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Why Judge a Book by Its Cover but Not a Person by Appearance

The old adage “never judge a book by its cover” is usually used to explain why we shouldn’t judge people by the way they look or dress. While it makes for a nice metaphor, it is literally wrong, and it highlights one of the basic ways that people see the world.

Literally Wrong

A good book cover is created to entice people, who will enjoy the book, to read it. It doesn’t make sense for the cover to mislead readers because the book will get bad reviews and the author will lose credibility. Romance books use romance covers, so romance readers know what they are getting and those that dislike romance stay away – the same is true of every other book out there. It’s okay to judge a book by its cover because the cover should lead you to an expectation of what you’re going to read. Fulfilling that expectation will lead to a better reading experience and cause you t gravitate to the author’s other works. If you couldn’t judge a book by its cover, which includes the summary on the back, you probably wouldn’t bother spending the $8 to $30 on a copy only to find out three pages in that the book isn’t what you expected or wanted.

How People Judge

Human beings judge everything by the way it looks. Fruits are grown and bred for their appearance rather than their taste. Cars are purchased based on how they look, and how those looks will affect the perception of the driver, rather than how they perform or how practical they are. People spend billions of dollars every year on make-up, plastic surgery, hair dye, and body modifications, and they are judged by others based on how they look.

It’s a basic tenet of human nature that we judge those who look like us as better than those who look differently. This basic tendency is why there’s institutional racism and sexism. The people who do the interviewing are more comfortable with hiring someone who looks like him or her, and they will base their decision on their gut instinct without examining why the instinct is there or what it’s really telling them.

While it is perfectly fine to judge a book by its cover, people aren’t books and should not be judged by how they look. We’re all still going to do it because it’s a built-in survival mechanism. When something confirms our biases, we’re going to place more emphasis on those incidents than on the events that contradict what we believe internally. Even with clear and rational observation and logic, we’re still going to tend to fall back into our old habits and instincts that don’t serve us anymore. We need to be vigilant and courageous to stand up to our own prejudices against those who are different from us. Until we can face our own shortcomings and know our own beliefs, we will continue to fall into the trap of judging people by how they look instead of by what they do.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Vision

Vision can be the way you perceive things. No one sees the world exactly like you. Your life experiences have given you a unique way of viewing situations. The only way that anyone can begin to understand what you see in the world is if you share your vision.

A vision can also be the goals that you want to achieve or the way you see the future. You might look toward a utopia. You might see problems with the drainage system and possible solutions. You might have the key to opening up a new discipline. But this only happens after you develop your vision and show it to people. If you aren’t able to tell people about what you want to achieve on a grand sale, you are unlikely to achieve it.

You can use your vision to drive toward your vision, and creativity should be an important part of that drive. Walt Disney saw that there were no places where adults could enjoy spending time with children. He sat eating peanuts while his daughters took rides on the carousel in Griffith Park. His vision was a park that parents and children could enjoy equally together. Without either sense of vision, we wouldn’t have Disneyland or any of the other theme parks that came after it.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories” and improve your creativity for a better life and world. For more on the Disney company, get “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” Join us at Patreon for the “Secrets of Creativity” available only to our Penguinators.

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Curiosity Leads Down the ‘Penguin Highway’

In “Penguin Highway” by Tomihiko Morimi, Aoyama is a curious boy in the fourth grade. He takes copious notes, researches everything, makes observations, and never gets angry. When ever he feels like he might get angry, he thinks of breasts, and it calms him down. Is that normal for a fourth grader? I don’t know, but it’s normal for Aoyama, who is clearly not an ordinary child.

When Aoyama is confronted with several problems, he decides to research them all. His friend Uchida and the girl Hamamoto help him with the time he has to spend on researching “The Sea.” Uchida is also part of his exploring and mapping the town. His side project is researching the lady from the dentist office who can make penguins, which is what sparks the whole story.

Aoyama shows that its not good enough to ask the questions. He keeps a journal with him at all times. Hamamoto does the same, and Uchida learns to use a notebook, even if he isn’t the smartest one in the group. Taking notes allows Aoyama to access the information he has learned at a later time. It also allows him to manipulate the data, so he can get a bigger picture.

Taking notes requires observation skills. Aoyama has practiced observing, so he sees what others may miss. He then makes hypotheses and tests them to see if they can withstand the scientific method. He knows his theories are most likely wrong, but it’s important to make and test them.

