Which of These Three Illustrations Represent Who You Truly Are?

Imagine the illustration below represents three sheets of paper placed side by side a few inches apart. The left sheet has an irregular squiggle, the center sheet is blank and sheet on the right has a small diamond-shaped dot in the middle of the page.


Conduct the following thought experiment before you read the following text.

 Examine the sheets. Which sheet of paper left, center or right is more like your real self? Which of the three seems like a better picture of all of you, with all your hopes, fears, and weaknesses, as you are at this point of time. Which comes closest to representing the way you feel about yourself? Can you elaborate on why the sheet you chose represents who you are?


The majority of people choose either the squiggle or the blank sheet. Almost none chose the diamond-shaped dot. Yet, the sheet with the dot is the most centered and solid and has the most feeling and potential. The blank sheet feels empty and meaningless. The one with the squiggle creates an impression of disturbance and incoherence.

You may wonder if the descriptions are accurate. To convince you, let me propose another thought experiment. Suppose you are with the person you love more than any other person on the face of the earth. And suppose you just made the three pieces of paper we have been looking at. Imagine that you are asked to give the sheet of paper that most represents your love to the person. Which of the three do you give? Most likely, you will give “C” because it feels valuable, feels worth giving, and feels the most meaningful of the three.

The majority of us feel an emptiness and incoherence in our lives which is why we think of ourselves as blanks or squiggles instead of diamonds. Yet we know the diamond-shaped dot was what we wanted to select but, in some way, our sense of self made us feel unworthy and so we rationalized why we selected the squiggle or the blank. It is the same way in life.

We are tacitly taught that we exist and just are. We have been taught that all people are true to their own genes, environment and nature. We are conditioned to be objects. We are taught to be “Me,” instead of “I.” When you think of yourself as “Me,” you are limited. The “Me” is always limited. When you believe how others (parents, teachers, peers, colleagues, and others) describe you, you become that. You might want to be an artist, but others might tell you that you have no talent, training, or temperament to be an artist. The object we have become will always say, “Who do you think you are? You are just an ordinary person. Know your limitations and live within them.”


There is a Japanese masterpiece film IKIRU about the life on an old man that captures the essence of what it means to be a “Me.” Ikiru is a civil servant who has labored in the bureaucracy for thirty years. He determines his self worth by how others see him. He thinks of himself as an object and spends his life preventing things from happening. He is a widower who never remarried, as his relatives told him he was too old and unattractive to remarry. He is the father of an ungrateful son who despises him because he is not rich. He does not strive to better his career as he has been told by his supervisor that he lacks the education and intelligence to be anything more than a clerk. In his mind, he pictures himself as a worthless failure. He walks bent over with a shuffling walk with defeated eyes.

When he is told that he has terminable cancer, he looks back over the wasteland of his life, and decides to do something of note. For the first time in his life he became the “I,” the subject of his life. Against all obstacles, he decided to build a park in a dirty slum of Tokyo. He had no fear and felt no self-defeating limitations, he ignored his son when his son said he was the laughing stock of the neighborhood, he ignored his relatives and neighbors who begged him to stop. His supervisor was embarrassed and pretended not to know him. Because he knew he was going to die, he no longer cared what other people thought. For the first time in his life he became free and alive. He worked and worked, seemingly without stopping. He was no longer afraid of anyone, or anything. He no longer had anything to lose, and so in this short time gained everything. Finally, he died, in the snow, swinging on a child’s swing in the park which he made, singing.

Ikiru became the subject of his life. He became joyous instead of miserable; he inspired instead of being indifferent, and he laughed at himself and the world instead of feeling humiliated and defeated. Ikiru “seized the day.”



A Special Operations officer, told me a story about a Special Forces soldier who was captured by the North Vietnamese during the Viet Nam war. There was a bounty for the heads of all Special Forces personnel who participated in operation Phoenix at the time and the soldier figured his life was over.

He was trussed up and tortured. He knew if he kept to the hard line of name, rank and serial number he was dead. He then did something extraordinary. He changed his mental state by repeating a general statement continuously. During special forces training, he learned to repeat the sentence “Day by day, in every way, I’m getting stronger and stronger” twenty times, three times a day. He discovered that a simple mental thought repeated continuously occupies the mind exclusively and changes your mental state and behavior. He decided to use the same exercise.

The sentence he used during his captivity was “Moment by moment, in every way, I am becoming like Christ and loving and understanding my enemy more and more.” At first, he was highly conflicted and hated his enemy. This caused a great deal of cognitive dissonance. He knew he couldn’t change his circumstance, so he knew he had to change himself. And he said eventually he believed what he was saying and it showed in his eyes and body language. He became what he pretended to be. He became like Christ.

