How to make tons of connections and come up with a million great ideas
Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager. ― Susan Sontag
As long as I can remember I have collected stars. It did not occur to me that that is what I was doing, but somewhere along the line the metaphor came to life, and somewhere later along the line I came to see it as a gift for which I am profoundly grateful.
I tend to connect with lots of people. And they don’t really leave me. They are like stars in my universe. Some people call it networking or being a connector. I don’t much like either characterization. Developing relationships for me does not feel like casting a net or hunting. It does not feel intentional or active like the word connector implies. It just is.
In fact, I am terrible at remembering names and faces, and I often have a hard time staying present (LOOK! Over there! It’s the funny monkey!). My head is a hot mess. But because my peripheral vision is very wide (I notice the funny monkeys) and because I have low tolerance for small talk, I tend to learn the most important things about many people, information at the time that does not seem “useful” to know. I love talking about dreams and fears and new ideas.
And then what happens is all these stars start to form constellations. One day I meet a new star and BAM! It’s the missing piece in the puzzle I did not know I had in my head – the solution to a problem, a new idea, an obvious answer to someone else’s need. Of course! Jim should meet Sue! She’d be a great fit for his Board.
For me personally, I’ve not always perceived this star collecting as a asset. I relate to John Nash’s (Russell Crowe) insatiable appetite for patterns in A Beautiful Mind, and to a recent blog post describing ADHD “like living in a soft rain of post it notes.” Sometimes it’s worse – like having a race car brain with bicycle brakes. It can be overwhelming and anxiety inducing.
And while this aptitude of mine is likely also allied to my brain “illness,” (at various times over the years I’ve been diagnosed with multiple mental health conditions, including epilepsy, bi-polar disorder, anxiety disorder, and addiction. I’m in recovery.) I would not give my crazy back.
In fact, I think there are some methods to the madness that can be useful to both normies and monkey brains.
Whether your brain is like mine or not, you have a gift. Yes YOU. It may be unorganized or uncultivated, but you can address both. If you can relate to my kind of unorganized brain, it can be super fun. See here for ideas on how to use your super powers for good and not evil.
If you want to discover more stars and cultivate a bigger universe, here are a few tips:
1. Be curious. Connections and inspiration are everywhere. Talk to taxi drivers and people on the bus. Ask questions. Pay attention to what gets your heart beating faster. Notice things. Don’t dismiss what seems irrelevant. Stop networking.
2. Open the information floodgates. Research shows that a key to creative cognition is letting in as much information as possible. Take time to read. Travel if you can. Learn new things. Anything. I know you are busy, but you are growing a garden in your noggin. Feed it with healthy stuff. Try this next time your spending time with your iPhone.
3. Practice thinking about and doing for others. A colleague of mine takes time each morning to send articles he’s read or ideas he has or people he knows to other people he thinks might benefit from the stuff in his brain. Make it a practice to give without expecting return.
4. Carve out some blank space. Our poor brains are being dragged from task to task to task. Dough needs time and space to rise after kneading. Go for a walk without your phone. Meditate. Take a vacation. Just sit on your porch for 30 min. Get some sleep! You’ll be surprise how the dots seem to connect after the quiet.