Aoyama’s methods are honed and only missing one piece – sometimes, the answer doesn’t lie in the logic of a situation or possible behavior. In creativity, the process is similar: take notes, observe, ask questions and stay curious; sometimes, you have to make that intuitive leap to a better answer.

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The Secrets of Creativity: Seeing

The bacteria H. pylori are responsible for some stomach ulcers. For decades, doctors had been able to see the bacteria in the stomach. While it was on photographs and in literature since 1875, the doctors didn’t see it. Because they were certain that bacteria couldn’t survive in the stomach, they ignored it. It didn’t exist as bacteria for them. In 1940, a doctor found the bacteria, but his supervisor told him he was wrong and ordered him to stop his work.

One doctor in 1967 labeled the bacteria as “spirillum,” published it in a respected scientific journal where thousands of other doctors could see it, and no one examined it further. It wasn’t until 1979 that Robin Warren declared it to be a bacterium and called it H. pylori. That’s when doctors went back through the literature and photograph showing something that no one thought could be bacteria. A cause of stomach ulcers had been in plain sight for over a century – only hidden by a false belief that nothing could live in the inhospitable climate of the stomach (Kevin Ashton, “How to Fly a Horse,” 2015).

Count the number of passes the team in white jerseys makes in this video.

Did you count them? Did you watch the whole video?

Did you see the dancing gorilla? When people are told to count the passes (and haven’t seen this video before), they entirely miss the gorilla who walks through the middle of the basketball players. People talking on their cell phone while walking down the street will miss a unicycling clown that passes in front of them because their attention is on the phone conversation. The brain prioritizes the phone call over everything that doesn’t seem threatening or that doesn’t make sense. If you want to be more creative, you have to see what others miss.

Human beings have so much input coming through their five senses that they have to ignore a lot of things. Otherwise, we would all be mad/crazy. (Maybe that’s what happening with cell phones…) The brain prioritizes what it thinks is important and eliminates everything else. You might think that driving a car and avoiding collisions is the most important thing, but your brain will prioritize the phone call and the conversation because driving is routine. Moreover, the brain doesn’t know how to process the impending collision while also dealing with the conversation on the phone.

Seeing is one of the most important skills you can develop, and that means getting rid of the distractions and beliefs that keep you from seeing what’s right in front of you and millions of other people.

When you something new or something old in a different way, you spark your creative abilities. In “Big Hero 6,” Hiro’s brother tells him to shake things up as he turns Hiro upside down and shakes him.

Sherlock Holmes ability to deduce where someone was from and why they had arrived came from his ability to remember facts and see details. Those details were often esoteric, but the skill is akin to addressing someone at a convention by his or her name. When that person asks “Do we know each other?” The answer is “I read your name tag.” Everyone has the name tags on, but many people forget the name tags are there.

Of course, seeing is only part of the battle. Once you see something, you’re going to have to make others see it. Most people will ignore the new information, especially if they know better. Others will intentionally make you see something false so that they can justify their worldview rather than face up to the reality of it. But when you know something the way that Robin Warren knew there were bacteria in the stomach, you need to set up an experiment and find someone to verify your results. In creativity, sometimes that means finishing something you started and finding out you were wrong. And sometimes, it means turning the world on its ear because you were right.

For more on the secrets of creativity, check out our Patreon page. Order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “The Haunted Mansion is Creativity,” and purchase “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.”

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Two Causes of Creative Blocks and How to Break Them

Overcome your creative blocks

The most common cause of creative blocks is fear. Fear of failure, fear of not living up to the hype of a previous success, fear of doing something wrong, fear of not being accepted, fear of rejection, fear of disappointing someone – yourself, your families, you friends… There are a thousand fears that can stymie creativity.

While you will never be able to eliminate fear, you can face it and break through it. Sit down in your creative space and get to work. It doesn’t matter what you create, just start the work. Once you get started, the fear will go away. You don’t even have to work on your next project. Give yourself 20 minutes of freestyle creativity to get the juices flowing and then start on the project that has you scared. And it is always the project that scares you the most that you should work on. It will be the most truthful, the most artistic and lead you to the most happiness and success. Facing your fear and working on that which you fear is the only way to overcome a fear-based creative block.

Another cause is the exhaustion of the creative well. If you’re a full-time creator, chances are you’re on the treadmill of having to produce content or something creative every day. Day after day, you have to have new ideas, make new art, and do everything that comes with marketing because if you don’t you may not eat next month. If you have a job and are creating on the side, just the job can be taxing enough that it makes it hard to come home and spend time on doing what’s really important, being with your family, creating, and not succumbing to (insert addictive entertainment of choice here).