As they tortured him, he told them he loved them, that he understood why they were torturing him and why they would kill him. He told them not to feel guilty about what they were doing to him because he understood and loved them and prayed for them.

At first, his torturers were highly amused and continued to torture him. But It’s hard to hate and torture someone who seems to genuinely love and understand you, so, over time, the North Vietnamese became confused and gradually the torture stopped. Then they began to feed him and heal his wounds. They kept his connection to the Phoenix secret so he wouldn’t be executed by their superiors. They became his friend instead of his enemy. They protected him until the end of the war. Now, after he was repatriated, he visits his former captors every three years in Hanoi to laugh and joke about their wartime experiences and celebrate life.

He became what he pretended to be.


Give the Gift of Imagination


Because our perceptual positions determine how we view things, it’s important to learn how to shift our perspective to look at our subject in different ways. One way to shift perception is to try and look at the subject from someone else’s perspective. Soren Kierkegaard, the nineteenth century Danish philosopher, called this kind of thinking the “rotation” method .” He was thinking of crops while simultaneously thinking about perspective. You can’t grow corn indefinitely on the same field; at some point, to refresh the soil, you have to plant hay.  Similarly, to grow a different perspective, it’s helpful to adopt a different role to expand your creative consciousness toward your problem.

All of us with a little thought can come up with easy ways to change our perspectives by adopting a different role. My friend Peggy Dupra, a middle school principal, had a problem with her female pupils who were experimenting with lipstick. The girls were kissing the mirrors in the bathroom leaving their lip prints on bathroom mirrors. The maintenance department constantly asked her to have the pupils stop this practice. Peggy lectured, pleaded and threatened the girls with detention, but nothing seemed to help.

Peggy invited me to discuss the problem with her teachers. I talked about perception and how we see no more than what we expect to see. My message was that if you change the way you look at the problem, the nature of the problem will change. I dimmed the lights and asked them to do a little exercise. The exercise I had them perform was to think back in time to when they were the same age as their students.

They thought of their life experiences, pictured their parents, friends and relatives as they looked then. They began remembering all sorts of past friends, and, importantly, how they really felt at the time about the world. The more they remembered the more they felt like young school girls. After a few minutes, they became aware of random thoughts and images from years ago

They had a ball remembering those days. One teacher laughed when she thought of her best friend Ellen of years ago and how they always tried to gross each other out in a game they called “Yechhhh!” She remembered one time when they spread the rumor that the cafeteria was using sewage water from a ditch to make pizzas to save having to pay for water. Once the students heard the rumor, they refused to eat the pizza.

Suddenly Peggy got an insight from the teacher’s story. She said “That’s it!” What rumor can we start that will stop the girls from kissing the mirrors? They came up with several and eventually agreed upon one. After conspiring with the janitor, Peggy invited a group of girls into the bathroom saying she wanted them to witness the extra work they made for the janitor cleaning their lip prints.

The janitor came in and stepped into an open toilet stall. He dipped his squeegee into a toilet, shook off the excess toilet water then used the squeegee to clean the mirrors. The students were appalled. They immediately told all their friends that the janitor was using toilet water to clean the mirrors. Changing the teacher’s perspective of the problem from an adult to a young girl introduced a clever solution to the problem that they probably could not have discovered using their usual way of thinking. 

Michael Michalko




  2 + 2 = 4

[6 x 2.5] ÷ 2 = 7.5

210 – 34 = 176

64 ÷ 8 = 8

5 x 7 = 34

The two statements that are incorrect are the very first and the very last. (The first is incorrect because only one of the maths problems is incorrect!)

If you got that, well done! If you didn’t we’re sorry, but we told you it was maddening! The point is, we are constantly (and unconsciously) being selective about the options we consider. This limits our ability to solve problems. Far better to open our minds to all possible options.


Kudos from abroad from Aibek Ahmedov Legal Counsel at Europe Marine Group Ltd5h

There are three persons in the world that I find motivating in my path to professional heights. It is Neil Patel, Michael Michalko and Mark Forsyth. However, one of them is a genius of creative thinking that made me change all my approaches to historical research, legal casuistry and content marketing.

I believe that the years will pass and after many years or maybe centuries, people will put Michael Michalko after Leonardo da Vinci in terms of creative thinking. My words are not an exaggeration and I recommend to all my colleagues and friends to read Michalko’s Creative Thinkering in order to understand what I was talking about. … via @amazon

If I say, “Everything I tell you is a lie,” am I telling you the truth or a lie?

