Day 21 – Invest In Your Brain

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What’s the single best tool for building wealth that you have at your disposal? It’s not your job. It’s not your accounts, or your savings schedule, or your rental properties. It’s your capacity for creative thought.

Your imagination helps you think up innovative solutions to tasks at work, making you a better employee. It helps you generate unique ideas to propel your business forward. It helps you come up with new ways to save money, and it helps you run your life efficiently. It even provides free entertainment!

Today’s 31 Days To Your Financial Future task is to invest in your own creativity.

Let’s get started.

What is creativity?

So many people say to themselves, “I’m just not a creative person,” but that’s totally not true. Everyone is creative; it’s an integral part of being a human being.

I think when people say “I’m not creative,” it’s because they don’t understand just what creativity is. Creativity isn’t coming up with great ideas out of thin air. It’s not magic. Instead, creativity is a way of observing the world around you, identifying problems or deficiencies or desires, and synthesizing solutions out of the seeds of everything you’ve ever experienced.

Creativity isn’t a finite resource. It doesn’t get consumed and you can’t run out of it. Like Maya Angelou says:

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

Creativity and imagination is a skill. It’s one we learn and develop as children, but as we grow older, it’s easy to fall out of the practice. The good news is that, like many skills, it comes right back as soon as you start using it.

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Experience everything

Creative thought hungers for stimuli. The more you experience, the more you fuel your own creativity. That doesn’t mean you can get away with a humdrum daily routine and call that experience — instead, make your everyday routine so full of new things that it remains constantly fascinating.

Explore new art. Explore things someone else thinks is art but that you just don’t quite get. Listen to new music, and new kinds of music. Buy something new and unusual every time you go to the grocery store, or finally go into that used bookstore on the corner you’ve always noticed but never actually entered. Visit museums and zoos and parks and monuments. Read poetry or write it. Collect stamps.

Go see the new mural your city commissioned to honor one of it’s cultural icons…and then go see the illegal graffiti local artists painted two streets over. Explore a grocery store where all the labels are in a language you don’t read. Travel, volunteer, engage this little spinning ball of earth and water and all the people on it.

Talk to people and read about them. Read everything you can get your hands on, for that matter.

All this exploration and experience doesn’t have to be expensive. 500px.comand DeviantArt.com are great places to view free art online. Amazon offers free ebooks every single day. Most libraries and many museums and parks are free.

Exercise your creativity

Identify a problem. It doesn’t have to be a big, world-changing problem. It could be a problem in your office or around the house. It could be something in the neighborhood. It could be something related to your finances, like “I want to start putting $100 a month into my IRA, but I don’t have the room in my budget.”

Think about the problem, and try to think of ways to solve it. Try to break the problem down into its component parts:

  • What is the problem?
  • What causes it?
  • Who is affected?
  • What detrimental effects does the problem have?
  • What kind of solution do you need?
  • What sort of time, energy, or expense budget does your solution need to meet?

Try to brainstorm as many possible solutions as you can, even if they’re solutions that seem silly or unworkable. Worry about that part later. For now, just think and let your brain jump to whatever solutions it can come up with. Write your ideas down, or doodle them on a piece of paper, if you need to — the physical action can help get your ideas flowing.

After you’ve got a few proposed solutions, go back over them. Some of them you can probably discard off the top. The plausible ones, though, are ones you ought to try. Don’t try to talk yourself out of it. You know that old phrase “It’s just crazy enough to work?” Some of the best things in life came from crazy ideas — the first person to decide to eat that little white oblong thing that came out of a chicken’s rear had a pretty crazy idea, too.

Creativity needs confidence to be effective

All the creative ideas in the world won’t help you do better in life unless you have the confidence and courage to try them. Creativity is all about experimentation — some of the best ideas you come up with simply won’t work, and that’s okay.

An idea that doesn’t work isn’t necessarily a bad idea. It could be a good idea for the wrong problem. File it away for later and try something else until you find a workable solution for the current problem.

Tomorrow: Invest In Your Future

Okay, I’ve strung you along enough with all this “investing” talk. Tomorrow, we’ll get into the kinds of investments you expect from a personal finance blog — investments in monetary vehicles in hopes of long-term gain.

Do you feel like a creative person?

What sort of things do you do to boost your creativity? Do you ever feel like you don’t know how to be creative? Tell us in the comments!

Photo by Andy.

Click here to read Day 22!

Posted in 31 Days To Your Financial Future