Osmosis Weekly #0003: Creativity, Subreddits, & Windows 95

• 8 min read

Hey Osmotics,

Inside today's Osmosis Weekly...

  • Featured Story: John Cleese on Creativity
  • Worth Checking Out: Reddit, FB and Career Hacks
  • Dumb Things to Share: Major Nerd News

So uh, did anyone else have weird dreams after getting vaxxed? Last Monday, after shivering uncontrollably to sleep, I dreamt Plural acquired a business and it had access to a 100,000 name list.

Problem was, we couldn't see who or what kind of names were on said list. It was a blackbox. So we spent hours arguing what to mail it in order to monetize the database.

I woke up sweating in anxious indecision.

And then on Tuesday night, beat up with fatigue (after sleeping the entire day)... I dreamt I dated a budget-version of Brie Larson. She had blue hair, we went to the movies, but she skipped out at intermission.

Later I found her marching in a mall parade wearing a kimono. She didn't ditch me after all. She had a shift to work. So why didn't she tell me?

Anyone else got vax-dreams to share? Anyone? No? Just me? ANYWAYS...

So last week was bit of a write-off. That said, I still prepared something for you this week. You're welcome.

John Cleese once gave a Video Arts talk on the subject of creativity.

(Useless tangent: Video Arts is like the UK Version of TED. They also make fun corporate training videos. Here's one on diversity, one on mental health, and one on remote work. OMG... it's like if you hired a video team from the early-90s to create videos on 2021 topics. So. freaking. weird.)

Anyway – back to our regular programming...

How to Be Creative

John Cleese's lecture on creativity is based on Donald MacKinnon's work, a UC Berkeley psychology professor. Specifically... his 1962 paper "The Identification of Creativity"... and the 1968 paper "Identification and Development of Creative Abilities"

MacKinnon was a character. He recruited spies during WWII... said "creative writers and scientists resembled sedate business people"... (one of whom was Truman Capote)... and that "engineering students were materialistic and power-hungry". Here's his NYT obituary.

What is creativity? There are three conditions according to MacKinnon. Creative people...

  1. Respond to stuff in a way that's novel or at least statistically infrequent
  2. Their ideas are adaptive, meaning it solves a problem, fits a situation or correlates with reality somehow
  3. And finally, their ideas involve evaluation and elaboration of the original insight

In short, creatives come up with ideas that aren't only just unique, but are also useful and adds to previous idea as well.

Now, this sounds intimidating, as "being creative" often does.

But fortunately for you, the premise of all this research is that...

Creativity is not a talent, that you either have or not have, it is a way of operating.

In other words --

The difference between someone who's "creative" and someone who isn't is how they choose to work.

Choosing to Be Creative

There are two modes of working: open and closed.

The closed mode is how we act most of the time. It's purposeful. Stressful. Goal-oriented. Gotta get things done type of attitude... checking things off the list... moving little cards on the Kanban board.

It's remembering what tasks you have to complete, what errands you need to run, what messages you need to return. Hurry up. Hustle. Make fast decisions. Go, go, go!

The open mode is relaxed. You're contemplative. You're curious about things, you're exploring, you're willing to experiment. Make mistakes. Try something else. Ask questions like "what if?" You're NOT under pressure to get things done.

In one word: You're playful.

And the big challenge with getting into this mood, this state where you can be creative is that... well, it requires you to set aside time... and ignore all the anxiety-inducing daily chatter that's running through your head.

It requires you to create undisturbed space for yourself to do this work. And obviously – I can't help but think of my summary of Deep Work here.

Five Things To Get You In A Creative Mood

John Cleese rattles off five factors you need to get yourself in the right mood to be creative:

  1. Space
  2. Time
  3. Time
  4. Confidence
  5. And a 22" waist

We covered space already. You can also revisit Deep Work here for more tips on how to create this space for yourself.

Secondly, you need time. At least 90 minutes each session. And be prepared to fight.

You see, you can create these spaces, block off time and tell everyone you're off the grid... but that chatter, that endless stream of responsibilities and small things will sneak into your mind.

We humans are, at the end of the day, dopamine addicts. And checking things off a list is the quickest, easiest way to get that hit. Shallow work is addictive because your brain rewards you. Answer emails, it's fun! It's easy! C'mon kid. You know you want to check Twitter now... then text your cofounder about that problem. You know that problem. Do it. do it. doitdoitdoit. But you must resist.

And not just the chatter... but also the temptation to take the first idea that comes to your mind.

Good creative work is hard. It's hard because you are forcing yourself to sit in uncertainty, frustration and discomfort... to play with an idea and iterate a lot... rejecting the first 10, 20, 100 ideas.

This is what John Cleese means with the second instance of time.

