Summary Written by Rex Williams
"Passion means to pick something. Do it with all your heart. Repeat."

- Mindfire, back cover

The Big Idea

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

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.

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Insight #2

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.

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Scott Berkun

Scott Berkun (@berkun) is the best selling author of four books, Making Things Happen, The Myths of Innovation, Confessions of a Public Speaker and Mindfire Big Ideas for Curious Minds. His work has appeared in the The Washington Post, The New York Times, Wired Magazine, Fast Company, The Economist, Forbes Magazine, and other media. He has taught creative thinking at the University of Washington and has been a regular commentator on CNBC, MSNBC and National Public Radio. His many popular essays and entertaining lectures can be found for free on his blog at http://www.scottberkun.com.

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