Want to Find More Career Opportunities? Let Yourself Get Weird.

How to apply the creative process to your professional life

Manoush Zomorodi
Forge
Published in
4 min readJul 16, 2021

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Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

The next time you go to Target, Wal-Mart, or any other huge, air conditioned, and sterile store, turn the drudgery of picking up detergent into a contest. Challenge yourself to spot something weird amidst the aisles.

That’s the premise of Big Box Archeologist, an activity included in Rob Walker’s book The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday. Perhaps you’re thinking, the world is on fire and, allegedly, 95% of us are considering changing jobs. Why should we distract ourselves with strange games while we run errands? Because our brains need it.

I recently surveyed over 4,000 of my listeners for a project and 89% said it was “somewhat or extremely important to them to be innovative or experimental with their work.” And yet, some also said that they feel like “they don’t have an innovative or creative bone in my body” or that they “aren’t an ideas person.” Many said they want to reinvent themselves but don’t even know where to start. They’re fried.

We run around our lives and the internet, consuming ridiculous amounts of information, packing our calendars with meetings, filling our nights with Netflix…and then are frustrated that we can’t brainstorm on demand. Despite stories about “ah-ha moments,” good ideas rarely arrive uninvited into people’s minds. As a recent study about creativity “myths” put it:

“Emphasizing the role of inspiration rather than active engagement may undermine creativity by suggesting we need to wait until creativity hits us with a ‘Eureka’-experience.”

Creative thinking requires nurturing. We need to mulch our minds for original ideas to seed. Rob has helped me respect this process. He wrote his book after realizing that some of his students were struggling to recognize a good idea when they had one. Many told Rob they didn’t know what to write for his class about because they didn’t think their thoughts were that relevant. Their observations weren’t “trending,” they explained, and therefore were a waste of time, right?

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Manoush Zomorodi
Forge
Writer for

Journalist, mom, Swiss-Persian New Yorker. Host of @NPR’s @TEDRadioHour + @ZigZagPod. Author of Bored+Brilliant. Media Entrepreneur-ish. ManoushZ.com/newsletter