Flexing the brain

Tamara Ogilvie 

Want to master creativity in your life?

Author Robert Greene had spent 11 years immersing himself in the study of creative thinking; analysing power, seduction and strategy for his previous four books.  After an epiphany in early 2007, he realized the great masters throughout history had followed a similar path to power and success.

That epiphany resulted in his latest book, Mastery, which he discussed at the Wharf’s Sydney Theatre on Thursday afternoon.

Mastery delves into the lives of some of the most brilliant and powerful people throughout history and explores their stories.  Robert said the masters exhibited great flexibility in their thinking, enabling them to conceive a wider range of possible solutions to the problems they faced. After reading many of these people’s biographies, he concluded the brain’s muscles needed stretching just like those of the body.

Robert says creative thinking is a natural asset we are all born with. But as we mature and accumulate a wealth of knowledge and experience (a key component of mastery) we also begin to conform to all sorts of standards and conventions.

The solution?

Stretch the brain to foster plasticity in your thinking.

Greene showed us a few exercises to regain our once–natural flexiblility, a sort of ‘mental yoga’.

Develop a negative capability – overcome the usual anxieties that arise in uncertain situations. Embrace your doubt!

Think like an outsider. Some of the world’s great discoveries, like those in the field of immunology, have emerged when expertise in one field is applied in a completely different context.

Don’t always focus on the end product. We live in a goal–oriented culture and “the mind falls into a pattern which limits what we can see or consider,” says Robert.  Creative mastery is usually achieved on the journey toward completion of a task.

Robert Greene: studying creative thinking

Robert Greene: studying creative thinking

Distilling years of research into a one hour presentation meant the audience had to make a few mental leaps and bounds themselves as Greene explored his theory.

A skeptic in the audience challenged him, suggesting discoveries by masterful scientists and businesses could be down to luck rather than creative genius. Greene vehemently disagreed, saying the ability to act upon a moment of serendipity is crucial.

“Luck does play a part in everything… but it is how you are ready and prepared to exploit that moment that makes the difference between success and failure.”