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Learning for a lifetime, improvising one thing at a time Learning for a lifetime, improvising one thing at a time
by Joseph Gatt
2021-01-22 09:40:18
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I sometimes get asked “what's the secret to creativity?” Or “what's the secret to success in business?” Or “how can I be more productive?”

I thought about the answer for a bit. And realized perhaps the secret to creativity, success in business or being productive is: you learn as much as you can, and you improvise your way through production.

What do I mean by that?

wants0001_400You want to write a book. Most people “plan” their books in advance, which make the actual writing tedious, boring, and a race against time. That is if you flesh out the book, write chapters and jot down ideas for each chapter, you're going to get bored writing it. And the readers will get bored.

What you want to do instead is learn as much as you can about one or several of the topics that you want to discuss. If you're writing about mysticism, learn as much as you can about mysticism. Read books, visit temples, interact with mystics.

If it's a book about science fiction that you want to write, same rule applies. Learn as much about science and society as you can.

Then you get to the writing process. Now that you know what you know, rather than plan and organize the book, improvise the book one word at a time, once sentence at a time, one idea at a time. Don't plan ahead for your book, just focus on the current page, and then focus on the next page.

Painting. A lot of painters I've met jot down ideas for painting in their address book, and the list of ideas for paintings gets longer and longer to no end.

Instead, you want to learn as much as you can. About technique, about history, about society, about scenes and forms and shapes. Then focus on one painting at a time, and don't plan ahead. Finish that painting, then go paint another one, then another one.

Business. Let's say you want to be in the food retail business. Learn about business law. Talk to people who set up businesses. Visit different supermarkets and observe carefully how they display their food. Learn as much as you can about renting or purchasing space, about handling staff, about choosing good locations. Work at a supermarket or at several supermarkets to get an idea how they get organized.

Once you get into business, focus on one thing at a time. You can only handle so much paperwork at once, and you can only focus on so many ideas at once.

Of course you want a laundry list of the things you need to get done. But you also want to improvise your way through that list, and focus on one task at a time. You want to focus on product display first, without distracting your mind with staff management or accounting issues. Then, if you feel like you want to take care of accounting, go ahead. Or perhaps you want to focus on client requests first.

Or, rather than make laundry lists, you want to work with your assistants on one thing at a time, and count on your assistants to make sure there are no omissions in the “to do list.”

Getting organized. I know a lot of people who plan a lot of stuff and get nothing done. I even know a few people who planned their lives all the way to 2035 with a list of activities that they need to get done by then.

Point I'm trying to make is you will get so much more stuff done by improvising than by making “to do lists.” Because “to do lists” are good for procrastination, and not much else.

Many reasons for this. If you list your actions in order, something's always going to come up to disturb that order.

Also, sometimes the rules of the game change and you have to completely reset your priorities, and change your “to do list” from scratch.

But, procrastination is usually a syndrome of not knowing how to get the task done. And this is where the learning part kicks in.

If you spend a life time of learning, getting actions done is going to be second nature.

Some people neglect the learning part and skip straight to the improvisation part. You need to know your stuff before you improvise your way through being productive.

Others do their learning part but feel uncomfortable improvising. But here's the problem.

If you make a list of 100 things you need to get done, you'll probably do 5 or 10 things, in very tedious manner, before something comes up, either in the news or in your life that makes you readjust that list.

Or you can improvise your way and do one thing at a time, adjust your activities to the news and the environment, and without knowing it, you will get 500 things done. If you know how to do those 500 things, that is.

Simple. A lifetime of learning. And then sort of improvise your way through life. Good luck!

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