I recently had a conversation with a friend who said he enjoyed eating the same food nearly every day. He knew what he liked and found the familiarity to be comforting. I also recently met a woman who went on the same vacation for the last 30 years, spending two weeks at her parents’ lake house every summer. I had always pegged myself as a creature of habit, so I had assumed that I also craved familiarity--familiar people, places, ideas, and situations. But the thought of eating the same foods everyday or vacationing in the same place every year seemed incredibly boring to me. No offense if eating a turkey sandwich every day for lunch is your jam. I just think your jam is boring. See what I did there? I said something offensive but prefaced it with “no offense,” so technically, you can’t take offense.
Initially, I continued to think that I was a creature of habit and simply made exceptions for the specific topics of food and travel--two of my greatest loves. But as I explored more and more areas of my life, it became clear that I do prefer novelty and variety over familiarity.
For instance, I absolutely love learning new things, whether it’s new languages or new philosophies. I have always been a teacher’s pet who likes to sit at the front of the class and whose ears perk up when the teacher/professor begins a new lesson. I may or may not have been bullied as a child.
I also enjoy taking up new hobbies, even if I end up failing at them. Last year, I took a series of online coding classes and taught myself how to do some basic computer programming because I thought it would be super cool to be a sexy lady computer hacker. It turned out that I didn’t have the required level of nerdiness (or passion) to continue my pursuit of computer programming, but I really enjoyed learning about it for several months.
As it so turns out, I’m not exceptional in my embrace of novelty and challenge. I know, I too was disappointed when I learned that I wasn’t remarkable. Science confirms that our brains crave novelty and new experiences. This explains why your tastebuds take great pleasure in trying new foods (unless you’re a weirdo who eats turkey sandwiches every day), why most of us enjoy traveling to new places (unless you’re a lame-o who enjoys vacationing at the same lake house every year), and why you may experience Bey levels confidence when you put on a new outfit for the first time. Embracing novelty is also a predictor of overall well-being, so the more you try new things, the happier you may be.
For me, the biggest change I recently experienced was quitting my stable, six-figure corporate job in 2014 and embarking on a backpacking trip around the world. Everything about this entire experience involved change. I didn’t have a set itinerary, I didn’t know long I would be traveling, I had no idea where I would eventually settle down or what my next job would be. Despite the overwhelming amount of uncertainty, it all felt exhilarating. Every day presented a new experience to savor, from trying blood broth soup in Vietnam to embarking on a two-week trek in the Himalayan Mountains.
Fast forward to the present, and starting The Laws of Bliss has also introduced a much-needed change and challenge into my life. Before I started this blog, I had been feeling restless and, frankly, in a rut. For instance, I have never been a lover of TV and certainly not a binge-TV-watcher, but I recently found myself watching a dorky family-friendly show that will remain unnamed nearly every night after work. After months of keeping up with this extremely embarrassing habit, I realized that I needed to change up my routine and introduce a challenge into my life. Now that I've been working on my blog and food photography, I've been doing something challenging or different nearly every day. I'm writing new blog posts, I'm coming up with new recipes, I'm learning about food and holistic health. Every day is a challenge, but I couldn't love it more. The novelty of each day is exciting and stimulating to my tiny noggin.
Once I realized that I thrive on completing new challenges or projects, I set out to incorporate challenge and novelty into my health and happiness experiments for this blog.
I previously had dabbled in what I’ll call “idea generation” before - challenging myself to write down 5 or 10 new ideas every day to get my creative juices flowing. Max and I have lofty dreams of starting our own business together (ideally a gourmet ice cream shoppe in Kauai) so we occasionally discuss our own business ideas, how to implement them, challenges to implementing them, and so forth.
We came across the concept of becoming “an idea machine” on James Altucher’s blog. Even if you don’t want to start your own business, it’s important to generate new ideas because, as Altucher says, “ideas are the currency of life. . . . Good ideas buy you good experiences, buy you better ideas, buy you better experiences, buy you more time, save your life.” Good ideas don’t have to amount to the next Uber. They can be ideas to help you save time at work, save your failing marriage, or maximize your “me time.”
I decided to follow Altucher’s concept for this week as part of my embrace of challenge and novelty. I used a notebook--not a computer, tablet, or cell phone--to write down ten new ideas every day. Being mildly addicted to my cell phone, it felt nice to write down information on an actual piece of paper. It felt more deliberate and enabled me to really focus on the task at hand. In contrast, when I am trying to input information into my cell phone, I have the attention span of a five-year old child who has just ingested a bucket of Halloween candy.
