written by
Srinivas Rao

Srini Pillay: The Power of the Unfocused Mind

2 min read

These are cliff notes from an episode of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast

Interviews with Srini Pillay are consistent favorites of our listeners and this one is no exception. Learn about the power of the unfocused mind (note: that is not the same as distracted mind) and what it can do for your creativity. My favorite ideas are summarized as follows.

1. When asked, most people say that they would like to have an extraordinary life. What’s easy to dismiss is that an extraordinary life is an exception by definition and in order to have it, one must do what most people don’t.

2. A big idea that permeates this interview is fueling our sense of possibility. Too often, we are focused on what is probable but thinking of what is possible can broaden our horizons. Srini calls this self-esteem maintenance: we set low goals so that we don't get disappointed. But what we dismiss is the sense of possibility when we stop pigeonholing ourselves to low standards and other people's definitions of success.

3. When a child expresses a desire to work in some area or an interest to have some experience, that should be explored. Even if you think that the child is not suited for that domain, it is wise to investigate further and see what is in its core that he or she found attractive. That is a piece of incredibly useful information.

4. Negative emotions are often mislabeled and we think that we should get rid of them. In many situations, negative emotions are an appropriate and healthy response.

5. Srini Pillay differentiates between focused, distracted, and unfocused mind. Ostensibly, we all want to be more focused and less distracted, but the unfocused time is generally not well understood. We get to the unfocused state when we systematically let our minds wander when we play or doodle. By doing so, we unlock the potential of our brain to synthesize ideas, connect many pieces of the puzzle we were not aware of, and work on problems subconsciously.

6. In our workdays, we usually try to focus all the time and our minds end up exhausted. It is a lot more productive and sustainable to combine focused and unfocused state.

7. We get benefits from focusing on the idea or a piece of work, but we often tend to over-focus. What is often needed is to couple focused and unfocused state so that the product of our work also has a playful component.

8. Technological advancements enabled us to program our linear thinking into automation, robotics, and various other solutions. Now humans need to relearn how to be good at being humans. playfulness and the power of unfocused mind can help us do exactly thatunleash our creativity, playfulness, and uniqueness.

9. Srini talked about the practice of improvisation in music. Improvising is not as easy as it seems, because our brains tend to stick to patterns we already know and we have practiced multiple times. There is a quality of surrender and playfulness to excellence in addition to rigid technical skills.

10. To be unmistakable, according to Srini, you must possess something original and allow yourself to evolve in your own way.

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