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!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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

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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!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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

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8 reasons to hang out with other creative folks

1. Other creative people keep you accountable.

2. Other creative people have contagious energy.

3. Other creative people will let you bounce ideas off of them.

4. Other creative people are (probably) the closest things you’ll ever have to coworkers.

5. Other creative people are the only ones who (really) understand what you’re going through.

6. Other creative people think in unique ways; and by learning how they think, your thinking changes to.

7. Other creative people are safe havens for sharing ideas that most people would think are completely crazy.

8. Other creative people’s work will inspire your own, even if (especially if) they work with a different medium.

(The list goes on and on!)

Also, a great resource for Creative Professionals is My Creative Biz.

Kirsten Carey has lots SOLID tools and ideas to help you make a living off your ideas.

Create away!

Why do you hang out with other creative folks?

Post your thoughts here!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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