While Altucher’s method does not require or even encourage all of your ideas to be business-related ideas, I decided to limit myself to business ideas. Why? Because my non-business ideas were ludicrous and incredibly lazy, like “tell annoying colleague at work that she is annoying” or “buy a nice bottle of wine on the way home from work.” These weren’t helpful ideas so much as rambling thoughts in my tiny head.
For day 1 of this week, I decided to head to my favorite coffee shop to get my creativity flowing. Watching foreign techies remotely work over Skype, inhaling a freshly baked croissant, and listening to the background coffee house ambient noise made for an ideal working environment. Once I began writing down ideas, I was surprised by the ease at which even more ideas flowed. I went into the challenge thinking, sure, I have a few good ideas, but it turns out, I have more than just a few good ideas. I have a lot of good ideas. #humblebrag #notsohumble. And the more I practiced, the better I got. I mean, I still wrote down some ridiculous ideas that could (and should) never be implemented.
Here’s an entry from May 17, 2016. It was idea #10 for the night, so as you can imagine, I was really stretching for ideas.
“Discreet pins that clip onto an article of clothing and have an on/off light switch. Turn on the light when you find yourself in an area (or in the presence of a particular someone) where you want to subtly convey that you are single and ready to mingle. Leave the light off when you don't want to attract attention.”
Max took one look at this idea and immediately called me out for being a total perv. He asked in an accusatorial tone, “Do you not realize that this “invention” would enable men to be ten times creepier than they already are?” I shamefully nodded my head in agreement. However, in my defense, a girl friend of mine subsequently told me she thought this was a good idea in theory (definitely not in practice) because when she was single and would work remotely at coffee shops, she wished she had a subtle sign that said, “I’m single, buy me coffee and treats.”
I’m not going to share some of the best ideas I came up with during my week of idea generation because there’s still a 0.05% chance I execute those ideas some day far into the future, but I will share some of my other non-creepy ideas.
- The “I Heart Stress-Free” app. Using technology too advanced for me to describe, this mobile app monitors your heart rate to help you live a stress-free life. The app senses when your heart rate is high (it can distinguish when your heart rate is high from exercising or engaging in “adult activities”) and suggests calming solutions for you, such as playing a relaxing song, opening up your meditation app, or offering to call your best friend/lover/mother/dog.
- Orthotic shoe inserts that feel like pillows. That’s all I got for this one.
- The “No More Basic Bachelorette Party” app. For all the ladiez who are tired of wearing matching “Bride Squad!” t-shirts, showing up to a male strip club in a white stretch limo, and drunk dancing to Journey, this app will help you plan fun and unique bachelorette parties. Input your budget, location, party size, and interests, and scroll through custom-generated suggestions for venues, activities, and games that don’t suck.
- The “Foreigners with Hot Accents Read Books” service. Too lazy to read a book yourself? Hire a sexy Colombian to read you Fifty Shades of Grey or an Icelander to read you the Game of Thrones series. I’ve been informed that this is illegal, but I still think it’s a clever idea.
- A fingerprint recognition system that’s built into credit cards to definitively prevent identity fraud. How does this not exist already?
- Traveling Puppy Therapy. I am not a puppy person myself--I find dogs to be too needy and slobbery--but I have witnessed others interact with puppies, and the humans usually seem extremely happy. With Traveling Puppy Therapy, traveling teams of puppies (guided by humans, obviously) would visit corporate offices, and provide company for stressed out employees in 15 minute time blocks.
- The “Reverse Wine Effect” pill. Love drinking wine but hate how it inevitably makes you sleepy? Try this natural, non-caffeinated supplement that reverses the drowsiness effect caused by wine so you can keep raging all night long. I would really like for this to be invented.
So, what did this week of idea generation teach me? Good ideas can be life-changing. They can help you start a new business; they can help you realize that you desperately need a new career; and, they can help you live a happier, more productive life.
So go buy yourself a notebook and try writing down 10 ideas every day for a week. See how you feel and let me know!
For this week, I’m working on my productivity, both at home at work, and will be immediately completing any tasks that take 2 minutes or less. I’m also headed to my sister’s bachelorette party this weekend in Napa! Wish me a fun weekend, k, thanks, bye.