How I Generate 10x More Ideas With This Method

It’s widely known but rarely practiced

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.“— Edison

The success of Thomas Edison has been attributed to his ability to invent, which is obvious. He has 1,093 patents on his name. How the hell did he do that? As it turns out, he used a peculiar technique every day.

Despite his efforts to keep the technique private, it was revealed by the people who worked with him.

Edison was not only equipped with a good understanding of science. He was also skilled in the science of ideation and problem-solving.

A Steel Ball and Saucer

Here’s the famous technique that he used to get most of his ideas — naps. He would nap famously under his desk or on a workbench for up to 1 hour sometimes 3 times per day.

Don’t be bummed, yet. It’s not another post about the benefits of napping. What’s interesting is that he never fully napped.

While preparing himself for a nap, he held a steel ball in each of his hands and placed a metal saucer beneath them. As he started to fall asleep, the ball would eventually drop and hit the saucer. The sound of the ball hitting the saucer was loud enough to wake him up.

This is the time when he would jot down his ideas or would have people over to transcribe. The magic happened when he was just about to fall asleep. He went into a Hypnagogic State.

Hypnagogia is a transitional state between wakefulness to sleep. It comes at the onset of sleep. This is a peculiar state of consciousness. You have visions, patterns, hallucinations, or even physical sensations. These visions were more than dreams — they were the secret behind Edison’s success.

Another way to experience this state is when you snooze your alarm. The alarm puts you in a wakeful state. You’re aware of your body and the space around you. But you’re not completely awake as you’re right now. And so all your thoughts about the physical world come back to the mind and start to form new connections.

There’s one problem with this method — it’s hard to remember or write down an idea when you’re turning in your bed.

Over time, I’ve gotten better at retaining the ideas and writing them down as I wake up minutes later.

Though the technique is great I’ve found it difficult to implement as Edison did, at least with the information we have about his practice. The best I can do is ‘sleep on a problem.’ But some solutions cannot be left to chance. I needed a more proactive approach.

An Advanced Alternative

By going to sleep, Edison was trying to dive into the subconscious mind, which is a lower level of consciousness than wakefulness. What we can do replicate the results, is instead uplift our consciousness.

Through meditation.

A quick disclaimer here. Don’t mix meditation with thinking. Keep your practice separate since the goal of meditation is not to solve problems but to realize your higher self. Having said that, we can take advantage of our uplifted consciousness *after meditation *to think.

The drill is simple — follow your usual meditation routine or if you don’t have one, find a guided meditation. (Use an app like Headspace, Calm, etc or find it on YouTube)

Once you’re done with your meditation, bring to mind the situation you want to find the solution to. And then step away. Take the backseat and let your mind drive you wherever it wants to.

Don’t try to consciously step in and figure out a solution. If it’s so easy to solve, you would have already done it. The brain goes into deeper states like alpha and beta. This will help you to cross-pollinate ideas like never before.

Keep a notepad or your laptop nearby when you do this. Occasionally you’ll be flooded with thoughts like someone just opened the gates of a dam. Your fingers would be running like crazy on the keyboard to jot down everything.

I’m even doing it right now.

Most of this article is written with my eyes closed. It helps me go deeper into this concept. (If you’re worried about typing, learn how to touch type).

Reality Check

Most of it will feel like junk. But at least you have a new perspective on the problem. And more often than not, it’s will nudge you in the right direction to solve the problem.

It’s best to go into this practice without expectation. Otherwise, it creates unrest in the mind which is not what you want.

It’s also not a replacement for the logical process of thinking and decision making. You still have to read and educate yourself to stuff your mind with ideas. If there are no ideas, there isn’t anything left to connect.

Keep a regular cadence between learning, thinking, and meditating.

Keep It Fun

If you’ve never tried it before, it’s a fun exercise. And it’s important to keep it fun. No one is putting a gun to your head to come up with a plausible idea. Chill out and let the mind do its thing.

Most of us operate in a single state of consciousness, unaware of what else is out there. By tapping into these altered states, you can enhance your perceptions and your beliefs about what is possible.

Think about what one brilliant insight can do for your career, your business, your relationships, and your personal growth.

It can do some serious damage. And eventually, the magic will happen

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Written on July 12, 2020