Perhaps the most important tool in a young adult’s toolbox is imagination. Imagining where your career might take you enables you to play out future scenarios without expending significant resources. Game-changing innovations are often the by-product of a healthy imagination. So how do you sharpen and direct your imagination? Read. This. Post. Slowly. It’s meant to be an opportunity to let your imagination relax and stretch before running wild.
Actively Feed Your Imagination
First, actively feed your imagination. Look for new things to learn, places to explore, and people to meet. Intentionally learn something new so you go to bed smarter each day. For example, let’s say your home town has an old museum that you have driven by a hundred times. You wouldn’t be caught dead visiting there because it’s just not cool. That stuffy old museum has existed as long as you can remember. It’s a fixture on the street corner that neither you nor your friends would ever dream of visiting. However, at one time, something historically remarkable occurred which motivated thought leaders of the day to catalog and memorialize that event. The museum has elements that were innovative and creative and still demonstrate exceptional imagination. Even though something is “old,” what might you learn from the work of the past?
Converse with Others
Feeding your imagination requires you to experience new things routinely, and conversations with others is a great place to start. Begin by touring that old museum or seeking out conversations with people who are diverse from your traditional domain. An intentional conversation with an elderly person who tells you their “story” forces your mind to see the world through a lens of yesterday. Conversely, spending a little time with a research scientist working to bring a new technology to market will cause you to imagine future scenarios and applications for their work. Take time to feed your imagination.
Exercise Your Imagination
Second, exercise your imagination. Try this little exercise… With the stage lights to the theater of your mind burning hot, the amp cranked, your cell phone off (and in another room), your gaming console in sleep mode and your headphones put away, pause and explore the picture out the window before you. What do you see? Your car parked in the driveway? Trees in the background? The sidewalk in front of your house? The neighbor kids playing in the front yard? Same picture, different day, right?
Now… With your imagination in stretch mode and the theater of your mind prepared for showtime, think back to the day you bought your car. Remember the excitement and freedom you felt that day? Think about where that little four-wheeled freedom maker might take you next. What about the trees? Consider the picture of the people who planted those trees so many years ago. What was their story? Why did they plant in that spot? Where are they today? How long have those trees been there?
Let’s explore the sidewalk for a minute. The sidewalk in your picture was formed naturally right after Noah’s flood, right? Ehm… cough, no! Somebody took time to measure, dig, form and pour the concrete for that sidewalk – probably on a hot summer day. How many people helped pour that concrete? Because it’s old, it’s likely the concrete was mixed by hand in a wheelbarrow. Maybe a dad used the “sidewalk project” as an opportunity to teach his sons the value of hard work. Imagine a couple boys, one on each handle of that heavy wheelbarrow, clumsily pushing the heavy load from the mixing location to the wooden forms of the sidewalk. They’re staggering and stumbling as they practice synchronized wheelbarrow pushing (a future Olympic sport!). They pour the concrete while dad smiles. Well done, boys.
How’d you do? Was that stretch? Might you set a reminder on your phone to do this for three times a day for five minutes?
What Did You Fail to Imagine?
Think back to our sidewalk and what you failed to imagine. Rewind those images of the dad and his boys pouring concrete. In your haste to get through the movie of that dad and his boys, what did you fail to imagine? What color were the boys’ shoes? Did they have their shirts on? Were dad’s helpers all boys? Was one significantly older than the other? The scene was set to cause you to think the boys were small, yet their age was never stated. Maybe they’re older and working in their dad’s concrete business. Did you fail to imagine the length of the sidewalk they’re pouring? Did you fail to imagine how the concrete might be decorated?
What’s Limiting You?
As you consider decisions before you – academic choices, career options, or choosing a mate – pause and ponder what is limiting your decisions. Are the limits placed upon your decisions self-induced? Are you limiting your imagination through biases, prejudices (not talking about racial prejudices) and clichés due to your upbringing or cultural surroundings? Or, heaven forbid, are the limits due to a lazy imagination because you couldn’t put down your smart phone?
Everything you see in your world is connected to a story. The person you passed on the sidewalk, the kid boarding the school bus, even the mug you’re sipping coffee from has a story! It’s these stories which feed and stretch your imagination.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat
Remember: repeat three times a day for five minutes.
Read the entire Tools for Tomorrow series!
Ron Brumbarger is one of Indiana’s most recognized technology and education entrepreneurs and visionaries. As a dedicated husband, father, friend, mentor, business owner and volunteer, Ron continually strives to weave his many passions into a unique tapestry to serve others. He has spent his entire professional career leveraging an entrepreneurial mindset to help disruptively change education, apply technology to enhance business practices and facilitate organizational growth. He co-founded BitWise in 1992 and served as the company’s president and CEO until January 2018. He was tapped in 2006 by Indiana’s Governor Daniels and Ball State President Gora to start Indiana’s first, statewide, virtual-charter school. In 2013, he founded Apprentice University ®, an award-winning, competency-based college of higher education, preparing future leaders.Content goes here