Are You an Original Thinker?

Adam Grant, author of the influential book Give and Take, recently gave a Ted Talk about some of the habits he’s discovered while researching original thinkers. He gives empirical evidence making a case for some of these habits, and some of them are actually surprising. Some of them include:

  • Original thinkers and creatives tend to procrastinate more than their productive counterparts.
  • They are “the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most.”
  • They often project self-confidence, yet have many fears and self-doubt.

While clearly I’m going to have to read Adam’s other book, Originals, to figure out more about original thinkers, this talk brings me to a few questions I really should be asking of myself. You might consider doing the same.

1. What am I really doing when I’m procrastinating?

Is the time I spend procrastinating actually improving my work, or I am just delaying the inevitable by filling my time with distractions. As Adam mentioned in his talk, creatives tend to produce when they procrastinate some. Rather than considering it “procrastinating,” some would just consider the time as thinking or part of the work process.

One way a person could truly tell if the procrastinating is part of their creative process would be to complete assignments while procrastinating, and completing others while being proactive and getting it done early (an impossible task for some). Get feedback for your work and compare the two. Maybe your procrastination really is creative genius, or maybe it’s just laziness.

2. Am I afraid to fail?

Like Wayne Gretzky famously said “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take,” and I’m sure Adam Grant would agree. We’ll never have the opportunity to be original if we don’t present something new to the world, and this takes getting over the fear of failure. I believe the difference between those who fail often (but succeed often) and those who never take their chance is that the people the who fail don’t consider it a defining moment for themselves, but rather something that is just part of the process.

For me personally, I’ve had many failures and many successes. While failure always stings, just knowing that it’s one step in the process towards success makes it a lot easier to cope with. The best way to get over shame or embarrassment of failing is it to keep plugging along until you find success, which can quickly help dissipate those negative feelings.

Photo: leadershipfreak.wordpress.com

3. Do I accept the default?

I’m proud to say I’ve been using Firefox since around version 3 or 4. Hell, I even use Chrome from time to time (sometimes flash videos don’t load right on Firefox).

If accepting the default is your go to option rather than asking if you there might be something better, it might be time for a new mindset. While Adam didn’t necessarily say this specifically, I believe the default stems from fear of change. It’s about taking the easy, comfortable route rather than the less comfortable, yet possibly more rewarding one. This isn’t easy for anyone, but if it something you really want start doing, my advice would be to start small and work your way up. A great place to start might be ditching Internet Explorer for a different web browser.

Do you believe you’re an original thinker? What makes you think so? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.