I think you stink when you do your best work

Creativity, if carried through to something meaningful, can provide personal satisfaction, fame and wealth.

Many of you are working on being more “creative,” knowing that can open the door to the future you want.  A whole bunch of you will be here for our next Innovate Event – where we will be working as a group to release more creativity.

Here’s an interesting piece from Robert Greene’s new book – Mastery.

“One day, the writer and polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe made a curious discovery about the creative process of his friend, the great apples - rottenGerman writer Friedrich Schiller.  Paying a visit to Schiller’s home, he was told that the writer was not in but would return shortly. Goethe decided to wait for him and sat down at Schiller’s writing desk.  He began to be assailed by a strange feeling of faintness, his head slowing spinning.  If he moved to the window, the sensation went away.  Suddenly, he realized that some kind of weird and nauseating smell was emanating from a drawer of the desk.  Whe he opened it he was shocked to see that tit was full of rotten apples, some in an extreme state of decay.  When Schiller’s wife cam into the room, he asked her about the apples and the stench.  She told Goethe that she herself filled the drawers with these apples on a regular basis – her husband delighted in the smell and he found he did his most creative work while inhaling the fumes………………

Creative people do no simply think in words, but use all of their senses, their entire bodies in the process.  They find sense cues that stimulate their thoughts on many levels – wherever it be the smell of something strong or the tactile feel of a rubber ball. What this means is that they are more open to alternative ways of thinking, creating, and sensing he world.  They allow themselves a broader range of sense experience.”

We’ve all heard the stories about great ideas coming easier in the shower, after a drink or two, or over a wonderful dinner.

Andrew Carnegie would go into an empty room for hours at a time, not allowing any interruptions, as he was “sitting for ideas.”  Thomas Edison would go down to the water’s edge each morning, throw out his line – with no bait – and then watch the bobber for an hour until his thinking was ready for the day.  Without long walks, an hour here and there of trimming along our nature trail, tinkering with my cars, or playing with a grandchild, my writing to bring inspiration to others would very quickly be reduced to dry theories and lifeless words.

What are the triggers that release your best creativity?  Those times when you could:

  • Develop a new way of looking at something
  • Change the way people accept a traditional custom or belief
  • Draw, paint, or sketch something inspiring
  • Do your work in a way that brings a new level of meaning to yourself and others
  • Invent something that has never existed
  • Write a compelling book, article or poem

Share your most interesting techniques.  I’ll select 3 of you in the next week to receive our Fresh Start Package.

Share this Post

  • This may be really strange Dan, but I often get some “thinking” time when I take the garbage cans out to the curb on Wednesday nights for Thursday pick up. There’s something about the solitude of the job, the night sky, and the mental readiness to come up with new ideas and/or pray. I think my mind is prepared to know this time is idea time so I tend to get new ideas or feel refreshed after doing this seemingly mundane task.

    • 48DaysDan

      Wow – tell the family to keep that garbage coming.

  • justinrdr

    I’m a Christian, and honestly, my best ideas come in the place where I’m aware of God’s presence with me. Sometimes that’s while I’m walking to work. Other times its while listening to inspiring music, or reading something that I connect with deeply. But at the end of the day, I recognize His work in it all. He’s the Creator and the source of creativity.

  • I slowly pace through ALL the stacks in the library. I work my way along every shelf. I find concepts and ideas I have never considered. When I get the opportunity to do this, I often leave with my head spinning with new ideas and exciting possibilities!

  • A lot of my ideas will come when I am sitting whether in the car or in bed just before going to sleep. I carry a notebook with me and have several on the table beside me at night. For those times when I don’t have my notebook I have Evernote on my phone so I can make an audio note of whatever I am thinking.

    • 48DaysDan

      Thomas Edison used to sit in a chair with a metal ball in his hand over a tin pie plate. When he was just falling asleep the ball would drop, make a loud noise, and he often just at that moment would capture a great idea. Sounds like you’re doing the same.

  • PaulVandermill

    I haven’t gotten the formula down exactly. I think the key is some semblance of balance. When I am not at the office too late, things are well at home, I am eating reasonably well and mot particularly when I am physically active, (whether that be running or laboring on my small piece of property) throw in a good dose of quiet and solitude, my mind seems to erupt with ideas. Hmmm, there’s a thought, create those circumstances more often.

