January 21, 2023

The Activation Energy of New Ideas

Not every book I’ve read had the impact expected of it, and now, I don’t expect them to.

A podcast about money may somehow convince me to exercise more.

This is a strange, active process.

One where an input leads directly to an unexpected and completely unrelated chain of thoughts.

I discovered this first when listening to audiobooks. Sometimes, what the narrator said would have a direct impact on me. Other times, an idea or sentence may just rumble my thoughts enough to transport my focus toward an unrelated topic.

If I’ve had a personal, creative or business problem that I’ve not yet found the solution for, this phenomenon of actively inputting new information is sometimes what I need to shake things up in my brain, forming new ideas and connections that were simply awaiting the necessary activation energy.

It also works with an output of ideas, too. When I’m explaining or teaching something, I have to stir up some thoughts in order to create sentences, which often leads to new connections, providing me with new perspectives on a topic I already knew about and sometimes, unrelated ones too. Here’s a great example of this happening to Elon Musk.

We tend to think linearly when it comes to predicting the potential benefit of what we do. Financial wisdom from reading a finance book. Learning about a country through visiting them.

But that’s not always how things play out.

Something said in that finance book might provide the activation energy for you to start that new extreme sport you’ve always been thinking about. The country you visit might inadvertently help you confront your beliefs on religion, despite it not having been your intention when choosing to visit.

It’s difficult to link these outcomes to the inputs and articulate to others how they have any relation in retrospect, but this happens to us all the time, yet we don’t include these seemingly unrelated outcomes in our calculations for how important the input was.

We build a brick wall inside of our heads consisting of our ideas and beliefs, shielding us from the discomfort of processing newer, possibly better ones.

The higher this wall goes, the harder it becomes for new ideas to get to us. We’ve already made up our minds.

By speaking with more people, visiting new places and consuming novel ideas, we allow those ideas to knock on those brick walls.

Strong ideas knock hard, forcing us to rebuild directly on those topics.

But the building blocks of the wall, like those of our brain, are incredibly interconnected. When we allow an idea to challenge it, it may also crumble in an entirely unrelated area, ready for us to rebuild it anew.

Let the ideas knock. You never know what you’ll have to rebuild next.

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