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Do you get overwhelmed and frustrated every time you need to come up with new ideas when using memory techniques as part of your brain training? Especially when learning a foreign language?
You know what it’s like struggling to come up with mnemonics. It can feel a bit like pulling nails out of dead wood with a pair of rusted tweezers.
And what really makes the pain so bad is that you know that your brain is teeming with ideas.
Great ideas …
If only you could catch them.
Here’s the good news. In this unconventional brain training post I’m going to teach you how …
You Can Catch More Great Ideas Than The Most Successful Fishing Fleet In The World (Catches Fish)!
Just pick and choose from these super simple brain training activities and start with the most appealing. We’re going to go deep into each one so that you’ll have the fullest possible understanding.
Add one or more per month over a year’s time and you’ll enjoy an overflow of ideas so powerful it will take ten lifetimes and thousands of employees to handle them.
Just Kidding – Most Will Be …
As awesome as having boatloads of ideas can be, the real power comes from the refinement brain training brings.
How to get effective brain training? Here are 9 brain exercises that are fun, fast and easy to complete.
We’ll talk about that too a bit further on so your ideas will always come out shining.
But here’s the important thing for now: You can’t refine what you don’t have.
And you can’t get more ideas to refine if you aren’t already producing a lot of ideas in the first place.
That’s why you need an unending flow of ideas that you can turn on at will and focus into form with laser intensity whenever you choose.
Here are 3 unconventional ways how brain training can make that happen.
1. Milk Your Mind For Ideas Each And Every Morning
Most people flush their most vibrant ideas down the toilet as soon as their feet hit the floor.
By the time you hit the head, you’ve forgotten most, if not all, of a valuable stream (pun intended) of ideas you’ll never get back.
I’m talking about your dreams.
Of course, most of what we dream makes little sense, at least not without practicing the art of dream recall. Even then, dreams remain fundamentally surreal and devoid of fixed meaning.
But just because they may be meaningless, doesn’t mean your dreams can’t help you create meaning.
Since the early beginnings of literature, for example, Daniel in the Bible, making dreams meaningful has been a practice powerful enough to direct the choices of kings.
And with The Interpretation Of Dreams, Freud created an entire industry by empowering people to interpret their dreams and generate ideas about what to do and how to live in the world.
You don’t have to use the dreams you remember to influence world leaders or deal with childhood trauma. You can simply jot down what you remember and then free-associate to the images and vignettes.
Here’s a quick way to get started with this form of brain training:
1. Get a dream journal and pen/pencil. Make it exclusive to your dream capture practice.
2. Place the journal where it’s impossible to miss near your bed. You can even date it before you go to sleep and leave it open at the page you’ll write on.
3. Make the commitment to remembering your dreams. Just say your personal version of, “I remember my dreams. I write them down.” That mantra in itself will serve as powerful brain training.
4. Free-associate to one or more of your dreams. It helps if you get relaxed first. Let ideas come to mind and jot them down. Don’t think about it or try to guide them. Let them breathe.
If you recall no dreams …
No. Big. Deal.
Write down, “no dreams” and perhaps a few notes about how you slept. Before you know it, you will start remembering your dreams with depth and intensity. And when you practice associating with these dreams, you’ll always be able to come up with new ideas.
The best part is that you’re journaling your dreams. This brain training practice means that you don’t have to associate only with recent dreams for new ideas.
You can go back through those pages for as long as you’ve been journaling. You’ll have a treasure trove of images, narrative snippets, and longer sequences as often as you please and always find some new angle on the material.
To give you an example, years ago I dreamed about the pyramids. I saw them filled with a scented lava that poured down the sides, creating a river.
When I finally got to visit Egypt, for some reason, I remembered the dream and started to explore it for ideas. I was there to research ancient Egyptian culture for its relationship to memory and reincarnation, past lives, etc.
That was all fine and dandy and I learned some great stuff in some of the museums I’ll be telling you about soon.
But the fact that I remembered this dream and the lava was scented led me to think about aromas, and I wound up wondering if there is a relationship between scent and memory.
