Developing a Blank Page Mind
As I’m writing this article, I’m facing a blank page — Hold on — actually, I just finished my first line. I’m starting to realize that this article has limitless opportunities where it will go. It might deal with my past experience, life-lessons or with current trends. Maybe I quote something like this to help me out with my next lines ahead:
“Regardless of your past, your tomorrow is a clean slate.” (Zig Ziglar)
With regards to Ziglar’s statement, I have limitless opportunities for this article — I’m not bound to my past. Obviously, it is not as simple as that. Since we are undeniably shaped and influenced by many factors e.g. society, time, and personality. However, let’s assume that I have the endless opportunities of a blank page right in front of me. You are probably quite familiar with this situation in real life: With the recent development in technology and prosperity, more and more people struggle to choose and due to the fear of missing out (FOMO) overconsume. But actually, you should stop for a moment and rethink the essential questions. In too many situations I have experienced that people are rushing too quickly to an answer. As Stephen Covey said: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. Deep-thinking is becoming more and more a rarity.
So, what means thorough thinking/deep-thinking? And how can it help us in life?
It starts by getting to the fundamental and essential “trues”. It starts with overcoming your past knowledge and bias and getting to a new more accurate understanding. As an example, if I asked marketers what is marketing, I would probably get the following answer (or let me just google it): “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising”. Now that is a great example of a short-thought answer. This answer is very vague and it doesn’t offer any insight or recommendation for future actions. Instead, Steve Jobs, when he defined his first marketing strategy for Apple after his comeback, he started his famous speech by saying: “To me, marketing is about values”. From there, he derived that any great brand like Disney, Nike, and Coca Cola should not focus solely on the product and its attributes but rather on its core values:
“But the best example of all, and one of the greatest jobs of marketing that the universe has ever seen is Nike. Remember, Nike sells a commodity. They sell shoes!!! And yet, when you think of Nike you feel something different than a shoe company. In their ads, as you know, they don’t ever talk about the product. They don’t ever tell you about their air soles and why they are better than Reebok’s air soles. What does Nike do in their advertising? They honor great athletes. And they honor great athletics. That’s who they are, that’s what they are about!” (Steve Jobs).
This example shows you how to navigate through this “noisy world” rather than stating the obvious e.g. Apple’s computers are better than Dell’s. You should create an ad that celebrates creativity and innovation like Apple has done with “Think different” — showing geniuses that thought differently.
Unfortunately, most people don’t stop and take the time to ask the essential questions. They are afraid of showing gaps in their knowledge. They rather use some abstract words to define simple concepts. Have you ever had a coworker who used business-speak, or a teacher explain something with language that was far to difficult to understand?
Richard Feynman’s approach, also known as the “Great Explainer”, is completely different. He could teach complex concepts in such fields like theoretical physics with simple language and understandable examples from everyday situations. This ability takes a lot of hard dedicated work. If you want to learn more about his specific method, please read the following article: “Learning From the Feynman Technique” by Evernote. Here are the highlights summarized:
1. Identify the subject
2. Teach it to a child
3. Identify your knowledge gaps
4. Organize + Simplify + Tell a story
As shown by Feynman’s approach, it is essential to develop what I call a “Blank Page Mind”. This is a completely open-minded, free of bias, or negative experiences view at the possibilities in front of you. It is extremely important because: “[w]e are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves” ( Buddha). When I started this article, I could have never guessed that it would lead to this result. However, if I would be influenced by past negative experiences it would have never come alive. Instead, I focused on the opportunities right in front of me.
“Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future” (Zig Ziglar).
However, any great idea is only as good as the action that follows it. Once we create a “blank page mind”, it becomes easier to renew our minds at the beginning of each day and taking ownership as the architect of our life. To achieve more you need to be more aware of yourself and start being more accountable. That means keeping track of your progress. Like the stock exchange, there will be volatility but if you focus on your fundamentals you will outperform the market in the long run. Focus on the things that you really want to achieve and if a method is not working for you, recalibrate. Steve Jobs offers great advice to ask your self the essential questions and how to recalibrate:
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something” (Steve Jobs).
Achieving happiness becomes easier once you create awareness for yourself and your environment. Becoming more aligned with your goals and activities, becoming less destructed by the vast ocean of information and time-consuming activities. Happiness is a state of mind. A state in which you realize that it makes sense to write this article and to develop an open mind that realizes the unrealized potential of a blank page. Unleash your true potential.
What can we learn from this article?
1. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t understand something
2. Try as a beginner by asking the essential questions
3. Expand your knowledge by using Feynman’s technique
4. Create a Blank Page Mind
5. Follow with according actions
6. Achieve happiness
Whatever you do, live a happy and fulfilling life! Cheers to that!