Raise your hand if you’re guilty of procrastinating. It’s okay if you’re hesitant to raise it up high like myself because procrastination gets a bad wrap.
But, what if I told you it may not be that dirty of a word? I say that because Adam Grant, a psychology professor, did a TED Talk on what makes people “originals,” as he likes to call them. Or, those he otherwise defines as nonconformists with big ideas. You know, the ones who drive change and creativity in the world.
Moreover, when you look back in history, they are the great composers, inventors, and political activists who took a stand. And, that point alone might explain why Grant felt compelled to pass on an opportunity to be an early investor of the now billion dollar direct sales eyeglasses company, Warby Parker, and find out how to recognize originals and become more like them.
Through his research, he found three surprising habits originals do that set them apart from all the other carbon copies out there.
Grant prided himself on being a pre-crastinator—aka someone with a tendency to complete, or at least begin, tasks as soon as possible. Yes, even at the expense of extra time and effort.
On the other hand, the creators of Warby Parker seemed to follow the procrastination train as they were slow to get their business off the ground (a bit of a turn off to Grant at the time). Yet, they weren’t alone. In fact, a student challenged Grant to rethink his habits when suggesting their best work was done at the last minute.
He wasn’t convinced. So, the student set out to prove it via an experiment during which she went into companies and had employees fill out a survey about how often they procrastinate. Then their bosses were asked to rate how creative they are. They found that those who rush in and do everything early were less creative than those who procrastinate moderately. Those who goofed off too long were also less creative.
He found there is a “sweet spot” were originals live. By running some more in-depth experiments he found the most creative people were those who knew about a problem and procrastinated. The creativity increased because the task was incubating in the back of their mind. It allowed them to consider more options and think in non-linear ways.
Therefore, not all procrastination is bad, but genuinely helpful. Just don’t let it go too long.
Another reason why Grant passed on investing in Warby Parker? Because they were “full of doubts.” The creators all had backup plans in case their business failed. So, what did he think about that? It was a sign they weren’t committed.
During the creative process, however, he found there are two different kinds of doubt. You can have self-doubt or be motivated by your doubt. The former is focused on yourself and the latter on doubting the actual idea.
Thus, he discovered that doubting your ideas provokes you to keep working on it until you get it right.
When we think about the great inventors of all time, we seem to only admire their successes. For example, Thomas Edison had a lot of very bad ideas before he came up with his most successful: the light bulb.
That said, to be an original, you have to weed out plenty of bad ideas to land on a winner. And, that’s a fact. Warby Parker tested 2,000 names before settling on the one name that is unique and one people respond positively to.
So, what can we take away from these not-so-secret secrets? Don’t be afraid to be slow to start and allow an idea the opportunity to live in an innovative incubator. Don’t let doubts and fears get the best of you. And, freaking let those ideas flow, no matter how foolish they may seem.
Then, you can look forward to getting your eureka moment!
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Lastly, I want to know if you have any habits or tricks that get your best ideas going. Share them with me in the comments section below!