It turns out there is. I have found a wealth of research material on the matter, much of which centers on the use of oils in mummification – one of the most memory-centered activities in all of history.
Would I have thought to connect scent and memory without this dream that helped product it?
But the point is that without the practice of dream journaling as a form of brain training, I probably never would have thought about scent and memory in the context of mummification and essential oils in Ancient Egypt.
Deliberately remembering your dreams is a way of engineering happy accidents and generating new ideas that come power packed with resonating value.
It’s easy, fun, quick and easy to do. It creates long term value and can change your life in many other ways too.
For more on dreaming and memory, check how How to Remember Your Dreams.
2. Brain Training Pulls Ideas Out Of Thin Air
Like Pushups Pack Muscles On Your Arms
If dream recall doesn’t appeal, there’s always brute force.
And that’s the way the following approach may feel at first.
But once you get into it, things get faster, easier and more interesting.
You just have to be willing to train your brain.
Here’s how it works, as adapted from the original exercise taught by James Altucher in Choose Yourself:
Write down ten ideas every day.
The benefits of completing this exercise will become plain. Just like doing consistent sets of even just ten pushups on a daily basis cannot help but strengthen your muscles …
Writing Out Just Ten Ideas A Day Will Pump Up Your Thinking Pipes
Will the ideas be any good?
Many times no.
But that’s not the point. And often enough, the ideas will be good. Or they will become catalysts for betters ideas, or at least be amusing. As with pushups, so long as you keep good form, you can’t go wrong.
Good. Here are more specific instructions.
1. Get a special notebook and pen exclusively for this brain training exercise.
2. Write 1-10 along the side of the page.
3. Don’t overthink the process. Start with the first blank space and write something down.
4. Write another idea down and keep going until you’ve reached 10.
As with nearly every exercise you’re learning now, coming with a relaxed body and mind will make a huge difference. By meditating first, or running in place, or even after performing some real pushups, your brain will be bursting with oxygen.
In this state …
You Can Experience Monumental Levels Of Creativity
More importantly, the volume of your critical voice will go down, if not disappear altogether.
You know the voice I mean.
It’s the voice that says, “I can’t. This is stupid, pointless and useless. Why bother?”
That Voice Is A Brain Training Killer!
When it comes to listening to this voice, why bother, indeed? Didn’t this voice already batter you with these same enthusiasm-destroying sentences yesterday?
Meditation will help get that voice out of the way, letting new ideas flow with greater ease.
For bonus points, you can use the same notebook you use for dream journaling. Just imagine compounding the value of the ideas nature gave you during sleep with your Altucher-style brute force ideas.
Quite frankly, the value of combining the two is awesome.
What’s that? You want an example?
Well … okay …
Here are three of my ten ideas from earlier this morning. Remember, I don’t judge these or even think about them too much. Just as with pushups, I’m concerned only with executing the moves with good form. In this case, good form means nothing more than …
1. Construct a highway from the earth to the moon out of Levi jeans. People will travel to the moon in vehicles made out of zippers and buttons. The speed bumps will be made from pockets and stitches, and all traffic lights will be made from the red Levi’s tag. But they will never mean stop, only, “go faster.”
2. Professors who shoot pancakes from maple syrup guns get arrested by the Spatula Police and taken to a prison made from sticks of butter.
3. All the American presidents in history suddenly appear in the present and start tattoo parlors that specialize in squeezing the Declaration of Independence onto the surface of any body part you wish.
Silly stuff, right?
Of course it is.
But as goofy as these ideas may be, they came lightning fast and in multilayered formations. Speed and depth come from nothing more than making idea generation a daily brain training practice. It’s both an art and a habit. There are no true Eureka! Moments in creativity, only ongoing processes.
The longer, the better.
And so whether you want to have more ideas for working with mnemonics, your work or building a better future, all you have to do is start by writing down nothing more than ten ideas.
You can get started with this form of brain training today.
