I think there are two types of people out there – there are those that really get a kick out of starting up new activities, hobbies, and projects, with diverse and wide-flung interests – the “Mile Wide” group. And then there are those that like to stick to more and more of the same, continually investing time, energy, and effort into their very specific and often nuanced areas of interest – the “Mile Deep” group. My husband and many of my close friends are in the former group. Jon is always trying out new and different sports, hobbies, reading topics, and ideas. It gives him energy and keeps him from becoming bored. I think he’s the kind of person for whom Class Pass was created for. I, on the other hand, am someone who apparently loves what I love and seemingly never tires of doing or learning more about the same things. Thus I have done barre more than a class per day on average for almost 4.5 years now, I have been all in on this Happiness Project, learning everything I can about the topic of happiness and positive psychology, and I never stop researching, reading, and talking about food and nutrition (a fact a friend was quick to remind me of as I gushed about my “fabulous evening in” watching The Magic Pill documentary on Friday). Perhaps it’s because of this proclivity that I do not often rate myself as too high on the creativity spectrum. I definitely don’t feel as though I am in a rut, in fact far from it because I am completely enamored with the things that I am doing, but I do often stop to consider if my more narrow/Mile Deep approach is conducive to fostering creativity. Therefore I was greatly encouraged by something I read last week.
I just finished reading Smarter Faster Better, by Charles Duhigg (who also wrote The Power of Habit, one of my favorites, therefore in keeping with “Mile Deep-ness” I clearly needed to read Duhigg’s next book – don’t worry I am rolling my eyes at myself too) which was phenomenal. As the subtitle indicates, this one is all about the secrets of being productive and it provides a deep dive into different strategies and aspects which make us – you guessed it – smarter, faster, or better. And one of those topics was innovation. Throughout the chapter, Duhigg analyzes several specific case studies which are regarded as triumphs in creativity to mine lessons to be learned from expert artists, innovators, and inventors which can be applied by even mere mortals like yours truly. His conclusion? “Creativity can’t be reduced to a formula. At its core, it needs novelty, surprise, and other elements that cannot be planned in advance to seem fresh and new. There is no checklist that if followed, delivers innovation on demand. But the creative process is different. We can create the conditions that help creativity to flourish. We know, for example, that innovation becomes more likely when old ideas are mixed in new ways. We know the odds of success go up when brokers – people with fresh, different perspectives, who have seen ideas in a variety of settings – draw on the diversity within their heads. We know that, sometimes a little disturbance can help jolt us out of the ruts that even the most creative thinkers fall into, as long as those shake-ups are the right size.”
As Duhigg broke down the various salient points of this creative process, he provided clear cut examples of the ways that “taking proven, conventional ideas from other settings and combining them in new ways – is remarkably effective [and] a tactic all kinds of people have used to spark creative successes;” including the wildly successful Broadway production of West Side Story, Disney’s Frozen, and the continued world domination of Apple. He also wrote about research conducted at Northwestern University by Brian Uzzi and Ben Jones, to estimate the originality of an academic paper based upon an analysis of the sources the authors had cited in their endnotes. Uzzi said, “a paper that combines work by Newton and Einstein is conventional. The combination has happened thousands of times.. But a paper that combines Einstein and Wang Chong, the Chinese philosopher, that’s much more likely to be creative, because it’s such an unusual pairing.” In the end however, their work showed that “almost all the creative papers had at least one thing in common: They were usually combinations of previously known ideas mixed together in new ways. In fact, on average 90 percent of what was in the most ‘creative’ manuscripts had already been published elsewhere – and had already been picked over by thousands of other scientists… The highest-impact science is primarily grounded in exceptionally conventional combinations of prior work yet simultaneously features an intrusion of unusual combinations. It was this combination of ideas, rather than the ideas themselves, that typically made a paper so creative and important.”
For me, this was a relief. Creativity is an area where I have always felt a bit lacking in terms of both inspiration and confidence. And yet it seems once again that there is no one right way to get there – we can go a Mile Wide or a Mile Deep. Steve Jobs described it well when he said ” when you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.” It got me thinking that maybe I needed to get more creative about the ways that I think about creativity? Interesting food for thought.
And although I am nowhere near approaching this upper echelon of creative giants, I do have a lot of fun trying to employ creativity in the kitchen. Throughout the past few years, I have learned that in many ways, cooking and feeding myself well is really just a lot of finding little ways to swap out and clean up the less healthy things in my diet and then mixing up the healthier ones in new ways. It’s putting just a little spin on the same old to make it exciting. And here’s one, which although it includes many of my favorite things, I wouldn’t have guessed they would have all worked together as well as they do, but trust me – they do! It’s a delicious and easy option to make ahead for lunches on the go – which is exactly what I intend to do as part of this week’s meal prep.
Serves: 4 each
- Broccoli Florets 1" x 1" 8 cups (1400 g)
- Avocado Oil 1.5 TBSP
- Salmon Filet 4 each
- Coconut Oil, Melted 1 TBSP
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper to Taste
- Pecans 1 cup (125 g)
- Blueberries 1 cup (150 g)
- Onion, Sliced .25 cup (25 g)
- Paleo Mayo .5 cup (115 g) - recipe here
- Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
- Garlic Cloves, Minced 3 each
- Apple Cider Vinegar 2 TBSP
- Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C and line two baking sheets with foil.
- Toss the broccoli florets in the avocado oil and spread across the baking sheets - sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. I recommend at least 1 TSP of each!
- Roast the broccoli for about 20-25 minutes.
- Once the broccoli is done, place the salmon on foil and brush both sides with the melted coconut oil. Place skin side down and sprinkle the top with sea salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, to desired doneness.
- In a small jar, add all the ingredients for the lemon vinaigrette and shake like crazy to combine. If it's too thick, you can add about 1 TBSP of water until desired consistency is achieved.
- In a large bowl toss the broccoli in the lemon vinaigrette and then spread across plates, top with the salmon, pecans, blueberries, and onion and enjoy!