Be An Original Thinker

I loved the documentary Iris.

You can find it on Netflix. It follows the life of Iris Apfel, an American business woman, interior designer and fashion icon. She lives a wonderful, eccentric, iconic life and is still going strong at 93. I found that in itself inspiring but I also learned so much more.

She's an original thinker and she doesn't care who knows it.

Iris creates by layering her pieces. She isn't afraid to merge together unusual combinations. Creativity often emerges at the combination of two ideas.

She layers without abandon, without care and without following the rules. In fact she doesn't have any rules. She is an original thinker and doesn't apologize for it. I find that truly inspiring.

Some original thinkers are able to create without fear. Iris has been creating this way her whole life. She isn't afraid to be exactly who she is and let the world catch up.

Other original thinkers take their time. Mistakenly, we think they are born sensations overnight but that means we haven't been paying attention. In fact it is thought that Leonardo da Vinci took sixteen years to paint the Mona Lisa. 

That gives me hope!

Original thinkers come up with ideas fast and then think about them for long periods of time. We call this procrastination, but it's during periods of procrastination that original thinkers make small adjustments in their head, re-iterating, and allowing the creative process to unfold.

Sometimes this happens over years. In fact very often it is over periods of a decade.

There is big secret I carry in my head.

I've always felt like an original thinker hiding in a non-original body.

It feels indulgent to think of myself as an original and so I shy away from it. Do you feel that way? I think most people do and we are just embarrassed to talk about it. 

Why? Is it against our nature to think that we are special? 

Let's flip that on its head and remember that everyone is special at something. Sometimes that something special is weird. In fact, it's even better if it's weird. Perhaps if we indulge ourselves with more of this type of thinking we would all be happier and innovation would be infinite.

I understand that nobody really cares about my secret but it's a necessary admission because it will help me achieve the next level in my life.

Why is this secret a colossal source of my anxiety?


I am regretful that I've never had the guts to stand up to the potential of my originality. Instead I conform to social norms and choose to stay comfortable.

Do you feel that way too?

Should we just maybe, oh I don't know...choose to not do that anymore? Could it be that simple?

It is that simple and just like most simple things in life it's difficult to do.

It is difficult to simplify.

Let's write that on a t-shirt. I'm sure someone already has. Or maybe not? Could it be original?

It is easy to complicate.

I could spend the next twenty minutes explaining why I have played it safe for the first part of my adult life, OR I could just recognize that it's time for me to be original.

Adam Grant, a perpetual "precrastinator" said "Original thinkers are quick to start and long to finish." You can watch his TED talk here. 

I've got the first part of that equation down. 

I'm an idea generator. I think of them all day long and all night long to the point where I can't sleep. 

Do you think I'm being overly optimistic when I say that perhaps I haven't realized that I'm currently in the "long to finish" phase? 

The conforming, "keep it safe" gal in my head says NO. She says, "The real reason you're late to the game is because you're lazy and scared."

Adam Grant also says original thinkers are often late to the game. They let others try first. They watch, learn and then make changes to do it better. Google let others go ahead of them. FaceBook watched MySpace and Friendster. 

The original thinking "bold girl" in me say YES I can do this! She says, "I'm not too late! I've been thinking of these ideas for ten or more years and now it's go time."

I'm gonna give the second girl a chance now. She's weirder. She may fail more often. I think I'm ready to handle that.

The world needs more Iris'. The world needs more originals. Why not me? Why not you?