This is a classic illustration that can be viewed as a young woman wearing a necklace or an old woman with her head bowed. Of course, the picture itself is simply a combination of lines and dark and light areas. The images of the woman, young or old, are not really on the paper but in your mind. And you can see both the old and the young woman simultaneously in your mind.  

We all have this unique ability to imagine opposite or contradictory ideas, concepts, or images existing simultaneously in our minds. Dr. Arthur Rothenberg, a noted researcher on the creative process, has extensively studied the use of opposites in the creative process. He identified a process he terms “Janusian thinking,” a process named after Janus, a Roman god with two faces, each looking in the opposite direction. Rothenberg discovered that it was this thinking process that inspired the original breakthrough ideas that many geniuses had.  

ANSWER: The opening statement is a paradox. If the statement is true it must also be a lie which it cannot be.

In physics, Einstein was able to paradoxically imagine an object in motion and at rest at the same time.

EINSTEIN’S PROBLEM. The key idea of general relativity is that gravity pulling in one direction is completely equivalent to acceleration in the opposite direction. The contradiction was how can an object be in motion and rest at the same time.
ESSENCE: Moving while resting.
ANALOGY.  To better understand the nature of the paradox, he constructed an analogy that reflected the essence of the paradox. An observer, Einstein posited, who jumps off a house roof and releases any object at the same time, will discover that the object will remain, relative to the observer, in a state of rest. Einstein realized that an observer who jumps off a house roof will not, in his or her immediate vicinity, find any evidence of a gravitational field.
UNIQUE FEATURE. The unique feature of this analogy was that the apparent absence of a gravitational field arises even though gravitation causes the observer’s accelerating plunge. This was the analogy that Einstein said was his happiest thought in life because it pertains to the larger principle of general relativity. (He was looking for an analogy in nature that would allow him to bring Newton’s theory of gravitation into the theory of relativity, the step making it a general theory.
INSIGHT. Einstein’s great insight is that gravity, as well as motion, can affect the intervals of time and of space. Einstein’s process of conceptually synthesizing opposites simultaneously is a blueprint on how to think paradoxically.

ENGINEERS THINKING PARADOXICALLY PROBLEM: A group of engineers worked in a foundry that cleaned forged metal parts by sandblasting them. They used sand to clean the parts, but the sand gets into the cavities and is time consuming and expensive to clean.
PARADOX: The paradox is that the particles must be “hard” in order to clean the parts and at the same time “not hard” in order to be removed easily. What is hard and not hard?
ESSENCE: The essence of the paradox is “Disappearing Hardness.”
ANALOGUE: The engineers brainstormed for substances that are hard that disappear. The synthesis of the two concepts led the engineers to think of ice. Ice is hard but disappears when it melts.
UNIQUE FEATURE: The unique feature was “melts.”
IDEA: Water would be left after the ice melted. This could be blow dried. But the final solution to the problem was is to make the particles out of dry ice. The hard particles will clean the parts and later turn into gas and evaporate.

Consider the paradox that might be stated as “the best control comes from not controlling.” The legendary founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton, was a living demonstration of this contradiction. Walton was normally in his office only from Friday and Saturday to noon. Yet Wal-Mart was considered one of the more tightly managed organizations in the retail industry.   Someone once asked Walton how he could possibly run Wal-Mart when he was out of the office much of the time. He responded by saying, simply, that this was the only way to run a customer-focused organization. He spent Monday through Thursday in the field interacting directly with customers and employees and seeing what the competition was up to. In fact, while he was alive, Wal-Mart stores were built without an office for the store manager for the same reason. The manager’s job was to be out with the customers and employees.

SLOWER IS FASTER. Janusian thinking is becoming more and more common in science, business and the arts. Physicist Dirk Helbing at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in his studies of “movement” of people and systems discovered that paradoxically “slower is faster” when people try to escape from a room through a doorway. Surprisingly, it turns out that by placing an obstacle in front of the door enables people to get out faster as it helps to maintain the fluidity of the crowd. What makes it work is that crowds adjust to conditions. When two streams of people meet the people organize so one group goes out first and then the other. The crowd organizes itself in much the same way as fluids and gases do when forced into queues.

