Do You Have a Fertile Mind?

“His daughter returned from her boarding school, improved in fashionable airs and expert in manufacturing fashionable toys; but, in her conversation, he sought in vain for that refined and fertile mind which he had fondly expected.”   – Emma Willard

Couple of days back, I sat down thinking about ideas for my next article.

Thanks to the end of year long break that I took, I have an entire series of articles on goals and how to achieve them, ready as drafts. Still, I sat thinking about how it can be made better. How I can write something that has lots of value for you.

When you read what i write, I want you to leave with ideas that can make a tremendous positive addition to the way you live now.

With this thought, I wanted to write an article about finding interesting problems to work on. During my research for the article, I realized that to notice interesting problems you need a fertile mind.

I am sharing this process so that you understand that a fertile mind is the starting point for (what we call) success. The intermediary steps being – noticing things that others don’t, starting interesting projects on ideas that emerge from what you notice and then making one of those ideas your life’s work.

Here are some ideas on how to have a fertile mind.

Do Opposite

Indulge in something different than you do on a regular basis.

If you work alone then participate in a group activity. If you don’t get to speak at work, seek opportunities to speak. Join a toastmasters club or offer free workshops. If you crunch numbers at work, paint at home.

Take Walks

Not the ones that people take to burn calories but take a walk to just walk, look around and notice things.

Ask Questions and Let Your Mind Wander

Ask questions and intently listen to the response. Do not think of what you will say after the person who is speaking finishes, absorb what is being said.

Build Things

Build a tool or software. Make it for yourself or for friends.

Better if you share the process or your learning. If you can’t share with the world, share with your friends, family and associates.

Read About (Work In) An Unrelated Field

If you are working on your own startup or working in a job, volunteer on projects that are totally unrelated to what you do at work.

Doing so helps you apply wisdom of one field to another.

Reading should be of two types. Continue reading about 70% books in an area where you want to stay ahead of the curve.

Rest of the reading should focus on fields not related to your work. This will expose you to the thinking of some of the best minds in the world. Once you have this knowledge you will be able to synthesize the ideas to create new remarkable ideas.

If you do not know where to start, this list is a great starting point.

Here is another crowdsourced list of books on TED.com.

Check out this reading list on atlantic.com.

Bill Gates’ best books of 2013.

Think – How Can This Be Made / Done Better?

This question can be asked about different areas of your life – how you plan your day, how you run your business, how you work, how you think etc

Also when you start work or new projects, take time to think why are you doing it. Your time is limited and it is not wise to spend it on useless pursuits.

Travel

Travel serves an important purpose. It exposes you to new surroundings. When you are in an unknown terrain the brain starts asking all sorts of questions – where to go, what to eat, where to stay, how to behave. It also provides a cure to boredom and adds to your worldview.

Schedule Free Time

Last but not the least, you need to schedule free time. More important in today’s world where we have so much opportunity to indulge ourselves in mindless pursuits. You need to schedule and guard your time for solitude and leisure. If this is not done, then all ideas shared above are hard to implement.

Now ask yourself – do you have a fertile mind? A mind that is always brimming with new ideas. That has the curiosity of a child.

What more do you think, we can do create a fertile mind. Please add your thoughts in comments.

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Comments

  1. SHEILA

    Hey Mohit,

    Great tips in this post! A fertile mind is key. Looking for connections between unrelated things is a great way to cultivate a fertile mind. I like to take two seemingly unrelated things and try to bridge them together. Also, I love to ask people their thought process when they do something. For example, when my son was memorizing digits of pi, I asked him how he does it. He said he listens to the sound it makes on his tongue when he says them. This really opened up my thinking and made my mind more fertile because I would do it visually. Getting others thought process perspective is one of the things that really helps me expand my thinking and ideas.

    1. Mohit Pawar Author comment

      Thanks Sheila.

      I am fascinated by your son’s learning process. It is unique. I never observed anyone do it like that.

      +1 on learning by digging in the thought process and perspectives of others. That’s why good books are so powerful. They give us refined insights from people who have thought about different topics deeper than most of us.

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