Creators will tell you that ideas come from nowhere or everywhere. But the truth of the matter is, ideas can only come to you when you have a well full of information, experiences and emotion. Being numb is the artist’s worst affliction. Hopefully, you have some tricks that will help you be creative even when you feel like you’re out of ideas.

Keeping a journal, going for a walk, and faking it ‘til you make it are among tried and true strategies. Read a magazine or a book that’s outside your normal reading material. Travel to someplace new, even if it’s a nearby park. Contact your inner child and explore the edges of your yard. Observe, observe closer, observe again; too much of life is spent on auto-pilot engage with your surroundings, ignore your phone and see what you’ve been missing.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improving Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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My Niece, the Haunted Mansion and Fear

Niece and Minnie at Disneyland

When my oldest niece was about five, my mom and I took her on the Haunted Mansion. We went through the Stretching Room, down the Portrait Gallery and boarded the same Doom Buggy. As we rolled up the stairs and into the mansion, I was getting into it. The Haunted Mansion isn’t scary, but it’s fun to pretend it is.

So, I was taking everything seriously. The armor, the endless hallway with the floating candelabra, the chair that seems to be staring at you. Each new “horror” made me look more fearful. As we rotated to see the body trying to get out of the coffin, my mom hit me in the shoulder.

“Lighten up. You’re scaring your niece,” she whispered at me.

I switched the way I was looking at the mansion and laughed at its humorous elements. I kept smiling through the ride, and my niece had a great time. She wasn’t afraid of no ghosts.

Fortunately, the team of Claude Coats and Marc Davis helped to provide the elements of a frightening atmosphere and comic presentations. (Of course, there are plenty of contributions from other prominent imagineers, like Rolly Crump and his human-like furniture and wallpaper and the effects pioneered by Yale Gracey with Crump.) So, you can see the Haunted Mansion the way you want to. It is the creativity that the team put into the mansion that makes it a classic attraction that everyone loves.

For more on the Haunted Mansion and creativity, preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” You can also get “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve your Creativity for a Better Life and World.”

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The ABCs of Creativity: Lifelong Learning

Professor Penguin studies for greater knowledge.

There are plenty of jobs that require employees to keep up with new developments in the industry. Doctors and nurses are among the people that need to have continuing education credits to keep their licenses. However, lifelong learning should be a part of everyone’s agenda and career development.

Unfortunately, few businesses recognize the importance to creativity of learning something outside of your industry’s best practices. They may offer the opportunity to improve your education in your industry or job field, but they won’t pay for a class in say pottery or ancient history. Still, these types of classes, books, and subjects should be on your list of learning about something new.

Learning new things allows your brain to keep its elasticity and flexibility. The brain is a lot like a muscle. If you keep having the same thoughts and knowing the same thing, your brain runs in those ruts. Just like doing the same exercises for your muscles allows your body to adapt to the activity to make the exercise less efficient for getting fitter.

When you learn things outside of your field, you’re able to “connect the dots” between domains. If you stay within your field, you won’t be able to make the connections that creativity requires.

Lifelong learning helps you improve thinking and seeing. Learning is a skill that needs to be practiced. It keeps thinking fresh and allows you to cultivate the curiosity you need to counteract your natural inclination to ignore everything that doesn’t pertain to your current situation. You’ll be able to see things you never thought were there.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The ABCs of Creativity: Knowledge

Professor Penguin studies for greater knowledge.

Creativity is often defined as the generation of something new and valuable. In order to be creative, you have to know what came before; otherwise, what you create may have already been invented.  You don’t necessarily need to be an expert in your field or domain. Some studies show that expertise at a certain level inhibits creativity. You do need to have enough knowledge to understand if what you have is truly new.

However, knowledge in a single field isn’t enough. Creativity requires the combining of two or more ideas to come up with a new idea. Steve Jobs likened it to connecting the dots. A person has as many dots as he has knowledge about different subjects. Creative people weren’t more intelligent, he said, they just had more dots.

Velcro’s inventor George de Mestral was an engineer and avid hiker. When he noticed burrs on his clothing, he wondered how they could attach themselves and looked at them closer. Under a microscope he saw the tiny hooks. The idea from Velcro sprung up from there. It took the knowledge of engineering and hiking as well as curiosity and a new way of seeing for de Mestral to innovate the zipperless zipper.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.