If you keep a notebook of your ideas, chances are you are a serial ideator.
We write down our ideas so as not to forget them and hopefully work on them someday. The problem is that soon enough our idea-collections outgrow our capacity to execute on them. Most of the ideas would never see the light of day. That’s a pity and a waste for the world. Here I propose a solution.
Share your ideas publicly
If you sit on an idea for long enough, someone else is bound to come up with it. While not all ideas are shareable at the time of conception (trade secrets), we will actually never execute on most of them. If you can’t dedicate the next few years of your life to making it happen, why not share it with the world and let someone else try?
By sharing the surplus of ideas a few things can happen:
The value perception of our top 3 ideas increases and so does our motivation/responsibility to work on them. This helps us set priorities.
Our shared ideas hopefully get executed by others which makes the world a slightly better, more advanced place.
We get feedback on our shared ideas and possibly improve them through creative contributions from others.
By sharing rather than hoarding ideas we pay it forward and help instill intellectual collaboration among people.
For what it’s worth, shared ideas are credited to the ideator via the CC BY license.
For me the Brainstorming platform is one of those top 3 ideas. This is where people can share and upgrade each other’s ideas. Together we can advance the frontiers of science and make our technologies catch up with our ambitions.
There are various ways people get into the state of flow. Here is what works best for me.
A clear goal and desire to see it happen; Out of all the things on your to-do list, single out the one most important task – this is what you will be focusing on the next morning. Arrange the rest of your list by importance as well.
Before falling asleep, plan/think about the best way to achieve your most important task. Start tomorrow today.
Well rested and fed brain; Get a great night’s sleep. Create perfect conditions for uninterrupted sleep – if necessary soundproof your bedroom, ideal temperature, to avoid toilet trips don’t drink anything 2 hours before bedtime. While working, do keep a bottle of water next to you and take sips all day long to keep yourself hydrated. Also, consider nutrients like omega 3 and multi-vitamins/minerals so that your brain gets access to everything it could possibly need.
Optimal work environment; Prepare your workspace so that it will be free of interruptions in the morning. If you work from home where there are children, pets, spouses, who would interrupt you – consider working elsewhere (nature, hotel, garden shed, etc.).
No distractions; Your smartphone is the enemy (the night before and the following morning). Don’t touch it even if the world comes to an end. Set it to mute. Don’t check your messages, emails, news, or anything.
Assuming that you will be working on the computer in the morning, close all your browser tabs, applications, etc. There should be nothing left over from prior work. You will be starting with a clean slate.
Keep your mind on a leash; In the morning remember that for you there is nothing more important in the world than the task you set out to work on. Anything competing for your attention should be avoided by any means necessary. Your mind will constantly try to sneak in some rewards (hits of dopamine/serotonin) by wanting to check social media, email, news, etc. Don’t let it. Allow only one way to get the reward – do your most important task. Don’t even talk to your friends/family/delivery guy until you have put in a few hours of uninterrupted work. On your flow day, you don’t exist for the world. Everything other than the task at hand will have to wait.
You will be alternating between periods of intense focus and controlled mind wandering (taking breaks). Today you are an intellectual athlete. The task you are working on is equivalent to training for the olympics. During the breaks, you will be doing simple activities on auto-pilot while your creative mind continues to run in the background. If you are lucky, your brain will make valuable connections/revelations during these breaks.
Breaks consist of activities that don’t require your attention. You have done them many times so your brain is perfectly capable of doing them on auto-pilot. Here is a list:
Brushing your teeth
Taking a shower
Doing light training
Going for a walk
Driving (not recommended unless it’s at the end of the day on your way to training)
As soon as you are ready to get out of bed jump right into the task. Work like your life depends on it. When you feel it’s time to take the first break is when you brush your teeth. Keep thinking about the task and get back to it as soon as you’re done brushing.
The state of flow kicks in somewhere around this time. Don’t think about it. Keep your mind on the task.
Whenever you need a break, go for one of the tasks from the above list (breakfast, quick/short light workout, shower, etc). Don’t touch your phone/email/social media until well in the afternoon. Once you do, your flow day is pretty much coming to an end.
Completing the most important task will give you great momentum. Use it. Launch your mind right into the next one on the list. When switching tasks, do it without a break in between so as not to risk falling out of the flow. During breaks, your subconscious mind is contemplating the active task.
Depending on how long you’ve been doing this, your flows can last from an hour to a full day. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t sustain it for long yet. Keep practicing and improving with each round. Also, you don’t have to do it every day and not necessarily for many hours. Don’t force it, otherwise, you risk turning it into a dreaded chore.
If you feel like taking a nap, go for it. As soon as you wake up, launch right back into the task.
When you are mentally too tired to continue, call it a day and go for a physical workout. Your brain might still surprise you with some unexpected ideas. Take notes. If after the workout and shower you still can’t wind down, go for a walk, see your friends and family, meditate, watch a lecture on youtube, etc.
