Erik Wahl talks about writing Unthink
Rediscover your creative genius by not thinking.
In the tradition of A Whole New Mind and The War of Art, graffiti artist and corporate thought leader, Erik Wahl explores the power of creativity to achieve superior performance in his book Unthink.
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I Unthink, Therefore I Am
by Erik Wahl
Yes, I’ll gladly take credit for this bold phrase that flies directly in the face of René Descartes’s famous statement, “Cogito ergo sum,” (I think therefore I am). But truthfully, I’ve become bored with the idea that ‘thinking’ serves as the key element to our existence. I firmly believe the act of creation is the true meaning behind living, so I’m drawn to the words of famous author Ray Bradbury who said, “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” Unthink: Rediscovering your Creative Genius, is a breakthrough book reminding the reader that ‘thinking’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s a book for those who are tired of thinking and simply want to do things.
This book has been developing in my mind since my wife Tasha and I raised our three boys. I remember they would come home from school with stacks of homework, periodic tables, and long division- stuff I can barely do now. I’d watch and listen to their frustrations trying to think hard enough to get the ‘right answer.’ They were concerned if they didn’t solve the problems, they could get bad grades which could lead to detention. They were stressed out and scared when they should have been lighting stuff on fire and exploring the neighborhood on their bikes.
Tasha and I determined an intervention was needed, so I created a game called Crazy Daddy Time. In this game, there was only one rule: There are no rules. We would set aside thirty minutes, enter the backyard and, sans an action leading towards the death of any participant, we played a game where the answer was always ‘Yes.’ Can we paint the fence with markers? Yes. Can we go into mom’s garden and dig to China? Yes. Can we throw daddy in the pool? Yes. Their eyes would light up with excitement realizing they weren’t surrounded by rules and responsibility. Unthinking set their minds free from the growing pressures of the world around them.
Despite your hesitations with this game, stick with me because I’m arriving at my epiphany. Switch scenes with me as I’m traveling on the road speaking to giant profitable corporations like Microsoft, IBM, Disney, or American Express. As I challenged them towards new innovations and creative breakthroughs, you wouldn’t believe the reactions I saw in the audience of every single show! I saw full-grown adults acting just like scared little kids who were intent on thinking to acquire the ‘right answer’ so they didn’t get fired. My heart broke as I saw them struggling to think creatively out of a fear-driven mentality! It got to the point where I was ready to let them take me down to the company reflecting pool and throw me in! Anything to get them to loosen their ties for a second or two!
Honestly, Unthink is a book about becoming a kid again. It’s a reminder that our DNA, our genetic mission, is to become a courageous and unstoppable creator. Yes, we all know that rules and regulations are a part of life, be it the IRS, insurance paperwork, or flossing. But we must rouse our natural cravings to light the fuse of our imaginations and send it screaming towards space, like a rocket with absolutely no idea of where it could possibly land.
This is the life I want to live, focused on freedom and creativity. This is the life my family dreams of living. This is the mindset of innovative and profitable companies. And I believe this is the life you truly desire. So it’s up to you. Take my advice, or the advice of René Descartes. But before you make your decision, check out a painting of René. To me, it doesn’t look like he was having too much fun.
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