Rethink the Way You Think

In hindsight, every great idea seems obvious. But how can you be the person who comes up with those ideas? In this revised and expanded edition of his groundbreaking Thinkertoys, creativity expert Michael Michalko reveals life-changing tools that will help you think like a genius. From the linear to the intuitive, this comprehensive handbook details ingenious creative-thinking techniques for approaching problems in unconventional ways. Through fun and thought-provoking exercises, you’ll learn how to create original ideas that will improve your personal life and your business life. Michalko’s techniques show you how to look at the same information as everyone else and see something different. 
With hundreds of hints, tricks, tips, tales, and puzzles, Thinkertoys will open your mind to a world of innovative solutions to everyday and not-so-everyday problems.†† … via @amazon


Ask each person to try to improve one aspect of their job each day, focusing on the areas within their control. At the end of the day, people should meet and ask each other what they did differently and better than it was the day before.

Put up a bulletin board in a central area and encourage people to use it to brainstorm ideas. Write a theme or problem on a colored card and place it in the center of the board. Provide pieces of white paper on which people can write their ideas to post on the board. E.g. suppose you have difficulty closing a particular sale. You could describe the sale situation on a colored card, post it on the brainstorming board and ask people to post their ideas and suggestions.

Have a monthly “idea lottery,” using a roll of numbered tickets. Each time a person comes up with a creative idea, he or she receives a ticket. At the end of each month, share the ideas with the staff and then draw a number from a bowl. If the number on anyone’s ticket corresponds to the number drawn, he or she gets a prize. If no one wins, double the prize for the next month.

Provide a special area for people to engage in creative thinking. Stock the area with books, videos on creativity, as well as learning games and such toys as beanbags and modeling clay. You might even decorate the area with pictures of employees as infants to suggest the idea that we’re all born spontaneous and creative.

Ask people to display items on their desks that represent their own personal visions of creativity in business. For example, a crystal ball might represent a view toward future markets, a bottle of Heinz catsup might represent a personal goal of 57 new ideas on how to cut expenses, and a set of jumper cables might symbolize the act of jump-starting your creative juices to get more sales.

Encourage weekly lunch-time meeting of three to five employees to engage in creative thinking. Ask meeting participants to read a book on creativity; each person can read a different chapter and share ways of applying creative thinking to the organization. Invite creative business people from the community to speak to the group. You could ask them for ideas on how to become more creative in your business.


Present each person with a notebook. Call the notebook the “Bright Idea Notebook,” and ask everyone to write three ideas in the notebook every day for one month on how to improve your business. At the end of the month, collect all the notebooks and categorize the ideas for further discussion.

Make idea generating fun. Have a “Stupid Idea” week and stage a contest for the dumbest ideas. Post entries on a bulletin board and conduct an awards ceremony with a prize. You’ll enjoy the camaraderie and may find that the stupid ideas stimulate good ones.

Establish a “creative-idea” committee made up of volunteers. The goals of the committee should be to elicit, discuss, and implement employee’s ideas. The committee can record the number of ideas on a thermometer-type graph. The company should recognize and reward people according to the quantity and quality of their creative contributions.

Turn an office hallway into an Employee Hall of Fame. Post photographs of those whose ideas are implemented along with a paragraph about the person, the idea, and its impact on the company.

When brainstorming in a group, try dividing the group into left-brain (rational) thinkers and right-brain (intuitive) thinkers. Ask the left-brainers to come up with practical, conventional and logical ideas; ask the right-brainers to come up with far-out, unconventional and nonlogical ideas. Then combine the groups and share the ideas.

Thomas Edison guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his assistants idea quotas. His own personal quota was one minor invention every 10 days and a major invention every six months. A way to guarantee creativity is to give each employee an idea quota of, say, five new ideas a week.

Require everyone to bring one new idea as their ticket of admission to any group meeting. The idea should focus on some aspect of their job and how they can improve what they do.

CHANGE “Yes, but …” TO “Yes, and …”
Someone offers an idea in a meeting, and many of us are tempted to say “Yes, but …” To change this mind set , whenever someone says “Yes, but …” require the person to change “Yes, but …” to “Yes, and …” and continue where the last person left off.

Employees shouldn’t waste time thinking of reasons why something can’t work or can’t be done. Instead, they should think about ways to make something work, and then get it done. Ask employees to think of three job-related goals, targets, or tasks they think can’t be accomplished. Then ask them to figure out three ways to accomplish each of them. Then do the same thing yourself.

Jonas Salk, developer of the vaccine that eradicated polio, made it a standard practice to assemble men and women from different domains to his group sessions. He felt this practice helped him bring out new ideas that could not arise in the minds of individuals who were from the same domain. Invite people from other departments to your brainstorming sessions and ask them how they would solve your problems.

Lastly, don’t forget to thank people for their ideas. Design your own “Thank You For Your Great Idea” cards and distribute them freely to contributors. Ask the CEO to sign each card with a personal message. Stock up on instant lottery cards and include one or two in each card to show your appreciation.