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The Rules of Genius #3: Feel before you think

Don’t jump into planning as soon as you’ve sighted a goal. Learn to be still and listen. Pay attention to the nagging voice. The uneasy stomach. The barely felt longing. Your subject may have something to tell you.

Resist the temptation to impose a cookie-cutter solution on an intriguing problem, or a groundbreaking solution on an insignificant problem. Hold back until you’ve had enough time to sort through your feelings and consider the issues. Depending on the nature and scope of the challenge, this could take five seconds or five days. It takes what it takes.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re searching for facts, you’ll cast your eyes downward as if the information were on the table? And when you’re trying to invent an answer, you’ll look upward as if the solution were in the clouds? These are commonly observed tendencies in problem solvers. But when you’re trying to access your intuition, looking won’t help at all. You’ll need to feel.

Feeling your way to a solution is like an athlete deciding his or her next move. It happens more in the body than the brain. It gives you direct access to your intuition so you can bypass the usual fears, distractions, default solutions, and ego traps that can make your work less than brilliant. Feeling lets you forge a connection with your subject that mere thinking can’t reach.

Close your eyes and drift with the problem. Let it whisper to you. Imagine you’re a psychologist, and the problem is your patient. Listen carefully. Give it your deepest empathy and fullest attention. Be available to the problem. Don’t try to fix it. Feel your way forward.

Next week: See what’s not there.
Three techniques for finding creative opportunities.

The Rules of Genius is now a book with a bonus section called “How can I matter?” that includes 10 essential rules. Buy here.

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