Will Burns

Unleash Creativity Blog

Scientific studies that help us unleash our most human attribute: creativity.

Like Luck, Creativity May Only Be A Result Of How We Look At Life

Photo by  Amy Reed  on  Unsplash

Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash

My favorite scientific study of all time has to do with understanding luck. What luck is and what luck isn't. The findings of this study struck me right between the eyes, changing the way I looked at the world and my life. Further, it made me think about how luck and creativity are possibly intertwined. 

First, the luck study.

Richard Wiseman is a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire. He was curious whether luck was some mysterious external force that lucky people have and others don't or a result of behavior and something even unlucky people can learn.

To find out, he put an ad in the newspaper one day recruiting self-proclaimed lucky people. He put another ad in the newspaper the next day looking for self-proclaimed unlucky people, leaving him with two corresponding groups.

He gave the individuals within both groups a very simple task. He handed them a newspaper and asked them to count all the images in the entire newspaper while he timed them.

The unlucky people took 2 minutes on average to count them all. The lucky people took just a few seconds. Crazy right? Well, here's why.

On page 2 of this newspaper was a headline that took up half the page and was written in type that was two inches high. It read, “Stop counting – There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”

The unlucky people didn't notice this headline, the lucky people did. As Wiseman put it:

"Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for."

Isn't this amazing? Luck is not about how life looks at you, it's about how you look at life.

If you are open to seemingly irrelevant information (like the headline in Wiseman's newspaper exercise), then you are more open to unplanned opportunities and, therefore, "luckier."

Sound familiar?

Creativity depends on being open to the "irrelevant."

I recently wrote about this very topic in my, "Notice Irrelevant Things And Then Imagine," where I referenced John Lennon's Beatles song, "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite." Great example of how paying attention to seemingly irrelevant information can pay big creative dividends. In Lennon's case, he found a circus poster and turned it into that song.

But it makes intuitive sense. To be creative, one must combine internal thoughts and ideas with new thoughts and ideas from the outside. Being stuck inside your own head limits your creative potential. You'll feel unlucky when it comes to creativity, but you're not really unlucky you're just not paying attention.

To be a "lucky" creative turn the world into a creative game. Think about a creative problem you're working on and then imagine that anything you focus on holds a potential idea for you. The more irrelevant the better. Really force it and see what happens.

Because, like luck, I don't believe creativity is some magical force, but the result of how we look at life (literally and figuratively).

I'd say "Good luck" but now you don't need it.

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Will BurnscreativityComment