10 mistakes that changed the world


1. Are you making enough mistakes?
2. How are you learning from those mistakes?
3. How are you leveraging those mistakes into other ideas?

Historically, making mistakes has been a leading cause of creative breakthroughs.

So, if you want to motivate YOUR melon and increase your innovative prowess, check out this list of 10 mistakes that changed the world.

NOTE: each of these vignettes has a Leverage Question at the end to get you thinking about how to score with your screw-ups!

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1. One morning in 1930, Ruth Wakefield ran out of baker’s chocolate. So, she brought home semi-sweet chocolate, broke it into pieces and threw it into the dough. And the very first chocolate chip cookie was born!

MAKE THIS MISTAKE: What replacement ingredient could you use?

2. In 1886 while concocting a form of medicine, John Pemberton accidentally added carbonated water instead of plain water to his recipe. When he tasted it, this new drink was so delicious and refreshing, it was later popularized as Coca-Cola.

MAKE THIS MISTAKE: Instead of using the “generic” version of your ingredient, what exotic item could you use?

3. Centuries ago, a Chinese emperor named Shen Nung was boiling water outside when leaves from a nearby tree fell into the pot. He tasted it, enjoyed it, thus creating the very first cup of tea!

MAKE THIS MISTAKE: What would happen if you did your creative work outdoors?

4. At the 1904 World’s Fair, waffle maker Ernest Hamwi noticed a fellow vendor’s booth ran out of dishes to serve ice cream. Just to be helpful, he rolled up one of his waffles into a cone and made an instant hit!

MAKE THIS MISTAKE: How could you join forces with your tradeshow neighbors?

5. One morning, centuries ago, Iroquois Chief Woksis threw his tomahawk into a nearby tree. When he returned the next day, he pulled the tool from the bark only to notice sap furiously dripping onto the ground! If only pancakes had been invented yet…

MAKE THIS MISTAKE: How could you temporarily abandon your idea?

6. In 1928, Alexander Fleming accidentally left a loaf of bread on his windowsill for too long. When he returned and noticed mold, instead of throwing it away, he reexamined the bread and discovered something called staphylococci. That substance eventually created penicillin!

MAKE THIS MISTAKE: What if you left your idea sitting on your window?

7. In the 1870’s at a soap factory, a workman went to lunch and left the machine running. When he returned, he noticed that air had been worked into the mixture, thus hardening the soap! He later poured into frames and began selling it by the bar and made Ivory a FORTUNE.

MAKE THIS MISTAKE: What if you left your idea alone during lunch?

8. In 1905, a young student named Frank Epperson was mixing soda-water powder and water one day. He then accidentally left the mixture on his back porch overnight with the stirring stick still in it, only to return to find the very first Popsicle!

MAKE THIS MISTAKE: What if you left your idea outside overnight?

9. Harry Brearly was a metal worker who threw his old scraps into a junk pile. On day in 1913, he noticed that certain old pieces rusted quicker than others. After analyzing the metal, he found the element that helped produce stainless steel!

MAKE THIS MISTAKE: How could you reuse something people threw away or quit on?

10. In 1907, Arthur Scott, head of Scott Paper Company, had a shipment of paper returned to him by a customer. They complained it was “too hard and wrinkly,” so instead of throwing it away, he cut it into individual sheets and began selling it as “paper towels.”

MAKE THIS MISTAKE: What is another use for this failure?

What have you learned from a recent mistake?

Share your epiphany here!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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Soften your eyes

Remember those Magic Eye posters from the 90’s?

They were totally cool.

You’d stare into the image.
You’d relax your eyes.
And eventually, a “hidden picture” would appear!

The scientific name for this kind of image is an autostereogram. They allow people to see 3D images by focusing on 2D patterns.

According to the Magic Eye website:

“Autostereograms produce an illusion of depth using only a single image. The computer-generated image repeats a narrow pattern from left to right. Then, by decoupling eye convergence from focusing operations, a viewer is able to trick the brain into seeing a 3D scene.”

Now, if you’ve ever found yourself staring at a Magic Eye poster for an extended period of time, you know how frustrating it can get.

Especially when one of your smarty-pants friends walks by and says, “Hey, look! A sailboat! Cool…”

This makes you want to yell, “No, shut up! I haven’t seen it yet! Go away!”