  • Diana Bader

    In general, nature, children, books, and music are my best triggers. But lately, I have 2 specific ways that seem to work.
    Last year I bought a very used Convertible Mustang, after my car died. It is not in the best of shape, but driving it with the top down clears my mind like nothing else. Even last winter, I would throw on a polar fleece, crank up the heat & put the top down. I looked nuts, but it was awesome.
    The other trigger is live music. I get so much out of watching a band and audience connect. It’s amazing to see a singer or musician really connect with a song, or watch the audience really feeling every beat. I usually don’t sleep much that night and wake up ready to create.

    • 48DaysDan

      Diana – I love the convertible in winter. What an awesome and unusual way to open your mind to the best ideas and thinking.

  • None of my triggers are wacky or all that unusual. The things that trigger my creativity tend to be runs, a walk through the woods, or sitting at the shores of Lake Michigan.

    • 48DaysDan


      Sometimes just that break in routine is all we need to tap into our best ideas.

  • My best thinking always comes after I leave my traditional work space. In other words, as soon as I stop working at go shopping, or driving, or running, then I’m hit with brilliant insights. It seems I can never force my genius thoughts. They always show up when I let go and do just about anything else.

  • Craig Osterhus

    A long, solo drive on the highway frees me up to think. I have recorded many voice memos on my phone during long trips to capture my ideas. Unfortunately, I am embarrassed by those ideas days later. I’m not sure what’s going on there.

  • Rick Quatro

    I am an avid cyclist and like to sweat. I am usually around 10 miles in on a nice rural road and my heart rate is steady and the aches and pains have faded away. By then, I have forgotten about work and personal problems, but then ideas and solutions start streaming into my consciousness. Some of them seem so obvious, but it isn’t until I get into the groove of the bike that they come to me.

    • 48DaysDan

      Rick – wow, sounds like a wonderful cleansing process to open your mind to the world of great ideas.

  • Andy Hynds

    For me, my creative ideas come in a number of places. Of course, there’s the shower, but I also have come up with some great ideas when taking out the trash, yard waste, and recycling. This is always on Thursday nights, so I’m ready to wind down for the week and process much of what has happened. Last night, I thought of some ways to make today productive while taking out the trash and while watering the plants.

    Also, we have a newborn right now, and I tend to come up with some pretty amazing ideas during the moments right after we wakes up in the middle of the night. It’s too bad that many of those great ideas cause me to be awake for a solid two hours afterward.

    • 48DaysDan

      Andy – I like that. Often disturbed sleep acts as a trigger for me as well. I always try to capture those moments and the ideas that pop into my mind.

  • Susan Sims

    I sit in a green chair I have had since college and look out the window. I usually drink hot chocolate and I journal my thoughts after having my devotions. This
    will bring up my next topic for my writing.

  • Laura Noles Brown

    I find my best ideas come while actually at work! I find I have more creative ideas about my side interest while working (it’s a mundane day job with a lot of repetitious data entry). The reverse is also true. If there’s a particular sticky problem at work, my crafts (knitting and crocheting) help clear my head so I can see a solution.

    • Michelle Read

      Laura I agree! I clean houses and ideas and new directions and focus ALWAYS come when I’m cleaning someone’s home. I think it has to do with the fact that, yes, I’m alone and it’s quiet and peaceful…but also because I have peace that I’m earning money. This flexes my “money gland” in a good way, causes me to not put pressure on myself because I am already working, and gives me the freedom to focus, think, and dream! Wow. That was a lot of commas.

  • Gayon

    My triggers are simple:
    1. Dry erase board for dreaming up a concept
    2. Doing the dishes – I hate them, but I get the best ideas when I do.
    3. After a frustrating moment at work or noticing how people “shrink back” from their dreams in the corporate environment – this spawns all kinds of inspiration.
    4. Running running running and more running – then walking the last mile (4 times around my house) while praying. This is the INSPIRATION generator, no doubt. It’s like angels surround me with their juicy thoughts from heaven.
    And I feel like I can fly. Crazy, I know. But it is a trigger.

    • 48DaysDan

      Gayon – sounds like you’ve got some triggers.

  • Tammy Hagadon

    A couple of triggers to be creative for me are: jazz music playing in the background, it makes me happy and relaxed and I can create away. Also looking at beautiful landscape photography in nature brings a smile to my face and new, fresh ideas to my mind. Before going to sleep is another way I think of great ideas – I just wish I could remember most of them the next day!

  • Les Kerr

    As a songwriter, I have found that sometimes just playing a chord or two in a key I usually don’t use stimulates my creativity. Another trick I use now is learning the melody of a song I already know in one key in a different one. In one case, learning to play a new chord let to the writing of a complete new song!

