Radio show host Grace Allison interviewed me for her show “Be Your Own Superhero.”
We cover a range of topics such as trumping the reptile brain, staying in fertile confusion to handle creative challenges, encouraging colleges to orient freshmen to disorientation, and using the single most direct and effective tool for creative superheroes.
The Reptile Brain, Fertile Confusion, and a Freshman Orientation to Disorientation: A Tracking Wonder Interview
The Need to Track Wonder During Fertile Confusion
[3:05] – What ‘tracking wonder’ means and how to practice it
[5:50] – The reptile brain – what it is, its role in keeping us safe & making sense quickly, and why we need to trump it for creative work
[8:45] – A creative hero’s task to confront challenges & the unfamiliar
[10:00] – Fertile confusion – what it is and why it’s important to thrive during creative and existential challenges
Preparing College Students for Fertile Confusion
[13:50] – The need for a Freshman Orientation to Disorientation on every college campus
[16:15] – The college experience as a purpose-driven quest
[17:15] – The role of purpose & autonomy in creative drive
The Journey from the Center to the Page & Tools for Creatives
[18:57] – Creative inspiration, perspiration, aspiration all come from the same source
[22:18] – Harnessing the breath as a creative hero tool
[25:15] – What creating from the center means
[30:18] – Two take-away tools
So the interview prompted me to make a creative superhero quiz. Take it, let me know how you scored, and tell me what other questions should be on here.
1. Do You Chase After Challenges That Test You?
When the Green Goblin terrorizes New York City, Spider-man doesn’t hide out with his girlfriend and watch tv.
He has to take creative action!
A creative super hero tests her mettle by constantly tasking herself with a project that stretches her wits and puts her on the edge of discomfort.
Most current studies in happiness suggest that an optimal balance drives most of us: A challenge that demands new thinking or new skills but that also is within our realm of success.
Quick! When given an hour, do you check emails or write three pages of your novel? Make Twitter updates or sketch a mock-up for a project? We know which set of choices is for your inner Clark Kent. And we know which set of choices pumps up your creative chest.
2. Do You Have a Ready-Stocked Utility Belt with Superhero Tools?
Who doesn’t envy Batman his utility belt with bat-grenades and grapping gun that let him swing like an urban Tarzan from skyscraper to skyscraper?
But let’s face it: The greatest physical feat your creative work demands might be to work with a CAD program.
My utility belt is equipped with external tools that help me handle whatever challenge comes my way during the day. 1. An Action Cahier and dry-erase walls to track my action steps. 2. Field Notes notebook to record fleeting ideas and impressions. 3 Uni-Ball roll pen. 4. Laptop. 5. The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.). 6. Walden (because I always need perspective on what matters) 7. A cup of fresh-leafed white tea. 8. A bar of dark chocolate (at least 72%, sometimes 88%).
Quick! Can you list the five indispensable tools that go in your utility belt? If not, it’s time to honor your alter ego with what it needs to carry out its tasks.
3. Do You Acknowledge Your Iron Fist Powers?
Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) is trained in the martial arts and harnesses chi to superpower feats. With intense concentration, he darts and dashes, leaps, and of course generally kicks villains’ butts Bruce Lee-fashion. His signature power is to draw all of his focus into his right fist so that it can smash through a wall.
A creative super hero constantly trumps the reptile brain of fear and distraction and default impulse (stop checking your email messages!) and instead masters daily feats of focus, follow-through, and deft execution. (I talk more about the reptile brain in the interview.)
Richard Restak and other neuroscientists agree that the singular trait that distinguishes exceptional chess players, surgeons, CEOs, scientists, artists, and writers from their peers is the ability to focus for extended periods on a single idea or project. Check out Winifred Gallagher’s Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life for a journalist’s review of the latest research in this growing area.
Superhero Secret Weapon: In the interview, I reveal the quickest way to achieve the brain wave rhythm of concentration. Hint: Iron Fist uses it. And it’s not Freedom software.
Quick! What did you focus on today for 90 minutes or longer without distraction? What prolonged project did you advanced on or complete? How do you help your distractible mind focus?
4. Can You Navigate Disorientation Like Dr. Mid-Nite?
One night when surgeon Charles McNider goes to aid a witness who was to testify against mobsters, a mobster hurls a grenade in the room whose explosion nearly blinds McNider. Yet, while recovering, he casts off his eye patches to discover that he can see in the dark – a strange gift that came from an accident that renders him near-blind in daylight. McNider becomes Dr. Mid-Nite, skilled in the martial arts and adept at seeking out the needs of others – humans and fellow superheroes.
What an emblem for the creative superhero. From disorientation comes a gift. A unique vision renders her near-blind to what others see and yet she can see in the dark and navigate areas of confusion and instability that other lesser souls would flee from. Plus, she aims to help others.
Next to focus, creatives need perseverance and the ability to overcome disappointment to succeed and be gratified. And that means not running to safety or surrender when you get confused.
Quick! How do you cope with confusion when answers don’t come easily with your creative projects?
5. Are You Connected with What Matters Most?
Some superheroes like Bruce Wayne had their wounds that lifted their aspirations toward benefiting others. You don’t have to save the world from villains – although I won’t stop you if you know how. But check in with what you’re creating for. Check in with what you’re working for.
And find your Wonder Portal – that dizzying insight into how your creative work benefits at least one other person.
In fact, maybe if some of us narrowed our scopes on doing our best self’s best work for the benefit and delight of others and ourselves, we might save the world.
And don’t forget to check out the interview.
Drop in the Hut
How did you fare with these five questions? What other questions would you add?