At the end of the day, cross the completed tasks off your list. Completion of a good flow session should feel like winning a medal. Congratulate yourself. Really do it!
When you need a boost
This is meant to help you get back on track during less productive periods. It’s not to be done during a flow session.
Research the related fields to better equip yourself for the upcoming tasks.
When the wind in your sails gets low, remind yourself why you are on your mission.
Take a few days off. Prevent yourself from doing any work during the off days. Get really bored and build up the hunger for a new flow day – then do what matters again, not something easier with faster reward/gratification.
Compose a master list of your ideas. Keep adding to it. Reading such a list can ignite a state of flow. Alternatively, compose lists of things (other people’s thoughts, ideas, etc) that could serve the same purpose.
Just take the first step towards your goal, even when you don’t feel ready. Often this is enough to jumpstart the flow.
Sometimes changing your work environment goes a long way in reigniting your flow
If the flow state failed to start or you couldn’t sustain it, chances are:
80% you checked your phone or opened a distractive website/app. Don’t do it.
10% you let some other distraction sneak by your guard. Be more vigilant.
10% you weren’t hungry enough for progress. You have to really want the completion of the task. If the task is mundane but a necessary component of a higher goal, understand that the sooner you get it done the further on the way to achieving the goal you will be. Adopt the “Bring it on!” attitude.
As things stand right now, no matter how successful and happy you are, your time will end. If you are young you might just not realize it yet. Humanity will eventually conquer our current major problems — including biological mortality. Will this be within our lifetime? There are ways of shifting the odds in our favor. Here is my attempt to contribute.
Every generation comes into this world with zero knowledge. We spend a few decades learning, a few decades creating, and then we run out of life.
Why I’m driven by this problem
As a child, first faced with the concept of mortality, I was soothed to believe that only people who want to die, actually do so. I eventually figured out that there were design flaws we needed to fix before this becomes a reality. Being young, I thought there would be plenty of time to become a scientist.
Life, however, had non-academic plans for me. It turned out I was good at coming up with ideas and ways of getting them done. Early success allowed me to spend my time building random projects as a way of having fun. Years later, it dawned on me, as the philosopher Confucius put it: “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”
Intellectual synergy; Good ideas can be made brilliant through collaboration.
Intellectual diversity; Different minds look at problems from different perspectives. What may be obvious to one person, can spark a revelation in another brain that is wired just a little differently.
Intellectual flexibility; Passion drives progress even where knowledge has yet to catch up. As the model example, look at Elon Musk changing lanes from a self-taught computer programmer to a successful rocket engineer.
So the brainstorming platform brings the right people together; matches them by passion rather than just expertise, helps them bridge the different paradigms, and keeps the destructive human behaviors at bay. The focus is on having the thought process move from mini-breakthrough to breakthrough.
The platform is based on the hypothesis that focused collective ideation gives rise to an emergent property – a problem-solving superpower. Focusing our collective creativity on one problem at a time should increase our efficiency at solving hard problems. This should put humanity on a faster path to making our technologies catch up with our ambitions.
What does brainstorming have to do with longevity?
Just as Youtube is a general-purpose video sharing platform for anyone interested in sharing or viewing videos, Brainstorming.com is a general-purpose brainstorming platform for anyone interested in collaborative problem-solving and sharing/iterating their ideas with others. Within the sea of Youtube videos, there are some concerted efforts to do good in the world. A good example of this was the Team Trees campaign where youtubers came together to combat climate change. They were a bunch of videographers, not scientists or engineers. Yet they managed to have an (at least small) effect on climate change.
Analogous to this, is how I personally hope to use the Brainstorming platform. I’m passionate about the field of biological longevity. I might not be a scientist or an engineer, but I have ideas. In line with law of the hammer, I hope to somehow contribute to solving every person’s ultimate problem – aging and the inevitability of death. It’s an extremely complex problem. But we can collectively chip away at it one idea at a time.
I use the platform as training parkour to sharpen my problem-solving skills. Hopefully, someday this will come in handy where it matters the most.
As the platform grows, it gradually attracts creative geniuses from all walks of life. It has the potential of becoming the ultimate problem-solving tool, that can be used to tackle any problem (including aging). Until we have artificial intelligence with superhuman abilities, collective problem-solving is our only hope.
Prioritizing the problems
Why focus on longevity? Let’s put it this way – if we don’t fix climate change within our generation, the next one will have a more difficult world to live in and still be working on solving the problem. However, if we don’t fix aging within our generation — the entire generation will be gone, forever. To you and me, this is the end of the road. If we are to work on future problems, we have to solve this one first.
When we manage to deal with aging, people will be able to keep on creating without a reset every 60–70 years. Imagine what the world would be like if Nikola Tesla, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, and the rest of their caliber were still here, healthy and sharp. Eventually, one generation will be the last with an expiration date. Why not us? We just have to come together like our lives depend on it.