How to Fly a Horse: the Secret of Creation, Invention, and Discovery - by Kevin Ashton

I'm starting to realize that these kind of books - the "be an innovator or creator" or "everyone is an artist" sort of book - are all made and written from the same cloth. And How to Fly a Horse is one of the better ones, even though it took a chapter or two to get the horse off the ground. 


: Creation :

"Creation is a chain reaction: thousands of people contribute, most of them anonymous, all of them creative" because, "creation is human. It is all of us. It is everybody (pg 9).

"Creative thinking is the same as problem solving, then extends it to say that creative thinking is the same as thinking in general but with a creative result. In Weisberg's words, 'when one says of someone that he or she is "thinking creativity," one is commenting on the outcome of the process, not the process itself'" (pg 17). 

"Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Being suddenly hit years later with the 'creative bug' is just a wee voice telling you, 'I'd like my crayons back, please'" (pg 18).

"Creation is destination, the consequence of acts that appear inconsequential by themselves but that, when accumulated, change the world. Creating is an ordinary act, creation its extraordinary outcome" (pg 23). 

Work is the Soul of creation (pg 24). 


: Thinking :

"Thinking is finding a way to achieve a goal that cannot be attained by an obvious action" (pg 31). 


: Adversity : 

"Failure is not final. It carries no judgement and yields no conclusions. The word comes from the Latin fallere, to deceive. Failure is deceit" (pg 66). 

"The observation, 'Innovation is a series of repetitive failures' applies to every field of creation and every creator. Nothing good is created the first time" (pg 69).

"Time is the raw material of creation . . . the math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know" (pg 71).

"Creating something new may kill us; creating nothing new certainly will" (pg 85).

William Syrotuck analyzed 229 cases of people who became lost, 25 of whom died. He found that when we are lost, most of us act the same way. First, we deny that we are going in the wrong direction. Then, as the realization that we are in trouble seeps in, we press on, hoping chance will lead us. We are least likely to do the thing that is most likely to save us: turn around. We know our path is wrong, yet we rush along it, compelled to save face, to resolve the ambiguity, achieve the goal. Pride propels us. Shame stops us from saving ourselves . . . Rejection educates. Failure teaches. Both hurt. Only distraction comforts. And of these, only distraction can lead to destruction. Rejection and failure can nourish us, but wasted time is a tiny death. What determines whether we will succeed as creators is not how intelligent we are, how talented we are, or how hard we work, but how we respond to the adversity of creation (pg 90).


: How we see :

"Inattentional blindness: Something that we can't see, or don't want to see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem" (pg 95).

Selective attention: as someone becomes more trained, they move their eyes less, until all they have to do is glance at a few locations for a few moments to find the information they need (pg 98).

"Experts do not think less. The think more efficiently. The practiced brain eliminates poor solutions so quickly that they barely reach the attention of the conscious mind" (pg 100). 

"Creating is thinking. Attention is what we think about. The more we experience, the less we think - whether in chess, radiography, painting, science, or anything else. Experise is efficiency: experts use fewer problem-solution loops because experts do not consider unlikely solutions" (pg 102).

"Creation is attention. It is seeing new problems, noticing the unnoticed, finding inattentional blind spots . . . the real secret of the art is to always be a beginner" (pg 105).

Expertise - a system of beliefs, experiences, and assumptions, Kuhn calls, a paradigm, has blinded them (pg 107).

From David Foster Wallace:

After work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. The supermarket is very crowded. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing Muzak. It's pretty much the last place you want to be. And who are all these people in the way? Look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones. Look at how deeply and personally unfair this is. Thinking this way is my natural default setting. It's the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of life.
But there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. You can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. If you really learn how to pay attention, it will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't (pg 109). 

On David Foster Wallace: "It's a choice. His ability to choose to see ordinary things differently  - "as not only meaningful, but sacred" - made him one of the greatest writers of his generation (pg 110).

"Dissonance: When what we know contradicts what we believe, we can either change our beliefs to fit the facts or change the facts to fit our beliefs. People suffering from certainty are more likely to change the facts than their beliefs" (pg 116).

"Make an enemy of certainty and befriend doubt. When you can change your mind, you can change anything" (pg 117).


: Chains of Consequence :

"The Amish approach to technology only seems arbitrary. The Amish are cautious about technology because they are cautious about how it shapes their communities" (pg 149) - the decision to accept or deny is based not on themselves and their personal wants and desires. Interesting. 

So, do better tools always lead to a better life? Does making better things makes things better? How can we be sure that making things better won't make things worse?" (pg 156) - great questions. 


: The Gas in your Tank :

From Woody Allen: 

I never like to let any time go unused. When I walk somewhere in the morning, I still plan what I'm going to think about, which problem I'm going to tackle. I may say, this morning I'm going to think of titles. When I get in the shower in the morning, I try to use that time. So much of my time is spent thinking because that's the only way to attack these writing problems (pg 178).

Success doesn't strike; it accumulates.

"Passion is innate and dwells in the heart. Knowledge is instilled and found in the head. The purpose of each Ilongot's life was to develop the knowledge they needed to focus their passion into creation for the common good. . . passion is the most extreme state of choice without reward . . . and the word passion comes from the Latin passio for "suffering" (pg 181).

"We can't be misled by passions, because they are so close, so internal to our soul, that it can't possibly feel them unless they are truly as it feels them to be. Even when asleep and dreaming we can't feel sad or moved by any other passion unless the soul truly has this passion within it. 

Or: Passion is the voice of the soul.

Passion is energy; if it does not create, it harms (pg 182).

The more we create, the less we destroy (pg 184).

Good writing is bad writing, well edited (pg 189).

"Almost nothing we create will be good the first time. It will seldom be bad. It will probably be a dull shade of average. The main virtue of a first sketch is that it breaks the blank page. It is a spark of life in the swamp, beautiful if only because it is a beginning (190). 


: On Group Think :

"The purpose of a creative conversation is to identify and solve creative problems, such as 'What should this episode be about?' or 'What order should these scenes be in?' The only participants in the conversation should be people who can make a contribution to answering these questions" (pg 214). 

"Adults think before acting; children thing by acting" (pg 221).

"We are all social chameleons, adjusting our skin to blend in with , or sometimes stand out from, whatever crowd we happen to be in" (pg 224).


: Good-Bye, Genius :

"The first definition of 'genius' comes from the ancient Rome, where the word meant 'spirit' or 'soul.' This is the true definition of creative genius. Creating is to humans as flying is to birds. It is our nature, our spirit (pg 236).

"It is easier to look for flies in the soup than to work in the kitchen" (pg 236).