3. Copy, Amplify, Transform, Delete Or Downright Mutilate And Abuse The Ideas Of Others
If for any reason you can’t come up with any ideas at all or hit a dry spell, no stress. The world is filled with ideas already put out there. Sure, they’ve poured their heart and soul into creating them, but that’s no reason not to …
… Mess With Them!
Think of Banksy. He’s a master at monkeying with logos, brands, royalty and all manner of preexisting images. He copies, transforms and sometimes deletes parts of images to create new effects that lead to new feelings and ideas.
Let’s go through each of these approaches and see how you can make them work for you and your brain.
Talent Borrows, Genius Steals, Creatives Copy
Have you ever studied music? If so, then you’ve probably played compositions written by someone else.
If you’re an artist, or tried to be one, then you’ve probably copied at some point the works of a pro.
But if you’re a writer …
Copying the works of others is the last thing you’ve ever wanted to do.
Enter Kenneth Goldsmith. In this video, he talks about “uncreativity” and why you should copy, word for word, the works of other writers the way musicians and artists so all the time. (I’ve fast-forwarded the video to the interesting part.)
Notice that Goldsmith isn’t talking merely about copying the works of others.
He’s talking about training your brain by analyzing your choices. You get an education from writing about what you copied and how the exercise made you feel while at the same time imprinting your mind with the rhythms and metaphors of writers you admire.
In other words, by studying your choices, you get ideas.
Incidentally, Goldsmith’s “uncreativity” exercises may sound controversial in the world of literature. Copying the writing of others to write at a higher level and produce stunning writing without hesitation has been on the radar of marketers and copywriters for decades.
You can read about Gary Halbert’s “neurological imprinting” and how to dig the writing of others even deeper into your mind here.
But as with Goldsmith, the point of such exercises is not to clone. It’s to train your brain to find connections and spontaneously produce new ideas of great wealth.
For more on writing, consider Ambidextrousness and Memory: Can Dual Handedness Boost Your Brain?
Cut Out The Best, Mess With The Rest
Sometimes the best way to milk existing ideas for new ones is to cut them to pieces.
Take Dan Walsh’s Garfield Minus Garfield, for example.
What makes Walsh’s work so brilliant is the consistent comedy gold he mines from a preexisting comic strip simply by removing its famous namesake. You get a completely different reading experience, and your perception of John completely shifts.
To take another example, try and find The Matrix DeZionized.
Some people wanted to like The Matrix sequels but found the representation of Zion to be a deal-breaker. So instead of griping about it, they put all three movies together and removed Zion entirely.
I don’t know about you, but for me, that creates new ideas about The Matrix series that I couldn’t have had otherwise. Just watching it serves as a kind of brain training.
How do you use this technique to create an endless stream of your own ideas on demand?
Pick your favorite novel or movie and then think about what it would be like without the lead character or some other critical element.
What would Superman be like without Lois Lane? How would Anne of Green Gables play out if the Cuthberts hadn’t adopted her? How would Columbo endlessly introduce himself back into the lives of his suspects if he couldn’t say, “Just one more thing”?
In some ways, this exercise relates to the “how many uses can you find for a paperclip?” game. But instead of adding ideas, you’re deleting them.
And when you delete, you can transform through replacement.
Imagine, for example, if the “creator” of Garfield — had replaced the cat with Conan the Barbarian. Or James Bond? Or Julia Roberts?
Okay, So Brain Training Made You Creative …
By now, you’ve got a wealth of procedures, games and activities you can use to make your mind a machine of perpetual ideas. And you’ve done it all without playing any time-wasting brain games.
Rest assured, the powerful effects of exercises like these don’t stop here. These creativity drills infuse with everything else you do throughout the day. You will notice constant creative energy as new ideas show up left, right and center.
Of course …
With Great Ideas Comes Great Responsibility!
After all, these ideas are like your children. It would be criminal to neglect them.
That said, you do need to get rid of every idea that doesn’t scale.
Or rather, reshape it somehow.
Instead of thinking of the culling process as tossing your children out into the cold, just imagine that you’re trimming their hair.
