Lee Siegel‘s new book is called Falling Upwards: Essays in Defense of Imagination. I don’t think I’m going to read the book because it seems to contain a lot of high-powered lit crit, which ain’t exactly my cup of tea, but I think the title is genius. Falling upwards.
Imagination is undoubtedly important in leading a successful life. But it’s scarce. Scarce to the point that I continue to believe if you pay $15 for a book that gives you just one solid, imaginative idea, you got a helluva deal.
So how do you fall upwards? How can you nurture the imaginative instinct?
- Cultivate the naive mind. Look at an issue as if it was your first exposure to it, Kai Chang told me. When a company hires a new CEO, she probably doesn’t know a lot about the job, the company, and the industry. So most of her knee-jerk ideas will be off kilter. But there will be some gems, too, simply because her naiveté prompts her to challenge assumptions everyone else considered Truth. Try to re-create this mindset.
- Spend time around children. Childly wisdom can be enlightening. Children have the courage to dream with their eyes open, as my friend Andy puts it.
- Don’t let life beat imagination out of you. It’s a tough fight — with the first lick of formal schooling society beats us over the head shouting one word: conform. While some conformity is necessary, most of us go overboard.
As Picasso once said, all children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. To stay competitive, it seems to me, all knowledge workers will have to be artists in their own way.
It doesn’t take imagniation to work at a call center. It does take imagination to be an entrepreneur.