It is the strength and courage to put off making a final decision until the last minute.... so you can iterate through the problem and cycle through more solutions.

Which – is related to the fourth factor: confidence.

As you play with ideas, iterations and solutions in your head... you need to be OK with knowing many of your ideas will suck, and you need to keep trying on new ideas... and those might suck too.

Staying in this open mode as long as possible is the work.

Finally... in order to truly do good creative work, you need a 22" waist... or, to be more accurate, a sense of humor.

Humor is a switch that flips you from closed mode to open mode the quickest. It also keeps you from getting serious again. Remember, when you're serious, you are in closed mode.

Now, when you think about it, these five factors together sound a lot like daydreaming. It is.

So something else you might be up against are other people – friends, family, colleagues – wondering what it is you're up to when you sit around the office doing a whole lotta nothing.

Tell them you're working. (Even if they don't believe you).

I'll leave you with my favorite quote from the video:

This is the extraordinary thing about creativity. If you just keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly, but persistent way, sooner or later, you will get a reward from your unconscious.

Worth Checking Out...

This week: How to hack Reddit, build a FB group fast, and one of life's most valuable lessons from the engineer who designed the Death Star

How to Find The Best Subreddits For Your Business

I didn't find this (credit goes to Ethan Brook), but if you sell anything to a passionate audience, there's probably a subreddit where they're hanging out.

Whether you're doing market research or community outreach... check out this tool to see which subreddits are available in your niche. (Search by keywords).

Start a Facebook Group They Said...

As most marketer's have figured out already, done right, Facebook groups can be incredibly powerful lead-gen machines. A group's organic reach  is almost as good as a friend's profile.

But building one from scratch is excruciatingly slow and painful. Plus, who wants to join a FB group with 15 members? No one. So this guy asked, "why not just buy one?"

He got a 15,000 member group for $400. Here are his biggest lessons.

Mads Mikkelson's Life Philosophy On Work

In a recent interview, actor Mads Mikkelson was asked: Is there a life philosophy that you feel has carried you through your career? His response? Gold.

My approach to what I do in my job — and it might even be the approach to my life — is that everything I do is the most important thing I do. Whether it’s a play or the next film. It is the most important thing. I know it’s not going to be the most important thing, and it might not be close to being the best, but I have to make it the most important thing. That means I will be ambitious with my job and not with my career. That’s a very big difference, because if I’m ambitious with my career, everything I do now is just stepping-stones leading to something — a goal I might never reach, and so everything will be disappointing. But if I make everything important, then eventually it will become a career. Big or small, we don’t know. But at least everything was important.

Dumb Things to Share With Loved Ones

Because the damn kids are finally asleep...

  • OK, this is just awesome... front-end developer Hannah Blair turned her website into a Windows 95 clone. Check it out for a hit of nostalgia or... PTSD? (You might meet an old friend...)

  • Have you heard of this 4-year-old Japanese Skateboarder? He started when he was just two... and this video is the cutest thing ever.

And we're going to end on a nerdy 3-in-1...

  1. Wizards of the Coast (the company behind Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons) now accounts for 75% of Hasbro's profit. But what's even more interesting from the article: "Hasbro is actively developing products using NFTs". Time to stock up on those dual lands.
  2. You can soon play Quests of Yore from Pixar's Onward. If you recall from the film, Quests of Yore was a D&D clone that Barley (Chris Pratt) and Ian (Tom Holland) grew up playing. Well, you too, can play it soon.
  3. Jeff Goldblum is joining an actual-play D&D podcast. He will play an Elven sorcerer. I don't even know what timeline we're living in anymore.

Oh, right. It's May Fourth. Crap. Do you want a "hot take"... and watch me lose subscribers at the same time?

Here we go: Late last year, I realized I might not actually be a Star Wars fan. I know. gasp. I look at the eleven films and I only really LOVE three. (ESB, R1, & ANH in that order).

If we include TV, Mandalorian is good, but it's not great... like blood-pumping, everything's-on-the-line, trench-run great. Y'know what I mean?

With that said, this is quite possibly the coolest Star Wars lego set: A wretched hive of scum and villainy!

Coming Soon(ish)...

Book summaries go through seven stages at Osmosis: Reading, Raw Notes, First Draft, Editor Review, Revisions, Gif Hunting, and Publishing. Here's a status report of what's in the queue...
  • Breakthrough Advertising (1966) by Eugene Schwartz : 5% First Draft
  • Trusted Advisor (1998) by David H. Maister : 0% Raw Notes
  • The Hard Things About Hard Things (2014) by Ben Horowitz : 30% Read

To suggest books, write me at colin@osmosis.dev
Osmosis+ members can vote on what books I should prioritize here.

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