Have you wondered what separates original thinkers from the rest?
Some people say it’s I.Q. Other people say it’s confidence.
But according to psychologist Adam Grant, it’s none of these things.
In fact, he says that what really separates original thinkers is their habits.
The best bit?
We can all adopt these habits into our life to be more creative, rational and self-confident.
So the question is, what the hell are these habits?
So the first habit is…procrastinating. Yep, you read that right.
Leondardo da Vinci was a chronic procrastinator. It took him 16 years to complete Mona Lisa. He felt like a failure. But some of the diversions he took in optics transformed the way he modelled light and made him into a much better painter.
What about Martin Luther King, Jr.? The night before the biggest speech of his life, he was up past 3 am rewriting it.
He was sitting in the audience waiting for his turn to go onstage and still scribbling notes. When he got onstage, 11 minutes in, he leaves his prepared remarks to utter four words that changed the course of history: “I have a dream”.
That was not in the script.
By delaying the task of finalizing the speech until the very last minute, he left himself open to the widest range of possible ideas. The text wasn’t set in stone and he had freedom to improvise.
Procrastinating can be a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity. According to Grant, “originals are quick to start, but slow to finish”.
The second habit is that while originals look confident on the outside, behind the scenes, they feel the same fear and doubt that the rest of us do. They just manage it differently.
Grant says there are two different types of doubts: Self-doubt and idea-doubt.
Self-doubt can be paralyzing but idea-doubt can be energizing. It motivates you to test, experiment and refine, like MLK did. Instead of saying, “I’m crap,” you say, “The first few drafts are always crap, and I’m just not there yet”.
The third habit you might not like…but here it is.
Research has found that Firefox and Chrome users significantly outperform Internet Explorer and Safari users. Why? It’s not about the browser itself, but how you got the browser.
If you use Internet Explorer or Safari, you’re accepting the default option that came preinstalled on your computer. If you wanted Firefox or Chrome, you had to doubt the default and ask, is there a better option out there?
Of course, this is just a small example of someone who takes the initiative to doubt the default and look for a better option.
The fourth habit is something called vuja de…the opposite of deja vu.
Vuja de is when you look at something you’ve seen many times before and all of a sudden see it with fresh eyes. You start to see things you haven’t seen before. Buddhists call this the ‘Beginner’s Mind.’
Your mind is opened up to possibilities that you might not have considered before.
And the fifth habit concerns fear.
Yep, originals feel fear, too. They’re afraid of failing but what sets them apart from the rest of us is that they’re even more afraid of failing to try.
As Adam Grant says, “they know that in the long run, our biggest regrets are not actions but our inactions”.
And if you look throughout history, the great originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most.
As Adam Grant says, “being original is not easy, but I have no doubt about this: it’s the best way to improve the world around us.