OK. Settle down. It’s just a picture.

ANYWAY, HERE’S MY QUESTION: what was the difference between your vision and your friend’s vision?

Simple: your friend softened her eyes.

See, we live in a hyperspeed, A.D.D., instant-gratification, advertisement-saturated culture. It’s information overload!

And millions of powerful forces are constantly vying for your precious time and attention.

So, “softening your eyes” is more than just a technique, it’s a philosophy. And it’s not just physical, it’s mental and spiritual as well:

It’s about slowing down.
It’s about noticing the novelties of life.
It’s about studying ordinary things intently.
It’s about making the mundane memorable.
It’s about being mindful of your surroundings.

AND HERE’S THE BEST PART: when you maintain a Soft Eyes Philosophy, three cool things happen:

1. You OPEN your mind to the world around you.

Which means your optical guard lets down.
Which means you’re less likely to neglect key opportunities.
Which means you’re more willing to accept multiple perspectives.

RESULT: more ideas for your business.

2. You OBSERVE patterns quicker and more frequently.

This enables you to make connections between seemingly unrelated things.
This enables you to notice things and give them names.
This enables you to have more creative thoughts.

RESULT: better ideas for your business.

3. You ORGANIZE your thoughts with ease and comfort.

Which helps you filter them through your personal theory of the universe.
Which makes them YOUR unique ideas and theories.
Which makes them easier to spread.

RESULT: word-of-mouth worthy ideas for your business.

All from Softening Your Eyes.

Now, as you’ve probably guessed by now, we’re not exactly talking about Yoga here.

(Although, physically softening your eyes is a great relaxation technique!)

So, if you want to put the Soft Eyes Philosophy into practice, consider this list of 13 leverage questions to ask yourself (and your team) on a daily basis:

1. How are these issues related to each other?
2. How could you use this as an example in your work?
3. How does this fit into your theory of the universe?
4. How does this have to do with your expertise?
5. How is this a symbol or example of you expertise?
6. What did you (just) learn from this experience?
7. What does this have to do with you?
8. What else can be made from this?
9. What else does this make possible?
10. What else is like this?
11. What is around you that you can use?
12. What’s the key idea here, regardless of the context?
13. What’s the Universal Human Emotion?

HERE’S YOUR FINAL CHALLENGE: if you truly want to LIVE this philosophy, try this. Write a few of these questions on sticky notes and post them all around your office!

By practicing QREATIVITY regularly, you will train your eyes to soften regularly.

And a result, EVEN in our crazy-busy, information overload culture:

You will slow down.
You will notice the novelties of life.
You will study ordinary things intently.
You will make the mundane memorable.
You will be mindful of your surroundings.

And you will develop higher quality ideas than ever before.

Even if you (still) can’t see that damn sailboat.

What have you recently discovered by softening your eyes?

Share your revelation here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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15 Ways to Avoid Writer’s (Thinker’s) Block

Writer’s Block is a myth.

There’s no such thing.

See, writing is merely an extension of thinking.

So, if you hear someone complaining about her insufferable “Writer’s Block,” what she’s REALLY complaining about is her “Thinker’s Block.”

Because she’s not asking enough questions.
Because she’s not taking daily time to think.
Because she’s not maintaining constant curiosity.
Because she’s not viewing the world through her unique lens.

Those are just (some) of the causes of Thinker’s Block.

But there’s more. And if you want to avoid it, remember these six words:


Here’s a list of fifteen ways to do so:

1. U NEED 2 REED EVERY DAY. This is the #1 reason people suffer from Thinker’s Block: they don’t read. (And no, US Weekly doesn’t count!) I’m talking about BOOKS. Old and new. Every single day. Also, I suggest reading more than one book at once. Keep reading material in your car, bathroom, briefcase, gym bag, desk and anywhere else you spend a lot of time.

2. Copy your notes. Don’t just read; STUDY! Take copious notes. Write related ideas in the margins. When you’re done, re-copy your notes onto your computer. Store them in a folder called “Book Notes.” Revisit them regularly to refresh your melon.

3. Write everything down. Writing is the basis of all wealth. And if you don’t write it down, it never happened. That’s all I have to say about that.

