Do you still have potential?

Beatles Twist and Shout 1963 by Ayd Instone

The Beatles 1963: A representation of youthful energy and creative power

Can one person really be of more worth than another?

And if that person is a teenager, do they have more worth than someone who is 29? Is a seven year old more deserving of our support and love than a teenager, or an unborn something, or a 50 year old man?

The moral reaction is that all have the same worth and value, that is what the law states, that is what all religions state, but it’s not quite how society behaves.

When a baby is born, the universal emotion is one of joy. When one dies, it is with great sadness, but not always quite as great as when a child, who has lived for a short number of years, dies. Perhaps it’s because their personality is more tangible than a baby. Usually only the immediate family mourn a baby who dies in childbirth. A teenagers death is tragic, but once we move into being adults, the tragedy of our untimely deaths grows less and less important to other with our age. Why?

Is it to do with potential? Perhaps there’s perceived greater unfulfilled potential in a child, which by the time that child has become an adult has either become manifest, or not, revealing an adult who has achieved, or has not. Is it therefore to do with what value an individual human contributes, or could potentially contribute?

People certainly mourn famous celebrities as much as members of their own immediate family. Is it connection that deserves our attention? We feel connected to actors, musicians and royalty so we mourn their passing? If a child dies of an illness or incident at home, no-one apart from the immediate family and friends cares. If one dies on the road, strangers may leave flowers. If one dies as a result of murder, thousands may take to the streets in mourning. If the victim of the murder was a 40 year old man, no-one would bother taking to the streets. The end result is the same in each case: we’ve lost a human life too early. But why the difference in reaction?

A celebrity expert, let’s say a famous author, is often quite willing to lend their expertise to support and help a young writer under 16. They would not be so willing to help a 50 year old. Is it that the 50 year old should have figured it all out themselves by that age. They clearly should simply have tried harder in their life and having blown all the chances and opportunities that must have come their way, don’t deserve any help… No-one would argue that children deserve help more than an adult. But why? The 50 year old clearly has more experience, of something, as they have had a longer life than the teenager, but do they have less potential, less to contribute? Or more? Potential to do what exactly?

In most societies, throughout history, age meant wisdom. Today though it seems less so. There have been many examples in the media where a greater age has been perceived to be a disadvantage and some have observed that television presenters appear to be biased towards more youthful ones. Do we value youth (and beauty) more than age and experience?

In some disciplines, the optimum level of youth does have a clear advantage. There is an average peak age where a sportsperson can perform at the highest level. It is said that mathematicians perform at their optimum between the age of 19 and 26 when our brains are said to be at their peak before cells start to die off.

But recent research has shown that brain cells may well die off, but new ones do grow. And it is the connections between the cells in the brain that are more relevant than the actual number of cells.

Because of a number of high profile successes in various creative endeavors by quite young people, the focus of the media is that creativity peaks when we are in our mid to late 20s.

The Beatles are the perfect manifestation of this rule. By the time they’d competed their final recordings together (on Abbey Road in 1969), George Harrison was still just 26. Ringo was the oldest at 29 (John Lennon was 28 and Paul McCartney had just turned 27).

Just a few years earlier, the four Beatles who wrote, played and sang on their first number one record were aged just 20, 21, 23 and 23. Their manager, Brian Epstein was only 27 and George Martin, their recording producer, 37.

In almost every creative avenue in the 1960s it seemed that youth had the creative power and it’s something we seem to have stuck with ever since. But is that actually true, or are the results somewhat skewed? Can people still be creative in their 30s, their 40s, their 50s and beyond?

Anyone of you who knows my age may well be thinking, “oh you’re just bitter and twisted because no-one spotted your ‘genius’ when you were 26.”

That may well be true, but it’s not the point. Or rather it is part of the point because I may well write off part of my creativity in the same way that you have, by thinking that we must have been no good at a certain thing or it would certainly have led somewhere by now, or we’ve missed the opportunity, and that we’re just past it.

If we ignore the negative impact of the media we’ll notice that many successful painters and authors only began their craft close to ‘retirement’ age.

We ALL have potential and we always will have that potential right up until our very last productive day on this Earth, irrespective of our age.

Drawing by Ayd Instone.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

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Do you use your 9th sense?

iphone 3GSWe’ve all heard of limiting beliefs. It’s when a belief you have about yourself or the world constrains your behavior, cutting you off from other opportunities. We all have our model of how the world works which we belief to be true based on the knowledge we’ve been given.

But what if that knowledge is wrong? Here’s an example.

