Thinking outside the box is more than a vain cliche. You want to distinguish yourself from the crowd. By being both rational and creative, you want to shape the world around you and live the perfect life.
Whichever path you will choose – music, business, or writing – you’ll end up in a competitive community teeming with people of similar background, experience, and education. To reach for the stars you’ll have to show what you’re really capable of. Your secret weapon is within you.
Instead of focusing on getting the answers right, like they taught you, think about the questions you ask. Questions can have a major impact on your reasoning: they can limit your perspective and close you within red frames of conformity. Keep away from them. Try to take a different point of view.
1. Define the frames
Imagine that a question is thrown right into your face.
How to do this?, how to achieve that?, what would you do?
Remember that the question in itself can be a cage for your brain. When someone asks you a “yes or no question,” then the answer is, you guessed it, either yes or no. Any attempt to broaden the topic is seen as trying to avoid answering it.
Anything from “it’s more complicated” to “it depends on how you look at it” won’t be met with applause, because it isn’t straightforward.
Try to pinpoint exactly the box you’re thrown into. Is it some kind of system? Maybe a two-dimensional outlook on a deeper topic? What about a test, where you can only choose between A, B, C, and D?
The world-famous painter, Salvador Dali, said:
Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.
Once you know borders, it’s time for the next step.
2. Defy the frames
The world isn’t black-or-white. And you know it. Laws, rules, standards – they’re all restrictions. What might work for the vast majority or used to be efficient in the past is not necessarily the best possible solution nowadays.
Trying to compare the business model of the 1920s with today’s flexible structures is unwise. With the advent of Generation Z to the job market, new rules are to be set.
That means – no rules at all. Gig economy and freelancers will conquer the next decade, with young creatives in the lead. The markets are shaped by the people. The more Gen Zers are working, the more it will reflect their needs. Independence, flexibility, reason. You can be a pioneer in the new world of liberated minds.
Each breakthrough used to be a crazy idea at the beginning. To make the first step, you could do with a bit of courage – one of the four stoic virtues. To say a firm “No” and object to what is safe and sure, that’s bravery.
Once you know what the frames are, and you’ve already opposed to them, it’s time for you to broaden your horizons.
3. Look beyond
You’ve reached a whole new level of thinking – devoid of the so-called boxes. You know exactly what they are, and you want to escape them, so start thinking!
If you want to do it on your own, give a try to a mindfulness session, when you dig deeper and deeper into your mind. You can focus on a problem and analyze it inside out, upside down, and every other direction possible. Whether it’s a logical train of thought or a chaotic stream of consciousness, your brain’s on a creative treadmill.
When working in a team, an out-of-box brainstorm is welcome. The more brainpower, the better (however, solitary meditation can be just as effective, it depends on the brains, to be honest).
Think about ideas that are stupid, or ones that seem impossible. You’ll see that “impossible” is a relative term. With the right attitude and without frames you can come up with unprecedented concepts.
Free your eyes and see. Once you see the box, refuse to be caught in it. Look beyond its cardboard boundaries. Then do the magic.
4. Break the rules
A Sufi proverb has it:
In the desert there is no sign, Thou shalt not eat stones.
But have you ever tried eating stones? It would be bad for your teeth, but the message of this proverb is otherwise. There is no such sign because no one ever thought about it.
Search for holes in systems and avoid the rules like Neo avoided bullets in Matrix. In the sandbox of ideas, ask questions that have been hitherto unsaid. Think of the unthinkable, be innovative.
Once you get the idea of the entire thing, get to action.
The internet is waiting for you and your ingenuity. Why use Instagram to scroll through feed if you can create your own content? Ditch ready-made models and make something of your own.
The beaten track is getting crowded. Lace your shoes tighter and leave what’s known.
Whether it’s a business idea you’ve got or just a hobby – do it in a way that nobody else thought about. Makeup artists, musicians, software developers, and many others – the time has come for you to rewire your brains.
No more models, no more boxes, no more frames.
I remember a short interview given by Drake when he was just beginning. He said that many people, when describing his music, would go: Oh, he sounds like that other rapper, or This beat reminds me of that song, or His voice is similar to that guy’s.
And one day he wanted for somebody to say: This sounds like Drake.
Fuck labels, create your own.
See how our own questions can put us in boxes. What was wrong with Kanye’s argument about abortion during his first political rally in South Carolina?