That’s all it is. Shaving wool from a flock of sheep, weeding out the dud strands and using the rest to knit …
A Wearable, Warm And Wonderful Idea Sweater
The question is … How?
Actually, this form of brain training is quite easy …
Assign each idea with a value.
To keep things easy, create three categories. 1, 2, 3. Green for “go,” yellow for “caution,” red for “forget it.”
Or you can use a gold coin, silver coin and a copper coin. I like this model in particular because ideas are currency. Whether it’s a scratched up penny or a hundred dollar bill, you can spend all your ideas somewhere, sometime, somehow.
So here’s an experiment adapted from something Dean Jackson talks about in his amazing 50-minute Focus Finder video:
Using the idea generation techniques you’ve just learned, get out three envelopes and three coins.
Next, stick those envelopes to the back of the door in your workspace or on a wall or any place you’ll regularly see them. Stick one coin on each envelope to indicate their value.
Then, using index cards or slips of paper, sort your ideas into the envelopes based on how much value you’ve attached to them.
You’ll have to decide on your own valuation system, but …
Keep It Loose And Flexible
Flexibility means that you allow your ideas to appreciate. What starts off as a copper coin could easily wind up becoming silver or even leaping straight up to gold.
Christian Fitzharris talk about the importance of keeping it loose and fun in our discussion about brain games. Don’t miss it!
Likewise, ideas that may have seemed gold, may downgrade over time. But no matter how things evolve on the Stock Exchange of your ideas, all of them can stay in trade and hold potential.
And anytime you feel like you’re lacking in ideas, you’ll have three heavy bank accounts from which you can draw.
Just as you can get more out of having more memory memory training techniques from around the world in your toolbox.
You know that you can become more creative right now … right?
Good. Then go out there, gather some ideas as part of your brain training and make something special for the world.
Do it now. 🙂
I really love the bit about uncreative writing. Actually, I love the whole of this article; it is a treasure trove.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Katey.
Yes, Uncreativity is one of Kenneth Goldsmith’s finest “creations.” 😉
Awesome article. As an aspiring fiction writer, this appeals greatly to me! Thanks for putting it together!
Glad you liked this, Brunno. What genre (or genres) of fiction do you write?
If you’re interested, I have something here on the site about memorizing plots. That too can help boost creativity.
Here’s another example of the kind of ideas you’re talking about in this episode. Someone took the tweets of Kim Kardashian and combined them with quotes of Søren Kierkegaard to create a twitteraccount called KimKierkegaardashian, it’s really funny: https://twitter.com/kimkierkegaard
Thanks for that, Sander. That is a great example of just this kind of thing and funny too! 🙂
Great article! It’s a fabulous progression from the one I retweeted. Sometimes the spark of a brilliant idea comes from another’s idea that didn’t get as fully expanded upon as it could have. You’ve definitely added value to the concept of brain training and creative ideas!
So true, Adele. As the great Canadian critic Northrop Frye once said, all poems come from other poems. 🙂
Loved this episode, Anthony.
As a budding freelance copywriter, the process of copying out the works of others by hand is something I’m starting to really get into. I’ve heard the idea of neurological imprinting being described as “structural priming” — as where you essentially train your brain to recognise signals for what makes great copy.
Great choice on Camus, by the way. He’s one of my favourites.
Keep up the great work! 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Mac!
Camus is definitely great and I’m glad to hear you like him too.
I think you’re quite right that neurological imprinting is about more than just the surface structures of a text and the general principles. It really does let you go deep and most certainly gives you an instinctual sensibility too. And the more you’ve understood the problems of your market, the more important those instinctual abilities will be. 🙂
I love the idea of keeping a dream journal. I think dreams definitely relay a feeling or situation that we’re going through in our real life, but are augmented in a way to fit the dream world. I also love your suggestion of writing down 10 ideas a day. I think you could come up with some really great stories this way! Thanks for sharing the tips!
Glad you found value in the dream journal aspect of brain training, Rachel. It’s not just great for getting more ideas, but it also helps us start each day off with a memory exercise too. 🙂