One of the many hats I wear in my day-to-day life is that of a teacher. I teach two days a week at Temple University in the Advertising Department. One of the courses that I teach is called Creative Thinking in Advertising and I devote the class to learning and practicing techniques that foster constant creative growth. One of the cool things about this strategy is that many of the lessons apply to regular life, too.
In the beginning of the semester, my students and I work to define an idea. Ultimately, we define an idea as “nothing more nor nothing less than a combination of old elements in a new way.” The thing that I love most about this definition is the hidden invitation; we’re being invited to experience as many “old elements” in the world that we can, in the name of making new and unexpected connections. What a cool invitation!
It’s human nature to fall into rhythms and routines and (dare I say) ruts. We like what like and we become creatures of habit. There is nothing innately wrong with this, but we’re missing so much! By ordering from the same places, listening to the same music, driving the same routes, defaulting to our usual hobbies, we’re missing out on the excitement and adventure of finding all of the “old elements” around us.
I use an example in class about grilled cheese (yum). We begin by writing on the board the “original” recipe for the perfect grilled cheese. Generally, we settle on white bread and American cheese (after much heated debate, white American normally wins – sorry yellow!). This is where the fun and the lesson enter the picture. We start with the bread. I ask my students to start calling out other choices. Once the ball gets rolling, I can barely write fast enough. The board shows pumpernickel, rye, sourdough, challah, cinnamon raisin, wheat, pita and so many more. Once we exhaust our bread brainstorm, we move onto the cheese. Cheddar, pepper jack, brie, mozzarella, provolone, cooper sharp (the best cheese ever), muenster…(hungry yet?!). Once the room quiets, we look at the list and I draw my first line. I connect the very first bread choice to the very first cheese choice. I then draw a second line from the very first bread choice to the second cheese choice. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Then, I move onto the second bread choice and do the same.
When I step back from the board, we marvel. A simple grilled cheese has turned into an opportunity for us to experience new ideas, by connecting old elements in a way that we haven’t yet tried. It’s so easy! A little bread and little cheese, and we can get out of our rut/routine and perhaps stumble upon something that we love even more than the way we usually do it.
Try a new radio station. Order a different salad for lunch. Try a new restaurant. Visit a museum you haven’t been to. Cook with a new ingredient. Run a different route. Step out of your comfort zone in a small way, and I bet you’ll surprise yourself by finding something “old” that’s new to you, that you’ll love.
Warm (and cheesy) regards,