On Imaginary Lives and Igniting Your Creativity

"There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one." -author Kazuo Ishiguro

I first read Julia Cameron’s fantastic book The Artist’s Way years ago, and it impacted my life in a number of positive ways. For example, I started writing a three-page journal every morning. I reflected on how I could better incorporate creativity into my routine. And I made a list of five “Imaginary Lives” that I might lead.

To do the imaginary lives exercise, think of five other roles you may have pursued in an alternate universe. What are you passionate about? What gets you excited? What would you love to spend more time doing?

The goal of the exercise is to think about what small step you could take to ignite your creativity in those areas. If you said “pilot” then perhaps you could take an introductory flight at a local airport. If you wrote “author” then maybe you could schedule a one-hour appointment in your calendar to sketch an idea for a story.

The real point of the exercise is to realize that you can be all of those imaginary lives in some small way. By opening yourself up to these experiences and allowing yourself to get inspired, you inspire creativity in all parts of your life.

After thinking through my imaginary lives and scheduling ways to pursue each of them, I found that I approached more mundane work tasks with a new spirit of creativity and flexibility.

I also found myself thinking of more creative solutions to problems. As I stretched my mind to explore each of these new pursuits, I was able to think more broadly and openly about challenges that were in front of me.

Creative thinking is a quality that is far too rare with investors. As the financial industry becomes more focused on left-brained thinking and quantitative analytics, I feel the future lies in our ability to incorporate more right-brained creativity into our process.

When asked to reflect on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 1 disaster, a NASA official commented:

"What we really learned from the Apollo fire, in the words of [former astronaut] Frank Borman, was the failure of imagination. "We couldn't imagine a simple test on the pad being that catastrophic. The message to the team is to remember how difficult our business is, the importance of staying focused and using our imaginations to envision what can go wrong."

The next big thing… the next major investment theme… even the next financial crisis… none of these will be anticipated by investors with their heads down in the details. But they will be imagined by investors with their heads in the clouds.

So what were my five imaginary lives?

1) Author
2) Composer
3) Sommelier
4) Cultural Attaché
5) Minister

What are yours?


Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial advice.  Please see the Disclaimer page for full details.