How many senses does a human being have? Give it a number.

Most people will have said 5: Vision (ophthalmoception), Hearing (audioception), Touch (tactioception), Taste (gustaoception) and Smell (olfacoception). Some people may have said 6 but wouldn’t be able to say what the 6th was. Some would say it was ‘intuition’. Those who did are wrong. ‘Intuition’ is not a sense. A sense is a method of data input into your central processing unit, your brain. Intuition is a conclusion made in the subconscious based on those inputs. It feels magical and otherworldly not because it is, but because it takes input from a lot more than 5 sense.

Anyone who told you we have 5 senses was wrong. We have 9.

This is a great case of accepting a fact as being true when it’s not and then our experience is coloured by that error. To find out what our other senses could be, let’s count the senses an iPhone has. In other words, how many different ways can an iPhone take data in?

The answer as far as I can see is 16. It has a microphone, a touch screen, ambient light sensor, a magnetometer (digital compass), an accelerometer (knows which way up it is), a proximity sensor (knows if it’s next to your ear), a camera, 3G receiver, Wi-Fi receiver, bluetooth receiver, docking port, a home button, two volume buttons, a mute button and an on/off button. 16 ways it can collect sensory data.

So think again, how many do we really have? We have an accelerometer that gives us equilibrioception (our inner ear gives us a sense of balance and of gravity). That’s the 6th. The 7th is thermoception, the sense of temperature. The 8th is nociception, our sense of pain (different to touch) and the 9th is proprioception, the sense of our limbs in relation to each other.

When we’re assessing a situation is it data from all 9 of our senses that are filtered through our perception to give us a feeling of the situation. With us unaware of 4 out of the 9 how can we expect to operate consciously at our peak performance with unbounded creativity?

It makes you wonder what other lies and half-truths are holding back our potential…

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The Curse of the Zero Sum Game

There are so many examples in our society of win or lose, black or white, right or wrong, right or left as if everything has to be one thing or another. There can only be one winner, one gold medal, one number one hit single. The danger with this is that it can stop people reaching their potential as they think, if I can’t be the best, the number one, then there’s no point in taking part.

What is a number one hit single? It’s the music track that sold the most from a select number of outlets in seven days. There can only be one, the rest of the chart is full of singles that are not number one and yet many more music acts have had wonderful success without it having to be confined to such arbitrary measures of sales.

What is an Olympic gold medal? It’s an award given to someone who performed the best at one task on one particular day. The rest of the participants were also-rans, they lost.

Because these type of successes are so visible we can make the mistake that the concepts should apply to our everyday potential. We fall into the trap of thinking that we need external verification for success instead of internal satisfaction and that for us to win, others must lose. The bigger slice of the pie I can get, the less there is for you. This is the Zero Sum Game, the ZSG.

There’s nothing wrong with being, or aiming for being, the absolute best in the world but if you feel that no other place counts then you’re doing yourself a disservice.

I’ve seen this time and time again with aspects of people’s creativity. “I can’t draw” is the classic. Of course they can draw, everybody can draw. And like everything else, if you practice you get better. But people notice that they can’t draw like Leonardo so they label themselves within the ZSG: Leonardo can, I can’t. Leonardo wins, I lose or more seriously, they refuse to take part so that I avoid being labeled as a loser.

Being the ‘best in the world’ would be a wonderful thing to be, but a short lived and arbitary thing to be. Chasing the ZSG is a battle you can only temporarily win. But being the best you can be is different. Getting as far as you can get compared to what you’re capable of, compared to your own personal best is different. It isn’t a ZSG but a continuous journey to excellence and one where others can win with you along the way.

The most damaging thing anyone can do to their potential is to compare themselves with someone else. There is always someone who appears more successful, better looking, cleverer, richer, happier, funnier or whatever. Creating a secret ZSG competition like this between yourself and another person leads to stress. Such a race can never be won because unlike all sports competitions, the players will never have an equal starting position on all attributes except the one that is being tested.

If you’re on a racetrack aiming to take home the gold medal then you need to compare your performance with others to reach and snatch that discreet ZSG victory. You’ll know you’ve achieved it due to the brief externally verified reward. You know you’ll have won because others will have lost.

In almost every other endeavor we engage in this is not the case. Competition has its place, but when it comes to your talent, your goals, your desires, a much better idea is for us to aim to be our best, our personal best, every single day. Do that instead, aiming for internal satisfaction, and we can continually take the gold home every single day. And so too can everybody else. Decide not to play the Zero Sum Game.

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