4. Everything communicates something. But are you paying attention? Probably not. And yes, it’s hard. Especially in such a fast-paced society. So, remember the words of Ferris Bueller: “Life move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while – you could miss it.” What does your hurried lifestyle make you miss out on?

5. Soften your eyes. Literally AND metaphorically. It’s about slowing down and noticing the novelties of life. It’s about being more mindful of your surroundings. Studying ordinary things intently. Are you making the mundane memorable? (More on Eye Softening tomorrow)

6. Think on paper. That way you won’t have to remember anything. So, based on your learning style, use flip charts, whiteboards, voice recognition software, note cards or mind maps to record your thoughts.

7. Capture, capture, capture. Don’t (just) write stuff down. Take pictures. Rip articles out of magazines. Pick up trash and keep it. Save voicemail messages. Keep key emails and letters. Constantly update a folder full of scraps and ideas you jotted down on vomit bags three months ago. You never know when a bad idea might come in handy!

8. Write Morning Pages. These are the single best tools I’ve EVER discovered as a professional writer. They prime the pump, get the creative shanks out and allow your best material to surface. And if you make them a habit every single morning, you will NEVER have Thinker’s Block again. Read how to do Morning Pages here.
9. Exercise every day. Aka, solvitas perambulatorum. Even if it’s just a fifteen-minute walk. It’s the best way to get the endorphins and dopamine flowing. Best legal high in the world. Best source of ideas in the world. Plus it’s, like, good for your health and stuff.

10. Easy Does It. Keep running lists of quotes, one-liners, great ideas, cool words, websites, pieces of advices and short thoughts. Start documents called “Quotes” and “Ideas.” Just list them and updated them daily. No explanations. Just list. By recording your incomplete, fragmentary association process, you stimulate and inspire highly saturated streams of thought.

11. Perpetually hunt for insight. Inspiration comes unannounced! And your constant stream of ideas flows everywhere. So, actively respond to life. Maintain childlike curiosity and ask, “Why?” to everything you see, hear and experience.

12. Prime your brain. Each morning, affirm that new ideas, concepts and thoughts will come into your mind. Maintain a receptive and creative posture for your mind. Meditate daily. Have daily appointments with yourself to mentally prepare your mind to accept ideas from all sources. Prime your brain and the ideas will come to YOU!

13. Stop organizing. Premature organizing stifles idea generation. Just get it down. Make lots of lists for EVERYTHING. Order comes later. First, puke everything out. Then, don’t stop until your cashed. Finally, review (and update) the list over time.

14. Ask and you shall receive. Questions are the basis of all creativity, discoveries, innovation, knowledge, learning and understanding. So, you need to have a readily available list of questions you ask yourself on a daily basis.

15. Punch yourself in the face. Consider writing your motivational questions on sticky notes or on your wall. By keeping them in front of your face at all times, you will challenge yourself AND keep yourself creativity accountable. Potential questions include, “What did you write today?” and “Is everything you know written down somewhere?” REMEMBER: questions are ideas waiting to happen. Learn how to punch yourself in the face here.

With these fifteen ways to create a constant stream of ideas, you melon will be motivated from every possible angle.

And you’ll never have to worry about Writer’s (er, Thinker’s) Block again!

How do you combat thinker’s block?

Share your tips here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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Study ordinary things intently

All creativity begins with curiosity.

About how things work.
About how things could work BETTER.
About why things are the way they are.
About why people do things they way they do.

But don’t MY word for it. Let’s hear what three of the world’s most notable creativity gurus had to say about the value of curiosity…

1. Leonardo Davinci. He called it curiosita, defined as, “An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.”

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding,” Davinci remarked. “Therefore, be always curious and observant.”

2. Edward DeBono. He encourages people to embrace curiosity by constantly saying, “Now that’s interesting…”

“Be able to find interest in almost anything,” DeBono says in How to Have a Beautiful Mind. “Be curious. Explore things. Bring up a discussion. Get people’s opinions, ideas and values. Explore, elaborate and make connections.”

3. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. He reminds us to fascinate ourselves with the ordinary.

“Evaluate critically every novelty you encounter,” he wrote in his book Creativity. “One of the surest ways to enrich life is to make experiences less fleeting.”

