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?


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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