Marketers today obsess over the idea of a “noisy world,” but noise is not the problem — sameness is.
Picture everybody you’re competing with playing piano in a giant concert hall. If you walked in and started playing piano yourself, you’d be contributing more noise to the room, and you’d go unnoticed. But if you started shredding some sweet electric guitar, people would notice. You’re still contributing noise, but you’re doing something different.
Is it harder to be heard when everyone is playing an instrument, even if you’re different? Yes. Is it possible to get some results by playing the piano better than everyone else? Yes. Do I love rhetorical questions I can answer in the affirmative? You bet your sweet eyeballs reading this page, I do.
But doing something different — acting like an exception to all the noise out there — is like a cheat code for creativity. It’s a far easier way to get noticed and be remembered. So. Much. Easier.
The trick is, in a world overflowing with experts professing to know the answer, we can’t just lapse into following their advice. That’s commodity information today. Everyone has access to it, and it’s so simple to find — and so people find and follow the prevailing wisdom. But if you want to get noticed and, better yet, STAY noticed…then you better be an exception.
Well, for starters, you can use what makes you an exception. If you want to be exceptional, after all, you’ll have to act like an exception.
The good news is, every individual has the ability to be an exception. It’s called your intuition. The bad news is, intuition has been taught to us as a lofty ideal or an ability that’s out of our control.
Albert Einstein once called intuition “our most sacred gift,” while the rational mind, he said, was “a faithful servant” of that gift. To Einstein, intuition was a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance of something.
Author Malcolm Gladwell told stories of intuition in his bestselling book, Blink. For Gladwell, intuition was “rapid cognition” or snap judgments. His main point was that each individual makes snap judgments — it’s like a reflex we all have — and so we better take them seriously. He concluded that some are good and some are bad but all influence our lives. He offered no clues as to how to control this reflex, however.
In the world of research psychology, the concept of “priming” is often used to explain your intuition. Priming is essentially the process of experiencing something so subtle today that, tomorrow, your subconscious will pull from that inspiration to find an idea or answer, without you knowing where that came from. Maybe you walked by a fire station on your way to work and barely took notice, but your eyes took in that building and stored away that memory subconsciously, for use at a later date.
More specifically, researchers Gary Klein and Gerd Gigerenzer have attempted to explain how priming works. For Klein, your experiences from yesterday can provide instant answers today. For Gigerenzer, it’s less about instantly arriving at the answer and more about your pathway to the answer. He says your experiences from yesterday can be used to instantly make sense of information today. You can quickly decide what is important and what is unimportant, en route to your conclusion.
Whatever the case, whatever the interpretation, we view “intuition” as a feeling. Maybe it’s brought to us by the Muse or our gut or our subconscious brain, but whatever we believe today, it simply doesn’t help us hone our skills and do more exceptional things tomorrow.
How do we grasp our intuition like an instrument we can play, and play the ever-loving crap out of it?
Well, maybe start by looking at the root of the word. Intuition comes from the Latin intuir which roughly means “knowledge from within.” That’s not so scary. That’s not so ghost-like. So intuition, then, can mean “the ability to find knowledge from within.”
In a world full of expert advice, it’s the process of thinking for yourself.
So how do we become the exception from all the noise? We tune that instrument. While everybody frets over how to better bang away at the same damn instruments, you can calmly sit in the corner, twist a few knobs, pluck a few strings, take out your pick, stand up among all that similar-sounding competition … and fucking shred.