LESSON LEARNED: study ordinary things intently.

When you can learn to do this – every single day – three things will happen:

You will BOOST your creativity.
You will FLOOD your mind with new ideas.
You will BUILD a solid foundation of curiosity.

And the combination of those three results will mold your melon into an attractive, valuable commodity that your clients will want to access to.

See, clients don’t want to hire consultants or marketers or coaches – they want to hire cool, smart people who happen to do those things.

So, if you want to use curiosity to attract more ideas (and more clients!), follow this four-step game plan:

1. NOTICE. On a daily basis, take the time to stop what you’re doing and say things like, “Huh. That’s weird,” or “Now that’s interesting…”

2. EXPLORE. Study ordinary things intently. Then, start a dialogue. Ask other people questions like, “So, why do you think she said that?” “Hey, did you guys notice that?” and “It would be interesting to see if…”

3. RECORD. Remember, if you don’t write it down, it never happened! So, consider keeping a Curiosity Journal. Make daily entries about things you noticed and what you learned from them.

4. EXPAND. Continue to learn, ask and research these new ideas you’re curious about. Constantly run them through your personal filter of expertise by asking, “How does this fit into my picture of the universe?”

With these four steps, your curiosity will become a weapon!

Both for you AND the customers you serve.

Now … isn’t that interesting?

What ordinary thing have you recently studied intently?

Share your observations here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

Enjoy this post?

If so, perhaps I could help on a more personal, one-on-one basis.

Rent Scott’s Brain today!

Who are you creating art for?

Some artists create art for fame.
Some artists create art for money.
Some artists create art for awards.
Some artists create art for getting laid.
Some artists create art for recognition from critics.
Some artists create art for recognition from other artists.
Some artists create art for people who don’t appreciate it.
Some artists create art for the needs and wants of a certain target market.

Here’s what I think:

I THINK … when you care the least; you do the best.

I THINK … when your stakes are lower; your results are higher.

I THINK … when you create for the wrong reasons; you become a dishonest and gluttonous artist.

I THINK … when you create for the right reasons; the world starts paying attention.

I THINK … when you detach from outcomes and just concentrate on the components; you win.

You know, “journey, not destination” stuff.

SO, THAT’S THE BIG QUESTION: who (or what) are you creating for?

I believe that we, as artists, have a few options:

Create for … YOURSELF
Because you love to create.
Because it makes you happy.
Because you can’t NOT create.
Because it’s your calling, your purpose.
Because it’s just something you like to do.
Because sometimes, the theater of the mind is better.
Because it’s your release, your meditation, your spiritual connection.

Because creating is healthy.
Because creating is necessary.
Because you’re an artist, and that’s what artists do.
Because making something out of nothing is totally cool.

Because usefulness is worship.
Because you have been given a tremendous gift, and to utilize that gift is to honor the giver.
Because God, The Muse, The Higher Power, The Source, The Divine Light or whatever you call it, deserves it.
Because your creative talents came from something bigger, stronger and more powerful than you, and it’s time to give back.

Create for … NOTHING AT ALL
Just because.

I think Dr. George “Running Guy” Sheehan said it best:

“If you are doing something you would do for nothing – then you are on your way to salvation. And if you could drop it in a minute and forget the outcome, you are even further along. And if while you are doing it you are transported into another existence, there is no need for you to worry about the future.”

SO, HERE’S THE DEAL: if you create art, that makes you an artist. Period.

Eliminate the word “for” from your vocabulary.

You don’t need to create FOR anything. Or anyone.

Just create. That’s it.

Grant permission to your authentic voice to sing as loud, as silly, as creative and as original as it wants.

Because usually, that’s when the best stuff comes out.

AND BEWARE: people might not like your work. People might not even care about your work. It might not sell. It might not be as good as your other stuff. It might not be the right time for that particular piece.

Many forms of negative resistance are standing by to throw themselves at you.

So, it only makes sense to detach from outcomes and just CREATE.

For you.
For the sake of creating.
For your Source.
For nothing at all.

Because, even in the worst case scenario; you can always say:

“Whatever. I liked it.”

Who are you creating art for?

Read Hugh’s ebook NOW. That’s what inspired me to write this post.

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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