"Passion means to pick something. Do it with all your heart. Repeat."

- Mindfire, back cover

You’re curious.

Do you know how I can tell? You’re reading this summary. Something is driving you to want to know what I’m going to say. That’s curiosity. And if you use it, you’ll learn big things in life, especially if you read Scott Berkun’s book, Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds.

Even though it is a collection of essays that have been published elsewhere, they represent a decade of effort and have been edited, washed, pruned, and organized into a powerful little book that was made to challenge your mind and get you thinking on a new level.

The essays are organized into three parts: Gasoline, Sparks, and Fire, and are meant for ‘intelligent provocation’.  If you’re not familiar with Berkun’s work, this is a perfect starter. If you are a Scott Berkun fan, repeat study of his best work will fire you up again and keep the flame burning.

You’ll learn things like ‘How to be a free thinker’, ‘Should you be popular or good?’, ‘How to make a difference’, ‘Creative Thinking Hacks’, and ‘How to convince anyone of anything’, along with much more. Berkun’s no-nonsense attitude and honesty will keep you engaged and turn your curiosity into action.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Things Worth Doing Require Undivided Attention

"…time will always be our most finite resource, and it crumbles when split into tiny little pieces."
- Mindfire, page 149

Scott Berkun is a great writer because he spends undivided time writing. “There isn’t a single great work in the history of civilization – no novel, symphony, film, or song – that was completed as a one-fifth time-slice between web browsing, text messages and television,” stated Berkun.

I like to think of myself as a pretty grounded person, who doesn’t spend a lot of time flitting from one thing to another, and who’s able to accomplish a lot of things.  But I know my weakness. It’s not Facebook or twitter or Google+ (ok sometimes). It’s email.

After not too much time has passed I get this feeling that someone is waiting for me to answer them.  The feeling is hard to shake. “I’ll just take a second and see what’s happening in my inbox.” Famous last words. Many seconds later I have forgotten what I was doing.

My new goal is to change this habit.

Berkun shares the Law of Lost Attention: The value of something you spend attention on, is dependent on how much attention you spend on it.

Treating very intimate things like relationships, sports, conversation with split attention will inevitably make them non-intimate and unfulfilling. “If you only spend a fast food amount of attention, you will never have a five-star dining experience.”

He’s not saying that fast food isn’t good sometimes; we should just try to keep a healthy balance.

(What’s hilarious is that I started writing this section while watching a TV movie, and realized the grand irony. Of course, after a good laugh, I couldn’t continue, so I wrote the rest later.)

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

How To Learn From Your Mistakes

"Admitting a mistake, even if only privately to yourself, makes learning possible… Wise people admit mistakes easily. They know progress accelerates when they do."
- Mindfire, page 103

I realize it’s a mistake to not spend focused time on the things that matter to me, so I plan on using wisdom from Berkun’s essay #22.  He says that the reason people give up on their goals is because of the culture of shame around making mistakes. Throughout our lives we’re taught to avoid failure, but what we forget is that the more challenging the goal, the more setbacks we’ll have. So, your ability to accomplish big things will depend on how well you can learn from your mistakes.

He says learning requires three things:

  1. Putting yourself in situations where you can make interesting mistakes.
  2. Having the self-confidence to admit them.
  3. Being courageous about making changes.

Berkun says that the way to gain a more diverse perspective than just your own is to involve other people. Professional investigators do this; journalists, policemen, detectives always question as many people as possible to get the most accurate view. You can do the same by listening to what other people say about your mistakes if you’re willing to listen.

The second part of this approach is to have the self-confidence to be able realize that you are allowed to make mistakes, and that it doesn’t mean you will always make mistakes. A good way to know if you’re feeling this way is if you can laugh about your mistake. A good sense of humor helps you to not let the mistake infect your psyche.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Creativity Is Being Fearless

"One way to think of creative people is that they have more control over their fears – or less fear of embarrassment…"
- Mindfire, page 123

The reason people are more creative is because they filter out less ideas.  This is why people feel especially creative when they’re drunk, using drugs, or late at night, because these are times when their inhibitions are low and they allow themselves to see more combinations of things.

But I don’t have to drink or do drugs to be creative. I can just be a little more fearless and open myself up to considering more crazy options.

If I want to figure out how to get more undivided attention in my day so I can focus on important things, I will have to break out of the current thinking that keeps me in my unproductive work habits.

Berkun says that creativity is personal. “No book or expert can dictate how you can be more creative. You have to spend time paying attention to yourself: when do ideas come easiest to you?”

To help me figure this out, I’m going to pick out at least three of the following tactics Berkun suggests:

  • Start an idea journal
  • Give your subconscious a chance
  • Use your body to help your mind
  • Inversion
  • Switch modes
  • Take an improvisational comedy class
  • Find a partner
  • Stop reading and start doing

So, to help you (and me) implement that last step, I’ll end here and let you start doing.

Mindfire will challenge your mind and throw some big ideas at you. If you’re open to thinking new things and applying them in your life, then you’ll have a mind on fire and no one can stop you.

Your first step might just be to cultivate your curiosity. You were curious enough to read this entire summary. That means you have a curious mind. And that’s the kind that will take action.

How will you use your curiosity to be more creative, learn from your mistakes and create more undivided attention?

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Rex Williams

ABOUT Rex Williams

I'm a curious connector of people and ideas. I crave learning new things and invoking a creative twist to my methods. By day, I work as an engineer, general problem solver (and recently video producer) at the Boeing company as I fight the status quo and start movements, but after work I hang out with entrepreneur and rabble-rouser types online (like this group...
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