple:

Small times
long equals big.

Rodney Crowell mastered this formula. He’s a singer and
songwriter whose chart topping country tunes have earned him multiple awards,
nominations and collaborations with a variety of famous musicians. His theory
is, inspiration is earned. You’ve got to develop a work ethic. And that if inspiration
isn’t there, you go back working with
a shovel and a rake, trying to make yourself worthy. 

In his interview with American Songwriter, he said:

blessing of being an artist is working at it every day, and going to work every
day. And if you’re lucky enough to spend a lifetime as a working artist, he
says, the work, the day in and day out rhythm of the work, becomes the most
important thing about it. And it just leads to clarity and a deeper focus.”

Small times
long equals big.

Moments of Conception 006 — The Red Dress Scene from A Beautiful Mind

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today’s clip comes from the bar scene of A Beautiful Mind:

So, what did they do right?

Environment is the
user interface for your brain.
Nash is working on math problems in a bar. A bar. Not exactly the most academic
environment. And yet, this location is important for several reasons. First, changes
in physical surroundings stimulate our senses and enhance our ability to
generate new ideas. It’s a problem solving technique called displacement, whereby working in unusual
settings helps you see patterns you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Nash never
would have had his epiphany sitting in a library. Second, solving math problems
in a bar gave him a more
and spontaneous contact with his work. By inviting nature as his
creative collaborator, he visualized an application of governing dynamics from
a real world perspective everyone could relate to­­. Lastly, the bar scene is
foreshadowing. If you read
the original screenplay of A
Beautiful Mind
, right before the girls enter the room, the math students are
discussing the communist regimes of Soviet Europe, North Korea and Germany. Which
is interesting, considering The Nash
Equilibrium has been used to analyze hostile situations like war, arms races
and the prisoner’s dilemma.

Respond with the
right organ.
Nash’s friends are reacting to the situation emotionally,
hormonally and egoically. They’re drunk and horny and ready to pounce. John
reacts to the situation economically, strategically and logically. He’s focused
and inspired and ready to work. And because of this temperamental distinction,
it’s clear who the better man is. Nash could have taken the girl home that
night. Easily. But a jedi craves not these things. The man was an artist and a
genius and a schizophrenic. He was less interested in bedding and more
interested in embedding. That’s why
he thanked the blonde before running out of the bar. She wasn’t his conquest,
she was his muse. She enabled the moment of conception, which solidified a theorem
that would eventually create historic ripples in the fields currency crises,
education processes, legislation, network traffic, game theory, even rock paper
scissors. Who needs one night of carnal bliss when you could have a lifetime of
mathematical immortality? There are ten million blondes in the world, but
there’s only one Nobel Prize.

Carve your own path. Nash’s
friends, like all good mathematicians of the day, were groomed and conditioned
to follow Adam’s Smith’s sacred theory of competition, in which individual
ambition serves the common good. Nash, on the other hand, followed his
instinct, not his textbook. He was confident enough to question the standard,
bold enough to suffer the ridicule of his friends, and presumptuous enough to
execute on his idea. Even if did fly in the face of a hundred years of economic
theory. Emerson famously said that we should not follow where the path may
lead, but instead to go where the was no path and leave a trail. Nash
exemplifies this remark. He literally creates a new path by running out of the
bar, going straight home and fleshing out his new theory. He works through the
night and through the seasons and doesn’t stop until he gets it right. Nash
turns a seed into a forest before anyone
else even realizes it’s raining. And he changes the world for the better.

What’s your favorite movie moment of conception?

Intentionally Lost in the Darkness

Moleskine is the iconic brand of
notebook used by legendary artists, thinkers and literary avant gardes around
the world for the past two centuries. In the past few decades, the brand has
become synonymous with culture, travel and imagination, encompassing a family
of nomadic objects like notebooks, diaries, journals, bags, writing instruments
and reading accessories.

I recently stumbled into one of their newly opened retail stores and found a beautiful insight from Maria Sebregondi, their vice
president of communications. In her essay about the creative moment of
conception, she wrote the following:

“In a certain sense,
every invention, every creation, every story, large or small, develops out of a
map in which someone has intentionally become lost in a darkness where, at a
certain point, something beings to glitter, to speak, to sing, to emit a sense,
a flavor and a voice, and this groundwork leads to the design and actual piece
of work through a complex and very personal cognitive process.”

That’s when the creative process getsreallyinteresting.

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