    • 48DaysDan


      Oh I like that. Force your mind to hear something dissonant or different from what it’s expecting – brilliant.

  • Matthew Casteel

    I love taking a long hot shower in the dark… It feels like I’m drowning out all the extra noise and sound so I can really start listening to what’s important.

    • 48DaysDan

      Matthew – a shower in the dark. Now that’s one I haven’t tried. Make perfect sense – I know what I’m going to do. I’ll try it – thanks.

      • Matthew Casteel

        I look forward to your new idea birthed in the dark! 🙂

  • Jonathan

    I really like to create and invent new things. One of the ways I get great ideas is spending time with my Creator, Jesus Christ. Jesus knows what will work and what won’t; sometimes He doesn’t give it all to us right off, because He wants to walk with us through the process of creating; as we do so, He gives us great ideas that make a great difference. I LOVE Jesus!!!

  • OneAmericanAmongMany

    For me it’s either when I’m mowing the lawn or taking a long walk. I mow 1/4 acre with a push mower (self-propelled, thankfully) and the 45 minutes or so I spend encased in the drone of the mower, steering it in diminishing circles seems to insulate me from everything but my own thoughts.

  • Shayeinsd

    Nothing unusual, working in my small garden, getting my hands & bare feet dirty, just ‘doing’; digging, trimming, watering. My mind slows down and I notice the birds, the bugs, the lizards, all just going about their lives, without regard to the bigger world. I try to go there with them, just being in the ‘now moment’ and then- inspiration sometimes strikes! And sometimes, I just feel better, no earthshattering ideas today!

    • 48DaysDan

      I too love physical work as a way to slow my mind down – and then be open to hearing and seeing things I would otherwise miss. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Tami

    I work at home and for whatever reason my best ideas come when I remove the shackle from my ankle, push back from the desk and get outside. I walk, jog, hike or bike. The physicality of it clears my mind and I come up with solutions to what ails me.

  • Michelle Wright

    I get ideas when I exercise…usually after, but sometimes during. A good soak in the tub also clears my mind and relaxes me. My favorite way to relax and think deeply is to stare at a lake or some other body of water. I used to make it a priority to visit Tom Lee Park in Memphis when I came home on my breaks throughout college. Something about staring at the moving water…Now I have to settle for a duck pond on my lunch break, but it will do. 🙂

    Sometimes when my kids are in a another room, I get to lay in bed and enjoy the quiet all to myself. I love those times. Then again, sometimes I get ideas after playing with my kids…or listening to a podcast. Different triggers for different things and seasons in my life.

    • 48DaysDan

      Just continue to be open to, and look for, those special moments when peaceful creativity can slip in.

  • I’m inspired by social activities — spending time with friends, joking around, tossing ideas back and forth, building on each other’s creativity. I take weekly improv workshops, and a basic principle is “yes, and” — you offer an idea, and others accept the idea and build upon it, and you build upon their ideas to create a scene. I find the principle applies in many other aspects of life.

  • I get most of my ideas when I am riding my bicycle. No music or podcasts. Just the sound of the air as I ride. Sometimes it is on a back road but my best ideas come at dawn riding my bike off-road. I am almost always the first one out on the trail and that knowledge of being out there alone in the forest frees my mind and puts me in a place where my mind is free to roam.

    The other thing I will do is go for a walk when I am at a road block in my thoughts. Again, no distractions – I just head out for a walk. It is amazing how this frees my mind to see solutions I couldn’t while focusing on the problem.

    • 48DaysDan

      Riding a bike at dawn sounds like a beautiful cleansing experience. Be ready to capture those inspired ideas and insights.

  • Tom Triplett

    Just before falling asleep and exercising are two good times for ideas to come to me. But the best time is when my dog takes me for a walk. I let him lead. He has about six normal routes that he may take and every now and then he takes us on a new route. When I lead I take one of two routes and set a good pace. So the new scenery he shows me is good. It is also relaxing and fun to watch him sniff around. While he sniffs around I get a chance to look around and see things I drive by all the time from a different point of view.

    • 48DaysDan

      Man I’m sure there’s a book in there somewhere – What I learned from following my dog. Keep picking up those clues.

      • Tom Triplett


        A couple of months back I started to jot down ideas about a book on our walks. But our comments (mine plus yours) gives me an idea for a second one.

        I can add another trigger for ideas, sharing and discussing with other.